What happens to a “dream deferred?” Many people, taking a look back at their lives, would be able to tell you. However, stylist Raven Roberts is not one of them. She can tell you how fulfilling it is to live a purpose driven life that comes with striving towards making your dreams come true. Less than a year ago, Roberts was working in Los Angeles. Never wanting her styling experience to be relegated to a single genre, the self-made stylist decided that it was high time to make the move to New York to grow her editorial styling portfolio. True to her pattern of focused pursuit of her goals, she made the move. With her lush natural hair and bright smile, Roberts practically exudes the sunnier California climes. She is adjusting to New York just fine and is well on her way to a successful career journey on her own terms, literally coast-to-coast.
We sat down with Roberts during a late winter snowstorm to learn about her motivations and all of the ways she is proactively not deferring the pursuit of her dreams.
Mrs. Refined of Mr. Refined TM Magazine (MR): Thank you for taking the time out to speak with us despite the awful weather today.
Raven Roberts (RR): Thanks so much. I’m happy to. I’m still pretty new here so when I saw the weather I decided to minimize how much I have to go outside today.
MR: How long have you been on the East Coast now?
RR: Just since December 2014. I was raised in Long Beach and the (San Fernando) Valley in California and have a lot of family in LA. So it has been an adjustment.
MR: So you’re very new here! What made you want to come here?
RR: Yes. I’m new to the city. I still don’t know too much about it or about how to get around. I really frequent SoHo. I decided to move here to take my career to the next level. I saw an article on Carine Roitfeld (famed stylist and former Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Paris) about how she had been named Fashion Creative of the Year (for the Fashion Media Awards) and I thought ‘I could do that’ and ‘I want that’. Back in September I just decided ‘I’m going to Fashion Week!’ I came to New York and fell in love with it. I knew moving here would steer my career in a new direction. More high fashion than LA. I did some work here and clients would ask ‘so when are you moving?’ I felt like God was trying to tell me something.
MR: How did your career in styling get started in the first place?
RR: I was doing a corporate job at an automotive company and making jewelry on the side. I first started working on the launch of a web series. I was helping with it and they asked me to style for the show. Then I was laid off from my corporate job in December 2012. From the web series other styling opportunities came my way. I kept styling once I realized it was my purpose in life. I’ve been able to keep doing this work by the grace of God.
MR: What’s been your favorite styling job so far? The one that just highlights that this is your purpose in life?
RR: I styled for this show on YouTube called Bare Minerals Beauty Uncovered. It was such a rewarding experience. It was about giving real women a new look. It got to show my favorite thing about styling – you already had the canvas, but styling is just to accentuate it.
MR: When you’re styling who are you working for? Is it yourself or the photographer?
RR: Whoever is seeing your work has to like it. Pleasing the eye, seeing my work is the most important thing to me.
MR: What is the hardest part of your job?
RR: Keeping a manicure! I carry everything myself. Everything else comes with the job so it’s really not that bad. I mean I get to live my dream everyday so nothing is too hard.
MR: What is it about working for yourself and not necessarily having a steady job?
RR: Freelancing has its up and downs, but I wouldn’t want a corporate job. I wouldn’t want a job if it wasn’t something I wanted to do everyday like what I do now. I do work everyday. I have no concept of a real weekend and I’m okay with that. I can’t imagine doing something I didn’t love. I wouldn’t get that working a 9 to 5.
MR: Do you answer to anybody working for yourself as a stylist?
RR: It depends on the kind of styling. You get some creative control, but that’s what I get with editorial work. You get more creative control and to really show your vision. Like for editorial, if I want a girl to wear a crazy headdress I’m going to have her wear it.
MR: How does the non-traditional work effect your personal life?
RR: I’m just starting to get into dating in the last 3 or 4 years. I don’t go out so much. Someone I’m dating really has to be open to working around the unusual schedule. Maybe lunch dates sometimes instead. It has to be someone who understands that I have a chaotic schedule and it isn’t cookie cutter.
MR: If you could give advice to your younger self what would it be?
RR: Start styling now! Up until I was 17, I wanted to be a pediatric surgeon so that’s what I was working towards. Then in college I decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do. So I studied business. Now I’m glad I have my business degree. It helps me to run my business. My mom always thought that fashion was just a phase.
MR: I think that we might have the same mother! My mom thought the same thing.
RR: Yes! I know she just wants the best for me. She thought I was just going to work at the mall forever. Now she gets it a little bit more and I’m glad I went to school in Florida. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
MR: Has being a stylist effected your personal style?
RR: My style has gone through phases. In the corporate environment everything had to be very put together, but I would add small personal touches. Now I love anything vintage and thrift and I get to wear what I love. It does need to be comfortable since I’m running around a lot. As a stylist, I do take more care in what I wear. When I tell people that I’m a stylist, they say they can see that I like it.
MR: When you think of what you do, how would you define style?
RR: Style is so personal and can’t be put in a box.
MR: What kind of stylist do you want to be? How would you define the type of styling you do?
RR: In the same way that I was talking about personal style, I don’t want to be put into a box. I style for both men and women.
MR: What about being a black woman in the industry? Are there challenges around that?
RR: I want to make sure that as a black woman stylist I don’t get put into that “urban” only box. Also I have to be conscious of diversity in my work. If I could I would just make black women beautiful all day, but my work has to show diversity. Nobody should look at my work and say “oh she’s a black stylist.” It’s different for us. Nobody ever looks at someones work and says “oh she’s a white stylist.” I just need to be a stylist to be successful.