Arlene Stearns is a leading image consultant, artist, and public speaker, who helps those who want to up level their income to make an impact in the world. She creates a distinctive personal style for entrepreneurs and professionals that boosts their confidence and revenue.
As the founder of The ImageUp System, she guides her clients to cash in on lucrative opportunities they’ve previously missed by enhancing their appearance, presence, and image. The comprehensive system addresses all aspects of the client’s inner and outer persona, so the brilliance on the inside radiates on the outside, too.
With almost 20 years in the fashion industry, and as a recipient of four national awards, Arlene understands the powerful connection between how you look and your success. Her proven system helps men and women look like a leader, so they are paid like a leader.
Connect with Arlene on LinkedIn.
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:01] Welcome to Spark Stories, where entrepreneurs and experts share their brand story and how they found their spark. The spark that started it all.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:00:13] Good evening. Good afternoon. I’m Clarissa J. Sparks, your host of Spark Stories. And we’re excited to be here today. Spark Story airs on the Atlanta Business Radio X Show on Saturdays Live at 10 a.m.. Please tune in to our pre broadcast at WW dot Atlanta Business RadioX dot com. I’m so excited to be in the studio today. We have an exciting guest. Her name is Arlene Stearns and she is the founder of Image Up System. Arlene, this show’s very conversational. Our listeners love to hear all about who you are, what you do, and why your brand matters. Please introduce yourself.
Arlene Stearns: [00:00:57] Well, I am Arlene Stearns and I am the founder of the Image App System. The image up system started I guess the seed started being planted as I was just a young girl. So my mother was a fashion model in New York City, and she gave up that career, of course, to start her family. My grandmother was the epitome of fashionista when that term wasn’t even in existence.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:01:24] We all love a fashionista, right?
Arlene Stearns: [00:01:26] Oh, yes. Well, she had me on Fifth Avenue as a toddler, and she loved dressing me in those styles. I was the only grandchild. And so, yes, I was decked out. It was a way for her to kind of show me off and and it was wonderful to be all dressed up.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:01:45] Oh, yeah. Dressing up is fun, especially when you’re in the early stages of development. When you’re exposed, that kind of brings you out and start you out on your purpose and starting out on that purpose. Like I said, it can be a transition from your relatives and almost like, like you said, planting that seed. And I think in entrepreneurship that is so important to have those foundational components instilled. And definitely, like I said, start at an early age. So thankful to your grandmother. She was able to recognize who you are and what you are becoming.
Arlene Stearns: [00:02:19] Yes. And my mother really instilled in me the value that you place on yourself is the value that others place on you. And initially, it’s all visually. Right. So you’re how you dress is you’re the expression of your essence. And that’s extremely important, right?
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:02:41] The essence is getting to the core of who you are and what you stand for. And people do judge off of your appearance. So tell us a little bit about how, you know, how important image is when building your business.
Arlene Stearns: [00:02:57] It’s extremely important and influence is really every aspect of your life, but it definitely influences your income because people do judge. It’s in our nature. We judge everything. When you go to a produce stand, you’re going to pick the shiniest apples, you’re going to pick the the tomatoes that don’t have any bruises. So we judge everything. And in less than a second is what the newest research shows.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:03:26] Less than a second.
Arlene Stearns: [00:03:27] Less than a second. Someone has decided on your capability and credibility, all based on your appearance. That’s how important it is. So you might have the best resume because managing partners or hiring partners have said the three most important things were the your experience, your confidence. And the third one was appearance. It even trumped education was more important and they said you should spend as much as much time as you’re on your appearance as you do on your resume. And so, yes, whether you’re going to look for like a corporate position or your rep or you’re representing your business, you represent your business everywhere you go, you are the face and the billboard of your business. People will decide if you’re an expert and if you’re really worth listening to all based on how you appear. Because we see you before we ever hear you.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:04:34] That’s right. And especially in the social media age, a lot of people see us online before they actually meet us in person. So I think that’s very important to kind of emphasize your overall brand. Look, how do you guide? How do you know if you have an imaging problem and how do you help solve it?
Arlene Stearns: [00:04:56] Hmm. Well, when people starting out, I try to have them as as they’re creating their brand. They are their brand. Right. So we look for colors. I really stress colors that will really flatter them and fit them. We look for a style that’s going to fit them in every aspect of the word. So it should literally fit them their body type, but it should fit their personality because it is essence of who they are, their lifestyle and their profession.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:05:39] So how did you do that? Do you go about it through assessment or just kind of a conversation? Because again, that’s kind of a hard talk to have with someone to tell them that they need to change their appearance in order to fit in.
Arlene Stearns: [00:05:53] Some people just know that it’s right for them. So I’ve had people reach out to me and say, I think I’m ready to up level because I feel like I believe, especially with every woman, because my heart goes to women. Every woman has a leader inside of her that’s ready to emerge, that’s ready to step into that leadership position, knowing that she can get the job she wants and the salary she wants as long as she looks like that person. So some of my clients have actually come to me and said, okay, I’m in transition. I’m ready to step up into this new position and I need to look that part. I need to look like I’m in charge and the leader. And so I love bridging the gap from where the woman is currently to where she wants to be. And I hold your hand and we take that journey together because because it is a total transformation.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:07:11] And during that transition time and transformational time, what is it? How long does it take to recreate your look?
Arlene Stearns: [00:07:18] Okay, so it starts with just a conversation because people will reach out to me or I’ll connect with them. And we just have a conversation about their challenges, where their goals, where they would like to go. And then we just see if we’re a good fit, if I can help them reach those goals faster. That’s always what I’d like to do. I in my agreement, I just say that we take like 90 days, but I have done it as fast as in two weeks. Two weeks. When somebody said, okay, I am ready to do this. I am committed. You know, I’m making this major leap and I need to get it done and we’ve gotten it done in a couple of weeks.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:08:06] Arlene, let’s talk about that. A few things that kind of resonate with me is you have to have confidence, clarity and commitment. Those three qualities in entrepreneurship and leadership are key. How do you help women who possibly may lack the confidence to show up?
Arlene Stearns: [00:08:29] The confidence is the key, and when you start dressing in a style that makes you look taller and slimmer because yes, any silhouette dressed in a style that suits them and really fits them, flatters them, you will look taller and slimmer without any dieting, without any detox, when you start looking in the mirror and seeing your beauty because everybody has beauty.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:09:00] The inner beauty.
Arlene Stearns: [00:09:01] Inner beauty. God made you beautiful with a silhouette that’s perfect for you. And all my job is is to enhance it when you see that enhanced version of you use. I’ve seen it over and over again. She stands up taller. Her whole demeanor changes. You can see that boost of confidence and that boost of confidence then translates into greater performance, more visibility, more confidence and more income. Because you’re attracting clients, you’re attracting people of influence that can help really move your business ahead. So that’s the confidence part. The clarity we did. I do a deep dive with you on clarity. And and it’s very clear when we finish to. Exactly what styles are going to make you confident, make you be the best you you can possibly be. And then that commitment, that commitment to self care, because it’s all part of self care, you need that commitment to yourself that you are important. So many women think I need to wait until I lose £10. Well, you’re saying that you’re not worthy now to look good. And you are. So, yes, it is a commitment.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:10:36] Yeah. And when you make that mindset shift and you commit, like you said, you can show up confidently in your business, in your leadership role, because you feel good about who you are and what value you can bring to your your customers. So again, I think that’s a very with any stage of business, particularly the early stages, just making sure that you are confidently showing up and you look the part because again, you are being judged, you are being categorized, and you want to make sure that you are portraying who you want to be and who you’re becoming. And it’s an evolution process. As your brand grows, your style will grow. And you have that signature style that say, you know what, I know when she shows up, she’s going to look the part, she’s going to speak the part, she’s going to be the part. And so I think that’s imaging is very important. But, you know, from an expertise, how often is it overlooked?
Arlene Stearns: [00:11:43] It’s very often overlooked, especially nowadays, kind of like that great resignation. And we’ve been locked away for two years. Yeah, we’ve gotten so lax about how we look as women. I’ve even read an article that talked about like I’m just reminding me of like the 1960s, like, burn the bra. Who needs that? You know, I’m going to grow a man’s stache. We just don’t need to really care about what we look like anymore. That is such a disservice to you. And you’re dishonoring yourself when you don’t care enough about yourself. And then if you don’t care about yourself, how are you going to care about somebody else’s business?
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:12:25] That’s right. That’s right. So for those who were locked away during the pandemic years, what are some recommendations for transitioning back into the public’s eye?
Arlene Stearns: [00:12:38] Try on what you you are trying on what you have and you’re looking in the mirror and going, Oh, this doesn’t look the same anymore. The styles could have changed or your body probably has changed, so the styles don’t fit in, flatter you. So it would really be great if you could consult an expert because you know your friends are going to tell you.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:12:59] Or at least they should know.
Arlene Stearns: [00:13:01] They usually tell you what you want to hear. Oh, and then. And then they also influence you with their style, which might not be your style at all. And then the salesperson wants to just sell you things. That’s her or his job, right? So they’re not as concerned. Does it really fit you in every sense of the word? Because some of my clients, invariably, as I’m going through their closet clarity component and we’re looking at everything in their wardrobe.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:13:35] Ooh, I like that. Say it again.
Arlene Stearns: [00:13:37] Closet clarity. Yes. So I have them. I look for the gems in their wardrobe that they already own. And I put together stunning outfits with their wardrobe, the gems and their wardrobe and all their accessories. And I take pictures of those outfits. Invariably, my clients will say, I never thought about pairing those two things. I never even knew that these two things could go together or match. I forgot all about this skirt, or the last person had a whole drawer full of scarves that she never wore because they were they were put away. And I showed her, you know, how to use them. And she loved it and said, we’re not going to pack them away. We’re going to put them over this hanger here where you can see them and grab them. Right. So but when I’m doing that, like one of my clients said, I’ve never warned that because I was with my friend and she insisted that I buy it. She liked it on me, I didn’t like it. And we don’t need things to just hang in our closet to take up space. We need a wardrobe that’s fun and functional. So when I say functional, I underline that fun part because you need to really love the clothes that you have. It’s part of loving who you are. And. And so if you don’t love it, don’t keep it. Don’t buy it.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:15:07] That’s hard advice to follow. I look at my closet that was just bursting at the seams and it’s just like, I want to keep this. How long? How often should we purge our closets?
Arlene Stearns: [00:15:20] You know what? I think we should go through it, like at the end of every season, especially if you need to pack up like your summer things as you transition into fall and winter. Think about did you as you’re packing them up, did I even wear this, this whole season? How often did I wear it? If you if you didn’t wear it the whole season, you might consider passing it on to someone else. Another way to kind of figure that out is as you’re wearing clothes, to have all your clothes facing in one direction. Because when I put your clothes back in your closet for a closet clarity, I have them all facing the same way, and they’re all grouped together in a way that’s easy for you to get dressed for any occasion, but as you’re wearing clothes to flip the hanger the other way. So at the end of the season, you can actually then know what you wore and what you never wore.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:16:19] So with your closet clarity, it sounds like you help us get organized, too.
Arlene Stearns: [00:16:25] I do.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:16:26] Okay.
Arlene Stearns: [00:16:26] Because isn’t it wonderful when you’re organized and you have that time to have that extra cup of coffee or just a little quiet time before you start your day instead of pulling out things and discovering, Oh, this doesn’t fit me. This has a stain. This has a tear, you know, and or where is that shell top, you know? And you’re, like, looking for it. Oh, is it in the laundry? Oh, my goodness. So that you’re starting your day out and kind of chaos in actually the mood for your day is set in your closet. You’re either going to feel like a rock star or are you going to feel like kind of like, oh, like I’m not quite happy with what I’ve got on and your day will follow suit. So you’re a rock star. Day will be. You know, if you feel like that rock star, you’re going to be so productive, you’re going to shine. But if you’re just feeling kind of app and have that kind of kind of day.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:17:21] So even like what I’m hearing is preparation, making sure that you’re prepared to show up and it starts probably in advance and not the day of.
Arlene Stearns: [00:17:34] It’s always wonderful if you can think of how you want to show up, because if you show up like a leader, you’re going to get paid like a leader, you’re going to close more deals, you’re going to attract your ideal clients and prospects. You’re going to feel successful. And that’s a perception you need to have for yourself. And, you know, because your perception really matters just as much or even more than the perception of others of you.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:18:05] Yeah, I think brand perception is just extremely important. And again, particularly when you’re starting out because how you’re perceived by the market, again it does impact your income and the way that you show up. So again, it’s just super important how what what drives you like what made you passionate about imaging and particularly in women?
Arlene Stearns: [00:18:32] Okay. Well, if I look back so you know a little bit about me, I had an experience that changed my life and probably planted a seed in what I do. I was going through a really terrible divorce. I was in my mid twenties, the very abusive relationship. I was a single, a single. I was then going to be a single parent. I was going to be the first one in my family to divorce. And I lived in a small town without family around me. My husband was in the GBI, and so he knew all the legal people in town, all the powerful people. I was a schoolteacher. So I really felt devastated and alone. And I didn’t have one shred of self confidence. Well, my mother hated to see me like that, so she gave me one of the greatest gifts, which was a makeover at Saks Fifth Avenue. I went there and gave that expert permission to create a hairstyle for me and to do makeup. And so she snipped away at my long, dark hair that had been worn the same way all through high school and college. And and she showed me some she did the makeup.
Arlene Stearns: [00:19:56] When I looked in the mirror. Gone was that young college student, and there sat a young, professional woman. It boosted my confidence and I felt like $1,000,000. And I wanted to create that feeling for my clients because one of my components is that esthetic component. You’re hair and makeup. Even when we’re been on Zoom, people see your face in your and your hair and makeup. It’s like, you know, putting your best face forward is always the best thing and and to make that square work for you. But then when I see my clients, because I did wardrobe being for 20 plus years before I created the image up system, and when I saw women put on something that I really felt beautiful in, their whole demeanor changed. Yeah. To see that smile on their face because I never wanted them just to settle for something. Life is too short to just settle for something. You really need to make sure that you love it and it really great that your brilliance on your inside radiates on the outside when you wear it right.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:21:18] And I think it’s important, and I mentioned this earlier, is having someone who sees something in you and being able to bring it out. And if you can do that through hair, makeup, clothing, accessories, that becomes your gift that you’re sharing with these women, with these men, to help them to go out and be stronger leaders. And I think that is just so important because entrepreneurship can be isolating. It could be. Just scary. And knowing that there’s someone out there like you that say, you know what, I will hold your hand through this process. We can do it. Let’s go from bangs to a new hair color and they show up for themselves. So just having that that foundation and that partnership with someone, I think is just really important. Again, for those who are not or they don’t feel ready to look at to start the branding or rebranding of their image, what words of encouragement would you give them?
Arlene Stearns: [00:22:39] The best investment is investment in yourself. So really think that you are worth it because you are and God made you beautiful. And all I do is enhance that beauty so that you can really believe in yourself and and promote what you’re doing. And for people to see that brilliance that you have on the inside. Because if we if we just show up, we’re we’re looking like we don’t care. We could have the best resume, we could have the best skills. But somebody’s not probably not going to give you that chance. Right, to to exhibit that. Right. So and then one of my clients said, gee, not only did I help hold her hand, but I really boosted her self-esteem. And she’s in the C-suite. But yet she didn’t feel like she you know, so many women don’t feel like they’re quite worthy of this advancement. And she was in that place and she said, like I, I didn’t only see her as a client, but I cared about her. Right. And I do care about my clients.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:23:59] And I think that’s important to establishing that relationship and that circle of trust, because, again, you have to be vulnerable in order to change.
Arlene Stearns: [00:24:09] Yes.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:24:11] You have to be open and willing to say, you know what.
Arlene Stearns: [00:24:16] I surrender and I do a deep dive with my clients because I don’t want them to have their distinctive personal style. So they need to be comfortable in their own skin and with what we what we decide is a great wardrobe for them. So I do that deep dive. And for instance, one of my clients hates animal print. I would I love animal print, but I would never suggest anything with animal print. Right. And sometimes they’re willing to step out of the box just a little bit.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:24:57] Just a little.
Arlene Stearns: [00:24:58] And they’re amazed.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:24:59] And they’re.
Arlene Stearns: [00:25:00] Amazed. And so several more than one client, definitely most of them have said, I never would have selected that. I never would have tried it on, but I’m so glad I did. And they wind up getting it. They wind up purchasing it because I love it. And I said I never would have even given it. I never even glanced at it. I would have just stayed in my little area over here, you know, just.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:25:27] You know, it’s funny, we’ve used a lot of see words in this conversation and the one now that sticks out is comfort zone. We got to get out of the comfort zone. So we’ve got to have confidence, we’ve got to have clarity. We got to get out of the comfort zone to change.
Arlene Stearns: [00:25:47] Right. But I’m not saying to take a leap out of your comfort zone. You’re not not talking a total leap. Okay. Because you do need to feel comfortable. And so just like that client that doesn’t like animal prints, you would never be comfortable in it. I would never suggest it. Okay. So I’m not I’m not saying that we need to just being in your comfort zone is important, but sometimes you might want to just try just a tiny little toe out, you know, just experiment just a little bit to see. Because when we change, it’s growth.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:26:24] For us, it’s a stretch. And most of us as early stage entrepreneurs, and we’ve got to be willing to stretch. Now, Arlene, what is your ideal client? Who who do you work with and who would you like to work with?
Arlene Stearns: [00:26:44] I love working with women that are successful in their in their entrepreneurship and in their business ownership that are ready to take that next step, that are willing to grow, willing to really boost, enhance their leadership to take that next step upward. So I’ve worked with entrepreneurs and business owners. I’ve also worked with people that are already that are in corporate so that they desire to go up to that next level. Or you’re confused because right now style is so different. Yeah, my corporate ladies are saying, like when they’ve gone back to the office, things were much more relaxed. So what they had before, since their body changed to, you know, might not work, but they needed to look kind of casual business casual in jeans and how do I make that work? So how how do I dress down? Kind of, but not not so far down that I’m not going to be seen as that leader.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:28:05] Sure. Sure. That’s good advice. I know. Hear it. Spark stories. We are all about supporting other women entrepreneurs, other experts. How can we support you?
Arlene Stearns: [00:28:17] Well, I’d love more speaking opportunities because I feel like my message is really important that your image plays such a significant role in your life. I just touched on your business and your income, but it also affects your relationships. It affects your health. It really touches every part of your life. So just telling people about me that I exist, for one thing.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:28:50] Well, how.
Arlene Stearns: [00:28:50] Can we conversation, oh, you can reach me and I’ll social media image up system on everything I’m Facebook on LinkedIn it’s image up system and then if you just want to reach out to me, it’s Arlene at Image Up System. So I’ve kept it very consistent and I welcome just a conversation with you. It’s my gift to you to just have a 30 minute conversation to see where you are now, where you want to be and see if my system because it’s it’s a program that’s very thought out that goes from head to toe and inside out will work for you if it will get you there. But it’ll bridge that gap between where you are now and where you want to go. So so that’s one way. And also, I believe that every wardrobe starts with ten core pieces and there are ten core pieces that every successful woman has in her wardrobe, no matter what her business is. And you can get that from me as well as a gift. Just type in gift from Arlene. It will give you a listing of those ten pieces that will get you started. And I guarantee you probably have some of those pieces already because it forms a nucleus of your wardrobe.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:30:16] Okay. And where can we get that gift again?
Arlene Stearns: [00:30:19] Gift from Arlene.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:30:21] Arlene or Arlene, thank you so much for sharing with our listeners who you are, what you do, and why it’s why it matters is very clear. You’re passionate and this is your purpose. And we just look forward to helping support you to get more speaking engagements or in expand your your visibility within the community. So again, thank you for your time and thank you for being a part of Spark Stories. Listeners, please support our entrepreneurs. Visit them on social media, Facebook, Twitter, wherever they show up. You can find her at Image Up Systems. Image Up Systems. Again, thank you for your support system.
Arlene Stearns: [00:31:05] No se no.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:31:06] Se. Say it again for us. Arlene.
Arlene Stearns: [00:31:08] Image up system. No s on the end.
Clarissa J. Sparks: [00:31:12] No s on the end. So I’m sorry about that. All right. Again, thank you for tuning in. Create a great day.
Intro: [00:31:22] Thank you for listening to Spark Stories. If you’re looking for more help in gaining focus, come check out our website where you can find episode show notes, browse our archives and access free resources like worksheets, trainings, events and more. It’s all at www.shesparks.com
About Your Host
Dr. Clarissa J. Sparks is a personal brand strategist, trainer, mentor, and investor for women entrepreneurs. She is the founder of She Sparks, a brand strategy design consultancy.
Using her ten-plus years of branding & marketing experience, Dr. Sparks has supported over 4,000 women entrepreneurs in gaining clarity on who they are, what they do, and how they can brand, market, and grow their businesses. Using her Brand Thinking™ Blueprint & Action Plan she gives entrepreneurs the resources and support they need to become the go-to expert in their industry.
Follow Dr. Clarissa Sparks on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.