Mia's feature is located on page 30 in Volume12 " The African American Issue"
When did you first develop an interest in style and fashion?
I became interested in fashion early on in high school. My grandmother had subscriptions to all the fashion magazines, W, vogue, Elle and harpers bazaar. I would stay up late at night reading them cover to cover. My high school years were 93-97 during the whole bad boy/biggie smalls era so music had a big effect on what I wore, I wanted to see and wear what the rappers were talking about in the songs and videos. They were rapping about the Versace, the Moschino and the Prada, even though I couldn’t afford it I loved reading and seeing it in the magazines and hearing it through music. Music influences fashion a lot.
Can you also tell us the story behind "TomGirl Prep” did you grow up running around with the b-ball like Monica from “Love & Basketball” Lol
- So a lot of people ask me the story behind TomGirlPrep. I’ve always loved that preppy look with an edge or twist. I love seeing a woman in a suit with a men’s tie but adding heels to the look to keep it sexy and feminine. I love the whole aesthetic of Tom boy chic. I feel like for the most part I embody that look and feel, I want women to know that they can feel sexy without having to show it all off all the time. I love incorporating menswear into my wardrobe and taking it up a notch. So one day with the encouragement of a good friend I decided to start my website TomGirlPrep.com and showcase the style that embodies that aesthetic, my aesthetic of tomboy chic.
Tell us a little about your professional background and experience
By day I work as in the Title Insurance Industry but my passion is styling. I’ve worked as a stylist at Bloomingdales, Anthropologie, Banana Republic and last but not least Jcrew, I was at Jcrew for about 6 years. I have also done freelance work as a stylist and buyer for a local boutique. I have a closet clean out/organizing service and virtual styling sessions.
Yes definitely I don’t think it’s more gender biased but there is definitely racial injustice in the fashion industry. I listen to a lot of fashion and beauty podcast and you have women of color in the higher echelons of fashion and there aren’t many to begin with and they are constantly being discriminated against and made to feel like they don’t belong in those spaces even though they are more than qualified to be there and should be there.
Photography by Afifah Sharpre
As a stylist what forms of gender/racial inequality do you face or have you faced in the work environment ?
I've asked certain customers if they need help and they will say no and ten 5 minutes later they are working with a white associate, this has happened to me several times. I worked at one company and I was relegated to the fitting room every shift or on the mezzanine where people don’t really shop they just come to use the bathroom on that floor. The sad part is I was super excited about coming to work for this brand. My 14 year old son was profiled when he came into the store one day, he forgot his keys and had to come and get mine, he walked into the store and immediately I heard an assistant manager say over the walkie to watch him. I had to tell them over the walkie thats my son he’s picking up my keys and he’s not a nick and he isn’t in here to steal anything. I was not happy about that at all. I was not there long I stayed about 3-4 months and left. I didn’t like the mean girl culture, the micro aggressions and the subtle racism.
I have not experienced this yet thank goodness. If I did I would remain professional of course but I would need to step away from that person for a moment to breathe and calm down. Anyone speaking like that is showing their true character and theres no need for you to stoop to their level by arguing with them. After I’ve calmed down I would pull that person to the side and let them know politely that they cannot use those kind of words ever. Some people are just plain ignorant and lack the knowledge of the meaning behind certain words and expressions.
As a African American creative who can face discrimination in so many ways two ways are you being a woman and the second is you being an African American Woman, so my question to you is how do you feel victims of oppression can overcome the pain being oppressed has caused?
Speak up and speak out. You cannot remain quiet, you have to call people out and let them know what they are saying and doing is wrong. The sad part is some people don’t even think that the things they are saying are wrong and offensive. One of my favorite quotes by John Lewis is “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something”.
As an African American woman, if you could change anything about the world around us what would you change?
The hatred. If i could take the hate from this world I would. I feel like everything starts with hatred, erasing hatred would cure a lot of other problems in this world.
Has the current “ Black Lives Matter Movement” had any kind of impact on your work?
It has, it made me pause for awhile. I am still on a sort of pause. Sometimes I don’t feel comfortable talking about the latest trend when when black lives don’t matter in this country. The murder of George Floyd really impacted me and made me speak out. I was speaking out before but I became extremely vocal. As a mother hearing a grown man cry for his mom while being killed just broke me, I felt like i needed to put fashion on the back burner for a while and use the small platform that I do have to speak out and show people that there’s something bigger going on in the world right now, black lives are being viciously taken and something needs to be done. I had to speak up.
Let's talk about the heavy afrocentric vibe that’s starting to be accepted in the fashion world, do you think the love for our culture is a trend? or here to stay?
I don’t think its a trend I think its hear to stay. I think that we have always set the trends but it was always deemed ghetto until the mainstream and high fashion heavy weights see it and put it in the pages of vogue, now all of a sudden its high fashion. We set the trends. Some examples the Carrie name plate necklace and earrings on Sex and The City, this is considered so chic and fashionable but the early 80’s and 90’s everyone in my hood had nameplate bamboo earrings and necklaces way before Carrie Bradshaw did. Dapper Dan created a ballon sleeve Louis Vuitton Jacket in the early 80’s 20 plus years later the same style of jacket turns up on a Gucci runway for their cruise collection. We are the architects of the trends however we are the least represented and respected in these circles, but there has been a shift at the moment and I think its here to stay. More attention is being focused on black designers and brands like Fenoel, Hanifa and Brother Vellies to name a few. I think its a great thing and I want to see the momentum going. There are so many talented designers, stylist and creatives of color, there is enough room for all of us to showcase our talents and win big
What are your top 3 styling tips for women or men?
I haven’t had the pleasure of styling a man, I would love to. Ive only styled women. I would that these 3 tips can apply to men and women. 1. Invest in your statement pieces, these pieces will last you for the most part forever. Example ( a nice black blazer or leather jacket, these are wardrobe staples that you will wear over and over again, its worth paying the money)
2. Take chances come outside of your comfort zone and do something a little bit more edgier. A lot of people are afraid to mix prints and patterns. You can always refresh your wardrobe with items you already have by pairing it with something so unexpected. I love seeing a man dressed outside the box and throw on a floral tie with a stripped button down oxford shirt.
3. Accessorize !! Accessories are the finishing touch to your outfit, even if you are dressed in a plain black dress, something as simple as adding a brooch or necklace can take the look to the next level.
Describe your personality in 3 words
• Planner/Critical thinker
Do you have any style icons?
Yes...Awww many women inspire my looks.
• Solange Knowles
• Zoe Kravitz
• Jenna Lyons
• Tracey Ellis Ross
• Janelle Monae
• Eartha Kitt
• Katherine Hepburn
• Josephine Baker
• Lucy Chadwick
• Annie Lennox
Tell everyone where they can find you on all social media platforms, it’s been a pleasure to work with you and get some insights from such an amazing person.
I am in the early planning stages of starting a clothing line, it will be T-shirts’, buttondown shirts, hoodies and some accessories, so stay tuned. It was great talking with you guys and I appreciate the opportunity.