If we had to use just four words describe Misa Hylton Brim’s path to success, they would be “No pain, no gain.” The iconic celebrity stylist encountered more than her share of obstacles while trying to navigate the sometimes hostile fashion industry as an up-and-comer, but she has no ill will against those who tried to shut her out way back when. In fact, she credits them with catapulting her into her destiny.
During a recent interview for Madame Noire’s “In This Room,” the style visionary, who singlehandedly conceptualized what we now know as ’90s hip hop fashion, reflected on a moment in time where she was shut out of showrooms by fashion houses such as Gucci.
“When I met challenges in this business, some of those challenges looked like not being able to get into a showroom. It looked like denial. It looked like not being accepted. It looked like not being understood. And for me, it just made me stronger,” shared Brim.
According to the New York native —who attributes her unique style to her African American, Jamaican, and Japanese heritage — those experiences only fueled her creativity and resourcefulness because they forced her to work deep in the trenches.
“Wherever there’s an obstacle, there’s an opportunity. Had I not had those challenges, it wouldn’t have pushed me to greatness. I’m very grateful that I had those challenges early on because it gave me a sense of empowerment in a lot of ways as a young woman,” she went on. “It was in the trenches. No, you have a show tomorrow but you’re not going to be able to go into the showroom. But you have Mary J. Blige and she has a show so we gotta figure it out. She wants something from Gucci and we’re not going to be able to get it. And so custom design came into play.”
Now that Brim has found success, she has set her sights on clearing a pathway for those coming up behind her. Founded in 2012, the Misa Hylton Fashion Academy offers up-and-comers the tools needed to make it in the highly competitive industry. According to the style icon, part of helping people is being transparent about your journey.
“I think we need to know more about people’s real journey and what they really go through – not the great times, but the rough times as well,” said Brim. “And how did you get through that? And what did you do? What did you call on? How did you feel?”
In addition to running a fashion academy and conceptualizing looks for some of our favorite celebrities, Brim mothers three children. From the outside looking in, this sounds like a recipe for burnout, but the businesswoman says it’s all about self-awareness.
“I have moments of feeling very balanced and I have moments where I feel out of balance but I think the key is being self-aware and understanding things are a little bit off right now, so what can I do to get them back on track. I feel like it’s a never-ending process,” Brim confessed.
As women, we often place the needs of others ahead of our own, but failure to take care of yourself can have damaging consequences.
“If you’re not good, you can’t be good for anybody else. And how do you learn that? Sometimes the toughest lessons come through pain. It comes through burnout. It comes through not taking care of yourself and ending up at the doctor,” she said. “You have to have the courage to say ‘I’m going to choose me today.”
If Misa’s words have you shouting “Amen!” or feel very fix-my-life-esque, it’s because she’s also a certified life coach.
“I’ve always been a life coach,” said Brim. “It comes natural to me. When I’m with my clients, it’s a coaching process. With my interest in human development and mental health, I decided that I wanted to become certified and I did in 2014.”
Brim, who dubs herself an advocate for mental health is also a champion for physical wellness. Personal experiences have inspired her to spread information within the Black community – including the reactions she received from relatives after she made the decision to donate an organ to her father.
“I’m a donor. I gave my dad a kidney in 2008 and it gave him 11 more years of life,” shared the stylist. “When I was on that path, I had people in my family telling me I was going to die because of ignorance.”
Brim’s story is not unique. Within the Black community lies loads of suspicion and apprehension surrounding organ donation. Of course, this is not without good reason. Historically, American medicine has not always demonstrated transparency or compassion towards people of color (i.e: Henrietta Lacks, the Tuskegee syphillis experiments, the gyneological experiments performed on enslaved women). However, according to the stylist, part of overcoming past trauma is educating yourself; the other is being open to uncomfortable conversations.
Watch Misa’s full interview and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.