Clara Bow, Taylor Swift, & Becoming a Legend of Your Industry

Listen to the full episode here: Apple, Spotify, and Amazon.

If you’re a Swiftie, this episode is definitely for you. If you’re not, this episode is still for you because it has very obvious points for you to take into your own hands to influence your personal brand’s growth.

Even if you run a business portfolio that’s aimed to be sold in the future, your personal brand will be what you fall back on with every exit. The best exit strategy IS a personal brand.

Here are our main points this week:

  • Who Is Clara Bow?
  • What Are the Similarities between Clara Bow and Taylor Swift?
  • Becoming A Legend In Your Industry
  • Lessons from Clara Bow and Taylor Swift

Who Is Clara Bow?

Clara Bow was the actress that made “It Girl” the saying we know today, flapper style as iconic as it is, and she was a dazzling representation of who a woman could be if she dared.

The Art Deco and Flapper-era Art have been directly inspired by the essence of Clara Bow. Coined as being a youthful rebel that was inspired to be modern and to be pushed against societal norms with a new vision of femininity. 

Clara Bow inspired more than just Taylor Swift. If you’re into horror movies this isn’t the first time you’ve been exposed to the story of Clara Bow’s iconic career. The movie “Pearl” directed by Ti West and distributed by A24 and Universal Pictures starred Mia Goth. Goth’s character was inspired by Clara Bow’s career, amongst other influences. Goth’s character obsession with stardom, the glitz and glamor of early Hollywood cinema were direct nods to silent film stars like Clara Bow. 

As well, you can see the essence of Clara Bow in “Babylon” from Paramount Pictures with Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt taking the stage. Robbie’s character, Nellie, quickly becomes the “It Girl” of the times, noting that she could cry on cue in silent films because all she had to do was think of home. Very much a true line from Clara Bow herself. 

She’s a cultural icon that has been referenced throughout novels like “The It Girl” by Pamela Des Barres” and “Hollywood” a TV series by Ryan Murphy. It might seem like Taylor Swift’s new song has sparked renewed interest in the rise and fall of this Hollywood legend, but she amongst many other creators have sought to understand the apex of Clara Bow’s prosperity and tragic downfall. 

Per Variety, “A native of Brooklyn, Bow grew up in poverty and got her start in pictures after she won a contest sponsored by a magazine. Her prizes were “an evening gown, a trophy and a promise to help the aspiring young actress gain entrée into the film industry,” according to Bow’s biography from Turner Classic Movies. Her big break came with a small part in 1922’s “Beyond the Rainbow.”

Another note from Variety that we’ll touch on later in terms of mental illness, men, and self-imposed isolation, “She (Clara Bow) starred in the first movie to win an Oscar for best picture. By 1930, she’d made 45 movies in six years. By 1933, after struggles with men and mental illness, Clara Bow’s Hollywood career was over.”

What Are the Similarities between Clara Bow and Taylor Swift?

The similarities between Clara Bow and Taylor Swift aren’t few and far between. They both amassed a following that has been unheard of still to this day. Though Clara Bow’s career slipped behind time’s gates, her essence still continues to be felt to this day in the 1920s parties, Flapper decor and outfits, and iconic “Cupid’s Bow” of the time. 

Taylor Swift is no stranger to red lipstick and there are dozens and dozens of TikToks that show us all how to get the distinct Swift lip. 

This quote from says it all: “Swift’s attraction to Bow seems clear, though the singer hasn’t spoken about it yet. But there are parallels — a young woman with a unique talent, who captured the zeitgeist and was attacked by the tabloid press.”

As for theories and summaries of what Taylor Swift is sharing with this song I’ll leave that to the armchair experts on TikTok that have the Swiftie lore tattooed on their minds. I’m new to the club, but I’m no stranger to being ridiculously obsessed with Clara Bow. 

My 21st birthday party was a 1920s affair; inspired first by The Great Gatsby and later by the silent films of Clara Bow when I first realized she was the reason we all had a dazzling obsession with the Flapper-girl mood. I might slide a few images into an email from my birthday party; sign up for our email list in the links below on the home page of our website. 

Another quote from Variety strikes a hot iron: “Her (Clara Bow’s) messy private life led to rumors about her behavior and sexual activity, which spurred aggressive attention from the tabloid press. In these years, Bow kept making movies at a breakneck pace, as chronicled in the pages of Variety. She was among the few silent movie stars to make a successful transition to talkies.” 

Have we seen Taylor Swift stop her memorable reign in today’s society? Not really. 

As Taylor Swift describes it, she took a self-imposed isolation around 2016-2017. This happened following a series of high-profile incidents, including her feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, and her split from Calvin Harris. During this time, she stepped back from the spotlight to focus on herself, and she did not make many public appearances.

This break preceded the release of her 2017 album Reputation, which addresses her experiences and the public scrutiny she faced during that time. The album marked a significant shift in her musical style and public persona, reflecting the personal transformation she underwent during her time away from the limelight.

Later in Clara Bow’s career there was also a self-imposed isolation of sorts as she focused on supporting her mental health after media scrutiny, a high-profile scandal, her tumultuous personal life, and the transition to sound films. She’d been struggling with her mental health on and off for some time, as did her mother and grandmother before her. Now it’s said that she may have had schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and in those times folks certainly wouldn’t have been supported well as they navigated their mental health conditions. 

Though Taylor Swift didn’t step away from the limelight because of her mental health persay, she certainly stepped away to care for herself after the aforementioned high-profile incidents that can still to this day be found in the lyrics of her songs as she releases the emotions that were attached to those experiences. 

The conversation of similarities between Taylor Swift and Clara Bow is where we meet personal branding and the frontier where these two pioneers meet. We’ll start to apply these into your brand in the next section of the podcast, but for now, we’ll go through the parallels between the two starlets. 

Taylor Swift and Clara Bow Have Consistently Embraced:

  • Their Unique Authenticity 
  • Being Media Savvy
  • Trailblazing & Pioneering
  • Resilience
  • Empowerment
  • Cultural Impact

Clara Bow was a pioneer in personal branding, showcasing authenticity and relatability. Her ability to connect with audiences through her genuine personality and unique style teaches us all of us the importance of staying true to ourselves and embracing our individuality in branding. Clara demonstrated the power of charisma and how it can captivate audiences, leaving a lasting impression even while acting in silent films. 

This can be seen in parallels with Taylor Swift in so many ways especially within her lyricism; she may stay silent on a topic for a while, but we all know she’s preparing to leave a lasting impression and her silence is loud at the forefront for a reason. Additionally, Bow’s savvy use of media and public relations helped shape her image and solidify her place in pop culture, highlighting the significance of strategic promotion in personal branding.

Becoming A Legend In Your Industry

Becoming the it girl of your personal brand and a legend in your industry begins with all of the points from our last section.

To Embrace Your Personal Brand:

  • Your Unique Authenticity 
  • Being Media Savvy
  • Being Trailblazing & Pioneering
  • Your Unyielding Resilience
  • Your Passionate Empowerment
  • Your Unmatched Cultural Impact

I want to give you implementable information here to use all of these points in your personal brand by the end of the week. 

It’ll take you less than 30 minutes to quickly write these out and then I want you to start applying them as quickly as you craft them. It’s easy to read to a blog and receive information, but the key is using this information and applying it. I hear about folks listening to a podcast a day while they get ready every morning and I can’t help but think about how loud their brains must be without the application and implementation of the information they’re learning. I’ve been there before; hyper-consuming instead of executing, but this is your year to execute quickly and move… Swiftly. I couldn’t help but get a Swiftie joke in here.

Your Unique Authenticity 

Consider your personality instead of your perfectionism, your fear of being called out or canceled, or the ever-edging persistence of being perceived. You will never outrun the potential perception of anyone; 1 million followers or 200 followers… there will always be someone that only has a skewed view of you that is perceiving you through their own perspective lens. You can’t control that lens, but we’ll talk about controlling the narrative when we discuss being media savvy.

Make a list of your personality traits; are you friendly, authoritative, naturally hilarious, empathetic and sensitive, innovative in every way, harmonious and elegant? Gentle? Kind? Caring? Audacious and ambitious? Choose the traits to highlight that you want to carry throughout your career, your current brands and future brands and aim to show those again and again through stories that highlight those traits. 

For example, if you’re sensitive and empathetic, you may reflect understanding in your content communication with clients and customers with words like “I recall from our last conversation that you were experiencing X, how are you feeling now?” or you may find yourself following up about a big presentation you knew they were going to have.

Or you may express compassion and offer support, flexibility, and be accommodating in ways that perhaps other personality types may not. 

In your email campaigns to mass audiences you may use simplistic language to lower the barrier for confusion – empathizing with the reader to have the least confusion as possible while reading. You may tailor messages to specific needs, behaviors, and previous interactions your past clients have had with your brand to influence ideal clients like them to be easier to see. You may encourage responses and care more than an innovative brand might as innovation by design does influence the idea that we’re always moving forward and therefore some niceties might be missed in the process. You may share stories that reflect real-life scenarios of how your product or service has helped others which illustrates the value of what you offer, but it also influences the reader to consider how much attention you must be paying to your clients to notice them this much. 

Being Media Savvy

In relation to Clara Bow and Taylor Swift, they both experienced high-profile interactions that created a need for themselves and their PR teams to consider an approach in response that values the nuance of public sentiment. 

If you’re managing this on your own, even if it’s just on one post on your Instagram page that’s having it’s own controlled controversy moment, then consider the following: analyze sentiment, quantify impact, identify key themes, contextualize within your career, highlight notable reactions if possible or necessary, address media coverage if there is any, forecast future implications, and consider what to strategically do next for follow-up actions or adjustments to your personal brand and public relations strategy. 

Knowing when to make a statement and when to stay silent is a skill that’s not unique to celebrities. Even as online service providers, professionals, consultants, coaches, agency owners, and the like, we need to understand when it’s valuable to say something and control the narrative in a healthy way or to create silence in a powerful way. Not every word needs a response and the one who talks the least wins as PR consultants and lawyers alike agree. 

Being media savvy without PR scandals is most likely what you’d be experiencing versus what Clara and Taylor have both experienced in their careers. With that said, a few ways to show that you’re media savvy to your ideal clients, peers, and partnerships is by staying informed, current, and relevant by understanding trends and changes in your industry and in relation to the media (social, traditional, and emerging). 

Being able to leverage multiple platforms and create high-quality content for each platform shows that you’re media savvy without the need to say so. Engaging with your audience and communities, innovating and adapting by ways of analytics and public sentiment shows how savvy you really are.

Being Trailblazing & Pioneering

Keeping this one short and sweet: high-quality thought leadership content showcases your expertise and forward-thinking approach. You’re not just being thought-leadery; you’re pioneering. This especially happens when you can lift and shift strategies from other industries to combine with your industry. Consider leveraging thought leadership content through articles, blog posts, videos, and podcasts discussing emerging trends that blend with the timelessness of your brand, innovative ideas, and unique insights that someone with less time and experience than you wouldn’t be able to bring to the table. 

Taking your high-quality thought leadership content a step further beyond traditional media, move into speaking at events and speaking engagements, into intimate conversations and spaces with collaborators and partnerships to dialogue the way the old philosophers did, and continue to learn and adapt instead of staying the same in your industry. Be loud about this. It’s up to you to hide behind your fear of being seen or deciding that your service to the world is more important than fear that can be healed and released. 

Your Unyielding Resilience

Keep a track record of delivering high-quality results even in the face of adversity. Consistency in your work and the ability to meet or exceed expectations, regardless of external circumstances, showcases your resilience and reliability. I’ll be sharing more about this in the coming months, but being able to continue to work with our clients around the world as a company while I was grieving the loss of my brother-in-law in early 2023 gives me the ability to show that though I am one person… Our impact is felt in our unyielding resilience to take care of ourselves as humans and deliver support and results that we said we could. 

I love how you can see Taylor Swift’s resiliency track record with every album she puts out. It’s easy to see where she could have been harmed and stayed down. It’s easy to see where those with envy and jealousy wanted her to stay silent and it’s easy to see why she didn’t. She had a story to tell and she told it in her own way.

Being transparent with your communication to your audience and communities about setbacks, obstacles, and the transformations you’re seeking or exploring or have achieved. Hiding challenges is a surefire way to come off as inauthentic in a world that’s desperate for authenticity. 

Your Passionate Empowerment

No matter your industry… you can infuse philanthropy into your mission and values. We’ve done this since the beginning of our brand by consistently donating a portion of our revenue to the shelter that supported me after I experienced a violent crime in 2016. We have created marketing campaigns around the anniversary of that crime that drives our community to donate to the shelter to support, empower, and help other survivors resiliently rise after what was probably the worst night of their lives.

Share your personal stories and experiences that highlight your journey towards empowerment and how those experiences have shaped your personal path. Authenticity resonates with audiences and helps build trust. Consider sharing the mentors you’ve worked with and what you worked through or the obstacles you faced in year 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 20 of your business. Consider how motherhood changed the way you approached business. Consider how grief imploded your life and what you did to ensure that you could grieve, heal, and still have a harmonious life and business. 

Consider sharing content regularly that empowers a segment of your audience to see something different, to think differently and embrace a new perspective. Consider where there are injustices and spaces where you can foster more inclusivity to have a welcoming brand and environment.  

Your Unmatched Cultural Impact

Create case studies around the impact you’ve created in the form of an annual summary. We’ve done this for several years and I picked up this habit from my time in higher education at a law school. Combine case studies, testimonials, a bird’s eye view of initiatives internally and externally within your business, and show how your brand’s impact transcends cultural boundaries to make a meaningful difference on a global scale. 

Measure the outcomes of your work and don’t be afraid to get analytical and emotional within the information that you’re aggregating. I don’t just share that we help clients reach $30, $50, $90, or $350k campaign launches; I also share screenshots of clients’ words that say “thank you for giving me permission to go slower today” and “thank you for reminding me that I don’t have to have notifications on all of the time to be a good business owner” and “thank you for reminding me to date my partner and have an intimate and spicy life together.” 

Lessons from Clara Bow and Taylor Swift

There are many lessons we could take from Clara Bow and Taylor Swift. A few of the lessons have been described in this podcast already, but to sum it up they both rise above adversity, foster independence, shape a future for the modern woman to be the vision of femininity that they want to be, they embrace challenges and let them fuel their successes, they connect with their audiences intentionally, and constantly inspire others with their gusto and creativity. 

A final quote from Time, “But Clara Bow the woman and star makes her appearance only at the beginning of “Clara Bow.” The two other women referenced in the song are Stevie Nicks and Swift herself, and it becomes clear that the song is partly about self-possession and knowing the worth of your beauty, but perhaps even more about the worth others see in it—and their almost reflexive desire to market it. And that’s where the story of Clara Bow comes in.”


Listen to the full episode here: Apple, Spotify, and Amazon.

Who Is Clara Bow and Why Did Taylor Swift… 

Who was Clara Bow? Taylor Swift Song Sparks Interest…

Who Is Clara Bow? The Inspiration Behind Taylor Swift’s…


Ashleigh Henry has been in marketing, sales, and leadership positions for the last decade and it was exhilarating for Ashleigh to climb the retail, corporate, higher education, and start-up ladder holding positions such as Marketing Strategist, Copywriter, Social Media Strategist, Manager, Editor, Co-Editor…until it wasn’t. Alongside her degree, Ashleigh decided to bring all of her experience into the freelancing world until it became clear that she didn’t just want to pay the bills – she wanted to create a company that was foundationally built on cheetah print, legacy-minded marketing, and sexy sales structures that could stand the test of trend and time. The Cheetah Company, founded by Ashleigh, does this for female entrepreneurs through their education, coaching, and consulting services. Learn more about Ashleigh here.

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