Celebrity stylist Thomasina Atkins - better known as “Goo Goo” to her 639,000 Instagram fans - is in New Orleans this Essence Festival weekend to co-host the Stars & Strikes Celebrity Day Soiree and Bowling Bash 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, July 1 at Fulton Alley (600 Fulton St., 504-208-5593; www.fultonalley.com). She’s sharing hosting duties with former New Orleans Saints running back Deuce McAllister, but Atkins can hold her own at the star-studded event. Her client list includes the likes of Grammy-winning gospel and R&B duo Mary Mary and actors and influencers such as Morris Chestnut and Laila Ali.
Proceeds from the event benefit Le Sanctuary Book Club, a nonprofit organization that offers monthly book club meetings for women and girls ages 12 to 14 to encourage literacy. Throughout the year, the organization also conducts book and coat drives and participates in several local charitable events. Annually, Le Sanctuary grants a textbook scholarship to a young lady graduating from high school and entering her first year of undergraduate studies at a Louisiana college or university. The Stars & Strikes event benefits that scholarship fund.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Atkins’ career now takes her all over the world. Gambit caught up with her somewhere between Israel and Detroit to chat about her 15 years in the industry, summer style trends and getting her bowl on at one of the many fabulous day parties flanking this year’s Essence Festival.
Gambit: Does LA style influence your personal style?
Atkins: Yes, definitely. It’s a beautiful city with great weather … it doesn’t get extremely hot; in the winter, the mountains are covered with snow; there are beaches and desserts - all that in one county [that’s a “parish” to us Louisianans]. There are all kinds of people and food. I get inspiration from all that. … I love to dress in comfortable silks and linens and lots of color.
G: How does the LA weather affect how you dress (and how you dress your clients)?
A: It’s always spring and summer as far as fashion is concerned. The temperature will drop though - it can be 80 degrees in the day and then in the 50s and 60s at night. … Sometimes I can do some layering, especially in the fall. As a stylist, I like thin layers. I like to dress in a way that if I take off some of the layers, (the outfit) still looks stylish.
G: How did you get started in the business of dressing people?
A: I always had an interest in fashion but from a [different] perspective. I didn’t have a lot of options as a plus-sized kid. … I would draw pictures of clothes and imagine what I would wear if I had my way. … In high school, I would take all the hand-me-down clothes (I was given) and make small changes to make them my own. I was broadening my creativity even though I didn’t know it - I just didn’t want to look like an old lady. When I started backup singing … I had a lot of people asking me about my clothes and asking me to help them (create outfits). I also experienced dry spells of work as a singer, so I started styling (people I knew). … I had a gift - people pay people like me to make them look stylish and polished.
G: What are some of your favorite summer fashion trends?
A: Dusters and kimonos - they’re super flowy and can help you stay cool. You can put on something very simple - all you need is a plain canvas underneath. Then you put on (a duster or kimono) and all of a sudden, you’re having a moment.
G: Are there any colors or patterns trending for summer?
A: Small florals are coming back - especially roses. I’m liking it because it’s feminine. Lace and off-the-shoulder styles are big, too - it’s very romantic. Chokers are back from the ’80s, but they need to be worn the right way.
G: What is the right way?
A: Coupled with something off-the-shoulder - a lot of people don’t know that shoulders are sexy! - and your earrings shouldn’t touch the choker. The choker should (take center stage).
G: What should every woman have in her closet?
A: A great pair of skinny jeans in a dark color and a blazer - oversized blazers are coming back. I love to add broaches to my blazers. And a nice solid-colored dress that can be dressed up for night time. A woman should definitely have good undergarments … and a good neutral-colored pump (heel).
G: Tell us about the Le Sanctuary Book Club scholarship.
A: Your first year of college can be overwhelming - you have to make adult decisions, many for the first time. … It’s an adjustment. This scholarship means not having to worry about at least one expense. It’s empowering. The young ladies [that receive the award] are very intelligent … and very grateful. And they just have fun. It’s an honor to be the host of the event.
G: How did you come to be affiliated with Le Sanctuary?
A: Angela Young [co-founder of Le Sanctuary] and I crossed paths years ago. She took me under her wing as a little sister. I wasn’t a celebrity when I started (working with Le Sanctuary) - she just believed in my personality and in my heart and in what I could do.
G: What do you say to aspiring stylists out there?
A: Styling is styling. Everyone wants to get their hands on celebrities. But use social media - if you put great images out there no one cares if it’s Beyonce or Madonna. You may never get to New York or to LA. Don’t be impressed by celebrities, labels and brands. If that’s not the best designer, why go there? ... Don’t just style people that look like you, and don’t style them in what you want them to wear - style them for the occasion. … Stretch yourself and do different things. Be honest - don’t push the trends that don’t work for your clients. Everything is about relationships - your name and your integrity mean everything in this business. And be nice. Be a nice person, and work hard.