" Let your work tell your story. Perception is everything. "
Some of the most liked social figures are liked because they are open and genuine about where they come from and are not afraid to revisit their real life situations to be lessons onto others. Jerae is the epitome of just that. Throughout this interview she will discuss the hardships she endured while living in the south side of Chicago and what prompted her to leave it all behind and speak life into her success in the drip city.
Who is Jerae and where are you from?
Jerae: I'm Jerae, a 20 year old mogul in the making from the south side of Chicago but currently residing in Houston. My journey as an entrepreneur started with my clothing line, Lia Fame the Brand, in 2017. Over the months my vision expanded and I've added creative directing and photography to my resume.
Every creator has a great story. What's yours?
Jerae: My story? I'm the third oldest of eight. I come from a loving and supportive family, throughout my teenage years my dad raised all of us. Even though my mom was always around, nothing has ever been "peaches and cream" with us. Growing up my two oldest brothers were in and out of jail so I always felt as though I had something to prove to both my parents and younger siblings. I just gave them some type of hope. I knew I wanted to be great, no actually I had to be great I just never knew at what. For the most part I stayed out of trouble and I was the average student. I graduated high school and went away to college with my best friend. I was the first in my family to go to college, that was always a thing for me. I planned to leave Chicago for school and never come back, but Alabama State sent me home! This is where my real story starts. When I came home from school my little world was flipped upside down and I constantly asked why me? Everything that I worked for and dreamed about was stripped away, I lost myself, I got a job that I hated, I stopped talking to my friends, started dating the wrong person, got myself in trouble but I'll speak on that another time. But I did all this damage just so I could feel useful... The new year was coming and I wanted something different, NEW YEAR NEW ME. You know? Around the same time my best friend, Ryan, reached out to me after months of ignoring him he straight up told me like "I'm not with this Jerae you're trying be. You better than this G. I'm on my way to your house, we're going to smoke and figure this out". The conversation we had was a wake up call. I'll never forget that day. He made me cry and I hated crying. We had been friends going on 5 years at the time and he'd never seen me cry! In so many words he told me that we needed to follow our dreams. Forget the past and just GO. One of my dreams was to have my own clothing line. I didn't have a name, a logo, nor a plan. Ryan thought logically and said bomber jackets and I started designing after that. Everyday since the day we had that conversation he went all in on me and my dreams. His biggest thing for me was to "Just design. Do you. If you need anything new I'll take care of it. You just take and stack all the profit". He was paying for new material, promoting, bringing me clientele etc.
We were together everyday, literally. Working, talking about the future, figuring out the formula etc.. except the day he got killed. Which was March 12th, 2017. At like 5 that morning we were sitting outside my house and he made cry again. He was just really vulnerable and honest about everything. He was happy for him, me, everything. You could see it in his face. The first time I've seen him be that open was our last conversation, after that day I wasn't the same. Living in Chicago you become immune to death it's happens so much that it's normal for us, but I literally lost my best friend. The person that knew me best watched me through every journey and helped me find my light. Truthfully I couldn't even talk to anybody, I felt guilty because he was always there for me even when I didn't want him to be, and the one time he needed my help I didn't come through. I was depressed. I quit my job, stopped designing, I gave up. I was lost all summer. I was even getting into disputes with my dad cause I didn't want to do anything. Life was crazy at the time. Then one night I drove to the lakefront following me and Ryan's ritual, Backwoods and Harold's. And there I just went into deep thought. So deep that it felt like he was sitting there talking to me. That's the day I realized I had to keep going because that's what Ryan would have wanted. I needed to stick to the blueprint we made so I had my dad book a flight and a few weeks later I was packing all my things to move to Houston. It was earlier than planned but I had nothing to lose at that point. Eight months in I'm successfully growing two businesses, enrolled in college, doing God's work, building programs for the youth in both Houston and Chicago, and working on my photography. Safe to say that moving here was the best decision I made.
Clothing lines are popular in terms of the creative world, however not everyone is woke in regards to the many difficulties there are to keep your brand afloat. From vendors, to design, to promotion, etc. What would you say was the hardest thing for you to start up your brand?
Jerae: First things first., don't get into this thinking it's just going be easy, breezy, beautiful, Covergirl ! IT DOesN'T WORK LIKE THAT POOH. If nothing else in this interview resonants with you remember this, "You control yo own destiny. Find out what YOU want do, how YOU want do it and GO FOR IT. Everybody reaches their goal differently".. Keep faith in yourself and stick to the vision NO MATTER WHAT. The hard part wasn't starting the brand, at least for me it wasn't. The initial support from starting Lia Fame was dope, it's a good feeling all around. But after awhile you start seeing the cracks in things. Now some of those cracks were business related like trying to figure out marketing and reaching a bigger audience, but the majority of those were problems I was having with myself. Starting off I knew I had to learn myself in order for me to run a successful business the way I wanted it to be. In learning myself I had to decide why I was even doing this, was it for profit or passion ? At first it was just for profit until I wasn't making any. A Lia Fame Fun Fact!!! In February, I dropped a new design that I just knew was the move. I just knew my bank account was gone be bussin and orders were going to be bigger.. it wasn't at all, not one bit. The public didn't like it and I only sold maybe five shirts honestly and my feelings were so hurt. But that's when I understood I needed to do this because I loved it not because I wanted to chase the money. Business gets slow sometimes but should you let that stop you? HELL NO! Another big problem for me was letting go of the past and negativity, mainly the people in my circle. I wanted all of us to win, I still do, and we will. I just didn't feel as though there was support nor were they helping me grow. We were all on different pages and going in different directions. I couldn't fully understand that then so in a way me trying to be focused on them was hindering me until I removed myself. Some journeys are meant to be walked alone, you can't force someone to do or be what you want. I often unconsciously compare myself to people, not in a hating way but just on some, "damn they popping and I'm not so what do I need to do".. You CAN'T rush the creative process, move at your own pace and be original. Let your work tell your story. Perception is everything. The biggest thing that I learned about business in general is to SELL YOURSELF AND NOT THE BRAND. Wow that's so important and people don't even know that.
If I go into a situation to sell clothes you have to think people got they own style so everybody doesn't like my product therefore everybody isn't going to buy my clothes no matter how good my sales pitch is. If I go into a situation and I SELL MYSELF I have a better chance at getting my product out. Once I sell myself even if you don't like what I have you like me.. you know something about me. Such as why I do this, what I stand for, what I'm going through, future plans etc. It got personal at this point so now you feel more obligated to support. I let you in my world by being myself period. I'm going to go further than a $20 shirt. You can forget the shirt but you can't forget me!
Are there any particular items that you would like to add to your inventory? What's next for LiaFame?
Jerae: I'm taking it back to where I started but with a twist for the Fall '18 collection. I eventually want to expand to everything such as menswear, women's wear, kids, swimwear, etc. I also would like to expand towards monthly events and building a team. I want to show my creative director side more to shift my focus from LiaFame. It isn't going anywhere trust, however I want to dedicate more towards photography, Motivational Artist Inc. I would like to a college tour in the Fall as well. Team up with a few brands and artist, set up a few pop up shops at different HBCU's throughout the semester. I know that'll be dope.
Outside of the clothing you dabble into photography as well. How did this come into play?
Jerae: Again a combination of things always drives me to do something. So I've always wanted to learn photography because it just seemed so dope to me. In addition to this, on two separate occasions I wanted to get some work done in Houston and Chicago for the brand and the photographers flaked on me. I was livid, so I start thinking I could do everything myself.
What are your favorite type of shoots ?
Jerae: Not the conventional shoot where it's like "Okay, turn, nope other way, a little bit over. Right there". Posing is so blah blah to me! Don't get me wrong I do those just as good, but I like "in natural act shoots" better. When you forgot I'm even there. I like the challenge of getting a good picture in natural settings so it doesn't look staged.
Any other photographers or creatives on your radar that you'd be interested in working with?
Jerae: I would say Joe Fresh Goods from Chicago or Milan, MilanDiRouge, out in Philly. And not just for her clothes but for her message as a woman. I would also like to work with my favorite artist, Lil Bibby, and others like Meek Mill, Wale, Herb, etc. However, I have time for that. I really would like to work with local artist here and especially in Chicago. I talk about Chicago a lot cause it's really important for me to give back and enhance where I'm from.
You're basically a jack of all trades anything else creative that strikes your interest. What should we be on the lookout for from your brands?
Jerae: My goal is to bred and enhance the next generation, invest in them through time, money whatever it takes. In about 5 years in the future but you asked what to look for coming from the brands, I'm running for Mayor of Chicago in 2023. I've raised awareness on the real issues among our communities and I'll have statistically proven solutions, what you doing? lol... #Jerae4Mayor2023 . I'm ready to share my journey with the world and shine light on social and economical problems in hopes of changing someone's life or at least make them view things from a different angle. Adolescents, high school kids, college kids, adults whoever my story can resonate with. What I know and what I'm learning is going to be inspirational.
For more on the designer, tune into her social handles below:
Facebook: Lia Fame