Toss your hat into the ring and take a chance ó an interview with Top Hat Lady, Archie Burkel

You know those magnetic individuals who light up the room when they walk in? That make you think, I want whatever it is they have? Archie Burkel, ďTop HatĒ and founder of The Hat Ladies, is no doubt, one of those individuals.


Fashion forward and hard to miss, she dons the most fabulous hats around town. But those arenít the only hats sheís wearing. In addition to donning the hat of business owner, motivational speaker, writer, educator, motivator, fashion show organizer, the list goes on Ö sheís also sporting ďhattitudeĒ the way itís worn best: with confidence, compassion and the determination and drive to make a difference in her community. Bringing people together is what she does best, with a strong understanding of true camaraderie. The attack of 9/11 is when everything truly hit home for Archie. At a time when people were suddenly afraid of one another, Archie had the ability to draw a crowd and make them feel confident, uplifted and upbeat. Bringing people together has been her mission ever since.

I encourage you to explore The Hat Ladies website,, to fully appreciate this incredible organization Archie has worked so hard to establish.

In the meantime, check out my interview below as Archie gives us insight and advice on how to look your best and discover your true passion in life.

Mackenzie Image Consulting (MIC): How would you describe yourself in three words?
Archie Burkel (AB): Organized, optimistic and determined.

MIC: Whatís your best advice for someone struggling with a negative body image?
Make a realistic assessment of what you donít like about your image. While there may be a number of things we donít like, the good news is we can do something about them. I call it ďFix it or Tricks it.Ē

I can draw from personal experience in both categories: My Mother pressured me from a young age to get a nose job. I did not feel I needed one and resisted her for years. When I was a junior in college, one of my sorority sisters returned from summer vacation with a new nose. Her doing so helped me understand we should do the best we can with what we have, which sometimes means Fix It!

Of course, such a major step should be kept in perspective. I changed something physical, but I did not change who I was. Nor did I blindly follow othersí opinions. I did it on my terms, for my own reasons. It was for me; it was simply a form of self-improvement. As fate would have it, I find myself in the public eye 40 years later, with people taking pictures of me from every angle. How my nose looks is a non-issue. I donít have to worry about how it looks. Iím still me on the inside; Iím, just a better version on the outside. I could do something about my nose, and I did.

Fortunately most things we donít like have easier solutions and are in the ďTricks ItĒ category. Examples can be pulled out of a hat. When it comes right down to it, I hate my hair. Itís much too curly, and it has been getting progressively thinner. My hat is the perfect solution to both problems since it effectively covers my hair and even brings me complimentsÖsomething my hair never would.

I had the chance to do something clever in regards to something I did not like, and I took it. Hats (or accessories, in general) can actually be a marvelous solution in many ways, e.g. If you do not like your glasses, the hat or jewelry or purse or shoes become the focal point.

Bottom line: If there really is something you can change and itís safe and realistic to change, then do it. Change it. But if you canít fix it, you can always tricks it.

MIC: You talk a lot about discovering your passion by re-examining what captivated you as a child. Is that general advice for anyone looking to find their place in this world?
Itís those first ten years of your life that you want to re-examine. What was it you enjoyed doing? The things where time just disappeared? If for some reason you canít remember, ask your mom, brothers, sisters Ö someone else who observed you. The next part of that is believing in it. There I was as a little girl with a hat on my head and a scarf around my neck, posing for pictures in my girlfriendís attic.

Nearly ten years ago when I was re-questioning what I wanted to do when I grew up, it came back to hats and the little girl in that picture. But I didnít want to sell hats. I didnít want to make them. I couldnít decorate them. All I wanted to do was wear them. The problem was the idea of doing that as a career seemed ďstupid.Ē But thatís what you do. You start with that concept and you keep going with it. It may seem stupid but look outside the box (which I like to call the hat box) and see where it goes. When you start looking elsewhere, look within yourself. Every single thing Iím doing: wearing a hat, bringing people together, organizing events, writing, speaking Ö Iíve been doing for over 50 years.

MIC: How are you so positive all the time?!
When I was 10 years old, my mother won a car in a raffle so large it was held at the International Amphitheater in Chicago. Out of the thousands of names in that hat, they pulled my moms. I learned at that moment, to take chances Ö to toss my name into a hat or my hat into a ring. Somebody is going to win. And it just might be me. Thatís an optimism Iíve carried with me every since that moment.

MIC: As you continue to toss your hat into the ring and take chances, do you find yourself continually coming out a winner?
If there is a hereditary gene for luck, I must have got it from my Mom. My family wins raffles regularly. My Mom is 89 years old and sheís *still* winning. But why is she winning? Itís because sheís putting herself out there. Sheís taking a chance. My life has definitely not been one big bed of roses. Iím certainly not a Pollyanna. I have just come to a deeper understanding that I am a lucky person and have come to conclude that my glass is half full. Iím also a big believer that you canít go blaming people or blaming life. Even if youíre dealt a difficult hand, you do the best with what you have. Never lose sight of the things that you are just lucky about.

MIC: Any advice on cultivating a personal style?
Really look at yourself. Resist the temptation as much as possible to look at whatís in the magazines or on the internet. Separate yourself from anyone else. Reassess your best features and your worst features. Go with the best and cover up the worst. And have fun with it. Donít veer off into funny, but have fun with it. If youíre going to a Bastille day party, then dress in the colors. If youíre wearing a basic black dress, then have on the most interesting necklace. Itís the sum of the parts what counts Ö not wearing a specific designer or following a certain trend. My mother taught me to be a good shopper. My husband hates it when I say how much I paid for something or where I bought it, but thatís what women admire. We want to be known as smart shoppers. Thereís humility about it as if we say to each other, ďI want you to know that you can afford that.Ē

MIC: Whatís your advice on overcoming challenges in life?
Sometimes circumstances in life become so unbearable that you just have to start over. It all goes back to changing the things you can and accepting what you canít. Sometimes you have to take that drastic step and switch your environment. Sometimes we also just need to remind ourselves to have a sense of humor, which can be tough. One of my favorite quotes sums it up:

ďWhen you get to the edge of all you have known, and you are about to face the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen. You will land on your feet or you will learn to fly.Ē

MIC: Whatís the craziest thing youíve done?
Bungee jumping head first out of a hot air balloon in Colorado.

MIC: What is left on your life list to do?
I have trouble answering this question because Iím truly grateful for all Iíve done. Iíve been lucky to travel to some amazing places and do some amazing things. Therefore, I donít have a long wish list. I am so organized, I donít really have much of a to do list, either.

The main thing on any list would be writing my Memoirs. I created and teach a Memoir writing workshop. But I havenít found time to write my own since Iím too busy seeking the next adventure, running The Hat Ladies, or creating something else.

Iíve never been someone with my nose pressed against the window wishing and waiting for something to happen I discovered the secret to life is always having something to look forward to. It is the little things that keep us going. It can be anything ó Someoneís birthday, a short trip, a play. Whatever that something is, is something you look forward to. I think thatís why I have trouble coming up with something big still left on my agenda because little things are so fulfilling. Best of all, I have been following my bliss and pulling happiness out of a hat. It is my sincere belief others can, too, whatever hats they wear.

I leave you with Archie and The Hat Ladies mantra: When you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you do good.


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  • About Me

    "Life is more exciting with an open mind, a passion to succeed and a great pair of red high heels." 

    -Shauna M. Heathman 

    Author and Owner of Mackenzie Image Consulting

    Archie, Top Hat