2017 Nominee - Dena Cooper

Dena Cooper - Class of 2006

February 01, 2017


Dena Cooper, 2006 St. Johns High School Graduate, was recently contacted by fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone having shown interest in Dena’s work.  Dena is a freelance artist and illustrator who now lives in Brooklyn, NY.  She is a former Assistant Designer for Calvin Klein.  

During high school Dena’s drive and talent allowed her to wrangle her way into an art portfolio class, despite not having the prerequisites.  It was here that she began to hone her artistic talents under the tutelage of her teacher, Kathy Heystek and here that she collaborated with fellow student artist Kallie Sternburgh, whom Dena respects and admires.  After graduating high school, Dena moved to Virginia to live with her grandmother.  Here she attended a community college where a professor helped provide Dena the support and courage she needed to pursue a career as an illustrator.  She later transferred and received her degree from Radford University, graduating with a 4.0 GPA.  With the support of her now husband, the couple moved to Brooklyn, NY so Dena could pursue her dreams of becoming an illustrator.  

Her first paid job was as a receptionist for a fashion company.  Dena says that the fashion industry, and NYC life, is ruthless; to make it, you have to be aggressive.  She states that in order to achieve your dreams, you cannot be above any kind of work, and cannot be afraid to put in the time and do the mundane tasks to open doors to what you actually want to do.  She says, “Don’t be above any kind of work. Just get in there and do it!  You need to be the first to arrive and last to leave, working hard to get noticed by your boss.”  One piece of advice that she wants to share with every person is that “if someone has a passion for something and they also think they are good enough to go for it, then they should!  I feel like there are so many people who downplay their own talents and their own strong points.  If you push hard enough and work hard enough, really, you can do whatever you want!”  After her time as a receptionist, she went on to be an Assistant Designer for Calvin Klein.  Personal health issues, along with strong support from her husband, ultimately pushed her to go out on her own as a freelance illustrator.  

Dena is now living out her dreams as an artist and illustrator in NYC.  She is preparing to be part of 3 different shows during the famed “Fashion Week” and is looking forward to hopefully working with Kelly Cutrone.  She has also done commissioned work for ALV Jewels, Proud Pour, Anna Cate Home, Essentials for Zula, Whimsy, ShopBop, BK Styled, and others. To view some of her work you can visit www.denacooper.com or view her on Instagram @denacooperillustration.  

St. Johns Public Schools is proud of our graduate Dena Cooper!   #SJRedwingPride