In today’s edition of our Black History Month series, we’re giving you the scoop on celebrity stylist turned jewelry designer, Crystal Streets.
Crystal became intrigued with fashion as a student at Clark Atlanta University. She says, “I went to school for film & TV production. I knew that I wanted to work in fashion. At the time, there weren’t that many stylists, and there were some costumes designers. It was my professor who introduced me to costume design. I knew that the fashion industry existed; however, styling was a small percentage, there were only a handful of stylists. I knew that I wanted to figure out how to make money doing it.”
She continues , “My professor gave me a book that had the 411 behind the scenes from lighting, to casting, to art directors, set design, camera guys, and costume designers. I literally stalked every costume designer in the book until they called me back [note the persistence]. I got an internship with Derek Khan; he used to style Monica. It was, “The Boy Is Mine” album cover, and that was my first internship. I think it was my junior or senior year in college at the time, and when I walked on set I said, “this is me, this is what I want to do”. It just didn’t feel like work, I loved every bit of it. He slaved me to death and I did all the grunt work, but enjoyed it and loved it.”
She jumpstarted her styling career by acting quickly on her intuitions and fearlessly pursuing her goals. She explains, “I was on a mission; I graduated on a Wednesday and moved to New York on a Friday. I interned at Essence magazine under the fashion director at the time, Darlene Gillard. She’s the one who gave me my first styling gigs. I stayed and interned with them for some time. From Essence, I was able to get my contacts up. I got my showroom list together. I had a bunch of fashion houses, and showroom contacts, and that’s what I benefitted from the most. I started to assist other stylists outside of Essence, Debra Ginyard and Tameka Foster, who was working with a bunch of guys at the time. Then, I assisted Najah McKensie who was doing Will Smith and Gwen Stefani. She took me under her wing. I went to LA for 3 months and assisted her. I assisted for about 2 and a half years before I went out on my own.”
Her tenacity paid off: her first client was a megastar. She says, “My first client was Jay-Z. Crazy story, it was a real learning experience. Sometimes you say you’re ready and you know what you want, but my career happened backwards. Instead of working my way up to a huge client, I got my huge client first. What comes with it, is that I made a lot of mistakes; I don’t even think I knew how to invoice (sound familiar, anyone?) So Jay became this big brother to me, he taught me the business side, he taught me how to invoice, he taught me who I needed on my team. I worked with Jay for over 5 or 6 years. From there, my career took off. I worked with everyone from Usher, to Rihanna, to Ciara, Will Smith, and Jamie Foxx. I did everything; I reached a plateau, and did that for 10 years.”
On what made her transition? She says, “In 2008, I was pregnant with my daughter. At that point, I was on a plane twice a week. Clients were flying me around the world just to be there for a day, and I was kind of burned out, so I had to make a decision. When I went on maternity leave I wanted to do something I always wanted to do, but never had time to. When I started designing jewelry, I was so drawn to accessories, even in styling. Some stylists start a look with shoes; that’s how they’ll build their look, but I sometimes would start with accessories. I love jewelry and diamonds. I said to myself, “I’m going to design a collection while on maternity leave. I’m going to launch it, and if it goes well, I’m gonna go for it, and leave the business. I dove into the industry and launched fashion week 2011, under the tents, and it was amazing. I got so much press and it just took off!
Crystal offers , “There aren’t many black diamond dealers who are women, I feel like I’m .2%. I just want to educate my people. I just feel like for so many years, we’ve been ripped off. We need to be educated about our own natural resources; we don’t even own them. Our diamonds come from Africa, our diamonds specifically, come from South Africa. It’s a shame that those are our own natural resources. It’ like the hair care business where we use 98%, but only own 2% of it. It’s more disturbing in the diamond industry where the percentage is less. I have blonde curly hair and wear red lipstick most of the time; they [the men in diamond district] could not accept that I had my own business. I had to forge relationships to get my foot in the door.”
On her first big break? Streets says, “In jewelry, my biggest break was getting on HSN. That was a surreal moment for me that I manifested; I wrote it down, prayed about it, and worked hard on my goal. [For styling] My first big break was with Jay. I had just started styling him at the time. He was performing at the MTV awards and he wanted to wear this exclusive Michael Jordan jersey that did not exist, and only Michael Jordan had. He said, “I don’t care about anything else, this is all I want to wear.” I’m like, “how am I about the get this jersey?” It’s the MTV awards, I didn’t have a lot of prep time. I feel like I had maybe 4 days to turn it around, maybe less, who knows! That’s one thing about me I am not a quitter. I will go hard in the paint. I will, make a way, find a way, and I got a signed exclusive Michael Jordan jersey for him to wear at the 1999 MTV awards, and that was my big break. “
The most salient lessons she learned came courtesy of Jay Z. She says, “I remember it was a photo shoot. He was the most punctual person I knew. I was punctual, but there were days I wasn’t on my game; juggling so much stuff. There are so many moving parts with styling. I will never forget. My goal was to be there before the client, and be ready for them. I got there after him and he said, “I don’t need you today, you can go home. If you don’t know how to show up on time, I’m not interested in working with you.” That was a lesson! How about I have never ever been late for a job after that!”
Thoughts on this jewelry designer? Any others you’d like to see featured?