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Paulette Tobin, Forum News Service, Published April 14 2013

North Dakota native Molly Dickson makes it big as NYC stylist

GRAND FORKS - Back in February, while most of us watched the Oscars from the comfort of our sofa cushions, Molly Dickson was backstage at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood with actress and Academy Awards performer and presenter Charlize Theron.

Dickson’s boss, celebrity stylist Leslie Fremar, had dressed and styled Theron for the Oscars, and Dickson and Fremar were there to assist the actress (who danced with Channing Tatum in the opening Oscar sequence) with her wardrobe and accessories.

Dickson, who grew up on a farm near Gilby, N.D., today works in Manhattan for Fremar, who recently was named the No. 1 celebrity stylist by The Hollywood Reporter. Fremar’s clients include Julianne Moore, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Connelly, The Reporter said.

Celebrity stylists are the people who make sure the stars look camera-ready for their close-ups, whether it’s to walk the red carpet or to be a guest on “Live with Kelly & Michael” or to talk to David Letterman.

Dickson’s jobs in fashion have taken her to Paris, Milan and Tokyo and to fashion week to see the latest designer styles, and she has helped pick the outfits for some of the world’s most beautiful women. However, she’s tight-lipped about the stars and their personal lives (even her Mom says Molly doesn’t talk about her clients), and she still laughs when she remembers her start in the glamorous world of fashion — when she was hiring messengers, being a go-fer and emptying trash baskets.

“I started out as an intern at Marie Claire magazine,” Dickson said in a recent telephone interview. “I always loved fashion, but I didn’t really understand it that well. So, when I started at Marie Claire, I didn’t even know how to pronounce the (French designer) label Givenchy,” she said. “So, when I mispronounced it, everybody looked at me like, ‘Who is this girl?’”

Undaunted, Dickson acquired a dictionary with the correct pronunciations of all the labels.

Plenty of people in the business seemed astounded when they found Dickson was from North Dakota, but it may have been her rural roots that got her her first job.

In 2010, Dickson flew from Los Angeles to New York City for an interview with Marie Claire.

“My boss said, ‘Are you a hard worker?’ I said, ‘I grew up on a farm,’” Dickson said. “‘I know what hard work is.’ And she said, ‘Right there, I knew I was going to hire you.’”

The Hollywood Reporter said of Dickson’s boss: “Fremar has a near-flawless red-carpet track record, a fiercely loyal A-list clientele and long-term working relationships with some of the fashion industry’s most sought-after designers.”

As Fremar’s assistant, Dickson’s role is to reach out to designers such as Gucci or Dolce & Gabbana and Prada to request samples of beautiful clothing and accessories. One of the challenges, Dickson said, is to get the best designer clothes before anyone else does.

“I will try to get in as many beautiful clothes as I can,” she said. A client will have racks of sample dresses and other clothing (all size 2) and shelves of purses and shoes and accessories from which to pick an outfit with Fremar’s help.

Growing up at Gilby with parents Jill and Mark Dickson and siblings David, Heidi and Betsy, Dickson was an active girl who was outdoors a lot and played basketball before graduating from Midway High School. She attended the University of Minnesota and graduated in 2009 with a degree in advertising. Even at an early age, her mother said, Molly showed an interest in fashion.

“When she was 18 months old, if I wasn’t watching her she was in her room changing her clothes,” Jill said. “She was constantly changing her clothes.” As a teenager, she was involved in lots of school activities, plays, student council and sports, always “a busy, busy girl,” her mother said.

When Dickson told her parents she wanted to fly to New York City for the Marie Claire interview, her mother was nervous. Jill told Molly she wouldn’t pay for the airline ticket. But Molly had some money stashed away and went anyway, her mother said.

Molly got the job and was asked to start in one week. In that time, she packed up her life in Los Angeles, drove back to North Dakota, and flew to New York City the night before her first day at Marie Claire. When she called the woman from whom she was to sublease an apartment, she couldn’t get an answer, and ended up calling her parents in a panic, Molly said. With her parents’ help, she stayed in a motel until the apartment situation was straightened out.

“I know younger girls in North Dakota who have asked, ‘How did you do it? Give me some advice?’ I tell them, you have to work hard and you have to have very, very supportive parents,” Molly said. “There were so many times I would tell them, ‘I’m so stressed. I want to come home,’ and they’d say, ‘No, you’re doing great.’ Emotionally and financially, they supported me until I could get on my own two feet.”

Jill said that was a hard time for her, too.

“I was just a nervous wreck,” Jill said.

After getting the internship at Marie Claire, she assisted the magazine’s fashion marketing director, who worked with the high-end and European designer market dealing with brands such as Balenciaga and Armani. It was an amazing first job, Dickson said, that included trips to Milan and Paris for fashion shows. Dickson’s position allowed her to get to know and build relationships with key people with the high-end labels. After a year and a half at Marie Claire, she was ready to move on, she said.

“I found out Leslie was looking for an assistant and we hit it off and she hired me,” Dickson said.

Dickson meets a lot of famous people, she says. Fremar has a very nice roster of clients, she said. Beyond that, she doesn’t talk about the clients. Asked if there were any who had particular requests (like eating only the red and blue M&Ms), she laughed and said “no.”

“They value the same things as us, like family,” she said. “All of these clients are very strong and independent women. And they all have good values. I think that’s all I can say.”

When Theron performed at the Oscars, Dickson and her boss were backstage with the actress.

“It was an amazing experience,” Dickson said. “It was a lot of work, but it was really fun to see everything. It’s just seeing how everything works. When I was a teenager, I used to watch the Oscars and the Golden Globes and I had no idea what went on behind the scenes with these actresses and these beautiful looks. And now when we see a client go down the red carpet, I think, ‘Wow, we did that.’”

Last spring, when Theron was promoting her movie “Snow White and the Huntsman,” Dickson toured with her to London, Madrid, Tokyo and Los Angeles.

“I was in charge of all her looks for all her events, and made sure everything went smoothly, from steaming (the wrinkles out of) the clothes to making sure she had the right shoes.”

Dickson has traveled to beautiful places. She’s flown in private planes. She’s stayed in beautiful hotels and ordered room service. But she works hard, she said.

“I think a lot of girls that are teenagers think that it’s all glamorous,” she said. “And that’s really not it. When I started at Marie Claire, I started with 30 interns and half way through it, half of them had quit. They think the first day you’re going to be doing photo shoots and that’s not it. You have to start at the bottom and work your way up.”

Wherever she goes, North Dakota is not far from her mind.

“Friends ask me where I’m going on vacation. They’re all going to St. Bart’s or somewhere,” Dickson said. “And I’m like, (in an excited voice) ‘I’m going to Gilby, N.D.’ It keeps me grounded, and I love seeing my family. I am very, very proud to be from here.”

During one fashion week, Dickson said, she was sitting in the second row, next to an older, successful man, who — as they talked — asked her where she was from. “North Dakota,” she said.

“He turned around and looked at me for about three seconds and said: ‘North Dakota? How the hell did you get in here?’”