Kandace Banks On How She Went From Backyard Photo Shoots To Styling HBO's "Insecure"
TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF.
I live in Brooklyn, I’m a stylist… Oh I’m a Libra! I was born in a small town called, Richmond, Indiana, and I moved to New York last April.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE GROWING UP IN INDIANA?
Growing up in Indiana was very country. I remember picking corn as a kid and going to farms... a lot of our food, we picked ourselves. It was a lot of fun, but I’m a city girl at heart. For that reason, I moved to D.C. for six years before coming to New York. I just really like big cities.
HOW WAS THAT TRANSITION, GOING FROM SUCH A SMALL TOWN TO DC, AND THEN NEW YORK?
It was hard going from Indiana to a big city just because I was all alone. I didn’t have my sister or my parents. I have so many stories about me trying to make it in D.C. haha, but I finally made it! It’s funny, I never actually wanted to live in New York because every time I came to visit, I would only go to Times Square or super touristy places so I really didn’t like it. Eventually, one of my friends moved to Brooklyn and I started coming and visiting her, and I was shocked; I really liked it and that side of New York, so I decided to move here.
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR PASSION FOR STYLING?
My mom is a very well put-together, fashionable woman, and she always taught my sister and I how to look our best, so pretty much ever since I was a kid.
We were also raised in church, and you know, black church is like a fashion show. Every Sunday we would put on our best outfits, make sure every single hair was in place, and that we weren’t ashy. Where I grew up, if you didn’t look put together people would talk about you, and that was like my biggest fear.
To sum it up, I’d have to say my interest in fashion was because of my mom and church.
YOU DON'T ONLY STYLE, I SEE YOU'VE DONE SOME MODELING YOURSELF. HOW DID THAT DEVELOP, AND WHICH DID YOU GET INTO FIRST?
I actually started out designing clothes. My mother had a sewing machine and after she taught me how to sew, I would make my own clothes. But then at the end of high school, my friend bought a camera, and after that we would just go to the woods or different scenes in my neighborhood and she would take pictures of me. And this was before Instagram, Facebook, this is MySpace days, before people were really even doing photo shoots, and we did it just because we wanted to express ourselves.
Later, I actually ended up dating a photographer my first year in college. I’ve actually never even posted the photos to social media, but I’ve always loved photography and taking photographs for myself and for my friends. I would say I started out designing clothes, which led to photo shoots, which eventually led to me styling. It was definitely a journey.
AS AN INDUSTRY, FASHION HAS BECOME MORE DIVERSE AND INCLUSIVE, BUT THERE ARE STILL STRIDES TO BE MADE. HOW DOES THIS PROGRESS FEEL BEING INSIDE THE INDUSTRY VERSUS ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN?
When I first started doing shoots, I was around 18 and they would have white women do my makeup, who had no idea how to accommodate for my complexion, and I ended up just looking like a fool on set. But recently, I think it’s gotten a lot better. People are going out and learning more about different hair textures, different complexions and different makeup techniques than before. Nowadays, I’ve had women do my makeup, and even if they’re not my skin tone, they know how to work with me.
I would say that it is getting a lot better. I think right now it’s trendy to be diverse and inclusive, so a lot of people are jumping on the bandwagon. Personally, I just like to be on sets where it feels genuine, and people genuinely want me there because of who I am, not just to fill a quota of ‘Oh we need one dark skin girl.’
WHERE DO YOU GET MOST OF YOUR INSPIRATION?
I’m actually really inspired by 70’s movies, and other photoshoots with stars, like Dorothy Dandridge. I really love looking at old black and white pictures of women like Diana Ross, just doing it in her prime.
I’m also inspired by church, again. I love being at the church let out and seeing all the black women walk by in their Sunday best.
NOW I KNOW YOU'VE DONE SOME WORK fOR MAN REPELLER, EBONY, AND NYLON, BUT RECENTLY YOU WORKED WITH HBO ON INSECURE. HAS TV BEEN A DRASTICALLY DIFFERENT CHANGE, AND WAS IT A FIELD YOU ALWAYS SAW YOURSELF GOING INTO?
I never ever, ever, thought that I would do a TV show, so I am so grateful for that experience.
It was different because it moves so fast, I barely had time to eat or sleep. It’s a huge difference from being at Man Repeller and working out of the office for a shoot. It’s a lot more volume styling all the characters of a TV show, a lot more market research and a lot more outreach to designers and brands. It’s more work than a regular photo shoot, but it’s really rewarding.
DO YOU THINK YOU'LL CONTINUE IN TV?
I want to. If the opportunity arises, I definitely wouldn’t turn it down, no matter how hard the work is. I really like it.
OK, SO I AM A BIG INSECURE FAN. YOU HAVE TO TELL ME WHAT THE EXPERIENCE WAS LIKE BEING ON SET AND GETTING TO WORK ON THE SHOw.
I’m so grateful and thankful that I got to work on a team with so many black women. It just felt empowering to be apart of this team that was so supportive.
Even when we put the mood board together, they only wanted to see black women on it. Just being a part of a team that's emphasizing who we are, and displaying that in the world we live in and the one we are bringing to life, through clothes and their costumes. It was really such an amazing experience, I wish I could do it again.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS THAT I HAVEN'T ASKED YOU?
Push yourself. On those days you don’t feel like doing it or you don’t have enough money and you just want to turn back to what’s comfortable, don’t do it. Say ‘This is what I really want,’ and just have something in your head that really keeps you going. For me, it’s my mom. So just think about something that will push you forward and don’t give up, keep going.
I read this quote that goes something like, “Don’t underestimate the power of small daily habits coming together overtime to end up changing your life.” One small change that you implement today, a year later could take you down a completely different path for the better. Just start with small daily goals, and you’ll eventually get to where you want to go.
OK, SO THIS NEXT PART IS JUST SOME FIREBALL QUESTIONS. ANSwER THE FIRST THINGS THAT COME TO MIND - WHAT'S THE BEST PART OF YOUR JOB?
DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE IN TWO WORDS?
YOUR JOB IN TWO WORDS?
CURRENT FAVORITE ARTIST?
FAVORITE STYLE ICON?
Tracee Ellis Ross
CLOSET MUST HAVE?
SOMETHING YOU CAN'T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT?
ADVICE FOR OTHER GIRL BOSSES WHO WANT TO PURSUE YOUR FIELD?
Don’t let these boys distract you!
FAVORITE LAST THING YOU'VE READ?
WHO'S SOMEONE THAT INSPIRES YOU?