Beauty Guru Magazine Editor In Chief, Robyn Newmark sits down with internationally renowned style guru Derek Warburton to celebrate Pride Month and talk about how he grew from being a homeless teen to who he is today.
Derek it is wonderful to sit down with you today. The world regards you as a style icon, media personality, entrepreneur and highly regarded philanthropist. I am so grateful that I know you as my dear friend and chosen family.
For over 20 years Derek Warburton has been a celebrity stylist to Hollywood’s elite. He has been a spokesperson for some of America’s biggest brands and has a makeup collection called DEREK FABULOUS with European legacy beauty brand FACE Stockholm. Warburton has given his time, money and resources to multiple charitable organizations around the world. From the State of California naming him the Style Ambassador of the City of Los Angeles for his work with the homeless to being named International Goodwill Ambassador for British clean water organization Just A Drop. Warburton has lived his life in service.
Then there are his friends. From iconic designers, actors, politicians and even royalty Warburton is their go to when they have a story to tell or want to look the best they have ever looked. There’s a reason why Derek Warburton has reached his level of respect and success he bas achieved, he “shows up” for us all.
1.What does it mean to be an icon?
Being an icon is about being unique, yet timeless. It’s about following and being your true authentic self. When I was young my goal with my work as a stylist or whatever creative project I was doing from throwing an event to decorating my home was to develop a look that is incredible, fabulous, wow & that minute. Then in 20 years when searching archive I wanted to look back and say, “where is that shirt or oh gosh I loved that vase”. Being iconic is lasting the test of time. Being iconic is something, or someone is just as unique and desirable at the moment as it is when you look back.
2. How does it feel to be considered an icon?
Being considered an icon is a badge of honor. It means I have done what I set out to do with my work, my heart, my passions. It’s also a code. It drives me, I never want to disappoint. I got incredible advice from the legendary comedian Craig Ferguson years ago. He told me to sit in my greatness & enjoy the journey because when you achieve success it is difficult to keep it. Someone is always on your heels trying to take it. I heard that advice very loud and clear, which is why I never followed any road maps. I am on my own road to greatness. I and I alone judge my success, my drive and my passions. That’s iconic.
You have worked with some of the most beautiful and iconic women in the world such as Jessica Alba, Beyonce, Miranda Kerr, Irina Shayk and Anne Heche to name a few.
3. How do you approach making someone beautiful?
I consider everyone beautiful already. It’s not my job to make you beautiful. The reason I have been successful with my publications and styling them is because everyone I work with gives me carte blanche. I gave up styling as a career because I didn’t want to “work” for celebrities. I style my own magazine shoots because it’s part of my unique story telling. When I style now I am showing the world a different part of my subject that they haven’t seen. I love to reinvent, I love to be a story teller through imagery. I enjoy giving a voice to someone who the public has a one dimensional vision of. For me that’s exhilarating and makes me excited to create iconic images and tell heartfelt narrative. What has been beautiful about what we have done is that we have viral moments on these stories and they go world wide. I’m proud to say I have created a formula that seems to work and that is so fulfilling that we get to share these stories with the world on a large scale.
4. What do you find beautiful about someone?
There are so many things I find beautiful about people. When I was young I never thought I was beautiful so I learned early on that beauty on the inside is what matters the most. Kind, good, self loving people are beautiful. If you love yourself it radiates.
As your dear friend I hope it’s okay if I ask you about some deeply personal issues? You shared before in private that you were an overweight kid growing up and it was a difficult part of childhood for you.
5. What inspired you to turn to a life of health, wellness, and beauty? And at what age do you do that?
Food was a crutch. It was a security blanket for all of my fears & self loathing. Eating and an eating disorder felt easier than actually dealing with my insecurities of never feeling good enough. So many things changed the way I have looked at food and myself. Time has healed me, success has healed me and self love, plus my community. But I guess one of the strongest stories came from a man I worked with in my mid 20s. I had some financial success and was contemplating the purchase of a Chanel bag. He turned to me and said, “you are fat, with bad skin and crooked teeth, that should be your biggest concern.” I was insulted and of course bruised, but bruises heal. That conversation changed my life forever.
Most people who meet you now or see you on a magazine cover or even social media would never guess that you were a homeless teen, living on the streets with your birth mother. It has without a doubt inspired your lifelong dedication to charitable foundations worldwide especially for helping the homeless.
6. How does that time still affect you?
Everything that happens in our childhood, especially our trauma affects us. I think that time made me work hard and never forget where I came from. It wasn’t easy. It could have gone a much different way. I always say I was so lucky but the fact is I always found residual love and support in other places. When I was very young someone very influential in my life said to me, “everyone wants to love you, let them”. You would think that would be the simplest thing to let happen. When you feel like you have to fight for survival, are constantly bullied at school and at home plus at certain points not even having a home, letting people love you isn’t easy. I had to grow into that. The minute I did my world changed. It’s finding balance in all things.
7. In what ways have you found healing?
Time heals but the most healing moments for me have been finding self love. When you love yourself you can forgive all. The dark secret that no one tells you about forgiveness… it has nothing to do with who or what you are forgiving. It is only about you! I left my birth mother at 15 years old and I haven’t seen her since that day. I loved her so much, but I was going to commit suicide if I stayed in her life. She chose her toxic partner over her 15 year old emotionally damaged son. She tried to be in contact with me for years. Then finally at 25 we spoke again, only for me to forgive her. It wasn’t for her. It was for me because I wanted to live my life in happiness, love and light. I have not spoken to her since that day 24 years ago and I have never looked back. It may seem cold, it may seem diss heartening but we all have our own journeys and mine was going to end in suicide. She chose an abusive partner and I chose me. I made the right choice.
“I couldn’t think of anyone better to be on the cover of our Pride Edition than Derek Warburton. He is creative force of beauty, freedom and authentic self expression. His service to others is a gift to the world and just being in his presence is truly inspiring. We are honored to feature this incredible human being!”- Robyn Newmark, Beauty Guru Magazine Editor-In-Chief.
You have become an advocate and icon for freedom and authentic self-expression.
8. How have you gained confidence over the years? Did you ever dream you would be where you are today?
I have gained confidence over the years through making decisions who I was going to be. I decided and I dreamed. I knew exactly who I would be from the beginning and nothing was going to stop me. So many talk. I have zero interest in talking. I am interested in taking action. I also had zero interest in working a job to make others successful off of my hard work. I have been an entrepreneur for 23 years. The last “desk” job I had I owned the company. The key to success is to realize that you have no way back. If you feel like it is survival, everything you do is because it feeds your belly or your soul. It’s all the same. I have never seen the difference. Plus true success isn’t just financial. Finance is a piece of the pie, but not the entire pie. Happiness, fulfillment, passion, accountability, sustainability, longevity are just some of the elements that create the 360 degree equation. Someone who I always refer to is Richard Branson. I consider him a fearless genius. He follows his passions and surrounds himself with people that are better than he is. His dreams fuel the empire and his management keep it from going up in flames. There’s nothing better.
9. In your expert opinion, what is the key to one finding their own personal style?
Personal style is creating your own unique way of living life. It could be the way you dress, the way you do your makeup or even the way you walk. Personal style is like everything in life, you must curate it. So many people send me photos telling me they saw something, read something or bought something that reminded them of me. That is the biggest compliment. I love when my community wants to share something that they feel connected to that reminds them of
10. Is there a mark you want leave on this world?
I think I want to leave my mark as a story teller, whether it’s my own story or the story of others. I was on this podcast about a year ago and a white, straight gentleman said to me, “ you know, I bet you grew up like me. Everyone always called me the black sheep because I wasn’t like everyone else.” At which I informed him, “no my friend we did not grow up a black sheep, we are unicorns and just because they don’t know how special we are doesn’t mean it isn’t so.” We are all our own unique beings. Whether we are gay, straight, non binary, black, white or brown. We are all beautiful and unique. My legacy in life is to show the world that you have to love yourself to be yourself and everything will fall into it’s own divine course.
Photography: Rowan Daly
Makeup: Justin St Clair
Hair: Jari Rigova
Style Assistant: Keiki Tomoyose