Fashion student wins $35,000 in Fashion Scholarship Fund competition


(Left to right) Tyshaia Earnest, Amelia Johnson, Catherine Leslie and Jahnaye Chapman at the Fashion Scholarship Fund Gala in New York City. Jan. 7, 2020. (Picture provided by Catherine Leslie).

Hailey Phillips Reporter

Four years ago, Tyshaia Earnest was in her senior year of high school taking aptitude tests to see what career would be best for her. She got many ideas, such as art and marketing or international business. But she didn’t find the perfect fit until she watched “Legally Blonde” and main character, Elle Woods, mentioned her major: fashion merchandising.

Instantly, Earnest searched fashion merchandising and the best fashion schools. After graduating high school, she began her success in Kent State’s fashion program. 

Earlier this month, her hard work earned her a $35,000 grand prize in New York City.

Earnest, now a senior, always had a keen sense for fashion, but she didn’t always know she wanted to incorporate that into her career.

Earnest’s success started early during her freshman year of college. She was getting straight A’s. Catherine Leslie, fashion professor at Kent State, said Earnest had the highest grade in her “Fashion Fundamentals” − a course with over 300 other students − during her freshman year. 

“This major is so easy for me personally,” Earnest said. “I need a challenge.”

She told Leslie about her desire for a challenge, then she introduced the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund competition to Earnest.

Kent State students have competed in the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund for more than 10 years against over 60 universities. 200 scholarships are given out each year, ranging between $5,000 and $35,000. Leslie has mentored 13 students who have participated in the scholarship competition and nine have won the $5,000 prize. 

Earnest has won the $5,000 prize twice before and this year she won the grand prize of $35,000 by showcasing her research between the collaboration of Nordstrom, a retail company, and PERIOD, a group fighting to end period poverty.

“Tyshaia didn’t just present her case she had submitted, she created a whole new presentation that impressed the judges so much that she was selected,” Leslie said.

The competition stacks extra work for faculty and students on top of their already busy schedules. Regardless if the student wins or not, Leslie said she has so much respect for the effort put in.

Leslie also mentored senior fashion merchandising major Amelia Johnson, for the YMA FSF. Johnson’s case, covering a collaboration between Lululemon and Hello Fresh, was selected to win $5,000. This was Johnson’s second time winning $5,000 for this competition.

“Tyshaia deserved to win more than anybody,” Johnson said. “She’s so intelligent and involved, yet so humble.”

Earnest landed an internship at Nordstrom and received a job offer. She has studied abroad in Florence and New York City. But, she still takes her career goals and aspirations one day at a time.

“I feel like the career in my head that I am conceptualizing is not invented yet,” she said. “I know the skills I want to utilize in my career, such as storytelling, digital strategies and technology, but I need to figure out a way where I fit into that.”

Hailey Phillips covers fashion. Contact her at [email protected].