Ade Samuel is known for transforming celebrities’ everyday looks into best-dressed moments, but the stylist herself came from humble beginnings. Starting first as an intern at W Magazine and Teen Vogue, Samuel has excelled in her field and worked with top talent in the entertainment industry. Since relocating from the East Coast to the West Coast, a plethora of opportunities has elevated the young stylist’s career. With accomplishments like helping launch CR Fashion Book, and working with celebrities like Christina Aguilera, Nicole Richie, and Big Sean, Samuel continues to forge a solid path for herself in the industry.
For the NAACP Image Awards Samuel scored the opportunity to work with Insecure actor, Yvonne Orji. In the hit HBO comedy, Orji plays the role of Molly—a super-smart attorney who is best friends with Issa Rae’s character Issa Dee. While this is the first time Samuel is working with Orji, the duo connected instantly over their Nigerien background during Essence Magazine’s Black Women in Hollywood Event. The stylist and actor have been waiting for the right opportunity to collaborate, and the NAACP Image Awards presented itself as the perfect occasion for them finally to come together.
With the award show airing on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we sat down with the fashion trailblazer to discuss not only her technique to dressing Yvonne for the red carpet, but also how she looks forward to seeing the NAACP take on celebrating women of color and embracing the growing change of the #MeToo movement. From past accomplishments that have made an impact on her career, to the go-to tips she relies on when styling her clients for red carpet appearances, read on as Ade opens up about her world of styling.
The Window: How did you know celebrity styling was the right path for you and how did you get your start?
Ade Samuel: Coming from a Nigerian background and having my mother and grandmother be so traditional in the way that they dressed, I fell in love with clothing at an early age. And even though I didn’t know what area of fashion I was going to dive into immediately, I knew for sure it would be a passion that I would pursue. After my first role in public relations, I went on to intern with W Magazine and Teen Vogue. Before graduating, Teen Vogue offered me a position, however I turned it down after realizing that I wanted to be a stylist. With the experience I had received, I knew styling was the area I wanted to pursue, because I loved the aspect of creating art on an individual’s body.
I went on to help CR Fashion Book launch their first issue, where I got a call to help with a project for Nicole Richie in L.A. While I was on the West Coat, a great friend of mine introduced me to celebrity stylist Simone Harouche, who had styled everyone from Kendall Kardashian to Jennifer Lopez. I started helping Harouche with stars such as Miley Cyrus, Nicole Richie, and Christina Aguilera. After working with Simone for a while, I branched out on my own.
Essence Magazine has always supported me, and one of the jobs the company brought me on for was the #BlackGirlMagic issue. I connected with Yara Shahidi while on set, and a few weeks later the actor reached out to inquire about me being her stylist. Shortly after booking Shahidi, I got a call from Roc Nation about dressing Big Sean for the Grammys in 2016. After styling him for the night, a great deal of press contacted me about the look and inspiration. From there it was a snowball effect. Other celebs like Kelly Rowland started to book me and I began to grow my client base from there.
Was there ever a moment that helped define you as a stylist or made an impact on your career?
One of the biggest moments was helping execute Beyoncé’s video for “Formation.” Being a part of Lemonade was a huge moment. However, Big Sean’s I Decided album release takes the cake, because it was the first time I ever worked on an album in its entirety. From the record cover to being on the set of every video shoot and creatively executing the vision Big Sean had, it was a monumental moment. It felt amazing to do this project on my own. Building something from the ground up meant a lot to me.
How did your relationship come about with actor Yvonne Orji?
I met Yvonne through a mutual friend at the Essence Black Women In Hollywood event. With us both being Nigerian, based in L.A., and in the entertainment industry, we had an immediate connection. We followed each other on Instagram instantly and always DM’d each other words of encouragement. Our friendship grew organically, since we were both extremely supportive from the start.
What will you bring to the table that will elevate Yvonne’s look for the NAACP Image Awards?
I want to bring a sense of boldness. Yvonne is fun, whimsical, and has an energetic personality. She loves bold prints and patterns, and she embraces her culture. So, I want to find a way to elevate her style in a way that is still strong. I will be playing with different silhouettes, designers, and colors that Yvonne has not tried before. I definitely want to open her mind to a different world of fashion that speaks to her and to our culture.
Dressing the Insecure actor will be a big moment for your career! What go-to style tips will you use before letting the star hit the red carpet?
My go-to style tip will always be to keep an emergency kit handy. It’s extremely important. From a lint brush, to double sided tape—slip-ups happen. Even when I feel very confident about the look, it’s essential to keep certain items on hand. At the end of the day, wardrobe malfunctions occur and I need to be ready.
Lastly, what are you most excited to see at the NAACP Image Awards?
Because this is the year of being a woman and being unapologetically black, I’m excited to see how the NAACP embraces the growing change that we are forcing in the industry as African Americans and how the #MeToo movement will be a part of the conversation. Ultimately, It will also be exhilarating to see how they celebrate us and to see my friends across the industry thriving at what they do.