Podcast: Thinking Critically, Aging Gracefully & Being a True Influencer with Lyn Slater, Accidental Icon

Brave Writer Podcast

A couple of years ago, I was introduced to my next guest on the Brave Writer podcast through Instagram. I was taken in immediately by her sense of style and yes, her age. As someone heading into my senior years, she instantly gave me hope that I could find the next right thing to do with my life—and to do it looking fabulous! Clothes have always been self-expression for me (at least when I leave the house!). And my guest has that talent of using her personal fashion sense to express attitude, passion, and all sorts of personalities.

Suffice to say: I’m a huge fan! I see today’s guest as a role model for my future. She’s got nearly a million Instagram followers, and has even been featured in television commercials for GoDaddy.

Please welcome my new friend Lyn Slater, the Accidental Icon (@iconaccidental). She has multiple degrees and lives in New York where she taught social work at Fordham University for 20 years. She’s a fashion icon, true, but what really got me even more interested in her was her career in the field of social work and academics—a true critical thinker! Throughout her teaching career, she balances creativity with thoughtfulness for learning and education. She’s also a person of integrity and depth.

Lyn started Accidental Icon when she had trouble finding a fashion blog that offered an urban, modern, and intellectual aesthetic for women who live what she calls “interesting but ordinary” lives in cities. Women who – like her – aren’t celebrities, but are smart, creative, fashion-forward, thoughtful, engaged, and comfortable with who they are.

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Show Notes

How Social Work Shaped Lyn’s Thinking and the Importance of Context

While working with young women from a criminal justice perspective, Lyn realized that, so often, their issues were not about crime, but trauma and abuse. These women weren’t criminals; they were victims. This led to her shifting into social work and taking a more clinical approach to the work she did. Being a social worker allowed Lyn to see glimpses into a world that people who come from privileged backgrounds, like her, never get to see.

In my book, “Raising Critical Thinkers,” I talk about three categories that lead to our intellectual development in critical thinking. The first is reading, the second is experience, and the third is encounter. Of those, it’s the first (reading) that most often stays under our control. Experiences are sometimes secondhand. We get a taste of it but it may be more circumstantial than sought out. Encounters, however, are when something overthrows your previous understanding. You’re confronted with a reality you cannot deny.

That last one, “encounter,” is what happened to Lyn regularly. She was put into positions that showed her that the contexts in which people live their lives matter, and you can’t strip that away when discussing something.

Through her social work, she learned how to relate the facts of the story being told through the person telling it. And some people have multiple filters, so you have to recognize which one they are using when they are picking out details. Are they saying this as a mother, as a social worker, or is it their personal view? Recognize what frame of reference you are using and how that affects everything.

Balance Personal and Professional Relationships Online

Social media has a variety of pros and cons. Without it, Lyn never would have been able to break into the fashion industry. And while she feels strongly about social issues, she continues to do that work offline and keep it mostly separate from her life on the internet. She doesn’t shy away from causes, but she doesn’t want to get lulled into a sense of “false activism” by letting her posts take the place of taking real action.

How Lyn Became the Accidental Icon

As Lyn turned 60, she was becoming disillusioned with the changes happening in higher education. It was becoming very corporate and she felt a need to express her creativity in a different way because teaching was no longer serving as a creative outlet. She started taking various workshops in fashion school, and in every class the students and teachers would tell her “You have amazing style, you should start a blog!” After hearing that enough times, she set out to start a website.

It was just a passion project with no intention of turning a profit. But then, I guess that’s why she’s an accidental icon.

She became a poster child for a new kind of aging. She saw her audience as anyone who likes to think about fashion, but naturally she drew the attention of many people who were inspired by her late-life pivot.

Lyn is such an inspiration. She can give people a look at what it’s like to move into your older years while remaining active, engaged, optimistic, and creative. Her perspective is worth including as we expand and grow.


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