Just recently I helped a phenomenal designer, Jessica Robinson, put together a birthday dinner party for another friend -- Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie -- at Hotel Griffou. I sat in the midst of some truly moving talent including Salman, Sylvia Rhone, Donna D. Cruz and designer Betony Vernon. Enjoying such good conversation made me think of how I made it to this place and how all these people have become so successful...
I remember my first day navigating through Manhattan, on my way to my master's classes at NYU with only the guidance of my close friend Jane Aiello. I was disappointingly dressed in some sort of post college sweat outfit, and driving a Toyota Camry -- that I racked up numerous tickets on because I did not understand the nuances of NYC parking yet. I was studying publishing, and had delusions of working for Esquire, W or some phenomenal publishing house like the Feminist Press and being a part of projects like The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing -- little did I know that I would have to fight my way through the sea of individuals clamoring for these highly sought after positions and I would not be able to exist on the starting salary for these entry level positions. It was during my time at NYU that I encountered some phenomenal individuals that helped to shape my path like Emil Wilbekin -- once the EIC of Vibe Magazine, and the current Managing Editor of Essence.com -- who offered insight into how to navigate this new world.
At the same time, a close college friend dropped me off at the doorstep of Sean "Diddy" Combs offices for Sean John, in search of a job to help alleviate some of the debt I was accumulating living in the city. Hailing from Fresno, California -- and growing up without cable TV -- I had very little understanding of the entertainment, fashion and music worlds, but I was intrigued. Sean John was a crazy experience that taught me the importance of balancing intelligence and talent, but more importantly an ability to network and build a strong collection of interesting personalities around myself -- and to exist on little to no sleep but still be productive! There, I encountered stylist Bill Mullen -- my first entre into the delicate world of styling, Paul Wilmot -- my first taste of PR at its best and KCD -- the tour de force of fashion show production. My travels during that time included an invite to join the team at a Versace menswear show in Milan. The first opportunity to experience high fashion up close and personal, in the midst of top-tier talent.
These moments were my introduction to greatness and the individuals that make it to the top of their game -- from writers such as Salman Rushdie, to music executives like Sylvia Rhone, to creative individuals that span from Sean Combs to stylists like Peju Famojure. It is astonishing to encounter this type of talent, and each one drives me to strive for personal success.