B Akerlund, also known on social media as B Completed, has built up a résumé as a stylist/costume designer that most people would die for. Her magnetic creations have been donned by the biggest names in the music industry including Madonna, Beyonce, Rihanna, and Britney Spears, just to name a few, and yet, even after 24 years of hard work and notable accomplishments, Akerlund is just getting started. Rebranding herself a Fashion Activist, Akerlund’s relentless passion for the art form has fueled her with an undying sense of purpose, and led her to a vast array of creative projects that are bound to captivate and leave their mark.
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When did you figure out that styling was your passion?
I started as a stylist when I was 17. I dropped out of high school… I just knew it inside of me that this is what I had to do. I was so hungry for it. It was all I wanted to do. I had a one-track mind and it was to make it in this mother fucking business, and nothing could stop me.
To what extent can a good stylist change someone’s look?
I’m 5’3, I don’t have the best body in the world, but I know how to dress myself where I look like I’m 6 feet tall. When I did M.I.L.F. $ with Fergie and Kim Kardashian, there was this huge thing on the Internet about Kim being photo-shopped and all this stuff… It was just my trickery. It was me looking at her saying: “Ok, I want you to look like a human Barbie doll” and so I built in corsets, I did all these things that you can’t see to achieve that look. That’s the workmanship, that’s what I do. I fool the eye to make you look the best that you can look.
A stylist’s job often goes unnoticed, don’t you think?
Stylists can make or break someone’s career. You can be the most beautiful person in the world and have the best look, but if your style is off, you’re just off the radar. We’re very underrated. I don’t feel like we get the credit that we deserve. When you look at the AMA’s and all these award shows, there’s awards for best art direction or best editing… There’s no award for best styling. Why is that? Being a stylist is hard work; you’re an accountant, you’re a life-coach, a psychiatrist, a best friend… You’re so much more than just an outfit.
How would you describe your creative process?
I always like to understand the subject that I am working on, and let it go into my ‘brain bubble’ in order to create a strong vision of what I want to do, and once that happens I become that style. I’m a method stylist. If I’m doing a Goth job I wear all black, if I’m doing war I wear army clothes… I wear what I do so that I can understand it from the bottom of my heart. That is how I understand my creativity. That’s my process. I live what I do.
Out of all the looks that you've created for celebrities, which one is your favorite and why?
I have so many favorite looks so that is a very hard question, but the one I am the most proud of, that I think defines my style into one outfit, I must say is the Beyoncé O2 arena ad. It’s royal, sexy and over the top.
Why do huge celebrities like Madonna and Beyoncé keep coming back to you?
A good stylist is someone with a vision. Someone who knows their vision and who knows the story they want to tell. I feel like when they call me they want something special. They want something out of the box, something different, and they know that’s what they are going to get. I’m the kind of person that when I sign on to a project, if I say yes, they will get 150% of me. I am so deep and so in, and I will keep going until they call wrap.
Out of all the celebrities, which one is your favorite to work with?
My favorite collaborator is Madonna because she is an amazing collaborator. She knows what she wants, she gives me the freedom and she pushes me to be a better stylist. We’re also the same size, so I try on everything before she does, and I know right away that if I can’t move in this, she won’t be able to either, and that makes the entire process so much easier.
What was your most challenging collaboration?
Madonna’s Superbowl. I can’t put into words the amount of work that went into that show. I think any other normal person would have had at least 6 stylists on that job, but I did it all. It was like 400 people. Even Madonna said: “If you can survive the Superbowl with me, you can do anything in life”. I’ve done many projects with her, and they were all challenging, but you know, live TV, 120 million people… anything can go wrong. I’m very proud of it.
You’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. What’s changed?
What’s changed the most is there are rules that have been implemented to styling. When you work for some of the bigger magazines and things like that, you are now told to use advertisers and that you can’t mix designers, which to me is not being a stylist. If you’re just sending me a complete look, why am I needed? Now it’s all controlled by money and advertisers and pleasing people and not doing it for the art.
Why did you change your title to Fashion activist?
I changed my title a few years ago when I didn’t feel like I was a stylist anymore. I’m more of a costume designer. I like to make my vision come alive. I also got a little bit bored with fashion and what was out there and I found love for emerging designers and I sort of felt like I needed to be an activist and save these amazing talents around the world because, if we don’t help these amazing designers, we won’t survive. That’s why I started ‘The Residency’, to sort of nurture and find a home for all these amazing talents around the world and have one place for them to live. It’s a PR showroom in Hollywood, where we represent designers and creative artists around the world and help them get noticed by getting PR. I feel like it’s a give-and-take relationship where we help each other and we nurture each other, and I feel like together we can be stronger and save fashion.
How has social media changed the game?
When I started in my career, there was no social media. I had a pink pager. Today, the accessibility where anybody can contact anybody is unbelievable. Anyone can be a star, anyone can be a photographer, anyone can be anything… if you have a vision, your message can come across. Some of my best relationships creatively are with people that either contacted me on Facebook or Instagram or whatever. I mean, that’s how I found you guys and I love collaborating with you guys because I feel like we see the same vision and I feel like your readers understand my aesthetic.
You are currently writing a children's book. How come? And what is it about?
Yes, and it’s the biggest challenge in my life. I wanted to do a book with answers for me as a parent, to help me understand some everyday stuff in a more creative and interesting way as well as inspire children and adults to do projects together. When I was being approached about doing a book, a children’s book seemed the most natural to me as my children are the most inspiring thing in my life and I wanted to do a project together with them that we could cherish for years to come.
Styling encompasses many spheres of the entertainment industry, from film to music videos, to live events, to print… Any preference?
I think my favorite is movies. I feel like music videos come and go. They are sort of disposable and the thing of the moment. Live concerts freak the fuck out of me, they are nerve-wracking, and photo-shoots are fun but again, I feel like they are disposable. I feel like film lasts forever. If you can create a good character in a movie, it’s unforgettable. I definitely see myself doing more films in the future.
INTERVIEWED BY RALPH ARIDA