Winning Saturday night's Eye on Fashion stylist competition could be the start of something major for the four hopefuls who have thrown their hats into the ring.
After putting out a nationwide call, the Fashion Movement, a Tampa fashion show and marketing company, whittled dozens of applicants down to four finalists to compete for the $550 prize and the chance to expand their portfolios by styling a photo shoot for Revized magazine. Two of those candidates are from the Tampa Bay area.
"This contest was started in 2012 as a chance to give stylists a platform to showcase their skills," said Lacey B. Smith, chief executive producer of the Fashion Movement. "Backstage at fashion shows, I would see stylists really pulling everything together and doing a lot of work, but not getting the recognition until after the show was over. This gives them a chance to show what they do to a broader audience."
Audiences already have an idea of what a high-level stylist's life is like thanks to the formidable TV presence of figures like June Ambrose and Rachel Zoe. But like most any other facet of the entertainment industry, no one starts at the top.
Melizza P. Williams, 24, a nanny who lives in Brandon, has all the education she needs, but entered Eye on Fashion looking for a chance to chase her dream.
"Growing up in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, we had limited options as to what stores where we could shop," said Williams, a merchandising graduate of New York's Fashion Institute of Technology. "I've always loved fashion and when I graduated from the University of South Florida in December with my degree in marketing, I decided not to go the safe route into the corporate world."
Williams continued working as a nanny after graduation to get more time to work on her portfolio and offer her services to clients.
"I do some personal shopping for my clients because they sometimes feel like they can't be chic after the baby," she said. "My aesthetic is chic, elegant and put together. I like mixing opposites — pieces you wouldn't think to put together but making sure it's elegant. My look for clients is always refined."
She hopes to win Eye on Fashion to grow her portfolio and take another step on the road to her fantasy job: styling Scandal star Kerry Washington.
"She's has such a natural beauty that everything she wears just seems effortless," Williams said. "I'd love to work with a client like that."
Tristan Richards, 25, a bookkeeper who lives in Tampa, describes his style as street chic but runway ready, and worked as a model before jumping into the field of fashion styling.
"When I applied for the competition I was prepared for the rejection, because as a model I understand you don't always fit every criteria," he said. "I was extremely excited when they told me I made the finals."
Richards thinks a win on Saturday could be the launching point for his styling company.
"I really got into this business because it's something I love and something that comes so natural to me," he said. "On Saturday, I'm looking to have fun, enjoy the event and get my name out there as well."