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  • Writer's pictureNicole Jaramillo

CofC student self-publishes book to 'pick herself up'

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

By Nicole Jaramillo

Growing up comes with many challenges.

Whether that be school, work, a mental state, or big decisions, many people look for ways to make it past tough times.

Inspired and ready to inspire, 21-year-old Ryle Ferguson took a visionary approach to pick herself up.

By mixing many different art mediums, the College of Charleston student wrote, styled, and creatively directed her first published book, “Unapologetically” this past year.

Using her love for fashion as her creative outlet, Ferguson took more than a year and a half to complete her project.

However, to the people who contributed and to those who have seen it, the product had an everlasting impact.

“I made it at a time when I was down and lost,” Ferguson said. “It gave me direction and I was able to inspire others. It turned into a project I learned a lot from. Fashion is the one thing that has always guided me and I was able to do it all in one place.”

“Unapologetically” is a book made up of poems and pictures from nine different photoshoots.

These photos were all taken around Charleston by photographer Malik Gist, a 2022 graduate of CofC.

By looking at her closet, room, and Instagram feed, Ferguson looked for things that spoke to her while conceptualizing her idea.

From this Ferguson picked themes that were included in the book, a stepping stone for the photo aspect of her project.

The photos feature various models, all close friends of Ferguson.

They were all dressed and posed by her, using her own clothes, shoes, and accessories.

Creating the book as a 20-year-old with no previous experience and a full-time school schedule made the project challenging.

Despite this, Ferguson was able to release it on her birthday at the Sustainable Fashion Show as a gift to herself after months of hard work.

Releasing it was “so overwhelming and amazing,” said Ferguson

"I had a lot of doubt before putting it out thinking people would ask what it was or think it’s dumb,” she said. “I was blown away by people's reactions. People felt inspired and I had to inspire myself in order to realize that.”

With seventy-five copies sold since its release, the 36-page book sells for $40 in a magazine-style format.

The last 25 copies remain at the local Charleston store, True Lucia.

Valentina Palacio, a fellow student of the College of Charleston, was one of the many friends featured in the book's photographs.

Eager and excited to be a part of something her friend was curating, Palacio was all hands on deck.

“When, where, and I’ll be there,” she responded to Ferguson when asked to model in one of the photoshoots.

Describing the experience as “inspiring, raw, and inclusive,” Palacio says she was able to be nothing but herself while participating in “Unapologetically.”

“It has meaning to me not just because my best friend created it by putting her heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into it. It holds meaning because of what it means to her and what she is trying to convey to other people through it,” Palacio said, noting her admiration for her friend’s confidence to do the book.

Looking back on the release of it Fergusons’ friend cherishes the impact it has made.

“Everything she shared, the way she shared it. I’m ultimately just so proud of my friend and it's so neat to be a part of it. You feel special being included in it. Especially when it holds so much meaning to her,” shared Palacio

When Gist met Ryle, he was the head photographer for the school's Cistern Magazine.

Ferguson approached him with the idea early on.

Deciding to be a part of the project was a no-brainer, Gist said.

“Obviously I love photography and [Ryle is] a creative genius when it comes to styling people and ideas for shoots,” he said.

“I've wanted to make my own book but I hadn’t really gotten that far in my creative process yet. So it was a kind of a stepping stone for me and we were able to make something super cool.”

Together both artists worked diligently on the completion of the book, from the early stages of mood board inspiration to shooting, and editing the multiple images.

Being well received after its release, the book was sold and featured in several places and events like the Give Me Green Sustainable Fashion Show, the Redux Art Center of Sustainability Fest, an exhibition at the Gap Gallery, and through a digital link on Fergusons’ social media.

Ferguson hopes to take on another project in the near future, but she is currently working as a stylist at Jahde Leather Atelier.

“It was very fun and exciting. The whole release process was the happiest I had ever been. It feels distant now. I released it, finished school, and went abroad for the summer. But now that I'm back I wanna do another project for my senior year,” says Ferguson.

Happy and fulfilled with the knowledge and experience gained through the process of making and completing her book, Ferguson offers the following piece of advice to other fellow aspiring artists and visionaries.

“Don’t let the uncertainty of it scare [you] away because the outcome will be way better than [you] ever thought,” she says. “You learn so much about yourself and you learn about the professional world and how to work with others. Having a creative outlet is really worth it. Don't let anything stop you.”

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