Meet the Bad Ass Stylist Behind Serena Williams & Your Favorite Male Athletes | Kesha McLeod

Author: Ali DiEmidio

Kesha McLeod is all about her business. The personal stylist has worked her way up from a brief stint in Manhattan retail to styling Ne-Yo's world tour and some of the most famous athletes around, all while making time to create her own styling workshops. We recently caught up with the fashion entrepreneur to chat about styling pros and cons, working with queen Serena Williams, and the importance of building and maintaining relationships in the industry. Check out the interview below.

At the age of nineteen, you decided to quit your job as a telemarketer to study fashion in Manhattan and eventually start your first fashion gig at an H&M showroom. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to being such a sought-after fashion stylist? I got my degree in Fashion Merchandising and then began working at H&M. Over time, I started to meet people and began taking on small gigs here and there for my producer friends until I built my portfolio.  After my brief retail stint at H&M, I landed a job at a stylist agency who at the time let emerging stylists [assist] junior stylists for big gigs. It was here that I got to really show my work and the rest is history!

You work with some of the biggest sports stars in the industry, like tennis phenom Serena Williams and Andre Iguodala of the NBA's Golden State Warriors. Do you have a certain affinity for styling athletes? Are there any styling pros or cons specific to sports stars?
Definitely not, and I didn't want to be categorized as such but it's something that stuck and happens to be something that I'm amazing at. I love my clients and what we've done collectively in the fashion community has changed the way even designers are altering fits. [Styling] athletes is something everyone wants to get into now. When I first started out, NFL players were who I styled most. I always dressed the ones who found it challenging but was naturally easy for me. A styling pro is, of course, the notoriety! Everyone knows an athlete. As for the challenges, it's always their schedule. Their job comes first and there are off seasons when they are in blackout mode, so being flexible and making myself available is a bit tricky but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

What's a typical day like for you?
A typical day usually starts the night before when I'm staying up carefully planning out a To Do List about the next day. I try to get in as much sleep as I can! A full night's rest is super important but sometimes that doesn’t always work out. When I don’t have a super early day, I am up at 7AM and meet with my trainer at 9AM. I believe it's important to stay as healthy as possible and with my crazy schedule that’s not always the case. So working out is therapeutic and keeps me on point.

After working out, I'll usually head over to my first store prepping looks, getting ideas, emailing various designers, and chatting with clients. All of this IF I'm not boarding a plane/traveling!

You got one of your first big looks from musician Ne-Yo, styling his tour overseas. How was that introduction made and what was the process like for styling his entire tour wardrobe?
I met Ne-Yo through a music video I worked on with fashion veteran Groovey Lew and Jadakiss. Ne-Yo was the featured artist I had to work with - I wanted to be a part of his team so bad! This was a turning point for me, because it allowed me to work with such an amazing artist and on a larger scale! His patience and view on clothes, hats more notably (haha), have taught me so much, especially in learning how to style a gentleman.

We'd love to know the story behind how you met goddess, Serena Williams... What is one of your favorite styling moments with her?
I met Serena through another mutual client years ago. She and I had a lot of common interests and mutual friends, and our friendship as well as business relationship stuck after that. We've been attached ever since. I get her and she gets me and my vision; it's how we work well with one another.

“Building relationships early IS KEY. People change so much in this industry and you never know who you met as an assistant will be CEO of something else later on in life. KEEP THOSE RELATIONSHIPS."

Who would be some of your favorite stars to style and why?
I get style crushes all the time. I just want to get a good suit or an amazing gown on them, but I wouldn't limit it to just the stars. One of my clients Alexis Stoudemire taught me so much about a women's body, being a mom, dressing someone pregnant, and styling for every day without it being forced. It was a lot of fun, as well as going to shows.

You've also styled ad campaigns for some pretty big brands like Nike, adidas, New Era, and Beats by Dre. What's different about styling campaigns vs a live tour or awards show appearance?
It's such a big difference. Campaigns you are going with - what the brand wants and adding your expertise to the project - your professionalism, team, and organization play a big part. Not all the time will a brand feel high-end couture luxury looks, they just want something that they can sell to the consumer with your personal touch. Many times working with athletes and brands such as Gatorade on a series of ads, the talent are usually in their uniform or wearing what they play in on the court. It's in these instances that all projects won't reflect your personal sense of style but require more of a visual creative direction on set.

Tours are a continuity things. Everything remains the same unless the artist wants to come up with something different in each city and it is here that you (the stylist) become a creative director for a story. It's storytelling to the public.

Award shows are the top of them all. Everyone wants a red carpet moment that they nail down so effortlessly. To get your client in something not achievable by anyone else is goals all around.

What are some of your favorite Instagram feeds to follow and why?
On my personal Instagram I don’t follow anyone! I know it's strange to most, but I like to keep my personal Instagram free from "digital clutter," as I like to call it. It helps me stay focused and really keep my personal account free from external influences.

I do have another Instagram page that is run by myself and my partner Calyann Barnett, another awesome stylist. It's on this page where I am more open to posting more previous and current work, upcoming events, etc. While I don't have any favorite Instagram feeds that I follow in particular, I'll follow clients, friends who are in the business, and of course MISSBISH.

Tell us a little bit about Style Room Workshop.
Style Room Workshop (SRW) is a series of workshops for the beginner stylist (or even advanced)! My partner and fellow stylist Calyann Barnett came up with the concept last year and decided to share our secrets with everyone.

While we know you're saving all of your industry secrets for your workshop, what is one thing that you know now that you wish you knew about the industry from the jump?
Building relationships early IS KEY. People change so much in this industry and you never know who you met as an assistant will be CEO of something else later on in life. KEEP THOSE

Is there anything you can tell us about your upcoming secret project with photographer legend Annie Leibovitz? Any other big plans for 2017?
My biggest plan for 2017 is my workshop I'm starting for wardrobe stylists. I've become a master at what I do so I'm giving away major keys! My partner and I are going on an eleven-city tour run all over the U.S. with some international countries booked but can't disclose yet. As for the Annie Leibovitz project, can't share anything yet... you'll have to wait and see!

What does MISSBISH mean to you?
It's that inner attitude you have. It's what makes me so New York.

Who's your MISSBISH? Tell us who she is and why she's an inspiration to you.
My MISSBISH is fearless, composed of love, and a style maven that no one can f*ck with.

Photos by: Paris

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