REFLECTING ON YOUR CHILDHOOD, WERE THERE ANY SPECIFIC MOMENTS OR INFLUENCES THAT DICTATED WHERE YOUR CAREER IS NOW?
My mother was definitely one. It’s funny because as I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that I’ve become her to a degree. She’s super into fashion. We’re Nigerian and that influences the way that we digest fashion. Every Nigerian is a fashion designer in a sense, because of the way that African clothing is made. They’re all custom made. So we’re coming up with original designs of what we’re wearing. That’s always been apart of the culture. Creating designs was something that was really special to my mom
My mom used to have a store where she sold Nigerian clothing and she’d pick the designs and do wholesale. Growing up she was my first major influence on me caring what I looked like, what I was wearing, and how I presented myself. Her personality — inviting, and warm was another amazing trait of hers. I feel like she just kind of molded me from herself. Ultimately, she’s a major influence in my career path, but not directly. She wasn’t telling me to be a fashion designer and go work in the fashion industry as a kid, but her interests, her care for aesthetic, her overall love for people, and how people received her feel like major influences in my life.
HAS YOUR OUTGOING PERSONALITY HELPED YOU TO BUILD CONNECTIONS?
Tremendously. My personality definitely has helped because, when you’re in fashion, people are always judging who you are by how you’re dressed or what you do. You’ll always find it refreshing to find someone who has a big flair in their appearance, but is down to earth when you talk to them. There are so many people in fashion who can be pretty awful, so when you find someone who isn’t awful it’s refreshing
“When I’m trying to align my career in the direction that I want it to go in, I think about what truly gives me the most absolute joy and I try to find jobs that allow me to do those things.”
WHAT FACTORS WENT INTO “THE PIVOTAL DECISION” THAT CAUSED YOU TO MOVE TO NY AFTER COLLEGE?
I can’t speak on that without speaking on my first experience in New York. I was a freshman, I had just gotten dubbed from the school yearbook, and returned home to Houston with no plans for the summer. After one or two weeks of doing nothing I was like “damn.” It’s funny because I would lie and say “I’m going to go back to D.C.to work an internship” when I had no plans and was just going to back to DC and thug it out. Then one day someone sent me a post from Twitter, where the fashion director for XXL stated that he was looking for an intern, so I tweeted him, got my friends to tweet him, my blog was mentioned numerous times, and he must’ve thought let me see who they’re talking about, let’s see who this guy is.
It was such a crazy situation because I had already purchased the ticket to DC as I stated earlier, but I still had no plan, so he requested I could come in for an interview in New York. So I departed Houston for DC, slept there for one night, and took the earliest bus to New York for this interview and the interview was flawless. I showed him my portfolio, he loved it, and he offered me the internship. The length of the internship was for the summer semester, but I didn’t have any housing. Luckily, my cousin’s best friend lived in New York and was leaving the country for the whole summer and left me her place to maintain. I did the internship and it was amazing. I got to style an entire spread for the 15th year anniversary issue. The editorial team already had an idea, and I came in and tweaked it, and even designed the layout. My boss appreciated my work ethic so much that told me “No matter where I’m at, when you graduate, you’ll have a job with me.” that’s when I realized, I could really work in the fashion industry and win.
WHAT HAS HELPED YOU PERSONALLY TO NAVIGATE THROUGH YOUR DIFFERENT CAREER PATHS?
I’m actually in a navigational period now. When I was in college, I did so much. I did photography, I dabbled in design, I even picked up event planning. I tested out every possible career path I could venture into whenever I had the free time to do it. When I’m trying to align career, I think about what truly gives me the most absolute joy, and I search for jobs that allow me to do those things. Every job is going to have something you don’t like, but if you have those special moments where you get to do those things you really, really love and take joy in, that’s what keeps you going.
IF IT WASN’T NEW YORK, WHAT OTHER PLACES COULD YOU POSSIBLY SEE YOURSELF IN?
It’ll be somewhere overseas. I want to try either London or Milan. Gaining that experience and knowledge overseas would be something I’d like to try out for a period of time and see where that goes.
WOULD YOU STILL BE IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY, BUT IN A DIFFERENT ROLE?
Yeah. I think I’ll always be in bed with the fashion industry, even if I were to leave. Fashion is such an integral part of my being. In doing what I love, it always has to be somewhere near.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE NEXT FIVE-TO-TEN YEARS?
Currently, I’m at GQ, and it’s ironic because GQ was always an end goal and I ended up being there a lot sooner than I thought I would. It’s crazy how things fall into place. It’s really God. I love the magazine industry, and I love all the components that come together to build a magazine. Eventually, I’d love to rise in the ranks there and get involved in multiple aspects of building what GQ is. I have many close friends in photo and art, and I’m constantly trying to learn from them to make myself a well-rounded creative.
I’m absorbing as much knowledge as I can. I was reflecting the other day, appreciating the fact that I’m in a building full of legends. Our design-director, Fred Woodward is a design legend, and I talk to him every day. He’s a legend in the design world and he has such a strong visual and photographic eye that when the photo directors come to him for publishing opinion. My direct boss Jim Moore who is THE menswear don is like a mentor to me. Madeline Weeks, who is a major menswear icon. Even Anna Wintour is in the building. I’m just around so much fashion influence.
HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?
It’s kind of surreal sometimes. I use them as life-goal benchmarks. My goal is to be a real life legend early. I wanna be like Fred Woodward at 30, an Anna Wintour at 40. It’s really motivating to see these influencers every day and have the opportunity to talk to them, witness their process up close, and to know that even if I’m not sitting down with them as the works I’m still catching the vibe.
I watch a lot of anime, so I often make anime based references to explain real life. I view them all as my mentors or senseis. These little tiny lessons that I’m learning from my day-to-day and just soaking that all in, like training. Imagine having so many mentors in so many different fields. I’m constantly getting stronger and getting better every day.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE WHO’S REALLY TRYING TO BREAK INTO THE FIELD?
It’s all about understanding your strengths and analyzing in which ways you can help contribute and elevate projects. I know that me being outgoing is a strength of mine. For example, I had the opportunity to go to New Orleans for our GQ NBA All Star Party. Because I used to host events and plan events, I switched into event mode. I feel like that was a skill that I had and no one really knew about it. I helped gather celebrities to come to our photo booths and just chatted them up. I know it’s a strength, but it was interesting to see how everyone else at GQ was so astounded by the fact that I could do this.
I remember Michael Che from Saturday Night Live being there and we needed to get him to our photo booth. When he walked into the party we exchanged a few laughs, and I was like “You should come to our photo booth.” and he was like “Nah, The Roots are playing.” and I was like “Alright! After The Roots, you have to come back!” As soon as The Roots were over I came and found him and he had had a few drinks and I said: “I told you to come to the booth first because I knew your ass was about to get lit!” We laughed and he made his photo booth video. When he left one of the guys from our online team asked me “How long have you guys known each other?”, and I was like “Huh, I just met him when he walked in here!” So I knew being outgoing was one of my strongest skills and I used that to position myself in a place where that was needed. So wherever you’re at and you know you can insert your talents to make yourself a necessity I feel like that’s one way to help maneuver when you’re already in the space.
Getting in is the hardest part of the industry. But once you’re in, you’re talented, you stick to your drive, and you’re always working to move forward, you will move forward, that’s just the nature of it. It’s all about proper planning.
WHAT IS THE LASTING IMPACT YOU WOULD LIKE TO LEAVE?
I think the lasting impact I would like to leave would be to elaborate on the whole idea of taking in your surroundings because I think that’s so important. The same way I absorb and observe the energy in my surroundings of those I work with. Plus it’s super important to know as much as you can about different fields. Don’t focus too much on trying to become the master of all of those fields because you don’t want to become a master of none. But find something that you want to master and cultivate that talent, and make sure you’re knowledgeable on adjacent skills. I feel like this is the fundamental element in everything I’ve said. Know what you can add based on your skills, but how can you know where you can add your skill if you don’t pay attention to your surroundings? There are little lessons in everything that you do and every interaction with anyone. If you miss those lessons, you miss experience points that you wouldn’t get otherwise.