Style & Beauty
First Person with Anne Monlezun
8/1/2020 1:00:00 PM

First Person with Anne Monlezun

Anne Prague Gillett Monlezun is a vivacious, energetic woman who never seems to slow down. Her vision for a Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras that would be inclusive for all literally changed the face of the then-modest celebration the Lake Area was accustomed to in the late 1970s. After forming Krewe de la Famille, she established the Krewe of Krewes organization, which brought local krewes together to unite in an annual Fat Tuesday parade, along with the Twelfth Night and Gala presentations. She then spearheaded the opening of the Mardi Gras Museum in 1997 to showcase the beautiful handmade costumes from previous Krewe balls. 

Anne has also been actively involved in the Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau Board and The Louisiana Pirate Festival Ball. She helps LSU Medical School with their annual Gala Benefit. And she’s an accomplished businesswoman. Thrive spoke with Anne as she and her Sassy Royals Hat company prepare for Kentucky Derby season.

Where were you raised? 

I am a native of Welsh, Louisiana. I grew up in this wonderful small town and attended both elementary and high school there. 

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to be a dancer. I studied tap, ballet, jazz and acrobatics from Jean Thomas, whom I still think of fondly. I have such wonderful memories of her. 

Tell us more about your dance school.

My dream came true when I got my dance certification from Texas Association Teachers of Dance. Five years later, I was also certified by Dance Masters of America, Heart of America Chapter. I taught tap, ballet, jazz and acrobatics in Lake Arthur, Jennings, Welsh, and Lake Charles. I also taught belly dancing and had a dance troupe of housewives called the "Belly Buttons.” We spread the word throughout Southwest Louisiana about the benefits of Middle Eastern dance.

How did you meet your husband, Lee J.?

I met Doc through his sister, Ione, who was my dance student. He was going through a divorce and was heartbroken, and she was very concerned. She thought I would be a good person to help him with a shoulder to cry on!

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy all my nine grandchildren. I get them together for Grannie Annie Day whenever possible, and we do something special. Lee J. is my best friend and we like to travel, go to the casino, and meet for Friday lunch dates. Naturally, we both love to dance. And after 41 years, we celebrate our anniversary by going on another honeymoon!

You’ve had several businesses through the years. Didn’t you create pasties for showgirls?

I had Glitz, my sequin and bead appliqué business, for 30 years. I got into the pasties aspect of it when a store in Georgia was in need of pasties for burlesque dancers. I had never made pasties before, but I told them I would try. The rest is history! Doc even helped me with the pattern! I sold them all over the world. My largest distributor was on Bourbon Street; they sold as many as 200 pairs on a Saints weekend as souvenirs of New Orleans! 

I also owned a wholesale line of beautiful hand-crocheted baby booties and clothing called Bootie Baby. All the samples that were made for mass production were created by little old ladies who lived in our area out in the country. A customer bought the company after just five years in business.

Now you create beautiful hats with your Sassy Royals Hat business. How did you become involved in millinery?

I got into the hat business through that same Georgia store. They needed hats to match the pasties for the dancers, so I started making the matching hats. They sold, too! I later branched out into fashion hats, showgirl headpieces, and Gatsby headbands. 

In 2010, I felt that I needed to study millinery work and heard there was a great course with the New York Fashion Institute. I called one of my suppliers to see if he had more information, and he advised me to first attend a course with Wayne Wichern Millinery in San Francisco. So, off I went for a long weekend and it was wonderful. For three days, I learned how to make hats from scratch from nine in the morning until late at night. That’s all it took, and from then on, my passion was hats! I also belong to a millinery group in England that runs seminars. One day, I just might have to go to London!

Who are your customers? 

I have a great customer base, both wholesale and retail. I sell to stores in New York, Tampa, Miami, Reno, Vegas, New Orleans – really, all over the country. Internationally, I sell to stores in Australia, England, and the Caribbean. Along with retail sales, I attend and sell at shows such as the National Halloween Costume Show, the Opera Guild in New Orleans, and more. I do sell locally by appointment, as I do not have a storefront.

The Kentucky Derby was rescheduled this year to September 5. Describe the perfect Derby hat.

The perfect Derby hat is one in which the lady feels comfortable. Ideally, it should match her dress. I’ve made very large hats for the Derby, along with smaller fascinator sizes that are cute and interesting. When I create a Derby hat, I try to get a picture of the client’s dress so I can match it. There’s nothing finer than seeing a lady wearing a new Sassy Royals Hat. She will turn heads!

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Categories: Clothes

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