Pierrah Hilaire On Going Viral Teaching Her TikTok Followers About Black Fashion Brands

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Pierrah Hilaire wearing orange for her article On Going Viral Teaching Her TikTok Followers About Black Fashion Brands

By Robyn Mowatt, Okay Player

Pierrah Hilaire, a Brooklyn-based content creator, was on TikTok before the platform forced its way into the fashion conversation and became a go-to source for people to keep an eye on growing (and dying) trends. But she noticed a problem: that most of the creators behind “Fashion Tok” as she calls it were mostly filled with white creators who also weren’t highlighting the brands — especially Black ones — she admires and enjoys. So, she decided to fill a void and share the brands she had an affinity for, making her TikTok account a popular destination to learn about Black-owned brands and designer pieces in the process.

Originally from Miami, Florida, Hilaire’s roots in fashion stem from her parents; her father was always stylish, while her mother modeled in New York City during her twenties.

“I’ve been obsessed with fashion ever since I could remember because of my parents,” she said over a Zoom call. “I’ve always loved [it].”

Hilaire began modeling as a teen; as she got older, she began dreaming of moving to New York and working in fashion in some capacity, inspired by all of the blogs she voraciously read about New York-based designers.

“The plan was to just go to medical school and stay in Florida,” she said when speaking of her life before taking the leap and moving to New York City. Even as she was studying psychology and putting in work at clinics, Hilaire was still making time for modeling.

“[I went] to school and studied,” she said. “There were times I would even go to clinics and help the physicians in the hospital. But then, I would have my bikini underneath and run to the beach for castings.”

In 2018, she decided to put her medical school ambitions behind her and told her parents she was relocating to New York (Brooklyn) to pursue modeling. The early stages were tough; although she had family support, money was hard to come by and she had only saved up a few month’s worth of salary from a hospital job. But she eventually landed on her feet when she began working in corporate for companies like PepsiCo, while also balancing a social media management side job and participating in as many fashion-related opportunities as she could.

Around this time, Hilaire began seeing Telfar bags in her neighborhood. Unfamiliar with the then-rising Black brand, she began researching it and other Black brands. This, paired with the racial reckoning of 2020 amid the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, led to Hilaire using her knowledge of fashion to shed light on Black-owned brands and designs on her TikTok account.

Hilaire sees TikTok as a fashion discovery tool, and even her first viral video on the platform reflects that. Highlighting bags by Telfar, Brandon Blackwood, Homage Year, and CISE, the video propped up names that have since become more known and popular in recent years, helping the video go viral in the process. Since then, she’s gone on to create additional compilation clips centered around menswear brands, gender-inclusive lines, sustainable fashion houses, and more.

We recently spoke with Hilaire about how she got her start in New York, the role she plays as a content creator, and the rise of Black luxury brands.

Do you feel you naturally fell into highlighting Black designers on your TikTok account?

Pierrah Hilaire: I think it was a mix. I didn’t see what I wanted in the TikTok space. It was predominantly non-black even though we were leading the trends. I always liked to know who was behind a brand that I was buying into. I would ask on Instagram all the time and people would tell me, “Oh, we’re black or women-owned.” And I liked knowing where my dollars were going.

Then, around the Black Lives Matter resurgence [in 2020], I realized, “What can I do to help out?” [Highlighting Black designers] was my form of activism. I went to some of the marches [and] donated to [organizations too].

I was literally sitting in Zoom meetings at my corporate job stressed out. At one point, we were in a lot of racial sensitivity trainings that weren’t even geared toward me. And I felt the least [I] could do [was] support the smaller Black businesses. So, I just started creating a list of brands that I would want to buy into or that I already have bought into, and I was on TikTok for a year already before I really took it seriously. So, when I posted it did really well, and I just kept it going.

How do you feel about the responsibility of sharing these brands with your followers?

As a creator, it’s great when the video does really well when it comes to numbers, but it’s not about the numbers. I think I care about the one person in the comment who’s like, “Oh, I didn’t know about this brand and I’m going to buy into it because ultimately it’s about supporting each other.”

But on top of that, what I love to see is growth. I hope people pay attention to [these] brands because — yes, I love them — but they’re doing amazing work not just for the business. A lot of these brands tend to help their community. I know my money’s not just going to the brand and the brand owner’s pockets, but to the community that they’re serving. That’s where you see the impact, and I think that’s the most important part of some of these videos.

Click here to read the full article on Okay Player

Diddy pledges $1M to Howard University in speech accepting BET lifetime achievement award

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While accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award, Diddy pledged to donate $1 million to both Howard University and Jackson State University.

By Ida Domingo, ABC 13 News

Sunday night’s BET Awards was not only a big night for Sean “Diddy” Combs but also for Howard University in D.C.

While accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award, Diddy pledged to donate $1 million to both Howard University and Jackson State University.

“I want to donate a million dollars to Howard University,” Combs said to the audience before he left the stage. “Also, I’m gonna drop another million dollars on Deion Sanders and Jackson State, because we should play for us. Thank you everyone from the bottom of my heart, I love y’all.”

The announcement came as Combs accepted the award from surprise presenter Kanye West alongside Babyface.

“I got this dream of Black people being free,” Combs said. “I got this dream of us controlling our own destiny. I got this dream of us taking accountability and stop killing each other. I got this dream of us being rich and wealthy and living on the same block. I have this dream of us unifying.”

“Y’all know I wouldn’t be here without Howard University, Combs said before starting an “HU” chant during his speech.

Combs attended Howard University in the late 1980s but left to pursue a career in music. In 2014, he returned to receive an honorary doctorate from the university.

Also during Combs’ speech, he paid homage to the late Andre Harrell, who launched his career, as well as his mother for working several jobs during his childhood and the late Kim Porter, his longtime girlfriend and mother of his three children.

Click here to read the full article on ABC 13 News.

Khaby Lame– The Most Followed Influencer On TikTok

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Khaby Lame – The Most Followed Influencer On TikTok

By Keka Araujo, BET

Black excellence is reigning on TikTok. Twenty-year-old Khabane “Khaby” Lame recently surpassed Charli D’Amelio as the most followed user on the popular social media platform.

The Senegalese influencer reportedly has almost 100,000 more followers (he has 143.4 million) than the dancing influencer (142.3 million). The popular TikToker built his massive following in the beginning by making dance vids, comedic skits and video game reactions.

It wasn’t until 2021 that the Lame’s account blew up after his hilarious and expressive reactions to life hacks. His viewership took off after his reaction only vids caught the eyes of TikTok platforms. Fans made it their business to elevate the 22-year-old social media star.

Lame explained the magic behind his success.

“I came up with the idea because I was seeing these videos circulating, and I liked the idea of bringing some simplicity to it,” Lame told CNN. ” I thought of a way to reach as many people as possible. And the best way was not to speak.”

The creator now lives in Italy and has amassed over 2 billion likes for his hilarious videos.

Black TikTokers called the social media platform out over allowing white creators to steal from Black trendsetters.

BET.com reported choreographer JaQuel Knight partnered with Logitech to ensure that Black creators copyright and monetize their projects.

“I am so thrilled to announce this collaboration with The JaQuel Knight Foundation and Logitech, a remarkable step in our goal toward creating a system of protection for young creators,” Knight said.

He continued, “The JK Foundation was ultimately started to provide a place of support for dancers (during an extremely fragile time in the pandemic, nonetheless), and to put the power back in the artists’ hands – not just for myself, but for the next JaQuel Knight. For all of the little boys and girls who look like me.”

Click here to read the full article on BET.

Naomi Osaka launches media company in partnership with Lebron James

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Tennis Player, Naomi Osaka poses for a photo with LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers after the game on April 4, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California.

By Ian Krietzberg, CNBC

Four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka is launching a media production company in partnership with The SpringHill Company, a media conglomerate created by Lebron James.

The production company, called Hana Kuma, will produce scripted and nonfiction content, starting with a New York Times documentary about Patsy Mink, the first woman of color elected to U.S. Congress, according to a press release. The announcement says Hana Kuma will highlight “empowering” and “culturally specific” stories.

“There has been an explosion of creators of color finally being equipped with resources and a huge platform,” Osaka said in the release. “In the streaming age, content has a more global perspective. You can see this in the popularity of television from Asia, Europe and Latin America that the unique can also be universal. My story is a testament to that as well.”

The SpringHill Company, founded by NBA star James and business partner Maverick Carter, will provide production and strategic resources to Hana Kuma, the release said. Hana Kuma also has partnerships with crypto exchange platform FTX and health platform Modern Health.

In May, Osaka launched an athlete representation agency called Evolve.

Click here to read the full article on CNBC.

Tracee Ellis Ross Partners With Non Profit To Support Black Women-Owned Businesses

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Tracee Ellis Ross Partners With Non Profit To Support Black Women-Owned Businesses

By Angela Johnson, The Root

She’s already crushing the beauty game with her PATTERN line of hair care products and accessories. Now actress and entrepreneur Tracee Ellis Ross is teaming up with the non-profit Buy From A Black Woman (BFABW) and H&M USA to inspire and support other Black women business owners. According to a June 13 press release, H&M will partner with Buy From A Black Woman for the second year in a row to shine a light on Black women-owned businesses. And this time, Ross will serve as the non-profit’s ambassador.

In a June 10 sit-down with Buy From a Black Woman founder Nikki Porcher at H&M’s LA showroom, Ross shared her advice on achieving success with other young Black female entrepreneurs. “I am proud to help support Buy From a Black Woman and the incredible network of business owners they’ve brought together,” Ross said. “Black women and their contributions are often overlooked, which is why it’s crucial for us to come together to build, strengthen and create our own opportunities for success.”

Buy From A Black Woman launched in 2016 with a mission of providing Black women with all of the tools they need for success, including educational programming, an online directory and funding. In the second year of their partnership, H&M USA plans to donate $250,000 to BFABW and provide sponsorship for the Buy From a Black Woman Inspire Tour, which will place products from Black women-owned businesses on shelves in select H&M stores across the country.

BFABW founder Nikki Porcher says she believes Ross is one of the best advocates for the cause of supporting businesses owned by Black women. “It’s hard to describe in words what it means to have Tracee Ellis Ross as an ambassador for Buy From A Black Woman. This year we are celebrating and showing the world that Black Women are living examples. I couldn’t think of a better example to help us spread our message of just how important it is to buy from and support Black Women Business Owners better than Ms. Ross. We are truly honored to work with her and to continue our partnership with H&M,” she said.

Click here to read the full article on The Root.

Mellody Hobson to join Denver Broncos as the first Black female NFL owner

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Mellody Hobson to join Denver Broncos as the first Black female NFL owner

BY Angel Saunders, Revolt

Last week (June 8), it was announced that a group headed by Walmart heir Rob Walton would buy the Denver Broncos, pending approval from the league. One of the group members, a businesswoman named Mellody Hobson, is set to become the first Black female NFL minority owner.

Also in the group is Walton’s daughter, Carrie Walton Penner, and his son-in-law Greg Penner, who will become minority owners as well.

At 53 years old, Hobson has built an impressive resume. The Princeton University grad is the president and co-CEO of Ariel Investments and the chairwoman of Starbucks Corporation. She previously held a position at DreamWorks Animation as a chairwoman as well.

Walton appears to be pleased with her skill set. “Beyond her role at Ariel, Mellody is an influential leader in corporate and civic organizations across the nation,” he said in a press release.

He continued, “Mellody currently serves as chair of the board of Starbucks Corporation and is also a director of JPMorgan Chase. We know she will bring her strategic acumen and leadership perspective to our team.”

Hobson is married to film director George Lucas, who is widely known for his work with the Star Wars franchise.

In February, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the Broncos would be sold. After an avalanche of claims that the league had an issue hiring minorities in leadership roles, the commissioner expressed that he was looking for diverse ownership.

Click here to read the full article on Revolt.

Jennifer Hudson Becomes an EGOT at the 2022 Tony Awards as She Wins for A Strange Loop

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Jennifer Hudson on the red carpet in a black off the shoulder gown

By Jen Juneau, People

Jennifer Hudson has officially achieved EGOT status! The actress and singer clinched her first-ever Tony Award on Sunday evening, when A Strange Loop won best musical. (Hudson, 40, serves as a producer on the show.) It was the final trophy she needed to complete the EGOT quartet of having won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.

Hudson won her first of the big four awards, an Oscar, for her role in 2007’s Dreamgirls. She is a two-time Grammy winner, having nabbed her first one for her 2009 self-titled album. The American Idol alum went on to score a Daytime Emmy last year, for the animated short Baba Yaga, which she co-produced and lent her voice to.

Hudson previously joked when asked about her plans to achieve EGOT status, “I should get two more dogs.”

“I got a dog and named it Oscar, and then I won my Oscar. And then I got a dog and named it Grammy, and then I won my Grammy,” she said at the time. “So I think I should get some dogs and name them Emmy and Tony — and it’ll give me good luck, and I’ll win. [They’re] like my good luck charms.”

Presented by the Broadway League and the American Theater Wing, the annual Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre (as the Tonys are officially known) recognize the highest honor in U.S. theater — the equivalent of TV’s Emmys, music’s Grammys or the film industry’s Oscars. It’s a necessary award in achieving EGOT, the grand slam of show business.

Click here to read the full article on People.

How R&B Allows Black Women To Express Their Sexuality

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R&B singer on stage

By Okay Player

Since the beginning of time, people have included their experiences in the art they make. Sexual experiences are not exempt from that. R&B, in particular, has served as a space for singers to explore their sexual desires, specifically women. Although listeners are most used to hearing women sing about love (and the joy and heartbreak that comes with it) in R&B, the genre has also allowed them to explore a part of themselves that is often too taboo to touch on — sex — in both subtle and unsubtle ways, often to the surprise of listeners who tend to see R&B as a sanitized genre or don’t get the sly, suggestive lyrics being presented to them.

One of the best examples of a woman R&B artist treading the line between directness and subtlety is Janet Jackson’s 1993 album Janet. A step away from being known as the baby sister of Michael Jackson, Janet allowed her to explore her sexuality freely in a way she hadn’t done before. A standout from the album, “Any Time, Any Place,” is a testament to that. On the song, Jackson expresses pure joy in her public displays of affection toward her lover, declaring “I don’t care who’s around” during its chorus in a way that speaks to the pleasure of wanting to touch — and be touched — by a romantic interest.

In a 1993 Rolling Stone review of the album, Touré wrote that Janet is “A significant, even revolutionary transition in the sexual history and popular iconography of Black women.” To see Janet depart from her conservative image and create an album promoting sexual liberation not only served to expand her artistry but also foreshadowed how women would continue to express their sexuality in contemporary R&B.

However, some R&B artists have come under fire their lyrics, especially those that are more explicit. Two years after Janet came Adina Howard’s Do You Wanna Ride?, a fusion of hip-hop, new jack swing, and R&B that included the hit single “Freak Like Me.” Driven by a g-funk beat, Howard channels the bravado and confidence of male rappers, singing about how she needs someone to be just as freaky as her to be satisfied sexually. Unfortunately, not everyone was in support of Howard’s sexual anthem. In a 1995 Washington Post profile of Howard and Do You Wanna Ride?, a handful of Black women spoke about the artist’s explicit lyrics and persona, among them Christina Kirksey, a 17-year-old National Political Congress of Black Women intern who called Howard’s lyrics “nasty and vile.”

“I have to constantly fight against catcalls and sexual harassment on the street and here comes Adina Howard. I need a freak in the morning . . . I cannot stand her because all she does is show her behind,” Kirksey said at the time.

Gregg Diggs, then music director of BET, also spoke unfavorably about Howard’s music, saying: “Because she’s a decent singer with a solid voice, I think it would have been wiser on her part if she had focused more of her energy on her talent and not her sexuality.”

But Howard succinctly speaks to the importance of Black women being able to openly express their sexuality and not having to ignore their inner freak. She shares in the profile: “When people have a problem expressing sexuality, it becomes a bigger problem because a lot of things start in the bedroom. Sexuality should be open, expressive. I’ve never been hypocritical. I’ve never been one of these girls lying too loudly about not wanting to do it.”

This expression of sexuality continued on in 2000 with singers like Jill Scott, who expressed her desires in a way that were direct but also poetic. For fans that were surprised by her viral microphone antics during a live performance in 2018, they clearly weren’t paying attention to songs like “Love Rain” from her 2000 debut album, Who Is Jill Scott? Words And Sounds Vol. 1.

On the track, she expertly blends the poetic and overt. In the second verse, you can hear how Scott is deeply satisfied with her lover, ultimately declaring “Better than love, we made delicious.” Even in name, “Love Rain” plays with innuendo, hinting at sexual acts and experiences that aren’t often mentioned in R&B.

In the 2010s, sexual desire and expression from Black women in R&B has become more common — especially toward the end of the decade. CTRL, SZA’s 2017 major label debut, began with “Supermodel,” a track where she declares that it was the sex that kept her in a temporary love that didn’t end well. There’s also “Doves in the Wind,” where she’s not only hesitant to tell someone how they’re not satisfying her the way she wants (“High key, your *beep* is weak buddy / It’s only replaced by a rubber substitute”), but she yearns for sexually (“I’m really tryna crack off on the headboard / And bust it wide open for the right one”). In 2019, we saw the release of Summer Walker’s Over It and Ari Lennox’s Shea Butter Baby, with the former more along the lines of the alternative R&B of SZA and the latter more traditional R&B. But in both, they’re expressing their wants freely. “Girls Need Love“— which first appeared on Last Day of Summer mixtape — reappeared as a remix with Drake on Over It, with the singer offering a chorus that Howard likely would be proud of, and a first verse that is unabashed in its want for one lover over countless other options. Shea Butter Baby is more reminiscent of Jill Scott, with Lennox offering subtle (but still suggestive) lyrics centered around sex, as is the case with hit single “BMO.” But Lennox also doesn’t hesitate to say exactly what she wants — whether that be on “Up Late” or “Pop.”

So, it’s understandable that Lennox also made an appearance on fellow R&B artist Jazmine Sullivan’s 2021 EP Heaux Tales, with the song “On It.” Lennox and Sullivan are unapologetic in their wants, not only demanding that their lover prove their worthiness but letting them know what what they want to do and what they need to feel satisfied.

Click here to read the full article on Player.

H.B.C.U.s Have a Spirit All Their Own. Pop Culture Is Paying Attention.

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Pop Culture icon beyonce at a concert

By 

The collective moment when I first saw a three-dimensional reflection of my own college experience in popular culture happened not once but twice: on the television series “A Different World,” which premiered in 1987, and in Spike Lee’s film “School Daze,” which debuted in 1988. Together, they presented a meditation on the many layers and complexities of Black campus life that I had not seen before.

The magic for me wasn’t in particular characters as much as it was in the plot lines and the elements of culture imported from H.B.C.U.s, or historically Black colleges and universities. These recognizable moments from my own experience — campuses filled with students who celebrated the diversity of Black culture; the Greek steppers whose chants and thunderous stomps filled the gym; the homecomings that felt more like a family reunion — could have been plucked from any of the more than 100 H.B.C.U. campuses across the country, including my alma mater, Florida A&M University (FAMU).

When they appeared more than 30 years ago, “A Different World” and “School Daze” harnessed the power of familiarity and affirmation — and marked one of the first big moments of visibility for H.B.C.U.s in mainstream culture.

Finally, I thought, a defining chapter in the lives of so many Black Americans was being told in a big, big way. Finally, our H.B.C.U. history and inheritance, our legacy and sense of belonging, were being mined for storytelling.

Finally, we saw ourselves.

Over the decades, what began as sporadic nods to Black campus experiences has grown into more: portrayals that are both authentic and that challenge stereotypes about H.B.C.U. college life. While there is room for more — and more varied — narratives, in 2022 it is no longer an anomaly to see a television show set at an H.B.C.U., or an H.B.C.U. marching band featured in a music video or commercial, or a real-life celebrity or athlete wearing H.B.C.U.-branded apparel.

Earlier this year, the CW network released “March,” an eight-episode docuseries about the marching band at Prairie View A&M University in Texas. The CW’s new show “All American: Homecoming,” a spinoff of the popular “All American,” takes place at the fictional Bringston College in Atlanta, which is home to several real-life H.B.C.U.s.

“This just felt like an organic opportunity where I can extend what we’re doing on ‘All American’ and explore a whole new different world of Blackness at an older, broader level,” Nkechi Okoro Carroll, the showrunner for “All American: Homecoming,” said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times, adding, “It’s time that people understand we’re worthy of being the ‘A’ story, the H.B.C.U. experience is worthy of being the ‘A’ story.”

In the fashion world, Ralph Lauren used the vintage finery worn by students at Morehouse and Spelman Colleges between the 1920s and the 1950s as inspiration for his new capsule clothing collection, developed in collaboration with the schools and released in March.

And in one of the biggest nods by one of the biggest stars, Beyoncé incorporated the high-stepping electricity of an H.B.C.U. marching band and the iconography of Black Greek life into her historic headlining performance at Coachella in 2018, which came to be nicknamed Beychella. (The performance was documented in “Homecoming,” a behind-the-scenes concert film on Netflix.) The unmistakable sound (her band included performers who had marched in H.B.C.U. bands), the precision choreography, the call-and-response chants, the unwavering spirit — the performance was every bit a visible and visceral celebration of deeply rooted H.B.C.U. traditions.

“This feels like a very new and different moment around the acceptance and visibility and pop-cultural representation of H.B.C.U.s,” said Mark Anthony Neal, the James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of African and African American studies at Duke University.

Will Packer, a top filmmaker and a graduate of FAMU, has both witnessed and contributed to the rise in visibility of H.B.C.U.s. He also remembered the one-two punch of “A Different World” and “School Daze” as his own meaningful introduction to seeing H.B.C.U. life onscreen.

“That was the first time I saw those images and was able to really process them in a way that said, Oh, this is a real place,” said Mr. Packer, whose producing credits include “Ride Along” and “Straight Outta Compton.” Seeing those early depictions, he said, was “not just something fresh out of Hollywood but someplace I can have access to.”

Click here to read the full article in The New York Times.

‘Obi-Wan’ Star Moses Ingram Speaks Out Over Racist ‘Star Wars’ Backlash: ‘I Question My Purpose’

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Obi-Wan Kenobi and Reva

By Samantha Bergeson, Indie Wire

Just days after “Obi-Wan Kenobi” debuted on Disney+ May 27, star Moses Ingram has already received countless hateful social media messages.

Ingram plays a Jedi hunter Inquisitor named Reva, who actively tracks down Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan. While Lucasfilm and “Obi-Wan Kenobi” director Deborah Chow anticipated fan hate toward a Black female character, Ingram addressed the onslaught of DMs and comments she has received thus far.

“Long story short, there are hundreds of those. Hundreds,” Ingram said in an Instagram video after screenshotting messages that threatened her and called her racial slurs. “And I also see those of you out there who put on a cape for me and that really does mean the world to me because, you know, there’s nothing anybody can do about this. There’s nothing anybody can do to stop this hate. And so I question my purposes even being here in front of you saying that this is happening.”

Ingram continued, “I don’t really know. I don’t really know. But I think the thing that bothers me is that like, sort of this feeling that I’ve had inside of myself. This feeling that no one has told me, but like I just got to shut up and take it. I just got to bury it. And I’m not built like that. So I really just wanted to come on, I think, and say thank you to the people who show up for me in the comments and the places I’m not going to put myself. And to the rest of y’all, y’all weird.”

Ingram’s Instagram Stories included threats saying her days were “numbered” and slamming her for not being the first Black person in “Star Wars” history.

“You suck, loser. You’re a diversity hire and you won’t be loved or remembered for this acting role,” one message read.

Another said, “How the f**k does an alien know eubonics?”

The “Queen’s Gambit” alum also included a soundbite from “The Read” podcast during which she said: “You know what’s really crazy, you would think sci-fi and fantasy would be the most welcoming, the most accepting genres because they are so often storylines that are ridiculous and made up of like, aliens and weird shit, comic book shit, and n***** having special powers and all that.”

The official “Star Wars” Twitter addressed the backlash to Ingram early Tuesday, posting, “We are proud to welcome Moses Ingram to the Star Wars family and excited for Reva’s story to unfold. If anyone intends to make her feel in any way unwelcome, we have only one thing to say: we resist.”

The “Star Wars” page continued, “There are more than 20 million sentient species in the Star Wars galaxy, don’t choose to be a racist.”

Ingram previously acknowledged that Lucasfilm “actually got in front” of the anticipated racism to her casting. “‘This is a thing that, unfortunately, likely will happen. But we are here to help you; you can let us know when it happens,’” Ingram said earlier this month. “Of course, there are always pockets of hate, but I have no problem with the block button.”

John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran formerly received racist fan harassment following their respective roles in the recent Skywalker trilogy, leading to Boyega having a “very honest, a very transparent conversation” with Disney executives to not sideline Black and POC characters in the franchise.

Click here to read the full article on Indie Wire.

It’s About Making Us Feel Seen: How 3 Brand Founders Are Making Space For Black Women

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Three black women brand founders headshots

By Natasha Marsh, Refinery 29

In the wake of social unrest in 2020, as the country reckoned head-to-head with its stance and role in racism, many companies released blanket statements professing their solidarity with Black people, most of which lacked emotion and felt more like a sink-or-swim tactic. Brands who declared to suddenly be woke were met with skepticism and the unanimous knowing that for years, their inaction reflected their failure to support the Black community both personally and professionally. History has shown that the system was never built to nurture Black-founded companies the way it has their white counterparts, making it nearly impossible for these brands to prosper and, in many cases, preventing them from ever getting off the ground.

But with more and more companies beginning to take inventory of their blind spots and part in systemic racism, this is starting to change. In fact, according to a 2021 survey by The Harvard Business Review and Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 17% of Black women are in the process of starting or running new businesses, compared to the 10% of white women and 15% of white men. Indeed, Black women-owned businesses are on the rise, which may be because we’ve finally been given more access to the resources and capital to properly sustain them.

The rise of brand incubators and mentorship programs has certainly helped pave the way. Working to meet the growing needs of entrepreneurs who weren’t traditionally given a seat at the table, they help equip small businesses owners with the tools and support they need for success. By passing the mic to Black women, they give us the space to build community, empower one another, and, in part, inspire the next set of young Black entrepreneurs-to-be.

Ahead, get to know the founders of three Black-women-owned businesses in  program and how they’re using their platforms to inspire Black women to be their most authentic selves and forge their own paths.

Malisa Parke of Swanky Designs

Founded by creative mother-daughter duo Malisa and Imani Parke, Swanky Designs is handcrafted jewelry, apparel, and home goods brand, most known for its bold and colorful statement earrings. Sharing a deep love of art and fashion, the pair have channeled this passion into creating pieces of wearable art that speak to women’s individuality.

More so than anything, the Parkes believes in lifting women up and creating collections that complement that. “My goal is to empower other women to live their authentic lives, to not be afraid of standing out,” says Malisa. Rather than follow the ever-changing trend cycle, they aim to stay true to themselves, drawing inspiration from both the world around them and their roots. “We’re from New York, so we’re always in the city, looking at things like shapes and buildings,” Malisa explains. “We’re also very much into African-inspired jewelry, but with a twist, and we’d like to continue digging deeper into that.”

Ahead, Refinery29 spoke with Malisa about her creative relationship with her daughter, how it’s shaped their brand journey, and why we all should be our own trendsetters. 

You run your brand with your daughter, Imani. What inspired you to go into business together?
“We both have the creative gene. Imani has always been a super creative person. She started designing clothing at 14, while I used to sell jewelry at different vendor shows. One day I said to myself, You know what? I can do this myself. I prefer my own creativity, and Imani told me she wanted to do the same. Our creative juices flowed so well together that I suggested we do it as a team, and that’s pretty much how it was born.”

What lessons have you taught each other throughout your brand journey? How has your business strengthened your mother-daughter relationship?
“Imani teaches me a lot. Because she’s younger, she keeps me very fresh, but she also allows me to make mistakes. She’s teaching me not to be so constrained and to be freer. At this point in her life, I’m guiding her through it and helping her learn to [navigate it]. Being in business together strengthens our relationship in some ways, but she’s my daughter, so we butt heads a lot. When you’re in business with anyone, you’re going to clash; it can be tough, but then I’m reminded of the importance of our relationship”

In what ways do you use your brand to uplift and empower Black women?
“I hope to influence Black women to know they can do this, too, and that there’s room for everyone in jewelry making, no matter what medium you’re using. Age shouldn’t stop you from doing anything, know you can do it whenever you want. I also don’t think we should be so concerned about following fashion trends; we should be our own trendsetters. You shouldn’t have to worry about buying or being the latest — just do you. It’s a constant learning experience — we ask ourselves: How can we get better? What’s going to be the best for us?”

What advice do you have for young Black entrepreneurs?
“Read, learn, and get a mentor. Don’t just jump into it and expect things to happen because you’ll be quickly disappointed that it doesn’t happen that way. If you’re an entrepreneur, what you do is your passion, and it comes naturally to you. But you also need to read about the business side of things. Understanding capital, loans, taxes, and manufacturing; are things you have to know. Talk to people who are doing it and be open to accepting help.”

Dr. Anne Beal of AbsoluteJOI

For many Black consumers, the desire to take better care of our skin has been hindered by the fact that we’ve been long ignored by mainstream beauty brands. This makes it taxing to source products to effectively combat the most common concerns of melanated skin, like hyperpigmentation and dark spots. So was the case with physician Dr. Anne Beal, who launched AbsoluteJOI after struggling to find products that worked both for her and her daughters. Her research led her to discover that 70% of women of color believe the products currently available don’t work for them, so she developed her own, tailored to women over the age of 35 seeking to address signs of aging.

“There are so many products available that address aging, but people with melanin-rich skin don’t show aging with fine lines and wrinkles,” Dr. Beal says. “Instead, we start to show age with changes in skin tone and dark marks.” Fusing scientifically based active ingredients and soothing botanicals, AbsoluteJOI products focus on balancing and nourishing the complexion while reducing the damage caused by aging and hyperpigmentation. Rather than offer a dizzying array of products, Dr. Beal took a minimalist approach by launching a tight edit of cleanly formulated necessities, such as a tinted daily SPF moisturizer and a retinol-powered, tone-evening night oil.

Ahead, Refinery29 spoke with Dr. Beal about how she uses her brand and platform to make Black women feel more seen, plus the skin-care advice every woman of color should follow. 

When it comes to caring for skin of color, what are some of the most common misconceptions?
“Historically, there have been a lot of recommendations for products and home remedies, including everything from lemon juice and apple cider vinegar to using bleach — both medicinal like hydroquinone and actual commercial bleach. The reality is that skin of color is incredibly sensitive, so we need to take a very gentle approach. Secondly, the approach toward aging skin care for the general population is very much centered on fine lines and wrinkles, but many women of color first develop dark spots and changes in skin tone and, later, the lines. So when you’re thinking melanin-rich skin, the approach should be to address tone first.”

What is the most important skin-care advice you think every woman of color should follow?
“Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen, all day, every day. Many women of color think they don’t need it because they have melanin, but we do. We age with dark marks, and those are signs of sun damage. It’s also important to look for a sunscreen with blue light protection. Recent studies have shown that the blue light emitted from our screens — like our phones and computers — causes hyperpigmentation in darker-toned skin. Retinol is also a fabulous ingredient [for evening skin tone].”

In what ways do you use your brand to uplift and empower Black women?
“First and foremost, to say I see you. I recently posted a video discussing the four features of melanated skin that make us unique, and so many commenters mentioned how they feel seen and heard. I’ve also posted reels where I share the behind-the-scenes of our photoshoots, and it’s just a melanin celebration. I’m also very deliberate in who I collaborate with and what businesses I work with, and I try to seek out other Black women as business partners. I have aspirations to, at some point, grow the company to where we can invest in and mentor other businesses.”

What advice do you have for young Black entrepreneurs?
“One, I would say read and be well-read. Two, don’t start a business — solve a problem, and the business will come. When you solve a problem, the implication is that you know who your customer is, what they want, and what their challenges are. If you solve their problems, then you have a business there. Take a customer-focused approach.”

Terese Brown of Terese Sydonna

Jamaican-born, New York-raised designer Terese Brown infuses her vibrant Jamaican culture and love of Japanese art and architecture into every collection she creates. A self-starter, she’s greatly focused on inspiring women to step into their authentic selves for their communities and, most importantly, themselves. “I personally understand the struggles women face navigating pressure to fit a particular image and standard of beauty,” she says. “I want to change this and empower them to confidently reveal their inner strength and untapped superpowers.” And so, she considers her sophisticated collection of dresses, robes, two-piece sets, and accessories as “modern armor.”

Many white or non-Black entrepreneurs start businesses with capital from generations of wealth in their families, but unfortunately, this is not a common thread in the Black community. Brown, who has experienced her own career pivots and understands the value of mentorships and incubator programs first-hand, is looking to change that with her work on several advisory boards centered around entrepreneurship. “As a minority business owner, being authentic, being unapologetic about my story of sacrifice, dreaming big, and overcoming the extra hardships to be where I am now are what matters most,” she says.

Ahead, Refinery29 spoke with Brown about what led her to start a brand of her own and the importance of uplifting other Black women.

You began your career in finance and then pivoted to working with some of the biggest names in fashion. What inspired you to make this transition and eventually start a brand of your own?
“As an immigrant and the oldest in my family, it was always my mother’s dream for me to be successful and get a “big” job, and for a while, I bought into that. I did my stint on Wall Street, but it just didn’t feel right or feel like me, so I made the transition to buying and merchandising. I started working as an assistant buyer at a major retailer right before the 2008 recession, and one day I went to work, and half of us were fired. I remember feeling so relieved; it was my opportunity to get out to do what I really wanted to do. The next week, I was enrolled in a one-year design program, and within a year’s time, I was working as a designer by day and on my own line, Terese Sydonna, by night.”

You proudly manufacture your collections in New York City’s Garment District. Why is it important to you to keep your brand locally made?
“I feel like I’m living my American dream. I’m proudly Jamaican, a New Yorker, and a Bronxite, and I feel like New York has given so much to me. I love working with the small businesses that make Terese Sydonna what it is. Every single person that I work with who helps us create the prints, that do our manufacturing, or handle our grading and marking is part of an individual family business of color and immigrants. It feels so good to know that, together, we’re creating something so beautiful. It means the world to me knowing that I’m helping out my community.”

In what ways do you use your brand to uplift and empower Black women?
“My brand is all about authenticity. I wasn’t able to truly tell my story until I started being authentic in owning the fact that I am a Black woman. How can I design something if I’m not empowering myself and empowering Black women, too? When I look back on my time on Wall Street and in buying and merchandising, there were so many spaces where I couldn’t be myself, where my hair was an issue, or where I was the only Black woman. Many of my clientele are Black women, and they face these same challenges every single day. I wanted to change that, so I sought out to create a community centered around celebrating each other and what makes us unique. I couldn’t do any of this without celebrating Black women because they truly built my business and helped me get to where I am today.”

What advice do you have for young Black entrepreneurs?
“Whatever your idea, always listen to that inner voice telling you to do it. No one is going to cheer for you as hard as yourself. You are your biggest cheerleader. I also think young entrepreneurs need to realize that the story behind your brand is what matters. People are more interested in ideas, feelings, and stories — they care less about the clothes, they buy them because it’s you, and that’s what makes you magic.”

Click here to read the full article on Refinery 29.

New Women of Color in Business: Cross-Generational Survey©, by Harvard Business School Alumnae and Business Leaders Bonita C. Stewart and Jacqueline Adams, Sponsored by Google, Published Today

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two diverse tech students in classroom reviewing work on computer screen on google

By PR Newswire

Today, Harvard Business School alumnae and co-authors Bonita C. Stewart and Jacqueline Adams published their 2021 U.S. Women of Color in Business: Cross-Generational Survey© sponsored by Google. Titled Untapped Women of Color: The Talent Force Multiplier, the new release, and third in five planned annual surveys, is unique in its analysis of the opinions and capabilities of women desk workers and students across four generations. The work also highlights new, evolving skills and attitudes that managers must develop to assess and motivate talent, across cultures as well as generations, in the complex post-COVID workplace.

For the first time, the 2021 edition of the U.S. Women of Color in Business: Cross-Generational Survey© compared and contrasted the experiences of 300 White and Black male managers with those of 4,000 women managers and desk workers across four races (Black, LatinX, Asian American and White) and four generations (Gen Z students [ages 17-24], Millennials [ages 25-39], Gen X [ages 40-56], and Boomers [ages 57-74]). The results underscore the need for a more nuanced appreciation of “generational diversity,” an original concept coined by Stewart and Adams.

In addition to including Black and White male managers, this year’s survey takes a deeper look at Asian American women desk workers, with differentiating responses by the women’s countries of origin: China, Vietnam, India and the Philippines.

Co-authors Adams and Stewart, a Board Partner at Google’s Gradient Ventures, note that they truly appreciate Google’s support of their work. “The company’s sponsorship validates the originality and importance of our research,” they say. “We are also grateful for the on-going expertise of our survey partner, Quadrant Strategies. We believe creating a talent multiplier requires building new management capability in the areas of Cultural Intelligence (CQ), as well as understanding Generational Diversity in the workplace.”

“The data leads the co-authors to the conclusion that great managers matter,” says Melonie Parker, Chief Diversity Officer at Google. “The underappreciated generational changes identified in the survey should encourage and challenge leaders to assess ‘untapped’ talent pools as a force multiplier for business success. At Google, we see this research as another lens to inform our ongoing work to build belonging, while providing exceptional thought leadership to all companies navigating the growing complexities of the workplace.”

Highlights from the new research include:
Despite promises of progress, despite disruptions to corporate recruiting, the co-authors’ chief performance metric – the Onlys – remains stalled, with almost half of Black and LatinX women continuing to report being frequently or always the only person of their races in professional settings.

More distressing is that the number of Black and LatinX Millennial Onlys has spiked: 55% for Black and 45% for LatinX.

The 2021 results show clear differentiations among Black and LatinX Millennial women, especially when it comes to confidence about the future, ways of coping with workplace stresses, and even teaming up within the “sisterhood.”

This was a breakaway year for innovation among Millennials, what this survey calls “First to Know About Technology.” 44% of Black Millennial women desk workers said they are always the first to know; 42% for LatinX, 33% for Asian Americans and 38% for White Millennials.

Black and LatinX women reported that they are actively participating in the current startup boom.

32% of Black Millennial women said they founded or co-founded the company they work at, more than doubling the 14% in 2020.

Just as they reported in 2020, Black women across all generations are more likely to be “side-preneurs”—to have a business they are working on outside of their desk jobs. 27% said they are side-entrepreneurs, as opposed to 16% LatinX, 11% Asian American, and 12% White women.

Millennial women are acknowledging systemic racism in the U.S. and are not shy about using their power to address it.

In 2021, Asian American women fell behind other racial groups, across all generations, in terms of career satisfaction.

Only 30% of Asian American women (down from 39% in 2020) agreed a great deal that they’ve had the opportunity to do meaningful and satisfying work, compared to 42% White women, 47% LatinX women, and 51% Black women).

Chinese American respondents, in particular, reported the lowest career satisfaction, while Indian American, Filipina American, and Vietnamese American women were comparatively more satisfied.

Only 17% of Chinese American women feel greatly fulfilled at work, compared to 33% of Filipina American women, 32% of Indian American women, and 31% of Vietnamese American women.

Click here to read the full article on PR Newswire.

YOUR HEALTH MATTERS: African American models wear their natural hair and talk mental health

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African American models wear their natural hair and talk mental health

By Annie Krall, WBay

“A woman’s hair is her crown” a saying which takes on a deeper meaning for black women. Wearing their natural hair for example in afros or braids is a source of cultural pride. But it sometimes invites social and professional rejection.

Some of the African American women in our community and across the country tell us heavy is the head that wears the crown in the struggle for racial equality. For black women, having access to products and stylists who know how to care for their hair and makeup can be life-changing.

“Just access to basic products sometimes can be a huge barrier to being able to feel really good about how you’re looking,” Renita Robinson the vice-president of diversity and inclusion at Prevea Health shared. “So, with African American hair there are curl patterns and you can have super curly hair. My hair is super super curly. So, when my hair was longer when it was 12 inches long, when it got wet it was probably about an inch. It curls up super tight. You have to straighten it to have it look longer.”

It’s a local problem. Trying to find a hair stylist with different textured hair can be difficult. Which is why visiting black hair stylists like Shear Images Salon in Appleton is so crucial. However, it’s not just a problem of beauty access in Northeast Wisconsin. It’s a national issue.

“I’ve been on sets where I actually came with a full afro like this, it was actually bigger, and I left with my hair straight, and it wouldn’t revert back,” model, entrepreneur, and mental health advocate Tanaye White remembered. “I’ve been on sets where the makeup artists didn’t have my foundation color and I was literally on set looking like Casper the Ghost. I’ve been on sets where I’ve had to run into the bathroom and do my makeup myself because no one knew or had what I needed.”

Working for brands like Adidas, Sports Illustrated, and Juicy Couture featuring her natural afro, Tanaye said was a turning point in her career. As was the summer of 2020 for the modeling industry after the race riots with the creation of the Black Beauty Roster. An entertainment industry directory of hair and makeup artists with expertise on people of color.

An initiative to prevent models showing up to fashion shows and feeling, “just exhausting,” Mamè Adjei, a model, actress, and activist, emphasized. “Exhausting and a little traumatizing to be honest because we’ll go on set and I would just love to get up and be on set like my white counterparts and not worry about doing my hair or makeup. But I have to come prepared as with anything in life.”

When asked about having that expertise about different skin tones and different hair types, how important is that to sort of see makeup artists who are able to work on models like you, who actually have that familiarity that a lot of times wasn’t there.

“I love Black Beauty Roster because they really amplify the voice of D&I,” Tanaye replied.

Showcasing the beauty and strength of black women in Northeast Wisconsin.

“If a person doesn’t feel good about belonging or has issues around belonging and those kind of things,” Renita said. “Of course not looking good is only going to exacerbate it particularly if there is bullying. Or if there are environments where people are making comments to make you feel more vulnerable.”

These black women emphasized three points. First, fostering positivity and understanding even if you don’t regularly have to think about your hair. Secondly, to use resources like YouTube to learn more and be an ally or do outreach. Finally supporting local black hair stylists or joining the Black Beauty Roster to inspire change.

Click here to read the full article on WBay.

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