Recently, I had the chance to e-meet Dionna Humphrey – the stylist and fashion consultant behind the new enterprise Body Conscious Beauty. Priding herself on providing “style consulting for every BODY,” Dionna graciously agreed to an interview for our Real-Life Curvy CEO series. Here ya go!
Q: How long have you been a stylist?
A: Even though I’ve been dabbling in the industry for a while, I’ve only officially been in business since this past summer.
Q: How did you develop an eye for what looks good on people?
A: Well, I’ve always been a chunkier girl and pushed the envelope in terms of style. When I went to college, I started out as a music major and then switched to women’s studies. In that field, I looked a lot at body image and how women relate to the world—what it means to be a woman, etc. I’ve always loved fashion and I will see a piece and think, “Oh, that would look great on so-and-so” or “You could use that this way….” It’s therapy for me. A woman’s figure is a canvas and sometimes you need an outside eye to help you see what works. One day a friend [who I’d been helping with her style] said to me, “You know, I would pay you for this” and I jumped on that idea! [laughs]
Q: So, how long have you been styling people, even as just a hobby?
A: The last 10 years.
Q: What common thread do you find among your plus-size clients?
A: All women deal with body image issues, but especially plus-size women in terms of being sexy or edgy. I’m always trying to encourage people that I know to think outside of that fashion box. What we think looks good is a reflection of what we’ve been fed in the media. You really have to try something on in order to know. It’s about taking a chance.
Either we cover up because we’re told to – don’t want to show our arms, “shouldn’t” be showing our legs – or we show too much to try and get attention. We shouldn’t be held back by what the fashion industry or society tells us.
Is society is telling me I shouldn’t wear a form-fitting dress? Probably. Will I wear it because I know what works for my body? Absolutely! I’m not going to put on something and have people think that I’m skinny. But will they think I’m confident and rocking it? Yes! It’s about knowing your body and getting past those concerns.
Q: Do you work on internal issues like self-esteem with your clients? Or do you just stick to fashion?
A: A little of both – because when you see yourself as beautiful, you feel better. When you get reinforced [negative] messages, it weighs on you. For example, when I was younger, I never would’ve imagined myself “going natural,” so I couldn’t see myself beautiful as a natural woman. But being in DC for the last few years where natural hair is everywhere, I see the beauty in it and in myself. Once I cut off my hair, I can’t see myself any other way. It’s hard to get out of the vicious cycle of images about the ideal of beauty. There are very few women who look like me in magazines or on tv. So when a woman thinks she’s not beautiful and it’s reinforced by society, changing how she looks at her outer body helps her think more positively about herself. Also, I have not met a woman who is not beautiful in many ways.
Q: I absolutely agree. We all have some feature that makes us attractive. So, what’s been the most exciting or rewarding moment so far?
A: Because I’m so new, the thing I’m most excited about is connecting with people – that has been the greatest experience so far. It’s also a challenge because I have a full-time job in addition to getting this business off the ground. It’s also been great writing for All Things Fashion-DC. [Dionna is their new plus-size contributor --> http://allthingsfashiondc.com/category/style-file/plus-size-style/.]
Q: In your opinion, what are the must-have items for the professional working woman?
A: Of course, a little black dress – but more than one. You need a day version and a night version! A well tailored blazer – and it doesn’t have to be black; maybe gray or something else you can translate from season to season. A white button down shirt – you can wear with work pants or jeans or a skirt. Denim! A great pair of jeans can take you from day to night. I love the trend of mixing denim/denim-on-denim. [She actually blogged about this recently here http://www.bodyconsciousbeauty.com/2012/08/13/the-look-denim-on-denim/] No matter what you wear, it’s not about price – it’s about fit.
Q: What about Fall 2012 trends – what are some of your favorites?
A: In addition to the denim-on-denim, I’m thinking leather is super-chic for this season. A lot of people have preconceived notions about it, but it doesn’t have to be real leather – there are some great faux leather pieces. I’m also a great fan of leopard. It’s another great pattern – you don’t have to wear it from head to toe, but it’s very chic and polished—you can wear it to the office without having anyone raise an eyebrow. Also, don’t be afraid to look through your closet to find something that might work with it. If it can go with 3 or 4 things, then I’m buying it!!
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with the plus-size professional women who read Curvy CEO?
A: Think through a trend that you want to try and make it happen. I don’t mean wearing a miniskirt to the office, but pushing yourself. Look at a magazine, go online, pick out a trend and give it a try.
Well, there you have it! Dionna is currently offering 50% off all services through October. Available services include a closet audit – including the creation of a personal look book; a shopping trip with the client; personal shopping on behalf of the client; fashion emergencies – i.e., guidance for an important date, meeting, etc.; and intimates shopping, including bathing suits. Be sure to check out her website at www.bodyconsciousbeauty.com. You can also communicate with her via Twitter – @StylebyDionna.
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