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Does Beyoncé love a good bargain? My recent guest on “Renaissance Man” said that Queen Bey isn’t married to high-end labels and crazy price tags. If it’s cool, she’ll wear it, according to stylist to the stars and frequent Bey dresser and collaborator, Zerina Akers.
“I’ve always appreciated that she never really cared if something was, like, superexpensive or not and always wanted to support more independent brands and more independent designers and like mixing high and low,” she told me of Beyoncé. “So it’s really cool when, like a lot of her fans, they see when she’s wearing something, they’re like, ‘Oh, OK, this thing is only like $150.’ So that’s always been like a cool factor.”
Akers said dressing the “Lemonade” singer is more of a collaborative effort that she describes as a creative “tug of war” with each pushing the other’s boundaries. As a seasoned stylist, she employs a careful strategy looking at every angle of an outfit from its fit, its aesthetics and how it will be received on social media. It’s far different from how she puts her own looks together.
“When it comes to dressing other people, especially celebrities, I think I always have to be aware of the fact that they I’m not going to have to bear whatever that cross is. You know, I put them in something that maybe has an interesting saying across the T-shirt or whatever it is, they’re going to get scrutinized and judged so much more heavily. And I’m not going to have to necessarily be the one to deal with it or to face it, like be having all these comments about me online or, you know. So I always like to be aware and really kind of go through with a fine-tooth comb.”
Akers has dressed Ava DuVernay, R&B duo Chloe & Halle and actress Yara Shahidi. The power she quietly wields is massive. She can change the trajectory of a small brand just by putting a client in one of their pieces, essentially making her a fashion fairy godmother. And she said that discovery and nurturing of a designer is one of her favorite parts of her job. She said she got her style chops from her cool aunties, worked in the mall in high school and got her big start working at W magazine. She went on to work on campaigns for more accessible brands like TJ Maxx and Macy’s, but after assisting another stylist on a shoot for Beyoncé, she started to see the potential in entertainment. She enjoyed telling a story through clothes, without saying a word.
One of her most memorable career events was the 2021 Grammys. She dressed Bey — who that night became the most awarded woman in Grammy history — in Schiaparelli and Burberry shiny metallic look for the after-parties.
But every stylist has a strong point of view so I needed to know what trend of item of clothing she wanted to make disappear. Her short answer? The Ugg boots. I had to agree, even if it is hypocritical. I do own Ugg house shoes, but I do not own Ugg out-of-house shoes. And I once did an Ugg commercial. I was walking in Los Angeles and ran into my buddy, fellow University of Michigan guy and company pitchman Tom Brady, who was in the middle of filming an ad. So the production people asked me if I would be in it. We re-created us meeting up, shaking hands and chatting. And I went on my merry way.
When the commercial came out, I didn’t make the cut.
Speaking of cuts, we chopped it up on different silhouettes. Most notably double-breasted suit jackets. She said if she were dressing me, she’d put me in a double-breasted espresso-colored suit from Davidson Petit-Frère, who dresses everyone from Kevin Hart to Jay-Z. If you are going to be sporting one, you better be cutting out fried foods and adding hours at the gym because it can accentuate any bulk you or do not have. Why do you think it was the preferred suit style of the NFL draft? Because those men are in the best shape of their lives.
However, Akers avoids the dapper jackets for her female clients.
“I always love it, man, but I always stay away from it for women because those four buttons in the center of your body makes you look so wide,” she said.
Talking to her, I learned she does not shy away from strong opinions and big challenges. She launched Black Owned Everything, which started out as an Instagram account to highlight black-owned brands. It has recently morphed into a marketplace with ecommerce for these smaller creators to sell their wares, which includes everything from clothing to wine glasses to cooking ingredients and other household items.
“So giving these brands the opportunity to actually grow and expand places the power back in their hands to then support their families in a way without having to lean on corporations, without having to necessarily get a 9-to-5, because a lot of these women and men, you know, are able to really grow and sustain … I wanted to make it easier for the consumer to find these back on brands. So there were no excuses. You can come to this site, you can explore different brands,” she said adding that she’s also launched Akers & Akers Foundation to educate some of these business owners on the ins and outs of entrepreneurship.
I love talking to people who hold up an industry from behind the scenes, but I think we’ll be seeing more of Akers in the limelight. If I could be her fairy godfather, I’d see her in a style-based reality show, having her own line of clothing or accessories in big retailers.
Though she didn’t lay out her plan, she did tell me one thing on her wish list that I would like to help grant. She wants to style Queen Latifah. “I never met her, but I always loved her since I was a little girl,” Akers said. I’m waving my wand, and let’s hope my old friend the Queen says yes.
Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the college hoops world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, before transitioning into a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the author of the best-selling book, “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.
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