We had the good fortune of connecting with Taija Williams and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Taija, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I’m from Sumter, South Carolina. I would like to think that my background and upbringing impacted every part of who I am today. I have this love of community that is bred from the coastline of the South that is unlike any other. I feel it in my soul every time I come home. I attribute every beautiful thing about me to my family, that community, and the submersion of nature I grew up in. My morals, tenacity, and love of self all stem from the South. However, coming from such a small town I always looked forward to gaining more from the world around me once I had the opportunity to leave. Unfortunately, a lot of the raw talent and creativity that resides in more rural states aren’t always cultivated in the ways they could be due to access. We don’t always have that same serendipity of stumbling into that nontraditional career path because we don’t often see the pathways to reach it right in front of us. For me that also built my curiosity, which is another impact I can attribute to my home.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?

Many things have cultivated my style of creation in my professional career. I grew up loving history and museums so I like to do a lot of research for my work. Utilizing references from the past that are so small you might miss it really excites me when working on a project. For example, while I’ve been very blessed to work with amazing brands; I am most proud when I get to work on independent projects with my friends. The project I’m most excited about is a short film called “Young Black Peter Pan” where I did costuming for a multi-hyphenated creative and musician Manny Houston. The short film uses the framework of the original “Peter Pan” to portray Neverland as a safe haven for the black community while using Peter Pan and Captain Hook as the analogy of the relationship between young Black men and the police force. It gave me the chance to take elements from each of the previous Peter Pan films and books to really create new meanings in old characters that relate to the Black experience. It was a fun way to push my boundaries in my creativity. Though it’s not always fun and games.

Getting into my field is not easy for many people. For me, I was lucky enough to have someone see the vision in me and pull it out. My journey to build the confidence it takes to take the leap was more difficult than the leap itself. I relocated to Connecticut with no car or job to start a fashion brand a year or so after I graduated college. Even though a lot of progress was made and a lot of things were learned from that experience it didn’t end up working out the way I thought it would. When COVID hit I was enduring the pandemic alone. Somehow, a feeling hit me again to move with no real plan. (I had a job this time though, haha) Adjusting to New York was difficult, giving up my car was difficult, and living without immediate friends and family was difficult. Many times I wanted to return to South Carolina but I kept pushing and holding on to tiny wins and tiny pieces of joy. Eventually, I found my place. And then my childhood friend slowly started introducing me to styling by having me assist him with small tasks. As my tasks and knowledge grew he started taking me to projects and then recommending to people. Now people come to me. My best and most challenging work was probably with creative director and genius Daniel Obasi for AMAKA Studios. Styling is not as glamorous as it seems. It’s a lot of heavy lifting, long hours, and long email threads chasing people around. Which isn’t what I thought it would be going into the career path. You have to love it to survive. Especially when styling films/costume designing. The work is grueling and tedious but pays off in the end.

I don’t have anything anyone should know about me but more so what I want them to know about themselves. You can do this. You can persevere and build on those small wins and learn something new. You can move to a new city. You can recreate as many times as you need to.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m still new to New York in a way. I’m sure born and bred New Yorkers would not agree with my list so I won’t even get into it. I will say I always take people to Brown Butter Biscuits in Crown Heights. It is the best biscuit I have ever had and I’m from the South. I always ask people if they want to do any touristy things. Against my will I will gladly chauffeur them to the vibes of their choice. Brooklyn Beso is another beloved spot for me as well.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would love to dedicate my shoutout to a few people. Mostly, my parents. I think a lot of times we put ourselves in compromising positions because we believe there is a way in which we should live to please our parents or make them proud instead of living to be our authentic selves. The day I decided to actually let my parents know what I really wanted to do in life I found that they wanted nothing more than to love and guide me through the path that I chose for myself. So, I would like to shout my parents out for giving me the support that many people don’t have and always letting me learn the ways in which I wanted to be me as many times as I saw fit. Thank you guys!

My second shout would be to Marion B. Kelly III for seeing something in me and cultivating it. By getting my foot in the door and helping open my own doors. Thank you.

Instagram: @taeerae

Image Credits
@carrington_spires @noraw.jpg

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