I’ll never forget the first day I walked into Lee Lee’s Valise. The store was just beautiful – I loved everything from the gorgeous jewel-toned clothes to the big dressing rooms with velvet damask curtains. And, of course, there was Lisa Dolan, the store owner, who made me feel at home from the first instant.
So I was absolutely thrilled when I heard that the show would be the focus of a new TLC show called, “Big Brooklyn Style.” The show, which is now in reruns for the summer, features Lisa as she deals with customers, designs clothes, and works with her staff which include her husband, daughter and cousin.
That was always the magic of Lee Lee’s Valise. Shopping there felt like shopping with your cool big sister, one who has an eye for design and knows instantly what’s going to look great on you. That family vibe is something that Lisa has created intentionally, both because her staff includes her family and because of the way she deals with her customers, “Family is super important to me,” she shared. “I can always count on family to be honest with me and be there to help me.”
Over the years, I would sometimes catch a glimpse of the store on TLC’s What Not To Wear. It was pretty much guaranteed that if the woman on the show was plus sized, they would end up at Lee Lee’s on the second shopping day. Apparently, What Not To Wear co-host Stacy London (who is the executive producer of Big Brooklyn Style) came in to check out Lisa’s store for What Not To Wear on the second day it was open. I asked Lisa about how her store came to be a regular feature on What Not To Wear. “We made it easy for them,” she told me. “We were who we are. We were kind and generous and we stayed til 3 in the morning the night before to make the store look TV ready.” Lisa and her staff would even dress the mannequins to the “rules” for the makeover guest. “And we fed them,” she confided. “I mean, you’re in Brooklyn.”
Stacy and her co-host Clinton Kelly would often say to Lisa that she should have her own show. More recently, talking about it got more serious. After pitching it to TLC, they got the green light and shot a sizzle reel in February 2011. This year, things started moving more quickly – actual shooting for the 8 episode run didn’t start until January 2012 for an air date in May.
It’s a rarity to see a show about plus sized women that isn’t about weight loss. I asked Lisa if that was something she had to fight for. “I wanted to make the show just be about the clothes,” she said. “The one thing I didn’t want in it was crying. . . . I really stood strong on that.” She would say things like, “this woman is a strong woman, she’s just coming in to get a freakin’ dress. The end.” She wanted to show a more realistic view of plus sized women as regular women who live their lives. “I wanted to show that there are confident, beautiful women coming in to buy a new dress for an event or something for work, because that’s what we’re about. We’re real people.”
As of right now, a second season of the show isn’t in the works, but Lisa asks that fans of the show tweet to TLC that they want a new season. (To do this really easily, click the box below.)
In the meantime, you can check out Lee Lee’s Valise in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (or online) and check out the fan pages for Big Brooklyn Style (on facebook and twitter) and Lee Lee’s Valise (on facebook and twitter). You can also listen to a fuller version of the interview by clicking the podcast button at the top of this post or checking it out on itunes.
Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. Go to http://www.bodylovewellness.com/free to get her NEW free gift — Golda’s Top 5 Tips For Consistently Feeling Great In Your Body!