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Conversations with Karen Watkins

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karen Watkins.

Hi Karen, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
My love for Beauty and Fashion started as early as I can remember. I’ve been trying to design clothes and give makeovers since I was in 1st grade. My great grandmother was most the root of my desire to be in the industry. I’ve been sewing and designing since I received my first Barbie! I would braid my friend’s hair in school to make extra money on the side for small personal items or lunch money.

My first retail job was at Marshalls in Annapolis, MD, when I was in 10th grade. I lived with a relative on my father’s side of the family. I didn’t know her very well, as I had only seen her in person a few times when I was younger. I was dropped off and was told this was my new residence. This was in 1999, and I was a freshman in high school. I believe this particular relative didn’t necessarily want me there, but as we know- money is the root of all. My father died when I was in 6th grade, and I am his youngest child. I met him about a year before his passing and it was brief. We didn’t have a relationship, I just knew about him. I knew he had two other children that were about 15 years older than me. Being the youngest child at his passing entitled me to a monthly payment and this is why I believe I became the most valuable player.

My stay started off ok and turned into three years of pure Hell. I was verbally abused daily and held to a completely different standard because of my background. I was called me an orphan on a daily basis. This relative knew only a brief summary of my childhood prior to my stay with her. My mother suffered from drug addiction and was unable to care for my siblings or me. I was separated from her when I was 4 and lived with my Great Grandmother until I was 14. Prior to my move from my grandmother’s home, I was a victim of sexual assault from age 11-13 and never talked about it. My grandmother was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. She taught me everything I know. The greatest gift she gave me was the ability to find my inner strength and overcome any obstacle put in my way. Unfortunately, not only did I live with my Great Grandmother, her mother lived with us as well. As I got older, I felt I should be with a “younger’ caretaker. I just wanted to go somewhere and start over or so I thought.

Living with my “other family,” I was a complete wreck on the inside, but I kept it all to myself. I didn’t say much, I just absorbed the verbal abuse and tried to appease. When I finally figured out, I would never be good enough to “fit in”, I decided to rebel. My grades dropped, I failed 3 semesters in a row. I had been to 4 different High schools in 3 years. I was a complete mess. I had very few friends because every time I would make a friend- we moved. I hated my life at this point. In the last High School, I attended I had a meeting with the Guidance Counselor, and she told me if I didn’t get it together, there is no future for me. At that point, I knew, If I didn’t change my behavior, I could end up just as my Aunt told me I would- A Failure… I knew what I had to do and that was so to maintain focus in school and prepare for change. I left Marshalls and went to a few other small retailers in between but ended up at Forever 21 in 2007. Three weeks after I graduated high school at the age of 17, I moved on my own into my first apartment.

Over the years, I have always been one to need to strive for more, no matter how far I succeed. In 2005 while working full time, I enrolled into cosmetology school. It literally took me nine years to complete the program. People always ask me- “What took you so long?” or say, “If this was something you wanted, you would have finished a long time ago”. My response was always- “Life happens”. I had my first child in February of 2007, worked full time, and went back to finish in 2010. However, life came knocking again and I had my second child in May of 2011. The third time is the charm, and also my last shot- I graduated in 2014. I used these skills to support my hobby and grew my clientele with networking and word of mouth.

As I fought my way through life while being a single mother, I was determined to keep my goals in place and strive to meet them. It was a very slow journey, however I am a firm believer of crawling before you walk. I most certainly was crawling. I worked my way through Retail Management from 2007 with several junior retailers. I am currently a District Manager responsible for over 900 locations across the Mid-Atlantic.

In 2017, I started Fashion consulting and as an extended hobby. I combined this skill with my love for Beauty, Fashion, & shopping. People stop me daily asking about my hair, my glasses. Or where I did I get my outfit- so why not utilize this and bring it to life. Being in the retail field for over 20 years has taught me so much not only about Fashion but about the Professional side of the business. Marketing, Retail Etiquette, Policies, Human Resources, and & Retail Politics. This business is more than selling merchandise to the consumer, and to be able to grasp this piece of the business and understand it I believe, is God’s given assignment for me.

2016 was a very pivotal time of my life. In July 2016, I met my husband. God definitely dropped him into my life. I was sure there wasn’t a man on earth for me, and I was absolutely wrong. Four months later, in November, I fell seriously ill. I was diagnosed with Hyper-Thyrodism, and Graves Disease. I lost the function of my nervous system for a month. All I could do was pray that God didn’t take me away from my children. It took months for me to recover, and that man I met was still there. After my recovery, I realized, just because it hasn’t manifested yet doesn’t mean it isn’t on the way. Trust your journey.

In 2019, I married my best friend and my mother celebrated eight years sober. In 2020, I had my third child, and my husband and I built our first home. During this time, I fought an inside battle with my own mental health. I had post-partum depression and was confined to my home as we went through a Global Pandemic. To keep my mind at ease, I decided to run with my dreams. In September, I launched my Cosmetic Brand “Kay Watts Luxe Cosmetics.” This was just the start of the journey. I had so many ideas over the years, but I was fulfilling one day at a time.

In May 2021, I stepped out on Faith opened an online Boutique, “Fashion Heist Luxe.” I thought Heist was the best way to describe my love for Fashion. “Just take and run with it!” Trends are good, but setting your own with your own interpretation is so much better! This was just a soft launch, as I plan to be fully stocked by late Fall 2021.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The road has been anything but smooth. I’ve seen some good days, and I’ve seen some bad days, but no matter how good or bad, I still know one day I will get to the goal. I wouldn’t say I’ve had struggles, I would rather say I’ve had learning experiences.

Sometimes, you just have to get out of your own way and just do it no matter if you think it will be a successful plan or not. A lot of my struggle was with myself. You never really know how your childhood has affected you until your become an adult, still trying to outlive the trauma you went through as a child. I have always dreamed of having a Beauty Bar with my own clothing store. I knew exactly how it would look, what services I would offer, and how I would operate the clothing store. But then, I would talk myself out of it afraid of public failure. Social Media is so critical. I was afraid of how others would receive, think or speak about it. How would it look if I messed up, or forgot to do something? What if I was too busy because I was too afraid to leave my full-time job and just go for it. What if I don’t have enough money because I have two kids and I’m a single mother. I’ve been homeless, I’ve lived in the dark, and without food or money.

I had my mind made up that I would always dream about this fairytale store and I would continue living my day-to-day life for the rest of my life.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I would like to call myself a Creative Owner. I have such an artistic personality I can’t just put myself into one category. With so many talents under my umbrella, I tend to believe I am one of a kind. I specialize in creative content such as: Fashion Design, Wardrobe Styling, Fashion/Beauty Consultant, Makeup Artist.

I am a very visual thinker. I visualize everything I talk about, read about, and think about. I can see the vision well before I can get it out into a plan or conversation. Most people know me for my keen eye for fashion & beauty.

Aside from being a “retail guru” (what I’ve been called in the past) I am admirably proud of myself for the determination to keep going. No matter what situation I’ve been put in. I always make a way out of no way. If someone were to tell me I can- I find a way to make a non-believer a believer. I think most of that comes from being put in the position when you don’t have a choice but to be a strong woman. You keep going no matter what.

I believe Fashion Heist is different from other online retailers because of it’s more than a platform to sell merchandise to the consumer. It is a platform for women to come and receive product knowledge, fashion & beauty services, wardrobe styling, or even inspiration for the woman that just needs a visual experience. There is something for all women, of all races, and shapes and sizes.

Are there any apps, books, podcasts, blogs or other resources you think our readers should check out?
I have never been one to read books. My mind and body don’t keep still long enough to sit down and actually do it. I’ve tried and never succeeded. I am very visual. I get most of my inspiration from Pinterest, Fashion Magazines and the general public. Everyone always says I like to be on the go. However, only a few know that my need to be out and about comes from my visual personality. Seeing people, places and things gives me motivation for my next project or theme. I love sightseeing and travel. It keeps me going!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
J.Mclean Photography & Video

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1 Comment

  1. Christal

    August 26, 2021 at 8:54 pm

    Very inspiring. A woman speaks her Truth and hides nothing . Successful business ventures, positive energy and great business sense. A Baltimore Boss!

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