For Women’s History Month, we’re introducing five phenomenal women who are leaving their creative imprint on the world. We kicked off the series with Francesca Andre, a talented photographer who highlights Black stories through her creative eye. On International Women’s Day, we featured Sandra Lajoie, the Vice President of NBCUniversal: NBC & Bravo, who happens to be visually impaired.
Today, we celebrate producer and costume designer QueenSylvia Akuchie. Currently captivating the world with her stylish vision on the hit series Bel-Air, the first-generation American of Nigerian descent has come a long way since her days of styling musicians. Akuchie began her career as a costume designer in Atlanta. While in college, her creative eye overpowered her passion for law, leading her to pivot into the costume department of the film industry.
“Before moving to Los Angeles, I had already worked with some of the most recognizable artists in the world. My talent has led to many opportunities, including being the first Costume Designer to design for the OWN network. I have worked with the likes of Denzel Washington, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, Ben Affleck, Tyler Perry, and much more,” she said.
With such notable accolades, Akuchie is most proud of her work on the second season of Peacock’s Bel-Air. “It has been the epitome of Black culture, Black essence and Black love.”
A Black in Hollywood
And while Akuchie has experiences tons of career highs, the journey didn’t come without the lessons of what it feels like to be a Black woman in Hollywood.
“The biggest hurdle I’ve encountered in my career as a black woman is not being seen and heard. In Hollywood, we are told to tone down the projection in our voice, readjust our thoughts, change our delivery, and shield our actual thoughts. Other times, just having the opportunity to have a seat at the table has also been a challenge.”
As Black women, we are expected to be seen and not heard. Simultaneously, we are tasked with saving the day, whether it’s through voting, advocacy, or simply using our voices. The conflicting messages challenge our worth, causing us to hold back key parts of ourselves. Creatively speaking, women fight extremely hard to share their artistry with the world, unaltered and unedited by people who don’t understand the vision. Akuchie had two choices; she could water herself down or show up for herself.
“Initially, I did everything I thought was right, and that was to conform. I became free when I was authentically myself and chose to show up as me; I didn’t adjust what I represented; didn’t change my voice; didn’t change my hair; I didn’t change the way I presented it myself. I showed up as me authentically QueenSylvia Akuchie. Also, understanding that showing up as yourself will make others uncomfortable and being ok with just being me.”
Now looking back, Akuchie would encourage her younger self to remain patient through the hurdles that feel overwhelming. “Some things that may seem challenging at the moment are only TEMPORARY. I always listen to my intuition first. Stay the course. Don’t ever give up no matter how many no’s you get.”
There is strength in authenticity
Source: Donte Maurice / Donte Maurice
Akuchie has many strengths but authenticity has become her superpower. Showing up as herself has helped her maintain her roles as a successful costume designer, producer, mother, and overall Black woman.
“What makes me powerful is being comfortable with who I am—being an amazing mother and persevering in turbulent times,” she said. “Traveling all over the world as a young child and into adulthood has opened my eyes to the world and people and my understanding of humanity at its core. Understanding that we are all the same and have so much connective tissue yet still yield cultural differences,” she continued.
Akuchie is basking in the success of the second season of Bel-Air. Between her 24/7 gig as a mother, and the other projects she’s working on, 2023 will be a busy and successful year for the talented wardrobe stylist. We look forward to seeing more of her work in the future. For now, you can follow her journey via her Instagram page.