SB: I generally do not like to say much about my design clients, and of course don’t give any clients’ names, unless they give permission. I have worked with entertainers, bankers, doctors, all kinds of people.
I think it is great to work with people who are decision-makers. I design a lot of these powerful people’s homes and offices, which revolves around making decisions, and people like … former President Clinton are comfortable making decisions. I facilitate that with respect to these professional and private spaces that I was designing when working with them. It was a great opportunity.
TR: You have had a great career, many magazine covers, a store in upstate New York, a line of home furnishings. You also had the TV show.
SB: Yes, it was the flagship show for the Fine Living Network, and so I did four seasons of Sheila Bridges Designer Living. By all accounts it was doing well, and it was a tremendous amount of work, but I was proud of the show. During the fourth season of my show, I started to lose my hair.
TR: During your youth, there was always something going on about your hair, and then in your adult life it was suddenly gone. What was the experience like being in the public eye and suddenly losing it?
SB: I went through something that was very private in the most public way possible. To be a woman in a visual medium and be in magazines and then have your hair fall out — lose your eyebrows, lose your eyelashes, lose your hair, when you are recognized for having very thick hair at that — to have that happen in a very public way was hard, and with the added pressure of having to deliver a television show.
So I had to suck it up and wear wigs, hairpieces, to get through the television season for continuity. We didn’t shoot all of the segments in order, so we may have already shot something for that show, but then we had to go back and do another segment that was going to air, so my hair had to kind of look the same. I couldn’t be in the middle of the season and now show up with a bald head, and so it was incredibly difficult.
TR: I can imagine that your identity as a woman was challenged, but did you think you would lose your career, too?
SB: I lost my public career. I still have my design business, and that is the bread and butter of my design existence beyond the television career, but that’s what people focus on, and people see me visually and see me on television and assume that’s my life. What allowed me to have a television show was that I was a designer and worked very hard and was pretty good at what I did, and that afforded me [the opportunity] to have the show.
TR: Was it hard for you to step back into relationships when you lost your hair?
SB: The type of men I attracted changed when I lost my hair. I had dated black men up until one person I mention in my book. Those were the men that approached me, and those were the men that I was always interested in.
It wasn’t that I never considered dating outside racial boundaries. I was not typically the kind of person to ask men out, and so those were the men who approached me — black men. When I shaved my head, I am not sure any black men have asked me out since then. Men who approach me now are not black men.
TR: Let’s go down that path a little bit, because you have a chapter called “Girls, Guys, Guns.” You are a card-carrying member of the National Rifle Association, at a time when the entire country and beyond is “up in arms” about guns and gun violence.