It recently occurred to me that I've met some amazing women over the years with interesting, glamorous, and much sought after jobs. When I first ventured into magazine journalism many moons ago it immediately became apparent that the career manuals and books that I had devoured at the library were out of touch and had no bearing in the real world. The media isn’t like traditional industries where you gain the qualifications, start applying for work, and sooner or later you’ll get snapped up by an employer. No siree. Contacts, flexibility, and the ability to keep abreast of ever-changing work trends are the real qualities needed to survive in this hyper competitive and often cut-throat industry. I've also realised that the media is an extremely closed community, and those involved aren't particularly forthcoming in imparting their knowledge on how they got to where they are.
With these thoughts in mind I've been long procrastinating the idea of an additional feature on this blog where I regularly interview movers and shakers within not only the media, but other industries that are hard to penetrate. My first interviewee is celebrity stylist, Ruki Garuba. Ruki is currently leading an enviable life as the stylist to US superstar, Kelly Rowland. She is also a designer in her own right and the CEO/Creator of her own clothing label – Ruki Garuba. Read below for Ruki's journey. And if you wish to ask her any further questions you can catch her over on her own blog www.rukigaruba.blogspot.com
I earn a living by styling celebrities and designing clothes. Occasionally I do campaigns for companies (ASOS.com, Rimmel and Ford) and magazines (5 year stint as Fashion and Beauty Editor at Pride magazine).
The moment I knew I wanted to be a stylist was when I did my first shoot by accident. I Originally wanted to work in entertainment but Sherry Dixon (the then Beauty Editor at Pride) took a shine to me and took me under her wing and introduced me to a wonderful new world. I've never looked back since. But the moment I felt like a 'real stylist' wasn't during my time in the world of monthly editorials but when I saw Kelly Rowland's Ms Kelly album cover and sleeve with name on the credits.
My typical day consists of waking up in a hotel room, getting dressed and having breakfast in speedy time before going to prepare and help my client dress. This sometimes can be before 7 am. Then it's a full day of press, interviews, photo shoots and then a show in the evening. I'm on hand to select outfits, make sure the outfits look good on camera and then prep all the costumes for the main concert including doing the quick changes and then have them packed up after the show.
The highlight of my career thus far is ever changing as I do new projects. One has to be working on Kelly's album shoot, another touring with Keyshia Cole and thirdly being a Fashion and Beauty Editor of such a respected black women's magazine by the age of 22.
My toughest challenge was when touring in the States for three months with a whole team of people I never met until 24 hours before we started the tour. I also hadn't before then spent that much time away from loved ones and friends. Having to live, breathe, sleep and work with strangers and your boss (the artist) with only the occasional day off is HARD. Being on a tour bus is difficult as you are thrown into a very small living space with colleagues (12 per bus) for 24 hours at a time with nowhere to escape. We even did a 72 hours stretch from Memphis to Vegas. You then have to get into a stadium to work and pull together a show each night which can be stressful enough on it's own. This was the time when I felt I grew the most, I learned how to be diplomatic, how to fend for myself in a dog eat dog environment and mostly just how to be tough on the outside even when you feel like you're cracking on the inside. For example finding a trustworthy dry cleaner in every city that could clean 12 outfits which consist of 4 parts each in roughly 9 hours was testing to say the least, not to mention I was in a foreign land and the only English person on the team. But I did it and did it well every night.
I commute to work by plane/train/car depending on where the shoot or show is taking place. Sometimes on a rare day I throw on my favourite hoodie (an over sized black Keyshia Cole one I got when I toured with her) and prepare myself for the 30 second walk from my bed to my desk at home. On the way I take in the sights whilst collecting my laptop from my bedside table, pick up the post by the door and grab a coffee from the kitchen
The first thing I do when I get to work is turn my computer, crank up the music and start by responding to emails that I haven't already seen on my Blackberry.
For breakfast I have a cup of coffee and three bowls of Cherrios. Followed by a glass of water and Berocca for energy.
The advice I would give to others trying to break into the industry is firstly do your research and find out which area you want to work in - is it editorial and fashion shoots, is it celebrity, films or theater? Then find out who the main stylists are in this area and contact
them for work experience. I can't stress how important work experience is. It gives you a great insight to what the reality of the job is, and also puts you in a great position to find out about up and coming vacancies. To be a successful stylist I think you need to really be able to put your personal tastes and styles aside, your clients aren't an extension of you, so you have to be able to create an individual look that is true to who they are. Be diplomatic and calm in your approach to clients, fashion houses, colleagues etc. It's a stressful environment and no one wants to work with someone who cracks under pressure. Also very importantly - always work at growing your skill. I critique everything I do and look at how I could have done it better. I read magazines all the time. Get a subscription to the main fashion magazines, I personally like Marie Claire and Grazia and I'm on style.com everyday, keeping abreast of what's happening. I also make sure I visit shops and department stores as often as possible. All this helps you to grow each day. Most importantly - never leave home without a notebook and pen. Jot all your ideas down and stick in pictures the inspire you.
My future ambitions includes growing my celebrity clientele, having my collections stocked in boutiques internationally and being a good wife and mother - one day!
Kelly Rowland as styled by Ruki
Kelly wearing a dress from Ruki's collection