Here at Substantial we believe in full circle moments and that’s exactly what we had when we got the chance to catch up with the rural NC native Dan P. Lee who’s showing the big city just how Substantial he is.
Dan P. Lee was featured in our 2014 issue of Substantial as a young rising entrepreneur and stylists hitting the Eastern NC scene. That’s right over seven years ago we had the opportunity to chop it up with this young ambitious brother that knew then just how considerably important in size and worth he was and as you read this current feature and listen to our All Things Substantial podcast you’ll also note that he knew then he was also Substantially built and made.
SM: Tell our readers a little about the origin story of Dan P. Lee.
DPL: I’m a fashion stylist currently living in the New York area. I specialize in menswear styling for all realms of entertainment ranging from editorials, look books, music videos, live performances, red carpet appearances, etc.
I’m originally from Elizabeth City, NC. The 252, you know! I left Elizabeth City and went off to college at East Carolina University and that’s where I met you (Greg) and was introduced to Substantial. In fact, talking about full circle moments I remember you giving me the creative freedom during my photoshoot and you gave me the freedom to direct the other features that were in that young and Substantial highlight.
Really thinking back on it I remember going to the Substantial Awards and being in that environment. Honestly it was those moments that I believe helped prepare me for the moments I’m experiencing now. Being on the red carpet and having photographers taking pictures, etc. back then gave me the opportunity to experience it and now it’s just scaling. I’m just thankful for the platform that you shared with me at a young age and you gave a young creative a chance and a voice when there weren’t a lot of opportunities in the South, especially Eastern NC.
SM: Listen first and foremost thank you. Hearing you say that means we were living out our purpose. Substantial has always been a place for the creatives to run free and express themselves and I’m sure those Substantial Awards red carpet moments don’t hardly compare to the big moments you’ve had recently in your career, but again hearing you say that we humbly say thank you.
Listen, speaking of career, walk us through it. What made you pick up and say I’m about to take this chance as a stylist in New York?
DPL: So the journey has been very beautiful but you know I’ll never sugarcoat it, it’s also been some hard unknown moments. I graduated one day and literally moved to New York the next. I moved not having a job but knowing if I could just get an opportunity or a chance to talk and network with different people my time would come.
I’m thankful to have had the support of family and friends who helped me along the journey. In fact still helping me somewhat. I had a friend who let me stay with him when I first moved to New York for about a year until I got my feet under me and got things going. I remember before I got my own apartment I had a colleague who let me borrow their apartment when I had to move from my first set up in New York. It’s certainly been an experience and I’ve had some challenges trying to figure out living and trying to grow my name and career. As you know in the beginning like anything it’s not super profitable. People see the photos with the stars and the fancy red carpets but it took work and perseverance.
SM: WOW, talk about faith. You just described what it means to have it and walk in it. Stepping out there and going from Elizabeth City to Greenville to New York and I need our readers to understand when Dan P. stepped out there and made that move it wasn’t like there were things lined up, it was more like “yo we’re going to go out here and we’re going to make something happen. We’re going to seize a moment.”
Talk to me about some of the highlights of the career thus far.
DPL: So I really gained my start at the top of 2016. I’ve been able to be play a part in various projects with companies such as Elle, ESPN Magazine, Sports Illustrated, At Large, Icon Magazine, L’Officiel magazine, Atlantic Records, 300 Entertainment, and Island Records.
A highlight for me honestly if I had to choose one, which is hard, would have to be attending my first Grammys. It was an aha moment. I mean I’ve had the chance to work alongside my mentor who styled Mary J. Blige and some other really big names and those were some big aha moments too, but it was something about that first Grammy Awards and getting to be backstage and see all the people I grew up watching on TV. It was surreal.
SM: OK, so now I’m having an aha moment because I get to talk with and say I know someone who’s rubbing elbows with the upper elite, should I say some really Substantial people.
So tell me about your new brand PLOTtwst. What’s the story behind the name?
DPL: So funny enough, I was just trying to think of different ways to get my name out there and be different. I like to think “I’m somewhat of a marketing guru.” And if it wasn’t for fashion, if I was to go down anything within a corporate space, I would have gone down the marketing lane. So for a while a lot of stylists usually would say like, they would post their work obviously on social media and we’ll put hashtag style by and whatever the name was. I never liked that, I never liked the whole “styled by” because it always read to me as if they were kind of watering down their clients actual style.
I never as a stylist think I should supersede my client and make the world think if it wasn’t for me, they wouldn’t have status because it’s not true, right? You understand a lot of these people actually do have real true style, they just are so deeply involved in their art and talent that they’re not actually going out to the store. In fact some of them have so much influence and recognition it’s hard to even be out in the stores and picking stuff out. So that’s where I come in and serve as that liaison and alleviate that stress.
So because everybody seems to have a tagline or a catchy slogan these days I was like OK what can I put out there. Initially it was like, “Dan P. on Threads,” then after a few iterations and a friend of mine hitting me up and offering some critics God dropped it in my heart and I was like PLOTtwst because when I think about it my life’s been one Plot twist after another and I believe my style reflects that.
SM: What would you say to that young creative that’s here in NC?
DPL: I’d say don’t let where you are define who you are or who you want to become. If you want to be a doctor do the work and become a doctor, if you want to be a stylist do what it takes to be a stylist. Don’t say because I’m in a small town that I can’t do fashion, I remember asking influential people right there in Greenville if I could style them or asking photographers to let me help with styling for photoshoots and sets.
I’d tell them you’ve got to be willing to take a chance on yourself and that the hard work and challenges come all too often before the success.
You can listen to the entire interview with Dan P. Lee via our “All Things Substantial” podcast. You can follow and support Dan P. Lee via his website danplee.com, IG @dan.p.lee and Twitter @Dan_plee