Aleali May‘s endeavors as a model, blogger and brand representative has driven the talented young woman for a career in Image Consultancy. Known for effortlessly mixing high fashion brands with streetwear, she merges the two disparity together in her own unique stance. The recent boost of her fame involved working with big names, such as styling Kendrick Lamar and Wiz Khalifa, as well as collaborating with world-renowned brands like Audi USA and Nike. Her new self-titled blog serves as a creative outlet expanding her knowledge on fashion, lifestyle, music and art for her devotees. Here, May shares some of her inspirations, experiences, personal styling tips and simple guidelines that keeps her grounded to her down-to-earth style.
“I’m young, and I try to absorb as much information as possible. I am constantly taking it all in.”
What does your role of being an Image Consultant entail?
Being an image consultant entails merging the roles of stylist with personal/brand consultant. It is much more than just styling – it is helping that person or brand create an identity. I think that people trust me with that role because not only does it come naturally to me, but it is my real every day life. This is a true passion of mine. For example, when I first meet with a client we will talk about what it is that that client is trying to communicate to the world. What is the message behind their aesthetic. That helps me understand the vibe they are trying to give off – and helps me keep my choices for them true to who they are – that goes for a person or a brand. From there, we draw on inspiration from references and ultimately collaborate on an “image” they feel comfortable and confident with.
Who have you worked with in the past and what do their experiences contribute to your successes going forward?
I’ve worked with so many people (well-known to the majority or not) and every person I’ve worked with has contributed to my success, because they have all taught me something. It is these lessons or experiences that I find to be invaluable. That for me is the greatest education – someone with more experience than you or a greater/different skill set, taking the time and patience to break it down to you, sharing their triumphs and their failures. I appreciate that stuff. I’m young, and I try to absorb as much information as possible. I am constantly taking it all in. Every encounter with the next person is equivalent to gold. From Marketing teachers I’ve had at Columbia College Chicago, to my family, to bosses I’ve had when working at Louis Vuitton and RSVP Gallery, to entrepreneurial friends who work so hard on the daily to live out their dreams. Their experiences teach me what type of person I want to be, how to work smart, and what values I want to have. Through them I’ve learned that knowledge is key and sustaining longevity is all about evolution.
“I find myself learning from people younger than me and the certain tactics they have when it comes to displaying it on the internet. It shows you how much the internet will affect so many trends.”
Age has become largely irrelevant to success in the internet generation, what are your thoughts on this?
I can agree. The internet is an open outlet to execute ideas. I feel that experience and knowledge comes from all different ages. It’s a known fact that the youth has projected an image on fashion. Kids actually know what they want and how they want to look, it may change later but the confidence will always be there. I find myself learning from people younger than me and the certain tactics they have when it comes to displaying it on the internet. It shows you how much the internet will affect so many trends.
How do you stay on top of trends and movements to ensure you’re ahead of the curve?
Trends come and go, I like things that are timeless with a story behind it. Even if it’s the flight bombers I wear and they go out of style, I’m still going to wear them because I like them. I pick and choose what relates to my style the most, I never sweat if it’s outdated or ahead. With that said, I do keep myself informed. I keep myself current by researching, reading up on go-to blogs or sites, and more than anything keeping myself surrounded by people who push the envelope and inspire me. For me though, it all comes from a very genuine place. It’s not about staying “ahead of the curve” because at the end of the day, it will always come down to my personal choice over a trend.
How have women changed and defined streetwear over recent times?
From Samantha Jo and Val at Fruition to Melody Ehsani creating designs for Reebok to Hellz Bellz being the first women’s streetwear brand, women have made such a huge impact in streetwear. What I admire about these women especially is that they went out and did it all on their own. No assists. Women like that show young women like myself that there are no barriers. It doesn’t matter who you are, how you grew up, or in this case what gender you are. Especially with social media – it is more and more apparent that there are so many women out there under the “streetwear” umbrella with different lives, aesthetics, and designs but are all strong and provide a unique message. I personally am not one for labels or categorization. For example, when I get up in the morning I don’t say “okay, I’m going to have a streetwear look, today.” When I wake up I say “okay, I like this, this and this, with these shoes,” it just so happens to be what people call “streetwear.” But if we do want to categorize, looking at these women, it’s almost self-explanatory to see that women have changed and defined streetwear. Women have added value to streetwear as well as expanded the margin for people who can wear it. Case in point, you can actually go out and buy a long tee or drop-crotch shorts made specifically for a woman today. Gone are the days when you have to rely solely on buying men’s clothes. Though lets face it, that’s way more fun ;).
“I used to hear in general business, there is a glass ceiling for women. And there have been so many women to prove that statement to be false. Women are taking over. “
Where do you feel is the future role women will play in shaping the industry?
The future role is limitless. I used to hear in general business, there is a glass ceiling for women. And there have been so many women to prove that statement to be false. Women are taking over. I think the biggest cause of that might be the fact that it is also a time where we are collaborating and supporting one another.
How has social media been instrumental to your success thus far?
Social media has played a large part in my success. I am a part of a generation where the internet has evened the playing field for innovators to prosper. People are no longer looking to just athletes and mega superstars, they’re also finding people that are more relatable. I feel like we are more inspired by people we can relate to or be around much more than someone who is untouchable.
How can social media hinder one’s creative growth?
Social media can hinder one’s growth depending on how they use it. If it has a negative influence or you’re using it to display a false image then you automatically know your outcome. One of the biggest hinders on growth though I think is that it is very easy to get caught up on someone else’s life or career. Social media is a constant reminder of what the next person is doing, how they are doing it, where they are doing it. That can put a big limit on one’s creativity. It’s a two-edged sword because we have this tool now where we can see our peers and be inspired. But, if you start to compare yourself too much or allow it to set a barometer for your creativity, that can be lethal.
“Styling is not dressing the person how you dress, it’s helping them evolve from what they already have. People wear certain things for a reason; you never want to strip them of their own identity.”
How would you describe your style?
My style is a blend between streetwear and high-end fashion. I love to show that you can fuse two cultures together. It’s all about bridging that gap. EXPAND. I love wearing plain tees with Balmain jeans, Jordans with Chanel, Hermes with BAPE. I was warned as a young girl that beauty is pain, but as Donald Trump says, “everything’s negotiable.”
You’ve styled Kendrick Lamar among other hip-hop heavyweights. How do you style an artist who already has such a strong fashion identity?
I like to add on to, never take away from their own style. Styling is not dressing the person how you dress, it’s helping them evolve from what they already have. People wear certain things for a reason; you never want to strip them of their own identity. As real and organic as possible is how I like to keep things. And I think at the end of the day the client will respect that and want to work with you in the long run.
How has your background in sales helped you with your own projects in fashion?
Going to school for Marketing and also working in sales has helped tremendously. In my mind I’m constantly breaking down a business plan and a SWOT analysis. It helps give off the message I’m aiming for with my projects in fashion.
Can you share any misconceptions you’ve come across in regards to women in streetwear?
The biggest misconception is we wear our boyfriends’ clothes when in reality we actually shop in the boys section, haha! All jokes aside, there are a lot but by breaking barriers as we have thus far, we put any of those misconceptions to rest.