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Homepage photo: Bobbie Thomas bundles up for a winter day in Manhattan.
Photo ©Brian Harkin.
Inset photo (top): Bobbie Thomas on the "Today Show" set.
Photo ©Brian Ach
Inset photo top: Bobbie Thomas in NYC.
Contact & Location
Student Health Center 206
PHONE: (208) 885-6324
University of Idaho
c/o Psychology & Communication Studies
Student Health Center 206
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3043
Moscow, ID 83844-3043
The Power of Lipstick
"TODAY Show" style editor Bobbie Thomas '97 weaves her psychology degree and life lessons into a profession helping others
by Amanda Cairo
When Bobbie Thomas ’97 arrived at the University of Idaho on a snowy January morning with a suitcase full of sandals and sundresses, cold reality hit hard: She wasn't in Southern California anymore. It wouldn't be the last jolt she'd face in Moscow.
After her boyfriend proposed in December, Thomas, who'd been majoring in communications at a California university, agreed to leave family and friends behind and abruptly moved with her fiancé to his new school more than a thousand miles away - in the middle of the school year, with no classes scheduled at an unfamiliar campus.
“We drove from L.A. to Idaho over the holiday break,” said Thomas, who'd packed only a few sweaters. “I was thinking ‘how am I going to survive?’ It was quite a culture shock.”
She's done more than survive. Thomas is now style editor on NBC’s "TODAY Show," and her first book, “The Power of Style: Everything You Need to Know Before You Get Dressed Tomorrow,” comes out April 23. Her time at U-Idaho set her on a path toward empowerment and self-awareness that would ultimately shape her career.
After arriving on campus, Thomas found sanctuary in the psychology department, where she'd wandered looking for someone to sign her class registration form. What she found instead was the department chair, Steven Meier, who took her under his wing and enrolled her in classes.
It was one of those life-changing moments,” said Thomas, who broke down crying in Meier’s office. “Without saying so much, he calmly drafted a schedule and put a plan into place. He understood what I had yet to realize, and I walked out of his office a psychology major. He had a plan, and looking back ... I'm thankful he did.”
Immersed in her plan, Thomas excelled in the classroom, but her personal life began to unravel. Her romantic relationship grew emotionally abusive and, ultimately, physically abusive. With help from her academic mentor and friends she made in Moscow, Thomas left her fiancé, found a safe place to stay and finished her degree off-campus through video technology.
“I learned a lot about myself,” Thomas said. “My two and a half years in Idaho helped to shape who I am. Professor Meier gave me the opportunity to understand myself, build internal self-worth and see the many future possibilities.”
Healing by helping others
She went on to pursue a master’s degree in counseling at California State University Northridge and was determined to contribute to her community. “I felt so fortunate that I had a strong support system around me,” she said. “I didn’t ‘get away’ from a person, but I got out, broke the cycle. I wanted to help others.”
Thomas began working at the Valley Trauma Center, a rape crisis facility, as a counselor and advocate for survivors. During an overnight shift at the hospital, she watched as a survivor opened a care package that included fresh clothing, toiletries and some cosmetics. As the woman turned to the mirror and timidly applied some lipstick, the moment hit Thomas.
“I realized the power of lipstick. It validated her - I could see the spark in her face. She felt worthy of selfcare. We all have the right to feel good about ourselves, and deserve to be valued,” she said.
That philosophy would become the cornerstone of Thomas' career. Everyone gets dressed, and their clothing affects every aspect of their lives, she said.
“What we wear is a visual expression of who we believe we are. Before you just put ‘something’ on, it’s important to understand first who you are and what you want to say. It’s one of the first decisions of your day and it’s one of the most important. From your love life to your career, and the less obvious moments in between, the way people see you will filter your opportunities. Ultimately, what they see is what you get," she said. . . Continued.