“I guess even though it’s technically not an ethnicity, I’d say I’m Caribbean. My dad is black and he’s from Illinois and my mom is from Antigua. I grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota. And I was born and raised there, so I stayed there from birth until I was 18 when I went to college at Hampton University. I ended up in New York because I got an internship at WWD during college. That [experience] opened my eyes because I had no idea of what New York and the fashion industry was like. Working at WWD showed me that they have publicists and there are stylists and all of these other things. That was the final push that made me realized I wanted to be in New York.
I wasn’t always a beauty girl; I used to want to be a fashion editor. My mom used to be a model, so I wanted to be a supermodel, but I’m only 5’2. I was obsessed with Naomi and Tyra and Christie and Linda. In my bedroom, there were all these old Allure and Vogue magazines with them on the covers.
In my first real position, I was a PR assistant at Victoria’s Secret. I got to work with all the supermodels like Adrianna and Allessandra. That was also when Chanel Iman had first gotten signed but she wasn’t an Angel yet. I assisted in making sure that the shoes and fashion got to and from the magazines. I also worked on bra launches, helped with seating at the fashion show and made sure the models got to where they needed to go. That was a really cool first job and working environment because the team was small. They weren’t too big on hierarchy so I felt like I got to do a lot of different things that I feel like assistants don’t typically get to do.
When I went into PR, it was around the time all the magazines were closing, circa 2008-2009. So it was really hard to get a position at a magazine. I stayed at Victoria’s Secret for about a year and a half, and then Essence had an opening for a freelancer. It was a leap of faith because I quit my full-time position at VS to go freelance for two weeks at Essence. I felt like if I didn’t do it at the moment it wouldn’t come up again. Essence just really needed someone to clean the beauty closet. Like, go through all of the samples that they had and figure out where they belonged and who they needed to be shipped to. I was literally on my hands and knees for two weeks. But I really wanted to show them that I wanted to be there. That closet was immaculate when I left! Then they were like “Well we have more stuff for you to do, so you can stay.” I never knew how long I would be there. At the end of each week, I would ask, “Can I come next week?”
I was also supporting the Essence fashion and beauty directors, so that was my first experience with beauty and seeing all of the products and how they handle shoots. Ultimately I got to see the fashion side, and that’s when I knew I wanted to be on the beauty side.
I think with beauty, I was always drawn to the science of it all and the personal connection. Fashion is amazing but it’s very exclusive. I feel like certain trends aren’t for everyone. With beauty I think it’s translatable to everyone. Plus, there’s always something to learn about. I think with fashion we just keep repeating the same trends.
My biggest thing with beauty is skincare. A lot of people are more into the makeup application. But I just don’t have the patience to sit and beat my face. I wish I were that girl. But I love skincare because you have to commit to it to see results.
I’ll tell a funny story: I was at a press event with a former editor of mine and we were amongst all of these different toners and face washes. I stood there and said, “Why would I ever use toner?” My editor looked at me and said: “Only lazy people don’t use toner. I suggest you do.” Ever since then, I use toner all the time. It just makes such a difference.
I think lipstick is the easiest way to amp up your look. You don’t have to be a genius to apply it. I think eyeliner can get a little tricky. I also love perfume because I feel like it can change you mood instantly.
Bio Oil changed my life. Not only does it even out and smooth your skin tone, it hydrates your skin. Le Prairie’s products are outrageously expensive but worth every penny. I love their foaming face wash, toner and eye cream. I always come back to Stella McCartney perfumes and this beautiful Kenzo scent that everyone loves. The Armani Prive perfume is so sexy; I only use it like twice a year.
There’s a Givenchy lipstick that I love that’s not quite red, not quite mauve and not quite pink. But it’s a beautiful shade. I love a great Maybelline mascara. I’ve been using it since I was like 13. I also always like a clear brow gel only because I’m not good at filling them in. I just started going to Brow Haus in Soho. When you leave there, your brows are perfect.
I think as cliché as it is, you always have to go into this industry being yourself from the beginning. I can honestly say when I stepped into the door of Gilt Groupe I was myself. I’ve had 50 hairstyles. You have to realize that your talent is enough and that everything else doesn’t matter. It’s like: if you want to go in their with your ‘fro, you need to go in there with your ‘fro. Because you’re never really going to grow and develop and have people respect you if you’re playing a character for other people.
Find your voice and find your look and go in as yourself.”