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Kate Spade’s Death Reminds Us The Importance Of Checking On Our Strong Friends


Jun. 7 2018, Published 12:54 p.m. ET

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“You never know what people are really going through.”

This is a phrase that appeared multiple times on my screen in group chats and caption after caption on social media on Tuesday morning when the news broke that Kate Spade was found dead in her apartment. Her death was ruled a suicide, she was 55 years old.

The news sent a shockwave through the world of fashion and especially to working women. For so many professional women, the moment they bought or were gifted their first Kate Spade purse was a symbol of adulthood, of confidence and inspiration as they went forth to pursue the life of their dreams.

Kate Spade and Co donated handbags to our scholars, so they’d show up at their internships looking great and feeling great. They always downplayed their gift, and maybe this sounds silly, but it was a big deal for our young women to show up to an important gig with a great bag.

— Soledad O’Brien (@soledadobrien) June 5, 2018

So the thought that one of the icons, a symbol of professional achievement and success for women was battling “personal demons” that led her to take her own life is a wake up call. The photos we see, the accolades, the achievements, don’t make a person healthy internally.  From the outside looking in, Spade “had it all” –  a woman from Kanas City worked her way up, and started her own company which was acquired by Coach last year for $2.4 billion.  She had a family, and just launched a new venture.

Even more jarring, is perhaps that her brand and imagery present a very light, happy, cheery aesthetic which we now know is in stark contrast to the dark internal reality Spade was battling on a daily basis.

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Spade is not alone. The Center for Disease Control says more than half of states within the U.S. have seen suicide rates rise more than 30 percent and in 2016 suicide accounted for close to 45,000 deaths. We can often get lost in the statistics, distancing ourselves in a way, and when a major icon puts a face to it it forces us to really look at the humanity behind the numbers.

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In this era of social media highlight reels, the public persona and perception of Kate Spade as the embodiment of her brand serves as a direct parallel to our own lives where we can exist in a reality very different than the one shown on our social profiles. Calls to “check on your strong friend” rang out across the Internet because we all know a woman who appears to have it all together and this served as a much needed reminder that the behind the scenes does not always match up.

Remembering Kate Spade’s colorful life and career: @Forbes @katespadeny @Bell_LetsTalk

— Isabel K Henderson (@ikhenderson) June 7, 2018

Check on all of your friends.
The “strong” ones.
The extroverted ones.
The introverted ones.
The ones who are openly struggling.
The ones who hint at struggling but won’t admit it.
The ones who are actively working to heal.
The ones who have healed.
All of them. #katespade

— Angela Brown ✨ (@AngelaIRL) June 6, 2018

Check on your friends y’all. Even the strong ones. Even the rich ones. Even the successful ones. Even the ones who you envy.

RIP Kate Spade.

— Wakanda Rhimes (@krissybee) June 5, 2018

Giving myself the ultimatum to reach out to old friends before the week runs out and be extra kind to people……people are going through a lot especially those whom we think are emotionally strong. #KateSpade #RIP.

— OYIZA (@Oyiza_04) June 5, 2018

Kate Spade is a perfect example of publicly appearing to “have it all” but still struggling behind the scenes. Check in on your strong friend every now and then. You never know what they’re dealing with or going through privately.

— michael (@michaelilynch) June 5, 2018

Kate Spade is a perfect example of publicly appearing to “have it all” but still struggling behind the scenes. Check in on your strong friend every now and then. You never know what they’re dealing with or going through privately.

— michael (@michaelilynch) June 5, 2018

You can the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Another resource is the Crisis Text Line text the word HOME to 741741 anytime.

By: Rhonesha Byng

Rhonesha Byng is the founder and CEO of Her Agenda— a digital media platform bridging the gap between ambition and achievement for millennial women. The site provides access to content and community that gives millennial women access to information and inspiration to help them get started or to move to the next level of their career. Rhonesha is an Emmy award-winning journalist and entrepreneur whose philosophy in life is established by her acronym of N.E.S.H.A. No one Ever Slows Her Agenda. This motto served as the inspiration for Her Agenda. Rhonesha was named to the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list and ESSENCE magazine named her among 50 Founders To Watch. Rhonesha is also the co-founder of the newly formed nonprofit org The Black Owned Media Equity and Sustainability Institute (BOMESI).

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