I had the privilege to interview one of Ottawa's up and coming Editorial Wardrobe Stylist, Ms. May Milly. She is absolutely amazing at what she does, and just so happens to be one of the sweetest and sincerest people I have had the privilege of meeting.
What do you do?
I am an editorial wardrobe stylist with Donna May stylist. Donna May stylist is a wardrobe styling company that my good friend Donna and I started, hence DonnaMay. We wanted to bring out people’s personalities through their style, we wanted to have a creative outlet for the ideas in our head, and we just want to inspire creativity.
When did you know you wanted to pursue what your doing now?
I think it was about a little over two years ago, I had worked in retail for I’d say seven years, and when I got out of it and lost that personal customer service connection with styling people. I knew that I really wanted to do that full-time but I didn’t want to go into retail again or work for someone else. So that’s when I started my own company, where I still get those personal one on one connections and I can add my own creative spin to it.
Who is your entrepreneur inspiration?
I don’t know to be honest because I am still learning, discovering entrepreneurs and discovering the whole entrepreneurial world too I guess. But I’d say someone that’s not famous and who probably motivated me a lot and they don’t even know it is Samantha Mcleod. She’s been growing her own business for about five years now and she’s kind of always encouraged all those people around her to do it too. She has always said “to be your own boss”, I think that it eventually got into my head that I want that. She is that positive voice in the background always telling me to be my own boss and my own person. It’s funny that I just thought of her now, yea she has no idea and to this day she is probably of one the people I work the closest with in the business industry and probably one of my biggest supporters.
Is there anyone in your field that you look up to?
I would probably say fellow wardrobe stylist, Alyssa Beltempo and Erica Wark. They are probably the biggest names in Ottawa right now. I haven’t met either personally, I’ve interacted with Alyssa through social media though, and she has always been supportive and very encouraging. I want to get to the point where she is, she’s so known and loved by people in the business. Just to have the connections that she does would be amazing and so helpful. It’s nice that there are local people that we can look up to because they’ve worked so hard to make it and I know if I work just as hard, it’ll be me in due time.
Do you or did you have a mentor?
There are so many people obviously who have pushed me to be better, supported me, and motivated me to do what I’m doing. But the way that this kind of came to be for me, I would say I was my own mentor in a way. It was hard obviously because it helps to have someone to be your constant voice of reason, and its hard when that’s you, but I think when I started off I was really big on being my own mentor. But as I’ve grown into the business, there is definitely someone who I turn to a lot of the time. Her name is Kaja Tirrul of Kaja Photo, a local photographer. She was the first photographer I ever worked with and to this day she has helped get us published the most. Anytime I have doubts about shoots, pieces, ideas, I know I can turn to her to guide me through it. She has always told us how great our work is, and reminds us that this company that we started has got what it takes to be great. Kaja has been really great for keeping that going for us and keeping the fire ignited.
Do you recommend a mentor?
Yes yes yes yes. I wish that I had someone there telling me from the beginning right from wrong. I went down a path in the business too fast at one point and I made some mistakes. You do learn from your mistakes but I think it would have been nice to have been guided on the right path with a good plan from the get-go. It really makes a difference of having someone who has been in the industry you’re perusing to guide you about what will and won’t work. Someone that can teach you where to go, who to talk to and where to start.
Where do you see yourself/your business in the next 5 - 10 yrs?
I’m working towards making this business my full-time job, and I just want to be my own boss at DonnaMay stylist as a living. I want to be hopefully one day have my own magazine, my own work published in that magazine and other local and international stylists. That’s really what it is, I’m just trying to work towards making this a full-time job, to be my own boss and to be able to love what I do and to have a job that I would wake up every morning and I’m not dragging myself out of bed because I’m working for someone else.
What advice would you give to someone that is trying to pursue their dream?
Don’t stop believing, and don’t doubt yourself. That is probably the number one dream killer, is the fear and the doubt of your dream and yourself. There are so many people who have all these amazing dreams and they are just so scared to take that step. You just have to put into perspective and think to yourself, what do I have to lose? Is the outcome greater than that? When we were starting this company, Donna and I had really nothing to lose, if it wasn’t successful then great we tried, had a good run and move on. So don’t stop believing, don’t doubt yourself. Have a dream, pursue it, and pursue it until you run out of options, and even then keep pursuing it. If it’s what you love and you put your all into, there is no way to fail. Do every thing that you can to keep your dream alive because if you don’t your going to be unhappy. That’s the whole point of our life, if we’re not happy then what are we doing.
What advice would you give your younger self?
To be confident in myself. I let a lot of people when I was younger tell me what I should and shouldn’t be wearing, what was cool, what was “in” and what wasn’t, and it really affected my confidence. I would have told myself to just be confident in what I wore, said and did – because if I love it, that’s what matters. At the end of the day, it’s between yourself and nobody else… if you don’t love you, it’ll show.
How do you keep yourself grounded?
I have to keep reminding myself what it took a lot to get here and I have to remember that none of this would have came without God. I remind myself that I didn’t just do this on my own. I didn’t have the struggle that I know any others went through but it was hard to get here nonetheless. I don’t want to let myself get my feet off the ground and see myself as better than anyone else. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears that went into becoming May of DonnaMay and its been a truly humbling experience.
Do you ever get overwhelmed? and if so how do you calm yourself?
Oh everyday, you should see me at photo shoots, I am like a chicken with my head cut off and everybody knows it. Especially when we have photo shoot after photo shoot. Donna and I currently work full-time jobs and between that we manage and run DM. It gets overwhelming, and sometimes you feel like it’s too much but I calm myself by just reminding myself that I LOVE doing this. I don’t hate what I do, it doesn’t feel like work to me. I would rather be stressing out and overwhelmed by styling photo shoots than sitting in an office miserable and being overwhelmed by paperwork for the rest of my life that I don’t feel passionate about. I go away on trips quite often though to calm my energy. That’s were my other little project called “Adventures Of Milly” came to be. When we go through period of a lot of shoots, we get a little down time and I say “ok I’m going to go away now, I need to recharge my mind. I’m going to see the world now and come back”. Everyone needs to be re-energized at some point and for me its discovering new places. Everyone is inspired by something different and everything you do in life you should do it to inspire others. So even when I’m on “vacation” to calm down, I hope its inspiring other people.
Looking back did you ever fathom you would be where you are now?
Not in a million years, I thought I would get into politics, be a professor, or an event planner. All these things, and then being a stylist came to me out of the blue. It just kind of clicked; I want to be a stylist. I started styling, and it took off and it felt incredible. I never thought I would be here, even two years into it. Even being published it blows my mind! We’ve been published in seven magazines right now, I cried the first time we got published. It was like “wait, whaaat we’re published in a magazine based in New York?!”, its surreal.
Why do you love what you do?
Because it makes me happy, that’s really all it is, it just makes me so happy and it fills my heart in a way that I don’t think anybody or anything could.
How do you start your day?
My 9-5 during the week is just the basic get up, get ready and do what you have to do. My weekends/photo shoot days though, I’m awake way earlier than I should be. It usually consists of a lot of checking and double checking that you’ve got all products and pieces. I usually have my morning coffee, which is about six cups. Open up my Pinterest and create inspiration boards and ideas that I’ve got. Then usually any other down time, I use to connect with people from the industry. I try to not waste anytime and make sure that I am always doing something proactive.
What is the one thing you can't leave the house without? Minus your cell phone lol.
Lipstick or bobby pins because I never know when or what my day will be like. I just put on a little lipstick and that can change up my whole look from day to night, and bobby pins because I have crazy thick hair and it decides what it wants to do. If I don’t have bobby pins then something is not right with my day, and I’ll just get sick of all this hair and want to pin it all back.
What is your go to fashion piece? On trend or not.
Boyfriend jeans because I’m secretly lazy and they are so comfortable, I don’t even feel like I’m wearing pants. A baggy pair of pants is my staple piece.
What is your biggest pet peeve about the industry you are in?
One is people in the industry who I guess have made it or are known sometimes belittle up and comers, as if they weren’t once there themselves. That’s really discouraging because when you look up to some people, meet them or see them and they’re not supportive, it kind of takes away from any sort of awe about them.
Second is when people don’t take the time to give you a chance, they haven’t seen your work but decide they don’t want to work with you because you’re not a known name. It’s unfortunate because how is anybody supposed to make it if they are not given a chance? Nothing was ever handed to anyone.
What is your creative process for coming up with a concept?
Honestly a lot of the time it just comes to me. I’m really big on alone time, I like to be by myself for a fair amount of time. I’ll just be sitting here staring at everybody in the park and a concept will just come to me, and I’ll just build off of that. Another example is, I was having dinner with a friend and out of no where I just blurted out this crazy cool concept, and as we talked more about it, it just became bigger, bigger, and bigger and we solidified it and that was it. So a lot of it is just kind of inspired by watching people doing what their doing or seeing one image and being inspired by that one image and having it grow. I just need one little thing to inspire me and I can grow from there. I think with creatives they understand that everything that they are doing is telling a story and I learned that along the way, and I try with every concept that I come up with along the way and with the photographers it tells a story.