KarmaJonez Exclusive: Bevy Smith Talks Diversity In Fashion & Harlem’s Fashion Row at Clark Atlanta University

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Bevy Smith, best known to the younger generation as the no holds barred, feisty co-host of Bravo’s “Fashion Queens”, made her way to Clark Atlanta University today to talk about Harlem’s Fashion Row and the what it means to have diversity in the fashion world. This initiative, sponsored by McDonald’s as a part of their 365 Black campaign, seeks to encourage young people of color to dive into the fashion industry head first.

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Though most of us now know her for her role on “Fashion Queens” Bevy was doing fashion way before then. Born in Harlem, New York, Smith would later become the senior director of immigration advertising at Rolling Stone, as well as fashion and beauty advertising director for Vibe magazine. Smith was offered a couple of other gigs along the way that she ended up passing on, and in our sit down, she explained why. Among other things, Bevy is a class act, and powerhouse entrepreneur with a go-getter attitude. Here’s what she had to say:

On Her Career Journey:

“I was very successful, I was at Rolling Stone magazine. Really great career. And one day, when I was 38 years old, I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore. I decided I wanted to pursue a career in television. While it was not an easy journey, it was an amazing journey. Every obstacle that was in the way, made me a stronger person. It was thanks to really great brands. One of the first brands that I worked with when I went out on my own was actually McDonald’s. I did this really great thing with the launch of McCafe where I outfitted all the models in caramel clothes, and they were also introducing oatmeal, and I put them in chunky oatmeal sweaters. Thanks to having really great partners who believed in me so early in my journey. It’s great to come back to be a part of a brand that was an extension of my brand. It took me from the day that I quit in 2005 on Valentine’s Day…I got the show eight years later. It was an eight year journey.”

What would she like to see in terms of diversity in the fashion industry?

“We have warriors on the frontlines who have been very vocal about the need for diversity in fashion. Of course there are people like Brandice [Henderson] and myself. So just us being a part of the conversation, and making sure we reach back and pull others along. We need to make sure that we are touching the kids in college, and even in high school. And make sure that we are telling them the real deal about the business of fashion. See, fashion is not about being fabulous darling…and clothes, that’s what they don’t tell you. I’m going to tell the kids about the business. Tell them about the tools they’ll need to get in the room, much less succeed in the room.”

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On Her Motivation:

“My motivation is honestly, and it’s going to sound so trite. My truest motivation is I want to wake up every single day, and love what I’m about to embark on. I’ve paid my dues. So right now in my life, I only do things that please me. I don’t work with people I don’t want to work with, and I don’t take on projects that I’m not interested in. So if you see me doing something, please believe, it isn’t about the check, it’s because I believe in it.”

On Fashion Queens:

“We’re not an ‘urban’ spin. I think often times when people see more than three Black people in a space, they automatically think ‘urban.’ But if we see three to four white people in a space, we don’t think ‘it’s a white show.’ If we see three Black people, we think ‘it’s a Black show.’ We cover across the spectrum fashion. You must know that ‘urban’ is a euphemism. It’s code word for ‘black.’ Please forgive me, if I feel I need to make that statement…words have power.

On Dinner With Bevy:

“Once we wrap in May, I usually like to take off. You know Australia, maybe a Brazil moment. I think I’m going to do Asia this year. And once I come back, it’s time for Essence Fest and some other things. To do Dinner With Bevy correctly, you need the time to curate your guest list, and kind of build it. I intend on doing one in the Fall.”

On Black Designers:

“Tracy Reese, Steven Burrows, Kimberly Goldson, who is someone I mentored for years, I was so excited to see her be a part of Harlem Fashion Row and really push it forward. For me a Patrick Kelly, I wish that we could have a modern day Patrick Kelly. That is my prayer, that we have someone like that. It was such an honor to have met him and to have owned his clothes. I don’t know a lot of the designers in the diaspora. I think the problem is they’re not really included in the American fashion business.To be very honest, my background is really a Milan, Paris, London fashion. It’s only now that I’ve been on the publishing side, the editorial side that I’ve seen all these amazing fashion weeks popping up all over the globe.”

On Reality TV:

“Never done reality TV and never will.”

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(From Left: Bernice Henderson in White Blazer; Kristen Wells of McDonald’s in Yellow)

To keep up with Bevy, you can follow her on Twitter at @bevysmith http://https://twitter.com/bevysmith

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