Tanaya Henry, a model and jewelry designer, is one woman making a steady climb in the fashion industry. Her designs have been seen on the likes of Alicia Keys, Keri Hilson, Cassie, and Nicki Minaj, to name a few, and it’s only the beginning for her. Tanaya got her start in Minnesota modeling for local photographers. She got a taste of the Big Apple through her father, who worked as a bodyguard to many artists including Prince, the Jonas Brothers, and Mary J. Blige.
After high school, Tanaya made a move to New York where she began her career as a professional model with Wilhelmina Modeling Agency. She would later become inspired to create her own jewelry line, Lace by Tanaya, which includes Earlace (Earring & necklace combined), rings, and body jewelry. Tanaya shares with us some of the experiences she’s had growing up including what inspired her to create her own line of jewelry.
Growing up in Minnesota, you mentioned that you dealt with a lot of race-related issues as a girl. You moved to New York straight out of high school and felt that you fit in so much better there. Why is that?
The way I dressed was a little different. Most kids were in Abercrombie or Hollister. I had my share but I loved designer stuff and wearing heels. This mean girl was actually me for Halloween one year and she wore pumps and a boa. Everyone stared at me like I was a psycho when I’d wear that to school, but the first time I came to New York, I fit in and I was the one staring at people!
Did you have any awkward phases as a teen?
When I was about 15, my hair was long, in the middle of my back. I started wanting to fit in. I wanted straight hair. I always wore extensions, wigs, colored, bleached and straightened my hair. It was a mess! One day after my brilliant idea for an at home bleach & dye-job, my hair was so damaged that I would stretch it almost a foot longer than it actually was. It was like little rubber bands. I had to cut it Halle Berry short. It was horrific! My hair an I are good friends now though. I wash my hair 3 x a week and rarely apply heat. The only time I mess with my hair, is when its for a job.
Your dad worked as a bodyguard for some of the hugest celebrities in the world. He’d often come home and talk to you about them and the life of NYC. Most people dont have these kinds of experiences. Do you think that’s had a great influence on your path in life?
Yes, those experiences have had a huge impact on me. Being driven around in police barricades getting away from crazy fans or at a private dinner with Prince would make one want to be in their place, especially at a young age. Situations Ive been in because of my dad have helped me meet some of my closest friends and has certainly inspired me.
What’s your drive? Seeing your designs on Alicia Keys and Nicki Minaj (To name a few) had to have given you a little big boost, right?
My drive was a boy. I was head over heels and he was the most inspirational person ever. I wasn’t doing the jewelry then, but then when we broke up I was still so in love that I felt I had to find a way to get his attention back. It worked, but now I want more. It was great seeing it on Alicia and Nicki but I don’t feel like I’ve done much, which drives me more.
With your jewelry line, you design, handcraft, model and promote everything on your own. What’s been the most difficult part of the process?
It all started as a hobby. I love making things and having an idea and figuring out how to bring it to life. The hardest process is promotion and trying to get my name and brand out there. Not everyone is so open to wearing my designs as they are a little different than what is out there now, but it’s coming around
The Earlace has a detachable magnet to prevent the earlobe from ripping. I think that’s very clever. How long did it take you to concieve and complete the magnet design?
Thank you! It didn’t take long. I was sitting around with a friend and the idea popped up! I went to the craft store and found what I needed to make the magnet piece the next day!
Between juggling the demands of being a model and entrepreneur, I know your schedule must be crazy. When do you sleep?
Haha! Once in a while. Its a little crazy and all over the place. Ill often have a huge suitcase of Lace that needs to be shipped at a casting. Its working out though!
Who inspires you?
Some models are like magicians when it comes to telling their secrets, but can you leave us with one of your beauty secret/ tips?
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