You're not truly locked into the fashion world if you've never heard of BootlegRocstar...hun. Neko Kelly is the go-to stylist for any of your wardrobe-related needs. He is bashy embodied, standing at the crux of living in one's truth and individuality, all while looking extraordinarily good.
Kelly's roots are in Old Harbour Bay where he grew up knowing the in and outs of the fishing world. His adolescent was filled with ample opportunities where he explored athleticism through track and basketball, the arts and excellent academics, but among all these things, he was a rebel first, a grounded one though, who never imparted from what was taught in his youth. Says Kelly, "Growing up I was taught to be and look my best at all times. I'm from a family that puts a lot of trust in God and that believes in hard honest work."
He appplied this same ethic towards his career as a stylist and creative director and has worked with powerhouses like Tanya Stephens, I-Octane, Masicka, Konshens, Tessanne and Tami Chin, Nadine Sutherland, D'Angel, Ding Dong, Keke Palmer and many more! BASHY spoke with the rocstar over email to see how he tackles it all one outfit at a time.
BASHY: Explain the origins of your name? Do we see a Rihanna connection here?
BootlegRocstar: I heard my fave, Rihanna, expressing a sentiment about how she's not the wild child people think she is all the time and she called her self a "bootleg rocstar" and instantly it occurred to me that, that's my name. That's my brand. That's exactly who I am. I'm sure she didn't mean it as deep as I thought turned it out to be but it spoke to me af! I added my own definition and explanations to the name but I'll save that for another time.
How did you get into your line of work?
I would love to say I got into it by only being ambitious and determined to make my dream of being a fashion stylist a reality. But extra help came in the form of a friend of mine who is a makeup artist who recommended me to a stylist who needed an assistant. She secured an interview for me and I went, I slayed it and I got the job. I did that for year while still trying to do my own thing on the side. Eventually I branched out on my own and started doing the necessary work, payed my dues and I began to start molding my brand, Bootleg Rocstar.
Did you always know that this is something that you wanted to do?
Style v Fashion: are they the same thing? What do either words mean to you.
They are totally not the same thing. Fashion to me means something that is produced for the masses. Style is something personal and authentic.
Where do you think Jamaican fashion fits in the larger fashion world? How do you think this can change?
Jamaican fashion is such a beacon and source of style inspiration on the world's stage. We see a lot of Jamaican fashion/style influences in international music videos, fashion weeks and photoshoots. However, Jamaicans aren't always credited when these international figures and companies jack our style/culture. But we can't blame them for not giving us the "big up" because Jamaicans need to start taking their own style/fashion culture seriously. We need to realize that what we have is something unique and timeless. We are so oblivious to what we're contributing to the world. It's sad. We need to take control of our aesthetics and stop trying to adopt theirs when clearly we are who they're running to for ideas, locations and vibes.
Name three staples you have to have in your closet.
A black crew neck T-shirt, skinny jeans and a classic high top Chuck Taylor.
Name three staples you advise everyone else to have in their closet.
A crisp white button up, fitted blue denim jeans and a baseball cap for days when they feel ugly.
What is your approach for styling a client?
The first question I always ask a client is, "What makes you feel most confident?" because that's how I aim to make them feel. I want to make the client feel as confident as possible. It's kind of like a mental approach in a sense. I want to get in their heads before I get into their closets. It's never about designers or stores. It's about them. What inspires them. What colours and silhouettes make them feel sexy, powerful and relaxed. Wellness is such a huge part of styling/fashion and a lot of people don't realize that.
What are your aspirations for your own career?
My aspirations are super ambitious and over the top (because I'm Jamaican, duh!). I want my career to transcend just fashion. Along with possibly having an internationally successful clothing brand, I want to be a super force in the entertainment, beauty/cosmetics, literature and film industry. I really want to do it all. I have no doubt that I can do it all. I'm a confident, educated, Black man.
Who or what is your dream project to be creative director or stylist for?
Locally, I would love to style or direct an ad for Pepsi or Digicel. Internationally, I would love to creative direct a Balmain campaign and style Rihanna, Kim Kardashian West or Lenny Kravitz.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Cover image photo by D.L. Samuels
A wise woman once said, "Man ah di least ah mi problem", and I felt that.