Ashley Villa is a leading expert in digital media talent management, brand partnerships and digital content distribution. Being a boss in a world full of men, Ashley discusses the marriage between her professional and her personal sense of style.
How did you get started? Did you always know you wanted to own your own business?
I'd never considered myself the entrepreneurial type. I’ve always been pretty conservative on the career side, so taking on a new career path—especially in an emerging industry—is a big leap. It was my client and now close friend Jenn Im who inspired me to dive in. At the time I met Jenn, I was working at an international film sales agency as a junior attorney. After that, I worked as in-house counsel at a multi channel network called StyleHaul. During that time, Jenn continued to create her content on YouTube and running her own business... which was growing rapidly. It was exciting to watch; I started working with her as her attorney. Soon, I was negotiating all of her deals, and I realized that Jenn needed help executing her increasingly high-profile campaigns. I believe we share the same outlook what that looks like: the dedication, attention to detail, and consistency that is required to shine. So, eventually, after working with her for a while, I became her manager in additional to legal counsel. That all transpired 3 years ago.
What are changes you’ve seen in your personality, style, etc since starting your own business.
Personality—that's easy: confidence. When you really understand the space and you have a handle on the business, you know the deal terms, the subtle nuances in product and demand, the emerging trends... that knowledge breeds confidence. To know what I do about digital media, social media, YouTube and contract negotiation, I can give my business an absolute advantage by being able to add value to my clients. I can say with confidence, 'This is what my client is worth in the market, and this is what she should be paid.'
Fashion-wise, coming from a law background, I'm used suits (old-school federal court style suits). These days, I can play a little bit with the professional wardrobe, but I still lean towards business casual, especially for meetings. If I'm wearing a button up, it'll be with high-wasted pants, and always a belt. I'll tone it down on Fridays, maybe even wear jeans with a leather jacket. Today, I’m wearing a camel-colored skirt set—my idea of taking a risk.
What was back in the day high school/ college Ashley style?
Oh my gosh, I can't even imagine this now. I used to live in Uggs with shorts and a UCLA T-shirt; or better yet, a Juicy Couture tracksuit. Yikes.
We feel about jewelry that it’s timeless and people keep specific pieces with a personal meaning.
I have a Tiffany ring that my mom bought me for my 16th birthday. I’ll always love it, because she surprised me with it for my birthday, and I'd wanted it so bad! It means a lot to me because my mom got it for me.
Which piece from the Amarilo collection is a piece that you want to put on and never take off?
Everything! The chokers, the rings, all of the earrings. And I really like the custom pieces; I’d love to have a R-A-R-E Necklace. I'm drawn to chic, dainty pieces that I can wear everyday, without having to think too much.
Are you typically a ring girl, necklace girl, etc.?
I'm girly. I aim to wear a nice necklace when possible, but I always wear earrings. I'm getting into the habit of switching things up: maybe throwing in gold hoops or layering my chokers and necklaces.
Who are your fashion icons?
I’m such a prime consumer. If I'm on Instagram and I see someone wearing something I like, I buy every piece tagged in that photo. In terms of current inspiration, I don’t think I have one particular person. I watch YouTube videos all day, so I look to some of my clients including Stephanie and Jenn. If I had to pick an icon, I would say Karl Lagerfeld. Everything he designs is luxury-defined, yet effortless—casual and not too difficult. He has also been quoted saying that he doesn't "believe" in stress, particularly at work. As much as possible, I believe in not making things too hard, even if what you're doing is difficult. A lot of people tell me: "Oh, your job looks so fun," especially as depicted on social media. But no one sees the late hours of research; obviously, I'm not Instagramming at two in the morning while I'm working on a long and tedious contract. I don't believe in complaining; that's my work, my business, my job, and it all of it inspires me. In the end, my style mantra is tied to my work mantra: Even if you’re stressed you need to remain confident. Take whatever is happening step by step. You can get through it by remaining calm and believing in yourself.
Tell me where you see yourself 3 years from now.
I see RARE as a relevant and growing management company. We’ll always have our content-oriented, curated talent, but maybe we'll add a few more creators to the roster. I want RARE to be known as a company where women lift each other up and empower one another. I also have ideas for my own little ventures; I want to dabble in different things, but I want to stay closed to my strengths, what I know and understand. In my personal life, I want to always be traveling. Exploring new places is one of my favorite things: building, experiencing, and understanding different cultures. I’m going to be 31 this year. I would love to be with someone really special and move towards getting married one day, and eventually having a baby. I’m going to keep working on all aspects of myself. The past few years, I've been focused on the business; I haven’t prioritized my personal life. This year, I'm planning to achieve better balance.