After more than five years of living a conventional life, Phylicia Bernard left her nursing profession to follow her dreams full time as a personal stylist and has been enjoying doing that for three years now.
Phylicia, a Guyanese by birth, left these shores for the US at the age of 11 and continued her education at Clara Barton High School as well as Kingsborough Community College where she first pursued studies in nursing. “As an immigrant, having a secure job was the safest place to be according to my family. They simply wanted the best for their children and didn’t see unconventional routes as an option. So, when we realized my high school had a nursing programme, it was automatically something I had to pursue,” she told The Scene.
The stylist describes her time in nursing as boring; she was unmotivated and uninspired, and every day would find her constantly waiting for it to end. She noted that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a nurse, but it’s a job that one must love doing and take seriously as with any career.
As a child, she was somewhat shy but always loved fashion and found she could use it to make a breakthrough in connecting and getting conversations going. Phylicia said migrating exposed her to more clothing options and personal styles and by 12 or 13 years old, she found herself gravitating toward fashion indulging more in the creative aspect of it.
While she was a nurse Phylicia did personal styling part time creating a customer base before taking the plunge of quitting her job. “I always had a love for all things fashion related, but it wasn’t until read the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, [that I was] motivated and completely inspired to start my own business,” she said. “I always knew fashion was my passion but never thought I could actually make a career out of it let alone a business… so I took the book as a sign that there was more out there for me and that I can follow my dreams. Although I was ridiculously afraid of stepping into the unknown, and afraid of what my family would think, I quit nursing and began this journey full time.”
When Phylicia announced to her family that she was leaving her well-paid job and at a time when she was on her way to becoming a nurse practitioner they thought she had lost her mind. To them, not only was she going crazy, but she was rebelling against what her family stood for when it came to job security. One at a time and also together, they tried talking her out of it but Kiyosaki’s book was all Phylicia needed to take the bull by its horns, and she did. She founded her business, which is called Style IngeNewity.
“I believe,” she said, “when we want something bad enough we make it happen, no matter how high the mountain is to climb.”
But no journey is without challenges. “Breaking into the industry in general I would say was the hardest part,” she said. “I started with no connections from scratch and had to make my own way in creating something I didn’t see out there. People in the industry basically don’t want to listen to you in the beginning; you’re a newbie, haven’t proven how talented you are yet. I overcame this by positioning myself as someone with value to offer from the start. As I continue to grow, I also know the power in never giving up. If something doesn’t go as planned or someone doesn’t answer my email, I keep pushing, only focused on the end goal, my prize; not the setbacks in-between.”
More importantly, she realized how vital it was to believe in herself when no one else did and see beyond any barriers limiting her potential. With every level of personal growth, her mindset was strengthened, and she learned how to remain strong even in the tough times.
What is it that keeps her going whenever she’s having a bad day? “…God … and the purpose He has given me,” she said. “This journey, believe it or not, has really strengthened my faith. Even in those moments when it seems like nothing is going right, I keep believing that it is. I ultimately want to help women look and feel like their best selves and I try to keep that at the forefront of my mind at all times.”
Apart from the challenges and a full-time schedule, she has her share of laughs one of which included a time when she forgot all of the designer clothing at home, the most important piece of getting a photoshoot done. How something like that slipped her mind, she could not say but what once had her in frustration and scrambling to get them has her laughing today every time she recalls the event.
When Phylicia first began her business, she would frequent female entrepreneur Facebook groups which informed her on getting on there and finding clients. Sometimes she collaborated with women in fashion and wrote guest posts on blogs when she wanted to reach a new audience. Social media has been her platform.
Her business has since grown and so have the incredible responses from her clients but there’s one particular comment she never forgets. “… The one that has stuck with me by far is ‘OMG I would have never thought to pair these things together, but I love it.’ I can always tell when a newfound look I put together is definitely her when she says these words. It makes me happy to hear that we are developing her personal style and eye for what she likes,” Phylicia enthused.
While she is always assisting everyone else in finding their style, she has her own. The stylist loves flaunting a black sequinned gown said to be an Alice and Olivia brand. It gives her a regal feel and any piece that makes her feel that majestic, where she can stand tall and feel confident about herself is a piece worth wearing.
Being in the fashion industry has bettered the stylist in standing firm to what she believes in. It has also taken her from being shy to more open. In fact, she realized that for her to be able to market her business, she needed to be more out there.
In an industry that often forgets about plus-size women, Phylicia has few inspirations. Her biggest concern is helping women to love themselves and boost their confidence through creating a genuine personal style. Top personal stylist, Lauren Messiah, she said, is not limited to a body type and from her she has learnt to style women of all sizes as well as brand herself. Another person she admires is celebrity stylist, June Ambrose. According to Phylicia, it is actually never about the clothes but more about how one sees oneself and the personal style created from that. She added that fashion trends vary and come and go but a unique style will stand the test of time. Once persons can figure out what style suits them, then having the wardrobe of their dreams is easier to figure out.
In the future, Phylicia sees herself producing fashion shows for emerging designers as well as introducing women to new fashion options outside of the mainstream. She plans on becoming a designer also where she will collaborate with other established designers in producing off-the-chart collections.
She acknowledges her biggest supporter to be her significant other and father of her son adding that he understands the life of an entrepreneur being one himself. Phylicia also recognized some of her long-standing girlfriends noting that they believed in her from the start and always share in her success.
In her limited free time, she loves dancing specifically African dancing mentioning that when she first came to the US she did African dance all through Junior High and even today she cannot get enough of it.
In a bid to encourage aspiring stylists who are considering if it is worth the risk to pursue their dreams, Phylicia said, “Just go for it! The unknown is always scary. I mean think about when you were simply entering a new school or something else new and you were afraid or nervous, it’s the same feeling. But here’s something else, you always got through it! So, keep that in mind as you think about doing this. It won’t be easy or necessarily quick success, but I guarantee you can come out on top if you want it bad enough and you know why you want to do it. Knowing why keeps you focused in the bad times. You might not even know where to begin, I understand, but realize that only by taking action is where the next steps can start to unfold and be shown to you. Also, there are risks in all areas of life whether you choose to see it or not, but the ones you take out of passion can be very rewarding. Lastly, block all the naysayers… and surround yourself with people who get it. Don’t share your big dreams with just anyone.”
For a year and a half after quitting nursing she was styling freelance as well as doing a number of internships for New York Fashion Week and working at Saks Fifth Avenue, but it ended up not being the sort of fashion biz for her.
At present, Phylicia does not have a stationary location and can be contacted via email firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website www.styleingenewity. com. Follow her on Instagram at styleingenewity.