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The New Orleans Style Makers of 2017 

Ones to watch in New Orleans

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Once the domain of celebrities, personal branding is easier than ever through the internet and social media. Still, real style is innate. While it can be cultivated, it can't be invented — you have it or you don't. The five people recognized in CUE this month have style to spare. Each had something to say and used their creativity and perserverance to bring their talent and message to others. While fashions come and go, style has legs. It endures, it inspires, it transcends. Meet the 2017 Style Makers.

Sheba Turk
Broadcaster, blogger, motivational speaker

  • Photo by Greg Miles Photography

Sheba Turk stumbled into journalism when she enrolled at the University of New Orleans (UNO) after beginning college at New York University. "It was the only class available with my schedule," she says, adding she always enjoyed writing. Two important figures in her life — Kim Bondy, a former CNN executive and a guest professor at UNO, and Soledad O'Brien, a journalist and CEO of Starfish Media — drew her to broadcast journalism. After graduating, she began working for WWL-TV and ascended the corporate ladder in just two years.

"I like the platform that being on air provides," she says. "It's up to me to develop that platform and do something good with it."

How do you keep up with your busy schedule?

I wake up before 3 a.m. every day to anchor WWL-TV's Eyewitness Morning News, so sleep is hard to come by. But I stay cheerful because I am grateful for my life and the opportunities I have.

How did you get where you are in your career?

A big part of me getting where I am right now is never accepting that "I made it." I started at WWL working behind the scenes as an associate producer. I worked my way up to traffic reporter, then field reporter and finally anchor and host of my own show, The 504. Each time I made another step toward a better future, I set a new goal. ... I hope to one day have my own nationally syndicated talk show.

What was your biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?

Running out of money to pay for college when I was at New York University. I overcame the situation with a lot of help. I was able to graduate from (UNO) thanks to the support of my mentor, Kim Bondy, and a scholarship from Soledad O'Brien's PowHERful Foundation. Never be afraid or ashamed to ask for help or to accept it. Just always remember to pay it forward.

How does New Orleans inspire you?

I grew up in New Orleans ... so [it] has always been a part of my life. What inspires me most ... is that at the heart of everything we do, we have a good time. ... New Orleans inspires me to do everything with joy.

What's your best style advice?

Experiment and don't take yourself too seriously. ... And learn what works for your body because when you don't have time to experiment, you have a solid default. For me, it's a good fitted midi dress in a great color.

Rocio Mora
Digital influencer

  • Photo by Greg Miles Photography

Move over, diamonds — Rocio Mora says curls are a girl's best friend. Her curly locks were a springboard for a career as a mogul of new media. Born in Baltimore and raised in New Orleans, Mora studied broadcast journalism, but shifted gears to computer drafting for an engineering firm. When the downturn in oil and gas led to layoffs, Mora quickly rebounded. Having attended a blogger's conference on how to improve her skills as a digital influencer, she turned what began as a hobby posting YouTube videos into a career change. In addition to her YouTube channel, she has a blog called RisasRizos, a combination of the Spanish words for "laughter" and "curls." She began with what she knew: the challenges of naturally curly hair, then expanded to other causes she cares about — the Hispanic community and empowering younger generations. "The world of digital influencers really is the Wild, Wild West," she says. "Everyone's winging it and taking it as they go." She has more than 90,000 followers on YouTube and 20,000 each on Facebook and Instagram. This summer, Kia Motors America sponsored her Rizos on the Road tour, which visited six cities from coast to coast. "Being an entrepreneur means having that hustler mentality and drive to achieve your dreams," she says.

How did you start your internet empire?

It all began when I was making video tutorials on what I had learned when getting my curls back after heat damage.

What do you like to post about?

My YouTube channel provides tips for curly hair in English and Spanish, helping women to love and embrace their curls.

How do you make a living out of being a YouTube and blog star?

Brands pay you to promote their products through reviews or integration when your following grows. Stay consistent. It's hard work to do full time, but it's possible.

What is your advice for aspiring bloggers and YouTubers?

Ideas were created to be brought to life. Market yourself digitally. Nearly everyone is staring at their phones all the time — use that. There are apps to help reach your target demographic.

Whose individualism has made a lasting impression on you?

I surround myself with like-minded individuals who are influencers and work hard at what they do. Their drive and diligence inspire me.

Ashley Ann Lyons Porter

  • Photo by Greg Miles Photography

Ashley Porter grew up in San Francisco, but her New Orleans lineage dates to the 1860s. A family member opened I.L. Lyons & Co., a pharmaceutical supply company, and invented nectar flavor, the famous pink syrup used in now-closed K&B's nectar milkshakes. Porter moved to New Orleans to attend Tulane University, and after graduating with a master of finance degree, she relocated to Los Angeles and received an associate degree in fashion design from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Stints at Balenciaga and Ralph Lauren followed in New York City. Her retail career started when she developed a business plan for a line of belts made from Louisiana alligator skins. While sourcing the skins, she found an alligator backbone that inspired her first jewelry design (a backbone cuff and knuckle ring), and the rest is shiny, bejeweled history. "New Orleans has the most vibrant, serendipitous culture I've ever experienced," she says. "It's just in my blood."

Tell us about your jewelry line.

Porter Lyons is wearable art that tells a story about New Orleans culture. I (am committed to) the sustainability of my products and partner with different nonprofits in Louisiana to give back to the community that inspires my work.

What is your favorite piece of vintage jewelry?

For me, jewelry acts as an amulet, reminding me of a place and time in my life. One of my treasures is a Native American bracelet my parents and I found together in Arizona. It's ... an eagle soaring with her wings outstretched, inlaid with coral, turquoise and bone. It was when I first started my career in jewelry and a memory and anchor point I'll never forget.

Why do you raise chickens?

The short answer: fresh eggs. But ... there is something beautiful about connecting with your food and knowing where it comes from.

What does New Orleans offer your design life that other cities do not?

I truly have a love affair with this city and its rich culture. I've lived in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles and find New Orleans to be where I feel most alive and inspired. ... I feel amazed to be living my dream, creating art to adorn people in a city I love so much. There's a sense of freedom and self-expression here that's in a class of its own.

Frank Relle

  • Photo by Greg Miles Photography

While waiting tables in the French Quarter, native New Orleanian Frank Relle visited A Gallery for Fine Photography on Chartres Street. There, works by Edward Weston, Sebastiao Salgado and Karl Blossfeldt spurred the Tulane University graduate's interest in photography. Relle began calling photographers to see if they needed an assistant, which led to three years of apprenticing with photographers including Mary Ellen Mark, Annie Leibovitz and Arnold Newman. He then explored the process of making his own work, taking beautifully lit, romantic photos of New Orleans houses at night. "I'm fascinated by how the character and personality of the people who live there are reflected in the character and personality of the home," he says. "I'm in a conversation with the house about the relationship between the stately and the weathered, the rich and the poor." He began his series of night-lit swamp and bayou scenes in 2014. "I want to explore the natural parts of Louisiana in a stimulating and interesting way," he says.

Why photos of New Orleans and Louisiana landscapes?

When I start making something, I begin with what I know and love. My life, memories and education are rooted in the watery lands of Louisiana.

Your photos feature heavy contrast between light and darkness. Why?

No two musicians will play a song the same, and light and shadow are the music of photography. I light my photographs to express my interpretation of the scene.

What's it like having your work on display in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History?

Originally, I thought it was a prank. Realizing it actually was the curator from the Smithsonian, I calmly accepted her request to bring my work to D.C., hung up (the phone), and promptly ran around screaming, "Smithsonian! Smithsonian!" Most days I forget the honor, but in moments like this, I recall the Dalai Lama scene from Caddyshack and Bill Murray's words, "So I got that going for me, which is nice."

Where do you find inspiration?

From my gallery on Royal Street, I (walk) toward Canal, stopping at Arcadian Books and M.S. Rau Antiques. ... Spitfire Coffee has my fuel. I loop back on Chartres (Street), [and] then it's time for a quarter muffuletta from Napoleon House. I sit at the bar, listen to the tourist-meets-local conversation. How much more inspiration can you get with an hour and $5.47?

Whose artistry influences your own?

My most impactful photographic lessons: darkroom printing from Joel Pickford, physics of light from Chris Callis and understanding content from Rick Olivier — or as he likes to call it, "the cake, not the icing."

Ellen Macomber
Artist, designer

  • Photo by Greg Miles Photography

Ellen Macomber was raised in New Orleans and Abbeville, and always had a penchant for art and design. She requested a sewing machine as a graduation present and devised inventive ways to finance life as an artist after college. She attended music festivals across the country and sold clothing she designed. The money she earned helped her travel to places such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, where she collected textiles for future designs. Macomber says the day-to-day demands of being a store owner motivate her to push herself harder than ever. In addition to selling New Orleans-centric home goods, clothes, purses and paintings featuring local imagery, she offers creative workshops and paints custom commissions. "It's not just about creating the work," she says, "but also about constantly getting it organized and coming up with new ideas."

Why textiles?

Before (Hurricane) Katrina I had a small clothing line. ... I also worked as a costume designer for local theater [groups] and made Mardi Gras costumes for clients. ... (After the storm,) I didn't touch a sewing machine for years. Instead, I began painting on glass as therapy. That led to painting maps and architecture, which then led me back to textiles. Fabric design allows me to connect my interests in maps, architecture, painting and fashion.

Tell us about the creative workshops you offer.

I offer a few different workshops, but the most popular is the headdress workshop. Everyone gets a head, a base, and tons of gorgeous materials. Oh, and Champagne. I also host succulent driftwood workshops [arranging succulent plants on driftwood] and succulent wreath workshops. If you have a green thumb or are interested in living art, these are great workshops to attend.

How do you pick the creative projects for your workshops?

People throw amazing craft parties here, gathering together and helping one another make costumes, especially during Mardi Gras. I decided to offer a place where you can come create, drink Champagne and leave a mess.

A lot of your work shares the same visual theme — maps of New Orleans. What about them inspires you?

Maps are part of my family's heritage. My grandfather was a shrimper and my mother was [raised on the water]. Maritime charts of coastal Louisiana [cover] the walls of my mother's fishing camp. I first had the idea to print maps on fabric for the baby blankets sometime in 2011. ... Now I have everything from baby clothes to men's neckties to upholstery fabric.

What are your personal style essentials?

My hair, my costume jewelry and my 3-year- old.


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