In honor of Black History Month 2019, FN is celebrating African-American movers and shakers in footwear and fashion by recognizing their accomplishments and inviting them to share insight into how the industry can make bigger diversity strides.
Tami Roman has done the rounds.
The actress, author and MTV “Real World” alum, has managed to remain on television screens for more than two decades while taking her talents into a range of adjacent industries including fashion, beauty and most recently, footwear.
Roman announced last month, a “sexy” shoe collaboration with designer Jessica Rich who counts Jennifer Lopez, Demi Lovato and Lala Anthony among her clientele.
Meanwhile, her beauty line, TR Love Cosmetics was one of the first African-American-owned celebrity lines to go from online to retail when she landed a distribution deal with Walgreens in 2013.
But despite her own success, the “Fall Girls” actress — and brain behind popular Instagram handle @officialbonnetchronicles — isn’t satisfied with the opportunities available for minorities who want to break into fashion and entertainment.
Here, she gets candid on her own path into fashion, what minorities can do to be successful and how the industry can become more aggressive in pursuing Black talent.
What made you want to get into fashion?
“When I thought about a business I could get into, I wanted to pick things that are organic and authentic to me. I don’t do things because someone else is winning in that lane. I do things I’m passionate about — and in the event it doesn’t take off, I can say, ‘But I still love it!’”
What are the biggest obstacles African-American actors and actresses face?
“There just aren’t a lot of opportunities. Now, we’re starting to see a little bit more visibility for minorities, however, it’s still not enough. The entertainment industry tends to pigeonhole us into being the ‘one black member of the cast’ or they don’t see us in a bigger way. For me, that has always been very saddening. We’re just not being represented. Hollywood just needs to open up its mind and understand that we can be leads in films and we can drive traffic. The African-American demographic is the largest-buying economic demographic in the U.S. If you give us our stories and put our people in those roles, you will surely see that we are supportive. Look at “Black Panther.” Hollywood is finally starting to get it but it’s a slow road. We just need to be afforded more opportunities behind the scenes and in front of the camera.”
Given your entertainment background, do you think that it was easier for you to find a path into fashion?
“Because of the visibility and because social media is so prevalent, everybody knows what you’re involved in and what you’re doing. So that afforded me the opportunity to meet [someone like] Jessica Rich who then became an ally of mine. However, could Tami Roman contact Christian Louboutin or Payless Shoes and go ‘Hey I want my own line?’ Those are still the opportunities that are non-existent. Big box corporations and brands are not aligning themselves with the little people to bring quality product to the masses unless you have a certain level of visibility. So there’s still room for growth in that there are so many talented designers that are out there and are grinding but don’t have the opportunities I was presented with Jessica Rich.”
What are some resolutions to the lack of opportunities you speak of?
“Outreach is one. I absolutely think companies and brands should do a level of outreach that far surpasses what they’re doing now. And they’ve now got the easiest tool in the world to do it. It’s called Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Before, I could understand how you could [only] know somebody that’s ‘two below’ but, now, you can go on social media and search #designer and all these amazing designers and their designs will come up. That’s what’s missing. There aren’t enough [viable] opportunities for people of color to [connect with major corporations] as well as there aren’t enough companies putting in the effort to find [people of color]. To make it really easy for them, maybe somebody should come out with an app. So all the designers can sign up and have a hub where they can exist and [brands] can find them.”
What’s your best advice for people of color for breaking into entertainment?
“There’s no process in life that you can achieve and be successful at without being educated on it. You can’t just wake up and say ‘I want to act’ and think it’s just going to happen. Everybody has God-given and natural abilities, however, you need to fine-tune the craft and field you want to be in. You need to be up on people who’ve come before you and who have paved the way for you to be able to try to venture into this business. Study with an acting coach. Put in the work and do your diligence in trying to find proper representation. If you want to be behind the camera, it’s the same thing: put in the work. Take an acting class. Don’t depend on someone to give you something.”
What about those who want to be behind the camera?
“The world has made it easy for you to do your own projects. Streaming has made it very easy for you to — once you’ve completed those projects — to put it out there. People need to bet on themselves and the best way to do that is to educate yourself on the field you want to go into and then creating your own avenue and lane — much the way I did with ‘Bonnet Chronicles.’”
How have you used those tools and lessons to navigate your foray into fashion?
“I’m still new to the fashion industry and I’m still learning myself. However, I had a passion for the product and then decided what I could to educate myself about how I could put out the best product for the consumers. For me, that was doing the due diligence on shoe materials, the shape of the foot and how to not cause pain in certain areas. It’s no different than any other industry: you have to educate yourself and reach out to people that you feel like you can align with. You’ll get a thousand ‘no’s’ before you get one ‘yes’ — that’s why the passion has to be there. If you are fortunate enough to actually create a design, try a gifting suite. There are lots you can do.”
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