A few months ago I read an article entitled the 25 most powerful stylists and I found it interesting for its lack of factual measurement and the exclusion of names that should have been on the list. I’m not sure how they defined power. The word power can be translated in several different languages but the meaning shouldn’t have too many variations. In Southern Africa, the Zulu translation of power is Amandla. It was also the uniformed rally and cry against apartheid and injustice. I believe the power of a person is measured by their influence and impact on culture and society. When it comes to the most powerful celebrity stylists in the game I believe that honor belongs to Raquel Smith and Ty Hunter. You may ask how our editorial team came up with this conclusion? Facts of course. Specifically facts, receipts and basic mathematics. As the style team behind the world’s biggest entertainer, and CFDA style icon recipient, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Raquel and Ty have ineradicably impacted fashion in a way that no one else has and the receipts of this can be found by simply calculating the magnitude of Beyoncé’s fashion impact multiplied by consumers spending their dollars to replicate her varied style moments. Ty has served as Beyonce’s Fashion Director and enlisted the team of stylists that include Marni Senofonte whose work is prominently featured in Lemonade, Lysa Cooper, B. Akerlund, and Karen Langley who all contribute to Beyonce’s look. Beyoncé’s style has been a beautiful fairy-tale of its own, evolving and elevating through time. Raquel and Ty have been with her through her journey and are now sharing their own journeys.
Ironically before venturing into fashion both Raquel and Ty were working in the medical field.. Their quest for more lead them to different jobs that helped propel them to their destiny. Ty was BeBe’s leading sales star and Raquel was a fashion intern at Nautica. After several unsuccessful cold calls requesting to intern at House of Dereon, Raquel’s persistency paid off when she landed an awesome opportunity as a freelancer for the company. It is there where she met Ty who had left BeBe and was already assisting Ms. Tina Knowles Lawson with Destiny’s Child. Without assurance of where their path would take them, Raquel and Ty both continues to step out on faith for their dreams.
“Sometimes we get comfortable where we are and get stuck,” begins Ty. “We know we want more and deserve more and that’s where I was at BeBe. I learned about chasing my passion and having to transition for the better then. I am so proud of Raquel and what she has accomplished and what she continues to do and is venturing into with her jewelry line, motivational speaking and her creating this event and platform for others to learn and be encouraged. We love building up our people and make a conscious effort to help others. We want to help the next stylist, next designer etc. We all have to help the next person, the next reporter, the next singer. There’s enough room and money out here that you don’t have to compete, you have to build with each other,” said Ty.
Building is exactly what they are doing. Raquel and Ty have created magic together for over ten years and have assisted in launching a lot of people’s careers in the process. Now Raquel is taking her innate ability to inspire, touch and elevate others to a higher dimension by curating the “Let’s Talk” ” series which is a therapeutic oasis of learning, building, inspiring and connecting as well as an organized infrastructure for people to maximize their potential.
“I created this event because we were constantly being bombarded with DM’s and questions about our work, advice, tips and things that people wanted to know in order to be successful,” said Raquel. “I felt it was time to do something like this. ““Let’s Talk” ” will be an ongoing intimate event for stylists, entrepreneur and professionals to connect, learn and grow.”
On September 10th, Raquel and Ty along with their amazing coordinated team (including Ms. Fabienne Niles, her Creative Project Manager) pulled off an absolutely enriching spirit-filled event that brought together a beautiful group of people in search of growth, simple support and wisdom. The positive energy that Raquel and Ty encompass within themselves was contagious and soaked through everyone present. It was all very calming and peaceful. The up and coming stylists and designers in attendance wanted to learn from the best and they finally got their chance. It was beautiful to watch. Ty and Raquel shared their journeys, obstacles and truth through an unapologetic dialogue. They were gracious and thankful to those in attendance as well as their industry sponsors who helped make the event absolutely flawless and provided attendees with amazing Award-style swag bags filled with an assortment of beautiful products from the legendary Kim Kimble, Author Marquita Smith, Mally Beauty, Naturabisse Cosmetics, Rebecca Minkoff and a slew of others. I even got a much needed interview appropriate Nautica notebook in my bag! Check out the video below for a sneak peek.
Raquel and Ty answered several questions about life, goals, sacrifices they’ve had to make for their dreams, overcoming challenges and regrouping from loss as Raquel is doing after losing her father. “I lost myself after that,” she explained. “I had to find myself and I said, Lord I want more. I wanted to do something in remembrance of him. I wanted to do something to give back to him. I didn’t know what but I went back to F.I.T and decided to take courses and I fell in love with my jewelry courses. When I took the classes it took me away from the world. I found a lot of peace in it. It was fun. It took me away from everything,” she shared so transparently.
When legendary designer Giuseppe Zanotti saw Raquel’s collection he loved it. He offered to do the production for her design and this is how the beautiful eye-catching W necklaces that you see on your favorite celebrities came to life. Raquel created her necklaces based on the two important men in her life, her father and the apple of her eye, her handsome little son. They are both named William.
“It’s very healing for me to create pieces in my life that carry so much meaning,” she shared. Raquel’s artistry through her own creation of jewelry and healing (which is a continuous process) is evidence of why I believe that no matter how difficult it is to endure, sometimes darkness is as necessary as light. Just like we need our days we need our nights. It’s a balance. Ying and Yang. Sometimes something beautiful rises out of darkness. Darkness allows you to appreciate light in its greatest magnitude. A life only consumed in constant bliss and light can be blinding. The absence of cloudy days and hardship complicates growth. There’s no pain more profound than the loss of a parent. Because I lost both I completely relate to Raquel and her process of soul searching and trying to find meaning and true depth in life. I’m ever so appreciative of those moments of darkness that allowed me to focus on what was most important in life and that’s God and faith. Everything else goes at one point or another. Sometimes relationships, friendships, material objects, jobs, people etc., they all go. What remains is the spirit. The only constant we have is God. Out of her pain, not only is Raquel gifting her father, she has gifted us with her own magical artistry in royal gold. Something curated from the depths of her soul, pain and happiness.
Now her jewelry can be seen on celebrities such as Taraji P. Henson, Iman, Beyoncé and more. That’s a testimony worth sharing. Ty has also brilliantly transformed the inspiration he shares on Instagram into successful product ventures. He has his own emoticon app. As a matter-fact he was the first human emoji. You can get the Ty Hunter app from swift media on your phones. His passion project “With Passion!!!” in partnership with Served Fresh is now part of pop culture along with his must-have Ty Lite lighting that brightens up every selfie. Along with discussing fashion at “Let’s Talk”, Ty and Raquel shared advice on how to capitalize on having an entrepreneurial spirit in the way that they have.
By cementing great relationship with designers and valuing each person they came across, Raquel and Ty were able to flourish at a time when a few others couldn’t pull from showrooms. In matters of style, Ty, Raquel and Beyoncé have significantly contributed to not just the fashion diameter but to the social fabric and climate that influences the psychology of how we see ourselves and others. Whether the close knit duo have Beyoncé draped in a white Michael Costello winter wonderland lace gown or have her presented as a gothic Ricardo Tisci vampire bride exuding power and mystery, the enigmatic vocalist’s style is quickly copied and emulated by the masses. Her simple but iconic single ladies leotard sparked a trend and the bodysuit/leotard look that had been reserved for ballet became a signature performance piece. Through time, Raquel and Ty have commissioned variations of this look in metallic, latex, mosaic, crystal and there was the intricate black sheer laced bodysuit with dramatic sleeves that had a cathedral romantic Victorian feel-- a look many women love and other singers tragically duplicated. Nevertheless, Beyonce’s fashion versatility is captured through her style, range and diversity.
Like a Yinka Shonibare ballerina sculpture, Beyoncé has slayed in West African post-colonial patterns and in bright colored dashikis. She completely owned the definition of beauty while clothed in gorgeous elegant Wax and Ankara print shorts and what looked like Zambian and Zairean styled Kitenge shirts.. Adorned with authentic tribal jewelry, the varied African looks that Beyoncé has been styled in over time have opened some closed eyes to how immensely rich and chic traditional African couture is. On the surface, when Beyoncé is photographed in African-inspired designs this could be looked at as simple fashion moments but on a deeper level and specifically a sociological level, these style moments are a symbolic message of counter-colonialism that reminds mainstream that despite a manipulative forced singular narrative, Africa is and has always been independently fashionably rich, unequivocally beautiful, and something to be very proud of. As the biggest entertainer in the world, through her style choices, I believe that Beyoncé un-apologetically forces you to tap into your consciousness and rethink the manner in what you have been taught about Blackness and Africa.
For the young expats and immigrant girls from the diaspora and even African girls in their own hometown, this message resonates with critical importance and says “Our style cannot be unfairly appropriated while our culture and people simultaneously remain invisible in your fashion conversations and presentations. Secondly, we will not be discarded, and lastly we are trend-setters in our own skin and textiles. Who can argue this point when Beyoncé is rocking your traditional attire? No one. All of these factors from my intro up to now are just a few reasons why it is my belief that it was irresponsible and factually incorrect to compile a list of the most powerful stylists in this business without including Raquel Smith and Ty Hunter. Despite the fact that their work is a concentration on the physical their internal is what makes them so powerful and the impact of their style selections is changing the fabric of our social construct. That is power. Amandla!
If you aspire to learn and grow in this business make sure you attend Raquel and Ty’s next “Let’s Talk”series. For more information, follow Raquel Smith and Ty Hunter on Instagram and visit www.letstalktyraq.com. - written by Abesi Manyando for 7thandlotus “Let’s Talk” Video directed by Rome Allen.