Monday, February 24, 2014

B.A.F.F.L.E.D. Spotlights

Tracy Agyemang:  Lawyer, Fashionista, Model!

Ms. Tracy is everything B.A.F.F.L.E.D. is about--fashion, law, fashion law, beauty, and fun.  It was such a joy to meet her last year at John Marshall Law School's Fashion and Design Law Symposium, and we've been fashion law friends ever since.  We have so much in common, and it was past time for us to spotlight her here.  

You'll love her, on!

What made you want to be a lawyer?  When did you know? 
I actually can't remember when I decided to be a lawyer. I do know that I always toyed with the idea of being either a doctor or a lawyer.  In my family those were the only two options.  African immigrants aren't known for their inventive career choices.  My compatriot Ozwald Boateng notwithstanding.  But one day in college I just decided that I am repulsed by other people's bodily fluids and that I should use my gift for gab for justice and equality and all that.

Was getting to where you are in your legal career as straightforward as you thought it would be?  Is this what you planned for yourself?
Absolutely not as straightforward as I thought it would be.  Wholly attributable to my aforementioned lack of imagination when it came to my legal career.  I've been totally driven by inertia and the fact that I love talking to and helping people.  I started law school thinking I was going to be an immigration lawyer. One clinic and snooze-worthy course later, I was over the entire INA.  Then, because I couldn't pick just one interest, and because I was a huge Perry Mason fan, I decided to be a litigator.  I figured that way, I'd get this really cool skill set that I could apply to almost any area of law.  So far, that has been a pretty savvy move.

How did you get started in fashion?  What sparked your interest?
My interest in being fashionable started with my parents.  They were very meticulous about their appearance the quality of our clothing.  When I was a pre-teen, my father decided I should "Be a Model or Just Look Like One" so he enrolled me in Barbizon Modeling School (remember that tag line?! hilarious).  I kid but it was at Barbizon that I really learned about fashion as an industry (read: business).  I started to see the world of fashion and I was and remain completely fascinated by the machinations of fashion.  Not to mention the fabulous.

Have you ever been a part of the fashion industry in any other cities or countries?  In what way?
I modeled in New York City as a teenager. 

What do you just adore about fashion law?
I adore the fact that fashion law is all about how to help the creatives that we, as practitioners, truly admire and respect.  We genuinely want to help get their product from brainchild to end product. It's incredible how passionate we all are about our fashion clients.  It's serious business and we all know it.  Plus fashion law is kinda subversive. Colleagues I haven't seen in a while will usually say something like "[H]ow's that whole fashion law thing going?" You can almost see the air quotes. But I love it.  Here's another reason I love fashion law and a fun game: The next time you go to a fashion law event, look down.  The shoes in the room never fail to be flawless!

What are some legal issues or challenges you have faced in modeling, if any?
The only challenge I have with modeling is trying to downplay the fact that I am a lawyer.  Same goes for being a lawyer as a model.  In each industry, law and fashion, clients are jealous.  And no one wants you cheating with the other side (left v. right) of your brain. 

What drew you to labor law?
As usual when it comes to my legal career, I was driven by inertia.  A mentor and I had breakfast one morning and after I told her that I want to be a litigator, she told be about her first experiences as a litigator.  After she described how she was forced to hit the ground running as a DOL lawyer while her classmates were busy buried in doc review at law firms, I decided to would go to DOL, too.  And here I am.

How are you able to connect, and separate, your work as a lawyer and your work as a model?
I try to separate the two as much as possible.  At the same time, I offer all of my resources.  So, if it doesn't come up organically, I don't mention modeling or the law.  I talk about my myriad other interest. But if asked directly or if a legal question comes up with a modeling friend (e.g. can the agency forbid me from working with non-agency clients?) or a modeling issue comes up in the legal context (e.g. NY's new child model law or models as independent contractors)  I'll disclose and assist.

What do you feel the fashion industry needs most?  What do you plan to do to help achieve those needs?  What does the fashion law industry need most?
There is no question that the fashion industry needs more black girls on the runways and in print.  Thankfully, the diversity problem in fashion is lately getting media coverage and advocates.  For my part, I started an organization called C.J. Harriet Models. Our mission is to positively influence fashion to incorporate more black girls in their brand images. We teach business soft skills (i.e., effective interviewing, business etiquette, fashion industry acumen, etc.) to young black girls who want to model.  Thereby offering the best possible brand representatives to fashion clients.  My purpose is to imbue black girls with self esteem by normalizing images of beautiful, articulate, successful black women.  Diverse images of black models in media ingrain into the collective conscious the fact that black women are beautiful. Young girls of any curl pattern and hue should see themselves represented positively in media. I'm trying to completely change results the infamous black doll study. 

What's next for you?
I have so many things I'm considering but, overall, my goal is to integrate all these varied facets of my life into something more manageable and fluid. 

What are your favorite types of garments to model? Who is your favorite designer?
Any time a designer or stylist picks up some element of my ethnicity and decides to play a bit, I feel my most confident. Who wants to be seen as a hanger?  I prefer when I'm a canvas.  Bright colors on dark skin. Sculptured braided hair.  Printed fabrics.  Complimentary makeup.  It's a good day when I don't have to manufacture confidence on the runway or at a shoot.  I love it when I can lean on beautiful clothes, haute hair, and flawless makeup to glide over.

We're excited about what Tracy is doing next and can't wait to see her at an upcoming Fashion Law Symposium in Chicago...

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