Audrey Hyams Romoff is a public relations personality who’s enjoyed a long career with clients such as Estée Lauder, Shoppers Drug Mart, David Yurman, Victoria’s Secret and Crate and Barrel. At the helm of her own shop, OverCat Communications, while raising a family, her children, Lindsay, 24-years old, and Alex, 22-years old, are beginning to explore their own careers yet this mom isn’t slowing down. With the seismic shift taking place in PR because of the explosion of digital and social media, she’s as busy as ever exploring new and exciting strategies. Her drive and commitment to her work is something she never let go of and she says it was difficult being a Type-A career woman with littles along for the ride. And FYI: She’s not ashamed to admit that life got messy.
“From experience, I think working moms do each other a disservice when they try to make it look like they aren’t struggling when in reality they are drowning. I know I was scared to be perceived as anything other than a superwoman. When my kids were young—and I hope things have changed—it wasn’t common for working women to be honest with each other and say, ‘this is hard’ or ‘I’m not handling this well’. I know I felt the pressure to always say everything is fine, meanwhile I felt like a complete disaster. Maybe the pressure came from me and maybe I was too uptight; I know I don’t have a go-with-the-flow personality. Looking back, I think it would have served me a lot better to ditch my arrogance and say ‘I can’t handle it,’ get more help and stop trying to control my universe.I desperately wanted to be a mother; there was no question in my mind that I wanted a career and that I wanted a family as well. However, I definitely shouldn’t have been so hard on myself or tried to do so much. At the time, I was sold this bill of goods that said women could do everything and I bought into that. For example, I scheduled a speech two-and-a-half weeks before my due date and then I went into labour early and had to coach one of my staff in the labour room while I was hooked up to monitors. I also got a call about a client pitch while I was in labour and committed to a presentation meeting four days after giving birth. I could barely see straight and was so tired, never mind deliver an impressive presentation. Needless to say we did not land the account.
But then, it’s always been my personality to just forge ahead and do it. I’d like to say I recovered from my Type A personality over the years but I haven’t changed at all. What did eventually happen is that I found my groove and I discovered my capacity to accomplish a lot. It got easier for me as my kids became older and more self-sufficient. Once I got the time and opportunity to start working more, I did. When I didn’t have to race home at 6pm to take over from the nanny, then I took the opportunity to grow my business.
“Although it wasn’t easy to juggle family and business, I never really felt guilty about working hard and being away from the kids. They learned from a young age that it’s important to be passionate and dedicated to your career.”
I started my agency from my home and a few months later I moved into an office and found out I was pregnant around the same time. I knew I was going to have to staff up once I had the baby and felt I needed to make a division between my home and business lives to stay sane, but chaos found me—I was sick 24 hours a day for both pregnancies and had to schedule my meetings in the small windows of time when I wasn’t going to throw up.
A couple of years later when the kids were toddlers, I was offered a job to work for a major cosmetics company based in New York, which would have meant a lot of travel and time away from home. I turned it down and to be honest, I still regret not exploring it. (Sheryl Sandberg would disapprove). This is a profound example of accepting the fact that the moment I got pregnant, it wasn’t about me anymore—but that doesn’t mean I’m superhuman and can’t mourn the things that could have been.
Today, I’m happy to say that separating my work from my family life hasn’t worked out. Lindsay joined the company two years ago, my husband and I share an office space and Alex just graduated from NYU and has moved back home for now (which I love). And both kids are eyeing careers in fashion. I guess all those trips to the mall when the kids were little had a big impact. I would really love to find a way for the three of us to explore a business together.
Although it wasn’t easy to juggle family and business, I never really felt guilty about working hard and being away from the kids. They learned from a young age that it’s important to be passionate and dedicated to your career which I believe is a good message, and because I owned my own business, I was able to adjust my schedule to theirs and was very present in their lives. Okay, not always. During my son’s last year of high school, he came home one day and said “Congratulations, you’re the only mom who missed curriculum night”. I jokingly suggested that if the school wanted me there, they shouldn’t hold it during TIFF.
MY CLOSET CONFESSIONS
“One of my biggest shopping splurges is this Chanel suit that I bought to wear to Alex’s bar mitzvah. I bought it vintage at a popular consignment store called Paperbag Princess that’s no longer around.”
“This Chloe bag is just my style. It has the bit of flair to it that makes it standout. When I was a kid at school, I had to wear a uniform but I always had to add a colourful scarf to make it my own.”
“I bought this jacket because it reminded me of my best friend’s mother who had a Courreges suit. Holt’s brought in this style as a limited edition years ago and the only one left wasn’t my size so I had it tailored and remodeled to fit me properly thanks to Julia at As You Like It.”
“Lately we like to go to Vegas a lot with the kids. We never really vacationed far when they were young because it always felt too stressful for me so we did a lot of staycations, plus we have a pool which made staying close to home easier. I bought these Fendi boots in Vegas because my husband won at the casino.” Bag, Paul Smith.
“These are velvet boots from Topshop that I also bought in Vegas the time my husband didn’t have as much luck.”
A collection of wallet-friendly black dresses are staples in Audrey’s wardrobe because they’re ideal for work. Dress, Judith and Charles.
And here’s another LBD that’s from Sears label Attitude that she’s kept in rotation for years. “When I was working with David Margolis, one of the partners who founded Winners, he always said women should shop their own closets, which is why I don’t go by the rule of thumb that if you haven’t worn something for 1 or 2 or 5 years, that you should get rid of it. I can actually rely on my own wardrobe whatever the occasion or event.”
“I don’t really follow trends. I believe you can wear anything you want, you just have to own it and wear it with confidence.” We spied these look-at-me yet timeless boots in her closet and had to show them off. The green boots are vintage finds from a shop in New York and the Miu Miu boots have cats on them. How could she resist? OverCat Communications, get it? Plus, she got them on sale. “They were 60 percent off at Saks and still full price at the Miu Miu store!”
Off duty, Audrey chills out in a striped tee, moto boots and these overalls straight from the 90s. “I’m a fashion and deal hunter. I tracked these down on sale at Hudson’s Bay in Yorkdale during that Tommy Hilfiger moment.” P.S. Her son Alex is just like mom. He made sure she knew about a gilt.com sale during our shoot! Love it.
MY FAVOURITE THINGS
Kevin Murphy Fresh Hair Dry Cleaning Spray. “I try not to wash my hair every day. it’s so damaged from colouring it plus I’m incapable of blowdrying my own hair [she sees Shelley or Toula at Shelley Elnekave Hairstyling] so I like to keep my salon blow-outs for as long as I can.” Also on her list: black eyeliner. “Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner in Intense Black really is the best and I’ve tried them all since I was 12 years old when I first started wearing it.” With a busy schedule and lots of travel, her skincare go-tos are from Estée Lauder: Advanced Night Repair Intense Recovery Ampoules and Enlighten Dark Spot Corrector.
Photos of her kids when they were little that are especially close to her heart. “This is Lindsay and her first pet T.K., short for The Kitten. And Alex in his obsessive Bat Man stage.” The flask and Lele Saddoughi bracelet are gifts from Lindsay and Alex. “I think they bought me the flask when I decided to try and manage a rock band on the side of my PR company. Needless to say, that only lasted about a year.”
A statue from her mother’s house captures a multigenerational love of dance. Often at the ballet with her mother when she was young, she also brought Lindsay who was lucky enough to perform as a mouse and a lamb in The National Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. The necklace is a birthday present from her husband Michael (“I spotted it one day with Lindsay and she dropped hints for me. I still wear it often”). And she’s obsessed with Bruce Springsteen and is reading his new autobiography, Born to Run. “My heart is broken because I just missed his signing. I am drawn to his darker side. I’m less of a fan of any frivolous pop music. Sometimes he has a phrase which just so perfectly captures how we all struggle with our demons.”
“Alex was afraid of dogs and I never had any when I was younger, so we got a lab to help conquer his fear and my curiosity to have a pet.” Today, she has has two Bernese Mountain dogs, Frankie (shown here) and Quinn, two cats, T.K. and Delgado, and a bunny called Dino.