Why Kathy Ireland Believes ‘Rejection Is a Gift’

UPDATED: August 5, 2019
PUBLISHED: August 5, 2019
Kathy Ireland Tough Skin

As a young model, Ireland faced rejection on a near daily basis. She says this helped shaped who she is as a businesswoman today.

Related: How Kathy Ireland Built Her Business Empire

“I really believe that rejection is a gift,” she says. “I didn’t recognize it and appreciate it at the time, but it would prepare me for the world of business. When people said no, when they laughed in my face … these things did not destroy me. If anything, when somebody would say no, my response would be, Well, at least we’re talking. I’ll come back tomorrow; maybe your circumstances will have changed; maybe you’ll be in a better mood.”

When it comes to rejection, one particular moment stands out for Ireland.

“When I worked as a model, my job description was basically to shut up and pose,” she says.

“When I had a rare opportunity to speak, a critic—very publicly—said I had a voice that could kill small animals. I was 25 years old and I couldn’t order a pizza on the phone. I had this high, squeaky voice, and they thought I was a kid making a prank phone call.”

The comment devastated Ireland, but it also opened her eyes. She was grateful for the critic’s harsh words, as they helped her see that she’d have to present a more mature, professional version of herself to be taken more seriously.

For public figures like Ireland, criticism can be rampant. The key, she says, is not taking every comment at face value.

“We have to be able to discern: Is this just mean, nasty, unkind junk that needs to be thrown away? Or despite the nasty wrapping, is there some truth? Can I learn something from this?”

And remember: There’s no point in surrounding yourself with people who will spend all of their time boosting your ego.

“Don’t surround yourself with yes people,” Ireland says. “Surround yourself with people who love you enough to tell you the truth and be painfully honest with you. If somebody believes in you, they’ll critique you so that you can grow and reach your potential.”

“We’re under the radar. As a private person owning a private company, I like that anonymity.”

Related: What Kathy Ireland Learned From Her Top Mentors

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2019 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

Jamie Friedlander is a freelance writer based in Chicago and the former features editor of SUCCESS magazine. Her work has been published in The Cut, VICE, Inc., The Chicago Tribune and Business Insider, among other publications. When she's not writing, she can usually be found drinking matcha tea into excess, traveling somewhere new with her husband or surfing Etsy late into the night.