“Clothes (Closed) Out”

A VonRay Fashion Story which delves into the “clothes out” or trends for Spring and Summer of 2017 and being “closed out” or rejected in life but finding a way to overcome it.

It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Charlotte, NC. I am headed into Pretty-N-Ink to interview Dutchess. As I entered into Pretty-N-Ink, my breath was taken away. The energy was so vibrant and family-oriented. From the first step that I took towards the top of the staircase that lead into Dutchess’ shop, it felt as if I were on an “art journey”. The walls were plastered with beautiful murals that told whimsical stories of fantasy. Upon reaching the top of the staircase, Dutchess’ beautiful mother welcomed me in and made me feel at home. I then glanced over to the right and saw Dutchess working with a client. Pretty-N-Ink had clients from all over the country, that were comfortably waiting to have their body finessed by Dutchess and her staff. When Dutchess finally caught a break from being a ‘boss lady’, we sat down to have a chat about her life.

*Credits Below

Tasha: I have always wanted to know this…Where did the name “Dutchess” originate from?

Dutchess: [smiles] Dutchess comes from my college years, I used to smoke a lot of dutches, and so I was called Dutchess from that aspect. My grandmother called me Dutchess of the family, because I was the first grandchild. I have just been Dutchess, Day One Dutchess!

Tasha: That’s pretty dope! At what age did you know that Art was your LOVE? Explain the experience that happened? 

Dutchess: I never knew that I could draw until I was in college. I never knew. I took Art as an elective to get an easy “A”. I was in the class for like a couple of days, and my teacher said, “I want to move you to a different class”. He moved me to a class where muthafuckers were really like challenging. So, I’m like I don’t think that I am capable of this…it was something I fell in love with instantly, and that’s when I fell in love with Art. I was in college, in my undergrad, trying to just do something to get through.

Tasha: When did you realize you wanted your own Tattoo Shop? How does it feel to have your own shop, because it is truly beautiful in this shop and the energy here is phenomenal!

Dutchess: In college, I had a business plan for a tattoo shop called “Swagger Ink,” before I was even a tattoo artist. I was getting a certificate in Entrepreneurship with Dr. McEwin, and that’s what my project was on, because I loved tattoos so much. I was like why don’t I do my project on opening a tattoo shop and I did it! I ended up winning the “Business Plan Competition,” and getting a couple coins for it. When you are in college, every coin counts, ya dig [laugh]. I knew that I would be an entrepreneur, going to college and having a certificate in Entrepreneurship, an undergrad degree in Marketing, a degree in Management; that type of stuff, you can’t think that you are going to work for somebody else for the rest of your life. My mindset has never been to work for somebody. My mindset has always been to have my own & creating opportunities for other people. So, that’s really the real reason why I always wanted to be in business.

Tasha: How does it feel now, having your own?

Dutchess: The best feeling is when I leave at night; there is a quote I have at the end of the stairs. Every time I leave I look at this quote and just thank God, because I don’t know how I was blessed so… Like this was so easy, too easy for me to accomplish. That’s why I am so thankful to God, because I don’t understand how He allowed this for me. I have been apart of seeing someone else grow a tattoo business, and it may not have been that easy for them. So, I just relish on the moments when I leave, because I am able to look at what I’ve done and appreciate it. When you are counting at the end of the day [laughs] it really makes you feel good.

Tasha: How did you form your “Pretty-N-Ink” Team?

Dutchess: When I opened up, there were other people here, you know. I had to go through the growing pains and understand that they weren’t for my situation, my business and growth. Sometimes that’s hard for people, it was really hard for me, because some of those artists I had developed a personal relationship with and I never would have thought that we would ever be on that type of term. At the end of the day, you win some and you lose some, but you gain so much more. The people I have now, it’s nothing I even have to explain, nobody leaves here feeling like they shouldn’t be in this position. We are a team, a family.

Tasha: Speaking of growing pains, have you ever felt “Closed Out” at any point of your life and if so why?

Dutchess: No, I want to speak from the truth. I come from North Carolina, Lincolnton, NC where I was mad popular. I also attended A&T North Carolina where I was also very popular. I felt like I was famous, before I was famous, so being famous didn’t mean shit to me, because again I felt famous before I was famous. To be honest it still doesn’t mean shit! I am still the same person I was in high school and college, in saying that; I come from an environment that I was showed nothing but LOVE, then going to New York and being apart of Black Ink, that was the one the most awakening moments of my life, a hard time in my life. I was in love with someone, but I couldn’t even love myself, because of the environment I was in and the toxicity that it brought to my being. It was like I didn’t want to go to work, I didn’t want to do tattoos anymore, I didn’t want to eat right, I was miserable and it was written all over my face. Now when people see me, they say you look so different, but I’m the same, I’m just with more peace and happiness. I removed myself from things I felt obligated too. At a certain point of my life, I dead ass thought I had to go through that shit, or deal with that shit just because I was on tv. Nobody is entitled to feel like shit, or feel less than what they are just because the environment they are in is not on the same page of where they are going. I just wish everybody nothing but happiness and success, but the reality of it is that I just come from something different. Coming from something different, some people just can’t accept that and it’s unfortunate. I appreciate coming from something different, and I appreciate being okay with other people’s differences, that’s okay with me, you know. I felt the most alone being in New York City with all these people, but I was in an emotional hell.

Tasha: How did you overcome that case of being “Closed Out” and what gives you strength now?

Dutchess: Honestly… God. When I lived in New York, I didn’t have God in my life anymore; I come from the church, I come from the south… [cries]

Tasha: God is so dope. God is so understanding. God understands us even when we don’t understand. God gives us chances we don’t even deserve them.

Dutchess: When I left North Carolina and went to New York, I didn’t go to church anymore. I didn’t do what I usually would or supposed to do… That was the void in my life. When I came back home, I got back to being around the things that were familiar to me. I had to go back to how I was raised, what I knew was right and that has been the most peace. I am so happy now, that I am not in that place anymore. I had to look at myself from the outside. When I saw that, it made me want to come back home. I’m sorta grateful for reality TV. It showed me a side of myself that I never seen.

Tasha: It was like a mirror.

Dutchess: Yes. I was allowing it to change me.

Tasha: But God! So, lets talk about something to make you smile. What’s your favorite color?

Dutchess: [smiles] My favorite color is grey. I love grey.

Tasha: What’s your favorite food?

Dutchess: My favorite food is Soul Food…

Tasha: Woman! You have to explain when you say ‘soul food’. You know you have to give us details.

Dutchess: Macaroni & Cheese, My momma’s collard greens, potato salad and fried fish all on one plate.

Tasha : What’s your favorite dessert?

Dutchess: My favorite dessert is lemon pound cake, with no icing. I hate icing, and as a kid, children use to say “Why does she have that type of cake for her birthday”, referring to a plain cake without icing. [laughs]

Tasha: What’s your favorite type of car, old school and new school?

Dutchess: I am an El Camino type of bitch, if we talking old school, I love El Caminos. [points at a painted mural on her wall] You see that’s what’s on my wall, with my Dorothy Dandridge and everything, that’s my El Camino. I love Chevys. If it’s a new school thing, I got a coupe, a BMW, I got a 3 & 5 series… but I need that 6 series now [laughs].

Tasha: Who is your favorite cartoon?

Dutchess: Tom & Jerry… Classic.

Tasha: Who is your favorite music artist? People have more than one artist that they vibe with, so you can name a few.

Dutchess: Damn… Who I like in music right now… DUTCHESS! [laughs]

Tasha: Shameless plug! [laughs] Well, lets talk about this music thing, tell us what you have coming up?

Dutchess: I’m just having another outlet to express myself. I don’t need to like vent on social media or anything that can be taken out of content. I am venting on something that I have full control over. That’s something that can’t nobody take away from me.

Tasha: When can we expect to hear some music from you? We are ready!

Dutchess: I am going to let ya’ll hear something here today.

Tasha: Yes, We get it first!! Sorry readers you can’t hear this music [laughs]. So, how long have you been doing music? That was a secret!

Dutchess: My whole life. I played the piano when I was younger, my brother sings, and my momma sings.

Tasha: Do you rap or sing?

Dutchess: I do both. I am working with some problems, one is FYM and BLKDMNDS along with some real music talent in Charlotte, NC, some super talent that are unknown, unsigned, real raw… niggas ain’t even ready, and this shit ‘bout to be crazy. [smiles]

Tasha: Back to your musical influences. Are there any artists, which influence your music?

Dutchess: I love Sade, I love Prince, Vanity 6 and I fucks with a lot of Bill Withers… Let’s see, other artists I like in the new school is of course Migos, got to love them; I love to dance and enjoying myself! Enjoying yourself is a beautiful thing.

Tasha: If I were to go in your purse right now, name three things I would find? These are three things that you can’t live without and you have to have at all times.

Dutchess: A Bic Lighter, flick my Bic.

Tasha: Endorse this woman.

Dutchess: [laughs] Yes, I need that! Dutchess and Bic collab…Char-LIT, let me keep my city LIT! What else would you find in my purse… hmmm, I keep cash in my pocket book at all times.

Tasha: Why?

Dutchess: You never know what’s going to happen, it’s like that emergency stash, like somebody is going to need this or need that. You just got to make sure that you got it, because sometimes you can’t get to an ATM. PS, I never hardly ever have my bag.

Tasha: What is the third thing that I would find in your bag?

Dutchess: My passport. It’s always on deck, you never know if something might, you know, an opportunity may come your way, and you got to be ready. A lot of times I learned that in being apart of the TV show, when we first went on our first international trip, I was the only person that had their passport. Of course to some people that may mean nothing, but to me it means a lot, like I am already seeing myself going somewhere different and doing different things with myself. So, a Bic, a passport and some cash!

Tasha: You have been traveling a lot lately. Tell us some of your favorite places where you have been.

Dutchess: My favorite city in the whole wide world, besides Charlotte, is probably going to be Paris. I love Paris; it’s just something about it. The food sucks sometimes, but I’m not an adventurous food type of person, I just like to eat what I like. Its; hard for me to be in some places with the type of cuisine they have, but I Love Paris. I love islands too, I love great weather and I like for the temperature to be crazy. You know what though, you know what city I found a new love for? Los Angeles…

Tasha: I love L.A., I lived there 7 years.

Dutchess: I never had a good trip to L.A. until recently and I had a ball. I went to Disney. I had so much Fun. I was with my home girl and daughter which is my goddaughter and we were just having a ball, it was like we were the kids and my goddaughter was just looking at us [laughs]. I had some meetings and handled some business, but I really had fun.

Tasha: What do you like to do for fun, which we wouldn’t know that you like to do?

Dutchess: I love being outside. I love sports. I was an athlete growing up, my entire childhood. I love, love sports. I love fishing. My daddy use to go fishing like every weekend, on like Saturday or Sunday morning and you got to fatigue up and make sure you got some layers. It’s the crack of dawn by that water. The temperature is different, it’s just different. Its’ just something different to do, but coming from here (Charlotte, NC) it’s not really different, it’s only different to people that are not from this type of environment. For us, I don’t really know anyone that can say that they haven’t been fishing, because that’s what we do here. I love cards, like gambling…

Tasha: You are competitive [laughs].

Dutchess: My momma’s side, her brothers (my uncles) are some gamblers and they taught me the game… Tunk, 5-Card, 7-Card, just something to do. [laughs]

Tasha: You light up when you talk about family. Tell me about you and your momma’s relationship?

Dutchess: My momma is my EVERYTHING. She gets on my nerves and I get on her nerves, but she loves me. [cries]

Tasha: You can see the love. Thank you momma for the love.

Dutchess: She always tries to protect me, and I try to tell her that I’m grown and I have to go through certain shit.

Tasha: You are blessed to have your mother.

Dutchess: Let me tell you, you don’t know how blessed I am. My momma is like the momma of this shop. I don’t know anyone in my life that is close to me or that loves me, and don’t call my momma, their momma. People don’t understand how important it is to have that type of influence…I hate to keep talking about what I have been around…

Tasha: No, you can talk as much as you need to.

Dutchess: Being around Black Ink was a great experience, because I got to see the difference in people. I come from something that is different from what a lot of people have. It’s hard for people to understand things the way that I understand, because I come from a different setting. I’m very grateful for that. Some people have mothers that have addictions or mothers that have a lifestyle that they haven’t been there for them, and I don’t have that. I have a momma that has been there every single day. It’s not one day that I have breathed air on this earth, that I couldn’t call her. Right or wrong, it didn’t matter, she’s just my momma and I am so grateful. Growing up, I was a daddy’s girl. My daddy was the most perfect thing in the world to me, and then I realized that it wasn’t him, it was mommy. I didn’t realize that … a man is a man because of his woman. I didn’t realize that until I grew up and I had to see that in my own family

Tasha: So, the man that you loved was who he was because of your mother. One final question, how important is it to have management and a team to support you as an artist?

Dutchess: I’m just now learning that, these last four years have been me doing everything. I mean I have my lawyer, but my lawyer is to make sure I ain’t getting fucked over. Having people that are looking out for you and that have your best interest at heart, I have never had that until now. It’s different, because you have to really trust and have faith. Coming from my educational background, that’s what made me feel like I can handle it on my own, but sometimes you want to handle being just talent, you don’t want to handle everything. I didn’t realize that until recently.

Tasha: Doesn’t it feel good to have someone that has your back? You can’t do much without a team. Well, you can get far on your own, but with a team you can get much farther.

Dutchess: Having my shop made me realize that too, because my team is why this shit go. I mean my shop looks the same from the day I opened it…

Tasha: And, this shop is beautiful, great job Dutchess and Team!!!!


CREDITS

Creative Director/ Stylists

  • Latasha Henderson-Robinson & Dennis Robinson II

Photographer

  • Brian Dailey

BTS Photographer/Cinematographer:

  • Joshua Woods of LOE

Hairstylist

  • JauTia Smith

MUA

  • Tiffany Alys Richardson

Stylist Assistants

  • Jamese Patterson

Set Assistant

  • Cecilia Silva
  • Marvese Patterson

Location
Pretty-N-Ink

2030 S.Tryon St., Suite 3H
Charlotte, NC 28203

THREADS

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Top & Skirt: H&M
Bracelet, Necklace & Ring: BayouGlassArts
Shoes: i’alave [IHL Design House,LLC]

 

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Top: H&M
Pendant: The Dapperdude Collection
Watch: Don Piece Collection
Necklace: BayouGlassArts
Shoes: Hendrick Brun

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Top: Freshea Uno
Bodysuit: VonRay Designs
Watch: Don Piece Collection
Shoes: Hendrick Brun

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Apparel Hanging: VonRay Designs
Necklace & Ring: BayouGlassArts

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Jumpsuit: MeSaej
Necklace: BayouGlassArts
Shoes: Hendrick Brun

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Left
Bodysuit: VonRay Designs

Jeans: VonRay Designs
Watch: Don Piece Collection
Shoes: i’alave [IHL Design House,LLC]

Right
All Apparel: H&M

Necklace: BayouGlassArts
Watch: Don Piece Collection
Shoes: Creative Recreation