Ever so often our paths cross with someone who is quite different from most and immediately you become friends, NOT because of what they do but because of who they are. Most people know that I am not one to be star strucked because I believe that fame is relative. You can be relatively unknown in one particular industry but a total rockstar in another. Living in a world full of people, businesses, and agendas, certain folk are able to stay grounded and maintain a realness about themselves. On behalf of Apparl, I’d to thank my homegirl Cynthia “Cyn City” McWilliams for always keeping it one hundred and genuinely being one of the realist in Hollywood…
Panama: Hello Cyn!
Panama: Oh, that must be your morning voice.
Cynthia: Yes it was! That’s why I was like, “I’m going to need a minute” because it sounds even worse than this when it first wakes up, so…lol.
Panama: You know what? I think that I figured out why I thought you were on the east coast at this time. I know that you were taping a show. What was it? Tennessee? Or Kentucky? One of those states. I have not been watching much tv lately.
Cynthia: Oh, yea “Nashville”. I was doing Nashville in Nashville.
Panama: Right. When you told me a couple of weeks ago that you were taping, I’m thinking that you were still on the east. So when we said that we would chit chat between 10am and 12pm, I’m thinking EST (eastern standard time).
Cynthia: What I was thinking was the difference in time. You know what’s funny? Here’s what’s hilarious…That you said 10 and 12 eastern so I thought you meant, oh, 10am YOUR time and 12 eastern MY time.
Cynthia: But then I was actually thinking, I really was, I was like, “Aww, poor baby. He doesn’t know that actually 9am would be my time and 12 his time because there’s a three hour time difference. But naw, I’m not going to correct him. I’mma go’on ahead and just let him…You know what? It’s fine…He know it’s 10 so that all that matters.”
Panama: LMAO…Oh, you were pitying me?
Cynthia: Yea, I really was, lol.
Panama: Damn Cyn, so you were thinking, “Poor baby. He is really slow. I don’t know what they doing to him on the east. He is slow as shit. Aww, poor baby. And he’s trying to start another company? What’s wrong with him?”
Panama: Ok, I get it now…smh
Cynthia: (laughs) I really was. I was like, “You know what Cynthia? Just let it go. Just go’on and let it go. It’s fine. It might be early. He might not be understanding right now. He’s got a lot of things happening. He’s just distracted. He’ll get it later.” (laughs)
Panama: Ha! You are sooo bad. Ok, tell everyone about where you’re from and how fashion influences your culture.
Cynthia: Where I’m from? I guess generically, the Midwest. I was born overseas. My dad was in the army so I’m an army brat, actually. That’s where I was born, in Germany. I primarily grew up in the Midwest and I don’t know if that affects my culture. I mean, I grew up in the Midwest and it’s not such a fashionable place, per se. And I also grew up in a, I wouldn’t necessarily call it low income you know, but lower to mid income family. We definitely didn’t have money so fashion was just whatever you could wear and not get talked about in school. I mean, that was pretty much what was fashionable where I was. I think that in High School was when I was starting to be aware of like, “Ok, this makes a cute girl” and “This is what’s going to make a girl get clowned”. At that time, what was big was the idea of “matching”. There was always a clique of girls who matched and the idea of being fashionable was about “sameness”. I think for a long time that probably turned me off from fashion somehow because I wasn’t interested in anything to do with sameness. And from where I was, that’s what fashion was about. One person would kind of set a trend and that was whoever was the alpha, you know, alpha dog, and the alpha man, and alpha girl in your environment and everyone was trying to be like them. They were trying to rock their clothes that way, trying to knock off whatever they were doing, they were trying to style their hair the way they styled it. I remember there was a girl that had that short on the top, long on the bottom do (laughs) and everyone wanted to style their hair that way. She rocked that charm bracelet. Everybody wanted to get those charm bracelets. Then there was that time when “Hammer” pants were big. And if she got the multi-colored hammer pants that’s what everyone was doing. That was what it was all about. So for a while, for me, that’s why I was really turned off about fashion. I was like, “Yea, I’m not into this.” I wasn’t into the idea of one person setting a standard and we’re all suppose to just fall in line. It wasn’t really until I got out of High School and into the world that I started seeing other things.
Panama: True, but dig this…You were kind of ahead of your time with your mentality on this subject. Even now, we have hordes of people following and trying to keep up with trends that other people are creating. Personally, I like to go in the opposite direction of what everyone else is doing. For example, this current tattoo fad. Obviously tattoos and tribal markings have been with mankind since the beginning but over the past eight plus years or so it’s been ridiculously whored out. I remember back in 2005 when photographers did not want to shoot models with tattoos. But as with everything else fads die and you are left with this shit all over you.
Cynthia: Yea, that’s one trend that seems kind of silly. You don’t want to make a permanent nothing on you because that’s the whole idea. Things change, right?
Panama: Exactly. As women are getting older, and the skin is starting to wrinkle, and those tatted breast are starting to sag, it’s not a good look.
Cynthia: Men too. They sag. They are sagging as well.
Cynthia: You know, just grown men with wrinkled faces and tears all between them. Can’t even see them anymore.
Panama: Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind tattoos. I just like seeing some cohesive theme or maybe a mural, like on a sleeve or half sleeve. But to have a hundred random unrelated tattoos all over your body is kind of pointless in MY opinion. But, whatevs. That’s a fad that I would to see go at a point. That’s just one of those fads that…
Cynthia: You’re not personally into.
Panama: I know right? Well, yes and no. I do have my name on my arm but I got that tattoo in 1996. I had planned on getting a full sleeve or two once upon a time but now there’s too many people doing so I don’t want them anymore. Remember when too many gold chains were referred to as the “Mr. T” Starter Kit? Those tats have become the “Hip-Hop” Starter Kit. Funny thing is, so many people have them that it’s starting to be cool to NOT have any tattoos. The trend is slowly starting to reverse itself. Anyways, let me digress…
Panama: Whose style stood out to you and inspired you while growing up?
Cynthia: (eating her food) So, yea, here’s the thing…Even though I wasn’t really down for the sameness and all of that, I wasn’t necessarily though (laughs), like, intrinsically fashionable myself. I just knew that I really didn’t dig that. I wasn’t really a girl who was into fashion, or style, or anything so I don’t really know that I was ever inspired by anybody. I think probably the only thing that ever really inspired, or stood out to me, or spoke to me visually as far as clothing and images of women is the fact that I did a lot of theatre going up and I was very into the idea of other worlds. I love doing period pieces. Love, love, love, love, love period pieces. And I really was enamored with the clothing eras of times before. In black theatre, the renaissance of black theatre, a lot of literature you’re going to find was written in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s. That was a time period that was constantly being documented. You were looking at Black life and Black life in America very often between the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s. And so, that for me was prominent style that I was introduced to through theatre. You got to see a lot of the “classic” Black woman with the really feminine dresses, and gloves, and lovely hats, and the idea of when ladies use to look like ladies. You wore proper slips, you know, and just certain things that were very, well now we would consider them antiquated and kind of prim and proper, but I loved that style. I really did. And even going back with the decent times, etc, I really loved corsets, and big giant full skirts and all of the detail and the embroidery and lace that went into these elaborate getups and just the idea. Now, again, that’s not necessarily my thing. I am definitely a modern woman, but I did appreciate the idea that there was this era, the times these women were these really beautiful, magnificent creatures that were meant to be adorned and that there were all the things created just for them. I do love that.
Panama: You kind of touched on my two favorite eras in time as well. I do love the Western era with the cowboys, I’d say from the mid 1800’s to early 1900’s.
Cynthia: Yea, the early 19th Century…
Panama: Right, and I also love the 40’s, around the WWII era. So, if there’s any television show, film or a documentary about the mid-late 1800’s to early 1900’s or the WWII time period, I always watch it. The way they use to dress back then! The men with their bowties, pressed collars…
Cynthia: Yes! They were very dapper back then. Very dapper men.
Panama: Exactly. That’s probably why the film, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” by the Coen Brothers is one of my favorite films. Do you remember?
Cynthia: Of course!
Panama: The way they dressed and the way they spoke was dope. George Clooney was playing the role of Everett. Remember the Dapper Dan pomade? Everyone wore hats, suits and neckties.
Cynthia: Yea, that’s the thing I liked about that era. Like, even if you were a steel mill worker, when you were off work and you went to a pub or something, you put on a jacket. You’d put on a jacket, a hat, and some hard sole shoes.
Panama: You’d even see kids wearing hard sole shoes, a jacket and a hat. Some with suspenders and bowties. I actually wish it could go back to that era at times. Some brands and manufacturers are creating modern styled versions of that early 19th century factory worker and bringing those products back to market. They are using selvage denim for overalls, jeans, factory mill jackets, and hard soled leather brogues. Other people are still keeping past eras like the Industrial Revolution and Victorian alive but in a back to the future way with Steam Punk.
Panama: What do you think defines one’s style?
Cynthia: Um, I don’t know. I guess it’s their way of doing something, you know? I think that style could be expressed in so many different ways. Often, we don’t just talk about style in the sense of what someone chooses the wear in the morning. We talk about style as in their style of speech, or way they walk, or just their mannerisms with people. So I think that clothing is one way for you to express what’s going on inside of you but style is just the way you approach the world. I guess that’s what the signs of it is. It’s whatever your world’s view is. I find that a lot of things that you see in people and the things that are important to them are going to be reflected in their style, you know? Men whose sense of manhood, or respect, or a certain ideal like work or ethic will be reflected in how they dress themselves. For instance, sometimes when I go to church on Sunday I am always aware. Now, you know how some churches are very open-ended and have that vibe like, “Come as you are” or whatever? That’s cool and I like that. I like that a lot. But you can see that no matter if it’s come as you are, there are people that grew up with a certain idea of when you go to church you dress up and you press your slacks for the Lord. Whereas some people you can tell their value system is based on, you know, I’m comfortable in my skin and the way that I’m viewed by everyone else isn’t as important as how I view myself, so they may be more chill in jeans and t-shirt.
Women who are concerned with their femininity and/or their vanity, you see them portray themselves in a very different way. You can see what’s important to them. Women who find that their physical assets is what’s leading them, they’re going to highlight those things. Women who feel that they want to cover those things will be a little more modest. If you’re an artist, you have that creative brain and you want to express that. You want to show that. You’re going to put a little bit more color in your wardrobe. You’re going to, like you said, go against the grain and do what everybody isn’t doing. That might be your rebellious spirit coming out. Just in general, you can see that sometimes in how people dress. What’s going on, what they value and what they don’t value. I feel like that is what clothing has the potential to do. It doesn’t always do it. But the potential to be kind of a tip-off or a little reveal right when you meet somebody to say, “I’m letting you know right off the top piece this is a little bit about me. If you never were able to have a conversation with me, I’m sending a message to the world to let you know.” I like a girl that wears a lot of sparkle, you know? They always have a little bit of glitter and glam on them (laughs). I love that about you. Its not MY thing but I love it. That’s somebody who says, “I’m not afraid to be seen. I like to show up in the world and show up.”
Panama: Do you think that people are born with style? Or do they have to be taught style?
Cynthia: Well, that depends on how you are defining style. Because if you are saying there is a style, like that there’s good style, right? Like there’s an idea that there’s good style or a standard in something, then like anything else, yes. If you are not naturally inclined then yes, you need to be taught it. Like, someone’s got to educate you on what is appropriate, or fashionable, or whatever. But, if you don’t subscribe to that ideal, then no. Everybody has their own individual style and you are born with it or born with some desire of something inside of you that in some way needs to be expressed, which again, that’s if you are not just talking about style as in clothing but just the way you address the world.
Panama: Here’s the thing…Over the past couple of years I’ve met a lot of family members via social media. There’s a re-occurring theme with some of my cousins and family members. It’s seems to me that a lot of them have style. I’ve never met them in person nor have we ever spoken about style or fashion yet it seems innate. When we are born, there are various traits that are passed to us from our parents. Do you think that a sense of style could possibly be one of those traits?
Cynthia: I think that kind of thing is less of being born with. Its more so that in a family, if you see your older brother in the room and he’s styling himself and picking out his clothes then you’re probably going to come up in a way that a son admires his father or a little brother admires his big brother and a little girl looks at her momma in her room with her pearls and with her hair. I think that’s more about how we learn from our family by watching them and thinking, “Oh that’s nice” and then we want to be like them. And then when you get older its almost like a competitive thing almost. Now it’s two brother saying, “Aw man, but look what I’ve got. Look at what I’m about to come and stunt on you with.” Then people outside of the family begin to regard the family with those young men and say things like, “Those Golphin Brothers are always fly”, You know? And now that’s a thing you need to live up to. Then you’re the family that people say, “Oh, that’s a handsome family” or “That’s a well dressed family.” I think that’s how those kinds of things happen. Again though, those are the things that people value. That’s a family that values aesthetic appearance, who value looking like something in the world, who value other people looking at them and acknowledging that family there has some style about them.
Panama: Intersting…We need to get to the bottom of this. I think that I’m going to conduct a series of experiments and you’re going to help me. It’s going to require some canola oil, an ice pick, and Volvo tires, and…
Cynthia: (pause) woa, woa…
Panama: LMAO, naw I’m just playing…smh
Cynthia: LMAO, It sounds like I might have to bow out gracefully, sir.
Panama: How would you say that your style differs from that of your peers?
Cynthia: (chewing) Because I live in LA, I’d say the biggest thing is that I’m much more relaxed in my style and I’m much more modest in my style. First of all, I’m always going to prefer my t-shirts and jeans, always. Always, always, always! I just like to be comfortable. I do love to dress up. I love to be elegant and feel like a lady. There’s nothing that I enjoy more than when there’s a ball or the kind of event that I get to wear a long dress for. I love long dresses and I hate short dresses. I’m tall so a long dress allows me the opportunity for me to stretch myself out.
Panama: This also goes back to the era of style that you liked as well because they wore long dresses.
Cynthia: Exactly, because I’m into classical periods so anything that is old Hollywood or flashes back yet to that 17th, 18th, 19th century, then that’s all me. Even now, its funny, I like all those eras except I don’t like the flapper era. That was when things started getting skimpier (laughs). That’s like the era that I could pick out and be like, “Yea, no I’m good on that actually, lol.” I’m not a fan of the “Roaring Twenties” at all.
Panama: I already know that you are a fan of the Victorian era.
Cynthia: Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s probably my favorite. I think that Marie Antoinette, in general, was a trendsetter at the time. She was that person. She was the alpha female that was establishing trends for everything and everybody. Definitely doing so in an elaborate way and a very expensive way. She possibly caused the revolution, but nonetheless, she was a trendsetter for sure. Yes, I love everything to do with Victorian. Absolutely.
Panama: Have you ever thought about getting into the products you liked? As in starting a line of products of your own?
Cynthia: Not even a little bit, lol. I would appreciate the opportunity to dress up but at the end of the day, I’m always someone who’s just going to want to chill and be in my jeans and t-shirt. Or, especially out here because it’s warmer, shorts and a tank, or a nice little easy sundress or something. I mean whatever. I’m just very easy breezy. I’m just super easy breezy. I don’t do a whole lot of putting together things, you know? I’m not someone who is putting together clothes trying to figure out what bracelets, necklaces, earrings and things are going to go with this or the bags and shoes, and the whatever. So it’s more like, if I feel good in it and I feel like it compliments my body then I’m going to roll and be just fine.
Panama: Here’s a fun fact, Cyn. I already knew your style long before I had met you. The reason that I asked you to do this interview is because your feet are planted firmly on the ground. I have friends that live in Hollywood and “are” Hollywood. Not that there’s anything wrong with that at all. But, you my dear are in Hollywood, but you “are not” Hollywood. I think that people could appreciate a totally different perspective on life and style other than the perspectives they are normally given.
Panama: When was the first time you could remember feeling really great about your look? And what were you wearing?
Cynthia:Hmmm…That would probably be when I started doing television. When I had graduated from college and I started working in the industry and it was crazy, because I was like, “Man, these people…” You know? These wardrobe departments they have. It was like going into another world, because remember, I came from theatre. It was all so elaborate to me. I was like, “Man, they be spending money on these sets.” (laughs) Like, it was just so much. It was such a different world. Just with the trailers, and the on-locations, and how they would just shut down street corners, and all the trucks and with all the gear and the cameras. It was all so big and I spent a great deal of time in the business just being in awe. And still, to this day I’ve never really gotten over it. Kind of like a person from the Midwest and how I never get over LA and never have gotten over how warm the weather is. (laughs) It’s like every January I’m still blown away that it’s so warm outside. That’s how the business is to me. It still blows me away the enormous amount of money and effort and teams and departments it takes to make a television show or film.
The wardrobe department was for a girl and for a woman to come into herself. And to start being introduced to things as a Midwestern girl of meager means? I mean, I would go to the department stores and see nicer places and see nicer clothes from store windows but I didn’t really go in there because I could not ever afford anything in them. And then to get to a place where these clothes are just at your fingertips, and these designers that I have never heard of and fabrics that I had never touched, and it was just unbelievable for me. And then to be able to try them on? All of them? You get to try all of those clothes on? And then at the end of the day we’re going to pick some of them? And I’m going to wear them? And it’s just going to be free? This is crazy (laughs). That was probably the first time I remember really feeling great about myself.
I remember doing a show. That was when I was doing ‘Prison Break’ and there was a winter scene. It was outside and there was a moment when she (my character) shot somebody to protect this guy. She is kind of like a dark vixen lady but she was in this coat, this fine unbelievable $5000 coat. And it was wool and it had leather trim on the ends, and it had belts, and buckles, and things and it felt so incredible. I felt like I was Neo himself. Like, it was just the coolest freaking coat I had ever seen. It was just bad. I felt like a super hero. And I just think for me, that was when I was starting to feel awesome in something. And when I realized that there was just this whole other world of clothing that was from Nordstrom or Macy’s or whatever, that there were just these other things like maybe a department in Nordstrom that you don’t go to or something, you know? lol. It just opened my mind to other things. But then I also realized, like I said, that these items were like $5000. I never knew you could spend $300 on a t-shirt. I was like, “Oh my goodness. What?” Or then these gowns that were so gorgeous but so expensive andthe idea that there were these names on things, and that when something said, “Diane Von Furstenberg” or when it said, “Rachel Zoe” that it meant this name means something. Oh, this Tory Burch suit is going to be more than this thing and why. That whole concept eluded me growing up in the Midwest, really. And it was like, “Wow, these people can really charge this much these things and people will really pay for it. That is insane!” But then you lay it on your body and you understand. You lay it on your body and you’re like, “Oh my God. I’ve never had anything feel so fantastic on me.” There’s a difference between when you look good and you feel good, your body looks well taken care of and when you’re walking in your body comfortably. You know, you can look good in just about anything but there is a difference. Especially for men, when you’re putting on a nice tailored suit versus wearing a pair of Dockers and a button-down.
Panama: I’ve told people before, there is a difference between a pair of Levis and a pair of PRPS jeans. Some people don’t get that concept. The amount of detail that goes into some of these jeans is incredible. From the rivets, to the stitching, to the type of denim used, and even the pockets.
Panama: Do you normally dress yourself or do you rely heavily on a stylist?
Cynthia: Now, c’mon. You already know the answer to that question lol.
Panama: Yep, I do lol
Cynthia: Well, sometimes if it comes to a photoshoot or something. Like if someone else is doing the shoot and then of course they are providing the stylist I would never say, “Oh no, I don’t want to use your stylist”. I’m fine with working with people’s stylist if they’re working on the shoot. Sometimes if I decide I want to do some editorial shots just for myself, I’ll employ a stylist just because I know that I’m not the person that’s going to know what to grab and what to pull. So other than that, no stylist. You know I’m not the type don’t do a whole lot of being out in the streets or doing whole lot of promos or anything like that either. That’s not the kind of actress that I am. I just like to work. I really like to work. I don’t like to promote or be in the streets. I want to be on set. I’m really not interested in being on carpets and “step and repeat”. I’m interested in being on set and getting that work in.
Panama: (laughs) No ”step n’ repeat”
Cynthia: Yea, I’m not interested in no “step n’ repeat”
Cynthia: But when I do go to something, I dress myself. I’ll look online and find some images of whatever the event is and I look at images of previous years or go look at Getty Images or Wire Image or the occasional People Magazine and look through things to see what are folks doing and what looks good and what do I like and what draws my eye. Then I’ll just start from there. I like this thing, I like that thing, I like the way this looks on her. I try to find women who’s bodies look like mine because everything doesn’t looks good on everybody. I don’t hate it all. Some gorgeous tall amazing thin women, hey, more power to you but I’m not 90 lbs. I can’t necessarily wear what a 90 lbs. girl would be wearing, you know? I’m shapelier but I’m also not super curvy. I’m no Venus and Serena. But I also know that some things are not going to be built for me for that. I’ve got to figure out what looks good on my body and how can I find something that compliments that. I like to see what colors, what styles, what things look hot and what’s exciting right now to “ME”, not necessarily what the magazines says. Then I’ll use that for a jumping off point but for the most part, I just go see what looks good to me and what feels good to me and when I try it on and if it feels right and looks good, that’s what’s usually going to make my decision.
Panama: Do you know what’s a good source to find those images? Pinterest.
Cynthia: Yesssssssss! I love me some Pinterest!
Panama: Dude, I am a Pinterest whore.
Cynthia: I’ve left Instagram. I’m on Pinterest all the time. I don’t really Instagram but I love my Pinterest though. I love to just see what people are doing. I love everything on Pinterest. I mean, you can see how people are styling their bathroom. You can see how people are styling all this winter wear now with the holiday stuff. What people are doing for their tablescapes when they are having a dinner party. Everything!
Panama: Man, if I knew you were on Pinterest, we could have been following each other there instead of Twitter and Instagram. Truth be told, after Apparl launches, I’m keeping my Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn but I’m off of Instagram for good.
Panama: Where do you find yourself doing most of your shopping?
Cynthia: I guess probably department stores. Sometimes online. Every now and again I get to saying, “I don’t feel like going out so let me go check this thing out online.” You know what I do get a lot online? My workout clothes. I have this membership to Fabletics and I love them. It’s Kate Hudson’s line. They send you, basically, the really cool workout clothes every month and just you’re like, you know you’re going to pay for this, and then you click on some stuff and you put together what you want, and it gets sent in the mail, and it’s like a little prize in the mail every month. I love it.
Cynthia: But when I’m shopping for my personal clothes, that’s only department stores. I use to do a lot of thrift store shopping when I went through that phase where I was very “Boho Chic” and I was all about the thrift store shopping. I don’t do that as much now but when I go to a new city when I’m out of town like when I was in Nashville or just anywhere new, I do like to check out their consignment shops and thrift shops and see what’s up. When you’re in a new city, I don’t know why, but it seems like a good way to kill an afternoon or whatever and get a good sense of the city and it’s kind of like a fun thing to do. I do like to still hit up a thrift shop every now and then just to see what’s up. You can be amazed at the things you’ll find like an awesome bag or some crazy pair of shoes that you’re like, “I can’t believe I’d find these boots” that you know are $900 somewhere and someone gave them up because they were tired of the or whatever. Especially when you go to a thrift shop in a nice neighborhood, lol.
Panama: Ha! You just took the words right out of my mouth. You have to go to the thrift stores in the nice neighborhoods, for sure.
Cynthia: Yessss! You go into a nice neighborhood thift shop and you’re in there like, “What? They gave up what???” But to them it could be like old news. That was last season. But that’s okay, I’ll take that last season…Thank you!
Visit Cynthia McWilliams at www.cynthiamcwilliams.com
Alpatrick “Panama” Golphin ~ Founder/CEO of Apparl, LLC.