Stylist, Ariel Mei, says, “It’s not about a bump on your face. It’s about how you feel when you wear an outfit.”

Ariel is a stylist, image consultant, a creative, and an entrepreneur. She takes us through her journey with fashion, self-image, and acne positivity. 

Wardrobe styling is something I’ve always been interested in. During high school, I realized that I could dress myself to stand out and set myself apart. Through fashion, I discovered so many ways to express my personality. However, I didn’t see creating outfits and looks as something I could do on a large scale. I didn’t think it was possible. So, I just started styling my friends, and gradually, I noticed that people were gravitating toward me. They admired my work, and they liked the way I styled, and then, they wanted to be styled themselves. From there, I worked to make connections with models, photographers, and artists. A whole world opened up to me, and I realized that there are so many different forms of styling. One form is image consulting. An image consultant is someone that works on a personal level with their clients. They elevate and add to their image. This is what I do, and my clientele is more in the creative industry. 

So, I collaborate with artists during photoshoots, music videos, for content creation, or for their portfolios. On the other hand, there’s a side of image consulting that’s primarily shaping the image of entrepreneurs. This styling is different because you're helping to create the image they desire to embody all the time. Whereas with a photoshoot, you’re putting together things people wouldn’t normally wear. You’re giving artists the opportunity to express themselves in a way they normally wouldn’t on a day-to-day basis. I’m really into creating pieces that one wouldn’t conventionally wear — maybe a furry coat, gloves, and tall heels that you can’t really walk in, but make for a dope photoshoot. 

As for my personal style, I still love dressing different. I love the color orange and monochromatic patterns. I love streetwear, girlish tomboy looks,  baggy clothes, prints, and colors. The 80s, 90s, and early 2000s eras really speak to me because I feel like people valued being themselves, not just styles and recycled outfits. It was all about being different, and back then, women knew that they were “That Girl.”

And it’s from those eras that I’m inspired to embody confidence. Not only do I wear unique outfits, but I  feel good about wearing them. Confidence is a part of wearing unique clothing. When you step out in something different, you can’t be uncertain because that’ll be the energy given off.

I haven’t always been confident though. In fact, confidence has been very new for me.  I try to get out of my comfort zone because I want to build my confidence even more. I want to feel capable no matter what I have on or how I look. It’s all about growth, and if you feel like you can’t wear an outfit because you have something like acne, I understand because I’ve definitely struggled with that. Acne used to make me super insecure and self-conscious. 

At 25, I had major breakouts. I became more introverted and discouraged. I just felt like people were judging me because of my skin. Skin even became the first thing I noticed about people! My skin made me not even want to go outside, and I definitely did more hiding and put on more makeup. But once I began to learn more about acne, I accepted that my skin is not going to be clear every day. The resources and products that Face Reality gave me truly helped me understand this more. I slowly came to terms with the fact that I’m beautiful on the inside and the outside. I can’t stop my life or be uncomfortable just because of bumps.

I know that I’m never going to be without acne every day, but it’s just about maintaining it. I’ve honestly just learned to love myself outside of acne. And although this might sound cliché, it’s really about who you are, not a bump on your face. It’s all about how you feel when you wear an outfit. 

So, if you’re someone who's hesitating to wear something because of acne, you never know until you wear it. I’m the type of person that will say, “Girl, wear it. If you feel comfortable in it, wear it. If you like it, wear it. If you’re holding back because you’re worried about what other people may say or think, then that’s a sign you should wear the outfit. But, if you're personally uncomfortable, that’s different.” 

For me, feeling physically comfortable is a huge part of living happily. I love comfort, and I actually  feel more comfortable in baggy clothes. People see my Instagram, and they think I dress in heels and high fashion all the time, when 90% of the time, I’m in comfortable streetwear. Where I’m from streetwear is the vibe, and speaking of that, I have mixed feelings about streetwear coming into the mainstream. On one hand, I think it’s dope. It’s dope that everyone wants to dress like that, but I think it can be controversial depending on who is dressing like that. Where credit is given is very important. We all know what community this style comes from, and it’s problematic when people of afro descent are judged for dressing like this, but then, the same style is celebrated on others and given another name. 

At the same time though, I can say that I’ve genuinely enjoyed seeing urban wear become a part of the fashion industry and shown by big brands like Gucci. If a clothing brand chooses to emulate a culture, I like it when brands use people from that specific culture to model the clothing. I think this can have a positive impact on making beauty standards more inclusive. Beauty standards and trends have changed so much, and I think that’s positive. But at the end of the day, you create your own sense of style. Beauty is unique, and trends do not create you.