Sensitive About My Shit: Diamond Mahone Bailey
Welcome to “Sensitive About My Shit,” our monthly interview series about creatives you should know.
Erykah Badu calls stylist Diamond Mahone Bailey “her second pair of eyes.” Badu’s voice lightens as she talks about her and you can tell the love is deep. After the two met serendipitously in Dallas six years ago, they have worked together on a number of projects, including Badu World Market.
Below, we spoke with the start about her work, helping bring Badu World Market to life and her advice for the next generation of creatives.
Badu World Market: Tell us about your background in fashion.
Diamond Mahone Bailey: I was in retail for such a long time, just from high school and just really getting comfortable with learning the back end of retail. When I left school, I was like, "I don't know exactly what I want to do." I thought I would be designing clothes, then I thought I would have a store, and not to say that all those things still won't happen, but it was just a natural kind of process to lean more into styling. It felt very comfortable and easy for me just utilizing the relationships with stores and then with designers to kind of step into that process.
So, I mean, it's been what, almost 15 years now? Like being in retail and then transitioning over to my full-time styling.
When did you know that you could have a career in fashion?
I knew I could have a career when I leaned into my true creative form. I think it's really more of an informative process. Some things come naturally, but I also think it's knowing the history of where things come from so you have a very good reference point. I just started creating. This is where I feel most passionate and comfortable.
When did you first meet Erykah?
I first met Erykah in 2016, I believe. I met her through a mutual friend of ours. I had been in Dallas a few years. Everyone was like, "You’ve got to meet E. I feel like y'all just have to meet. Like, it's crazy that y'all, aren't working together in some capacity." Then I happened to be working at a store and she walked in.
I said, "Everyone keeps telling us we got to meet." I was getting ready to leave the store to go completely full-time with styling. She was like, "I want to have you onboard."
A couple years before Badu World Market came about, she brought me to Japan to help her [curate her tour wardrobe]. She was like, "I want you to pull some looks and just arrange some things for me to see in my wardrobe when I'm on tour."
I know you also worked together on a 2016 Vogue Mexico shoot.
That was our first shoot. She had asked me to pull in some clothes and do a fitting for her in Puma.
I have to clarify. When people say, "You style E," Erykah is her own stylist, but I pulled stuff that I knew maybe she didn't have the time or necessarily the access to. I helped make sure there was more in her arsenal so that she could play and experiment with different things. So it was fun to collaborate with her on that editorial. It was with her and Puma and it was kind of Puma's first foray into Vogue.
That's so exciting.
It was really a dope process to see how E works, too. She really is a visionary when it comes to understanding concepts of style. It's very effortless and it was inspiring for me as another creative to see her work in that way.
You mentioned Badu World Market. Can you talk about the early stages of the store and your involvement?
She's always had her merch site or things that she sold at her shows and stuff, but I was like, "You need some sort of platform where you're not only just selling your merch, but it's also a collaborative space for other designers that you love and work with." And so, you know, Erykah has so many ideas, so it was nice to be in the beginning stages of that, helping formulate a strong point of view and identity for that. And so she was like, "Can you model for me, too? I want you to be a part of this process." It was nice connecting the dots with different people that she needed to get things done.
Whether it be vendors or technical back end people, it was really a cool process to help build the start of that.
The title of this series is “Sensitive About My Shit.” What does that phrase mean to you?
I think that phrase really opens up the honesty when it comes to being a true creative and owning your creative power and prowess.
Erykah talks about this a lot, but she's like, "This really came from a gut feeling. This isn't something that I've seen, this came from a true feeling of inspiration." It's something that you don’t want taken away, simplified or watered down.
It's [also] hurtful when you see people take it or do something [slightly] different and then call it their own.
I think it's more about honesty than anything.
I feel like that's necessary as an artist. You have to be able to be honest with yourself.
Honest with yourself first, but then very honest with people who do take your shit, because it happens often and it's like, "Bitch, you didn't make this."
You know you saw that somewhere, stop lying. I've seen it, it's happened to me. It happened to me with bigger names where people literally have posted their mood board and there's an image of something that I've collaborated on or I've done and there's no reference to the identity of what the project is. It's just something that I guess you just note, but over time it's like, "Okay, how do you really own this?" I guess that's where the sensitivity comes in.
You know your work when you see it, doesn't matter where it is. You know your impact. Lastly, do you have any advice for the upcoming generation of fashion creators and stylists?
I would just say, be very intentional about who you seek and who you surround yourself with, because not everybody has your best interest. At the same time, just be open. In the beginning I was like, "Oh you go work with everyone just to do certain things." I think if you really stay true to your process and you're more intentional about the work that you do, it will be more longstanding.