As I sit here and write the final ending to my magical adventure of my recent trip to Milan, I can’t help but get extremely emotional. That trip was a turning point in my life. It was a beautiful, magical, and exciting experience. As a Sagittarius, I have a strong passion and flair for adventures and new experiences, thus I find myself deeply saddened by the thought and uncertainty we are currently living due to the recent Coronavirus outbreak. I don’t know when this quarantine will end, or when I will be able to return to Italy. I am extremely grateful that I was able to make my dream come true just right before the world turned upside down because it gives me a bit of peace to know that I had lived the happiest moments and now I have unforgettable memories that I hold dear to my heart. I also would like to clarify at this time that a lot of people thought I was moving overseas when the first blog was published. Although, it sounds like a nice dream, moving to Italy is not in the books for me. The tales and stories that I have been sharing with you along the past few weeks are bits and pieces of my unforgettable adventure before the quarantine. This is the last of the seven-part series of my trip to Italy for Fashion Week. I have deeply enjoyed taking you along what I regard as the highlight and blessing of my year. Going forward, I will continue to share my stories and adventures, just focused on my present. The here and the now. So, here it goes, the finale to a seven-part series of my trip to Milan. …We finished our aperitivos and took a stroll down Via Gesu. I saw the most stunning palm print two-piece outfit on the window display at a Versace store. Just days before I had posted a photo on social media because it caused such an impression on me that I had to go back. Here is a fun fact, did you know that the Medusa Gianni Versace chose for the brand has a lot of meaning behind it? He basically chose the medusa because even though she may not be beautiful, she still manages to mesmerize you and makes an impression you can’t ignore. Thus, you end up falling in love. The representation is so true that this outfit had such an effect on me. It was so unique, radical, and eccentric. Of course, I had to come to experience it firsthand.

We walked into the store and of course, celebrities and bloggers were all over the place, all of whom I didn’t know. Marilyn, on the other hand, took a selfie with them and was infatuated with the moment. I told Yihan, the saleswoman, that I needed to try the outfit on. A very “pretty woman” moment I would say. I had no clue how much it was but I thought – YOLO. I followed Yihan to a private room and she gave me the ultimate customer experience. It is very rare that I am on the customer side of the situation as it is usually the other way around. So, this was a treat. She served me champagne in $600 champagne glasses that you can actually find at Tesori, my mom’s store. Yihan wore white gloves to show me all the pieces. She inspired me to step up my game that very same day. She brought me the outfit styled with shoes and jewelry along with more and more and more clothes. Trying on different garments, drinking bubbly, and staring at myself in the mirror, I was having the time of my life. It was retail therapy at its finest. I was enjoying myself and having so much fun. I felt the way my clients feel when they visit GAL, so I now understand what it is like to be in the client’s shoes. Yihan didn’t know anything about me which made it all much more fun and adventurous. It was almost like I was shopping with my BFF who was a bad influence on my wallet. The manager, Giuseppe, came down to meet me and of course, he was gorgeous. He sat down and we had a pleasant conversation as we spoke and started to get to know one another. By the end of the night, I ended up taking almost everything I had tried on! I bought it because of the memories behind the moment. All those pieces felt very special to me and I will keep them forever. One thing that particularly stands out from that day that was that I asked Guiseppe about Americans having fashion careers in Italy. I was curious to find out what are the top money-making jobs in Italy in the fashion industry. His response was completely mind-blowing.
He said that if it is money that you are after, then you won’t find it in fashion. “…Fashion is our culture, our way of life – La Milanese. We don’t do things for money here. We believe in happiness and fashion only happens to be a part of our culture…” It suddenly hit me. The siestas, the aperitivos, opening the shops at 10:00 am, the family culture. That was all their way of life. Not competing or stepping on heads to rise to the top. Working like slaves to have millions of dollars but horrible domestic problems or personal issues. It was completely the opposite of my experience in America. I realized that everyone in Italy had a sense of good vibes. Everyone smiled and was so friendly and easy-going. Being exposed to this Italian lifestyle was so impactful that it changed me.

The next day was sadly the last day in the wonderful city of Milan. We went to the markets and bought beautiful things that we will be launching in the Fall, so stay put! The day was once again perfect. I decided to go to my favorite coffee shop. The one that I visited every day, followed by a short walk around the park. I will never forget that last moment. Feeling the wind brush across my face as the sun was setting and the leaves on the trees trembled. It was absolutely breathtaking. People were walking their dogs and riding their bikes going about their day on a Sunday afternoon. I started to cry. I cried because I didn’t want the trip to end. I cried of happiness as my heart was full of gratitude for the experience, but I couldn’t help but to feel sadness because it was over. It was the perfect ending to my Milanese fashion fairy tale. I sat there and took a deep breath of fresh air as I felt present at that very moment. If I close my eyes now, I can still go back and remember that perfect moment. It was pure bliss. As we arrived at the airport they announced we had made the last flight before the shutdown. I was blessed beyond measure. Milan was officially the 2nd most impacted city in Italy with the coronavirus outbreak. Millions of infections and deaths swept the country. We made it back home safely by the grace of God on the last day before the world was about to change.

- Logo purple

I knew exactly what I was going to wear. After all, it was my first MSGM fashion show. I wanted to go for Dolce & Gabbana meets Wednesday Adams. I had this whole Euro princess - Victoria Beckham attitude and look in my head. Little did I know this was a total American ideology, but I will get to that later. As I said, I had my whole OOTD entirely planned out. I even made a trip to Sephora to find the perfect Wednesday Adams Chanel lip color. If you Google ‘Dolce & Gabbana 2016’ you see the Marina Forsetti headbands with the shade of Chanel lipstick I purchased. I just added a cute white collar dress to marry the two and ta-da! I was ready to hit the runway.

I ordered an Uber. A black Mercedes van pulled up to the curb and a gorgeous handsome looking driver got down to get the doors for us. Mama mia! *was I in love. I expected nothing less at this point. *La Milanese way of life was completely my thing.

We are at the MSGM fashion show. Holy moly, was I underdressed! I thought I was looking a little extra and fly, but no. Was I wrong. I had forgotten we were in the fashion capital of the world where the futuristic trend was ‘in.’ I was not dressed up to par at all. There was nothing I could do at this point but own it. This was a once in a lifetime kind of thing and there was nothing I could do but live and enjoy the moment. We were standing outside the show and it was completely packed. Paparazzi all over the place. Fashion icons, bloggers, journalists, models, fashionistas, buyers, owners, and even famous Instagram dogs. All fashion people UNITE. Everyone was so extra. I love it. Neon, print on print, gender-neutral, everyone’s outfits were on point – Milan was the fashion world.

Marilyn started pressuring me to go inside and take our seats. We were registered buyers. Keyword: buyers. That means we had first priority. Wait, we are actually US buyers, that means even more VIP. Dang Marilyn. You go Glen Coco! I am not going to lie and act like I always have my act together or that I am as confident as I appear to be. The truth is that at the end of the day, I am human. I have the insecurities of a rookie even with 11 years of hard work and experience under my belt. . The room was dark and comfortably crowded with all sorts of media and journalists. Over 1000 chairs filled the pink carpet floor. We were immediately greeted with warmth and importance as they asked us who we were. I was living in the moment. I had been to tons and tons of fashion shows, as well as having hosted my own, but this was a whole different league. Nothing I had ever experienced before was anything like this. This was the real deal. We were seated in the front row among celebrities, famous bloggers, and influencers. It was awesome. However, I seem to know none of them. Oops! Thank God I have Marilyn for that. She is a genius, my right arm, and the brains of GAL. She whispers, “omg, the twins.” Of course, I am oblivious and have absolutely no freaking idea who they were. Apparently, they are the most famous fashion runway show attendees of our generation. You learn something new everyday.

All the chairs are full and the room is packed with beautiful people. All of a sudden we hear a loud ‘SHH!’ and the lights are off. BAM! The DJ hits off beats to the rhythm of flashing lights. Creepy music remixed with soft rock begins to play. Like everything, it was quite bizarre and futuristic but kind of cool. It’s unexplainable.

Less than 10 minutes later the lights were back on. People start clapping, the show was over. What, that was it? The runway show was less than 10 minutes long! It all happened way too fast. I didn’t even get to focus on the looks and the designs that much because it was like super-fast. There were 10 to 15 models tops wearing bright oversized clothes down the runway. Everything happened so fast. All of this hype and adrenaline for only 10 minutes? I don’t know what the point of a show is if it is going to be that fast, but OK. Again, this was a once in a lifetime kind of deal so I was determined to enjoy every single second of it.

The designer was super young. He was probably around his early 40’s. He walked around the room after the show wearing sneakers, a sweater, and jeans. He was super chill and ready for the press. I took a picture on the red carpet and we were on our way out. It was barely 12:30 PM and there was nothing else on the schedule for the rest of the day. I guess It was time for an Aperitivo.

We had a whole day ahead of ourselves and our trip was soon coming to an end. Thus, we decided to spend the rest of the day sightseeing and enjoying Milan. I wanted to see what this city was all about, other than the amazing fashion and its beautiful people. I wanted to visit Arco Della Pace, the city gate of Milan and a quite famous Instagram worthy location. To do so, I needed to change my outfit. We quickly headed to the apartment and slipped into a cocktail pale-pink glitter dress by RTA that I had purchased in NYC the week before Valentine’s Day. The dress was cute and a bit futuristic, as it seems to be the trend of this year. We headed to the arc and took some Instagram worthy photos. As we were strolling the streets of Milan, a waiter said, ‘Hey Bella, why don’t you come inside for an aperitivo’. Wait, what is he talking about and why is everyone around us having an orange drink? It was then that I came to discover the famous Aperol Spritz among the beautiful people of Milan. Whoah. Were my taste buds in for a refreshing ride! If you have never had one before, Aperol is an Italian liquor made out of rhubarb and oranges. When mixed with Italian Prosecco, soda and orange slices, you get the famous aperitivo Aperol Spritz.

If you have been following me or visited GAL after my trip, you know that the famous Aperol Spritz is what we serve at GAL Fashion. I have now hooked a lot of people on this cocktail. You are welcome.

After the most enjoyable evening and a couple of rounds of refreshing and delicious Aperol Spritz, we were ready for dinner. How does lobster sound? Yum! As we were walking down Via Gesu, I told Marilyn that I had been doing a little research of my own and saw that anything that is made in Italy is a lot cheaper than what you pay for in the US. This could only mean one thing: danger.

To be continued…

- Logo purple

A day in Como.

In between the hustle and the showrooms, I decided to take a short break and make my way to Como, Italy. I had only heard about how special and magical this place was, that I had to see it for myself. My outfit had to be on point so I decided to wear all white. I have this crazy theory that wherever you go that is beautiful, one should wear white. I also had my new silk scarf wrapped around my neck, as you know, a scarf is essential when visiting the sea.

Marilyn and I arrived at the train station, a very ancient, church inspired station. It was the most beautiful train station I have ever seen. It was everything but ordinary. We purchased a one-way ticket to Lake Como. I was ready for a change in scenery.

We made our way to the train pushing through hundreds of people. Marylin led the way. Had it not been for her and her sharp intuition skills, I would have probably gotten lost along the way. She has always been my eyes and ears, and for that, I am very grateful.

We hopped on the train and I could see that there were people from all over the world. Spain, Italy, America. I took my seat and as the train started to go, I looked outside the window to admire a series of blue skies, picturesque towns and villages, and endless miles of mountains. It felt like a movie. Everything was so beautiful. On top of that, the train ride was so peaceful, free of distractions. I was living that very present moment taking it all in and cherishing absolutely everything to the last second. 30 minutes later, which felt more like 10 minutes, and we had arrived at an isolated empty town.

I looked around while Marilyn led the way, as she always does. A taxi drove us to the dock. The sea, mountains, green trees, and fresh crisp air. So perfect, so quaint. There was nothing industrial or commercial about it. There were old brick buildings and houses up high on the mountains. You needed a lift to get up there as you admire pure beauty.

We decided to be adventurous and purchase a boat ticket to the town of Bellagio. Now, I’m not sure why but I associated Bellagio with the hotel in Las Vegas, so I figured we had to go there! Without knowing, this little town was a sight for sore eyes. Bellagio was about to make an impression I would keep for the rest of my life.

We waited in line for the cute boat guy to let us on board. Of course all of the boatmen had to be gorgeous here too. Like I said before, it is like a requisite, you know? It’s like beauty runs through their veins.

We get on the boat and there are other several little towns all over the lake that you can visit within a minute’s distance. The photographic scenery was of a mountain overlooking an island, with green trees and fresh water. So clean and so surreal. There were no signs in sight. No media, no billboards, no nothing. It was plain and simple just like the good old golden days. I took the most relaxing peaceful nap on the boat and when I awoke, I woke up to a dream. We’re here, Bellagio. I’m at a loss for words to describe the absolute beauty that was before me. I can make an attempt, but I know my words will not do justice. It was a small village made of stone brick floors, full of green trees and plants with a dreamlike view that oversaw the lake covered in a light fog with a ray of sunshine. The weather was a bit chilly, not cold but perfect. There was no music, no sounds, it was silent. What? Wait. Nothing is open. To my surprise, it turns out Bellagio is closed from April through November. Who knew they could close out a town!

As always, we make the best out of every situation. Especially if we are half way across the globe! We found one open restaurant and an empty town awaiting to be explored. It was a bit strange, but at the same time, I was enjoying the peace and tranquility. Who knew the ocean breeze and birds chirping would be music to my ears. I had never seen or experienced anything like it. Imagine sitting on a bench while staring at the ocean view with hills and hills of town homes and absolutely no noise. Not one little sound. I embraced the moment and was loving life to the fullest.

Thankful for the open restaurant we found, I ordered myself a classic. Salami, prosciutto, mozzarella and freshly baked bread. More than I could eat but you are only in Italy once! I also had a glass of cold white wine, because wine not? It was just such a beautiful day and such a beautiful sight. I was feeling more than blessed. It was our day off and we were enjoying the most perfect moment. We deserved a bit of tranquility and time off. Before it got late, I asked Marilyn to buy us a ticket for a boat ride back to Como. I turned my chair around to indulge in the view once again as tears began rolling down my face. They were tears of joy. I was not sad, not one bit. For once, in a very long time, I was blessed to be appreciating something so simple yet so beautiful. I was so present in that moment taking everything in thinking, I will never forget this.

I wipe the tears away and sip on my pinot grigio. I hear Spaniards next to me, I love people watching, a family just enjoying themselves all laughing and having a bonding moment. I smiled because I could understand what they were saying and I felt very present, very alive and very happy. Just like that Marylin came back. “Boat leaves in 20. Let’s go.” She said.

I didn’t want to go. I could have stayed in that moment forever but it was about to get dark. So we left.

Coming up next, day 5 of my Milan adventures.

- Logo purple

My trip to Italy was by far one of the most amazing experiences I have lived and I love being able to share all of it with you, especially during tough times like these when we need a break from the crude reality and a breath of fresh air. In the midst of all of this craziness, I would like to take a short break from sharing stories of my trip to Italy and put you up to date on what I have been going through during this quarantine. Brace yourself because what you are about to read is quite a revelation and can’t be unread.

Please know that what I am about to share with you is deeply personal and has taken a lot of courage and vulnerability to speak openly. What you are about to read is not a cry for help, nor am I seeking any kind of attention or validation. As I sit here on my velvet couch writing these words I can’t help but feel confident and inspired to share my story. My intention in sharing my truth is, to be honest, and transparent hoping that my story can help and inspire others. Know that after reading this, if you ever need someone to talk to, if you ever just need to be heard, feel free to reach out to me. There’s nothing like finding confidence and trust in a person or a soulmate, especially during hard times.

So here it goes…

My life has always been about focusing on my image and being a successful professional. I have worked my ass off for years trying to build something for myself. Afraid of judgment and trying to portray the perfect life, I eventually transformed into a perfect little robot. I lived to please everyone living up to the standards of others, making decisions based on what people think of me and valuing the opinions of others over my own. I was far less than perfect. I was so lost and I was unhappy. Instead of confronting my reality and taking control, I would evade it. I escaped with a drink, or two, or I couldn’t remember… My truth is, I became a functioning alcoholic.

I am not sure when it all began or when the situation got out of hand. Had it been years, months, or weeks? I did not want to admit that I was not okay. After all, somehow I still strived to live that perfect glamorous life. Washing down my sorrows with bottles of wine with endless partying and reckless nights, was far from perfection. When I left for Milan I had the best time and somehow forgot about everything. I wanted to move to Italy and escape my reality because I did not dare to confront the truth. Even though I was overseas on business, Italy made me forget the hole I had been digging for myself. Unfortunately, as all good things come to an end, Milan had an expiration date and I had to fly back home. When I came back to face reality, I returned to a shattered lonely life. Life was shit and I hit rock bottom.

For about two years now, I was drinking daily on my own. I was somehow overcompensating for the deep sadness I was feeling. It was Gal’s 4th anniversary and right then and there I hit an all-time low. What was owned to be something worthy of celebration, turned into quite the opposite. I had to cancel an event that my team worked very hard on and had diligently put together. Unfortunately, we didn’t sell enough tickets and I was not willing to put my company at financial risk. I am glad I listened to my gut feeling at the time because only a miracle would have saved me out of that situation.

On top of that, I was only gone for 14 days but it was enough to notice a massive drop in sales. Nothing was being sold. Nothing. People feared I had Coronavirus coming back from Europe. Thankfully I didn’t and I still don’t, by the way. But that didn’t keep them from making strong and hurtful accusations. Finally, reality sunk in. Was this the end of GAL? Was I going to lose my store? I had to do something about it. So I had a huge sale hoping to get back on track.

My heart broke on March 24 when the official notice came in. I had to shut my doors. I was deeply saddened by the situation and I am not going to lie, I was terrified. What on earth would happen to me? I thought for sure I was going to lose the store. I am nothing without GAL. It is part of my identity, it is who I am. My biggest fear came to life. I always dreaded the moment of losing my company. I had already lost myself, I couldn’t bear losing my store. If you take the store away from me you might as well take my life with it. I lost control. I was miserable and I was drinking.

Out of denial, I scheduled a photo shoot. I continued to post and share on social media as if everything was ok. But In reality, I wasn’t ok. Behind the great hair, the glamour, and the so-called perfect life, was darkness, a sense of deep sadness and anger.

Three weeks had gone by and I had hit an ultimate low. I could not leave my bed and was swallowing down my sorrows with bottles of wine. I found myself to be alone and in a very dark place. I needed professional help. After fighting myself for quite sometime I decided to reach out to my life coach, Lulu Gomez. Know that this was not an easy step to take but I am very glad and thankful I found the courage to speak out and ask for guidance. She made me realize that just because I had built GAL on my own, it did not mean GAL was part of my essence. Most importantly, she made me realize I had no idea of who I was. I began to question ‘ who is Gesuina?’

I started to ask myself questions, search within me and analyze my situation. I had always been so hard on myself. Pushing myself to keep up with appearances and pleasing everyone without realizing the harm I was causing myself. It was then when I harshly realized that it wasn’t the idea of losing the store that was breaking me, but rather realizing that the store was the last bit of myself that I was holding on to. I did not realize that I had already lost myself. I had lost self-love and self respect a long time ago. I was breathing and existing, but honestly, I was not living.

I was done trying to compensate for situations that were beyond my control. It was time to take the reins and start doing things for myself. It’s time to rip off the mask and stop pretending everything is ok. This marks the beginning of a new era. This is a new Gesuina. A Gesuina free of demons determined to focus on herself.

Lulu was a great inspiration in my process, but I also want to give credit to myself in helping me overcome this process. I think it is important to note that it was my choice to take that tiny, yet hard, step to become the best version of myself and deal with my problem. I made a decision for me out of self-love.

I am committed to finding myself and learning to love myself again inside and out. I am ready to do things for me, only for me. I have always wanted to be fit and eat healthy, however, I never really had the time. Well, guess what? Now, all I have is time. I have always put the store first, but now it’s time I put Gesuina first. You know, I always wanted to learn more about specific subjects like psychology, finance, music and even become a better writer. Now, I have time to read, write, and learn new things. Running, cleaning, learning and growing. Things I never did on my own that I am finally doing!

Being in isolation during this quarantine made me realize that I had to start living life for me. It also gave me the courage to be able to share something deeply personal that hopefully inspires and motivates you. Also, always remember, you never know what battles people are fighting behind the masks they wear, therefore, always treat everyone with love and compassion Regardless of your story or situation, know that whatever your hardship is, there is always a way out. It is all about perspective. Just remember to love yourself along the way. Most likely, you will never have this much time again for yourself. Think very carefully about how you are going to spend it, and please, never take time for granted.

If your dream is to open your business use this time to put a business plan together. If your dream is to move to Paris, use this time to do research. If you want to make a million dollars in the next five years, learn how to do it! The sky’s the limit, nothing is impossible. For God’s sake, I’m mopping and cooking every day. Now, did any of you ever think that was possible? I know I didn’t. I now love myself enough to make time for the simple things that bring happiness to my life. Love yourself and push yourself for a better life. I hope I inspired someone today by sharing my truth and my story. Blessings to all and sending prayers to everyone.

See you after quarantine <3

-The new Gesuina.

- Logo purple

Recently, I have been in good cheer. I have made a couple of adjustments and changes that have ultimately led to a very positive outcome. I decided to make an effort and discover the silver lining in everything during this quarantine. Instead of dwelling on what I can not control, I have chosen to get busy and get creative. My mother created Luxury Easter baskets from her store, Tesori. Now, if you are not familiar with Gal’s sister store, long story short, I was planning on letting go of the extra store because I no longer sold evening wear. I thought having the extra unused space was unnecessary. Then one day, over the kitchen counter my mom decided to make her dream a reality and open up a store of her own, taking over the space I was no longer using. She would go on to sell all kinds of small fabulous gifts and treasures. Thus Tesori, which means treasure in Italian, came to be.

Let’s fast forward to the present. The woman was creating some splendid Easter baskets and I decided to pop in and check up on her progress. You would think we spend quite a lot of time together because we are neighbors, but that’s not always the case. We are actually both very involved and attentive to our own worlds.

My mom needed help. She needed my eyes. Immediately, I let my creative juices flow. I added a touch of glam, tulle, and of course extra stuffing. Before you knew it I had gotten myself into something I would not be able to get out of. It was Christmas fair all over again. She is a smart woman, that cool cat. She lures you in by asking for your opinion. Then, next thing you know, you are working for her with no way out. In a good way, of course.

It was arts and crafts all over again. I felt like I was back in school working on an art project. Feeling proud of the upgrades I gave to the basket, I immediately shared on Instagram. All of a sudden DMs start sliding in. People wanted to know about prices and sizes. They wanted to know it all! For sure, we were on to something.

For the next 48 hours Mama G, the nickname I gave my mother, and I were creating tons of baskets nonstop. We stayed up until midnight which is quite late for quarantine, and then woke up super early the next day to finish all the basket requests we had. What was great about the baskets was that not only did we offer free delivery to everyone, but all of the baskets were customized and tailored with special details, love, and treasures for every individual. We made baskets starting at $50 all the way up to $500. Even though the baskets themselves were pretty special, the most special part about everything was being able to spend Easter working by mom’s side. We had a blast while we did what we loved. There is no way to neglect that retail, detail and hard work runs through our blood.

Happy Easter to you all!

- Logo purple