Shiona Turini

“I came to New York with the promise of a job,” said Shiona Turini, the former public relations girl turned fashion editor turned influencer, stylist and consultant.

It isn’t the first time Turini has taken a walk down memory lane. The Bermuda native told her origin story — starting at Yves Saint Laurent, moving from magazines to working alongside brands, and then to Hollywood — many times in other interviews. But in front of the crowd assembled at the Live Nation building in New York City, there was context. Her experiences have seared a hard work ethic into her already driven personality, and still affect the decisions she makes today.

After graduating from college, Turini shadowed Garine Zerounian, the p.r. manager at Yves Saint Laurent at the time, for one day. Zerounian assured Turini the way to get a job in fashion was to secure an internship.

“She was like, ‘You can come intern for me,’” Turini said. “I went home and I told everybody who would listen to me, ‘I’m moving to New York and I’m gonna work in fashion.’ I thought I had a job. And I did not have a job.”

Despite never submitting a résumé, she flew to New York. For days, she went to the YSL offices pleading for a position there. Her tenacity ultimately landed her a job as an assistant, and she established herself as essential by identifying an emerging producer who’d just released his debut rap album.

“When I started [at YSL], Tom Ford was designing,” she said. “When Stefano [Pilati] took over, he and his team were really interested in hip-hop — I was the only person in the office who could be that reference for them at that time. I was like, ‘We should work with this guy, his EP just came out, he has this song ‘Jesus Walks.‘ Kanye West started to say ‘YSL glasses’ in songs and put them in his music videos because I would send them. It was so special because luxury brands weren’t seeding product. They thought [customers] should go to the store and buy it. 

“It showed me right away that you have to be ahead of the curve in public relations.”

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Shiona Turini 

That notion bled into her next move to editorial. In the mid-Aughts, the idea of p.r. people switching over to work with the very folks to whom they’d peddled stories seemed unheard of. But W magazine was so taken by Turini after she snagged a pair of hoop earrings Yves Saint Laurent refused to supply for a photo shoot (Turini solved the problem by going to Claire’s and buying identical jewelry there), that they offered her a job. Following runs at Teen Vogue and a stint at Cosmopolitan (“It was a whole new skill set, because you’re not speaking to the small [fashion] industry. You’re speaking to the girl who works at the gas station in Minnesota, and she’s reading Cosmo on her lunch break”), Turini started consulting for brands. 

“It was a huge asset that I knew that luxury market but I knew how to speak to this broader audience, which is so important on the Internet,” she said. “I cannot stand when I see an influencer campaign from a brand that speaks to one audience. It’s the exact same girls — they can have 5 million followers, I don’t care, the next girl has the same followers.”

Then she met Solange Knowles during Milan Fashion Week, and her next shift — this time, into entertainment — began. She styled the looks in Knowles’ videos for “Cranes in the Sky,” and “Don’t Touch My Hair,” noting that the singer is not afraid of a fashion moment.

“Solange is like, ’Please don’t put something on the rack that everyone else has,'” she laughed. “‘Please find this in this museum in this faraway island and get it here.’”

Knowles introduced her to the director Melina Matsoukas, who linked Turini with Beyoncé to help style her “Formation” music video. Matsoukas also hooked Turini up with her first TV show gig styling “Insecure” on HBO. Up next, Turini will be working on the clothes for Lena Waithe’s film “Queen and Slim.” But she doesn’t forget where she came from. For almost 10 years, she worked with a mentorship program that brought young people to New York to shadow professionals in the fashion industry. This summer, she’ll do an influencer campaign in her hometown of Bermuda, where it all started.

“In the influencer space, it’s so hard to not compare yourself to others,” she said. “As black women, when there’s only one of us in a campaign or an initiative strategy, it’s even harder. But as long as we are ourselves, you have to know that you’re doing the best that you can. I know it sounds like a Hallmark card, but it’s true. It’s going to be what gets you through.”