Proclamations, awards and articles fill young Egypt Ufele’s work space, which is a credit to how much the fashion designer has accomplished in her short 13 years of life.
She’s traveled to the Virgin Islands, California, Africa and other regions of the world putting out highly acclaimed designs and speaking on behalf of those who don’t have a voice. When asked how she became so business-minded and mature, she credited her mother, Dr. Reba Perry-Ufele.
“I just felt like it was a family thing,” said Egypt.
Dr. Perry-Ufele, who is a business owner and will be graduating from Harvard with a master’s in business management, often took her daughter to meetings. There, the entrepreneur-in-the-making saw how business was done. One of those meetings happened at the UN, where Egypt became a junior ambassador due to her direct and outspoken nature.
“She said, ‘Excuse me,'” Dr. Perry-Ufele recalled. “‘All that stuff that you keep saying is happening over there, that’s not true because I go there with my mom,’ They all turned around and said okay.”
From then on, she became a junior ambassador speaking for and with children in Africa. Dr. Perry-Ufele encouraged her
“People think cause you have money that you’re supposed to splurge it,” said Dr. Perry-Ufele.
“If you can’t buy it twice, don’t buy it,” said Egypt agreeing with her mother.
The financial advice and encouragement set the stage for the designer to start her own business Chubiiline LLC. At the age of 10, the Manhasset-born designer began creating clothes as an outlet for her creativity. She started out sewing outfits for dolls, and then went on to design for clothes for men, women
Chubiiline LLC now has six house models and they’ve been doing shows all over the country including New York Fashion Week. Egypt showcases her love of African fabric, prints and everyday clothes in her designs and can often be found sporting one of her many dashikis.
Her passion and creative eye has captured the attention of People, Teen Vogue, Huffington Post and even Ford.
“I was like, ‘stop playing,'” Egypt said when they first emailed her mother with an offer to shoot a commercial for the Ford Explorer.
This email was followed up with a phone call from one of the directors at Ford. Even when they found the offer to be legit, they thought the commercial would just be a small cameo.
When asked how she manages her many projects on top of school, she, like a trooper, simply said, “It just works.”
But, with the widespread fame and notoriety came challenges including the disbelief some people had. Dr. Perry-Ufele said sometimes people don’t believe she actually creates the designs and has her own company.
Once, Egypt went to purchase a pair of skates herself recalled Dr. Perry-Ufele. The woman behind the counter had a hard time believing that she could pay for the skates on her own.
“I said, ‘Do you not think a young African-American girl can have her own company?'” said Dr. Ufele-Perry.
When Dr. Perry-Ufele, a.k.a. “momager”, stepped in and handed over Egypt’s business card, the woman apologized.
This wasn’t the first time mama bear had to come out to protect her cub. Dr. Perry-Ufele also talked about moments when people didn’t acknowledge Egypt as the designer at fashion shows.
“They’ll say, ‘Who are you here for,’ and I say we’re here to do the show and they go, ‘Oh, well you can stand over there,’ that type of thing,” said Dr. Perry-Ufele. “Then the minute they find out that she’s the designer, and they realize who she is, the whole agenda changes.”
Unfortunately, Egypt has experienced naysayers and people putting her down before, mainly when she was younger. Due to a chronic illness, she had to take steroids in order to survive. The steroids caused her to gain weight and she was bullied because of it. When going through those tough moments, she would tell herself, “Just don’t listen to what they say, because they’re just trying to hurt your feelings.”
Having been bullied, she uses her platform and her non-profit Bully Chasers to go into schools to offer support and let students know what they should do when they’re bullied. Egypt and her mother agree that their goal is to help the bullied, especially those mocha chocolate girls with natural hair that are often forgotten about.
Dr. Perry-Ufele recalled one time when they visited a school in Washington D.C. A girl went up to Egypt, cried and said she’s nobody and questioned why she came to her school to speak.
“Egypt said, ‘You are somebody because you’re me,'” said Dr. Perry-Ufele. “It brought me to tears.”
When it comes to a work-life balance, Dr. Perry-Ufele does encourage her daughter to have fun when traveling on the road and when hanging out with friends at the movies or the mall. Egypt also said she loves to get in a nap every now and then too.
On top of being a creative designer, she still finds time to devote to school. She’s an A student with a fondness for chemistry and hopes to become cardiothoracic surgeon after being motivated by one of her favorite shows, “Grey’s Anatomy.” A dean from Colombia University has already extended an invitation for a full ride.
For now, her schedule is busy as usual. Her plans include working on a self-published book, doing a show at Orange County Fashion Week, taking a trip to Hong Kong and doing a show for Barbie’s 60th birthday.
When asked what she would tell people who want to follow her path she said, “Don’t just sit there and wait for something to come to you. Just do it.”