Kara Laricks' life changed after being a closeted fourth-grade elementary school teacher for 10 years. She quit to become an out fashion designer and made it big by winning NBC's Fashion Star. Her unique perspective landed her gigs at H&M, Saks Fifth Avenue and on HBO's True Blood ( in which a vampire was killed wearing one of her gowns ).
She then began speaking appearances on campuses and telling her story of coming out.
Now, Laricks is embarking on a new endeavor with Three Day Rule as a matchmaker for the LGBT community. She met up over coffee to talk about the new project.
Windy City Times: Where are you from?
Kara Laricks: Originally from Kansas City. I grew up there. I lived for six years in San Francisco, eight in New York and, now, in Chicago.
WCT: Why did you want to move to Chicago?
KL: My partner Jen, works for the Mars corporation. I went along for the ride.
WCT: And a lot of chocolate.
KL: I have more peanut M&M's than I know what to do with!
WCT: Do you like Chicago?
KL: So far, it is incredible. I am only the second LGBTQ matchmaker with the company Three Day Rule. Originally they wanted me to start in New York. If any company is going to understand a love story this would be the one, so I told them my partner was being transferred to Chicago. They sent me here and I have started the LGBTQ services here.
The women's community has been very welcoming. I went to an event the first week I was here, walk in, and the first woman I met introduced me around. From then on it has been like wildfire, meeting all kinds of people. I have been going to galas and it has been a whirlwind. We still have things in boxes in our house from moving in!
WCT: How was your Fashion Star experience?
KL: It was absolutely incredible. I moved to New York in 2009 when it was a crummy economic time. No one was hiring. I was selling collars attached to ties on the street at markets. One day I was on Facebook and saw a posting for a reality show casting. I ended up on Fashion Star, one of 13 designers, and winning the whole thing. I made collections for H&M, Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue.
I was in New York and seeing my designs in the windows. It was a dream come true.
WCT: You came out of the closet during filming?
KL: Yes. I was out in my personal life and had been for a very long time, but it was super important that it was part of my story on the show. The best part was being able to connect with people all around the world. LGBTQ youth were telling me how cool it was to follow my passion. I realized that is the kind of stuff that I am really good at, connecting. It has been true when I was a teacher for 10 years, in fashion, and now as a matchmaker. It is where my talents lie.
WCT: You became a public speaker at colleges?
KL: Yeswho knew? I feel very lucky in my life. I have had all kinds of different chapters!
WCT: What led you into being a matchmaker?
KL: After Fashion Star I thought I would just start a clothing line and shout at New York Fashion Week. I even got an order from Saks Fifth Avenue, but I nearly killed myself trying to produce that order on my own. I felt like I was going from zero to 60, from making ties and selling them on the street, to now being expected to make a full women's wear collection.
One night I was in the factory arguing over the price of buttons, I realized I was not using my talents as well as I could be.
At one point I put into LinkedIn all of the things that I loved, "connection" and "LGBT community." The words "LGBT matchmaker" popped up. I didn't think it would be a real job, but three incredible interviews later, it was something that was meant to be.
WCT: How does the Three Day Rule service work?
KL: We have a ginormous pool of foxy singles and it is free to be a part of. It is a matter of following a link and signing up. If you are LGBT identified you will be directed back to me, then you are in our database.
If you want to be one of my personal clients then I date on your behalf. I weed out the bad dates. I connect with everyone in person. Then I present you with matches that I feel are really well suited for you.
The best part is after the clients go on a date then I get the opportunity to debrief both sides. I call them up and rehash the details. Sometimes it synchs and works out beautifully. sometimes people aren't sure and I get to be the bridge. I can encourage a second date or tell them to move on to the next person.
WCT: So you are a coach?
KL: Definitely. I would love to have the title of confidence coach. So much of it is really about personal growth and going on dates.
People sometimes make a string of bad choices that don't align to what they want in life. It is nice to point that out gently, then move into what will really work.
WCT: What have been some challenges with the LGBT community?
KL: Specifically, in our community, it is very interesting, especially in the lesbian identified community. It is trying to balance out attraction based on the butch/femme scale. just because someone looks that way doesn't mean their personality aligns on one side or the other. It becomes complicated trying to match people that way than I ever anticipated.
WCT: Lesbians don't have an app similar to Grindr, do they?
KL: We have HER and Bumble. There are apps, but people tell me they are so sick of swiping and having no connection. It is just a blurb of a few different adjectives with a picture. How do you know based on that if there will be chemistry?
I really meet with people to help them. In Chicago, it is like this where I meet them for coffee. I am also skyping all over the country these days.
WCT: The company is backed my Match.com?
KL: Yes. The CEO, Talia Goldstein, went on ABC's Shark Tank. Match.com took notice and invested in the company. They have been building their business with straight matches, but Talia has always been interested in finding specific services for the LGBT community. I hopped onboard as soon as she was ready to go.
WCT: Are trans people a part of your database?
KL: Yes. It is a large database with the entire spectrum. That is one thing I am proud of. There is every option when people sign up to how they identify.
It is important to meet people in person. Sometimes polyamorous means on thing to one person and something else to another.
WCT: There are non-gender conforming individuals so it must be a whole new ballgame.
KL: Right. It's also interesting generationally how the identities are very different.
WCT: Are you still designing clothes?
KL: Now my role is different. I do get to prepare my clients by telling them what to wear for their dates. I will even go shopping with them to pick out things and I get to use my skills in a different way now. My life is still a fashion show!
Eligible LGBTQ+ singles can sign up for free at ThreeDayRule.com/lgbtq .