D.C. Women of Style: Robin Koval

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Robin Koval, CEO and President of Truth Initiative, is a leader in the world of advertising and marketing and a New York Times best-selling author (twice). She is small, but mighty — so much knowledge, experience and purpose in one woman,
you can’t help but be impressed and inspired.

Koval was a co-founder and CEO of the Kaplan Thaler Group, New York’s fifth-largest advertising agency at the time. She was named one of Self-Made Magazine’s top 50 “Women Entrepreneurs Who Inspire” and wrote two best-selling books, “Grit to Great” and “The Power of Nice,” which was on the New York Times best-seller list.

These days, Koval heads up Truth Initiative, a national public-health organization dedicated to achieving “a culture where all youth and young adults reject tobacco.”

*What are you passionate about?*

**Koval:** Well, of course, I am dedicated to my organization, Truth Initiative’s, mission to achieve a culture where all youth and young adults reject tobacco. It’s truly remarkable to think that, when we started in 2000, 23 percent of youth smoked cigarettes and today we’ve helped reduce that number to just 6 percent.

I’m also passionate about my writing projects and helping people to achieve success — sometimes through counterintuitive insight. For example, in my most recent book with co-author Linda Kaplan Thaler titled “Grit to Great,” we debunk the myth that you need extraordinary talent or a genius IQ to achieve great success. In fact, it’s the development of guts, resilience, initiative and tenacity (G-R-I-T) that are the strongest predictors of future success. And the great thing about that is all of us have grit, can develop more of it and inspire it in others.

*What does style mean to you?*

**Koval:** Having spent so much of my career in advertising and marketing, to me style is a very personal way of establishing and communicating your personal brand. Visual first impressions are often the ones that we remember and retain long after verbal messages fade. I want to leave a picture in people’s minds of a woman who is creative, innovative and a leader. I choose my looks to help reflect that.

*Are there any style rules you follow? Any style challenges?*

**Koval:** I’m not a “rules” person, but I have learned some lessons over time. For example, if it doesn’t look and feel great in the store, don’t buy it — you’re never going to learn to love it. But also I’ve learned to be open to trying things that I wouldn’t ordinarily choose myself. I often shop with a stylist friend whose “eye” I trust. She’s great at getting me to try things I might not immediately be drawn to because they feel a little less “safe.” So many of those items have become the most favorite things in my closet.

As for style challenges, I’m 5’1″, so having a great tailor is an absolute must. It’s worth the investment to have a jacket or dress fitted perfectly to your body. Oh, and one more thing … shoe trees! I have shoes that are many years old that still look almost new because I am religious about using classic wooden shoe trees as soon as I take my shoes off in the evening.

*Why it is important for women to invest in their look?*

**Koval:** When you love what you’re wearing, you’ll wear it forever. I love to buy new things, but I also “shop” in my closet. Investment looks almost never go out of style.

**Styling and Outfits by Ifat Pridan of LiLi The First boutique Georgetown:** Robin has a very clear style comfort zone, but since she is a strong, confident woman, she was willing to explore different silhouettes, prints and concepts. The French “paper bag” skirt is a perfect example for thinking outside of the box, paired with an Italian blouse with a “twist.” The poppy flowers dress was perfect for her body shape — the vibrant colors complimented her complexion. We were so very excited that none of the articles needed any alteration.

**Hair by Illusions Salon Georgetown:** Soukayna, stylist at Illusions Salon of Georgetown, decided to keep Robin’s hair simply and sassy. We started by adding curls to Robin’s naturally straight hair. We then added volume and extra curl around the crown of her head to give the illusion of thicker fuller hair. We wanted to give Robin a look that would take her from the office to a night on the town. To achieve this look, Soukayna finished by running her fingers through Robin’s hair to loosen the curl, giving her a playful tousled curl look.

**Makeup by Christin Michelle of Conceptual Beauty:** First let me say how prepared Robin was for this glam team! She brought her own lashes with her! I was thrilled, simply because it can be hard to convince my ladies that false lashes are amazing for photos. With that said, the whole experience was seamless. Since Robin is comfortable in makeup, I felt very at ease smoking her eyes on the outer edge and thickening the liner a bit to compliment the wispy lashes we chose. In both of the outfits, there were very vibrant colors, so she showed me her favorite lipstick. It happened to be one of my favorite neutrals as well! I added a slightly deeper lip pencil for definition and finished her lip with a touch of gloss in the center for dimension. Robin is a wealth of information and a true delight as a woman of style!

**Photos by Elizabeth Dranitzke of Photopia:** I loved spending time with Robin! Her calm confidence seemed to set her at ease in front of the camera and allowed us the flexibility to try many different poses and locations within the gallery. I so enjoyed capturing her elegance.

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