To many, styling celebrities seem like an exciting and fast-paced industry anyone would be glad to work in. The truth is it takes a lot of long hours, hard work, and a keen eye for fashion. The life of a stylist is always on the go, according to celebrity fashion stylist Jyotisha Bridges.
Your dream career doesn't always just fall into your lap, but for Bridges, the cards certainly played in her favor. After pivoting from her assistant job in fashion PR, Bridges discovered her true passion for fashion lay in styling clients and bringing bold looks to life. Working with stars such as Beyoncé, Teyana Taylor, Janelle Monae, Javicia Leslie – the first Black LGBTQ+ Batwoman – and many more, Bridges knows the ins and outs of the fashion world in ways that have allowed her to work with the best the industry has to offer.
As a mentee of esteemed celebrity stylist Law Roach, Bridges learned the meaning of hard work as a Black woman making her way through the industry. Under him, she could model her career after his and use it as a blueprint to carve her own path. In addition to catering to her many clients, Bridges also recently had the opportunity to work with her mentor, styling Roach for season 2 of HBO Max's ballroom competition show, Legendary.
We got a chance to catch up with the busy stylist to learn more about her line of work, her experience navigating the industry as a Black woman, and the importance of making other Black women in Hollywood feel empowered through fashion.
Njera Perkins: I know this has been a crazy year for everybody. How has quarantine treated you? Did it mess up any of your styling plans?
Jyotisha Bridges: Overall, it's been an insane year for all of us in terms of personal. It's been such a shift in the world. We didn't work for three months straight in terms of business, which gave me a lot of time to plot my next move. Now that everything's opening back up, I've been having a lot of amazing experiences and have just been hitting the ground running in the worlds of fashion and styling.
NP: How did you get introduced to the fashion industry, and where does that passion come from?
JB: My grandma was my first mentor. My family's Jamaican and my grandmother's from Harlem, so everyone, in my opinion, from New York was really fly. She used to have minks that dragged [on] the floor and diamonds, so she was really into luxury fashion. Even though she wasn't a super-wealthy person, she made it look classy.
I started off watching her and living in my New York environment with my parents, both being from Harlem with West Indian roots, and then I went to FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York City. I lived in New York for five years in the city (because I'm from Westchester, Mount Vernon). So, living in the city, going to FIT, and being around so many young creatives kind of sparked my passion.
NP: So what gave you that push to pursue it professionally?
JB: Honestly, I went to school for Advertising and Marketing, so I worked at an advertising fashion company called Yoox. We did a lot of in-house luxury stuff, and I hated it. I was at a desk all day, and it was so boring, but we used to do these trunk shows, and a lot of different stylists would come in. And they would be like, 'Oh, I just came back from Milan, flew first-class, styled Nicki Minaj, and I got paid $10,000.'
As an assistant, I made no money, especially what they were making in a day that I basically made in a year. So that was one incentive, and then being creative, that's something I wasn't doing at my job. I quit that and moved to LA.
From there, I started working with Zerina Akers in the first year she got Beyoncé [as a client], so I was assisting her. After her, I started working with Jessica Paster, and I got to see a different side; instead of music, I was [styling] actresses. I started doing more red-carpet styling, and that's where I found my niche, and I met Law [Roach], and things started to change for me. I worked with him for four years, and he taught me a lot about marketing, styling, fashion week, and everything. He was a strong mentor in my career.
NP: What was it like to walk in the footsteps of someone like that and have him help guide you through the industry?
JB: Hard and tough; I think a lot of people see success in fashion but being Black, a woman, or a person of color, there are a lot of barriers you have to overcome, so Law instilled in us a solid work ethic and being creative. At the time, it was so intense, but now I'm like, 'okay, this has really shaped me and gave me the strength to be who I am,' so I'm so grateful for that experience.
NP: In your experience, being a Black woman in fashion and styling, what are some of the challenges you've had to face?
JB: Honestly, it's stuff you don't even think about. For a simple fact [some people say], 'Oh she's Black she can't style' or 'She's Black she must only want to do Hip-Hop.' They'll call me to do a music video, 'Oh, the girl wants to wear a panty and bra set,' and like that's not my aesthetic. My palette is diverse. I can do hip-hop, but I can also do high-end and runway; I can do anything. Putting me in a box just because I'm a woman of color or I'm not a size two is something I'm still working through.
NP: What's the key to your styling process, and how do you go about it for each client?
JB: For me, it's more so about the client. I like to empower people. I like to see what a person enjoys and elevate it. I feel like a lot of stylists have their own style, and then they give it to every client they have, but that's not that person that's you. So I think it's about combining what this person wants in terms of their style preferences and then making them their most powerful self.
NP: Who are some people whose style inspires you?
JB: As far as stylists, I definitely look up to Law because he's a creative genius, Zerina, and what she's done with Chloe x Halle, Wayman + Micah, Karla Welch, Patti Wilson, and there's so many that have come before me and paved the way. Style-wise, who doesn't love Rihanna? Blake Lively, Chloe x Halle and what they're doing, and Zendaya.
NP: Who are some notable clients you've loved working with so far?
JB: Beyoncé, Zendaya, Ariana Grande, one of my clients right now, Javicia, definitely think she's one to watch. I've worked with some commercial clients too, like Nike.
NP: I feel like a lot of time people look at fashion as just the material things, but fashion is culture, it's identity, it's about making a statement. So what's the most rewarding part about being a Black woman and working with other Black women to create looks that are true to them?
JB: I got into fashion to help narrate the way people see Black women, so I wanted to help uplift the viewpoint because growing up, a lot of things I saw were negative. I wanted to curate that look to say, 'Hey, we're beautiful, we're elegant, you don't have to be a size two or whiter than a paper bag. In terms of what I add as a stylist in this industry, I'm about elevating and uplifting all women, especially women of color.
NP: What advice would you give women who want to pursue this career path?
JB: The most important thing I would say is cultivating a relationship with yourself. Once you get to the point of getting your own clients, you have to have a relationship with yourself where you're confident enough to pull off this kind of work. If you don't work well within yourself, you're not going to work well with others.
NP: What are you working on right now, and what's coming up for you next?
JB: I just wrapped Legendary season two, where I styled Law for the show (it was so much fun). I just started working with singer/rapper Russ. I'm doing more work with Javicia and more corporate stuff. I also just signed a deal with Proctor & Gamble. I'm doing a lot of stuff moving forward, growing, building my [portfolio] book, and diversifying and elevating my palette as a stylist.