Let’s Normalize Menopause
Stacy London considers herself the “chief evangelist officer” of a new company that supports women going through menopause with a mix of commerce and community.
Stacy London’s menopause journey started when she was 47. But she didn’t know it at the time. The fashion stylist, television personality (What Not to Wear, Today Show), author and now first-time CEO, was so deep in the throes of recovering from back surgery, and grief over her father’s passing, that she didn’t quite realize that her insomnia, mood swings, memory loss, etc., could be attributed to perimenopause. It wasn’t until a company called State of Menopause approached her about testing its line of menopause-solutions products that she learned she could feel better. So much better, in fact, that in 2021 Stacy became the CEO of State of Menopause. In her new role, much as she did when she was a fashion stylist, she is fiercely committed to raising women's self-esteem. She recently sat down with The Plum to discuss everything menopause-related.
Menopause stories are like birth stories — The Plum can’t get enough of them. Please tell us yours.
Well, I'm happy to talk about it. I mean, it is really the reason that I decided to do so many things after it. It just took me a second to identify that something physiological was happening because I had had spine surgery at the end of 2016. I distinctly remember that in January of 2017, I got my period twice—then it disappeared forever. But I think it all started before that. I just didn't realize it because the spine surgery got in the way. As I was coming out of that, I still didn't recognize my perimenopause symptoms for what they were. I wasn't really having hot flashes yet, but I was having the muscle fatigue, the joint pain, the insomnia and the brain fog. And then my father got very, very sick and I took care of him for a year before he passed away. And then I was just so consumed with grief that I simply was not in a place to even think about what was happening to me. What I realize now is that both my physical recovery from surgery and the period of grieving were incredibly heightened by being in perimenopause and not knowing it.
How did State of Menopause come into your life?
Sometime in 2019, a company approached me about being a beta tester for its State of Menopause products. And I remember being like, yes, thank God somebody sees me. All these things that I had started to attribute to other factors in my life began to make more sense through this lens of perimenopause. So, I was happy to be a beta tester. I was probably the happiest beta tester ever. And part of that was because I thought, here’s an opportunity to make products based on what we want. For me, products are a way of starting the conversation with an answer. Like, I know what you're going through, have you tried this thing? The idea is that you've got to get rid of what is holding you back externally before you can shift internally. If you are in the middle of a hot flash, it's hard to talk about, say, pivoting careers. Treat the symptoms so you can focus on the rest.
But in addition to products, the site will also amplify the voices of women in menopause, right?
Right. I really don't think anybody is looking at this much bigger picture. I think we can safely say that our lifespans are expanding, which means we are going to have so much more time in the middle. I read an article years ago, which reported that the unhappiest period in a woman's life was, like, 45 to 50. Now, there is a reason for that, right? I think we're saying goodbye to who we were and becoming who we are. But I also think we're dealing with kids, empty nests, elder care and dying parents. It’s a very difficult transition. And then perimenopausal symptoms set in and make you feel like you're crazy.
We're not living in a three-act play. It’s more like five acts. And the third act is when we can truly start to make magic happen.
You could almost call it conscious marketing...
Yeah, I really appreciate that. I do see this as as a mission and a movement. And now, yes, we are seeing a lot of menopause-driven companies, but I think we need a jillion more. I think all ships rise together. I think this idea that we're coming at it from the perspective of how much money can we make really does a disservice to this community.
How do you plan to address all of the physiological and psychological issues surrounding menopause on the State of Menopause site?
We have a medical advisory board, and we very much plan on doing first-person narrative stories. We have a secondary grief counselor. We have a doctor who specializes in queer menopause. We want this community to feel like we see you no matter where you are. A blog is coming. And we have a newsletter coming. I'm very excited.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about this stage of life?
Many women at this age are starting to feel like they have less to live for. I know a few women who have responded to menopausal symptoms with suicidal ideation. It’s no joke. The misconception is that we're done, which is one of those phrases that I hate more than anything. We're not done.
Who do you think is aging well?
The first person to come that comes to mind is not a menopausal woman at all. It's Jane Fonda. And that's not about what she looks like, but what her career has turned into, and everything she’s done. She has such vim and vigor and that's what I aspire to. We're not living in a three-act play. It’s more like five acts. And the third act is this moment for women when, I truly believe, we can start to make magic happen. I just need to convince the rest of the population.