Chelle Summer


The Road to Color

Michelle Rusk

I probably have the least amount of black in my wardrobe than anyone I know. I believe black is a classic color and I've worn quite a bit of it in my time, but in recent years I've come to believe that people wear black mostly because they want to blend in, not be seen. It's like becoming part of the paneling on a wall– people might wear black because they don't want anyone to see them at the gym. It's better to blend into the crowd then stick out (not such a good idea if you're running in the dark though).

For me, however, while there are a few black dresses in my closet and I own black tennis skirts, black leggings, and some long-sleeved black tops, you won't see me reaching for black too often if I have something else to choose from. More than likely, I'm using black with a print, like a black tank top and printed skirt.

I didn't realize that I had made a color shift until I was in the midst of my suicide and grief speaking career and people began to ask me, "With all that you've been through, how can you wear such bright colors?"

I actually hadn't thought about it. When I started speaking I wore a lot of navy blue and black. In one national television appearance I wore...gray. When I saw the segment I wondered what I had been thinking: I blended right in with the set. Not much better than wearing black.

At first I told people it was because I didn't view myself as someone whose life was filled with loss and that I had always worn bright, funky clothes. But in thinking about it, I reached back further into my life and realized it went back to a black bathing suit.

I was going into eighth grade and I needed a new swimsuit. A good friend had a black one piece and that's what I wanted yet when I told my mom at the store, she squashed me on it. 

"You're too young to wear black," she said, me having no idea what she meant.

I ended up with a navy suit with vertical black stripes, but I believe being told I was too young to wear black all those years ago is still influencing me today. No no no- not that I am too young to wear black now!– but it forced me to look beyond black and at other colors available to me. By not letting me wear black, what my mom really did was say, "You have many other colors to pick from."

And that's more than evident in my life today. Thank you, Mom.