Style Features

Off the Cuff with Claiborne: Michelle Tucker

Michelle Tucker is a woman with a mission. After more than two decades in banking, she made the choice to leave the corporate world to make a greater impact in her community. Now, she’s serving the StL as the president and CEO of United Way of Greater St. Louis.

You’ve done a lot of work locally. Why St. Louis?
It’s where I was born and raised. I like the notion of investing your time and talent into the local market you came from, especially since my friends and family are still here. I decided quite a while back to plant my roots here and be as impactful as I can be. To me, the United Way is a reflection of the community coming together as one. Collaboration across many sectors for a cause is something that St. Louis does well.

How did your relationship with United Way begin?
I’ve been involved with United Way as an individual donor, volunteer and a corporate funder when I was at Bank of America. I left corporate America in 2017 because I wanted to get closer to a mission. I started working with Epworth, which is a United Way agency. Since I had a unique skill set as a corporate funder, the United Way reached out to me when it was looking for someone to fill the CEO position.

What’s most rewarding about your job, and what’s the biggest challenge you deal with?
The reward is knowing that the work we do and all of the effort is to help people. We impact one in three people across the region, so almost everyone has a United Way story. There are drawbacks to helping people, the demand outweighs any resources we are able to offer. We can never raise enough money to meet everyone’s needs, and we can never be enough places to help people through challenges.

Who are some of the people who prepared you for your growth?
First, I would say my parents and my family. I’ve always had a very strong support system there and been able to look to my mom and dad. Staying connected to my values and remaining true to myself came from them. I’ve also had key mentors along the way—from high school and college to corporate America.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
It’s OK to be a little selfish sometimes. I tend to pour myself into whatever commitment I make. I leave very little time for myself and spread myself a little thin. My mentor told me I needed to find time to disconnect from work and make sure I am OK. You’re no good to anyone if you’re not taking care of your physical and mental health.

What is your go-to item in your closet?
A basic mid-length black skirt. I tend to go from business casual to formal, and the black skirt is very adaptive. It can be paired with a white button down and blazer, or you can go with something that has a little more glitz and glamor to take it up a notch. You can even pair it with sneakers to go all the way casual.

Are you trendy or safe when it comes to fashion?
I’m in between because I’m in so many diverse environments. Coming out of banking, we were very conversative dressers. In recent years, I’ve leaned into just being myself. I’m into being impulsive and putting looks together based on how I feel. I’m not too trendy, but I do keep up with what’s popular.

You wouldn’t be caught dead wearing what?
Since COVID, a traditional business suit. Also, maybe plaid.

Has your husband ever been your fashion consultant?
No.

Do you give him advice?
I try to, but my husband has his own style. I like to think I’m a good judge, but he won’t take my advice.

Give me your go-to local restaurants.
Eleven Eleven Missouri, Andrea’s Steakhouse, Capital Grille

Give me a fun spot you’d like to get back to.
I love Barbados—it’s the most fun I’ve had on vacation. If you want a fun local spot, I love the outdoors, so Forest Park. I also love the spa. It’s a great escape for girls day.

What has the pandemic shown you?
Our resilience. There was a lot of nervousness going into the pandemic because we really didn’t know what was around the next corner. Personally, I impressed myself with how I was able to adapt to the changing circumstances each day. As a leader, I felt like I was equipped to draw from past challenges to figure out how to manage.

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