Besties :: Nikki and Virginia

By Jenn Rose Smith
Besties | Nikki Chanel & Virginia Cumberbatch | Camille Styles

When we discovered fashion blogger Nikki Chanel via Instagram, we couldn’t help but pour over the images of her fabulous outfits and incredibly well-dressed friends — and when we learned that her very best friend is none other than the oh-so-chic champion of social advocacy in Austin, Virginia Cumberbatch… well, we pretty much had to meet these two in person. On a sunny morning in East Austin, we joined Virginia and Nikki for a laid-back Sunday brunch at Hillside Farmacy to sip iced tea and talk about an enduring friendship that’s built on fun, fashion and faith.

photography by jessica pages

How long have you two been best friends? How did you first meet?

Nikki: We’ve been friends since 2010, so about 4 years. We met at an “informational” interview at Hahn Public Communications (a PR firm here in Austin). She worked there, and I was trying my hardest to get hired.

Virginia: The principal of our firm told her there was someone he’d like her to meet and called me into the conference room. I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by an African American young lady (very rare in the industry, particularly in Austin) and to boot she was chicly dressed and had such a cheery disposition. We arranged a coffee date at Einstein Bagels and we’ve kind of been inseparable ever since.


How do you two like to spend time together?

Nikki:  We love hitting up food trailers and lately we’ve been planning to do a ton of wedding decor shopping at spots like Paper Source and Garden Ridge. (I’m engaged!) We also love Sunday brunching after church together.

Virginia: We work out together at the Y. We like window shopping. But we’re doing more occasion shopping together now.


Did you two hit it off right away, or did it take a bit longer to get to one another?

Virginia: Our friendship was very organic and easy. Almost right away we started having really personal conversations —

Nikki: If I was having a bad day, or stressed out, she would always give me such solid advice… I started to open up more and more.

Virginia, tell us a bit about your job working for UT’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. What do you love about what you do?

The role of DDCE is to be a mouth piece for the University in areas of diversity, inclusion, advocacy and community engagement and likewise to support causes and organizations in the community who share a like-minded mission. I’m thrilled to be working for an entity that has prioritized resources and conversations surrounding the underserved, the disenfranchised and the marginalized. I’m currently leading an effort to write a book about the integration of The University of Texas at Austin and the impact of that narrative on students and the Austin community today. DDCE is also extremely supportive of continued education and they’ve been super supportive of my decision to attend UT’s LBJ School of Public Affairs in the fall.

Virginia’s known around town for her crisp ladylike style. Nikki, how would you describe Virginia’s fashion sense?

Ginny’s style is grown-up and sort of whimsical. It’s very put together, but fun. She mixes high-end and low-end so well. And she loves dresses more than anyone I know!


Virginia, tell us a few of your go-to boutiques and shops in Austin:

I like New Bohemia, Zara, H&M, A-Town, U&L… and I tend to have good luck at Buffalo Exchange. I’ve actually found two pairs of Jeffrey Campbell shoes there in my size! I need a story behind everything I buy.


Virginia, how would you describe Nikki’s style?

Nikki is adventurous — she mixes patterns and color really well. She’s slightly more casual than me. Her greatest accessory is her hair, so she can be minimalist in other places.

She once came to one of my brother’s parties wearing just shorts and a t-shirt. But she accessorized it with a baseball cap and a pair of high heels. He couldn’t get over how great she looked.

Nikki, when did you start your fashion blog Chanel Wears? What do you like about blogging?

I started blogging in 2012. I didn’t have a creative outlet with my previous job and this was it. I was also really inspired by one of your contributors, Cristina Cleveland. She’s actually the one who told me to do it. I don’t think I’m all that “stylish” when I think about the big name bloggers out there, but I do it because I enjoy the comments from people that feel like they got something from my blog.  And I don’t mind taking photos. Somewhere in the far future my children will laugh at me for it. I love what fashion blogging has taught me about myself. I can be confident no matter what I’m wearing or where I am. Ironically, it’s taught me to not be self-centered.

And tell us a bit about your job — what do you love about working for NaturallyCurly?

I love my job! I get to do creative work and share it with the world. I work with some of the coolest, smartest, and most ambitious women I’ve ever met. I am the Email Marketing Manager. I create informative and engaging emails for NaturallyCurly. I get to pick the best of our content and share it with people who may have missed out and whom  may desperately need help in the hair department. Once, someone tweeted that my emails save lives. That was a real tweet. From a real person. It made my day. I also create video content for our YouTube channel, The Twist.

Would you say your styles are compatible?

Virginia: Our styles compliment each other in terms of pieces, but we’d style them differently. I’m more about silhouettes. Nikki’s all about pattern and color.

Nikki: We sometimes share clothes. Actually, I just usually borrow clothes from Ginny. The scales of the clothing relationship are favorably tipped in my direction! However, I will say that though are styles can be similar, Ginny’s style is much more refined and grown up than mine. She owns blazers, button downs, work dresses, and ball gowns. I own maybe one blaze… and what is a “work” dress?!


What do you both love about living in Austin?

Nikki: The food, the neighborhoods, the music, the outdoor life, the people… everything. I love how you can spend an entire weekend eating tacos, biking, listening to a live band and feeling completely relaxed and satisfied. It never gets old. Though its growing, it can still feel like a small town.

Virginia: Yes. I love Austin because it’s like a “big little city.” I love that we as a city support and cultivate our local businesses and that people really value that here.

Do you two have a favorite show you both watch?

Nikki and Virginia: Parenthood!

Nikki: So good.

Virginia: We almost always call each other to talk about every episode after it airs. If you’ve never seen it, you need to Netflix that, ASAP!

We love that you two brunch together after church on Sundays. Would you say that faith is something your friendship is based on?

Nikki and Virginia: Yes.

Virginia: Early on, we recognized that was something we shared. Then we became accountability partners in that area. We started an all-female bible study group together.

Nikki: There are 6 of us. We are reading The Purpose Drive Life, and it is honestly helping us all figure out that major question that everyone deals with: what is my purpose in life? Plus, sometimes you just need to be around women who know there’s more to life than pleasing oneself. Also, I’ve been told I can cook a good meal.

What inspires you about each other?

Nikki: Virginia is a go-getter. She makes things happen and she is completely fearless about it. Her approach to life is so inspiring. She is giving, so much so, that I have to tell her to take a break. I love that about her. She gives and gives with a good heart and a smile. She has taught me to do the same. Life isn’t all about you. It’s about people and no one can better demonstrate that than Ginny. It also doesn’t hurt that the girl can dress. I’m so glad I met her.

Virginia: Nikki inspires me in her determination to grow. She’s constantly exploring her life choices and finding ways to grow. She may not know it, but her desire to pursue her passions and purpose in God challenges me to do the same in particular areas of my life.

Whether it’s through our style exploration via our favorite blogs, our daily devotional sharing via our favorite online magazine, our days in the YMCA dungeon trying to get back to college shape, or our mutual love of shows like Parenthood, Nikki’s humor, enthusiasm and loyalty is always at the center. Somewhere between church and the YMCA Nikki went from friend to sister.

You two are inspiring to us. Thanks for sharing your friendship story today!