Rod grew up in Portsmouth, Virginia with his parents and younger sister. Always having a creative imagination, Rod’s “When I grow up” moments took on a variety of destinations. He told me, “When I was younger I wanted to do something totally different than what I’m doing right now. First, I wanted to be a Veterinarian, then I wanted to be in the FBI. It always changed as I got older.” Rod joined the Navy after Hampton before maneuvering one last time to his ultimate calling, fashion. Sink or swim, Roderick is committed to his passion. Very soon it will be smooth sailing.
Rod and I caught up in the Queen City, Charlotte, North Carolina. Immediately his presence exuded “High Fashion.” We kicked off with small talk about mutual friends and up coming travel. He mentioned an upcoming trip to LA and one of his favorite restaurants. I’m thinking, “Man, I need to get out there soon too!” Roderick has done a tremendous amount of work in the fashion & music industries. Featured in Vogue Italia, Harper’s Bizarre, and even worked on BET’s 106&Park. If you check Rod’s Instagram you can see an expanded glimpse of his portfolio. The work speaks for itself. He quipped, “All I want to do is style, travel the world, and make great money. I don’t think I’m asking for too much!” In the midst of laughter I opened with question one of this week’s #ShineHard Conversation…
What is your passion and when did you know?
Rod: Well, any aspect of fashion is what I love. I realized it in my sophomore year at Hampton. While I was there I styled the homecoming fashion shows and the Ms. Hampton Pageant. My big sister McKenzie (Renae) is the one who really let me know, “This is something you should do if you really enjoy it!” She is the one who really pushed me to step out there and do it! When I left Hampton I went and joined the Navy and realized It really wasn’t for me.
I started my own modeling agency before I left and it was doing well. It was just too much to do by myself. I realized styling was gonna be the best way to go and I just started reaching out to people. I networked my tail off between Instagram, Faceboook, Twitter, and my first celebrity client was Juicy J. After I worked with him, I worked with Pusha T, Raheem DeVaughn, Anthony Hamilton and just kept going and going, new doors started to open. It took blood, sweat, and tears, because fashion is probably the most cut throat industry that you can work in. They will chew you up and spit you out and not even care about it.
So how were you able to get Juicy J on your client roster?
Rod: So my boy Young Money Yawn in Virginia, he’s good friends with Pusha T. During that time, he knew I was working with models and doing styling stuff. He called me and was like, “Hey Juicy J is here and he wants some girls for this video that he’s shooting. Do you have anybody that can come?” I did and we went to the studio and shot a couple videos. I provided the models. After that, I worked with Juicy J. Styled him for the next video he did.
So what artists and designers did you look up to growing up?
Rod: Michael Jackson was like. IT. That’s all I needed. I watched that Moon Walker movie like everyday. Every single day. I knew every scene that was coming up. He was probably my biggest inspiration. In fashion, a few major inspirations are Halston. He was one of the first american designers to trump french designers. Tom Ford, he went from the creative director of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent to having His Own company. Valentino,Alexander Wang, and then Armani, The King of Italy.
What would you say motivates you to succeed?
Rod: I would probably say, like after my sophomore year, I knew the life that I wanted to live and that was probably my biggest motivation. Because you had these people like Chris Brown, Rihanna, Justin Beiber; these millionaires at such a young age. I felt like I was so far behind in what I wanted to attain in life, ya know? Because these people had already reached these plateaus as teenagers. That’s what really pushed me to say,“Hey get up off your ass and go do what you gotta do!” It’s not gonna just fall in your lap, you have to really go out and pursue it. It’s been hard, but it’s been rewarding at the same time. I know it’s still so much that’s about to happen and I’m just being patient.
Mann I feel the same way! The lifestyle piece is a huge motivator for me also. What’s been the biggest challenge in your styling career thus far?
Rod: Finances. Really what I had to do is try to make friends with as many flight attendants as I could and people who don’t really use their buddy passes. A flight for me using someone’s buddy pass to LA is $140 versus $600. Having clients in New York, LA, and Miami and being able to get to those locations. That’s my biggest thing.
So what do you do when there’s a long distance shoot that you can’t make it to?
Rod: So what I initially started doing when I couldn’t reach a model that I wanted to do a photo shoot with is; Mobile. The first one I ever did was in San Francisco. The model laid out all the clothes, she showed what she had, and I put it all together and styled her via FaceTime. That was my first time ever doing that. It was great because I didn’t have to be there. I also got credit for working with this amazing photographer and amazing model.I got published in a magazine and I was able to put it in my portfolio. I’ve done fifteen shoots via FaceTime.
Plus, I have assistants in New York, I have an assistant in Miami. I don’t have an assistant in LA yet, but I’m working on that now. Like this week, I cant make it to New York. But I have my assistant and she’s pulling clothes for a client who’s doing Hot 97 and other performances up there.
What is the end goal for you in the fashion industry?
Rod: Having that one substantial client. I look at Beyonce’s stylist or Rhianna’s stylist; stylists who are with their client every single day. They go on tour with them, they go on vacation with them, they go everywhere and they’re getting paid $30,000 a month doing it. Once I get that I can build my empire. I know it’s coming and once I get it; The Sky is the limit.
Tell me about a life experiences that’s inspired you..?
Rod: There’s this client that I was talking about earlier in New York. She’s 17 years old, from Jamaica. She had the #1 song in Jamaica and she was on MTV’s “Artists to Watch” list this year. We did 106&Park. That was my first time flying to a place where the team company paid for everything. That was my first glimpse of what my life would really be like if I really got into it. I flew in, all black suburban took me to the hotel, got me checked in, and took me to get the clothes. I had fittings with her and we had a couple record label meetings. So I’m in the room with Republic Records’ CEO and all these record label honchos, Columbia, etc. Then we had a signing in Time Square and there were hundreds of kids lined up ready to see her. It was Crazy! I’m at 106 talking to Bow Wow. Just being there and seeing how everything operates. I’m on stage getting her ready for her performance. Then boom! She goes live. I’m like, “THIS is how I see my life all the time.” That was the biggest eye opener of what life will be like, and it’s inspired me to bust my ass. The artist is Samantha J. They’re comparing her to Rihanna and She already has 2 million views on her Youtube video. She just got signed to Columbia.
Which clients do you enjoy working with most?
Rod: I enjoy everyday models that are with agencies. That have been with an agency for a while because they’re seasoned. They know how to move, they know their angles, they know their lighting, and they know what it’s going to take to get that image right. Celebrity wise, the best client that I’ve worked with is Juicy J. He’s just the coolest most down to earth person. Like I would just go to LA and have dinner with him at Crustacean in Beverly Hills, he’d pay for everybody. Or in the studio he’ll order like 20 pizzas & bottles. Just a regular normal night. Also Samantha J because she’s flexible and allows me to be creative with her without messing up her aesthetic as an artist. Oh, and I just worked with a guy Jamahl Thomson, the first African-American to book Revlon. He’s signed with IMG, the biggest model agency in the world.
What frustrates you the most about today’s culture?
Rod: Probably, people who say they’re one thing and they’re not. So you’ll have a lot of stylist who say, “Oh, I’ve styled ‘these people.’ I’m doing this, I’m doing that,” but you never see their work. You never see what’s coming next. You wonder what they are really doing. You never see them go to New York, you never see them go to LA, You never see them go to Miami… It’s like where is the substance?
What really bothers me too is people, men or women, who want to be models and want to do high fashion stuff, but they don’t know the difference between high fashion, Commercial, and urban. You’ll have a lot of people with an urban look that want to do High Fashion, but its like I want you to do your research and really figure out, “Do I look like these people who are in this magazine?” They get frustrated when I say, “You don’t have the look” or “I don’t have the time to work with you right now.” And to be honest it’s not trying to be cocky, because I don’t knock anyone’s dream at all, but you have to know what’s realistic and what’s unrealistic.
What accomplishment are you most proud of thus far?
Rod: When I got published in Italian Vogueand then I got published Harper’s Bizarre. Those are my biggest things to date. I’ve also done recent shoots for a magazine that I’m waiting to submit, called Schön. It’s a huge magazine over seas. I’m hoping that it gets published because that would be the next big thing for me.
What is the #1 factor behind your success ?
Rod: Networking. It’s gonna be the biggest tool in anybody’s arsenal. It’s all in who you know at the end of the day. Sometimes it’s about how much money you have because you can finagle your way through when you got money. But really its just who you know! I networked my tail off to get to where I am now, and it was all from references. “I’ve worked with this person, you should work with this person.” I’d tell anybody to this day networking is gonna get you to where you need to be. That’s why I say Instagram is Créme de la Créme of social networking right now.
What Advice would you give young Stylists that aspire to do what you’re doing?
Rod: What I always tell people is, “Do whatever you would do for free for the rest of your life, because that’s what ultimately is gonna make you happy.” If you can do it for free, you can do it and get paid. That’s a given. Know your craft. Know the industry and know your history. I can’t stress knowing fashion history enough. You don’t ever want to be going somewhere and somebody is like, “Oh did you see the new Fall Collection from Miu Miu?” and you’re like, “Who is that?”. You don’t know who that is -_- ? You have to know so much about this industry to even make it. You have to constantly study, because fashion evolves everyday. You have to want it, you can’t just wait for it to come to you. You have to be hungry! And I know it’s cliche, but don’t ever let anyone say you can’t do something.
Johnny: First they’ll ask you WHY you’re doing it, then later they’ll ask you HOW you did it. Let’s let the work speak for itself. Keep shining bro!#ShineHard
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