Photography by Brandi Stage
Turning heads, building confidence with statement jewelry piece
Although she’s always been aware of her creative side, Twana Marx didn’t fully explore it until about 12 years ago.
Marx, a U.S. Air Force veteran, has worked in the imaging sector of healthcare for over 20 years. Her jewelry design company, Creative Marx, began as a self-taught hobby.
“I started out making jewelry for myself just because I wanted to wear more vivid colors and more bold designs,” she says. “People would always ask where I got my jewelry from.”
Once they learned Marx had made it herself, they asked for a price, and before long, she was operating a full-fledged business. Now her brand is sought after for its mix of elegance and modern appeal. With vibrant colors, unique designs and fun, whimsical elements like feathers, each Creative Marx piece is attention-grabbing and one of a kind.
“People have bought jewelry straight off of my neck,” Marx says. “With Creative Marx, I’ve had the opportunity to design jewelry for several celebrities, award shows and red-carpet events. It’s been an interesting path.”
While people sometimes are told they should stick to one thing, Marx says, she’s grateful for the opportunity to succeed in multiple arenas — both within and outside of entrepreneurship. Her passion, she adds, comes from a desire to release what’s inside of her.
“Designing and creating jewelry is a safe space that allows me time alone, time with God,” she says. “I also believe that when you look better, you feel better. I like providing something that contributes to a woman’s confidence.”
While she can’t pinpoint the exact moment she came into her own, Marx knows it didn’t “click” until adulthood. As she’s grown older, she’s gained the wisdom to understand that being happy with herself and her choices is far more important than others being happy with her.
“That’s why I love building confidence in younger girls and women,” she says. “I hope it never takes anyone as long as it took me to be who they were called to be.”
BOLD JEWELRY: A little bit dramatic
The amped-up vibe extends to accessories, with pieces like chunky gold chains and statement drop earrings making their way from the runway to real life.
“Oversized jewelry may seem ‘out there,’ Marx says, “but it’s definitely making a comeback and will be the norm again very soon.”
Each eye-catching piece can make a statement on its own, she adds, but “layering them and putting them together can create an even more striking look.”
LEONIE JOHNSTON SIMMONS
Drawing out the inner diva
Leonie Johnston Simmons has been doing hair since she owned her first Barbie.
She dyed the doll’s locks with a mix of water and magic marker ink. As she refined her technique, she found herself doing perms for her mom and her mom’s friends in the kitchen.
“I was always the last one running out the door for high school events because I was getting everyone else ready,” recalls the Biloxi native. “I was mesmerized with cosmetics when my mama took me to the Clinique counter for the very first time — all of those colors under shiny glass, so many choices!”
Surprisingly, she didn’t pursue cosmetology straight out of school and instead embarked on a sales and marketing career.
“Then I woke up one day and thought, ‘Why am I not doing what I truly love?’” Simmons says.
She enrolled in cosmetology night classes and worked 70-plus hour weeks. She built a base clientele in beauty school, offering to pay for friends’ services if they let her do their hair.
“I started my career 18 months later in a booth rental salon, then opened Lavish Salon (located in Biloxi’s Rue Magnolia),” Simmons says, “and I haven’t looked back.”
The entrepreneur, who adores glitz and accessories, took her passion even further with another creative outlet: Dime Store Diva, Creations by Leonie. While fashion and costume wigs are fun to create, providing wigs for women battling medical conditions is her “heart song.”
“After the devastation and shock of a diagnosis, then to face losing your hair; it can simply bring a woman to her lowest point,” Simmons says. “There are no words to explain the feeling I get when I see them smile again. To think I played a small part in that is the most rewarding part of what I do.”
Her wig venture inspired the development of her own hat and fascinator line. Despite her success, she admits to a habit of comparing herself to her peers, and self-confidence doesn’t always come easy.
“Today I’m more comfortable in my own skin than ever,” Simmons says. “I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to not waste so much time and energy on that and to love myself more.”
BOLD HAIR: Go ahead – wig out!
According to Simmons, the newest hair trends are not new at all.
“You are going to see fuller and softer blowouts reminiscent of the 70s,” she says. “The sixties flip is hot, too — just a bit softer version.”
And whether for convenience, necessity or as a fashion choice, Simmons declares, “Wigs are where it’s at!”
“Want that bold color, but you don’t want to wreck your hair or spend hours in the salon to achieve it? The solution is simple: a wig,” she exclaims. “Go ahead, be bold! Get one in every color!”
BOLD FASHION: The brighter, the better
In fashion, Marx declares that color is in — and the brighter and more attention-grabbing, the better.
“This spring and summer will feature loud, vivid colors,” she says.
Fashion, beauty and lifestyle blogger Jasmine Ball agrees.
“Summer is all about using bold colors to your advantage to enhance your wardrobe, makeup, and even hair,” she says.
Welcome back, ruffles
Another trend Ball has noticed gaining traction is the use of ruffles and tulle to add panache to an ordinary outfit.
“From bridal gowns to runway styles, it’s evident this trend is here for all the fun,” she says.
BOLD MAKEUP: Drawing outside the lines
When it comes to beauty, makeup artist Brittney M. Johnson says daring colors and abstract shadows are turning up everywhere. Eyeliner in a range of colors is transcending traditional boundaries to create angular, geometric shapes that make eyes pop.
“You can really enhance your look by having a bold, yet fun, eye without having to mix colors or trying to perfect your eyeshadow balance,” she says.
And although the trend may be intimidating, Johnson insists that anyone can pull off these looks.
“You can adjust for eye shape and color, but they are for everyone — from high fashion to the prom queen,” she says.
Johnson likes to watch MAC senior artists on Instagram and YouTube, who show in detail how to execute these looks. If you’re inclined to experiment, she advises, “grab your favorite color shadow, a gel liner and the sharpest eyeliner brush you can find.”