this article is straight from honeymag.com:
I was born to a Japanese-Jamaican mom and a Black father, whose family is from South Carolina. I’m proud to say I was born and raised in Mount Vernon, NY. It’s home to Denzel Washington, Dick Clark, Al B. Sure, Case and, of course, Sean “Diddy” Combs. It’s crazy because Mount Vernon is only four square miles and most of us went to the same high school, Mount Vernon High School. Sean lived around the corner from my best friend Tiffany, so as kids’ we’d see each other from time to time. Years later, we ran into each other at the Apollo in Harlem. That’s how our relationship began. I was there with him during those early years when he interned at Universal and was then promoted to A&R. I was also there when he got fired and was starting Bad Boy. I was about 19-years old and about three months pregnant at the time, and he was scared out of his mind. I understood his fears, being fired and having a baby on the way. But I told him, listen you have what it takes you can do this on your own. I also encouraged him to sign legendary rapper, Biggie Smalls. He wasn’t going to do it at first, but just like Sean, I’m good at recognizing talent, and I could see it in Biggie. I loved his sound. I loved his swag. I thought it was amazing, and eventually Sean saw it too. Through it all, I was his girlfriend, but in a lot of ways I was like his assistant, too. I’d be there for him if he needed someone to find clothes for an artist or run down to 8th Street in Manhattan to pick something up. I was interning at Def Jam in Artist Development as well and had the opportunity to work with Jodeci because of Sean.
That’s more or less how I got my start.
Balancing our relationship, work and motherhood had its challenges. It was a big adjustment. I still remember the day when the responsibility of being a teen mother sank in for me: it was Easter and all my friends were going to the club. My mom was away, my nanny was off and I couldn’t get anybody to watch my newborn, so Justin and I just sat on the couch watching TV and I kept thinking “Wow. My life has changed. I can no longer do what I want to do.” But even if I couldn’t party like I wanted, I wouldn’t give up work. Fashion styling is what I do. It’s my God-given talent. This is one of the easiest and most fulfilling things for me to do besides being a mom. Eventually Puff and I separated. Being a single mom had its difficulties, but I made up my mind never to get back together romantically. There was too much damage done.
But work was something else. I kept working with him on projects and it might seem strange, but I never let my emotions play a part in my decision for business. I was always able to separate the two. Even if we had personal problem, I’d never say, ‘Oh you can’t take Justin!.’ A lot of women do that. When they have problems with the relationship, they’ll try to hold the kid hostage. I never did that. If he called me for a job and I was available, I did it. My philosophy was simple: I’m not going to turn down a job that’s paying me, helping my career and making me happy out of spite. I’ll do it, but I’m not going to go to dinner after.
That work ethic has taken me far. By the time I was 25 years old, I can honestly say that I’d made a million dollars from fashion styling outside of my relationship with Sean. A lot of people think because I have a baby by Sean Combs, that I’m just sitting back and doing nothing, but that wasn’t the case at all. I was a guest on national talk shows. I had been featured in major magazines, and had worked with icons in the industry. And all with no publicist. I’m very proud of my success. To be clear, Sean introduced me to many of my celebrity clients, and I’ll always honor that. But everything I have comes from God and that’s my provider.
Now that I’m in a position to give back, I do so freely. I had no mentors and that’s why I mentor. Coming up as a stylist, it was actually hard for me to borrow clothes from fashion houses. Although the artists I worked with were celebrities in my world, they wouldn’t be able to get clothes loaned to them. But through every challenge lies an opportunity and I was inspired to start designing clothes because of that. If I couldn’t get a dress or leather hip huggers from designers like Gucci, I just made a better one. I worked with Troy and Guy, the couturiers behind 5000 New Flavors, a company that actually manufactured a lot of clothes for the early Bad Boy artists. During that period, I worked with celebs like Mary J. Blige for her What’s The 411 album. I also worked with Lil’ Kim early in her career and that was a milestone for me because I got to work with Vogue and a lot of international magazines. I was part of her crossing over to MTV and the mainstream because of the “Crush on You” video I styled. Ultimately, I think I’ve been able to succeed because I strive to understand the artists in order to create a look that’s an extension of their personal style.
In recent years, I’ve moved on from individual clients to corporate clients. I’ve worked with Club Monaco, Bill Gates and Microsoft as a Fashion Technology consultant, giving opinions. I’m also a costume designer and have styled several films including Perfect Holiday and The Cookout. What I’m most passionate about right now is a new project that deals with my other passion: hair. I’ve teamed up with celebrity stylist XX to start a hairline called Bella Coif and the Transformers Hair show, showcasing our custom lacefront wigs and quality weaves. As I move on, I reflect and it’s cool to see it all come full circle now. Rihanna’s stylist Mariel Haenn used to work with me. She was my assistant fashion editor at The Source and Nicki Minaj’s stylist, Fatima, is working very hard and is keeping up with the fast pace of Minaj’s career. The fact that Minaj has been described as a modern Lil Kim makes me feel so good, because I was a big part of creating Kim’s image.
Besides work, I have a man — a great, fabulous, sexy black man I’m in love with. He’s not a celebrity. We’ve been together for about five years now. I appreciate that he’s a real man. That’s refreshing. Being in the entertainment industry you see that a lot of times men are so far removed from manhood and what it really means. My guy takes care of me, takes care of my children and even opens my door for me to this day. It’s a good feeling to fall back and let someone take control. That’s a lesson I never thought I would learn, but then again, nothing has turned out like I thought it would, from life to love to motherhood to career. Everything I’ve experienced whether it made me happy or was challenging, has made me who I am today, and I love who I am today.
As told to Zandile Blay