Celebrity Stylist Zerina Akers on How She Landed Her High-Profile Position with Beyoncé
The wardrobe curator reflects on her coveted creative journey.
In this day and age where social media reigns supreme, it seems as though everyone wants to be a celebrity fashion stylist. This role which to many appears to be glamorous from the outside is filled with sleepless nights and countless client phone calls. Add in collaborating with magazines and communicating with luxury public relations companies and you’d think it happens overnight. But after all, this highly popular career path is not as simple as it seems.
In the latest installment of our “How Did You Land That Job” series, we’ve tapped celebrity stylist, Zerina Akers. She has been on our radar for quite some time now — a few years ago she became well-known as the image architect behind Beyoncé‘s revamped style. Akers was the reason countless magazines and websites began paying attention to Bey’s street style looks. She even was a part of the large group of curators who expertly styled the critically acclaimed visual for LEMONADE back in 2016. As of recently, her clients have included the blossoming duo Chloe x Halle and the talented actress Yara Shahidi.
Akers originally got her start in the industry after landing an internship at W Magazine in the fashion closet back in 2006, when she was a student at The Art Institute of Philadelphia. After interning she decided to move to New York where she finished her studies at LIM College. She has noted that under the tutelage of Alex White, Camilla Nickerson and Karl Templer at W was where she truly fell in love with fashion. Throughout her colorful journey, she has freelanced at other publications which ultimately led to working with talented stylists. Freelancing led her to commercial styling which put her in a position to serve as Beyoncé’s personal stylist.
Read our interview below for Aker’s in-depth breakdown of what led her to the fashion industry, how she develops her clients looks and more.
How old were you when you realized fashion would be the industry you’d like to work in full time?
I’ve always had an interest in fashion, but after my first visit to New York was when I really fell in love with it. In high school, I created my own clothing line and hosted a fashion show at school. I then went on to study fashion at LIM.
What originally attracted you to the creative side of the fashion industry?
My first internship at W Magazine allowed me to see all of the various ways you can contribute to fashion, and showed me how many roles there are outside of fashion design. This experience led me to styling and creating imagery through clothing. Watching Alex White and Karl Templer work at W inspired me to add a deeper element to what I was creating.
How would you explain your career trajectory, was it straight and narrow or more experimental and eccentric?
Definitely experimental! After working in fashion editorial, I wanted to gain a more commercial driven perspective of the industry and I began to work with advertising and e-commerce for large commercial brands. After that, I transitioned to styling celebrities.
While attending LIM you worked under world-renowned stylists like Camilla Nickerson and Lori Goldstein. What were the most important lessons you learned?
Research is key when creating or re-creating art. I was really inspired by the work Camilla did when styling the Alexander McQueen runway shows. Lori Goldstein inspired me to also be free while styling and that accessories can make or break a look.
Can you express your thoughts on how important freelancing, interning and attending events are in terms of cultivating relationships within the industry?
It’s the most important part of making your way in the industry. Eventually, personal relationships are what help you get your foot in the door for certain opportunities.
How do you develop looks for each of your clients, including Yara Shahidi and Chloe x Halle?
The first thing I do is look into who they are and have a conversation with them about their thoughts and ideas on where they see themselves and what their goals are. We talk about silhouettes they feel comfortable in, as well as new trends they want to try. What inspires them is really important to me.
From there, I research, shop and create looks within the realm of who they are while also attempting to push them outside of their comfort zone by adding an element of color or a unique silhouette.
What would you say was your biggest career-defining moment in the past 10 or so years?
The moment I decided to just be myself. As a young black girl, I thought I had to speak a certain way or act a certain way in professional settings, but when I realized I could be my sassy self, a lot of opportunities began to open up for me.
How have you overcome adversity during your career?
I overcome adversity by understanding that I’m meant to be wherever I am and if something is in front of me, I can handle it. If I couldn’t handle it, it wouldn’t be placed in front of me. Throughout my career, I’ve often times found myself to be the only black woman at the table, and I’ve worked to find a level of appreciation for that. I also try to utilize my platform to inspire younger women of color and to help them see a reflection in the mirror that resembles themselves.
What has been your absolute favorite styling project or look in your career?
My favorite project was Chloe x Halle’s The Kids Are Alright film. I was really excited to be a part of this pivotal moment in their career as it was their first album. Plus, we got to really play with fashion and take a few risks that paid off.
What is your favorite part about being an image architect and celebrity stylist?
My favorite part [of] my career is having a hand in helping women step out and feel confident in what they’re wearing and about themselves. It’s what led me to my partnership with Dove. I love what the brand stands for and have been using it for years. My latest obsession is the Dove Invisible Dry Spray Antiperspirant because it leaves no white marks on 100 colors. It never leaves my styling kit.
Throughout my career, I’ve often times found myself to be the only black woman at the table, and I’ve worked to find a level of appreciation for that. I also try to utilize my platform to inspire younger women of color and to help them see a reflection in the mirror that resembles themselves.
If you could give a word of advice to aspiring creatives what would it be?
Just remember that when things get really hard, you’ve just leveled up. Keep it going.