My Take On Talking TED

Maybe you’ve already seen this, but for the official Lucky So And So record, here’s my Talk about buying nothing new and the life lessons it’s provided me (in exactly 5 minutes and 25 seconds). I gave this on March 3, 2011 at TEDActive as a part of TEDYou, which is where conference attendees get to submit an idea for their own short Talk, and if selected, present on stage. I learned over 100 attendees submitted their ideas, and I seem to remember about 30 presentations. Being selected was accomplishment enough for me, and I NEVER expected my Talk to actually make it onto! How does one learn their Talk is going live on the homepage of, a site visited by something like three-quarters of a million people daily? Well, I can only tell you my story…

Sitting in the AIGA Leadership retreat in Minneapolis last weekend, fiddling with my iPad as all the worst stimuli junkies are prone to do, the first thing I noticed was that @TEDTalks started to follow me on Twitter. Hmm. Then I opened an email from TED’s extremely sharp and ever-supportive Editor Emily McManus that read: “What would you say to posting your TEDTalk today?” What? Does anyone actually say no to that? I wrote back the very profound, “Ummm… OK!” Then I got a, “Going live in 20 mins or so. You rock!” to which I was able to manage, “Thank you for your confidence in me!” before my fingers went numb. My brain followed. What did this mean (you know, in the Double Rainbow sense of the word)? Well, I was elated to find out it “meant” a lot to a lot of people out there; I’ve got the emails to prove it.

Since the Talk went live, I’ve received overwhelming amounts of beautiful, amazing stories. Many of the emails start, “I know this sounds crazy, but I think we are supposed to be friends.” Initially I agree, it does sound a bit crazy, but by the time I get to the end of the email I realize the stories being shared are like scenes from my own life, the goals are the same as my goals, and the optimistic outlook on life is mine. Then I have to admit, “Yeah, I think we are supposed to be friends.” I feel so lucky to have so many friends I would not have otherwise found, and I can’t thank TED enough for bringing them into my life.

And how unbelievably cool is it that my 5 minutes have been translated into 13 different languages? Magic.

If you’re thinking a little bit of embarrassment is in order, I agree. Watch the super dorky 1-minute submission video I created to pitch my idea to the TEDActive organizers, and I’ll be sufficiently knocked down several pegs. The production value is as low as my enthusiasm is high. I’m SUCH a dork!

And now, major thanks are also in order.

To Skylar Challand and Josh Smith for helping me crash record my submission video with no notice and a mere four hours before it was due.

To Kelly, Rives and Nick for selecting me to give the Talk in the first place and then encouraging me every step of the way.

To Kathy, Kathi and Jay for loving, supporting, and sheltering me during my Palm Springs shopping time. And to Alex for making that beautiful connection.

To Palm Springs and Palm Desert for being amazing thrifting towns with such stylish retirement populations.

To Josh Stewart for repeatedly heading out at 6 a.m. to stand on the side of the road and take photos of me posing like an idiot. You kept your cool while I did everything possible to try your patience. Your friendship is my rock.

To my fellow TEDActive attendees for providing a standing ovation and then individually congratulating me to the point of making me feel like I was king of the world. I’m telling you, you’ll never come across a more supportive and loving group.

To my Studiomates for encouraging, no, insisting, I be myself.

To Liz Danzico for convincing me that hearing me talk about my passion, no matter how weird and specific, is of value because it gives people permission to follow their own passions.

To Casson Rosenblatt for suggesting I include lessons that could be considered universal. That was some of the best advice I got, and I did my very best to follow it.

To Tina Roth Eisenberg for being a role model for happy, and for pretty pleasing TED’s Chris Anderson (via tweet) to post my Talk.

To Ben Nabors for introducing me to TED in the first place, and to Chris Roan for introducing me to Ben. To both of you for being bottomless pits of Jessi support. Courtney Martin is also part of the pit, as are Amy Novogratz; Rachel Sussman; my sister and brother-in-law; Laura, Laura and Kristen; the Mershons; Kathy and the Marcils; my Nanie and the Johnstons (these sound like awesome music groups from the 60s, right?); Scott, Amy, Lucy and Giles; and Michelle Cassuto.

To Creighton for only ever supporting me no matter how crazy my idea is. I couldn’t have found a better partner for my life.

To my mother for being my ultimate inspiration. I think of you every time I need courage, confidence or conviction.

To my fifth-grade teacher Mrs. McCoy.

To everyone who’s watched the Talk.

To everyone who’s taken time to comment and email their love.


A cool thing to note is that WORKSHOP actually designed the identity for TED2011, so not only did I get to give a Talk that made it online, the whole time I’m speaking, I’m standing in front of the “The Rediscovery of Wonder” type treatment and stars we collaborated on. Who else gets to say that? Like I said, LUCKY.


  1. James G.

    Congratulations! I remember following your tweets at the conference and seeing video on the TED website is amazing. Here’s to many more inspiring moments and videos!

  2. Katy H

    I think that you and your crazy outfits are wonderful! What a great talk. Thanks.

  3. LT

    you’re just precious!!! LOVED your talk on TED. xoxo

  4. Jimmy Gunawan

    You are just looks so happy. We need more people like you ;) Thanks for inspiration.

  5. Cloudy

    Oh I found you through swiss miss, who linked the video before! I love your positive flow attitude and your outfits are so inspiring! thank you for making my life more colorful!

  6. Ronnie

    I saw your video in the TED newsletter and wrote a post about you for

    Congrats and Thanks for inspiring so many of my readers!

  7. Soccer Mom Style

    The submission video is adorable!  I am so happy I found your blog.  When my husband emailed me yours speech, I had to post it to my style blog.  I had so much fun listening to you and sharing your speech.
    All the best to you!

  8. Soccer Mom Style

    Hi Jessi,
    Thank you so much for commenting on my blog.  I’m so honored, and in case you do indeed try painting shoe soles here is a tutorial I just posted:
    I love having discovered your blog.
    Thanks again,

  9. JC Pullan

    Thank you for having that wonderful talk Jessi! You got me inspired to be more free-spirited and to be me. Nice point to not being attached to clothing/material things.

    Love, you number 1 fan in Manila Philippines.


  10. Martha Taylor

    GREAT JOB!! Love you as always, you are sooooo beautiful to me!
    Miss you, MOM

  11. Elizabeth Williams

    I enjoyed watching your TALK Jessi…you are wonderful!
    Keep dreaming in color!  I found it through Heather & Laura Tomlinson and their blogs, etc. 
    I too LOVE finding bargains….I’m sure you have shopped here….but I LOVE shopping at Dirt Cheap in West Point and wherever in MS.
    Found some awesome stuff there for $5 or less.

    Take care! 
    EJ Williams (KD MSU)

  12. Sarah

    You are an inspiration. Love what you do and your philosophy for life. Keep rockin the colors! 

    -a girl from florida

  13. Wendy

    Thanks for projecting so much joy and fun. It was a blast watching your talk. Your outfits and philosophy are like a breath of fresh air.

  14. Christina

    I just found your TED talk through another blog and I loved it! I discovered consignment a few years ago and have been hooked! I haven’t bought anything new since except for undergarments/socks, of course. NYC has some of the best flea markets, thrift and consignment shops-I’m so envious! The whole idea of “fast fashion” really bothers me so it’s great that your video is out there. I hope more people will see it and become aware of the global impact fashion is having and how one can lessen their footprint just simply through buying second hand.  Take Care!

  15. Heather

    I listened to your TEDTalk podcast on the bus this morning and searched for your blog tonight. Both are awesome and I can’t wait to go through your archives, not to mention hit up all the vintage stores nearby. Cheers!

  16. Lita Anne Smith

    Saw on NY Times on line this morning, photos from the Hurricane.
    A sign in the window of Town Shop on the Upper West Side :
      ** Hurricane Alert**
    Mayor Bloomberg
    ” everyone should
      have 7 new pairs of
    Just made me think of your TEDtalk

  17. Stacey

    Really enjoyed your TEDtalk, It was linked on Scraphacker. Wondering if you posted pics of your outfits from your week? Thanks.

  18. Cubby

    You’ve totally inspired me, Jessi! I just watched your TED talk and it was just what I needed to see and hear. I’ve been super frugal this whole year and have only spent $15 on new clothes. It feels weird to start buying new clothes again. But your talk gave me the idea of buying used clothes instead. I’m excited to give it a try!

    I’ve posted a link to your TED talk on my Super Frug blog so that others can be inspired too.

    Thanks, Jessi. You rock!

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