I think one of the greatest joys of my existence as a child was that I gave my mom and grandma a chance to dress me up as if I were a doll. Playing dress up was 100% of the time, and they made sure I had vibrant outfits for every occasion. I remember for my pre-school Christmas show, they put me in a red winter dress with Dalmatian print and a matching “handmuff”. I didn’t even know what a handmuff was, but my grandma explained it to me and told me about how she had been to a wedding once where all the girls were dripping in diamonds and wearing handmuffs. Italians go over the top in everything, so I really had no choice but to wear an accessory that had been seen in a fancy wedding to my pre-school Christmas show. As I think about it now, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only owners of handmuffs are dolls, girls from the 1940s, and Gina as a child.
I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on my past and the influences that have helped shape me into the person I am today. My grandma and mother are definitely huge influences, as they’re the strongest and most beautiful women I know. But one of the most profound influences on my life was the film The Wizard of Oz.
I watched this movie countless times as a child, enjoying it more and more each time I saw it. Dorothy was someone I could relate to. We both lived on farms, and as cheesy as it sounds, we both had dreams of going somewhere over the rainbow into a magical land that was beyond life on the farm. I found comfort in Dorothy, and felt as if she was someone who understood me. Living on a farm is a very different experience than the majority of childhoods, and I’m not sure anyone could understand unless they grew up in that kind of environment. And it was especially odd for me, as I was this eccentric and vibrant little child who would run around in mesh fairy wings and use the cattle guard as a catwalk.
The Wizard of Oz was an outlet of escape for me—a chance to live apart from reality and in the magical land of Oz. I loved it all. The music, the costumes, the characters, Dorothy, even the Wicked Witch-- she fascinated me, as did her army of monkeys. But what I loved most of all was the Ruby Slippers. They were the ultimate sense of glamour and I found great beauty in them. My 4 year old self was in awe, and even today when I watch the film I’m still in awe.
When I was around 4, my mom and grandma got me my very own pair of “Ruby Slippers”, which began my lifelong relationship with shoes. They were my connection to Dorothy, to fashion, and to everything I ever dreamed of. They weren’t just shoes—they were food for my soul, and helped harness the magic that was inside of me. An incredible feeling overcame me whenever I wore them, as they allowed me to take the fantasy of Oz and bring it into reality.
Fast forward to August of 2011, just weeks before my 21st birthday. Being the kind soul she is, my mother decided to get me a pair of Jeffrey Campbell Lita shoes as a birthday gift. She didn’t really know anything about them other than “the shoes you’ve been obsessed with”, so instead of finding them, she gave me the money to buy the pair I had desired.
Months prior, I had been lusting over these brilliant creations in footwear. They were different than any shoe I had ever seen. The 6 inch block of a heel, the variety in colors, the way they laced up—I knew right away that they were made for me. I had gone through a variety of shoes over the years, but there was something special about the Litas. They were the kind of special that I only saw one other time in my life; with the Ruby Slippers.
When my Litas finally arrived, the excitement had turned me into an extreme emotional mess. I was a bit apprehensive about opening the box since I had been waiting for this moment for so long and didn’t want that lusting feeling to ever end. But I quickly pushed that feeling aside and ripped open the box like a wild animal on crack.
|The day I got my Litas. Don't mind my skeletal fingers.|
It’s like they were crafted by angels in platform heaven. The soft black leather, the factory fresh smell, the larger than life heel—I’m honestly surprised that I didn’t pass out and die upon first laying eyes on them, as the feeling was just too much for my heart to handle.
When I tried them on, my emotions got even further out of control. I didn’t want to look at anyone, because I didn’t want them to see me tearing up. If people were allowed to marry shoes in California, I would’ve married them in an instant. They brought life into me, and it was like I was seeing the world for the very first time when they were on my feet. They were more than just a material item, they were one of my essential body parts.
Meanwhile, my mom and brother were observing the scene of Gina and Lita insanity that was happening right there in the kitchen. They thought the shoes were ridiculous. My mom could not stop laughing and told me that I wouldn’t be able to walk without falling and killing myself. My brother shook his head and said that the shoes were meant for hookers. When my dad got home and saw them, he thought I had finally lost my mind. I took everyone’s reactions as compliments, and proceeded into my room where I could be at peace with my new shoes, my cat, and a cup of tea—my only necessities in the world.
My Litas brought back the feeling of happiness I had with my Ruby Slippers at age 4. It was like the magic in my life had been restored. My Ruby Slippers were my first solemate, and now I had found my second.
An extreme love for shoes may seem superficial to those who haven’t discovered their perfect pair. But nothing is more genuine than the beautiful feeling one has upon walking around in their favorite pair of shoes. When my favorites are on my feet (heels in particular), they become an extension of my being. They bring out the best version of myself, and give me confidence in wanting to do amazing things in life.
Unfortunately, I was not born a 6ft tall European top model, so wearing heels is the closest I’ll ever get to my unattainable dream of supermodel stardom. Shoes have an incredible power of liberation, and my hope for the world is for everyone to be able to experience the same joys with shoes as I have.
The phrase “if you could walk in my shoes…”is spot on when it comes to the connection between shoes and life. There’s something extremely personal about out shoes. Our steps begin our journeys in life, and having a pair of shoes that we find happiness in is essential in leading us closer to our dreams.