“I can’t complain about God’s plan. It all happened for a reason and I know I have big things in store for me, so I’m trying to be patient.” In a world where we are constantly Tweeting, sharing, and comparing our lives to one another, 24-year-old, The Around The Way Co-Founder, Rebecca Beyene is really optimistic about her future and the MULTIPLE plans God has in store for her. She turns 25 this week and is in no sort of quarter life crisis at all. Her calm, cool and colorful demeanor is infectious and she is very excited for the next year to come as she will be starting Fashion Design classes at FIDM in LA. This Chicago native is reaching for the stars and the moon and believes it’s a multitude of things that make us happy and we should learn to incorporate them in both our work and personal life.With a degree in Public Relations and Advertising from DePaul University she has landed herself multiple jobs and wants to use all of the skills she has learned to become the ultimate #GirlBoss. Never taking life and opportunities for granted, we can’t wait to see what is in store for the dopest Ethiopian.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you go to school and what did you study?
Well, I’m 24, turning 25 on the 26th, ha! Didn’t mean to do that but yeah, I’m turning 25 on Friday. I am a first generation American, born and raised on the north side of Chicago. Not the bougie side but the far north side. I come from a family of immigrants from Ethiopia in East Africa. I attended DePaul University and got my BA in Public Relations and Advertising.
What did you do post graduation?
Post graduation I was living life. I don’t mean like big ballin’ throwing money in the air and shit, but actually living life and understanding it. I didn’t go the corporate route because I didn’t want to be stuck somewhere and not be able to fulfill what I really want to do in life. So I just took it easy. I had this random nanny job that paid well and had a bomb ass schedule so I had the freedom to do me. I was also working at this dope consignment shop that paid well and my manager was cool as hell. I did some styling work here and there for local Chicago music artists. With my flexible schedule I was able to travel and spend some time with my parents in San Diego and figure life out. I’m blessed to have my Southwest hookup. I’m also blessed to have parents who live in San Diego, not everyone has the option to escape those depressing ass Chicago winters. San Diego is like rehab. It helped me get in tune with myself. It was dope.
But while I was out there I thought about grad school and checked out schools like UCLA and wasn’t feeling them, so then I looked into FIDM because my cousins in LA had suggested it for me. I’ve always had a deep down thing for fashion so I was like, that’s it, I really wanna do this fashion thing. I ended up loving FIDM so I applied and got in! I never really realized how much of a good and well-known school FIDM was until after I got in. I also got the chance to work CFDA’s Spring/Summer 2015 New York Fashion Week which was off the chain. Out of 1,400 applicants only about 300 were selected in the volunteer program and I was one of them. It definitely solidified my decision in working in fashion.
What are your next plans? How are you going to try and get there?
I’m starting fashion design school this spring in April so I guess that would be the next plan. I learned my lesson when it comes to making plans because they never work out, so I’m learning to just go with the flow of things. They say, “Man plans, and God laughs,” right! I have the blog right now that’s keeping me going though. I know the end goal, I’m willing to work hard for it, and I’m just gonna have God guide me through it.
Why Fashion Design? It’s completely different than what you went to school for. Are your parents nervous?
No my parents have always been supportive in whatever my siblings and I did. They trust us, which is different for most Ethiopian immigrant parents [laughs].
Since I was a kid I was always the one dressing the way I wanted to dress, cutting up clothes, taking pieces from old clothes, designing in my notebooks, so they weren’t surprised. I think it was when they saw my portfolio for FIDM is when they were like, oh shit she can really do this. But like I said before, I’ve always had a strong love for fashion and music. I knew I had wanted to work in either field I just wasn’t sure exactly which one. When I was like 8, up to like 17 I had dreams of being a singer and my mom was for it. She put me in all of these classes, dance schools, I even went to Gallery 37 for vocal arts in high school but then after learning more about the music industry I was like, eh this is too much, I’ll work behind the scenes. I decided on majoring in Public Relations because it was one of the few degrees at DePaul that I could use in both of the fields I wanted to work in, and that my parents would take me seriously for. I knew they wouldn’t be down with me going to an arts school for college so PR was the closest and I really enjoyed it. I thought I was gonna be like Kelly Cutrone but then the PR thing wasn’t sitting right with me. I loved learning about it, and it was something I could see myself doing, but it wasn’t something that I wanted to do.
Throughout college I had music and entertainment related internships, but still had this desire for fashion and designing. After ignoring that desire for so long I decided to move forward with it. I figured I got my PR degree for my parents, now I can get a degree in something I’ve been wanting to do. And I don’t want to just have a T-shirt line and call it a day. I’m aiming for high end boo! So I want to learn everything about fashion, from the history, to threading, to patterns…all of it!
What are some challenges you think you’ll face as a Fashion Design Student?
I think I’ll be straight as a student. Maybe money might be an issue, or that I’m too thirsty to get the ball rolling on my career but I think more of the challenge is in the fashion industry in itself.
Since I’m going back to school, I’m more focused this time around because I’m sure of what I want to do, not like how I was during my undergrad year when all I wanted to do was just graduate. So I’m not playing any games this time. However breaking into the fashion industry and reaching the level of success that I want to reach, especially as a black girl, might have its challenges but I’m not going to give it life. I’m aware of the possible challenges but I’m not afraid to put up a fight.
Where do you draw your inspiration from when sketching and creating?
Honestly it’s all in my head. I day dream all the time and I constantly think of clothes that I want to wear. I like street wear, I like ethnic clothing, especially African, so I try to incorporate those things. Sometimes I’ll give myself a theme to work from then sketch out like 5 pieces. One time I did like a Miami Vice, Elvira from Scarface themed women’s collection that turned out raw. I was proud of myself [laughs]. I get inspired by good looking clothes.
What made you move to California? What do you hope to accomplish while you’re out there?
It’s funny because it was actually not by choice. I was always considering moving out to LA but nothing was set in stone. I thought maybe I’ll move out there after graduation . My parents had just moved out to San Diego around this time and my mom was really thirsty for me to come out there. I was always the honor roll type A on the go student who wanted to get ahead and graduate on time. Right before my second to last semester of my senior year of college I got very sick to the point where I had no choice but to take time off from school. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and I physically couldn’t take care of myself so I had to move back with my parents. It was painful both physically and mentally because I had this whole awesome life plan for me and this thing unexpectedly put everything on pause and I had no control over it.
During that year I learned a lot about life, myself, and got stronger with my family. It made me grateful for all the small things that we overlook every day, like walking. I was bedridden so I read a lot. I read a lot of inspirational books and spiritual books since my mom is into all that stuff. I grew mentally and spiritually during that time. I’m not gonna lie, before that I was only into myself and succeeding in life. I still think about success but I am also now more aware of the deeper things in life. After I miraculously got better, seriously I went from not walking and not being able to move to walking, I went back to Chicago to finish school. Because of my RA, my parents and doctors were all like Chicago is too cold for you! And I was like, No I love Chicago! Chi til I die! So I knocked out the rest of my school year, had a fun ass summer, got that nanny job, then the winter hit. Once winter rolled around I was completely done. I just hated everything about life and was like it’s not worth it! I love Chicago but not Chiberia. I needed to be a G and make that move to LA.
I just want to show and prove while I’m out here. Network, knowledge, experience, and growth is what I’m looking for.
Any plans to move back to Chicago?
Man I hope so. I would love to raise my future kids there because I love the way my siblings and I turned out, and Chicago has a big part in that. But I just can’t do that winter. When my fashion career takes off I’ll be able to live back and forth from Chicago and LA, but right now it’s looking like a no. I love the sun.
What made you want to start a blog?
I was really inspired by The Sartorialist blog and always felt like I could do something to that extent except highlight Chicago style. I also wanted to do something with music, culture, and inspirational people so I just got to a point where I was like I’m gonna do it NOW. Ariel and I had talked about starting a blog for the longest but we never made any moves. I guess we both were at that same point because we just jumped right in and started The Around The Way.
In your mind what is The Around The Way?
The Around The Way is a blog that celebrates city life in Chicago and everywhere else through music, fashion, food, art, and everyday people. It highlights young women around our age with inspirational stories to share. It is a representation of two down to earth women of color, born and raised in the city, who want to uplift their community and spread positive vibes.
What previous work have you done and how has it helped contribute to The Around The Way?
A lot of my previous work was all PR work. I worked the Promotions department for Clear Channel Communications while I was at WGCI. I was an assistant and did marketing work for Chocolate Sundaes at The Laugh Factory in LA, which was also under Kevin Hart’s management company Hartbeat Production. I also did things here and there for Atlantic Records. The work was pretty much consistent with every position: writing up press releases, doing research, promoting on social networks, meeting and talking to new people, organizing events, managing guest lists, dealing with high profile clients etc. I would say the writing and connecting with people has helped the most. I’m not too shy to talk to new people and take pictures for the blog or network. All my writing classes in college definitely helped and made me feel confident about my writing. My experience at Fashion Week also helped me get in touch with other bloggers with similar interests that we can collaborate with in the future.
Do you plan on doing something else along with working on The Around The Way?
Probably. I want to have my high end clothing line. I want to do philanthropy work and help people, like open up business and help create jobs for minorities in low income neighborhoods and things like that, especially for black people. I want to do a lot for Ethiopia, Africa, and the black community in America. I also want to learn how to make beats [laughs]. I know it sounds random but for those that know me know that it’s nothing surprising. I have the ear for it and probably will get into sometime down the future. I wanna do it all! Who said we had to be assigned to only one occupation?
Tell the world about your friendship with Ariel? (LOL!)
Ariel is my G. She is one of the most awkward girls you will meet but one of the sweetest and most caring. What I like about Ariel is that we click when it comes to our family and you don’t see many people that actually enjoy going out and turning up with their siblings. Since we both were raised in similar family backgrounds and circumstances, we both just knew where we came from and connected like sisters. It’s funny because now all of our siblings rock with each other and we’re one big family. Ariel makes me feel comfortable to be me with no judgment and I love her for that. We can disagree and argue but that’s always the fam bam.
Where would you like to see the future of The Around The Way?
I want the blog to take off to the point where we are getting paid to blog and advertisers are hitting us up. I would love for The Around The Way to be a known Chicago blog name kinda like FakeShoreDrive, but known for different services. It would also dope for the blog to Segway into PR or event planning. I want it to become a platform for new artists, business, and people to showcase their talent and spread their message.
Is this what you imagined yourself doing at this age?
HA! NAH! [imitates Chief Keef]. I thought by now I would have had my bomb ass high rise condo, with a gorgeous stacked closet, pushing my beautiful Audi, and working at a record label with a high title or something. I’m not even mad though. I can’t complain about God’s plan. It all happened for a reason and I know I have big things in store for me, so I’m trying to be patient.
What advice would you give to girls who want to change career paths? Especially as a 25-year-old? The internet says we should have our life figured out by now….
I was that person that thought they knew everything that was going to happen in their life. I had a plan and was too caught up in it. I learned the hard way from my illness that it’s okay to take on things a different way. We all are living according to our own time and shouldn’t be trying to race one another. There is no set path you have to follow. When you start comparing your life to someone else’s is when you’ll start making life worse for you. Be patient. Fuck what anyone has to say because you will get the side-eye from judgmental assholes who think there is a life script we all have to follow. Don’t be hard on yourself for not being where you thought you should be. It can be hard when you’re on Instagram and Facebook and you see people flexing and shit, but don’t get discouraged because most of the time people are lying. In the end, do what you want because you want to, and curse out anyone that tries to get in your.
You’re an older sister. How do you try to motivate and inspire Leah?
It’s crazy because I don’t try to do anything [laughs]. She tells me I inspire her which is so sweet but I personally don’t see it yet. I want to get on and become successful so I can put my family on and we can live the lives that we’re supposed to live. I guess you can say my sister and I motivate each other. We always talk about the future and what our potential has to offer. When we work together and get excited about our work is how we motivate and inspire one another. Our vibes together are strong. She inspires me.
Where in Chicago are you from and what was life like growing up as a city girl?
I’m from the far north side or the “north pole.” So I lived in Uptown until I was 5, then moved further north to like Edgewater/Rogers Park by Clark and Devon, and lived there until I moved to Cali. We still have our home so we can come back to it. Growing up in Chicago was the shit. I loved being a city kid in the 90’s. All I remember was being at all the neighborhood camps and programs, and running around with the kids on the block. My mom was a CPS teacher at schools out south and west so she knew about all the inner city youth programs and made sure to put me, my brother and sister in all together. It didn’t matter where they were either. We had programs out south with the black kids, downtown and up north with the white kids, and in our hood with a mix of black kids and foreign kids. Uptown and Rogers Park were completely different before they was gentrified. They were not the best neighborhoods but they were diverse and family oriented. The far north side was mainly made up of immigrants and Black folks of the working class. So you had a lot of hardworking Africans, Dominicans, Mexicans, Caribbeans, Indians, Asians, etc. The only white people that you saw in the neighborhood were eastern Europeans and they didn’t even consider themselves as white. Yes Uptown and Edgewater had their share of crime here and there, but it was a great place to grow up.
Growing up as a city kid teaches you to be smart and independent. Every kid that grew up in Chicago has learned most of their life lessons from the streets of Chicago. You don’t have to grow up in the hood to have street smarts and a hustler’s spirit. I feel like growing up in Chicago is an experience in its own that we should appreciate. Growing up here isn’t easy and you need to earn your stripes before you can claim yourself as a Chicagoan! I was so annoyed when I first went to DePaul and saw all the false-flaggers claiming they were from Chicago but really from Gurnee or something. I love being from Chicago and I love the love I get being from there.
What would you like to achieve in life (spiritually, mentally, financially etc.)?
So many things! I want to love and to be loved. I want to know my purpose in life and to be able to fulfill it. I want to be in tune with the universe and myself. I want to be happy with the way I turned out. I want to make a difference and help people. I want my “Beyene” last name to be a legacy and known for positive things. Like I said I want it all! Health, wealth, love, spirituality, happiness, I want everything.
What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
Be patient. I’m still working on that. Don’t overwork yourself. Your health comes first before anything. It’s okay to relax,you are a human-BEing not a human-DOing. It’s okay to not have the answers, not even Sway has the answers. Watch who you call friends and don’t be so trusting. I would tell myself to give out of state schools a chance. Oh, and don’t be the party house. Everyone doesn’t need to know where you live.
Name your favorite thing about Chicago.
Lake Shore Drive. My whole life was off Lake Shore Drive and it forever reminds me of home.
See what Rebecca is up to on Instagram @be.mob and be sure to follow the blog page as well @thearoundtheway