Meet Tanaya Henry.

As the founder of Lace by Tanaya, the Minnesota-born jeweler isn't just the go-to girl for celebrities and their stylists. Long before Beyoncé, Aluna George, Nicki Minaj, Halsey, Justin Bieber and Kylie Jenner became customers, she was a model trying to figure her own hustle in New York City. After finding her passion, Henry decided to branch into jewelry.

We chat about how she got into lip rings, what it's like to do custom-made jewellery for the world's most famous celebrities , nd why there's no such thing as overnight success.


I noticed that the lip piercing trend is worn by Kim Kardashian, Cara Delevingne to Amber Rose, who wore one of your pieces. As a jewelry designer, what made you want to do face jewelry?

I saw someone wear a lip piercing, but wear something like that and not have an actual piercing. It's not practical if you have a regular job and you can't have a piercing on your fac] all the time. I wanted to figure out in a different way. I think it was one of the couture shows years ago, but it was a lot more detailed. I tried to incorporate these into a simpler pieces.

Did you anticipate that lip rings would get so much attention from Kim Kardashian and Amber Rose?

I did not at all. I thought it I had a pretty great idea and I posted a few times on social media when I searched for the samples a year-and-a-half-ago. A lot of my followers love it, also. I didn't think that it would start a trend. I think it's awesome. I'm down for it.

When was that moment when you made something that challenged you to push you the most?

It was a couture moment. Nicki Minaj's stylist reached out to me and they had me make epaulets. They're made with a lot of things I wasn't really used to, but they came out really good. Another time, I had a request from a friend of mine who styles Justin Bieber. It was a Halloween party and I had to make him a Power Ranger belt buckle. I had to make the JB logo. It was awesome, it came out really cool but, it was heavy. It was something I've never done before. It definitely pushed me... to think that that I could do all kinds of things.

You stared out as a model. How did jewelry design become a path that you want to pursue?

I moved to New York when I was 20 years old. I was on Wilhelmina Models as a commercial model because I was shorter than the majority of the models. It was good and I was going on auditions. I was thinking, "What can I do that makes me enjoy doing what I do and can give me extra money?" I started making jewelry as a hobby while I was modeling - I started to like it. The girls buying my jewelry were waitresses at the club. There were celebrities and stylists at the clubs as well. It's not exactly what it is now. I enjoyed seeing people like my stuff and I enjoy watching people wear it. It was really organic.

I'm happy that you found what you want to do. I can't imagine you being from Minnesota!

I think it was very different. I love it there, but there was not much opportunity there. It was kind of a closed-minded place. I knew that I was not staying there.

It must be such a huge risk to move out, but at least it paid off, though.

Yeah, it definitely paid off. It was scary, but I'm happy with it.

I find it fascinating how you make your jewelry by hand even though you had no formal training in jewelry design. How often would you recommend going to jewelry school and what was it like to learn how to make jewelry on your own?

When I started, I was making things with chains and doing what I could with the supplies that I find. It should be about learning the different kinds of platings and crystals - that took a while. There's no real guide on how to make jewelry. Even if you go to jewelry school, you learn to cast and mould. You learn about diamonds and different metals and stuff. A lot of the materials I used were trial and error. You need to know what works with your customers and stuff. I know that it's a lot of work and it's very expensive. I think it was too much for me at the time. In the beginning, I was kind of a mess because I was spending money on things that I didn't know any better. I think there's pros and cons of going to school for it.

I see that your whole aesthetic and style stems from '90s fashion shows. How do you relate yourself to the decade and the designers at that time?

I draw inspiration from a lot of different shows. Even Cher - I love a lot of her outfits. I still like it, but I don't focus on too much on what's happening. In terms of style and design, I just figured out what works before I spend a ton of money. With social media, I'm able to figure out what works for my customers. I don't want to scare people with crazy designs, but I also don't want to be super simple and something that you can find everywhere. There's a bottom line, but it goes along with how I'm feeling. [laughs]

I'm starting to notice this lately, but there are designers who are starting to influence looks. Have you always perceived yourself to be an influencer?

I mean, not really - to be honest with you. When I was living in Minnesota, I was dressing how I was feeling. I don't feel like anyone really liked it. I did what I liked and most people would think that would be crazy. Now, people actually like it and I could have a hand in starting a trend. Years ago, I wouldn't have guessed that I would get to this level where so many people enjoy my stuff so much. I didn't think that I would get people to wear what I was wearing.

For anyone who wants to go to jewelry school, but doesn't have the formal training, what are your top tips?

My number one top tip would be: there's going to be bumps on the road. Nothing comes overnight. A lot of it is trial and error. You got to find what works for you and the place where you want to be but, it's not quick. There's going to tests of your patience. You really got to focus on what you want and you can't expect that it's going to happen fast. The more time it takes, the more you know and learn about what you're doing, the more solid you, your designs and company are. You know the ins and outs. You're going to figure out how to make it all work. You can do it, but it takes forever on how to do it right.

You can visit Lace By Tenaya by heading here.