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10 Things I Liked & Didn’t Like About #GIRLBOSS By Sophia Amoruso

I’m not a fashion gal. And I hate shopping.

Call it the result of being forced to spend hour after hour shopping with my mother. Ma can (and does) shop from sun up to sun down. From St. John’s suits to a quaint San Francisco boutique to an outlet mall, if shopping is involved, she’s down. My grandmother once joked that Ma should quit her 20 plus year career in higher education, move to L.A. and become a personal shopper to the stars. I concurred. Ma laughed at the idea.

I wear what I think looks good on me. I admire the legion of fashionable women in NYC who pair high and low pieces or vintage and chic to make a fly ensemble that I would’ve never imagined. People’s personal style is intriguing, but I doubt I’ll ever be the chick who loves to shop, gawks at the glossy pages of Vogue, knows high end designers or will scour a thrift store rack for hours.

For all those reasons I was clueless about Nasty Gal’s founder and CEO, Sophia Amoruso. The one time I thought I should shop more online and less in Soho, I ran across a blog post that listed Nasty Gal as one of the top sites for women’s clothing. I still had no clue who Sophia Amoruso was until about a week ago.

What I wore to the Jay & Beyonce #OntheRun concert. Dressed in all black like the omen. See? Not a fashion killer.

What I wore to the Jay & Beyonce #OntheRun concert. Dressed in all black like the omen. See? Not a fashion killer.

Sophia turned Nasty Gal into a $100 million business in seven years. Homegirl started the business on her couch selling vintage clothes on ebay. How did she do it? That’s where #GIRLBOSS comes in as a half-memoir, half-business guide. Her cult following and the massive media push ensured #GIRLBOSS would spend 10 weeks on The New York Times Bestseller list since its release in May.

When pictures of #GIRLBOSS crept into my Instagram feed I rolled my eyes. Hard. I figured it was another Lean In, which I’m ok never reading in life for reasons mother bell hooks and other feminists have pointed out.

But for some reason #GIRLBOSS appealed to me more than Lean In ever did. I tweeted that I was going to give it a try hoping people who had read it would hit me with a yay or nay. My guy friend saw my tweet and texted me shortly after.

“Hey. If you want the girl boss book I’ll send it to you. The ebook.

For the free?

“Yes, please!!!!” And so it began.

I started the book on a Thursday evening and had finished by Saturday afternoon. It was a super easy read. Basically #GIRLBOSS is Amoruso’s abridged story of a chick who went from Subway sandwich maker to unemployed to petty thief to CEO and Founder of a $100M business in seven years, all by the age of 30. It’s unheard of and was enough to pique my interest.

Homegirl was a mess. But the mess actually turned into being what Steve Jobs calls “connecting the dots” because it all led to who she eventually became. Sophia moved out of her parents’ home before finishing high school, stole, hitch hiked with strange men, slept on couches, got fired from several jobs and probably never made more than $14/hour at any job before starting Nasty Gal. Her personal story is what led me to read the book.

We have very different journeys, but loads of personality similarities—we’re both Aries— if that tells you anything. As you’ve read, I’m on this positive journey so I’d like to not give shine to the things I dislike. But I’m a writer and a critical thinker. That will never go away. So before we get to what I didn’t like, let’s start with what I did.

Advice & illustrations from #GIRLBOSS

Advice & illustrations from #GIRLBOSS

LIKED….

1. A life worth writing about
For me this is the draw of the book. Like Sophia, I have not led the straight and narrow path. Neither has Oprah or a lot of other “girl bosses.” Sophia makes it clear from jump she never intended to start Nasty Gal as this massive business that would make her rich. All the missteps she took certainly didn’t indicate she’d land on Forbes and Inc’s top lists of the year. She owns her weirdness. Her honesty about being an introvert, sarcastic, a reformed thief and her success kind of just happening unintentionally is refreshing.

2. All the ladies who’re independent, throw your hands up at me
The chick is a real self-made millionaire. To grow a business that pulls in over $100 million annually in seven years is major. To do so without any debt is something of a miracle. She never borrowed one dime from the bank to finance her business. Investors didn’t come calling until she’d already made mad money. Sophia really did make an empire with her own sweat and tears. I doubt any blood was shed.

3. “Stay humble, but let these n*ggas know”
No, this white girl didn’t say that or anything remotely close. But the popularly quoted IG post applies here. I have no clue if she’s humble in real life, but I didn’t get a lot of boasting from #GIRLBOSS. I did get from it that she knows what she’s accomplished and is damn proud of it. There were times she would let you know flatly: I’m a “bad bitch” (yes, she uses that phrase quite a few times), I did this while living in a Bay area apartment full of thrown out furniture and now I’m running shit. I’m not mad at that.

4. If you don’t do anything else in life, be your freaking self
I know a thing or two about the publishing industry. I personally do not believe Sophia wrote the book because, well, she’s not a writer. That’s what ghostwriters do. Call me for book #2, girl. Whoever wrote it captured Sophia’s quirkiness and realness. She cursed like hell. She didn’t kiss anyone’s ass. She proudly admitted she hated NYC’s Fashion Week. So.Do.I. Barf! There was a theme throughout about daring to always be yourself. It’s actually authenticity that leads to success, which is what most rich people will tell you. Being herself and playing to her strengths is exactly how she created Nasty Gal with zero knowledge in business.

bet on yourself

DIDN’T LIKE…

5. For the youngins
I’m 29. This book ain’t for me or anyone over 21. It’s very much a book about her story. “Hey, I’m Sophia. I’m only 30. I run a $100 million dollar business. I had no plan. But I ended up here.” It’s simple. Compelling, but simple. I’m not sure anyone who has been in the workforce for over three years would gain much from #GirlBoss that you didn’t already know.

6. Don’t expect any real advice on how to be a boss
Sophia is like Rick Ross. Constantly hollering/grunting, “I’m a boss,” but very little direction on how to be a boss or what all it entails. The few tips go something like: spell check your resume (bitch, who doesn’t know that?), be polite, know when to shut up and don’t write a cover letter that’s all about what you want from the employer. To be fair, I did think tips like save 10% of every paycheck in a separate account and changing all your passwords to inspirational phrases were cute tidbits. However, I wanted to know more about how she navigates being a boss as a woman. Does she struggle with people taking her less seriously because of her age? How does she deal with sexism in the boardroom? How does she remain stern without being considered a bitch? The chapter on hiring and firing probably had the most tips, but it wasn’t meaty with information. Firing someone is inevitable, she says. Don’t tell the person you’re firing it’s harder for you than it is on them because that’s a crop of shit because they’re now unemployed. Duh! What else, Sophia?

7. Keep feminism’s name out your mouth if you don’t really get it

In the very first chapter she addresses the F word.

This book is titled #GIRLBOSS.
Does that mean it’s a feminist manifesto?
Oh God. I guess we have to talk about this.
#GIRLBOSS is a feminist book, and Nasty Gal is a feminist company in the sense that I encourage you, as a girl, to be whom you want and do what you want. But I’m not here calling us “womyn” and blaming men for any of my struggles along the way.

Girl, stop. Because that’s all feminists do is refer to themselves as “womyn” and blame men for their struggles. This is idiotic and shows a deep lack of knowledge on what feminism is truly about. Why even write something so…misguided?

I believe the best way to honor the past and future of women’s rights is by getting shit done. Instead of sitting around and talking about how much I care, I’m going to kick ass and prove it…Is 2014 a new era of feminism where we don’t have to talk about it? I don’t know, but I want to pretend that it is.

Bye, Felicia. I don’t care how she identifies. I do care when your one sweeping generalization of feminism is the tired trope that all feminists do is whine about the problems men have created as if misogyny, sexism and patriarchy aren’t real issues globally. I don’t expect a 30-year-old rich privileged chick to be well read on bell hooks or Gloria Steinem, and it’s obvious she is not. Fine. Just keep feminism’s name up out your mouth.

sophia amoruso 2

8. School ain’t for everybody, but everybody can’t afford to not go to school
College is not for everybody. Student loan debt is a crisis in this country that needs to be seriously dealt with. Sophia barely graduated high school. Community college didn’t stick either. She found success without it as have others like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs. But notice anything about all of them? You guessed it: White. Black folks at large can’t afford to not go to college. The statistics for poverty show that the numbers are exponentially higher for black people without college degrees. Hell, even Oprah has a college degree (from my beloved HBCU, #TSU!).

This anti-school attitude is not for black folks. The same rooms she can walk in to have meetings with big time investors with only the knowledge she learned via Google and from running a company? We can’t even get in those rooms with Ivy-league degrees let alone without them. This sentiment throughout the book really bothered me because I know she was writing it from a perspective of white privilege that she doesn’t even realize she has. I worked damn hard for my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees just to have the publisher of a magazine once tell me my Master’s was antiquated. Because a black woman who is both younger and higher educated than him means my degree is “antiquated.” Right. So for the young black adults reading #GirlBoss, you need to go to school or learn or trade or have a damn good plan with money to fund your plan. Continue living by the creed we all know to be true: We have to work twice as hard and be better than them just to be on an equal playing field. That will never change, even once we’re bosses.

9. All optimism is not created equally
At the crux I do believe that with hard work, belief in yourself, taking risks and following your dreams you can become whatever you want. Only it’s really not that simple, especially for women, especially for women of color. Sophia gave no real nod to any real hardships she had to face. Nor did she mention how her “put your head down and do the work” tactic could still limit certain groups from succeeding, or could take them 20 years to do what she did in seven.

10. Learn when to leave the party early
This book could’ve ended at its halfway point. It nailed the point that she was an outcast her whole life for way too long. We get it, honey. Without any elaborate advice on how to be a boss it started to drag like she just needed to fill the pages.

This book wasn’t written for me, and I think that’s fine. Everyone has a target demographic they cater to. And typically since I don’t support people or businesses that let me know they couldn’t care less about speaking to me as a black woman, I’m glad I didn’t pay for it.

I am glad I read it though. Her story is interesting enough. Although I didn’t find a ton of helpful gems (there were a few) I can’t hate on a self-made woman. Book aside, she went from couch surfing and dumpster diving to managing over 350 employees, saving $1 million in her personal bank account and paying cash for a Porsche all before the age of 30. That in itself makes you at the very least interested in what she has to say about success. Once you read the last page you can go back to your life before you knew who Sophia Amoruso even was.

And all will be well in the world.

  • loudpen

    Love this review! It was honest and real. I haven’t read the book but I have heard of Sophia because of my fashion background. But like you, I never sought out to actually read the book because I knew it wouldn’t contain anything that would really help a Black woman like myself.

    Diversity in the fashion world is a total joke. On occasion the larger fashion focused outlets will write stories about lack of models and designers of color at fashion week…but they never feature any models or designers of color on their site. So all they are doing is jumping on the bandwagon but not doing anything to help the issue. Then they praise people like Sophia, as if they literally hung the moon.

    There’s no denying that she is successful and she deserves recognition but come on. The amount of people of color running successful businesses or having a career in the fashion world is a pale comparison. That’s one of the reasons I left NYC and branched out by making my blog lifestyle focused.

    My business partner & I also stopped referring to our agency as a multicultural agency because it was met with silence 9 times out of 10. Not to mention, we’ve gotten emails from brands asking for white models only. To us that never made any sense because we’ve only worked with multicultural clients. And in general our agency has gotten more love from international companies in the Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Africa, China, and Europe. We always joke and say we should move to one of those places because we’d be accepted there.

    I’m saying all this to say the standard of beauty is based off Eurocentric standards and since the fashion world is all about that, Sophia and others like her will continue to write books with impractical advice for everyone who doesn’t look like them.

    And PS, you definitely have style! You look dope in the photo from above. Style is wearing what you want and not caring what people think. Fashion is the “art” presented on a runway worn by a girl meant to be a human hanger. Sorry for the long comment!

    • writtenbyBene

      Love this comment. Super thoughtful and all truth. I really detest fashion week. This year during NYFW everyone was writing about the lack of diversity in the fashion industry because notable models spoke out. But racism and lack of diversity in fashion isn’t new. It sounds like you’ve found a niche so keep striving, keep pushing. Thanks for reading.

      Best regards,

      Bené Viera
      Multimedia Journalist | Writer | Blogger
      http://beneviera.com

      • loudpen

        Awesome, glad you liked my comment! Fashion week is definitely something else so I understand why you’re not a big fan of it. And you’re right lack of diversity in fashion isn’t something new. Thanks, I think I have found my niche so I appreciate the support! And you’re welcome, it’s nice to read great writing! PS I did edit my original comment because I do like Nasty Gal & have much respect for Sophia. I just get frustrated with the lack of diversity. Thanks & ttyl!

  • Kydee Williams

    I liked your review. It was the very sentiments I felt after reading GirlBoss. Although I admire her accomplishments and her success, it just seemed so unrealistic for a black woman to relate to…As you said, after turning the last page my life went back to the way it was before I knew her story and who she even was **shrugs**

  • Cristina

    I agree with all your review, but the black woman speech. With this I am not saying that there’s equality in our society, but I don’t think that a black person is not going to be capable of what Sophia, Jobs or Mark did because of how our society is. They just started with something little, a bunch of friends and cero investment. Why someone of color can’t do that? Totally agree with the feminism part. Can’t believe she doesn’t even know what she’s talking about. Pardon my grammar or misspelling, English is my second language.

    • writtenbyBene

      Thanks for reading. To clarify I never once wrote that a “black person is not going to be capable.” But to not acknowledge that there are varying factors that would make it incredibly more difficult for a black person to have the type of resources & connects afforded to Jobs or Zuckerberg is naive. The fact alone that they attended an Ivy League & left there with connections/resources is something far less blacks are afforded.
      You said English is your second language. Are you 1st generation American or an immigrant? If so I understand your POV. Loads of non-American blacks have a different idea of blacks upward mobility that is quite different than our actual reality.

  • Great review! I love that the points you didn’t like didn’t take away from the points that you did. I will be the first to tell you that I don’t know enough about feminism to be able to speak confidently about it. I’m still learning the ins and outs, but trying not to let social media and other people’s opinion of what it is sway me one way or another.

    Your 8th point hit so close to home. We really do have to work twice as hard. Every time I even think about quitting school, I wake myself up like “nah, you gotta take one for the team”. As nice as it may sound for people to be able to form these empires without a degree, many of us just don’t have that luxury.

    I’m gonna check out the book, but I also would love to know what books that are similar to this that you would recommend.

  • Cambria

    I don’t know who you are but I love you. I’m an executive in the cosmetic industry and I worked my ass off to get where I am today. 17 Years later I could write 10 books all on how to be successful- and cover many different areas of a womans life/struggle. I thought your review was awesome. And I love how your personality comes through your writing. Great job! Bye Felicia! lolol!!

    • writtenbyBene

      I love you!

  • Want It? Go Get It!

    There are varying factors but there are ALSO ways around them. School is not the end all be all for everyone. If it was, unemployment rates would be lower, job satisfaction would be higher, and student loan debt would not be the crisis that it is now. Too many young people are being fed this story as if its a magic pill then, coming into the real world, are sorely disappointed and incredibly in debt. Life is bigger than the obstacles we face. If ANYONE wants whatever they want, they need to set their intentions and watch for/ be open to opportunities to move toward it. Said by someone born in America who is successful in the Sales Dept of my International Graphics Company. Please do not tell people that their color or even their history is a rule or obstacle that cannot be overcome should they wish to. It is simply Not True.

    • Want It? Go Get It!

      I do not have a degree and do not intend to get one. I am, however, a self guided learner by nature and with all the information available today at our fingertips, it has worked very well for me to develop the skills that allow me to do well in my career.

      • writtenbyBene

        Ok, and…? Also, are you Black?

    • writtenbyBene

      Also, please do not tell me what to not tell people. I also didn’t tell anyone anything. I wrote my opinion. On my blog.

    • writtenbyBene

      Also, please do not tell me what to not tell people. I also didn’t tell anyone anything. I wrote my opinion. On my blog.

  • Great review. Being a writer and businesswoman over 30 I’ll pass and I appreciate your take on it exactly what I wanted to know before purchasing.

    • writtenbyBene

      Thank you for reading!

  • Great review! I particularly like the points where you share what you didn’t like, especially the fact that the book is skewed towards white privilege. And I’m also happy you mentioned that it does not really offer any real gems about how to become a self-made millionaire by 30.

  • specialbuddy

    Just heard about Sophia today and was looking for reviews of her book. Buying the book for my wife. All the reasons you disliked the book are the reasons I will be buying it. Your definition of feminism is bullshit. Your view on skin color is bullshit. Beyonce and Daymond John didn’t go to college so try harder next time to find successful black people that didn’t go to college. Maybe they are crackers and I don’t know it. Hopefully one day you will realize your own racism and stop blaming whitey and own up to your faux victimhood. Guess what else is a privilege? Being an attractive women, which you happen to be. Being attractive can lead to more opportunities as well so own up to it because I think that’s the only reason anyone probably listens to the retarded shit coming out of your mouth. Stereotypes are great.

  • Mara D

    The first woman millionaire in the United States was a woman of color.

  • kelli majewski

    Loved everything you wrote BUT bringing race into it… 😞 For once I just wanna read something from a woman/man of color and not have that come into it 😑

    • writtenbyBene

      Girl, please. I’m a black woman. Race affects every single aspect of my life. I will write about it when I want, especially on MY blog. You’d be better served not telling me what to do, but seeking (or creating) the content you want to read.