Meet Venita Aspen, a barely twenty-something year old who has accomplished much more than the average woman of her age. Oh yeah, she's a pretty snazzy dresser to boot. We cover everything from her foolproof strategy to avoid wardrobe malfunctions, why "Coraline" is the most stylish movie ever, and 100 ways (kind of) to make a sandwich.
"Waking up. That's inspiring. Because not everybody has the opportunity to wake up so when I wake up I'm inspired, like 'dang, I get another chance'. "
C&C: So let's talk about style. Who and what inspires your style?
VA: Janelle Monáe inspires my style. All the way. There's no other person. I can't think of anybody else but her. The first person I think of is her.
C&C.: Is there a certain thing or things that inspire you?
VA: Waking up. That's inspiring. Because not everybody has the opportunity to wake up so when I wake up I'm inspired like, "dang, I get another chance". Somebody else didn't, and at the moment I'm thinking I have another chance, somebody else's is being taken away. So that gives me even more power to do the best I can for that day.
C&C: What are your hobbies and interests?
VA: I like thrifting. I think that's everyone's answer right now. It's easier to do. It takes up a long time to find what you want, but it's worth it if you only pay $8 versus paying $30 for it and you only wear it like 3 times. I like going out to eat with my friends. We're big foodies.
C&C. What’s your favorite food? No wait, what's your favorite restaurant?
C&C: It doesn't have to be in charleston.
VA: Favorite restaurant, oh my gosh. I have to say Allouettes right now.
C&C: I've actually heard that from a couple of people recently.
VA: I kind of get inspired by her because she has a healthier style to her menu. She does vegan and vegetarian style foods. The food is really good.
C&C: I remember we had a previous conversation, and you mentioned that you are in culinary school, correct?
C&C: What's your favorite thing to cook?
VA: Sandwiches. I guess you don't cook sandwiches, you make them. You can make a sandwich in over 100 different ways.
C&C: 100 ways to do shrimp?
VA: (Laughing hystericaly) Yeah!
C&C: Give me 10 ways to do sandwiches. Go!
VA: 10 ways to do sandwiches… Ok. You can do hot sandwiches or you can do cold sandwiches. That's easy. Let's see, you can use different types of bread. Let's see, what else, you can do dessert sandwiches.
VA: Yeah. Like the bread is like a French Toast style and all of your ingredients other than that have to be sweet. Like caramel apples or any type of fruit. And you can toast it and cut it up. Let's see, I don't know man… it's kind of hard. I would have to sit down and write all the ways.
C&C: Yeah, I kinda put you on the spot huh?
C&C: What is your dream job?
VA: Having my own restaurant. That would be my dream job. And to have it so big to the point that people come to me for it. They come from all over just to eat at my spot. I don't have to have three different locations or a chain so people come to it. Like they would fly to me.
C&C: What's your favorite piece in your closet right now.
VA: My leopard print flats, I guess.
VA: Yeah, I actually wore them today. With all the things I do so late at night. After I get off and I have to do things for United Colors of Fashion. That's taking up a lot of my time right now. So in the mornings when I get dressed, that's the quickest way to be not lazy, but be relaxed and still look cute. Leopard print flats black jeans or some cutoff jeans or some boyfriend jeans or anything like that. Those leopard print shoes do it. They're like, "oh man, she got style, she's got sass, she's got leopard print shoes".
C&C: So one thing really quick. There's this misconception that in order to look stylish it takes a ton of effort, but you just said it, if you strategically pick pieces that you can just throw on, it's really not that hard.
VA: Right. Like my favorite outfit I have right now is my “Canadian suit” as my friends call it at work.
C&C: Double denim?
VA: Triple denim.
C&C. Triple?... Ok.
VA: I wear some jeans with a denim button down and a denim jacket and then I'll do leopard print flats or nude flats. If I had denim shoes I might try to pull it off, but I don't know how good that would look. That's simple. If you’re getting dressed, and you’re trying to do the double denim thing, like “oh look at this jean jacket, let's throw this on”. That takes two seconds to put that together. Then just put your hair up. Throw on some earrings to give it a little edge. You don't even have to put on makeup. Just go.
C&C: I totally agree. So you mentioned United Colors of Fashion. Talk about it a little bit. What is it?
VA: They're an organization that tries to bring awareness to AIDS, HIV, and Sickle Cell Anemia. Right now the main focus is HIV but I'm trying to bring more focus to the sickle cell side if things. Because I honestly don't have an understanding of what it is but it affects just as many people who get cancer. And cancer is all over the place but Sickle Cell Anemia is off in a corner and no one talks about it.
I got this position because I was interning for someone who has their own quarterly magazine, and I presented an idea called "Fashion Talk Fridays". [The editor in chief] has a magazine that was based more towards African American women. With what I was trying to do, everybody was in it, not just black women. I don't know how to only cater to one specific group of people and that's a challenge to me. I want to cater to everyone if I can. Then, a couple days down the road, she said I did something she didn't like and a couple days after that I didn't have the internship anymore. I was working with both her and United Colors of Fashion. So I took the idea to them and from there, I became the manager of development. We have an internet magazine so with the team that I have right now, if it works out well, we will have a print quarterly magazine out next year.
C&C: Wow. Congratulations.
VA: Thank you. Yeah, at first, I was a little down about it, but I talked to my boyfriend and I talked to a few friends, and they said take the idea someplace else. If they don't like it, patent it, and make it your own idea. So, if United Colors of Fashion didn't take it, I was going to do it on my own and right now it's booming so hopefully I'll have a baby soon. It's exciting.
C&C: So let's say, uh, knock on wood, (3 knocks) I don't even know if this is wood. Yeah, this is wood. This is totally wood. So let's say your house is burning down. You have like, three minutes to get out and you have a duffel bag. What are five things that you put in that bag that will hold you over for the next month.
VA: My medicine. Hold up now, I'm asthmatic, I have allergies, gotta grab all my medicines. Um, my blanket. I still have the blanket I was wrapped in when I was adopted.
VA: Yeah, a little unsanitary. My mother has not washed my blanket. I don't know if she used it after I was adopted or not, but it looks perfect. Looks brand new. I could probably sell it, and they would think it was brand new right now. Um, oh a hair tie. With this thing, whooo, you gotta have a hair tie. Um, a picture of my parents and a picture of my best friend.
C&C. Good answers. So another list: Five things every woman should have. Five fashion essentials.
VA: Anything leopard print. Shoes, scarf, bag. Anything leopard print. Classic pair of black jeans.
C&C: Black jeans. Why black?
VA: Black goes with everything. If it's not black, don't buy it. I used to wear black all the time, but then I started to get into colors more often. On days that I'm lazy, I'm in all black because it's easy. Um, red lipstick, a denim jacket, and nude pumps. That's an outfit right there. Leopard print shirt, denim jacket, black jeans, nude pumps, heyyy. Red lips.
C&C: The 5 essentials that everyone should have, goes together. It's crazy how that works.
"My energy has to be right when I step out the house. Because the same energy I leave with, I want to come back with. So if I leave with good energy, I have to come back with good energy. "
C&C: In the morning when you get dressed, is there a routine that you have or is it just different every time?
VA: No, I wake up, check my emails, and make my cup of tea. I drink 3 cups of tea a day.
C&C: Favorite kind of tea?
VA: At the moment, I have to say jasmine green tea. That's basically it. I put my makeup on first, then I figure out what I'm wearing, because I can't decide the night before, when I'm doing makeup, I'm like "oh, this looks good," then I put my clothes on. I can't put my clothes on first. I pack my lunch. I pack my lunch every day to save money, and then I'm out the door.
C&C: When you're figuring out what you're going to wear, is there a certain piece of clothing that you build around?
VA: I guess I build around the jeans because I really don't care if the jacket and the shirt don't match, as long as the jeans and the shoes match, if that makes sense. It's hard to describe, but that's what I think about. It just makes the most sense.
C&C: Has there ever been a time when you have gotten dressed and gone on about your day, and halfway through, you started to hate what you had on, or you realized you had a wardrobe malfunction but it's too late to go home and change. What happened?
VA: Uh uh. I don't have moments like that because I will be late to school, late to church, late to work. I will be late to everything. I know that sounds bad, but I'll get dressed early enough to where I can switch my outfit seven times before I leave the house.… just in case. I'm not gonna have that "I don't like the way this looks" and I'm halfway down the road because I'll turn around and be like "excuse me, I'm gonna be an hour late. I have a wardrobe malfunction." No...no... no. I can't. I don't feel right. My energy has to be right when I step out the house, because the same energy I leave with, I want to come back with. If I leave with good energy, I have to come back with good energy. Even if I leave with bad energy I try to make the other energy throughout the day good so when I come back, that bad energy is gone.
C&C: That's pretty impressive.
VA: Oh, that's scary.
C&C: Go back to the time you were just getting into high school, like 9th or 10th grade. How has your style changed from then to now?
VA: Style has changed. My style had a done a 360, but at the same time it hasn't. Maybe I've done like a 270. I had my own style back then, it just wasn't as profound. I didn't dress the norm, wallabees, jeans, and Polo button downs. Like, I wore polo every now and then, but I wouldn't wear it like everyone else. I wouldn't change anything though because in order to get where I am now, I had to experience what I did.
C&C: So if you had to chance to spend 10 minutes with 9th grade Venita, what would you say to her?
VA: Keep up the good work. Don't change for anybody. Stay true to yourself.
C&C: So what do you think the most fashionable movie is?
C&C: I've seen it, but only half.
VA: It's my favorite movie because it took them seven years to make it. With claymation, they have to film by the second, so I think that's interesting. She wears whatever she likes. She runs out of the house with yellow rain boots and a striped shirt, but it's cute because it's kind of preppy.
C&C: I'm totally gonna finish that movie tonight.
VA: It's really good. The movie has a dark feel to it, but it's supposed to be a children’s movie. There's a part in the movie, I don't want to spoil it for you, but the other mother turns into I would say an Anna Wintour. If that makes sense. She gets really tall. Her waist is 3 inches wide, and she has on this red dress that catches every shape that she has. She has a bob haircut.
There's more style in that movie now that I think about it. She has on a pair of pumps, and she's running around the house chasing Coraline. The dad’s wearing a sweatshirt, jeans and flip flops, so that's kinda like Charleston. The mother is average, but then Coraline tries to add color to everything because there's a part where she has her uniform and she sees a pair of striped gloves and she asks if she get those and her mom says maybe another time because it doesn't match her uniform. She's just trying to stand out within a crowd that looks so similar.
C&C: You know it's funny that you mentioned claymation. One of my favorite movies, it drives my wife crazy now because me and the kids watch it all the time, is "Fantastic Mr Fox"
VA: What? Right here man! (High fives were exchanged). I have that on Netflix. Fantastic Mr. Fox is the business! It's supposed to be a kid’s movie, but you know when your older you catch stuff like "hmm, how'd they put that in there?" Like, instead of cursing they just say "what the cuss?" I think I'm gonna watch that tonight!