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

The White Show - All work and all play

Finally, the day was here. It was time for The White Show – the event, the holy grail of markets and the whole purpose of my trip to Italy. I had a million butterflies in my stomach and the adrenaline that was rushing through my veins kept me sleepless throughout the night. As always, I had to look flawless. However, after owning a blow-dry bar and being the glam girl that I am, doing my own hair and makeup for a special occasion is not something that I am quite used to. After a couple of hours and some hairspray, I managed to figure it out all on my own. Big hair and great brows. I was ready to roll.

It was day 3 of the Italian Fashion Market. Now, initially, I thought Micam and Mipel were the Disneyland of the fashion industry. Boy, was I wrong! The White Show was Disneyland on steroids. Imagine an entire street devoted to very elaborate and over the top showrooms. Hundreds, if not thousands, of different markets all in one place. An impeccable white carpet covered the cement road and stunning models and security guards greeted you at every entrance. I felt trapped in a maze. An insane and over-the-top maze that took you from one extravagant showroom to another one. Feeling overwhelmed, my blood pressure began to rise.

You know that moment when you feel the adrenaline starts rushing through your body and you get butterflies in your stomach because you have a strong sensation of happiness, euphoria, and curiosity all at once? Some may feel this when they fall in love, others may feel it on the dance floor. For me, it was walking into the White Show. People may not necessarily understand my passion and infatuation for fashion. I realize that and that is ok. However, no matter what, I hope that one day everyone experiences something that makes their heart skip a beat just like mine did at the White Show.

The very first brand that I see out of about roughly 10,000 brands was a vintage, Navajo inspired, luxury sleepwear brand. Think tribal fashion meets vintage velvet luxury. Luxury robes and sleepwear that you would possibly buy at a Taos ski resort to wear at Burning Man. Bizarre. Weird yet alluring. The pieces and the designs were so up-and-coming, again almost futuristic. They were so strange yet the coolest thing I have ever seen. It was way out of this world. I fail to find words that properly describe the experience because it just wouldn’t make sense. It was finding unique beauty in something that seemed so bizarre and eccentric. I was loving it.

Immediately, I started taking pictures and videos of absolutely everything because I wanted to document every instance of this experience. “Stop!” I was told. What I learned a few minutes later was that you are not allowed to take photos of anything. It’s highly understandable. They despise people knocking off original designs and get very ‘cray cray’ when they see you taking pictures. Unfortunately, a lot of the immaculate beauty and stunning pieces I was exposed to on this day will only remain a photographic memory in my head never to be shared with anyone. It’s quite sad but at the same time kind of amazing. It is like my very own little secret that I honestly wish I could share with you. ( Top secret: I may have secret video footage of everything.)

Italians are heavy advocates and true believers of ‘unisex’ pieces. I found this interesting and quite cool, to be honest. It’s a thing. Every single piece of clothing was unisex. What was even more interesting was that the unisex pieces were so gender-neutral. I can honestly say that it was not ‘too feminine’ or ‘too masculine’ either. It was perfectly balanced on a 50/50 scale. I loved it. How fabulous to have an item for him that also works perfectly for her! Isn’t that just brilliant? At this point, I was barely at my second booth. I started to feel anxiety again. I needed to get myself together, put my feet on the ground and continue to the game plan. I had absolutely no time to waste.

Aisle after aisle. Showroom after showroom. The day was passing by. Everything I saw and touched was special and original. Nothing like you have ever seen before I can promise you that. Tribal pieces seemed like a repeated trend. Fur, crocodile boots, avant-garde graphics, and prints. Everything was insane. Mink, cashmere, leather, fine merino wool, silk, and gold. Is this real life? I kept asking vendors if they sold to the US, but they didn’t. At least not yet.

Honestly, I was experiencing the best products with the highest quality. A lot of what I saw were pieces that are manufactured and produced in the very same places where designer Italian Brands like Gucci and Prada are produced, using the very same quality and materials only with a different price tag. I had found my pot of gold. I don’t want to follow trends. I want to set them.

I continued to walk the streets from building to building. It was just too much and my mind can only take so much in one day. I have probably seen over 300 vendors by now. It just kept getting better and better, vendor after vendor. I needed my break. I felt exhausted. I still have 4 days left in Milan, I could always come back. As Marylin and I started to walk home you would not guess who we saw. Spotted, Gigi Hadid leaving the Fendi showroom. Yep, it was definitely her.

Once we were home, I started to go through my photos. I felt like my Duomo pictures were just not good enough. If it is not perfect, then it is not worth it. So Marylin and I made a pit stop at the Duomo once again before we headed to dinner for some spaghetti.

I was dressed head to toe in a rose-colored L’agence python slip dress with a brocade blazer in the same print. I was 100% glam because If I was going to retake a photo at the Duomo it had to be on point. No exceptions. When we arrive, as we are getting dropped off by another handsome Uber driver, the sun begins to set and the lighting couldn’t be more perfect. In the car, I had said a little prayer asking God to help me get the perfect shot. Well, my prayers got answered as things got insane real fast. A video producer from NYC immediately approached me and asked if I was a blogger. He wanted to take a video of me. At first, I thought it was a scam. A video producer from NYC wanted to do a fancy video of my walking through the streets of Milan striking poses. Can you believe this? I said YOLO. This doesn’t happen every day. So I went for it. If you follow me on Instagram you probably saw the videos. Pretty cool, right? Everyone that saw me strutting through the streets probably thought I was someone famous as I had lighting and videographers following me around the streets. It felt pretty cool. As an ordinary girl who lives and breathes for fashion, this moment was surreal. On top of that, I managed to get the perfect magical shot. I felt special. I felt empowered.

As the day came to an end and we headed to dinner to have some delicious spaghetti, I started to contemplate what an amazing day it had been. I had heard from one of my clients that Como,Italy was only a train ride away (yes, you Norma Barrio). We decided to take the next day off. I needed to recharge and loved the idea of spending the day in Como, Italy. However, I would first need to buy a silk scarf. You can’t go to Como without a scarf.

- Logo purple

Day two

The jet lag was real. Being on the other side of the world with a completely different time zone meant no sleep. Honestly, I didn’t care much about sleep since they have siesta in Italy. Everything closes and taxis even take a break. Talk about culture shock. Whenever we did have time to eat or take a breather it coincided with the siesta. Bummer.

I started the day off with a fresh americano and I was ready to hit the streets. I requested an Uber and to my surprise, I got picked up by another well dressed and very handsome Italian driver in a fancy Mercedes SUV. At this point, I was definitely head over heels. What’s not to love about Italy?

We decided to head to Duomo the Milano, Milan’s very famous cathedral and architectural landmark which took almost 600 years to be completed, and Piazza Duomo. We had an appointment to visit one of the vendors later during the day on “Via Gesu,” the Rodeo Drive of Milan, so we had to make the most out of our time. The streets were overflowing with fashionistas and trendy fashion boutiques. Trust me when I tell you fashion is part of the culture in Milan. People live and breathe fashion. Everyone was so nice, fit, happy and not to mention well dressed. After interviewing several individuals I found out why, but we’ll get to that later.

Back to the Duomo of Milano, a huge cathedral right in the middle of fashion square taken straight out of a fairy tale. I was completely in love with what I saw. People sipping on espressos, aperols, and walking around in the crisp daylight enjoying life. You could see numerous famous bloggers taking photos in literally every corner. Well, of course! It was Fashion Week in Milan. Why wouldn’t Ricky Thompson, Ayaxxamiya (the twins) and Brittany Xavier all be making tik toks at the most epic Instagramable site worthy fashion utopia? To be honest, I didn’t even recognize any of the bloggers I saw taking photos all over Italy. Luckily I had Marilyn to fill me in. You would think I follow all of the bloggers, right? Well, I don’t.

For fun, I fed the pigeons kettle corn. They felt like hard little hands on my soft skin. I laughed and smiled as I was so present at that moment, a memorable candid moment that I will always remember.

As we entered Piazza Duomo, I felt like I was walking into heaven. Fashion heaven that is. Everything was golden under the warm sun light, so surreal. It almost looked like a church. An elegant, celestial church that is home to every European designer that has walked on this earth. Louis Vuitton, Prada, Versace, you name it. We walked inside and made our way to “Via Gesu”. Yes, “Gesu” is part of my name which means Jesus in Italian. My name is the feminine version of Jesus. My staff actually calls me “Gesu” as a nickname. Ironically, in Milan, there is a well-recognized street called “Via Gesu” and it is home to the most high-end stores in Milan. Kind of a strange coincidence yet an interesting and precise comparison.

We get there and make it to Marina Forsetti. Now, Marina is a brand that I picked up from my previous blog at the Dallas Market. Do the Italian headbands that sold out in one day ring a bell? Well, here I was at the showroom. The only store where I could see them all in person. We walked in and all-around admiring beautiful headpieces with quite a resemblance to the headbands from the Dolce and Gabanna show. I was amazed by the fashion jewelry, large costume pieces, hairpins, unique and gorgeous one of kind pieces that were on display.

Pulling, picking and trying on piece by piece, I decided to get everything I liked and just take it with me to bring back to the store ASAP. Who knows when I’ll be back?

We hopped into an Uber and off we went to visit another showroom. Gosh, what is it with the handsome Uber drivers and fancy luxury cars? I am not complaining. On the contrary, I am enjoying it. Please, keep them coming! The designer we were visiting we had previously met at Mipel market the day before. Her studio was full of rooms and rooms of beads and wires, gold and silver, among other tools. Boxes on top of boxes and drawers full of beads and glass, some dating all the way back to the 1900s. Others, from several parts around the world. Indeed, it was a collection of time and culture. She was a multi-generational jewelry maker dating back to her grandmother. She said her grandmother was a genius who specialized her skill in artisan and ancient jewelry, which she later continued. She even creates special custom made pieces for other European designers such as Dolce and Gabanna. We looked at everything and to a point, it felt a bit overwhelming. I was just so amazed at how long it takes to construct some of the pieces we admired. Sometimes, it may even take up to several months just to make one piece. The level of detailing is so impeccable that it takes so much time, dedication and energy. Sometimes when we see an item and think it is overpriced or expensive, we don’t often realize the level of work and effort that actually goes into creating each piece. We are so accustomed to everything being fast and easily accessible that we tend to forget that, luckily, there are still things that are made with such love and care that take time to produce. I will never look at one of a kind jewelry the same way again. Think of all the royalty that wore custom-made fabulous jewelry. Imagine how long that took to design and create. I am not a designer, so I began to feel flustered and pressured. I didn’t know what I wanted, less to pick, choose and design. I had anxiety. The jewelry was amazing, but the process of buying custom-made jewelry was nuts. “Marilyn we have to go, Get us a hot uber and we are out.” The thought of it all was just too much. We hopped into our Uber and went straight to dinner.

By this time it was now 7:00pm. Siesta is over and everyone comes out of the woodworks by 8:00 PM. We arrive to the pizzeria at 7:00 PM and it is dead. Crickets, not even a sound. To my luck, even the waiters are gorgeous. I am starting to think it’s a qualification to be Milanese; Must be beautiful to live in Milan. Just kidding, but I’m not. At 8:00 pm a flood of people swarmed the place. I was so intrigued. I ordered the BEST pizza I have ever tasted to this day, Sardinian pizza, that’s where my family is from. Made with artichoke cream, sun-dried tomato, pesto, and fresh parmesan cheese. Mmm bellissimo! The day is finally over. Time to sleep but I can’t sleep. I’m too happy to sleep… Day 3..

- Logo purple