This Angel Wears Prada: Why Leaving the Fashion World Saved My Soul

Today’s post was inspired by the lovely  Alyssa Summers  who sent me this message on Facebook

I love sharing this part of my story. It was a critical time, when my most important course-changer showed up.“Hey Hillary  – So great to have you at AY Live. I’ve been wondering, have you written anything about how/when you left your job at Prada? I’d love to hear about your experience: This topic really close to my ♥ right now!”

You have two choices with a course-changer: you can take the Victim road or the Warrior road.

You can submit to the norm, or walk into the dark and explore the unknown, infinite possibilities.

When I landed the job at Prada as the PR Manager of Miu Miu in the mid-90’s, it was a big deal. It had been my dream towork at a high fashion designer house… but it also came with a ton of pressure and stress.

I didn’t care. I’d “made it”. “Was it like The Devil Wears Prada?” you ask. The answer is no. Not at all. It was worse.

We worked the insane hours, and our boss treated us like we were her servants… but there was no happy ending. OK, the parties and clothing allowance were sweet, but not enough to take the pressure off.

In some ways, it was all about the sacrifice just to have the privilege to work there.

Nevertheless, after I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, it felt like a prison sentence. My dreams were over. It was absolutely crushing.

So, I tried to compromise.

I was on medication and I remember having to get my Avonex shot in Italy at 4am in my room from an Italian doctor and felt sick all day and pushed through anyway. One night, I was so tired at a dinner with Harper’s Bazaar that I fell asleep in my plate. I was exhausted.

What drove me to quit my job was a few things. One was my health — my legs and left arm were numb. Then, when I saw how miserable my boss was, I knew I never wanted to be that. But in my confusion, I still felt like a failure.

“Who would I be without this job?” I thought to myself. “No one will care who I am.”

The diagnosis forced me to get real about who I was as a person, and align my values. It revealed there were more important things for me to focus on.

I confess, I was attached to the titles, the labels. I defined myself by my job, where I lived, what I wore, who I hung out with…. All my friends were in fashion, and I knew if I quit my Prada job they wouldn’t give me the time of day. I measured my worth by what I’d accomplished — and I know this is an epidemic among women today.

I couldn’t heal my abusive past by piling on thousands of dollars worth of clothing.

I realized I’d built a mansion on a swamp. I had to go deep. I had to heal inside. I chose the Warrior road.

Though I left Prada, the experience was resume gold, and I could use it but on my terms. See? Infinite possibilities. I found a better job. I discovered yoga, meditation and worked with many healers to get my health in order. An entirely new world opened up for me.

I began to understand freedom and happiness.

One day, after watching my teacher lead an intro to yoga workshop, I walked out of the studio floating above the ground saying to myself, “I want to make people feel good in their bodies and souls, too.”

So I left NYC for LA to do my yoga teacher training, moved there, and was a PR director for a fashion company to support my new dream. I have been teaching since 2002, am a certified Anusara Yoga teacher, created Hillary’s Yoga Practice podcast,  produced my DVD Yoga Foundations and taught yoga around the world.

From there, I discovered that I loved the personal growth side of teaching. I started to coach women 1-1 and in my Inner Circle Mastery programs through the same transition I had made, to become the women they wanted to be, but were afraid to be.

I spent many years trying to force a square peg into a round hole. I learned that trying to be something your not is deadly to your soul. You must listen to your entire being to do your work in this world.

So, are you ready to get radically honest? Ask yourself these questions:

1. Am I defining myself by my job?
2. Are my values aligned with my work?
3. Who am I without this job? This home? This stuff?
4. If I walk away from my job will my “friends” still be there?
5. Am I ignoring a deep calling to please my family?

If you answered YES to any of these questions then do yourself a favor and find out your Why? Then Ask #3 again and meditate on it, take action and save your soul because your life depends on it.

Need some support because you’re in a job that’s killing your soul? I totally understand where you are at. No one needs to do it alone. I know I needed help and glad I asked for it. When you are ready the teacher appears, right?

I’d love to support you and have a new program I am creating to help you do exactly what I did — go for your dreams.

If this speaks to you then click here to apply for a complimentary clarity session.

Go ahead share this post now then comment with your answers… I’d love to hear your story too!




P.S. For all my concerned fashionstas who wonder what became of all the fabulousness I collected during my Prada stint: yes, I did keep a few key pieces like my grey stilettos. But nowadays, I wear them for me…. not the label attached.

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  1. Catherine Breheny says:

    Hi Hillary,
    Loved the blog. I too was defined by my job. I was in the shoe industry. My world revolved around every aspect of the job!
    In order to continue that job I would have had to move my entire family to California, including my grandmother. It would have been a very difficult task. So I choose early retirement. As luck would have it, I found something that I loved and that was caregiving to patients with Lou Gehrigs disease. I was truly blessed to meet and care for the most wonderful women. Losing each of them was difficult but what I learned along the way will be forever in my heart!

    • Hillary Rubin says:

      Catherine — Glad you loved it. Love the work you are doing today and how it is feeding your heart + soul. 🙂

  2. I might be over sharing this just a little bit…while sitting home sick yesterday I pondered a lot of these questions myself. I feel like there’s been this general shift over the past couple of months towards doing what we love and loving what we do. There’s something in the air, and I am loving it and the inspiration and hope it give me. 🙂

  3. Not sure if our generation visioneered the ‘Don’t Believe the Hype’ movement, what I refer to as Airbrushed Normalcy, but I am so proud to be apart of it. We recognized the smell of horse sh*t miles away. We observed that being loyal to one’s title ‘status’ was no longer acceptable. Earning the Degree, working our ass off to get to the top, sacrificing our health + happiness wasn’t Hype at all! Parties, discounts, perks, material obsessions never fully compensated our Souls, as much as being loyal to our authentic Selves.

    Like you, I was over worked, over stressed + over exhausted. I was watching my life pass me by. I was living for others’ expectations – an Unlived Life. Since stepping down from an Operations Manager position about 5 years ago I began my Journey inward. Yoga, meditation, journaling, exploring my authentic thoughts + voice. It is a job. It is my duty. I am loyal to my Soul. Every day is a poetic.

    Our Soul’s run deep. There is so much beauty within each of us. Society raises us to look outward, when really the pill is to look inward. So much abundance lies within!

    Thank you Alyssa + Hillary for birthing this post!

    Soul + Space,

  4. Thank you soo much for sharing. You really put it into perspective with the victim road and the warrior road image -your bluntness really smacks me out of my monkey mind. I LOVE that about you!
    In answer to the questions you posed above ..
    1. Yes.
    2. Ultimately, No.
    3. I would do More for the world – bigger than myself.
    4. The ones that matter.
    5. Yes.
    I think I have my answer 😉 I will definitely keep you posted on my journey and can’t wait to hear about your NEW program!!!
    So much love and respect, xoxx

    • Hillary Rubin says:

      Alyssa love you lady. Thanks for asking me to write this post…. Keep me posted on your choices and how your journey plays out. Again it’s all in your choices love. xxoo H

  5. “Who would I be without this job?” I thought to myself. “No one will care who I am.”

    That’s exactly what I went through when I left my position as a high school administrator. I also had defined myself by my job, the advancement and accomplishments of my career.

    Loved this post. It really hits home with the questions and struggles of breaking out of the norm to become a warrior!

  6. Yes, I totally related to this, Hillary. Instead of Prada, my prison sentence was in an award-winning Creative Director/Execu-woman office creating and producing gazillion dollar commercials for brands like Honda and Acura with directors like the Coen Brothers. It’s been a joyful, challenging, confusing and exhilarating journey to “unzip the real me.” But knowing that there are so many other women–like yourself on this path, continues to inspire me. When we share our truth, we connect to each other’s strength. Thank you for being so honest and generous.

    • Hillary Rubin says:

      Awesome Wendi, I knew you would love. Love how you say — “unzip the real me’. You are so welcome lady…

  7. Welcome to the other side of the rainbow Hillary, I too stepped across from a job that was soul deadening to me (international corporate lawyer).

    Like you I had achieved “success” yet felt empty inside, did NOT want the life of my partner (like you I wondered what was ahead and if I really wanted THAT, and I did NOT!)

    My body was crumbling and gaining weight rapidly, food and drugs numbed the pain between all nighters and weekends working.

    Pastimes were buying Gucci accessories 9as you know they dont make clothes for 200 lb girls!)…

    And then I nearly died and that was MY final straw. now I love my life, challenges and all.

    And then I found Kundalini yoga, it saved my life in more ways than one. I took took teacher training to share this amazing ancient technology to heal others and the planet.

    AND i found the love of my life who is also my business partner, we live on a teeny tiny farm in Petaluma and we we do what we love.

    My body is 70lbs lighter, my heart is full and I am energized by life…

    After all its about adding life to your days and not days to your life.

    Love you, thank you as always for your poignant and deeply relevant posts

    • Hillary Rubin says:

      Thanks Shivie, been here for a while… Never knew your story and love it. Yes, “it is about adding life to your days not days to your life”… LOVE THAT! xxoo Hillary

  8. I really loved this post – brave and honest.

    Looking back, I’m happy for some of my resume gold too – it was to get me to the next step and now I haven’t needed to do a CV for years.

    So happy you are where you want to be now.

  9. Great writing Hillary! I did the same with Olympic gymnastics. Walked out and started from scratch in America.

    How blessed we are to live a mythic adventure of a life. And it only gets better! Love you amazing blazing Hillary!

  10. Loved hearing your full story, Hillary! Thank you, as always, for being so real and raw. And… I would still love to see a pic of you from back in the day. 🙂

    Love the life you have created for yourself!


    • Hillary Rubin says:

      Thanks Love… don’t have a lot of pics from that time in my life… I’ll have to dig them up. Love how you did the same for yourself too! 🙂

  11. Ali Lowell says:

    Thanks for sharing Hillary.

    It seems that the human race falls into one of two camps:
    1. Reactivity
    2. Creativity

    These are two sides of the same coin. But it’s not a flip of this coin that determines how we live our lives. We must choose which path to follow.

    I notice more people have chosen the reactive path and that’s sad. But for those of us who have chosen the path of creation, the ‘why’ is an important first step. I’ve found that relationships with friends and family who don’t understand my choices need to be augmented with relationships with other inspired seekers and creators.

    When I decided to use my knowledge to help women master their credit it was crucial to find other like-minded people with whom I could form a mastermind (and always looking to add to the mastermind, ladies!)

    I love what you’re doing, Hillary. I am a believer in loving yourself first – and I mean really LOVING yourself – and every choice you make after that becomes so much easier.

  12. WineDineDivas says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your real story Hillary. I’m so glad to found your website, but most of all very glad and inspired to see that your courage and commitment to yourself helped you actually Live your Dream Life.

    Now I have on my desktop your big 5 questions, and hope strongly that I can be at least honest to myself.

    Thank you again for the inspiration!

  13. Jeanette Ho says:

    I have just left my job as Brand Manager with a luxury brand. After 10 long arduous years. It felt
    Iike I was coming up for air after holding my breadth for a long time . It is true that the fashion industry sucks the very being out of you and you live in a surreal world where buying the latest dress and handbag is important, being seen at functions matters and chasing numbers and churning reports at ungodly hours seems to be the order of the day. I was burnt out and had a host of health problems like back ache , weight gain and gassy stomach. I was also constantly anxious and sleeps badly. And so I quit . I need to save my sanity and to gain some sense of balance to my being. No I do not regret putting in so much of myself in my fashion career but I know that I now want a more balance life with time to smell the flowers.

    • Hillary Rubin says:

      Hey Jeanette! I so get where you are.. Glad you went for it and are on the path to save your sanity and gain some balance into being. Fashion is exciting and when it’s time, it’s time. Keep smelling the flowers. 🙂


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