Ladies We Love: Angela Lieurance
Have you ever known someone who is so positive it’s contagious? And not in the sugar-coated, drippy, “please shut up until I’ve at least finished my coffee” kind of way. In a way that makes you believe in their belief in something. A person who sees things with a realistic eye, but an optimistic core; someone whose presence you leave feeling motivated, invigorated, and confident that everything is going to work out for the best.
That’s Angela Lieurance.
Angela is a relative newbie to the brand, only really developing her addiction in the last year or so, but her spirit aligns in so many ways with the spirit of Double D, it almost seems inevitable that the two would eventually align. She has deep-rooted convictions, an unflappable will to persevere, and a passion for making a statement -- with her work and with her wardrobe. (Sounds familiar.)
And she’s not scared to take a risk, to branch out and bet on herself. After more than a decade in healthcare administration, Angela decided it was time for a change and time for her to be her own boss.
“I was serving as the chief of staff to what was then the biggest health system in the state of Colorado,” she explained. “When I left, one of the things I wanted to make sure of was that I didn’t work in healthcare, that I didn’t have any healthcare clients for a number of years. Because I wanted to get out of that pigeonhole. It was a good pigeonhole, it was interesting while it lasted, but I was ready for something new. I worked in healthcare administration for 13 years, and when I decided to leave, I decided I wanted to open my own business, I wanted to work for myself. So I started a consulting firm that focuses on providing services for not-for-profits. It’s everything from boots on the ground fundraising to strategic planning to board development, and everything in between.”
Thus, Angela’s company, Relentless Pursuits, was born. And, as tends to happen among passionate people, paths crossed and stars aligned and wheels started turning on a project that evolved into something bigger than they ever imagined.
“Fundraising has always been a part of my job. It’s been an element of my job in everything I’ve done for the past 25, 30 years,” Angela explained. “Here’s where it gets interesting: My old friend and mentor Pete Coors, of the Coors beer company, called me in 2016 and said, ‘Hey, National Western wants me to do this project for them, they want me to be their campaign chair.’ [He] asked if I wanted to do it with him. I told him I didn’t want to work for them, that I wanted to keep my own autonomy. He said ‘I’m sure that will be fine, a couple afternoons a week. We can probably bang it out in a couple months.’ Well, before we knew it it was this $100 million project.”
Well, that escalated quickly. But the endeavor is a noble one. National Western Stock Show & Rodeo is an annual 16-day event that takes place every January in Denver, Colorado and attracts more than 650,000 visitors a year. As for Angela’s role in all this, she is directing the capital campaign for the New National Western Center.
“It is going to be a 250-acre campus,” she said. “Colorado State University -- which is a huge phenomenal university, especially in agriculture -- and the City and County of Denver, and the National Western Stock Show are going to be the three primary partners on this project. It’s likely going to be close to a billion dollar project when all is said and done, but our portion – the National Western Stock Show – is $100 million.”
We’ll go ahead and say what we’re all thinking: a hundred million dollars is a LOT of money. Raising that kind of money is no easy feat.
“Well, no,” Angela admitted. “But if it were easy, everybody would be doing it. And that’s what makes it so darn fun! We’ve raised over $75 million already, and our campaign will run through 2023, so we’re in good shape. We are weathering this storm we’re in right now pretty well.”
That was our first taste of Angela’s optimism, of her attitude towards life and her outlook on the world. And we’ve got to say, it reeled us in hook, line, and sinker. There’s just something so alluring about that kind of grit, and we are here for it.
“You know, I don’t have a lot of time for all the whiners in my industry,” she added. “Who says ‘Oh, it’s so hard!’ I’m like, ‘No. Curing cancer is hard. Working in roofing in the Colorado sun in the middle of August is hard. Fundraising is a privilege. And if you don’t look at it like that, you’re in the wrong business.’”
‘Privilege’ is a word we heard a lot in our conversation with Angela. And it’s not a pitch, you can tell she means it; that she is deeply passionate about what she does and truly feels honored to have the opportunity to do it.
“I have been very privileged to work on this project,” she said, with the enthusiasm ramping up in her voice. “And it’s fun! I love everyone I get to work with. You get to work with everyone from the frontline ranchers to the business people, because it’s got such an economic development component. Everyone wants to see this project not just happen, but thrive. I kind of tell people, ‘What is there to argue about? It’s got an educational component, it’s got animals, it’s got kids, it’s got everything I’ve ever dreamed of!”
It does sound pretty great, to be honest -- we’re sold on that alone! But Angela has a way of painting the big picture that is so compelling, it’s easy to see why she’s successful at what she does.
“In addition to the educational component and continuing the great tradition of the stock show,” she continued, “it also has this component about feeding the world. CSU is going to work on animal health, they‘re going to work on feeding the world, they’re going to work on water issues. It’s a big, impactful project. I also think it’s going to really help preserve western values and culture. This is going to be where you come to learn about the west.”
Seriously, sign us up. As it turns out, Double D Ranch has been along for the ride.
“It’s fun, but Double D has made it so much more fun,” Angela said. “I’ve worked for a lot of not-for-profits and they’ve all been fun in their own challenging and unique ways, but working for National Western has made me like I came home to my style. And it made me start rethinking how I want to brand myself and my company. I’m originally from Wisconsin. And what I’ve kind of come to discover is that there’s probably more ‘west’ in me than ‘mid-’ anymore. Even though I grew up in the Midwest, went to the University of Wisconsin, I’m probably a little more west than mid.”
It’s a natural progression that the more you embrace the lifestyle, the more you eventually embrace the literal style. That’s where we come in.
“I made it through the first couple of years, and then I decided I should probably step it up,” Angela admitted. “In Denver, you would think there would be a gorgeous Western wear clothing store for women on every corner, you know? I mean, we’re Denver. And there’s not. There is NOT. So I used to struggle every time I would need something. Years ago, I had bought something from Double D. I don’t even know when it was or why it was, but it was probably an event or something that had a western theme. I thought, you know, maybe I should check them out again. And that was all it took. The thing that really caught my eye and got me really serious about Double D was [the Range Rider Jacket] that came out around last August, which I believe was the Giant collection. And it was kind of a beige, and it had this cowboy motif on it, and writing on it, and I just fell in love with it. But the Apache Blend Jacket was a close second. I wear it with the Senorita Dress in Oxblood.”
And so began Angela’s addiction. (We all start somewhere!) It wasn’t long before Double D had all but replaced everything in her wardrobe.
“In my prior life, working in healthcare administration, I’m certain that the only time I would’ve bought anything even remotely branded as western would’ve been for an event where it said ‘Western attire’,” she confessed. “Now, I feel like, ‘Oh, ok, I’ve got this down…’ And with Double D, it’s almost like ‘Where have you been all my life?!’ And for me, if you think about who I work with and what I do, I raise money. I raise big money. I work with everybody from the ranchers to the corporate world, and this works for me. I wear it everywhere. And I always will. I And that’s what’s fun about it. I can wear it to the art opening, or to the Citizens of the West -- our formal dinner -- or I can wear it to tour the yards and show people where the new facilities are going to be, or I can go hang out with the longhorns or go to a short-horn sale, or whatever. I’m always wearing Double D. Some people may look at it and think, ‘That’s too gorgeous to wear to so-and-so’, but I wear it everywhere. It’s hearty wear. Now let’s be clear: I’m not doing any real ranching! But when I’m going 20 days straight, running around at events from morning until night, it works.”
But if you recall, Angela is relatively new to DDR so her stock show style hasn’t always been what it is now.
“In hindsight, I’m sure I should be humiliated by my first couple stock shows,” she laughed. “I think I blocked it from my memory, because people will ask me, ‘Well, what did you used to wear?’ and I’m like ‘God, I have no idea.’ And I really don’t. My first stock show was so eye-opening. It was about two and a half months into my gig, I hadn’t been there that long. I swear this is how I started: I had a couple pairs of jeans, that were not at all what you would consider western. I had a leather jacket that probably went more to a business type of attire. I might’ve had something suede. My boots were patent leather, so they were absolutely not real cowboy boots. I find it ironic and almost humorous in a way that people now ask me where I get my clothes. Because I’m thinking, ‘If you only knew what a humiliating mess I was three years ago!’ You know, for the guys it’s so easy, they just show up looking like the Marlboro man morning to night.”
As funny as it is to picture, it makes perfect sense; going from the boardroom to the stockyards was likely a jarring transition in terms of wardrobe. But once Angela started that sartorial shift, it was one she was more than happy to make -- and wishes she had made sooner!
“I have this closet full of the most exquisite shoes any woman could ever dream of,” she admitted. “I mean, every major designer you can name -- the Louboutins, the Pradas, the Jimmy Choos. Valentinos were my favorites. But I don’t wear them anymore! If I had known how comfortable cowboy boots were, I would’ve given up those 4- and 5-inch heels YEARS ago. I remember being in a grocery store doing my shopping after work in my heels, and a lady came up to me and asked, ‘Are those comfortable?’ and I just looked at her and said, ‘God, no! Are you insane? I haven’t felt my toes since the late 80s! What are you talking about, are they comfortable?! Of course they’re not, our foot isn’t even remotely shaped like this!’ But I don’t have the heart to get rid of them. So they take up an inordinate amount of closet space. I feel like it’s a representation of a life evolved. And it’s an interesting evolution.”
And from the sounds of things, she’s never going back.
“I had to break the bad news to my poor Carlisle and Per Se girl who I’d been buying clothes from for many, many years,” she laughed. “I had to tell her, ‘I’m not a lady who lunches anymore.’ My goal is to get through life without ever having to wear a flowered dress again. It’s like I’ve been freed!”
We hear ya! Really, that’s one of the most wonderful things about western wear -- you don’t have to sacrifice style for comfort. You’ll turn just as many heads in a biker and boots as you will a skirt and stilettos -- and you’ll be able to do it for hours on end! And as every cowgirl knows, “western” is more than a style, it’s a lifestyle. It may start with the clothes, but sooner or later, it’s going to seep into your soul and become part of who you are.
“I am a big believer in reinvention,” Angela professes. “Especially for women. I think it’s fun, and I enjoy reinventing myself. I feel like I’m constantly reinventing myself and now I’m rebranding my company. It’s now taking on more of a western feel, because I feel like now I’m also kind of coming home to my cowboy ethics and my western values. You know, which were always there -- they’re kind of like midwestern values with a cowboy hat -- they’re just so much deeper here.”
But let’s be clear: it’s still very much about the style.
“I like Double D because I kind of think of my own personal style as somewhat boho chic, western chic, and it fits,” she said. “It really fits ‘me’ to wear all of this. And I am somebody who likes to stand out! I need things that are fun. Listen, nobody’s ever going to mistake me for being an authentic rancher, and I’m not trying to be, therefore I celebrate the spirit of it. And I’m somebody who loves detail, I LOVE detail. The more beads, the more things you can put on a garment, the better. Frumpy and dumpy are two of my biggest fears. If I ever become frumpy and dumpy, my friends know what to do and who to notify that something’s gone terribly wrong! You can’t lose your sense of style, ever!”
A woman after our own hearts. Another thing we adore about Angela is her appreciation for fashion’s place in the world and her emphasis on the value of it.
“What prompted me to write to Cheryl was when they did the live launch and said they weren’t sure if they should do it, to launch Bakersfield, or even the next collection,” she recalled. “So I sent her a message and told them ‘Good for you for doing this.’ I mean, they had to. For me, personally, the only thing that kept me going for a couple days was watching for that red vest and pants to show up. Like, my god, give us something to live for! Launch new clothes! It is such an exquisite collection. I ordered 8 or 9 pieces right away, and I’m just getting warmed up.”
While her closet is now home to Double D garments from all the recent collections -- from Giant, from Midnight Cowboy (hello, black Warhol’s Suit!), and even several from Backwoods Barbie -- it’s Bakersfield that has really made an impact on her, one more profound than just a new set of clothes.
“Bakersfield, I mean, it would’ve been a travesty not to launch that,” she says emphatically. “Because the world needed it. Whether you buy it or not, you need to see those colors in your everyday life right now. Bakersfield is special. Of course, I love the story behind it, but to me the REAL story I love behind it wasn’t the history of the music of Bakersfield, the REAL story was the gutsiness it takes to launch a new clothing line in the middle of a global pandemic. And why not?! Go for it. It’s like the people who ask me if I’m going to crawl under a rock and not raise money. NO! I’m gonna raise even MORE now! You’ve got to have that kind of grit. And you’ve gotta have grit to wear Double D. So I think that releasing this line, especially to the demographic that love it, was the right thing to do.”
Naturally, this turned our conversation to the one thing nobody can seem to stop talking about, despite the fact that we’re all sick to death of talking about it. Once again, Angela’s take on the whole pandemic is inspiringly optimistic and refreshingly resilient.
“Look, we all know the world has changed,” she began. “I don’t need to be told that again. I’m pretty optimistic, I fully believe we will come out of this just fine. It will be a changed world, but we are resilient, if nothing else. As a population, as humans. And I told Cheryl, look, when I come out of a pandemic, I’m gonna be dressed to the nines! I am not crawling out from under a rock, wearing last season. I don’t believe fashion is frivolous, nor do I believe that we should be taking it for granted, or be all ‘woe is me, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic’. Of COURSE we are, we all know that, we’re bombarded with news every day! So, what can you do in your world? What can you control in your world? One thing I can control is that I can put on earrings every day. I can get up and make sure my clothes match. I am going full force ahead! You gotta keep moving forward, no matter how bad it is. Get up. Get dressed. Shower. Look nice. My philosophy is, you always have to be ready for a Zoom call. And if you go into your day thinking that, you’re not going to be wearing your pigtails and your University of Wisconsin sweatshirt, right? That’s my driving force. Always be prepared.”
Wow, right? Ok, admittedly, Angela is a bit more ambitious about her outfits than we’ve been in quarantine -- we’ve spent a lot of time in our Helotes PJs and Honky Tonk Cat Sleepshirt -- but it’s a spirit we can celebrate and an attitude we can get behind. We love envisioning her swinging open her front door and boldly stepping out to take on the world, dressed head to toe in her brand new Bakersfield. Question is: what will she wear first? What’s her favorite?
“[My favorite piece from] Bakersfield has got to be that red Roping the Wind Vest and those red Rodeo Trail Pants,” she answered without hesitation. “That was the little teaser we got, and this makes me sound sad, but when we got the teaser, I checked the website for days, waiting and praying that somebody would show me mercy and put it on the site. I just kept thinking, ‘I know it’s going to show up, I KNOW it is!’ and one day it was there, and I was like, ‘Oh, there IS a fashion god!’ I ordered it right then, I think it was the day before the line even officially launched. That to me was just like, everything. I did also order the [Queen of the Rodeo] skirt, and that little short-sleeve leather studded jacket that’s kind of the same bone color, the Hello Trouble. Both of those pieces I think are gorgeous. And I actually just wrote to Kristen [Schley] and asked, ‘Where’s the pink skirt?!’ She said I had to special order it, which of course, I probably will. I guess I can’t list a favorite. But I would say, even as a newbie, I think I have enough fashion history in my life to realize that Bakersfield is something special.”
As much as Angela relishes the clothes -- which, as you can see, is a LOT -- like much of the Wolf Pack, her love for Double D Ranch goes beyond that.
“I love creativity,” she said. “I mean, I respect the business side of things, because I run my own business and I have to understand that side, too, but the creativity of what y’all do, of what Cheryl does, and the marketing team and Mitchell and everybody, I love that. I love the stories, I love all of it. Don’t ever stop launching. There’s always going to be that person who needs that little something, that little bit of motivation, of creativity. It was a service to the world when y’all launched Bakersfield.”
We’ll keep launching if you’ll keep shopping! We appreciate your kind words, Angela, and your overall enthusiasm for Double D Ranch and life in general. We would like to OFFICIALLY welcome you to the Wolf Pack, #535!