By Lori Simmons Zelenko
Thoughts and Advice from A World Renowned Lifestyle Guru
A favorite of Oprah and a celebrity darling known not only for over the top weddings and parties but also the ability to share practical tips for chic entertaining on a not always extravagant budget. Colin Cowie is, as he shares on his Facebook page, “travelling the world at 120 mph in the fast lane fueled with big doses of style, passion and glamour, inspiring people to live their best life.” We sat down with Colin to learn how we could take advantage of his life lessons and path to exceptional success.
Growing up in South Africa, Colin speaks of a place where the people are naturally hospitable, “entertaining is something they do very well,” he recalls the experience of coming from” a tight, very connected family where we had dinner together every night.” From this starting point, Colin traveled the road to become a globally recognized event planner.
Not knowing what direction Apartheid would take, Colin decided to decamp from his homeland. Setting his sights on the US, he arrived in Los Angeles thinking it was a global style capital. Humorously he recalls, it did not take him long to find it was anything but. As he says, “style was manufactured in Tinseltown. I met people with walk in refrigerators dining out six days a week”. Recognizing what he considered a strange phenomenon, he encountered people who had the trappings of wealth but weren’t expressing personal style: Individuals with beautiful homes but they were not “living” in them. So in 1985, Colin Cowie started his business with $400 and began to teach people the skills to enhance their lives and learn the art of fine living.
Today he travels the four corners of the world creatively conceptualizing and producing everything from intimate birthday celebrations to iconic weddings to corporate bashes. We have to ask, has coming from a beautiful, exotic foreign land been helpful in establishing a business that resonates globally?
Growing up so connected to family made him want to help others establish the same kind of connections in their lives, he replies. “Weddings were a byproduct if you will of this mission. I started as a food consultant and that morphed into weddings. My first major wedding was for the most famous bachelor in the world Hugh Hefner in 1989. It’s fair to say that was the best production ever.”
Revealing that he has travelled 12 million miles and visited 100 countries, a journey that has literally been an education; we have to ask, what’s his takeaway from being such a voyager?
“I watch other cultures do different things – it is part of my creative path to try to find all that is new and fabulous,” he says. “So I enjoy experiencing unique rituals – seeing different ways of life, trying different religions, relating one on one to the individuals I encounter. It’s the University of Life and I have earned an honorary doctorate, I like to say.”
Today recognized around the world as an international lifestyle guru, he looks back, recalling what turned the tide for him and truly was a milestone that made a difference.
“For me, the turning point was actually meeting Oprah Winfrey, I did appearances on her show over the years, after all I have written ten books. Becoming friendly with Oprah let me also encounter and spend time with legends like Sidney Poitier and Quincy Jones.”
A love for design and business keeps Colin hands-on with all projects. We’re curious; does fantastic sometimes over the top design ever outweigh good business sense?
“Everything I do has hands on creativity. A WOW! moment. No matter how small the budget there always has to be a WOW!” He describes himself as a ‘chameleon’ when it comes to work, “nothing I do ever looks the same…no matter the customer or the venue, I am always changing it up. I layer the senses: smell touch see and hear.” After all, he poses the question: “How can an event fulfill your dreams if one of the senses is not seduced? Imagine a beautiful room, beautiful flowers, the tactile sensation of beautiful fabric but the food is lacking…How disappointing that would be!” So although the individual priority of each sense may rotate, the end result is conceived as a delight to all the senses.
Of course, he does not deny that there is magic to orchestrating it all seamlessly together. But to sum up his approach and the driving force behind his aesthetic, he refers to the famed quote from Maya Angelou quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Committed to empowering people to live their best life and be the best person they can be, Colin believes that the best way to empower the people is to lead by example. “We need all of us to take care of our bodies and our minds. Every day I say a prayer God Help Me Be the Best Version of Myself. If I set a good example by being considerate of others in every way I know that excellence will follow.”
But if there is one credo he wants to share with entrepreneurs seeking success by roads less traveled by, “Stay focused it is easy to be distracted.”