CHICAGO — With the future uncertain for many Chicago Public Schools teachers, Moneka Reynolds decided to pursue a dream beyond teaching: styling and fashion design.
The fourth- and fifth-grade teacher, who uses the name Moneka Lavaye professionally, said it was "direct uncertainty" with the CPS system that took her into the fashion world. The school in which she teaches, Charles Earle Elementary School, is set to move into the building that housed Elaine Goodlow Magnet School.
"We don't know what our future is holding so a lot of us have went into other areas to find some form of help," Reynolds, 32, said.
Now, she manages the Bella Sky personal style consultant company while raising her 4-year-old son, Joseph, in Logan Square and teaching her students. She'll even host a fashion show on Aug. 17.
The fashion show will feature clothes from local vendors, like Kiwi's Boutique, styled by Reynolds. It starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Water Tower Lofts, 4223 W. Lake St. Tickets are $25 to $35 and include wine and hors d'oeuvres.
Though her business is only a few months old, Reynolds has already worked with several clients and has provided free makeovers for some students.
"When my students come in, I give them earrings," she said. "With the parents' permission I give them a little makeover. A lot of our kids are low socio-economic status so I give them a free makeover to help them out."
She is also working on designing clothes and ultimately hopes to create a fashion line. She has wanted to "allow other people to ... wear my style" since she started thinking up new fashions in college, she said.
"I had [a friend] make the clothes for me to wear and then some of the people were like, 'Wow, where'd you get that from?' Well, I got it from my own mind," Reynolds said.
The Bella Sky style is "classy chic," Reynolds said. When dressing her clients, she focuses on a number of things — body shape, style, profession — to help people look their best.
"It's almost like a little bit of Kate Middleton ... with a little bit a mixture of Beyonce," Reynolds said. "Depending on the venue, depending on the area I'm in, it depends on what kind of dress I am in."
And though Reynolds plans to continue working as a teacher, she also wants people to take her second career seriously.
"I'm open to building more clientele, to marketing myself as a personal stylist and allowing people to see I'm not just a teacher — because that's what they see me as, as an educator," Reynolds said. "I'm someone who can actually put clothes together and style different than [people are] used to."