Thanks to the labor and achievements of veteran designers like June Ambrose, Misa Hylton and more, the fashion industry has seen the rise of many, many talented Black stylists. Kollin Carter has been praised as the mastermind behind Cardi B’s chic outfits. Law Roach has most famously been credited for Zendaya’s memorable red carpet style. Scot Louie has crafted the looks of Ryan Destiny, Keke Palmer, Kehlani and more. Joining this growing list of rising stars is 26-year-old Mekka Shyian, the stylist behind the limited-edition Black Barbie by KITH Women. Shyian’s design sold out within hours of its Dec. 6, 2021 release.
A Newark, New Jersey native, the up-and-comer was one of many competing in a Barbie styling contest held by KITH at the company’s flagship store in 2019. Her boyfriend, a designer, came across the competition online after the deadline for applications had already closed. He encouraged her to take a trip to the store that weekend and convinced employees to make an exception for her.
Set on beating out her competitors, Shyian studied KITH’s aesthetic and e-commerce. She went through lookbooks and did the necessary research to assist with her vision. On the day of the contest she dressed to impress in a denim jacket designed by her boyfriend and eventually caught the attention of KITH employers. The conversations she had made her feel like she was on her “playing field.” She pulled from her experience as a sales associate at Nordstrom and began styling the doll as she would her clients. Despite knowing it was a risky move, she intentionally chose a Black Barbie.
“My mother is a Black woman, so once I saw [a Black doll], I’m not going in any other direction — and honestly, I really did not think I was gonna win because of that,” Shyian told REVOLT. “But my thing was that I can’t not be me. I have to stay true to me. So if I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do this my way — and this is my way.”
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Like many Black women, Shyian felt she would have to work twice as hard to ensure she had a chance at winning. At the same time, the contest seemed to be a dream opportunity given her background. The budding star grew up in a stylish family and walked in family fashion shows. She worked as a sales associate, pursued a degree in fashion merchandising and retail marketing, and had a life-changing experience in Italy, where she gained hands-on experience at Florence University’s consignment store.
Shyian also had a special connection to her collection of Barbies growing up — the dolls helped her keep the memory of her late cousin alive. It was her cousin who played with her and made “Barbie feel so real,” she tells REVOLT. The up-and-coming stylist channeled that energy into the competition, using her memory of their play dates as motivation.
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Unfortunately, not everyone would treat the triumph like the major win it was.
KITH, for example, considered the contest to be the end of her contributions. The media also glossed over her name and her work in coverage of the limited-edition doll. Still, the fashion lover was determined to take advantage of the moment and ensure that her accomplishment was not overlooked. Shyian reached out and made suggestions to help with marketing. She also recommended an unboxing video and even wanted to set up a meet-and-greet to sign her Barbie — an idea that was turned down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That was so dope just to talk to people, especially the Black people because they were just loving it,” the fashion enthusiast said. “Just to see that people genuinely [liked it]. These people don’t know me from anywhere. They don’t want anything from me, but they really loved my work, and they appreciated it.”
“I don’t want this to be something where it’s like, ‘Yeah, she did that’ and you never hear from me again,” the rising star told REVOLT. “I’m grateful for this competition because I think for some people this has definitely shown them like, ‘Alright, she got it. She’s definitely on to something. She does know what she’s talking about.’ But I’m just hoping that doors start to open up.”
Shyian added, “I want to make sure people know I don’t think that I’m nobody big right now. I’m just like everybody else. I’m just trying to figure it out. I’m 26, so I definitely got time, but I’m just hoping that this definitely opens doors. I’m all for the work. I’m just hoping, you know, more things like this happen.”