Nyjerah Cunningham

Courtesy of M.M. LaFleur

Courtesy of M.M. LaFleur

Age || 31

Company Name || M.M. LaFleur

Job Title ||  Senior Stylist

Years Living In New York || 6

Social Handles || @nyjerahnicole (instagram, twitter, and pinterest)

Company Website || M.M. LaFleur / Nyjerah nicole

What did you want to be while growing up?

I wanted to be a pediatrician, which eventually changed as you can see. I loved the idea of working in the medical field, especially helping children.

What’s the best piece of advice you were given when you were starting out as a stylist?

“Be YOU.” It’s simple, but it’s so important to remember because the fashion industry can be tough, and it’s so easy to get lost in trying to follow the latest trends. As a stylist, my aesthetic is less about keeping up with seasonal newness and more about redefining your timeless basics, so I always remind myself to stay true to who I am. Some people will find it valuable, some won’t. And that’s okay.

What does your job consist of?

I do a little bit of everything, from stylist development and training to styling for photoshoots. Since styling is such a big part of the M.M. customer experience, we have a comprehensive training program for our new stylists. Many of our customers don’t like to shop, so our job is to make the entire styling process as seamless as possible while helping her feel confident and polished. I love what I do. Everyday is different.

How do you define success?

I’ve always defined success wherever happiness is present. For me, success is doing what I love, like helping a client find the perfect outfit for a special occasion or working 8+ hours on a photo shoot with 6-8 models. Each of these requires tons of work, but there’s never a time where happiness isn’t present, especially when I’ve worked so hard to achieve it.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned since beginning your career?

Not everything goes as planned...and that’s okay. I used to beat myself down when things didn’t work out the way I envisioned it, but that’s the life of a stylist. A huge part of my job is thinking on my feet and going with the flow. Now I find beauty in my unplanned outcomes.

Courtesy of M.M. LaFleur

Courtesy of M.M. LaFleur

What is your go-to motivational quote?

You only live once. It may seem cliche, but it inspires me to keep going and do everything I’m passionate about.

What drew you to working with M.M. LaFleur?

I was immediately drawn to our mission to take the work out of dressing for work. I’ve always tried to make life easier for my clients through styling and at M.M., our challenge is to make the whole experience as seamless as possible for the woman with no time. It was the perfect fit for me.

What is your creative process like?

My creative process doesn’t stop. Ever. I’m constantly grabbing inspiration from the streets, on my favorite social sites and more. It usually begins after the initial brainstorm meeting. Once I have all the details I need for direction, I like to create a mood board to inspire and bring my vision to life.

Do you have a personal motto?

Take risks and wear them well.

Which women inspire you?

Honestly, all of the women in my life, from family to friends. They are killing it in their career fields and inspire me to do the same! My biggest inspiration is my mom, of course. She inspires me without knowing, and I honestly don’t know where I’d be without her.

How do you overcome moments of self-doubt?

Honestly, I still struggle with this, but that’s where collaboration comes into play. Collaboration is key! Whenever I doubt myself, I lean on my colleagues. It’s always good to reach out for a second opinion. Two (or more) minds are better than one, right?

What is the best part about styling within a brand?

The best part is having everything you need all in one place! I was a freelance stylist previously, pulling wardrobe options from multiple brands in a variety of locations. It can be extremely exhausting, but hey, I’m passionate about styling so it had to be done. Now I have all wardrobe options under one brand, which is a dream for me.

How do you handle situations where you feel overwhelmed?

I normally try to find a quiet place to be at one with myself. I like to mediate, light palo santo or a room full of candles. I’m all about protecting my energy, so being alone is normally the best way to recharge. I find that I’m more overwhelmed when I’m dealing with a situation around a crowd of people. I think anyone living in New York can attest to this, especially a Jersey girl like myself.

Courtesy of M.M. LaFleur

Courtesy of M.M. LaFleur

What has been the most rewarding thing since starting out as a stylist?

Just one? I can name plenty, but I would have to say being a part of our “What Are You Made of?” campaign this past spring. We worked with so many amazing women who defied the odds to stand up for what they believe in, from Amy Sherald to Cecile Richards.  It was such an inspiring project.

How have you worked to empower women through your work?

I empower women through their wardrobe — it’s my job and I love it. When it comes to style, we sometimes have a fixed way of thinking. What works best for my body type? Which colors work best for my tone? The list goes on. My role as a stylist is to help women feel confident in what they’re wearing with those questions kept in mind, but never as a determining factor. I encourage clients to have an open mind and allow their style personality to shine.

What advice would you give to other women trying to enter your field?

“Be You.” Authenticity is what sets you apart from everyone else.

What are some of your goals moving forward as a stylist and at M.M LaFleur? I’d really like to create a name for myself when it comes to style. I have a lot to express visually, so it’s important that I share that. Stay tuned!

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Sarah Fielding