I didn’t hate Dr. Lee Scanlon per se, but I was incredibly scared of him. Our first encounter was beyond humiliating. What’s more, it was in front of a room full of people. I was so embarrassed, I nearly passed out (I’ll get to that in a minute.) Even though I despised him at that very moment and frankly, in a bunch of other ones, too, he is indeed the man responsible for my success in television.

Matter of fact, he single-handedly beat some sense into me, toughened me up and then, did what most college professors do: sent me out into the big ol’ world with a daring dream and an indelible sense of determination. His secret to helping me succeed was pretty simple. At least, it seems that way now; when I was a junior in college, not so much.

You see, Dr. Scanlon believed in me so I, in turn, believed in myself. That self-confidence was hard-won, though, and started the very first day of his Broadcast Journalism class, when I was sitting in the back of the room acting nonchalant. He must have smelled my fear from a mile away because he quickly called on me to come to the front of the class, introduce myself and tell everyone why I wanted to be on television.

My face turned beet red, as I shuffled front and center and introduced myself like he asked. “You didn’t say WHY you wanted to be on television,” he snapped in a disparaging tone. In response, my fellow classmates started laughing and heckling me, which made him bellow: “Shut up, people! Go on, Shireen.” I grew woozy and sweaty being in the spotlight. I took a deep breath and quickly blurted out: “I want to be a writer. Someone who tells stories and inspires others. If I can do that, then I want to be on TV.” The room fell silent.

I turned and looked at my professor for approval. He grunted something inaudible and told me to sit down. As the two-hour course continued, every student was given the chance to introduce themselves and share their journalism dreams. Person after person talked about the art of performing, the glamour of traveling and meeting interesting, new people. My answer left me feeling inadequate, stupid and ill-prepared.

?When class was over, I made a beeline for the door, but just as I was about to make my great escape, Dr. Scanlon called me back into the classroom. I sighed under my breath and walked back to his desk. I stood there staring at him awkwardly. “You’re the only person who answered the question correctly,” he said. “What question?” I asked stupidly. “Why you want to be on television,” he replied.

That conversation was the beginning of an incredibly challenging, rewarding, frustrating and exhilarating year. Dr. Scanlon taught us how to quickly and efficiently write and preform news copy, he drilled us on current events, quizzed us on political policy, world leaders and world history. I studied relentlessly and it still wasn’t enough. I failed a lot, but I succeeded at times, too.

In my spare time, he encouraged me to work at our school’s PBS station, where I learned to run a studio camera, edit and report the news. I tried out for the locally produced student news program to be an anchor, but didn’t make the cut. Instead, Dr. Scanlon suggested I take a position behind-the-scenes and learn as much as possible. So I did.

I worked day and night learning how to become a broadcast journalist. When I complained to the good doctor, he scoffed at me and said: “That’s what your life in television will be like, but worse.” I sucked it up and gave up my holidays, spring break and worked straight through the summer into my senior year. I also changed my wardrobe, per Dr. Scanlon’s suggestion. He urged me to dress for the job I wanted, not the job I had: a broke college student.

Because I didn’t have a lot of money, I made-do at a local thrift shop, where I purchased a few tailored blazers, paired them with skinny jeans, cool t-shirts and wingtip loafers. It was the best I could do at the time and the lady who I bought everything from told me it was a vintage-look and it was all the rage in New York City. Satisfied, I paid and headed for the computer lab.

Where I bumped into Dr. Scanlon. He looked at me and said: “What style is that?” I replied confidently: “Vintage.” He laughed and said: “Whatever it is, it’s a major improvement, but I’m not sure about the shoes.” I smiled at the small victory and sat down to write a story he had assigned me on the political temperature inside Azerbaijan’s presidential republic.

My senior year was a glorious blur of examining the world and writing, reporting and  learning how to communicate the information on television. When the year ended, my counselor told me that I had worked so hard and taken so many classes, if I stayed throughout Summer and Fall I would earn another full degree. It meant I wouldn’t graduate with my class, but I would get another shot at making it as a student news anchor. It was the only position I had auditioned for numerous times and never landed.

As I watched my friends graduate, I upgraded my dorm room to a private suite and buckled down for a heavy workload. It would be just one of many sacrifices I would make to fulfill my dream of becoming a broadcast journalist. I enrolled and was accepted into the school’s advanced writing curriculum, landed a student news anchor position (at last) and worked at the school’s theatre, helping to build and strike sets for local productions, to make extra money.

I graduated successfully in December and walked across the stage wearing my best  “Winter Vintage.” It was one of the happiest moments of my life and the inspiration for this blog. Dr. Scanlon was there, too, proudly looking on. After the ceremony, I packed my car and drove away. I didn’t cry and I didn’t look back. Ever. Matter of fact, I never even went back.

I had stayed, willingly for years, so when I left I was ready for the world. It was part of the determination switch that Dr. Scanlon had flipped on inside of me. He would say to me: “Don’t let me catch you hanging around campus after you’ve graduated reliving your glory days. Make every job better than the last, make every story your swan song and become so successful, you’ll look back at this and write about it.”

I moved back to Albuquerque (my hometown) where I worked as a hostess, waitress, store clerk, cold caller (the list goes on,) all while sending out my resume reel. When nothing happened, I made a list of every single television station in the country (I’m not kidding) and on my work breaks, armed with a pile of quarters, I used the nearest pay phone (because I couldn’t afford a cell) to call newsrooms, assistant news directors and news directors across the country. I WAS RELENTLESS. I wanted to be a television writer and nothing was going to stop me.

It took seven months, almost to the day, from my college graduation to land my first television job interview for a part-time writing position for the ABC affiliate in a small Texas town. I drove the entire way, in a borrowed car, with my dad’s gas card and twenty bucks in my pocket. I aced the writing test and they offered me the job for $12,000 dollars a year, on one condition; I had to get myself to Texas. I did.

On my first day of work, I was shown to the cubicle that I would share with three other people. On the desk, there was an envelope with my name on it. I recognized the hand-writing right away. It was from Dr. Scanlon. I tucked it away in the new briefcase my parents had given me as a parting gift.

I opened the crisp white envelope with my former university’s insignia on it after my first day on the job. It seemed so regal compared to my new surroundings: a 150 square foot studio apartment on the wrong side of the tracks. Put it this way, my dorm room was better. The letter read simply…

Dear Shireen,
Be the writer you were meant to be.
Dr. Scanlon

In honor of my first television job and my recent promotion to co-host of Deco Drive, I wanted the spirit of this blog to be about the dreamer in all of us and how the beautiful things of the past can blend perfectly with the present. That’s why I chose “Hollen and Jen’s Vintage Showroom” to style me.

Not only are Hollen and Jen best friends, they took their love of shopping for vintage treasures and turned it into a business. Their store is snuggled inside a two-story office building in the charming town of Bay Harbour. They describe their showroom as “walking into your best friend’s closet.”

Their store boasts dresses, suits, blouses, skirts, shoes, coats, boots, purses and accessories, all in mint condition. Most importantly, they’re really affordable for South Florida fashionistas. I adore Hollen and Jen because they, much like Dr. Scanlon, have always supported my television dreams.

Despite my position, or lack thereof, they’ve dressed the gypsy in me, the Hollywood reporter and now, the co-host, with enthusiasm. Hollen is a beautiful, sandy brunette and Jen is an ethereal, bubbly blonde. Both have gorgeous spirits and light in their eyes. When they talk about vintage, it’s impossible not to get seduced by their honeycomb of enthusiasm…

SS: What is the concept of your store?
JS: Our style and concept of the showroom was and always will be affordable vintage designer clothing. Matter of fact, most of our favorite pieces do not have a designer label.

SS: When is an item deemed vintage?
HR: Vintage clothing is ten years or older.

SS: How are “lightly used” items different than vintage?
JS: Light used clothing is not vintage. You can buy a Chanel suit tomorrow that’s brand new and wear it the next day and that’s considered lightly used, but if you wait ten years and take it out of your closet, then you have a vintage Chanel Suit.

SS: Why do you think vintage is at the forefront of fashion?
HR: Vintage has always been at the forefront of fashion. Just look at old movies with Audrey Hepburn and the styles are timeless, classic and elegant.  

SS: Where do you find all the fabulous items for your store?
JS: Finding all of our fabulous items is our favorite part of the job. We love the hunt. Our pieces come from all over the world; we do vintage shows and go into collectors closets to find our treasures.

SS: What is your most prized vintage possession?
HR: My grandmother’s Pucci Collection.
JS: My grandfather’s gold pocket watch.

SS: What is the best way to wear vintage?
HR: The best way to wear vintage is to mix it with the new!

SS: What celebrity do you feel best expresses the vintage trend?
HR: Positively, MaryKate and Ashley Olsen.

SS: When styling the blog, what feel did you want to create?
JS: We wanted the looks to be elegant, smart, cool and sexy.

SS: There are a lot of vintage stores in Miami: what sets your store apart?
HR: I think everything sets us apart from other vintage stores in Miami! Our prices, our love and our passion for beautifully made clothing.
JS: Coming into our showroom is like walking into your best friends closet and we are best friends.

SS: Is true vintage expensive?
HR: True vintage does not have to be expensive. It completely depends on where you buy it.

SS: What is the first vintage item you ever owned?
JS: My very first piece of vintage clothing was a YSL black pencil skirt that I still wear today.
HR: And mine was my mom’s Courrege navy blue dress that I still rock today.

SS: Who has more shoes and clothes between the two of you?
JS: Definitely Hollen has more!

SS: What is the most popular vintage trend now for Fall & Winter?
HR: Buy Classic and you will never go wrong.

SS: If money were no object, what vintage item would you try to procure?
JS: We both agree! “The Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.”

The day I showed up to pick up the wardrobe, Hollen and Jen had pulled two racks of their best “Winter Vintage,” making it almost impossible to choose. They encouraged me to just “have fun with it” and pick the fashions that most expressed the person I was today. I narrowed it down to five outfits. What I didn’t wear for the blog shoot, I wore on Deco Drive.

The first “Winter Vintage” look I chose is an homage to my profession as a reporter/writer/host/journalist. Not only is it a powerful and pretty tuxedo suit, it’s vintage prowess is chock-full of untold stories. I found it to be mysterious and mature. I paired it with my grandmother’s pearl drop necklace, Bebe hoops, bold cocktail rings and my favorite gold YSL’s (all pictured in the blog.)

The second look is sheerly devoted to my love of fashion. Who doesn’t love a dramatically cut, shiny black onesie, reminiscent of a night out on the town at Studio 54? I ramped up the look with gold vintage Valentino boots I purchased at Hollen and Jen’s last year. It matched their petite gold gloves perfectly. I added my favorite vintage Givenchy gold and black medallion, chain belt for pizazz. The leather necklace is from Koko & Palenki and the earrings are from Forever 21 (all pictured in the blog.)

As I modeled the vintage looks, I couldn’t help but think of Dr. Scanlon, my first vintage blazer and everything it took to get to where I am today. After I received that letter from him on the first day of my career, I never heard from the good doctor again. He taught me how to dream big, have the brains to back it up and the balls to tough it out and that’s why I succeeded.

I don’t know if Dr. Scanlon knows what I made of my life, but as he found me on the first day at my first job, I’d like to think that he’s been watching all along and I’d like him to know how much he did for me. If he happens to read this, words cannot even begin to express my gratitude. Our past now mixes together beautifully with the present… and that’s why “Winter Vintage” will always be one of my favorite things.

Wardrobe provided and styled by: Hollen & Jen Vintage Showroom
Twitter @Hollenandjen
IG @Hollenandjen
FB Hollen & Jen Showroom

Twitter @ShireenSandoval
IG @ShireenSandoval

photography by tod p/t4twophotography
Twitter @todp_photo
IG @Tod_p

Hair by Odette Hernandez
Make-up by Javier Lucero

Editor: Matthew Auerbach

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