I have a number of favorite people, but Dixie Laite is hands-down at the top of the list. I’ve thought of Dixie, now 58, as a mentor ever since she welcomed me with open arms when I arrived as a fresh-off-the-boat Midwesterner in New York in my early 30s.
We’d originally met through my old magazine, Venus Zine, and at the time, she was a creative force at Nickelodeon. Dixie is a snappy writer who’s written for Martha Stewart, AMC, New York Post, CNN, Sesame Street, BUST, among many others. I invited Dixie to speak about building a personal brand for Etsy and content strategy for solopreneurs at the DIY Business Association Conference that I organized in 2011. These accomplishments merely scratch the surface of Dixie’s life.
Describing Dixie in a nutshell is a challenge, but here’s how the brand expert describes herself: Mayor of DameTown: Because it takes balls to be a woman. Cameltoe Champion. Writer, Branding and Marketing Consultant. Bullshit Slayer and Force for Good.
Dixie thinks of herself as essentially retired and is focusing on “getting her health and shit together.” Her blog, Dametown, celebrates women (“dames of yesteryear and today”) and explores how to rock this latest — maybe greatest — third chapter of life.
Here, Dixie talks openly about her love of bodybuilding, collecting femorabilia, and managing the seizures that make her “ brain broke “.
Memorable moments from Dixie Laite’s life, in her words
I grew up in Southern Florida. If I say Miami, which is where I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, it tends to bring to mind a life other than the one I had.
Miami was very much a Southern town, with a few cool tropical and OG glamour stuff. I was born on Miami Beach because my birth mother — I later learned — came south to Miami Beach to hide her pregnancy in what was then an old-school cool place to hang.
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, I followed my boyfriend to the Bronx, and I’ve lived in New York since 1984. I’ve lived in Manhattan since 1987.
I met my husband on the subway after buying expensive underwear. I’ve been married to Jeff since 2009.
It was a big deal to me to be adopted and eventually find my birth mother. I was embraced by my father’s somewhat well-known family, despite the awkwardness of my conception.
I’ve played a checkered career, ranging from personal trainer to Oxygen editorial director. I’ve been a mechanical bull operator, waitress, second-grade teacher in Harlem and the South Bronx, bodybuilding trainer, later insinuating my way into TV as an intern at age 30, traveling the country for public television, working for “Oprah Goes Online” and becoming an editorial director at Oxygen, Nickelodeon, etc. A highlight for me was coming up with Moose A. Moose and Zee for NOGGIN, and being there when Degrassi was rocking The-N. ☺
I went from being a very indoorsy lay-about to running marathons and being an impressive weight-lifter. #evolution
“Vintage things” are a huge part of my life. I grew up a passionate old-movie aficionado, with the expertise and enormous 1920s-1940s movie memorabilia collection to prove it. Also, I’ve been a flea market girl my whole life, collecting all kinds of things, and mostly what I call “femorabilia”. I was also waaay into swing dancing and the Lindy Hop.
It really affects my memory, and I have a very hard time following instructions and directions. All kinds of things tend to overwhelm my brain. And recognizing people, or trying to remember how I know them is embarrassing. I can’t remember events or facts very well, but things that touch on my emotions are still available. I don’t know people who seem to know me, but I do know how I feel about them, even when I can’t remember their face or name. For example, I have no idea how we met — I only know that I adore you! But I can’t articulate why. I can also remember song lyrics, for some reason. Luckily, I’m able to write, though typing is slow, but it was never my forte.
What three jumbles are top of mind for you right now?
- Menopausal weight gain.
I’ve identified as a slim, athletic woman for most of my life. So my menopausal weight gain, inability to run anymore, bad knees and back mean all that is behind me. It’s been really hard and I really mourn not only what I did but what I could do. In other words, I’d love to take boxing right now, but my knees and back bar me. And, please, if one more person suggests yoga or swimming — no! I’m totally the boxing, karate, dancing type. Not the stretching, ballet barre, yoga type. My new challenge is to focus on what I can do, not what I can’t. So I stroll for two hours a day, often getting up at 5 am or earlier to beat the heat. I hip-hop dance around at home, and when the quarantine thing is over, I hope to go back to my beloved body-building. ☺
2. Being less tech-savvy than I used to be.
I’m older and have no kids to tutor me, so I went from being savvy about the new “cyberspace” in the ’90s to being behind now. So my challenge is to learn to use cellphones and social media apps, etc. to help build Dametown (and my own not getting stale)
3. Obviously, my health challenges are a jumble.
My brain problems make even reading hard for me now. My back, neck, and legs are in pain most of the time. But I’m doing what I can…walking, trying to learn French, working on losing weight by watching what I eat. I’m vegan but I eat a shitload of carbs. Menopause and not running caused me to gain 40 pounds.
Being infirm, overweight, and not as sharp as I once was are hard on me. They’re not “my brand”, you know?
How do you find your flow?
I’m refusing to complain — well, out loud — or surrender. I’m going to get inspired and disciplined and make the most of this last chapter. Sixty isn’t the new 40–60 is just going to be rocking 60!
What are the 50s like for you, and what do you want younger women to know about this decade before they reach 50?
The main thing I wish I’d done differently was love myself. I wish I’d mothered and been a better friend to young(er) Dixie. I’ve wasted so much time, and continue to waste time, feeling ugly and insecure. I’ve wasted so many years, and so many opportunities. Two of the gifts of age are wisdom and not giving so many fucks. The latter has been such a relief and unburdening. The pain of not feeling loved by my family, of worrying what others thought of me, I’m now able to lay most of that burden down. And it feels great.
“The main thing I wish I’d done differently was love myself. I wish I’d mothered and been a better friend to young(er) Dixie.”
I’d tell women to love themselves, don’t obsess about appearance, and to try things. Lots of things. Get rid of toxic relationships and people. And this is big: Find your tribe. Cherish your tribe.
Also, before I was in my 50s, I assumed I’d always be able to run, I’d be the same only older as I aged. Not true. You will change. It won’t be nice. It won’t be easy or pretty. But don’t fight aging. Just leverage it to get to know yourself and be yourself.