Unapologetically Me: Jenny Kuller, the Queen of Vintage
Many people dress up in pinup or rockabilly style, but it’s usually on the weekends, or on a night out on the town. Not Jenny Kuller. As I’ve gotten to know her over the last couple of years, I’ve come to realize this is who she is every day, whether at home or out somewhere in Phoenix, and she is very unapologetic about it. This story is more than just about Kuller’s love for a vintage lifestyle. It’s about her life journey, which has been filled with challenges. Thanks to perseverance, help from Fresh Start, and therapy, she finally has learned to embrace who she is.
Kuller is the owner of Redhead Sadie Vintage, a vintage clothing company specializing in clothing from the 1960s and prior. Her career in selling vintage clothing began in 1995 and transitioned to an eBay storefront on May 18, 1999. She still has her eBay store with over 6500 satisfied customers, and recently added an Etsy store. She travels to different trunk shows and specialty markets with her collection, both locally and in other states. She’s been featured in Vintage Style magazine for her vintage lifestyle, and her house will be featured in Flea Market Décor, due out May 30, 2017.
“My house is all vintage,” she says. “I live it. It looks right, feels right, it fits me.”
Born in Portland, Oregon, Kuller’s love for vintage fashion began as a young child. Her most valued vintage possession is an original Bakelite cherry necklace, estimated to be from the 1930s.
“I always loved the 40s and 50s,” she says. “I would dress up to watch Happy Days.”
In 1987, Kuller moved to Arizona due to her stepfather taking a job with KJZZ. Kuller’s teenage years were fraught with obstacles. She had undiagnosed ADHD, and learning was difficult in a day when educational resources weren’t as equipped to help children with ADHD. She also had a very difficult relationship with her stepfather; she describes the situation quite simply, which is more telling than if she went into detail.
“He was not kind to me.”
Mother of LeCresia, 29, and Zefram, 17, Kuller’s challenging journey began early when she gave birth to LeCresia as she was graduating from high school. From 1988-1994, Kuller worked a variety of minimum wage jobs to support her small family. One of those jobs was working at a record store.
“It was a great job, and the movie Empire Records has always rung true for me,” Kuller says. “Crazy cool people work at record stores!”
Other jobs included babysitting and call center jobs. In 1994, Kuller was formally diagnosed with ADHD and began treatment. Simultaneously, Kuller started her vintage retail career with a boyfriend in 1994 as they bought old furniture, upcycled it, and resold it locally. Ultimately they had an antique booth in Mesa, which she kept after they broke up.
In 1997, Kuller got married to her husband, Dan. Kuller opened her eBay store on May 18, 1999, back when eBay was still a novelty.
“I got really good at eBay because my marriage was really bad,” Kuller recalls.
When Zefram was born in 2000, Kuller suffered deeply from postpartum depression (PPD). She realized she couldn’t do both the eBay store and the antique booth, she closed down the booth. Kuller experienced difficulties in her marriage as a result of her depression, and they divorced in 2005. Kuller looks back and acknowledges she needed more than her husband could give her.
“I was way too needy in retrospect,” she recalls. “I wanted to be rescued. It wasn’t all bad, it was mostly that he ignored the fact that I needed his validation. After Zefram was born, I was a mess with PPD.”
In 2005, Kuller entered an intense relationship that eventually would become an extremely important pivotal point in her life. LeCresia had moved out by then, and Kuller was taking care of Zefram, who is diagnosed with ADHD and Asperberger’s. Meanwhile, Kuller still focused on her eBay store.
Kuller was hired in 2007 by Heidi Owens to run her vintage clothing store, the Hollywood Regency, which was located next to the Melrose Pharmacy in the Melrose District. She credits her time with Owens at the Hollywood Regency for giving her an education in brick and mortar retail, and considers Owens both a sister and mentor.
“Heidi essentially said ‘Here are the keys, run the shop’,” Kuller says. “I couldn’t ask for a better education, in many things.”
In 2010, Kuller’s life went through major upheavals. Kuller came home one day to find her boyfriend cheating on her. Additionally that year, Owens passed away from cancer, and Kuller’s time at the Hollywood Regency came to an end.
Realizing she was in an emotional downward spiral, Kuller began Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and credits this therapy with changing her life.
According to the Linehan Institute, DBT is a cognitive behavioral treatment developed to treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). It’s also used to treat other disorders including substance dependence, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders.
“Dialectical behavior therapy teaches you to take responsibility for your emotions, and self-acceptance,” she explains. “It teaches mindfulness, in honoring the sacredness within. That’s the hard part, being responsible for your own shit.”
In addition to beginning DBT, Kuller also entered the Fresh Start Women’s Foundation program in 2010, and credits Fresh Start with aiding her in her transformation and self-development.
“They offer so many good programs to help women figure out what they want to do,” Kuller says. “The self-esteem and personal development workshops are beneficial. They don’t hold your hand but they help you. There is a huge personal responsibility aspect. You will do your part.”
Seven years later, Kuller has fire within, and places priority on her personal growth and evolution.
“I’m keeping going,” Kuller says. “The quickest way through hell is to keep going.”