Born in The Bronx, NY, Kalitza Pagan is a single mother of Puerto Rican descent. She worked hard to support her daughters while paying her way through college at The Fashion Institute of Technology. Due to her hard work and dedication, Kalitza has spent the last five years living her dream as a fashion stylist in NYC. Terry of KwaK caught up with Kalitza to find out more about her journey.
What motivated you to go into fashion?
- I am a creative person. I fell in love with fashion because of the ability to turn something utilitarian into art. Fashion designers like Alexander McQueen and Christian Dior were true visionaries. They viewed fashion as art. The woman was their blank canvas.
I am able to express my creativity through fashion. Fashion styling has been my creative outlet. I do not know how to paint or draw but I am a master at turning human beings into walking art.
What is the most satisfying part of doing the work that you do?
- Being able to make a living doing what I love is definitely most rewarding. I worked in an office for 10 years before beginning my career as a stylist and I was so unhappy. Being able to express my creativity and indulge in my passion has been a blessing. I am motivated to work hard because I am doing what I love. I also enjoy being my own boss and being in charge of my own schedule. This is most satisfying as a single mother.
What were the biggest challenges of being a single mom working toward a career? What (if anything) has gotten easier?
- When I started my career at a stylist I had to build a portfolio in order to get paid work. It was extremely difficult to produce photo shoots on very limited funds. It was also difficult balancing my career and being a mother. I had to prioritize constantly and try to keep both worlds happy.
Thankfully I work enough now where I am able to take care of bills etc. and my daughters are older now (17 & 8) so their schedules are not as demanding.
I also have a best friend who lives down the street from me. She too is a single mother and we help each other out with the children in any way we can. I have a great support system both at home and at work.
Where did you find motivation and inspiration during the ‘growing pains’ of building your career? What kept you going?
- I found it through my children. I have two daughters and I feel it is most important to show them just how strong a woman can be.
I want to prove to them that they are in charge of their own lives. I want to show them that dedication and passion can take you anywhere in life. And lastly, I want them to be proud of me and look up to me.
What would you say separates you from others in similar situations? Finish this sentence “I couldn’t have done it if it weren’t for…”
- My passion. Passion is everything. When you are passionate about something you will do anything and everything to make it so. It is the base line behind all motivation.
My passion is what helped me through classes at Fashion Institute of Technology. It’s what helped me get through the work day at a retail store to pay for the classes at FIT. It’s what drove me to produce incredible shoots to jump start my career. Without passion I had nothing.
What are your favorite types of projects and when do you feel the most ‘in the zone’
My favorite projects are big budget photo shoots. I am most in my zone while pulling looks together for these types of shoots. Turning my thoughts into reality and capturing it on print is most satisfying!
You mentioned that you have been living your dream for the past 5yrs. When did you actually realize (or what event made you realize) that you WERE in fact living your dream?
- I would have to say it was when I received my first check for a styling gig. I remember thinking to myself “holy &$@. I did it. I AM a professional fashion stylist!” I have to pinch myself every time I get paid for doing something I love.
If you can give a single mom with dreams, any advice, what would it be?
- Do not give up! Take one step at a time. Don’t let people discourage you. I had so many people tell me I was crazy to give up my 9-5 for an unclear future.
Keep focused and it will all pay off in the end. Everyone should be given the opportunity to do what they love.
What projects are you working on or have lined up for the near future?
- I am working on all sorts of new projects for the new year- shooting catalog work with designers, working with new clients on the personal styling end. Also, I am developing a business plan to launch my virtual showroom at the end of 2014.
Facebook: Kiki Pagan.