Tanya Ortega

Julia Sisto (Sève): You come from what is sometimes referred to as "the school of Condé Nast", having assisted industry veteran Celia Azoulay and worked with many Condé Nast published magazines. What would you say that "school" has taught you? 

Tanya Ortega: From a creative standpoint it really taught me to pay attention to detail and what makes a really great picture, the impact it can have on a person. I’m very picky with images when I am shooting and if I don’t feel like we have the shot, regardless if the rest of the team thinks we do, I stand my ground to keep trying until it clicks in my head. Usually it ends up being that we just needed to keep pushing to go from having a great picture to capturing THE IMAGE. My great industry mentors have taught me to really trust my instinct on this. 

From a business standpoint, I learned how to navigate “fashion politics”, when to be quiet and give input, but also how to adapt to different personalities and make it work with everyone. 

JS: You have experience styling shoots for some of the most prestigious editorial magazines, as well as celebrity styling for high profile events such as the Oscars, Met Gala and CFDA Awards. Can you tell us about how the creative process differs between editorial and celebrity styling?

TO: The editorial process for me is more about fantasy and executing the story I have in my head, so it’s more of an exercise in personal taste and storytelling. It also involves a different kind of industry market that I have to go through to obtain the designer pieces I want. It’s definitely all about creative vision. 

Celebrity Styling can be super fun depending on who you are working with and how open they are to get out of their comfort zone. It is more about the talent feeling confident, happy, and good in what they are wearing. It’s less about the inspiration in your head and more about creating a realistic image. Inspo is always a good start when working with talent but ultimately it comes down to how far they want to be pushed image wise and you have to be comfortable with taking a back seat and letting them have the final say. However, once you nurture that relationship with any celeb and they trust you the creative process can be exhilarating! 

Tanya with her client Alissia, styled by Tanya in an Atelier Biser ostrich feather jacket.

JS: A stylist's job can be very stressful at times, what would you say are the biggest challenges?

TO: If you don’t have an agent, like myself, you are basically carrying your whole business on your back; strategizing, negotiating, planning, producing it all yourself. So from a business point of view negotiating your fee and what you’re actually worth is very stressful because you don’t want that tension with your client. It can be challenging to fight for your fee AND keep a happy face throughout the creative process with the client.

Another challenge I’ve encountered is most of the time clients and talent are unrealistic with their expectations and the time they “think” it can be done in... add on top of that a budget of basically nothing and, voilà, you have yourself a real treat! Over the years I’ve learned to adapt and handle these kind of situations and make it work no matter what. My approach is always honesty, never saying “no”. Instead with the information given, I suggest a different route or lower the expectations of the client and present them with a good alternative or solution. For the most part, I’ve found people appreciate honesty and hard work. 

Staying organized is also a challenge and I truly think that discipline is key. Organization doesn’t happen overnight, it is something you have to learn and practice over time. One of the first things that my clients say about me is that I am super organized and I honestly pride myself on that because I didn’t use to be. I pushed myself to be organized - it was something I needed to make a habit in order to be successful. 

"I pushed myself to be organized - it was something I needed to make a habit in order to be successful." 

JS: Something we love about you is your commitment to uplifting your own community as you grow within the industry. How do you go about supporting Latino and Hispanic talent?

TO: I love to see my community wanting to do big things and walk into rooms that years ago we wouldn’t really be in. My styling team is always, always, always, made up of brown and black creatives. I get DMs and emails all the time for internship or assistant opportunities. The first thing I look at is “who is this person?” My community and people need me so I like to find out who each person is and where their head is at before I have them intern for me. 

My journey to get to where I am was a big struggle so if I can make it just a bit easier for others like me then let me be a vessel to invite them into the room. I firmly believe there is a place at the table for everyone and the more united and supportive we are of each other the more we can all enjoy each other’s success in the industry and celebrate each other. I hope one day this will no longer be a goal, it will be normal for us to be successful and triumphant.  

Styling work by Tanya in Vogue Mexico.

"My journey to get to where I am was a big struggle so if I can make it just a bit easier for others like me then let me be a vessel to invite them into the room."

JS: On that topic, your credits are impressively diverse. How do you go about discovering new brands to support and include in your projects?

TO: One word : INSTAGRAM.
I have different folders on my IG for different categories: Accessories, Red Carpet Brands, Fashion Brands, Men’s Brands, Inspo, etc... 

I am constantly scrolling, tapping credits, researching and saving pieces of brands I like to each of my folders which I will re visit later in the week and have my assistant reach out. We reach out to about 20 brands in one day maybe even more depending on the project we are doing. Out of those 20 maybe 5/6 will actually respond so it’s important to always be reaching out to maximize your success at getting in contact with a brand. I also sometimes do some research on Pinterest. 

I especially love to support Latin American brands and will email them myself in Spanish which I feel hits home for them to be contacted by someone in NY for a big project. Their excited response is always humbling! 

A secondary source to discovering new brands is when I am out on the street. 24/7, I am ALWAYS observing and if I see someone wearing something super cool or something that catches my eye I will go up to them and ask about it. Then I look it up on IG (lol) and save it to one of my folders so I don’t forget. 

I am always in Research Mode, I can’t stop - it’s really fun for me! I love to see everything that is out there. 

Tanya uses Sève to organise some of her styling work. Discover more about Sève here.

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