DREXINA DEFYING THE ODDS
Written by Pearl Fils-Aime
Edited by Denise Sarkor
It is 3pm. I enter her office for our interview. “Pearl,” says a warm and inviting voice from behind a wall—she must have heard the sound of the door shutting behind me. I follow her voice into a photography studio. There, a sprightly Chihuahua runs up to and greets me. As I look up from the Chihuahua, I recognize a team of people—all seated—having lunch together. Drexina is among them, but rises to welcome me with a beautiful smile and warm hug.
Drexina Nelson is a beauty, fashion and advertising photographer with a remarkable eye. She is defying the odds in the photography industry, being one of few African-American female photographers in the business.
Drexina has captured some of the most beautiful and talented people in the world of entertainment, including Idris Elba, Kanye West, Tracie Ellis Ross, Malcolm Jamal Warner, Ludacris, Kandi Burgess, Cynthia Bailey, and NeNe Leakes to name a few.
I had the opportunity to shoot with Drexina in December of 2014, and the experience had a profound impact on me. Beyond awe at her accomplishments, I was so greatly impressed by her spirit that I had to acknowledge her in this featured article for the launch of PEARL, the magazine.
Drexina was born in Albany, GA and raised in Atlanta, the capital—and most densely populated city—of Georgia. As a child she dreamt of being Motown’s pop star, Diana Ross. She loved beauty and fashion, and envisioned a career as a fashion designer. While attending the illustrious Clark Atlanta University, Drexina commenced her studies in Fashion. However, like many college students, she switched her major after realizing it was not the right path for her. Drexina became an Art major; it was a perfect fit. After graduating, she immediately pursued her MBA.
“To be completely transparent, Pearl, I did not want to be a starving artist. So, I got my MBA right after I graduated with my Art degree.”
With an MBA in her toolkit, Drexina served as a global implementation analyst for a major corporation. She worked in this capacity for several years before transitioning into the beauty industry as a full-time, make-up artist.
“I remember taking my portfolio to an agency. They said they loved the make-up, but the photography wasn’t strong.”
Unafraid of a challenge, Drexina purchased a professional camera and lights, and became the photographer for her make-up work. She began shooting dolls and neighbors as her first subjects. Her competitive drive kept her studying hard, day and night. Soon after, Drexina became a sought-after photographer.
“My first big shoot was with Akon. Opportunities were coming left and right. Within a year, I was able to shoot Idris Elba for Vogue.”
How did she separate herself from the rest of the market, and get noticed so quickly? Drexina explains that when she entered the market, many photographers were shooting for magazines such as KING and Black Men, using a style that focused on the assets of women.
“I aimed to capture the beauty of a woman as opposed to the booty of a woman,” Drexina says with a chuckle.
Next Chapter for Drexina
“Photography is spiritual to me. Recently there has been a shift in my work. I have a life coach/healer, and she has helped me work through certain blocks in my life; it’s changing my approach to photography. I used to see things for what I wanted them to be, now I see them for what they are,” says Drexina.
Drexina is in her 10th year of photography. “I am more authentic. I am ready to come out the way that I am supposed to with my work. It is about women’s empowerment. That’s why I started. It’s about making women feel beautiful, and changing lives.”
The Society Salon
One of Drexina’s newest ventures is The Society Salon. It is a branch of her beauty empire. The Society Salon is a membership-based salon geared towards empowering women through its network of members.
Pearls of Wisdom from Drexina Nelson
“It’s not about the spotlight. It’s not about the fame. It’s about staying true to your passion and mastering your craft.”
“When building your business, be sure not to be influenced by everyone else. You can only be you. Stay true to yourself.”
“Don’t expect anybody to give you anything. You have to work for it. No free lunch.”
“I believe in growing like a tree. I don’t want to grow fast, and have no substance. I want to be a tree that lasts forever.”
For more information on Drexina, visit www.drexina.com.