Things My Father Taught Me: Swathi Narra

In the time since I’ve moved to Chicago, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a number of beautiful, funny, and whip-smart people. As someone regularly featured in “street style” pieces, I often introduce her as one of the most beautiful women in Chicago. As the co-founder of Luxemi, the premier online destination for purchasing or renting the latest in luxury Indian apparel and accessories, she’s clearly got the brains. And today, I learned the reason I find myself laughing incessantly at her terribly corny jokes, the source of that good humor is her father, a man quick with fashion tips and quicker still with a play on words.

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 01162_p_9ae5qbcnw2126True story: some of my best fashion and beauty tips come from my dad. In the mid-to-late 90’s, I used to wear brown lipstick religiously when it was all the rage. You know: Toasted Almond by Revlon, Rum Raisin by Bobbi Brown, etc. There wasn’t a brown-food-named lipstick I didn’t have, and I thought I looked good wearing it. You couldn’t tell me that I didn’t look hot. My dad tried to warn many times, “You shouldn’t be wearing that brown lipstick. It looks dull. It makes your face look dull. You need something brighter. There needs to be contrast.” I rolled my 16-year-old-eyes at him and said “Dad, you obviously don’t know what you’re talking about.” He clearly hadn’t read Seventeen magazine which told me that I should match my lipstick to the actual shade of my lips for the most natural effect. Fast forward 10 years later and he couldn’t have been more right. Looking at my high school prom pictures now, I realize my dad was right. My face looks dull. I should have listened to him. It’s funny because now I only wear bright lipsticks and not just because magazines tell me to.

My dad’s own style reflects the same reasoning he employed for the lipstick. You must have contrast. And because we are a darker-skinned people, my dad only wears bright colors near his face. So while most people prefer a white or light blue button down shirt my dad rocks bright oranges, pinks, and purples. And wouldn’t you know that I learned that lesson too. As much as I love black, I generally only wear it on the bottom. Any clothing near my face is light. For contrast.

02893_p_9ae5qbcnw0039People tell me I have my dad’s sense of humor. He makes corny jokes. When I told him I was dating somebody who wasn’t Indian, he asked where he was from. When I told him “Indianapolis,” my dad replied, “It’s ok he isn’t Indian. At least he’s from Indianapolis.”

My dad loves to play tricks. My mom and I drag him shopping occasionally. He always insists he doesn’t need new clothes. One time, we took him to Nordstrom, and made him try on a slew of pants and shirts. He came out of the dressing room to show us his outfit and I was going on and on about how much better the new shirt and pants looked on him. And then I looked more closely. He was wearing a new shirt but the same pair of pants he already owns! He started hysterically laughing and I, of course, felt like an idiot. He said “See, my clothes are just fine! You just said so yourself.”

I’m hard pressed to think of a time my dad ever said “no” to me. If I ever really wanted something, especially something frivolous, my dad would think about it and say “ok, you think about it. If you really want it and you think the price makes sense you can have it.” His lesson was that the money we had wasn’t his money, rather it was our money. If I wanted to spend our money on it, thereby depleting our account filled with what he claimed was technically my money too, then it was my decision to make. Genius tactic, I think.

My dad is my kindred spirit, my biggest cheerleader, and the only person I want looking for something when it’s lost. He’s the best at finding misplaced items, truly.

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As I get older I realize how lucky I am to have the dad I do, and I’m incredibly grateful for our relationship. Thank you, Dad.

Swathi Narra

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