Thrift Shop Divas

March 7, 2014 

Kathleen Kaiser
Contributing Writer

We have all seen someone along the way, that their mere appearance catches not only our attention, but the attention of the entire room. Imagine shopping at a local Goodwill store where you meet someone so fascinating, so eccentric, yet so warm and inviting, that everyone in the store takes notice of her, or even stops to ask for an autograph. This experience is exactly what happened to local independent producer Erik Light, as he was shopping with his wife at a Goodwill store in St. Louis three years ago. The woman that caught his eye and the eye of everyone in the store that day was Naomi, the style genius extraordinaire - who could find pieces of clothing - and then redesign them - using only a scissor, a few stitches and her own imagination, making them into something extraordinary.

That encounter turned into a great friendship and eventually the development of a digital series with MERS Goodwill and Coolfire Studios, the powerhouse production company behind TV shows like Welcome to Sweetie Pies, Fast n Loud and Salvage City. Since then, producers have added more divas, all with disciplines in design or refurbishing items that you can find at any Goodwill store; There’s Jenny - The Builder/Upcycler, Beth - The Costume Designer and Susannah - the Stylist. And so, The Thrift Shop Divas were born and the series has become known as an entertaining DIY format with heart. The message “woven” into the show is one of resourcefulness, hope and transformation. Just like the divas are teaching us that we can breathe new life into whatever we discover at a Goodwill store, MERS Goodwill shows us that people who are unemployed, unskilled or haven’t always made the best choices, still have value and sometimes just need help onto a path to transforming themselves. Thrift Shop Divas tells these stories and so much more. Now before you pull up the show at or like them on Facebook, let’s learn a little about each one of these DIVAS and how they ended up shopping at Goodwill:

NAOMI ~ The Fashionista Redesigner The mother of six started her shopping excursions at Goodwill when she was about 40 years of age. Now 88, Naomi has perfected finding just the right styles of clothing to re-design into the one-of-a-kind outfits she makes to fit her small frame. “My mother raised me and my seven brothers and sisters as a single parent, after my father was killed in a train accident when he was only 33. My mother was too proud to accept welfare, so we learned to make do with what we had. Learning to redesign things as a young woman to revamp my wardrobe, continued to evolve once I was grown and raising my own family. When I learned that Goodwill stores existed, and that I could find inexpensive garments to remake into the ensembles I was envisioning, it was like a dream come true. When Erik approached me, I was apprehensive at first. But, he reassured me that the whole thing would be lots of fun to do, and he was right. I enjoy sharing my creativity and design skills with our viewers and Facebook friends. People actually come up to me and ask me for my autograph now, like I am a celebrity or something. How crazy is that! Someday, when I win the lottery, I’ve decided to make a documentary about me and my life, because I have come to enjoy filming so much. I think that people might like to learn more about Naomi, and what makes her tick, at my ripe young age of 88!”

JENNY ~ Upcycler/Builder: Founder of the social enterprise Perennial, Jenny set out on a mission to teach the necessity of reuse from discarded materials, repurposing items and making them “new” again, for future generations to enjoy. With her quest to “Upcycle” the world, she would frequent Goodwill stores to find particular pieces to use in the many classes she teaches at Perennial. “Having the ability to share my love for trash, and refurbishing items with the community, is what Perennial is all about. I have been able to work with clients from all over the community, even individuals from the the workforce enhancement division of Goodwill, which brings me such joy. Now, being able to bring my expertise and upcycling skills to the viewers of Thrift Shop Divas, I am able to extend my outreach into the community, while sharing my ideas for building and creating furniture and home décor items that look like new. You don’t know how exciting it is to have the opportunity to enhance people’s lives, and give them the added satisfaction from turning “trash into treasure”.

BETH ~ The Costume Designer: This past October, Beth was brought in to be a part of the Thrift Shop Diva’s, as the new Costume Designer. The show creators decided they wanted to feature how easy it would be to repurpose clothing from Goodwill and design Halloween costumes with them. Since Beth’s expertise and degree is in costume design from St. Louis Community College at Meramec, she was the perfect new addition. Beth took on the challenge of creating an Astronaut and a Mousey Girl, with garments purchased at Goodwill. “Having the ability to teach mom’s how to take their child’s vision, and create that “special costume” they are wanting, was so exciting. You really can create any type of costume for your child. All it takes is a little creativity and vision, and you can create it, even on a limited budget. Anyone has the ability to transform their child into anyone they want to be.”

SUSANNAH ~ The Stylist: Growing up, Susannah always had a flare for fashion and making anything look good! She also grew up shopping at garage sales and Goodwill stores too since she was younger, as her parents decided it was more important for her mom to stay at home with Susannah and her siblings, than to be out in the workforce. As Susannah grew up, it became a source of pride for her to be able to find those “special” pieces of clothing that her friends had just paid big bucks for, and she found them at Goodwill. When she was approached to come on as the Stylist Diva, she was excited to be able to teach women, and the viewers of the show, how to find the best pieces and then combine them to, as they say on Project Runway “make it work”. “It is extremely gratifying teaching the person I am working with on the show, and the viewer, how to transform their wardrobe. You will be amazed at what we can find on the racks at Goodwill, and what totally stylish ensembles we can create, and for less than one designer piece that you might find at a department store.”

You can catch the latest episode of Thrift Shop Divas online at You can also find the ladies and see some of their creative genius too at Thrift Shop Divas on Facebook.

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