When Black women want something done — we have to do it ourselves. The same holds true when it comes to bridging the funding gap for Black female entrepreneurs.
The Fearless Fund, founded by actress Keshia Knight Pulliam and her business partner Arian Simone, will deploy $5 million in pre-seed, seed, and Series A startups.
The fund already has five portfolio companies, including Ellis Island Tea, a beverage company founded by ‘Forbes 30 Under 30’ entrepreneur Nailah Ellis-Brown; EnrichHER, an Atlanta-based fintech platform for women entrepreneurs; and 100 Black Angels Fund, a fellow investor in minority-founded startups.
Simply put: these two Black women are addressing inequity by building equity of their own.
Through the Fearless Fund, Simone and Pulliam are highlighting how diversity significantly impacts a company’s performance and potential to provide investor returns.
The two first-time fund managers have also brought on several established power players in the entrepreneurial space to help the initiative reach its’ full potential. Entrepreneur Rodney Sampson (Opportunity Hub founder and a Professor of Entrepreneurship at Morehouse College) and Tracy Gray (founder and Managing Partner of venture capitalist firm The 22 Fund) have both joined the team as advisors.
Continue on to Essence to read the complete article.
JAY-Z and Will Smith have placed their financial support behind a startup company that intends to make homeownership a possibility for low-income families. According to Bloomberg, Hov’s Roc Nation and Smith’s Dreamers VC were among a group of investors, including Cash App, Ethos, Instacart, Front, Flatiron Health and Tango, who poured into Landis Technologies and helped them to make more than $165 million. The donations will reportedly be used to buy roughly 1,000 homes, which will then be rented out to low-income families working toward mortgage eligibility.
Additionally, as renting clients work on their credit, save money, and minimize their debt, staff at Landis Technologies will provide renters with coaches that will school them about various topics like money management, improving credit scores and other essential information that will help them to eventually qualify for mortgage.
The overall goal of Landis Technologies, per the report, is to turn 80 percent of renters into homeowners within two years. Once eligible, clients can buy the home back for a predetermined price up to two years after Landis made the initial purchase.
“Financial inclusion is really important to us,” Landis co-founder Cyril Berdugo said in a statement. “An aspect of Landis that we’re very proud to be a part of is wealth creation for low-income Americans. We make money when our client buys the house back. If we leave money on the table, that’s our problem.”
“What makes Landis unique is our ability to coach anyone to homeownership,” he added. “This new funding will allow us to help more Americans on their path to homeownership by expanding to new states, hiring talent nationwide and providing a better experience to our clients and partner agents and lenders.”
He rose to fame as one of the stars in Netflix’s hit period show Bridgerton. And according to reports, Regé-Jean Page has landed his next major role in the reimagination of the 1997 film The Saint, which originally featured Val Kilmer in the lead role. The 31-year-old Bridgerton star is set to both star in and executive produce the reboot of the film, according to Deadline.
Although no specific details about the plot have been released at this stage, the project is set to be part-based on Leslie Charteris’ 1920s book series, and the following TV series in the 1960s starring Sir Roger Moore.
The Saint focuses on a character named Simon Templar, who goes by the alias of The Saint, in a modern-day Robin Hood-style figure.
The character is known to leave a calling card at the scene of wherever he strikes, in the form of a stick man – which was used as the cover of the original books.
Deadline claim the reboot will be a fresh take on the classic character.
MailOnline has approached representatives of Regé-Jean for comment.
Earlier this year, the actor claimed he was ‘not at all’ nervous about leaving Bridgerton.
The actor announced his departure from the Netflix hit in April, much to the shock of viewers, but told Variety in May how his character was only meant to be in one season.
When asked if he was nervous about leaving the role of Simon Basset the Duke of Hastings behind, he said: ‘Not at all, because that’s what was meant.
‘Simon was this bomb of a one-season antagonist, to be reformed and to find his true self through Daphne.
‘I think one of the bravest things about the romance genre is allowing people a happy ending.’
Regé-Jean added that after his announcement was made public he made sure to keep his phone ‘across the room’ so he didn’t have to see their reaction immediately.
He also compared leaving the raunchy period drama to graduating from High School, saying he was ‘afraid of the unknown’ and not making good friends like he did on the Bridgerton set, but has since learned otherwise.
Click here to read the full article on Daily Mail.
Marketing professor and wine business researcher, Monique Bell, Ph.D., has released an inaugural study of Black wine entrepreneurs that captures survey data collected in the aftermath of the global pandemic and civil unrest in 2020. Survey participants, who represent a diverse spectrum of businesses and professional expertise, completed the online survey in late 2020 amidst pandemic-related losses and renewed civil rights and “buy Black” movements.
The Terroir Noir: 2020 Study of Black Wine Entrepreneurs survey respondents answered multiple questions related to their motivations for wine entrepreneurship, experiences with racism and other challenges, perceptions of the wine industry’s inclusion efforts, business strategies and practices, and the impacts of COVID-19. Black-owned wineries account for less than 1 percent of all U.S. wineries, while Black people typically make up more than 10 percent of American wine consumers. A majority of survey participants (43%), which represent wineries and other wine businesses, report that financial capital is the primary business roadblock to their business. Bias/racism was cited by 20% as the number one challenge, in general, for Black wine businesses. Further, more than half of respondents (58%) are neutral or disagree that the wine industry is taking meaningful action to be more inclusive of underrepresented groups.
“I am grateful to the Black wine business community for welcoming me during a very trying time and sharing their valuable insights for this important study,” says Bell, who performed the research during a sabbatical at the Fresno State Craig School of Business and subsequently founded Wyne Belle Enterprises. “The opportunity to connect with wine entrepreneurs inspires me to pursue further research and has opened pathways to increase exposure to and awareness about underrepresented groups in traditionally exclusive industries.”
The survey is the first of its kind among trade reports and academic examinations, and it will be followed by studies of Black wine professionals and consumers, respectively. Bell and her California State University colleagues, including Liz Thach, Ph.D., M.W., of Sonoma State, are currently analyzing more than 40 in-depth interviews with Black wine entrepreneurs.
“In illuminating Black entrepreneurs in the wine industry, Dr. Bell has identified an important gap in the global wine industry and in our collective knowledge about wine entrepreneurship,” says Liz Thach, Distinguished Professor of Wine and Professor of Management, Sonoma State. “As a wine business educator, writer, and consultant, I’ve sought to bring diversity, equity, and inclusion issues to the forefront, and the Terroir Noir study will help further the industry’s progress.”
It was through Bell’s research that she met Angela McCrae, founder of Uncorked & Cultured, and joined the media platform centered on wine, wellness, culture, and adventure as Chief of Cultural Insights and Partnerships. McCrae and Bell, both graduates of Morgan State University, launched the Sip Consciously Directory, a comprehensive resource of more than 100 Black entrepreneurs in the three-tier wine distribution chain. Importantly, the directory enhances Black visibility in the $70 billion wine industry where less than 1% of wineries are Black-owned. The evolving resource connects wine lovers with Black-owned brands, distributors, and retailers, and is complemented by the growing Sip Consciously YouTube video series.
“With knowledge there is power, so it’s important for Uncorked & Cultured to be a destination and resource for consumers and the greater wine industry to understand Black wine entrepreneurs exist and the challenges we face in the industry,’ says Angela McCrae. “We’re filling a void and creating solutions to connect, not just Black winemakers and entrepreneurs with consumers, but also with mainstream brands and major distributors for an opportunity to tap into a far too often overlooked demographic.”
Click here to read the full article on the Advisor.
Stormi Steele posted a video on her social media accounts in 2017 of how to use Black hair products she created herself with $800 of capital.
Her homegrown business, Canvas Beauty Brand, later brought in $435,000 in profits through a single $100 paid social media advertisement. Steele said even with this rapid progress, buyers were still asking the same question: Is this Black hair care brand Black-owned?
Instagram has been key to customers finding Black-owned businesses to support and Steele said it has been integral to her business’s growth. And now the platform is strengthening that relationship between customers and Black-owned businesses.
Instagram announced Wednesday its new “Black-owned” label that U.S.-based businesses like Canvas Beauty can add to their profiles. The company and Steele said the label will make it easier to find Black-owned businesses.
“People still ask, ‘Is this Black-owned?’ I think it’ll get rid of that question and it’ll make our consumer, the woman and the person that we market to, trust us,” Steele said. “It helps us to not have to continuously reiterate we’re Black-owned, because that’s the difference between the conversion or not, most of the time, especially to the customer who wants to know that answer.”
Business accounts can select to display the “Black-owned business” label in their bios, and may be included on the Shops page.
Instagram does not have concrete numbers regarding how many businesses are expected to enable this feature. But more than 1.3 million Instagram posts included “Black-owned” or “Black-led” during the height of the racial reckoning in summer 2020 and through the fall. And the number of U.S.-based businesses that listed these labels in their profiles increased by 50 percent during that same period.
“There was a lot of tragedy happening in the Black community,” said Rachel Brooks, a product manager at Instagram on the equity team who worked on developing the label. “On top of that, there was a global pandemic raging, and a lot of challenges particularly with Black-owned businesses being able to stay open, maintain livelihoods, those sorts of things. And so what we saw is the community really rallied around Black-owned businesses somewhat naturally and organically by using #BuyBlack and all sorts of other ways of amplifying Black-owned businesses.”
That rallying prompted Instagram to develop an official label to support this specific interest, adding structure and making it easier for users to search for businesses, she said.
“When you see a profile, you know where the name is, you know where you can find the post, you know where you can find the stories or whatever it might be,” Brooks said. The idea is to create a standard so that people know how to consistently find the information. Otherwise, people are kind of fishing for this information.”
Brooks said the label will not contribute to what information the algorithm takes into account. But subsequent engagement with related accounts will do so. Instagram’s algorithm considers what type of content users previously liked, viewed or shared and uses that pattern, among other things, to present personalized content to users, then-director of product management Julian Gutman told TechCrunch in 2018. So accounts keeping tabs on Black-owned businesses are more likely to see them in their feed, giving the businesses more exposure and potentially increasing their revenues.
Steele raked in $20 million in revenue in 2020, and is on track to hit the same number for 2021. The first video she put money behind became a viral video and effectively launched Canvas Beauty. Since then, she’s used paid and unpaid advertisements on Instagram and other social media sites, she said.
We often think of inclusion as only existing within professional or social circles, forgetting that it must also go a step further. In that spirit, the Black EOE Journal spent five minutes with Deidra Smith of MDee Beauty, a makeup company that is passionate about diversity without giving up on quality.
Black EOE Journal (BEOEJ): Where did your inspiration for MDee Beauty come from and what makes it stand out from the crowd?
Deidra Smith (DS): As a child I used to watch my mother put on her makeup, I dreamed of the day when I could do the same. From there my passion for skin care and the way I look took on a whole new meaning. It was more than just the way it made me feel, it was who I became once I became an adult. Skin care, the importance of lipstick all touched parts of me and what I deemed important. It was from that background the inspiration for MDee Beauty was born. I have used many products, never finding one with sustainability. There were many that became my favorite until later finding out that something in the formula had changed to make it no longer fit my needs. So, it was then that I started researching and later developing a formula that fit not only my needs but also that of other women who felt the same as me.
What makes us stand out from the crowd is basically the love that we put into the products. We have addressed issues of sustainability and longevity. Our ingredients are natural and good for the health of your lips. To enhance the lip care, we have subtle and bold colors that make this the perfect product that women who feel the same as I do, would want to consider.
BEOEJ: You’ve shared your views previously on the import of diversity and inclusion reform in the workforce. Why should businesses and business owners want to consider diversity, equity and inclusion when thinking in terms of their workforce, supply chain or mastermind group?
DS: I’ve been on both sides of this question as an employee and employer. I have been overlooked as a female and as a black female. I’ve been made to think that my ideas and what I had to say didn’t matter. It was kind of like when they tell kids, just be seen and not heard. Everyone’s voice needs and should be heard especially in the workforce on your team. Everyone’s background, experience and culture creates a product of inclusiveness, not only in the office but also for the market we are trying to reach. As the employer, I know that I don’t know everything, that’s why I surround myself with motivated, opinionated and diversity in thought. If you continue to do things the way they were done in the past, how do we get to the future?
BEOEJ: What can entrepreneurs or solopreneurs do to be a part of the change?
DS: Listen to the ideas of all. Decisions on what ethic groups like and don’t like can’t be made without those ethic groups being part of the conversation. Get it right the first time with inclusion of thought.
BEOEJ: Why, is not only the quality of your products, but also their sustainability, important to your company? What does sustainability mean to you as a business owner?
DS: There’s lot of good products out there but most don’t last. As women when we leave our homes, we want to look good all day. Looking and feeling a certain way we should expect it to last all day, maybe with a little touch up. We want you to be confident that your look can last all day. We did that. Our product is built on healthiness, vibrant colors and sustainability. It is our goal to keep you looking good all day long. Sustainability means that I stand behind my products. If you read the reviews MDee Beauty should be a staple in your beauty regimen. With the glowing reviews we have received thus far, it is evident that our company has sustainably, as the MDee Beauty roots continue to grow in the cosmetic industry. My goal is to continue to provide a quality product that people will purchase without reservation.
To learn more about Deidre and MDee Beauty, you can visit their website at mdeebeauty.com.
Entrepreneur Justin Turk knew his start-up was special, but a $1 million prize from Grammy award-winning singer and producer Pharrell Williams came as a shock.
On Tuesday, Williams announced the winners of his Black Ambition prize competition — and Turk and his business partner, Andre Davis, are in the national spotlight.
Williams’ non-profit was founded in December to help Black and Latino business owners close the wealth gap through entrepreneurship.
Turk and Davis, co-founders of Livegistics, took home the top prize of $1 million. The Detroit-based entrepreneurs run a cloud-based material management software company, which eliminates paperwork in heavy civil construction and demolition. The company also provides data and metrics that construction experts can use for efficiency.
Livegistics is also helping the environment through the elimination of tons of paper each year and helps local communities accelerate the elimination of blight in urban cities and neighborhoods.
“We knew we had something special, but you don’t go in thinking you will walk away with $1 million. But when it happens you are like, ‘Wow, we just won $1 million,” Turk said.
But the 40-year-old said he never knew joy and pain could co-exist simultaneously.
Success can be bittersweet
On the day he learned his tech start-up won the grand prize, his father-in-law died before he could share the news.
“All in 24 hours, it was the greatest and worst moments tied together forever. There we were with the our biggest business success to date along with the worst day of our lives all in 24 hours,” Turk said. “It is weird. Sometimes I feel guilty for being so happy about what’s going on, but I know he would have been excited.”
Turk, who co-founded the business three years ago with Davis, said that hours after he learned about winning he watched a team of health care professionals try to revive his wife’s father, whom he admired. He was a veteran who loved architecture. And they shared the same passion for construction.
Instead of hosting a celebration party for friends and family, Turk said he will bury his father-in-law in a private ceremony Saturday.
“He would have been enamored with what’s going on. If he would have been able to see all of this, it would have just blown him away,” Turk said. “He would walk around the city of Detroit and look at buildings on his own. This would have just made his decade.”
More like brothers
Turk’s and Davis’ friendship goes back decades. The two met in elementary school when they were 5 years old, Davis said. Then, they were college roommates at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Davis, the chief financial officer, said it was never a goal to become business partners but it made sense.
“He’s been in just about every special moment in my life,” Davis said. “Not only are we solving the single most significant reason construction companies go out of business (cash flow), we’re doing so in a manner that creates less work and makes the lives of our customers easier to manage.”
Davis, 41, said he worked at Financial One as an outsourced CFO to clients in the Metro Detroit area. He started and operated his own accounting and financial services practice for 10 years, managing to keep one foot in the non-profit sector to give back. He wants to encourage other Black and minority entrepreneurs looking to start their businesses to take the leap of faith.
“A thought today, backed by effort today, is one step closer to your dream tomorrow. Justin is brilliant. His background is the foundation for what I forsee as a unicorn in the making,” Davis said. “A third generation business owner, minority-owned, who understands all facets of large construction projects at an expert level…who also has a degree in computer science to speak tech geek language! You don’t find a Justin Turk walking around every day.”
Marvel‘s upcoming “Blade” reboot has tapped playwright Stacy Osei-Kuffour as the film’s head writer, making her the first Black woman to pen a Marvel movie.
Two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali will star in the film as the half-human, half-vampire vigilante, a role originated by Wesley Snipes in the late ’90s/early 2000s film trilogy, and was reportedly heavily involved in the “meticulous” six-month-long search for the talent that would craft the story that led to Osei-Kuffour.
The studio’s search centered around finding a Black writer for the film and Osei-Kuffour gained their and Ali’s attention following her successful involvement in HBO’s critically acclaimed series “Watchmen,” on which she served as story editor and writer. In 2019, she earned an Emmy nomination for outstanding writer in a comedy series for her work on Hulu’s “Pen15.” Additional writing credits for her include Amazon’s “Hunters,” and the HBO series “Run.”
In late 2020, it was announced that “Candyman” director Nia DaCosta signed on to helm “Captain Marvel 2,” making her the studios’ first Black woman director. Marvel Studios President and Marvel Chief Creative Officer Kevin Feige has previously expressed hopes that the diversity in front of and behind the screens during the next phase of Marvel films will eventually “become the norm.”
“We’re lucky that we have the comics to guide us. They have been relatively progressive over the decades for their time,” he told Variety in March. “The character lineup allows us — we’re not creating full-cloth any of our characters, they’ve been in the comics for years — and we’re finally able to tell those stories. Looking at the remarkably positive experiences we’ve had making sure that the room where it happens is not a room full of people that all look the same. When that’s not the case, when there are people from various backgrounds and genders, stories are better. Being at a company for 20 years and having released 23 movies, it is always been ‘How do you keep things fresh and surprising on a story level?’ “
He continued, “When you’re doing a story about a female lawyer who is giant and green [“She -Hulk], or a Muslim teenager with superpowers in Jersey City [“Ms. Marvel”], or working with filmmakers and writers of color as we are — it’s so prevalent and so much a part of who we are and what we do now, that it doesn’t seem abnormal. It’s no longer a headline. A woman is directing something! Wow! I hope this will become the norm to the extent that this is no longer a rarity.”
Click here to read the full article on Atlanta Black Star.
Growing up in East Oakland, I personally experienced the diverse realities of the divide between the wealthy and poor, and the ricocheting effects of violence and substance abuse. My mother was the only one to graduate from college in her family and she understood the importance of education and the doors it could open.
Her determination to ensure that regardless of our socio-economic circumstances combined with the promise I showed in math and science meant that I was able to attend an affluent private boarding school at the base of Mount Diablo in California on scholarship. This is where, for the first time, I often found myself to be the only Black person in a classroom. I was isolated emotionally and physically, living in one of the wealthiest communities in the country, worlds apart from my humble Oakland beginnings.
Despite my ability to perform academically, my continued attendance at my new school was repeatedly threatened because I questioned the school administration’s exclusionary and invisibilizing practices towards students of color. Nevertheless, I thrived and I graduated. I was accepted in and awarded scholarships from 12 of the top engineering programs in the nation.
My story isn’t unique, but in many ways, it’s not nearly common enough. Education, particularly in STEM subjects, has historically been unwelcoming to young people of color. And for those passionate about STEM, there are countless hurdles including loneliness, doubt, sexism, and racism to name a few. So let’s talk about it.
EVERY EXPERIENCE IS NOT ALL GOOD OR BAD, SO KEEP LEARNING
Being Black, a woman, and an engineer I found myself shadowed by skepticism in every space I occupied from high school to the present day. In meetings, my managers would not make eye contact with me when I spoke. My ideas seemed to land only when regurgitated by white male counterparts. My white male managers questioned whether I was paid too much because they thought my clothes were too fashionable. A senior executive told me that I seemed to be a better fit working at “one of those fancy boutiques on Rodeo Drive.” With two Bachelor of Science degrees in mathematics and mechanical engineering and a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the third top engineering school in the country, I cannot say I ever contemplated working at Gucci. All of these slights told me I didn’t belong as I was, the authentic and costume-free me.
The micro and macro aggressions I experienced, while staggering and hurtful, only made me more reflective and self-aware. The times when people who looked like me and tried to minimize me, were especially informative. I used those painful interactions with people who I assumed would understand my experience as a way to deconstruct my own biases and become a stronger ally and advocate for others.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE IN YOU
From my early education and into my career, I was often the only Black person in a host of STEM education programs and it was lonely. I quickly grew to understand how easy it can be to look for the exit and self-opt out of spaces where you don’t see yourself represented.
Spelman College graduate Marian Wright Edelman once said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” It is no coincidence that it was during my undergraduate studies at Spelman College that I realized the power of representation coupled with social and emotional support when it came to success.
CREATE NETWORKS OF PEERS, MENTORS, AND MENTEES
The importance of this can’t be understated. Who you know, and who you surround yourself with will have an incredible impact on how you envision your future and realize your maximum potential. Connect and enlist a team of people who can see you, especially when you cannot see yourself, and who are authentically committed to your success and want to support you along your journey. You need people who will nurture your spirit, remind you of how you have grown, and of your superpowers during the inevitable storms of life. You need people who will shout with joy and applaud the loudest when you win because your wins are their wins.
LEVERAGE PERCEIVED EXCEPTIONALISM RATHER THAN INTERNALIZE IT
Ursula Burns, the first Black woman to become a CEO of a Fortune 500 company (Xerox), writes about how there was a pattern where her colleagues would reconcile her success as a Black woman by elevating her to an “exceptional status.” They viewed her as incredibly gifted, instead of any other talented and hardworking Black person.
I lived this early on in my career. As an “only” or one of a few Black women in my engineering classes at Georgia Tech, the labs at NASA, the meetings at BP, and countless other spaces, I became the unicorn in the room. My achievements became my last name. When I was introduced it was, “This is Danielle. She has degrees from… She’s worked at…” Folks thought they were being complimentary, but instead, it felt “othering.”
What were considered rare accomplishments for someone who looked like me became the buoys that I grabbed hold of when I found myself in spaces that were not welcoming or generative to my professional development. I used the perceived exceptionalism to access roles and responsibilities that would otherwise have been considered uncustomary or too high-risk for someone with my academic and professional background. I successfully pivoted from engineering to working on a trade floor, to retail and marketing—all for the same company.
Click here to read the full article on Fast Company.
Space Jam: A New Legacy star, Zendaya, shares her thoughts on the unexpected controversy surrounding the redesign of her character, Lola Bunny. The original 1996 comedy was a live-action/animated hybrid that starred basketball icon, Michael Jordan. In the film, he joins a basketball team led by the Looney Tunes in order to help them win a game against a group of nefarious aliens. It was a blockbuster hit, earning over $250 million worldwide and spawning a beloved following that has endured since its initial release. The highly anticipated upcoming sequel follows basketball champion, LeBron James, as he tries to save his son, Dom (Cedric Joe), from the Warner 3000 Server-Verse. To do this, he teams up with Looney Tunes favorites, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Lola Bunny, who has become a member of the Amazons.
During production of Space Jam 2, director Malcolm D. Lee decided to rework the character design of Lola Bunny after finalizing the ensemble cast. In prior interviews, he shared his surprise when he first watched Space Jam, explaining his unease when he witnessed the sexual objectification of Lola Bunny. As a result, Lee focused on adding greater depth to her character by emphasizing her skills as an athlete and leader. He also sought to remove any type of unnecessary sexualization when it came to her animation design. However, when EW released its first look cover of the Space Jam 2 cast a few months ago, many online commenters reacted negatively to the change in Lola Bunny’s appearance.
While speaking to EW, Zendaya responded to the online disputes regarding Lola Bunny’s redesign. Acknowledging her personal admiration of the character, she recognized the ways in which Lola has left her mark on the Space Jam universe. Read what Zendaya said below:
“I didn’t know that was going to happen either! I definitely know we love her, but I didn’t know it was going to be as much of a focus as it was. But I understand, because she’s a lovable character. She’s very important, so I get it.”
In his own interview with EW, Lee described his disbelief when he saw the online fervor about Lola Bunny. He added, “I had no idea that people would be that up in arms about a bunny not having boobs.” As Lee noted, it was important for him that Space Jam 2 highlighted Lola’s personal and professional evolution without reducing her to an object. He explained that he hoped young female viewers would admire Lola and her abilities as a basketball player. Moreover, the director reached out to Zendaya for the role because he respected her business acumen and confidence, which he believed were similar attributes embodied by Lola.
Click here to read the full article on Screen Rant.
It would be hard in 2021 to not recognize the name or face of award-winning actor Michael B. Jordan. He is particularly known for his film portrayals of shooting victim Oscar Grant in the 2013 drama Fruitvale Station, boxer Adonis “Donnie” Creed in the Creed films (an offshoot of the classic Rocky franchise), as well as Erik Killmonger in 2018’s record-shattering Black Panther, all three of which were directed by Ryan Coogler. He also recently starred in (and helped produce) Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, an action thriller digitally released on Amazon’s Prime Video service in April. His upcoming film, A Journal for Jordan, is based on a memoir of the same name, directed by veteran actor Denzel Washington and co-produced by Jordan’s company, Outlier Society Productions. It’s expected to release this December. Jordan has also been recognized as a style icon, one of Time 100’s most influential people of 2020, and is People Magazine’s current ‘Sexiest Man Alive.’
A Model for the Movement
For this continuously rising star,everything he does is about so much more than the fame and the accolades. “I love mentorship. The next generation, they’re the future. They’re the key to everything. They’re supposed to be better than us,” Jordan shared with Black EOE Journal. “So, trying to groom the next batch of talent of humans across the board, not just in the arts, but just across the board, I think is really important. The fellowship program, the Outliers Fellowship program, [is something] I am really excited about.”
The program is an internship and mentorship initiative that Jordan announced during Black History Month last year during the Obama Foundation’s MBK (My Brother’s Keeper) Rising! event. The Outlier Fellowship provides access, community and opportunity to underrepresented LA youth entering arts, media and entertainment.
However, Jordan and his Outlier Society are raising the stakes in their efforts towards a more diverse and inclusive industry. Along with the fellowship program, Outlier Society can also boast itself as one of the few media companies to adopt the inclusion rider. The inclusion rider is a contract attached (by a star or company) to a film or television contract stating that the project’s production team must take steps to recruit and hire both cast and crew members from historically underrepresented groups. For Jordan, though, this is less a boast than an obvious step in the right direction. “You just got to do it. You can’t overcomplicate it,” he said of what’s needed to see less disparity and more inclusion in media and entertainment, both in front of and behind the camera.
“As the producer, I chose…” he shared about one of his more recent projects, “There’s also a lot of vehicles for talent that may not have gotten all of the swings that I’ve gotten or opportunities in certain roles or certain genres. Being able to create around talent is something that I’ve always been interested in doing and am looking forward to doing more of in the future.”
Jordan’s impact has also been evident in his hometown of Newark, N.J. where he’s supported Audible’s charity, Newark Working Kitchens, an organization he’s proud to say served “over one million meals this past year…” He also launched the “Hoop Dreams Classic,” an HBCU College Basketball Showcase in Newark last year at the Prudential Center. Furthermore, he surprised students in his hometown at both at his alma mater, Newark Arts High School, last year and at Barringer High School. His Barringer High visit was part of the Coach Foundation’s involvement in The Future Project, which puts professional directors into high schools around the country to offer inspiration and guidance to students dreaming of careers in the arts.
Strategic and Intentional
Michael B. Jordan is not afraid to stand for those things he believes to be right, even in the face of adversity. For years, he has been quite outspoken on the causes and issues he feels most strongly about, even getting political by joining protests, like his participation in the “Big 4” Hollywood talent agencies march to support Black Lives Matter in June 2020 as well as being a part of movements to encourage voting and support voting rights. “Everybody has their part they have to play…I’m very strategic. I plan. I think things through. I try not to emotionally react to certain things. You also got to know the business that you’re in and how to move on certain issues and how to actually get real movement. Timing is everything.”
Unfortunately, there are many who believe that celebrities and influencers should not participate in such activities or speak on issues outside of their industry. ‘We’re here to be entertained, not preached to,’ is a common sentiment that many netizens share. What is Jordan’s response to that?
“‘Shut up and entertain?’ That’s never going to be me,” he said, “I’m not the guy that talks just to talk or is loud for the sake of being loud. The things I do, and how I do it, all has a purpose, and I don’t need the credit for everything that I’m doing either, so I try to move and make impact the best way I know how. Sometimes that’s not always aesthetically pleasing to the masses, but bigger picture and behind closed doors, I try to make an impact the best way I know how for the long game, and not just for the quick fix until people become distracted again and try to move on to the next thing.”
Working with a Mission
There’s a clear trend in the types of films Jordan has chosen to
produce, direct and star in. From Fruitvale Station to Black Panther to 61st Street, the television series he is executive producing for AMC, slated to premier next year, about a promising young black athlete embroiled in the corrupt Chicago criminal justice system. There’s a criterion to the types of work he wants to do. “It usually has to say something. It has to mean something. I know every movie won’t be a Fruitvale Station or a Just Mercy,” he shared. “I like a lot of different types of movies and genres and I want my career, when you look back at it to be a reflection of that, eclectic and diverse.”
Eclectic and diverse are perfect descriptors of his repertoire from sci-fi fantasy, comic book franchises, action thrillers, dramas, romances and sports films to soap operas, biopics, crime TV and even voice overs in children’s shows.
According to Michael, he wants to do work he won’t regret. “I want to look back on it and be really proud…it’s got to make an impact no matter what it is, and [I want to] have fun doing it.” He has a strategy “of doing a bigger film and then do a smaller film and kind of have that balance of being able to do these intimate smaller films and still being able to do a movie that’s bigger, more commercial and sort of broader. If you look back at some of the work that I’ve done, it’s kind of played in both those spaces. As an actor, you play a part in a bigger machine. As a producer, you have a few more hats. As a director, you’re telling a story from your perspective and telling a story that you’re trying to say. As I’ve gotten older, [I’m] just being very selective with pushing my career forward.”
Focused on the Future
Jordan has much to look forward to in his personal and professional future. He is set to make his directorial debut next year, taking the helm for Creed III. Having had the opportunity to work with other great directors such as Denzel Washington, Ryan Coogler and Sylvester Stallone, who directed four out of the six original Rocky movies that the Creed franchise is based on, Jordan has been able to take what he’s learned and apply it to his own ingenuity and experience.
“Getting wisdom and gems from the generation before me is always a great thing,” said Jordan, “I think just watching Ryan [Coogler] from the beginning. Fruitvale Station was the first time I saw somebody who really looked like me close to my age that was directing a movie. Writing and directing, it was crazy. He kind of really showed me that it was possible. Now, watching him go through it, being so close to the process (the development process), seeing all the meetings he’s gone to, and all the steps to it. Also, observing Sly [Stallone] and how he did it. What was that formula like? What were the responsibilities of directing in that type of way? He’s also somebody who starred and directed himself, what was that process like? And for me, learning from every director I’ve work with and collaborated with. Imagining myself doing it: ‘In that situation, I would be doing what?’ OK, cool. That’s question I’ve got to answer. I’ve got to know about this; I’ve got to know about that. I’ve been doing that for a long time, and I finally got to the point now where I feel confident in what I’m about to do in the story I’m telling.”
And he’s already considering how to pay the knowledge, and the torch of success, forward. “I’ve been extremely blessed, so to be able to take my blessings, opportunities, situations that I’ve been able to learn from and grow from and be able to pass that forward to the next generation is something that’s always excited me. It’s always been the answer in a lot of ways.”
For Jordan, the future is about assessing the best ways to address the issues that face our society so that those who follow can live in a better world. “Trying to find, ‘What’s the solution; how do we get better; how do we grow as a people?’ and all those things,” he said about his focus, mindset, and approach to his work. “Our time on this Earth is short. To make it count, to learn as much as you can and pass those experiences on to make somebody else’s life a little bit easier — that’s the approach that I’ve been on.”
When Lara Adekoya started baking cookies at the start of the pandemic, she never anticipated that a year later, celebrities like Issa Rae, Jenna Dewan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Melissa Benoist and Lena Waithe would be lining up to order from her Los Angeles business, Fleurs et Sel.“What I’m doing is reaching beyond just the backyard,” Adekoya, 28, told “Good Morning America.” “It’s refreshing to have their support, because these are people that now know who I am, and they know that I make really great cookies.”
Her Hollywood clientele isn’t just limited to celebrities either. The business owner has catered to Amazon Studios, A24, the Oprah Winfrey Network, HBO’s “Insecure” set and, most recently, National Geographic. But even though Fleurs et Sel has quickly risen as a business that’s only a year old, its success is anything but a fluke — Adekoya said she hustled to make a name for herself.
“I’m customer-obsessed and social media-driven, and I use those skills to create community through my cookies,” the baker of Nigerian and Japanese descent said. “I hope that my voice transcends communities and transcends different cultural groups so people know that we, as young Black women, we are capable of doing so many things.”
Adekoya’s venture started when she was laid off during the pandemic as a designer shoes salesperson at Nordstrom. Like many Americans, the pandemic prompted her to reimagine her career goals. According to a survey by Prudential, 50% of workers admitted that the pandemic made them rethink their careers, and another study by Microsoft found that 41% of employees are considering leaving their current employer this year.
Despite the career change, Adekoya said her job at Nordstrom was invaluable to the success of Fleurs et Sel because of the work values and connections she built there.
“The key to me working in designer shoes was building relationships, because in order to be successful, my work was strictly commission driven, so it was up to me to make money — I wasn’t going to be there and not hustle,” she said.
Two important relationships she cultivated there were with female entrepreneurs Aderiaun Shorter and event planner Mindy Weiss, the latter who is known in Hollywood for throwing lavish parties for the Kardashians, Justin Bieber, Ciara and many others. When Adekoya started sharing her baking hobby on social media, her two former Nordstrom clients were the first to buy cookies and promote her. That’s when her idea for Fleurs et Sel really kicked off.
“I got a new entire following, and I was introduced to a new crowd that I would have never otherwise been exposed to,” Adekoya said. “Aderiaun and Mindy are both self-made women entrepreneurs, and they were both instrumental in mentoring me as a woman entrepreneur in this new space.”
The women’s support helped leverage Adekoya’s presence on social media, which in turn exposed her to high-end clientele. Adekoya credits community word-of-mouth and digital promotion for the social media craze of Fleurs et Sel.
Click here to read the full article on Good Morning America.
After a high-energy opening performance featuring Kirk Franklin and Lil Baby, Henson took the stage in a stylish gold ensemble that was a clear tribute to Diana Ross. “It’s 2021, and we are celebrating the year of the Black woman,” Henson declared with a smile. “Celebrating Black women isn’t a fad or a trend it’s a forever mood.”
“There is more than enough room for all of us to thrive, because can’t nobody be me like me and can’t nobody be you like you,” she continued, before having roses handed out to a number of women in the room, including Zendaya, Jazmine Sullivan, Isa Rae and “Queen” Maxine Waters. She also used the opening to tease that she’d be coming out throughout the night dressed as “some of my favorite women” and hinted that she’d be honoring some female Black icons over the course of the show.
Henson didn’t disappoint with her fashion tributes, donning various ensembles throughout the show that honored and celebrated the styles and looks of some groundbreaking artists. She donned a burgundy velvet ensemble and dark shades while sitting behind a drum set to pay her respects to H.E.R. Later — while giving a lesson on the history of twerking — she donned a little black dress and short, curly ‘do as a tribute to Ester Jones — the Black entertainer who is credited for inspiring the legendary cartoon character Betty Boop.