Chaarmz had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Ann Kaplan, an incredibly savvy, award-winning business woman. We went in knowing that Dr. Ann Kaplan is a definite force to reckon with – the CEO and President of iFinance Inc., a FINTECH company she built from the ground up to a company that has processed over $2 Billion in loans, Ann is also an accomplished author (seven books). A fan-favourite on The Real Housewives of Toronto, a sought-after speaker and media personality, a devoted wife, and mother and guardian of a total of eight children - *Pauses to Breathe.* For good measure, let’s mention that she’s also a certified wedding officiant (a Reverend), a committed philanthropist and was an avid bodybuilder and runner at the competitive level.
Undeniably, in this instance – life is far more interesting than fiction and there’s much more to come!
Is there anything this woman can’t do? The short answer is a confident, no!
(Ann doesn’t like the word ‘no’ but in this case, I think she will let me get away with the reference).
A bright, tranquil Sunday set the scene in Toronto as the Chaarmz team arrived at the picturesque Bridal Path home of Dr. Ann Kaplan and her plastic surgeon (former pro-hockey player) husband, Stephen Mulholland. We were greeted by a lovely member of the Mulholland staff and her beautiful two-year-old daughter, also named, Ann. It was then that we were given a glimpse at the character of the woman we were about to meet, lovingly told that little Ann was named after Kaplan. To me, that speaks volumes about her true character and spirit. Honestly, meeting the original did not disappoint.
Elegance, harmony and creativity filled the space – there was a definitive sense that happiness lives there. In true fashionista form, Ann greeted us looking as though she had just stepped off the runway - clad in a black ZOFF designer day gown with voluminous tulle trim and white sky-high Stella McCartney platform sneakers. Beautiful, radiating the type of confidence and authenticity that originates from deep within.
Ann treated us to a delicious, healthy snack comprised of homemade jam, and crackers she made from scratch (using left-over rice), served with heart-shaped vegan cheese made of cashews (she made this too). “I’m a big believer in health and nutrition. Understanding the benefits of the food you consume and being in the best shape you can possibly be in (not any particular shape or size) but the ideal shape for you, whatever you deem that to be.” Ann revealed (her book “Not Your Average Cook Book” is in bookstores this spring).
Up close and personal, we were captivated by her charm, poise and quick-witted mind. Chaarmz was privy to a first-hand look at her new clothing line, AnnKM- featuring collaborations with extremely talented and visionary Canadian designers; at the helm of AnnKMare herself, Evan Biddell, Christopher Paunil and Michael Zoffraneri.
Her creative confidence, positive energy, joie de vivre and ability to see the humour in everyday life is refreshing and infectious. Coming to the realization that, in Ann’s words,
“Through creativity, bright lights can emerge from a dark year.”
You’re known for dancing to the beat of your own drum – a ‘no limits’ approach to both business and life. Never one to shy away from a challenge, you exemplify a freedom that most people crave. To what do you attribute those qualities? Do you feel ambition and the will to succeed are inherent or are they learned?
“I do feel very free because I’m comfortable with who I am and I am the controller of my own destiny – I choose to be kind, to live on a value set that I hope is accountable and I do not put up barriers (there are no limitations). I also like (let’s say ‘love’) to laugh...and there are a lot of reasons to smile and laugh every day. If you realise that the truth is humorous, you really have more fun with It. There is life and then there is death, if you think about everything in between – it’s funny.
You’ve got one life to live – it’s full speed ahead! Everything that’s presented to me, I’m going to grasp, always looking ahead, never looking back. It’s not carrying the accolades of the past around on your shoulder, thinking that is what’s going to define who you are tomorrow, because – it isn’t. The same goes for if you’ve done something you’re not happy with – you can always change. You don’t have to be the same person you were yesterday. That applies for everyone, except my mother in law, I don’t think she will ever change. *A few moments pass.* Adding, That’s actually good!
Success is really driven by what you consider to be successful. Someone could live a very simple life, and they are completely happy. It’s really based on your own description of success, it could be summed up by saying, ‘success is living your life the way you want to.’ Also, do you really need to tell people what you think? Your definition of success could change based on your own scale of measurement and what you’re exposed to at any time…when you own your thoughts and the definition of your thoughts…you are accountable only to yourself.
What I deem to be successful constantly changes...I just keep going for it (whatever ‘it’ is)…enjoying life, enjoying people and wanting to be and do everything I can, while I can. I don’t stop to measure or ask anyone what they think …you just focus, stay true to yourself and go for it. My mom said the second I was born, I hit the ground running…she said I just went for it. She also said I drove her nuts.”
In many senses you are a true leader. Describe your leadership style.
“I manage a very hectic and complicated structure of businesses and it takes a certain leadership style to encourage people to work independently – that is the difference between being a leader and being a ‘successful leader’.
My leadership style is to lead from values, if someone can understand what your goals are and what your expectations are, they will work independently. If they do not agree, then they will not follow …what you end up with are people with the same mindset, the same values and the same goals. I do have to say, it is important to be in a place or to choose to align with people that have the skills, potential or talent that align with you, otherwise you may be left standing alone.”
When do you find yourself most inspired?
“In Michaels (craft store), I go in there and end up spending hundreds of dollars. It’s a place of clean slates, a blank canvas (it is also a figure of speech to say ‘Michaels’) but I literally l feel inspired when I walk through the doors. I load my cart and walk away motivated, intent on creating. I am inspired by a blank canvas and glue-gunning outside the lines.”
What are you most proud of and why?
“My son, Chase. He recently got a tattoo. He said to me, ‘Mom, I have something for you!’ He then turned around and pulled his pants down – I really thought he was going to moon me, but he didn’t. He showed me a heart shaped tattoo with “Mom” in the centre – surrounded by Hawaiian flowers. He also put a photo of he and I on the actual moon as part of a big YouTubers charity project, and I love him to the ‘moon’ and back! He makes me proud. The other ones are…fine. *Ann Laughs* I’m proud of all of the kids.”
In this issue, you are wearing an exquisite custom couture piece – a collaboration between yourself and three exceptionally talented and visionary Canadian Designers. Tell us all about the new line and cover look – what was the inspiration and backstory behind this?
“That dress. THE dress – I call it “New Beginning” – it is the blossoming of a plastic flower revealing hope - it is where we are now ‘new’ and starting over. The dress is a collaboration between myself and three very creative designers; Christopher Paunil, Evan Biddell and Michael Zoffranieri. All are very established, brilliant at structure and concept, and have the ability to take an idea and create an outcome that’s unique. They understand the science behind design. Each of them is definitely full of fun, have a great sense of humour and are entertainers in their own right.
Evan Biddell was the winner of Project Runway Canada and went on to compete in the US Allstars Project Runway...he was also on a few episodes of The Real Housewives with me. Value Village challenged Evan Biddell to do an upcycled collection using clothing from their stores. He put on a massive, first-class fashion show. Paris runway worthy – it was beautiful! Evan re-made a pair of pants out of an old trench coat that I ended up buying. Evan is so innovative; he and Christopher have both designed wedding gowns for me. Yes, you heard that right - my husband and I have renewed our vows four times so far and we plan to do so again once the pandemic has passed.
It was written in a fashion magazine that one of Michael Zoffranieri’s goals was to dress Lady Gaga and Ann Kaplan. My social media team picked up on it, we set up a meeting with him and the rest is history. Give Michael some feathers and glitter and he can come up with anything. I love both those things, so naturally when he sees me coming, he knows I’m going to take the bling up a notch! You can also catch Michael on the TV show Stitched.
Christopher Paunil, also a celebrity unto himself (catch him on RHOT, Stitched and I Do ReDo), he is just amazing at structure and construction – he IS the structure guy. His gowns and dresses are distributed all over the world including Kleinfelds, he is brilliant, has a big celebrity clientele and, somehow, you always feel that you are important (when you are with Christopher) – he is in the moment.
The four of us are collaborating on a platform, AnnKM(they carry their own designs) that is aimed toward extraordinary fashion (incredible, unique design) using (as much as possible) sustainable items. It is non-gender but, we don’t officially reference it that way – we just try to be conscientious and considerate – people want to wear clothes that reflect their personal style not someone else and people (almost everyone) are aware of our need to consider the impact of all of our decisions (even choosing the clothes we wear). We try to do the best we can and recognize, that’s where the world is right now.
We want to have fun with style and make clothing that’s fun to wear. Not everyone is going to like it, and that’s ok. We plan to work with other designers who share our vision. They will have input and design their independent line - maintaining their own brand identity within the concept.
The cover: THE dress! It is a new beginning – it amplifies what we have come out of post the changes and concerns of the last year. It is, in a sense what we call it, a “New Beginning” or a “Rebirth”. It is a plastic blossom (life as we ‘new’ it) opening up to reveal a new person – the blossoming of a flower. The stem (the person) is not clothed, bejewelled in Swarovski crystals – emerging – a new beginning. If you peel back the layers, no pun intended but pun intended - you’ll see it.”
You’ve done a wonderful job managing to stay focused, busy and creative during this unforeseen time and are an incredible role model. What is your advice for anyone looking to keep up their momentum during this challenging period and elevate their next chapter (personally or professionally)?
“It's a really good opportunity to do something creative. I tell this to my children, ‘when you’re feeling boxed in – get creative.’ It doesn’t matter what it is. Do something that helps enhance your brand. Figure out who you want to be known as - the person you are happy with. Start to create the person you want to be. Don’t look at where your limitations are, look at where you can go and go in that direction. If you focus, you will be what you envision (so try to envision something kind).
Life is different now, we are so much more acutely aware of ourselves. The world will never be the same coming out of this pandemic. Try to find solutions, the ones who are going to come out ahead are the ones who adopt this principle. The ones who won’t come out ahead are the ones who wait for things to go back to normal. It will go back to normal – just a new normal.”