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Ginger Burr is the founder of Total Image Consultants, a Boston-based firm that helps women of all ages uncover a style that inspires “confidence, well-being and joy.” With respect as their keynote, Ginger’s makeovers have been publicly featured through CNN and many other media outlets, and Ginger has won the accolades of clients and creative peers in the business world alike.
Ginger is also an active member and supporter of Friends of Animals, and a champion of our ultimate mission: to end animal exploitation. Ginger offers workshops, online courses and one-on-one consultations, while simultaneously championing vegan values and environmental awareness. We caught up with Ginger by telephone in October.
FoA: What inspired you to create Total Image Consultants?
Ginger Burr: Who would think that a music major who was very shy and retiring as a teenager would choose a career in fashion? I’m here to tell you it can happen! Although you wouldn’t have known it to look at me then (keep in mind that I grew up in the 1970’s), I always had an interest in the art of fashion design. I also knew I wanted to own my own business.
And I had no idea how to make that happen.
Not knowing what else to do — don’t laugh — I went to modeling school and learned pretty much nothing useful (except that I’m too short to be a runway model), but I had a life-altering experience. There was a girl about fifteen years old in the class who was, by model industry standards, maybe fifteen pounds overweight. Nearly every day they commented on her weight and made her feel so terrible about herself that I vowed I would somehow find a career where I could empower women to feel good about who they are inside and out. Although it took me another eight years, I finally discovered image consulting and never looked back.
FoA: This brings up the preoccupation of fashion magazines — maybe society’s obsession in general — with making women feel that they aren’t enough: not good enough, not pretty enough, not stylish enough, not thin enough. In the 22 years you’ve been running Total Image Consultants, have things changed? Or do your clients deal with the same struggles?
Ginger Burr: Our society is still obsessed with youth and thinness; so, in many respects, things haven’t changed. What has changed, however, is that there is more of a backlash. Perhaps it is because the baby boomers are maturing or maybe it’s just because I am, but I see women — those not in Hollywood, and, in particular, women over 40 — less tolerant of being told what to wear and how to look.
That said, many are frustrated by the fashions they find in the stores which are often totally youth-oriented and so they retreat into wearing shapeless, uninspired clothing because they don’t know what else to do. That’s where I come in!
FoA: What’s a simple thing a person can do to, as you say, “learn to be kind to one’s self”?
Ginger Burr: Women are bombarded by negative comments about their appearance and are expected to meet some ephemeral and unattainable standards of beauty. Who sets these ridiculous standards that make it easy for women to focus on what they don’t like about their bodies? So many women are hopelessly lost when it comes to fashion and need help disentangling themselves from the preconceived notions of how they should dress. It is for this reason that I created my new fashion home study program “Who Taught You How to Dress?” I think it’s true that when people feel hopeless, everyone suffers. When they feel good about themselves they are more inclined to help others.
FoA: Essentially, you are a life-coach, stylist and therapist all wrapped up into one.
Ginger Burr: You’ve got it!
FoA: On your business website, I noticed that you integrate vegan information and ideas seamlessly into the rest of the content on your site. What responses does that bring?
Ginger Burr: I have found, from those who talk to me about it (I’m sure there are those who just click off the site at the mere mention of veganism) that my clients either find veganism intriguing or totally ignore it. My experience with feminist activism has taught me not to confront those who have zero interest. It serves no purpose other than to entrench them further in their own limiting beliefs. I choose instead to respond to people who do not feel threatened by the concept and are genuinely inquisitive. Then I can sense at least a smidgeon of hope that there is room for change and new ideas.
As you know, veganism is not something you pick up by osmosis. The powers that be don’t want the information to be public knowledge so you really have to be actively looking for or at least open to it.
FoA: How do you integrate this message into a face-to-face encounter?
Ginger Burr: In consultations with clients, I might hear, “Oh, I never wear non-leather shoes. They are all cheap-looking and uncomfortable.” In response, I will point to my feet and say something like, “Times have changed. I never wear leather, and my feet don’t hurt.”
Or perhaps someone will say, “Do you find that cashmere holds up well?” And, I’ll say, “I’m a vegan and never wear cashmere, so I really can’t say.” In each case, they can ignore me, or they can respond, opening the opportunity for a dialogue.
Sometimes, after perusing my website, a client will strike up a conversation, asking me why I became a vegan. I always start by telling them how appalled I was to learn of the direct connection between dairy and the veal industry. Nine times out of ten they look perplexed and ask for more information.
FoA: Were you a vegan when you started your business, or did that come later?
Ginger Burr: I gave up eating red meat almost 30 years ago but, at that time, no one ever told me about veganism. Oh, how I wish they had! Believe it or not — it still amazes me! — it wasn’t until just a little over 4 years ago that I learned, by doing extensive research, about animal suffering in agriculture. As a result, I went vegan pretty much overnight. And I’m not talking about just the food I eat; I stopped wearing all leather and wool at the same time.
FoA: How has veganism transformed you as a person?
Ginger Burr: I think I have been seeking veganism for over 30 years but I just didn’t know it. The second I learned about it I felt a very deep connection, a sense of relief and purpose. There was never any question in my mind or second thoughts about what I needed to do. There is absolutely no way I can justify making a purchase that supports animal suffering. I also knew I had to incorporate it into my business in order to feel like I was living and working with complete integrity. It took a bit longer to figure out the logistics — but not much!
FoA: Did you find it challenging to meld your interest in helping women and helping non-human animals? Of course it makes perfect sense in theory, but real life is always more tricky…
Ginger Burr: For a split second, I thought: Wow, how am I going to be a vegan and an image consultant? Then: I’ll find a way. I’ll make it an adventure.
I hear too many people (some vegans included) saying, “Oh, it’s so hard!” No! It’s only hard if you decide it’s hard. I chose to prove that being stylish and vegan are not mutually exclusive and decided that given the type of work I do I can make a real (cruelty-free) fashion statement!
FoA: How does this play with the average client?
Ginger Burr: My average client is a woman between 40 and 60 years old. It is a population of people who generally choose to live meaningful, purpose-driven lives. I’ve been amazed by how many women — sure, it’s not the majority, but it’s more than I initially thought it would be — who are intrigued by or drawn to the concept of veganism and want to know more. I have a few clients who are well on their way to becoming vegan. Each time a client says something positive about changes she is making, I feel a sense of hope.
FoA: I’m guessing it’s a lot more difficult to find good cosmetics that are also vegan.
Ginger Burr: You’re right. Vegan cosmetics are much harder to come by — but infinitely easier than even four years ago. I have done a massive amount of research looking for vegan cosmetics. The hardest to find are lipsticks (I’m not talking lip glosses that the 20-somethings wear; I’m talking real lipsticks) that do not contain carmine or lanolin and that actually stay on your lips for more than five seconds.
Lip and eye pencils and mascara are the other challenges. Most contain beeswax. Or isopropyl lanolate, which comes from sheep. There are companies, like Arbonne, which are vegan; but Arbonne is a multi-level marketing company. This means that for someone like me who just wants to sell the products and not recruit downline, there is very little profit. Urban Decay is another one that has quite a few vegan offerings but they have no interest in small companies who want to represent their product. I tried contacting them and got no response.
FoA: What are you working with now?
Ginger Burr: I now carry Sevi Cosmetics (an incredible, organic cosmetic company) and Beauty Without Cruelty (a more traditional cosmetic company), and have a selection of products I am proud of. In fact, I recently did a “before and after” photo shoot for my website with some of my clients, and I used those two cosmetic lines almost exclusively to do the makeup.
FoA: What else takes extra care to find?
Ginger Burr: It is challenging for a vegan image consultant to find a stylish winter coat. Living in New England means cold, snowy winters. A warm coat is critical. There are faux shearling and faux fur coats, but to get something more traditional has not been easy.
I just learned of a new company called Vaute Couture ( www.vautecouture.com ) that has beautiful, warm vegan coats. As the demand increases we’ll see more companies like this popping up.
FoA: What’s next for Total Image Consultants?
Ginger Burr: Oh, there’s a lot on the horizon. I am working on a fourth tele-class in the series of vegan classes I started last spring. The working title for this one is “Are There Animals Lurking in Your Makeup Bag?” It will address animal ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products. This is an area that most people are totally unaware of; and, with a little guidance, this is an easy way to make a difference. In addition, my partner Marion and I are launching a vegan radio show in November.
FoA: And for people who don’t live in your area, what resources do you recommend? Do you work with people long distance?
Ginger Burr: Until recently, I have only been able to work with women who live in (or are willing to travel to) the Boston area. That has all changed. I spent this past year creating my new do-it-yourself, body image, self-esteem and style home study program mentioned earlier called “Who Taught You How to Dress?” This offers all women the opportunity overcome the inner and outer obstacles that are keeping them from creating a wardrobe they love. I offer monthly tele-classes to support and encourage them in their journey, and the best thing is that they can live anywhere and use this program. I’ve had people purchasing it from New Zealand, South Africa and Germany as well as the United States.
Every woman deserves to look good and feel radiant. And yes, it’s doable for everyone!
Thank you, Ginger. You are a wonderful voice for both humans and non-human animals. Thanks for your time.
Cheers to the government of Ireland, specifically the Green Party, for committing on the 10 th of October 2009 to ban stag hunting and phase out fur farms in three years. Deer in Ireland are chased to exhaustion, or until they drown in rivers, by so-called sporting people with packs of dogs. Fur farms use well over 150,000 Artic foxes, Red foxes, and mink annually and keep tens of thousands in captivity as breeding stock. Although the list of commitments regarding animals contains a number of regulatory provisions, these outright bans would be worth celebrating, and well overdue.
Laura Broxson, spokesperson for Ireland’s Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade (CAFT), said, “Then we can turn our attention to banning the importation of fur in Ireland. The campaign will not end until we make this country completely fur-free.”
To send thanks to Laura Broxson and CAFT, please contact:
PO Box 11019 , Dublin 2
To thank the Green Party and press them to have this commitment to BAN stag hunting and fur farms hardened into law. Please contact:
The Green Party:
16/17 Suffolk Street , Dublin 2, Ireland
Phone: +353 (0)1 6790012
Fax: +353 (0)1 6797168,
Cheers to Johnson Toribiong , President of Palau, who on 25 September 2009 declared Palau the world’s first National Shark Sanctuary. Palau’s commitment to sharks not only conveys a respect for non-human animals, but for the full marine biocommunity. Send thanks to President Toribiong at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dermot Keane, the Founder of the Palau Shark Sanctuary, said, “I have no doubt that Shark Savers’ on-line petition (opposing Senate Bill 8-44) played a strong role in bringing about this most positive result.” The Palau Shark Sanctuary is the Palauan NGO that has been working towards the establishment of a National Shark Sanctuary since 2001. To send a thank you to Palau through Shark Savers, or simply to find out more about their work, please visit:
Cheers to Dr. Shirley McGreal , founder and director of the International Primate Protection League, and to “Dancing with the Stars” executive producer Conrad Green for sparing a chimpanzee used in the entertainment industry from appearing on the popular television show. Dr. McGreal contacted the producer after learning of a contract allowing the show’s use of a chimpanzee. After reading Dr. McGreal’s letter, Conrad Green decided not to air the footage, and commented: “While I can’t undo the fact that we did shoot with a chimpanzee I will be sure we don’t do this again in the future.”
Send thanks to Conrad Green, and encourage “Dancing with the Stars” to commit to a no-animal policy: email@example.com
The International Primate Protection League can be found online at:
Cheers to Lagusta Yearwood , owner of Lagusta’s Luscious: Bluestocking Bonbons and Chocolate Truffles. The artisanal chocolates, which are fashioned from organic, fairly traded ingredients whenever possible, are, as one reviewer called them, “heartbreakingly delicious”—and all vegan. The Bluestocking Bonbons are all named for feminist luminaries, and the hand-made chocolate peanut butter cups and peppermint patties—all packaged in recycled, recyclable and compostable boxes—are sublime.
Jeers to Idaho gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell , who publicly resolved, at a forum hosted by Idaho for Wildlife, to sign an executive order allowing anyone to shoot a wolf at any time—claiming “if Idaho's mountains are to be safe for people and if our big game herds are to be the envy of the world, the wolves can not stay.”
Rammell’s declaration displays a shocking lack of knowledge about biology and a blatant disrespect for conscious life. Please tell Rex Rammell to let wolves be, as they, like other free-living animals, are vital members of the biocommunity and properly respected for who they are.
Rex Rammell can be contacted at:
367 Talon Dr
Rexburg , ID 83440
Jeers to Humane Society International (a branch of Humane Society of the United States) for its latest campaign to enact a “seafood boycott” in Europe with the goal of ending the commercial seal slaughter. While it’s laudable to oppose the killing of seals, it doesn’t make good sense to simultaneously promote animal product consumption in the form of a boycott of select marine animals. Tell Humane Society International that sea life is not seafood, and to oppose the killing of all non-human animals.
Humane Society of the United States
2100 L Street, NW
Washington , DC 20037
An online form is available at: http://www.hsus.org/hsi/about_us/contact_us/
Jeers to Shutterfly Inc , the Internet-based social expression and personal publishing service, for launching its new collection of “support-a-cause” cards with 10% of its profits going to charities including Heifer International—an organization that encourages animal agribusiness as a solution to world poverty and hunger. Heifer International displays a disrespect for non-human animals and the environment by encouraging the consumption of animal products. Please tell Shutterfly to support causes that respect the lives of non-humans animals.
2800 Bridge Parkway
Redwood City , CA 94065
There has been a battle going on for decades over whether to diminish certain animal populations through hunting. Whether they are promoting birth control methods, snares or traps, or the direct shooting of free-living animals, governments and pro-hunting groups attempt to push aside the obvious problem : human encroachment.
The human population has doubled since the 1970s, and this influx of bodies has led to more homes, malls and highways being constructed on land where animals once lived. This encroachment has pushed, isolated and even starved animals as they try to compete for space and food.
A prime example can be found at Pennsylvania’s Valley Forge National Historical Park, where, as Friends of Animals reports, the federal government wants to bring sharpshooters to kill White-tailed deer. Under a hefty federal proposal, nearly 80 percent of an estimated 1,023, deer will be killed. As the deer raise their young, more are to be shot, so park officials intend to kill some 1,300 deer over the next four years. The officials want to shoot these deer until they have reached their quota — or see forest regeneration. This is said to be no easy trick when the state keeps widening roadways, such as the nearby Pennsylvania Turnpike.
What prompted the call for violence in this oasis in the middle of suburban sprawl? Wealthy residents from the northeastern Chester and southwestern Montgomery counties complained that the deer were roaming into their gardens and feeding on their ornamental plants and shrubs. This sparked an interest in introducing hunting of these animals along the five-mile stretch of the park. Regular hunting isn’t easy to bring in, however, under rules that govern the national park; so they are talking about bringing in people hired through the federal agriculture department to do the job. This way, the government frames their intrusions as management rather than hunting.
Native forest plants are the red herring in this issue. We humans cannot justify taking over an area that is home to these animals. We simply cannot keep building where animals are confined ever further, then shift the blame onto them.
The deer of Valley Forge have reduced their numbers on their own accord over the past five years. Even where deer are numerous, it’s an odd argument that insists humans need to be predators while all along we’re treating the real predators as nuisance animals. Predators are vital to sustaining an ecological environment. For example, the war on the coyotes in Pennsylvania, where they can be hunted down all year, has shifted the natural order.
In addition to bringing in the weapons, the National Park Service seeks to implement a contraception program, which may lead to the collapse of what’s left of the park’s White-tailed deer population.
The agency claims its birth control plan would help prevent the deer from over-populating. Yet putting White-tailed deer – or any wild animal – on birth control is an ethically questionable interference with the animals’ own natures. Lack of access to food and water, or even moderate stress, can throw an animal’s fertility cycle into a condition called anovulation, where ovulation ceases until the right conditions are met. There are other animals with this same capability, including humans. Generally, animals breed according to what their environment allows, and don’t need humans to interfere with their fertility.
The perpetually shy White-tailed deer usually come into heat in November for a short 24-hour period. If conception hasn’t taken place, a doe will go into heat again 28 days later. Mating occurs only from October to December – which means the sharp-shooters will be killing pregnant deer, in addition to others, for years. The contraception is to take place in later years, according to the plan, if the officials find a substance with which they are comfortable.
The National Park Service has drafted three alternatives to its favored “kill them all” plan to deal with the White-tailed deer in Valley Forge:
Alternative A – Involves taking no action. This includes no lethal force and no contraception to minimize the population. Biologists will continue to test for Chronic Wasting Disease when a deceased deer is discovered. Alternative A is the most favored by FoA, because it eliminates the unnatural domination over these animals.
Alternative B – This alternative would introduce a combination of control activities, involving contraception and fencing.
Alternative C – Per square mile, 31-35 deer would be killed or captured and adjustments would be made based on forest regeneration.
In addition to advocating sharpshooting and possibly contraception, the Park Service would add “active lethal surveillance for CWD” to the mix. This means some deer will be killed and tested for Chronic Wasting Disease, despite no known cases of this disease in the state. The park officials are essentially using CWD as an excuse based on positive cases seen in New York and West Virginia.
A pattern of control
This issue is also going on in Washington D.C.’s Rock Creek Park where the Park Service has laid out a plan that mirrors that of Valley Forge, further suggesting that the stated reasons behind the removal of these deer were result-oriented, and not genuine, location-specific answers.
These proposed killings are sponsored solely by your tax dollars. The recurring annual costs for sharpshooting the deer will range from $112,363 to $176,817. For the birth control plan, it will cost the taxpayer anywhere from $108,363 to $194,517 annually. In contrast, Alternative A — maintaining a perfectly acceptable status quo in the park — could range from $14,828 to $32,567 depending on any positive CWD results. As there are no known cases in the state, the actual cost increase over what we pay now is likely to be zero. One has to question if the tax burden the government is proposing makes any sense.
In addition, the opportunities for human-to-human accidents will greatly increase when these sharpshooters are let loose. There are a number of homes in close proximity to this area, and there are numerous busy roadways winding through the park. Children might witness these cruel acts as well.
In short , if residents don’t want the deer to inhabit their space, then they need to stop invading theirs. Killing and “maintaining” a population of deer to satisfy the whims and wants of a few resident complainers is unacceptable.
What You Can Do
Contact your local representatives both in Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania and express your concerns regarding these actions against the White-tailed deer. Send a copy of what you write to Friends of Animals’ legal director, Lee Hall, at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Honorable Arlen Specter
United States Senate
711 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3802
DC Phone: ( 202) 224-4254
Fax: ( 202) 228-1229
The Honorable Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senate
393 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3804
DC Phone: ( 202) 224-6324
Fax: ( 202) 228-0604
Contact Form: http://casey.senate.gov/contact/
Kristina Heister, Natural Resource Manager, Valley Forge National Historical Park,
610-783-0252 or email@example.com. Valley Forge National Historical Park fax number is 610-783-1060.
Governor Edward G. Rendell's Office
225 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120
Phone: (717) 787-2500
Fax: (717) 772-8284
Rock Creek Park , Washington , D.C
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D – At Large)
DC Phone: (202) 225-8050
Fax: (202) 225-3002
Contact Form: http://www.norton.house.gov/forms/contact.html
Executive Office of the Mayor, Mayor Fenty
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 316 , Washington, DC 20004.
Feedback Form: http://app.dc.gov/apps/about.asp?page=atd&type=dsf&referrer=[$DSF_SERVER_NAME$]&agency_id=1075&portal_link=hr OR dial 311.
Rock Creek Park
3545 Williamsburg Lane, NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
Headquarters: (202) 895-6000
LETTER 1 – No Kill Rocks
Thank you for your informative article on the no-kill movement. Several groups lost whatever donations I was going to give them when they decided that Michael Vick’s dogs needed to be killed. At least the judge in that case had sense and let the animals be saved.
One of the groups that took in 22 of the dogs, Best Friends Animal Society, made remarkable progress with dogs who used to be frightened and skittish with people. I think that with many shelters, killing animals is just too easy. Groups like Best Friends take the time and patience to make sure animals are safe and secure.
As Michael Mountain, one of the original founders of the group, said recently, no-kill should not be thought of as a choice of last resort, but must be the only choice.
LETTER 2 – Kudos for No-Kill Shelters
I was completely horrified and dismayed to read (Autumn 2009, ActionLine) about the shelter-kill policies of both PETA and HSUS in order to make room for more animals.
When PETA employees were caught on video dumping live puppies into a dumpster in a shopping center, many members, including myself, questioned their ethics.
A correctional officer at Sing Sing ordered an inmate to put kittens in a compactor. When the inmate refused, the correctional officer put them in the compactor. This officer was fired, stood trial and received jail time. What is the difference between this officer putting kittens in a compactor and PETA putting puppies in a dumpster?
PETA also didn’t want Michael Vick’s dogs to be rehabilitated: they wanted all of the dogs to be euthanized. Thanks to Best Friends Sanctuary, most have been rehabilitated and adopted.
I’d like to say that Friends of Animals stands for good things. Your group is uncompromising in saving and protecting animals. You want zoos closed, elephants protected in Africa and not used in circuses, harp seals protected from the vicious clubbings, the list goes on. You try to educate people as to why they should be vegan, thus eliminating some of the cruelties inflicted upon animals.
Elisabeth B. Joshi
Mahopac , NY
LETTER 3 – The No-Kill Movement
I agree that there is a pet overpopulation problem. For every person born in this country, there are 15 dogs and 45 cats born: too many for the number of available homes.
Also, he seems to be against euthanizing animals who are hopelessly sick or injured. I am for it. I had animals euthanized and I never felt guilty about it. I would feel guilty about watching them suffer.
North Brunswick , NJ
LETTER 4 – Promises to Keep – An Evolving Story
Animal shelters cannot possibly find homes for all the animals that enter their doors. (Autumn 2009) I've been a shelter volunteer since 1989. I'd like to see the killing end, but it doesn't. Take recent statistics offered by Maricopa County Animal Care and Control in Phoenix:
57,548 animals came in during 2008
30,340 were killed
9% were returned to the owner (nearly all dogs)
12% were released to rescue groups
14,035 were adopted
388 were lost in the system (either died or stolen from the shelter)
The county expects the public to believe that not a single adoptable animal was euthanized, but I volunteered there from 1997 to 2008 and that is simply not true. As long as shelters perpetuate this myth, the public will surrender unwanted dogs/cats to shelters rather than try and place them on their own. I was at the shelter and confronted people who said things like, “Wow, it's great this place is no kill.” I told them it was most certainly not a no-kill shelter.
Shelters are not the cause of pet overpopulation. I disagreed with the county shelter on their policy of claiming no adoptable animals were killed, but they made a serious effort to place animals into good homes.
Debra J. White
LETTER 5 – Palin is Plenty Disturbing
I am writing this letter in regards to the Sarah Palin article about wolf-killing (Summer ActionLine, 2009). I find it so hard to put into words how disturbing this was to me. I did not realize that such horrible things were happening with the wildlife in Alaska. I don’t understand how anyone could be so cruel to these beautiful creatures. It’s hard to imagine but I’m sure this kind of cruelty goes on all over the world. The best we can hope for is that things will get better.
I try so hard to educate people about their animals and how to protect wildlife. I do hope that somehow it will make a difference.
Anna , IL
LETTER 6 -End the Killing
We must put a stop to the killing and hunting of coyotes, wolves, and all other animals.
A few years ago I had requested information from the U.S. Department of Fish and Game about coyotes. I was told from them, coyotes were considered a nuisance to ranchers because they preyed on their livestock, and that wolves were going to be removed from the endangered species list.
I am tired of hunters thinking that it is their given right to hunt and kill anything they want and we don’t have the right to tell them no.
Woodland Hills, CA
LETTER 7 – Horses Need Friends
I have to tell you that the Autumn 2009, ActionLine was really outstanding. I read about the sad plight of the horse-drawn carriages that I personally have witnessed. It touched me deeply.
The streets were crowded with cars, horns blowing, heavily populated with people, and the horses in the midst of this pandemonium.
I know that Friends of Animals is trying to stop this injustice.
New York, NY