Be Bold Series: Kara Burns

Kara Burns has learned to love herself and her journey because it made her the woman she is today. Despite the many difficult trials she has had to face, Kara has persevered and fought. Kara did not have a very healthy familial support system throughout her childhood. A child of divorce, she alternated between her father’s and mother’s households. She was a troubled girl and while going back and forth between parents, Kara felt like she was not good enough, not worthy of love or care. It was around this time that the young, impressionable teen began to experiment with drugs and alcohol. That experimentation developed into a fully blown crisis: she was waking up with no recollection of where, how she got there, who she was or who she was with.


The climax of her destructive path came when Kara dropped out of school. By this point she was fully addicted to meth and living on the streets. She was a drop out with no job, and was relying on stealing to support her habit. As she headed further into the abyss of her addiction, she not only suffered inside, but also saw the effects of her addiction when her teeth began to rot out of her mouth. She tried to quit over and over, but was unsuccessful. Kara had spiraled out of control, she spent countless nights in jail and eventually she was indicted on a federal charge of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. After 2.5 years in the prison system, Kara went through a drug rehabilitation program and was subsequently released back into society. She was clean and drug-free, but as a newly-released felon, she faced a new set of challenges. Kara felt uneasy and unsure about her future and her life took on a new course when she came through the doors of Dress for Success Denver.

Her first experience for Dress for Success was through the suiting program. Having spent almost three years in the prison system, she became used to the green jumpsuit and struggled to reframe the way she saw herself. Dress for Success treated Kara with the respect and care that she deserved and for the first time in a long time, she didn’t feel like a criminal, she felt acceptance. Kara still remembers her first suit, a pair of herringbone print pants, a beautiful black jacket with white stitching, and ruby red heels. She felt like she was ready to take on the world and for the first time in a long time, she felt truly beautiful.

After getting physically prepared for a new chapter in her life, it was time for Kara to get herself in the right frame of mind with the help of the career center, where Kara met Carolyn. Working with Carolyn helped open Kara’s eyes and invoked feelings and thoughts she never thought possible.  One example is when Carolyn brought up the topic of Kara’s personal brand, something Kara never even imagined to be possible and Kara left that day feeling so motivated and receptive of the good to come. The job search was hard but eventually, Kara began to work for a temp agency and joined the Professional Women’s Group. In the PWG, Kara met women who were on a similar path and made many friends, finding herself in a sisterhood of understanding, accepting individuals. She benefitted greatly from the seminars that focused on financial education and employment retention, expending her network with the new professional relationships she found there.

This past year, in moments of weakness and self-doubt, Kara struggled and was at a point in which she almost relapsed and almost succumbed to her addiction. She realized she needed help and yet going to weekly therapy was not financially attainable. Dress for Success Worldwide launched an initiative spearheaded by Bethenny Frankel called the B Strong Crisis Initiative. The focus of this program is to help women through any crises that they might be facing in life from divorce proceedings to domestic violence or addiction. Through the B Strong Crisis Initiative, Kara was able to get support from a professional therapist to reprocess all of the trauma in her life and stay on the path of sobriety.


Dress for Success has not only changed Kara’s professional career, but it also changed who she was on an emotional level. Looking back, Kara doesn’t see the woman she was 7 years ago, she sees a woman who is taking the world by storm now. With a scholarship from AXA, Kara is now a junior in college with a nearly perfect GPA. Dress for Success has also referred her to a doctor, who helped fix her teeth, so that her new image would match the new and improved woman she was inside.  Most recently, Kara, along with other members of the Professional Women’s Group participated in a community action project where they raised over $3,000 to meet the needs of women living in a local halfway house. Having gone through the harrowing experience of a newly released con, Kara is giving back to more women. She is a beacon of hope and an inspiration for anyone who feels like they are too far gone to achieve success.

 Learn more about Kara’s Journey and how Dress for Success helps empower women.

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