Shaye Strager was working in the jewelry industry when a chance encounter with Pauletta Washington changed her life.
This interview has been lightly edited for length.
My name is Shaye Strager, and I live in Atlanta, Georgia now. Proud Georgia resident, and I have a fashion styling/image consulting business.
In the year 2000, I was a spokesperson for the fine jewelry industry, and I was jewelry styling. And so I was cold calling fashion designers, asking them to put fine jewelry on the runways. That's how I was learning the fashion industry--from the backstage. I was working with all these fashion designers. They would call me when a celebrity would come in for a fitting.
I was working with the fashion designer, Carmen Marc Valvo. And he called me when he said, Denzel Washington's wife's coming in to get her Oscar dress. Why don't you come and just show her all the jewelry, and I'll show you the dress, and you do the hard work. And I said, well, you've done the hard work, but I'll do the rest. And she said to me, Shaye, why aren't you just styling my whole outfit? Why aren't you just doing the accessories? And I said, I would love to do that, Pauletta, but I haven't had anyone give me the opportunity yet. You know, I'm still, I was still very much learning the trade. And she said, I think you're ready. And it took that extended hand of someone who's a veteran.
I mean, if you don't know about Pauletta Washington's star power, you need to Google her. You know, not only has she--she's broken barriers her entire career, she was the very first black miss North Carolina. She toured the world as a pianist at age 11. She was a prodigy. Went to Julliard before Denzel, was the biggest name on Broadway before Denzel. You know, like if you don't know who Pauletta Pearson was before she met, became Denzel Washington's wife, you need to find out. She is the most incredible woman. And the fact that she saw something in me and was willing to give me a chance was definitely a moment in my career. I'll never forget I'll never be able to thank her. The fact that we still talk on a regular basis, and we're still, I consider ourselves family. That means the world to me.
I started my business about 20 years ago in tandem with another gentleman in New York City, we opened an agency that specialized it in public relations, fashion styling, and television correspondent work. You know, so I did a little of everything that combined all of my passions, and it was very nice because I felt that all roads were leading me to this place where I could have a multifaceted career that both span the fashion realm, but also had a lot to do with professional imaging. And I worked a little bit with celebrity and runway, but then I had a true passion in calling for working with executives. So I really felt like when we made the transition from New York City to Atlanta, the doors opened wide and full to have the best of both worlds, just a little bit of sprinkling of celebrity and runway and a lot of corporate individuals.
None of us could have ever imagined us being hit by a pandemic of this large scale. What a tragedy this pandemic has been for the amount of lives lost, but in some ways I kind of feel like there has been a reset. Never before in my adult life have I had such a massive reset and a refocus in time. So much time to think about what really matters to me, both in my job and in my real, you know, in my life outside of work.
Like many folks at home, you know, I had someone working on every level of our home. I was working upstairs. I had my husband and his office and I had my daughter homeschooling in the dining room.
All of us suffered in some way, but especially my business did. Luckily I had a lot of people at the same time doing the same thing, you know, of my 33 executives that I work with, I would say about 88% of those are women. So I have a lot of clients that were going through the same thing I was. And, you know, I do have a lot of CEO's that don't have children, but they still were dealing with so much in their own work environments that we didn't, we weren't having a massive rush for styling. So I think that it allowed me, if anything wearing my mom hat allowed me to kind of have my plate full, but be able to manage it in a way where I was still able to be very present and very thoughtful in my actions.
Especially through COVID, there was a big light bulb moment for me that really helped me actually transition my career from what was a very demanding in person building styling service to something now that is almost all virtual. And I think that, you know, the one beautiful thing about styling and image consulting is the fact that we are talking about how you are perceived by your image. And we know now that we've all transitioned to this zoom and WebEx and these different online video platforms, we've actually been able to still control our image, but the screen is smaller. So the parameters are smaller. So as soon as I started thinking about, you know, how can I survive this? How can I transition my business so I don't lose clients, but I can still be very helpful to them? I created this webinar that talks about professional styling for video communications. And within a month I had sold that webinar 12 times. And I was asked by huge corporations to do it for their companies, for their staffs, for their clients. You know, I had an investment firm contracted me to do it for all of their private wealth and equity clients. So that was a huge celebration of adversity during, especially during COVID.
And I think it's one of those times where you think, Oh my gosh, all of my expertise, all of the things that I've worked so hard in my career. They've all led to this, you know, being able to survive it.
My big goal and my vision for the future for, for me, uh, is to keep having this love and this passion for my work now that I've seen that it can change and it can be so malleable. I want to keep loving what I do, and I feel that instilling confidence in women specifically because I'm raising a young woman is super important for me.
I feel like there's a culture that we live in now that has never been so virally based. And I feel that there's so many influences out there for young girls that not only do I want to continue to help executives and the women that I work with, but I also want to help the younger generation love themselves in the process. I want to help and mold and lift up this young, new crop of women game changers. Could I find anything greater than that: than having my daughter. Embody this sense of confidence and pride in who she is and who God made her to be?
Some of the biggest advice I can give to the younger generation or to women who want to be future entrepreneurs and own their own businesses and rule the world, uh, and there's two things. Number one, there's nothing that can ever replace hard, work, hard work. It's not easy. It's never going to be easy, especially for women. We're going to have to work twice as hard. I don't think that's changed. I think that no matter what we do, it's going to have to take everything. We have to do it because we do many cases. We want it all. I want it all. I do. I want a happy marriage. I want a wonderful family, and I want a flourishing career. I want it all. And it takes a lot of hard work to do it.
And the second thing is I used to make my employees in New York city at studio PR answer the phone every once in a while. Yes. Is the answer. What is the question? Because at the end of the day, I wanted to run an agency that yes, anything is possible within parameters. I'm saying, you know, please don't take this the wrong way. This is, this is what I mean, is that yes, it's possible. Let's find a way to make things possible. My first response has never always been instinctively. No, it's always been, yes. Let's figure out how to get there. Yes. Let's, let's get the yes to where it needs to be, but I don't ever want to be one of those people that the answer is always no, because I think in order to be successful, you have to find the way to get a no to a yes. And in a way that benefits your business. I think that you need to think about it in the, in the realm of how it can affect business and change. But yes, I always saying yes, and working hard to get to the answer, I think is big, big recipe for success.
You can find me online at shayestrager.com or stragerstyle.com. And my social media is at Shaye Strager. So if you just Google my name, you'll find me.
Tasha Haight on Being a Seasonal WorkerThree months of monthly income... Small Business
Barbie Hurtado on How Planned Parenthood Got Her Interested in ActivismCancer screenings... Healthcare
Yadiel Melendez on Having to Climb an Assimilation Ladder & Stay Under the RadarLive authentically... Artists & Artisans