Quick Question

How This Influencer’s Fashion Career Led Her To Anti-Racist Work

Chrissy Rutherford, co-founder of 2BG Consulting, shares her journey with burnout, going viral, and believing in herself.

Chrissy Rutherford, co-founder of 2BG Consulting
Kelsey Cherry

In Bustle’s Quick Question, we ask women leaders all about advice — from the best guidance they’ve ever gotten to what they’re still figuring out. Here, Chrissy Rutherford, co-founder of 2BG consulting, tells Bustle about teaching fashion and beauty brands about inclusivity.

By the time Chrissy Rutherford was in high school, she had studied enough magazines to be fluent in fashion. “I was the girl that knew Valentino shows in Paris and not Milan,” the 35-year-old tells Bustle. Despite graduating into the Great Recession, she parlayed her self-education into internship experience, then a job at Harper’s Bazaar. It was everything she ever wanted — until it wasn’t. By early 2020, she’d burned out.

Over 10 years of being uber-present in the fashion world meant Rutherford had enough of an Instagram platform to make influencing her full-time job. Then, in May 2020, Rutherford went viral when she made a series of Instagram stories about George Floyd’s murder and systemic racism in America. It was shared by millions of people, including Ariana Grande, and rerouted her career path overnight. “After I posted that video, I had influencer friends and brands reaching out to me, wanting to talk, and get some insight on what they should be doing to speak out against racism,” she says. She turned that spotlight into a new calling: an anti-racism consulting firm and seminar, 2BG Consulting, where she educates fashion and beauty brands on being more inclusive in their messaging and values.

Since co-founding 2BG Consulting last June, she says business has been booming and “very fulfilling.” This month, the company is delivering a second part to their seminar, a two-hour class about how fashion and beauty industries have benefited from white supremacy, and how brands and influencers can dismantle it.

Here, Rutherford shares what she learned from completing a career pivot and why she constantly reminds herself that she’s the sh*t.

After a decade of working for a fashion institution, it must have been scary to have complete career freedom. What was the transition like?

There was some fear of the unknown, but more than that, I was excited because I felt like there was an opportunity somewhere ahead of me. When lockdown happened, I decided to use that time to think about what kind of life I wanted to create for myself. And while I had no work at all for four months and that was a little scary, I needed that time to recover from burnout.

And then you went viral.

It was a major turning point. I made a video about why I felt it was important for people to speak up about racism on Instagram, regardless of whether you have a million followers or whatever, because we all have our own communities that we’re able to influence. Seventy-two hours after I posted that video, brands were contacting me for help to address racism.

How did that turn into 2BG Consulting?

I started talking to a friend of mine, Danielle Prescod, who had also made a video about speaking out against racism that went viral. We joined forces and started developing the anti-racism seminar. By Blackout Tuesday, June 2, we picked up our first two clients who were coming in at a crisis management level. They were brands who were getting called out on Instagram and we were helping them edit their apologies and figure out how to move forward, incorporating more diversity and inclusion into their brand.

Did you ever envision this kind of role for yourself?

I could never have planned this. But as a Black woman in the industry, I had always thought about working with brands to help them to help them be more diverse. I would sometimes get invited to panels that only white women were speaking at, or get sent a lookbook that featured all different kinds of people, but not a single one of them was Black. Whenever anything like that came into my inbox, I always emailed the organizers to say it wasn’t OK.

I am really thankful that I’ve moved into this space that allows me to be in the industry and make a positive impact in a different way. It’s also hard, too, because we can tell people what they need to know and equip them with tools (books, podcasts, TV shows), but they have to take it upon themselves to become actively anti-racist. And it is really frustrating to work with clients who just don’t continue to do the work because it’s easier for them to operate in the ways that they did before.

Do you have any advice for making a good impression and networking in a notoriously unfriendly industry?

Even as an intern, I’ve always believed in myself heavily. That is really necessary as a Black woman navigating predominantly white spaces. I have to believe that I’m the sh*t, because I’m constantly seeing messages that this space is not for me. That is really a big part of it, and the fact that I really felt so passionate about the industry.

It sounds like your work can take an emotional toll. Do you have a morning routine to feel prepped for that?

I wake up early. I use my phone, and then I meditate. Then I go for a 45-minute walk and make breakfast for myself because that gives me a lot of joy — I’m obsessed with this blueberry-vanilla granola. Then I’ll read a book or an article while I’m eating. Right now I’m reading Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols, which speaks to how we can come to understand our unconscious through our dreams. I have pretty intense and symbolic dreams, so I’m loving it. I also spend some time working on FWD JOY — a twice-a-month newsletter I started about self-care, self-discovery, and finding joy.

Are there any mantras or pieces of advice that you hold onto in stressful moments?

I don’t feel like I have any to share because I don’t really feel I rely on other people’s advice. What’s most important is to just believe in yourself and find ways to be self-motivated — I am, to the extreme.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.