Victoria’s Oklahoma Secret: Sharen Jester Turney (1956—)
“My Oklahoma roots run deep,” this champion of the global fashion world said. “My grandfather was part of the Land Run of 1889.” There were no days off on the farm she grew up on outside of Ardmore.
“That sense of constant responsibility and commitment has really served me well in my life,” Turney recalled. “But there is also no better playground for a child than the vast landscape of Oklahoma. I had lots of experience milking cows, ringing chicken’s necks, riding horses, and driving tractors. All the skills necessary for selling in a career of fashion retail!”
After cheering for the prestigious, first-ever OU Pom squad in college, Turney landed a position with Houston’s renowned Foley’s Department Stores. Stanley Marcus later recruited her to his famous Neiman-Marcus luxury department store chain, where she trailblazed the e-commerce world as President and CEO of Neiman-Marcus Direct.
Turney’s triumphs at Neiman’s led to her 2000 hiring as President and CEO of the mail order division of Victoria’s Secret, America’s largest women’s lingerie retailer. With sales for that part of the company sluggish as Turney took charge, a Forbes magazine article reported:
“Sharen Jester Turney rips through a Victoria's Secret catalog, criticizing what she sees: breasts—spilling over the tops of black, purple and reptile-print underthings. ‘We need to quit focusing on all that cleavage,’ she says.
“Fighting words from the new chief executive of Victoria's Secret Direct…(who) wants to increase its appeal to an upscale customer…That means dimming the hooker looks in Victoria's Secret catalog. Tight jeans and stilettos? Not on Turney's watch. In coming months, the 22-year-old catalog, a substitute for Playboy in some dorm rooms, will look a tad more like Vogue. Turney…envisions more of a lifestyle layout, where lingerie, sleepwear, clothes and cosmetics appear throughout the catalog.”
Her daring strategy catapulted her division past the $1 billion mark in sales for the first time. It also won her leadership of the entire Victoria’s Secret brand in 2006. This proved one of the supreme career ascents ever accomplished in the American business world by an Oklahoman. Turney led the iconic company to a 70% increase in sales and an unprecedented $8 billion in annual sales during her decade-long tenure.
She, her Duncan native husband Charles Turney, and their son Matthew have given millions of dollars to philanthropic causes centered around cancer research and care, education, and military veterans.
“Don't ever forget where you came from,” Turney said. “And more that, cherish it! I feel my parents Holland and Darlene’s presence with me in everything that I do. I have never forgotten the lessons they taught me, nor where the best part of me comes from.”
The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book
Oklahomans Vol 2 :
Statehood - 2020s
which can be purchased HERE.
View the inspiring 2-minute preview video HERE.