Skip to content Skip to footer

Celia Sears – Backstage Trailblazer

In 2000, Celia Sears decided to travel to the breathtaking city of Milan, Italy to visit friends and also check out the international fashion market. Little did she know that trip would ultimately change her life. Fast forward 22 years and Sears is now Founder and CEO of Show Division, described on its official website  as ‘the fashion industry’s number one provisioner of Backstage Creative Support.’ Sears created Show Division eight years ago, with dreams of working with the most elite fashion houses and luxury brands and that is exactly what she’s accomplished.

Show Division specializes in providing key hairstylists, makeup artists, and manicurists for some of the biggest names in fashion. Vogue, Fendi, Dior, Gucci, Versace, you name it and Show Division has more than likely been a part of bringing their vision to life.

Five years ago, Show Division Pro Session Development, offering Inclusive Backstage Masterclasses was launched. “Our mission,” Sears explains, “is to teach professional hair stylists and make up artists how to work with Afro-textured hair and deeper skin tones.”

Barriers in the industry are nothing new for people of colour. A 16-year old Sears experienced it personally as a budding Black model trying to break through in the ‘80s. “I faced a lot of challenges because of the lack of inclusion,” Sears recalls. “At the agencies I’d be told to my face, ‘we already have one Black model.’ It’s tokenism and there was a lot of it, more than you might imagine,” she says.

Photo courtesy of Celia Sears
Celia Sears in conversation backstage (Photo courtesy of Celia Sears)

Early Life and Career

Sears credits her Jamaican mother and Guyanese father for her creativity. “Growing up with a Jamaican mom really forms you,” she says. “My mother, Winnifred Sears, pursued her passion for the arts when it was uncommon and to this day,” she explains, “she’s the artist in the family, still paints, does pottery and writes poetry.”

Quisbert Sears, her late father, was a hard-working electrical engineer who, in his free time, loved entertaining his family. “My dad played a mean guitar,” Sears remembers. With a mom and dad who, along with her three sisters Terese, Rosemarie and Djanet, all excelled in their own careers and hobbies, it’s no surprise that success is in Celia’s DNA.

Her roots are also very important to her and despite being born in London, England and living in Italy for 22 years, for Sears, “Jamaica is where my heart lives and whenever I visit my grandfather’s hometown, Treasure Beach, I get that sense of familiarity,” she says. She often goes back in August, before fashion show season starts, so she can return to Milan feeling refreshed.

Photo by Frank Toscan (Photo courtesy of Celia Sears)
Celia Sears top knot hairstyle, photo by Frank Toscan (Photo courtesy of Celia Sears)

 

 

This special section creates a spread of 2 photos that will jut out into the side margin.

 

 

Seeing my long time dream of making the backstage world of fashion shows, more accessible and welcoming for young Black hair stylists, makeup artists and manicurists come to life,” she says proudly. “It was about being ready and able, finally, to launch Inclusive Backstage.

Growing up, Sears always knew she wanted to work in fashion and in 1985, studied merchandising, design and retail management at Toronto’s Seneca College. At 16 she began modelling and eventually went to work with MAC, when co-founders Frank Tuscan and Frank Angelo were just developing the cosmetics brand which would go on to dominate the industry.

Back then, Sears’ sister, Terese, had a company called the Canadian Fashion Alliance, where she put on fashion shows for up and coming Toronto designers. At one point MAC became the official makeup sponsor. They needed to test the colours they were coming up with and this is how Sears built a close relationship with both Franks, which led to her doing campaigns for MAC hair, a line created for Afro textured hair in collaboration with Gladys Knight.

This ambitious fashion industry entrepreneur didn’t stop there and was continually learning, adding skills, knowledge and services she could offer. Eventually, Sears started working behind the scenes as the director of new faces for a model and talent agency, formerly Penny Noble. “I oversaw casting models, ensured they were ready for the main boards and organized photo shoots,” she explains.

After three years, Sears went on to work as a commercial fashion stylist for the fashion house Focal Point. From there, she became a freelance stylist and had the opportunity to work with massive companies like The Hudson’s Bay, Sears, and JCPenney. “I was so fortunate,” she admits. “In addition to the knowledge I gained and the competitive edge that afforded me, working with big brands allowed me to expand my horizons beyond Canada.”

And after a trip to Milan in 2000, when she fell in love with the city’s elegant but sexy edge, she moved there.”What made it an easy decision for me is having friends living there and loving Italy’s beauty, so why not move there?” Sears adds.

Celia Sears in feather hat, black dress and gloves, photo by Peter Strube (Photo courtesy of Celia Sears)

Breaking Barriers

For Sears, staying in Toronto would have created stagnancy in her career. She always felt like there was so much more to learn and experience outside of Canada when it came to fashion. “There comes a certain point where, especially being in Toronto, you think ‘this is it?’ The pool is so small, and the talent level is so high, you can end up being a big fish in a small pond, never knowing exactly how talented you are until you really put yourself out there.”

Between her varied professional experience and time living abroad, Sears knew what to do in order for Show Division to be accepted by the Big Four cities–London, Paris, Milan and New York–and reach the next level, which she tells us, “is seeing my long time dream of making the backstage world of fashion shows, accessible and welcoming for young Black hair stylists, makeup artists and manicurists come to life,” she says proudly. “It was about being ready and able, finally, to launch Inclusive Backstage.”

What came as the biggest shock to Sears, was learning how many of the new hairstylists and make up artists she was training, had no idea this issue existed in the fashion industry. What was a pleasant surprise, though, is how receptive and willing to learn they are.

“Jamaica is where my heart lives, and whenever I visit my grandfather’s hometown, Treasure Beach,” she says, “I get that sense of familiarity.” She often goes back in August, before fashion show season starts, so she can return to Milan feeling refreshed.

Influence and Legacy

Today, as  stated on the website, Show Division is embraced by major fashion organizations globally. “It’s not rocket science,” Sears insists. “It’s education. It’s about teaching and training those working backstage, ensuring they’re knowledgeable and completely competent when it comes to textured hair and darker skin,” she explains.

And as the industry continues to evolve, we must continue to pursue this direction. “Inclusivity initiatives are necessary. We must strive for more diversity and education remains the key. This is how we help the industry keep growing,” she observes.

Sears truly believes that everyone in the industry has to be more accountable for their actions. “We have to plan for what the future is going to look like,” she tells us. “If you can’t find what you’re looking for, create it,” she states. “That is what I did with Show Division. This will be my legacy; it’s what I hope to leave behind in the industry.”

Celia Sears in gold top hat (Photo courtesy of Celia Sears)

About the authors:

Over the years Prof. Gooden has built a multi-media career as an editor, writer, presenter, public relations consultant and special event manager, spokesperson, host, and educator. She...

Read More

Over the years Prof. Gooden has built a multi-media career as an editor, writer, presenter, public relations consultant and special event manager, spokesperson, host, and educator. She...

Read More

About the author:

Over the years Prof. Gooden has built a multi-media career as an editor, writer, presenter, public relations consultant and special event manager, spokesperson, host, and educator. She...

Read More

Archive of images at BFC:

Placing diversity and inclusivity at the forefront of backstage culture.

Placing diversity and inclusivity at the forefront of backstage culture

NameCelia S. SearsBirthJuly 29BirthplaceLondon, EnglandEthnic OriginsJamaican, British, GuyaneseOccupationsModel, Director of New Faces and Imaging, Freelance Commercial Stylist, Creative Director, Founder & CEO Show DivisionWebsiteshowdivision.comShare

© 2024. All Rights Reserved.

Go to Top
1
0
Read the comments & leave your thoughts!x