Meet Afro-Latina Scientist Dr. Jessica Esquivel

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Dr. Jessica Esquivel

By Erica Nahmad, Be Latina

It’s undeniable that representation matters and the idea of what a scientist could or should look like is changing, largely thanks to pioneers like Afro-Latina scientist Dr. Jessica Esquivel, who is breaking barriers for women in STEM one step at a time.

Dr. Esquivel isn’t just extraordinary because of what she is capable of as an Afro-Latina astrophysicist — she’s also extraordinary in her vulnerability and relatability. She’s on a mission to break barriers in science and to show the humanity behind scientists.

Dr. Esquivel makes science accessible to everyone, no matter what you look like or where you come from. As one of the only Afro-Latina scientists in her field, and one of the only women who looked like her to pursue a Ph.D. in physics, Dr. Esquivel knows a thing or two about the importance of representation, especially in STEM fields and science labs.

Women make up only 28% of the science, technology, engineering, and math workforce in the U.S. Those disparities are even more severe when you start to look at minority populations.

“When you start looking at the intersections of race and gender and then even sexuality, those numbers drop significantly,” Esquivel told CBS Chicago. “There are only about 100 to 150 black women with their Ph.D. in physics in the country!”

Fighting against the isolation of uniqueness
Dr. Jessica Esquivel recalls being a nontraditional student and being “the only” when she entered graduate school for physics — the only woman in her class, the only Black, the only Mexican, the only lesbian — and all of that made her feel very isolated.

“On top of such rigorous material, the isolation and otherness that happens due to being the only or one of few is an added burden marginalized people, especially those with multiple marginalized identities, have to deal with,” Dr. Esquivel told BeLatina in an email interview. On top of feeling like an outsider, isolation was also consuming. “Being away from family at a predominately white institution, where the number of microaggressions was constant, really affected my mental health and, in turn, my coursework and research, so it was important to surround myself with mentors who supported me and believed in my ability to be a scientist.”

While she anticipated that the physics curriculum would be incredibly challenging, she was definitely not prepared for how hard the rest of the experience would be and how it would impact her as a student and a scientist.

The challenges she faced professionally and personally made her realize early on just how crucial representation is in academia and all fields, but especially in STEM. “It was really impactful for me to learn that there were other Black women who had made it out of the grad school metaphorical trenches. It’s absolutely important to create inclusive spaces where marginalized people, including Black, Latina, and genderqueer people, can thrive,” she said.

“The secrets of our universe don’t discriminate, these secrets can and should be unraveled by all those who wish to embark on that journey, and my aim is to clear as many barriers and leave these physics spaces better than I entered them.”

When inclusion and equal opportunities are the ultimate goal
Dr. Jessica Esquivel isn’t just dedicating her time and energy to studying complex scientific concepts — think quantum entanglement, space-time fabric, the building blocks of the universe… some seriously abstract physics concepts straight out of a sci-fi movie, as she explains. On top of her research, she put in so much extra work to show people, especially younger generations of women of color, that the physics and STEM world is not some old white man’s club where this prestigious knowledge is only available to them. Dr. Esquivel is an expert in her field; she knows things that no one else currently knows and has the ability and the power to transfer that knowledge to others and pass it down to others. There is a place for everyone, including people who look like her, in the STEM world, and she’s on a mission to inspire others while working to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the STEM space.

“Many of us who are underrepresented in STEM have taken on the responsibility of spearheading institutional change toward more just, equitable, and inclusive working environments as a form of survival,” she explains. “I’m putting in more work on top of the research I do because I recognize that I do better research if I feel supported and if I feel like I can bring my whole self to my job. My hope is that one day Black and brown women and gender-queer folks interested in science can pursue just that and not have to fight for their right to be a scientist or defend that they are worthy of doing science.”

Click here to read the full article on Be Latina.

Serena Williams says she will retire from tennis sometime after the U.S. Open.

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Alexis Ohanian-Serena Williams pictured at HBO event

By Oskar Garcia, NY Times

Serena Williams, the 23-time Grand Slam champion who has been the face of tennis since winning her first U.S. Open in 1999, said in a magazine article published online on Tuesday that she planned to retire from the sport after playing again in the tournament, which begins later this month.

Williams, who long ago transcended her sport as a dominant cultural figure, said in an as-told-to cover story for Vogue that she has “never liked the word retirement,” and preferred the word “evolution” to describe her next steps. “I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me,” including working with her venture capital firm and growing her family.

She was not explicit about when she might stop playing, but hinted on Instagram that the U.S. Open could be her last tournament. “The countdown has begun,” she said, adding, “I’m gonna relish these next few weeks.”

Williams said that she and her husband, Alexis Ohanian, planned to have another child.

“In the last year, Alexis and I have been trying to have another child, and we recently got some information from my doctor that put my mind at ease and made me feel that whenever we’re ready, we can add to our family. I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.”

Williams, whose last Grand Slam tournament victory came while she was pregnant during the Australian Open in 2017, was eliminated from Wimbledon in June in the first round.

“Unfortunately I wasn’t ready to win Wimbledon this year,” Williams said. “And I don’t know if I will be ready to win New York. But I’m going to try. And the lead-up tournaments will be fun.”

Williams has won nearly $100 million in prize money.

With the caveat that there still may be more to come from her this fall, Serena Williams has put a dazzling array of achievements into her sport’s record books.

She has won 23 Grand Slam singles events, ranging from 1999 when she was 17, to 2017. They included seven Australian Opens, three French Opens, seven Wimbledons, and six U.S. Opens. She also has 10 further appearances in Grand Slam singles finals.

Click here to read the full article on the NY Times.

Former WNBA star Niesha Butler opens first Afro-Latina-owned STEM camp in New York City

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Former WNBA star Niesha Butler opens first Afro-Latina-owned STEM camp in New York City

By ABC News Radio

Former WNBA player Niesha Butler has opened the first Afro-Latina-owned STEM camp, S.T.E.A.M. Champs, in New York City to reduce accessibility barriers to tech educational resources for Brooklyn youth.

“If a kid could actually say that they can be LeBron James, and roll it off their tongue as easy as that, then they can literally say ‘yeah, I can also put a man on the moon,’ or ‘I can also create the next app,'” Butler told ABC News.

Butler, a New York City native, says “there’s talent in Brooklyn.” She established S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) Champs in the middle of Brooklyn to encourage inner-city youth to channel their ambition into educational opportunities. Butler also hires interns, may of whom have tried coding for the first time with the program, she says.

“People sell basketball dreams every other second in our community. I thought it was really important to, let’s sell these tech dreams,” Butler said.

Prior to opening her doors in Brooklyn, Butler partnered with organizations like Girl Scouts, BronxWorks and a local AAU basketball team to host STEM-focused workshops reaching over 300 New York City students. Monday was the first day of camp in the newly opened facility.

“There’s not a lot of people of color in tech,” Butler said. “These jobs are open for everybody and they’re empty…so obviously we need to do a better job at educating our kids and in recruiting them.”

Other tech education camps and workshops across the nation have worked to close the gap and make tech careers interesting and accessible to students of underserved communities.

Black Girls CODE is one of those resources providing workshops and public speaking opportunities for Black girls. Program alumni Kimora Oliver and Azure Butler say that the program’s first chapter in California’s Bay Area created an environment that allowed local Black female students to envision themselves in the tech industry.

“Unfortunately, STEM is a white and male dominated field,” Oliver told ABC News. “I feel like [Black Girls CODE] is giving a diverse group of Black girls the exposure that they need to decide for themselves whether they want to continue with STEM in the future.”

For almost 40 years, another program called Academically Interest Minds (AIM) at Kettering University has tailored its pre-college curriculum to expose youth of color to STEM coursework and campus life.

“49% of African American students who attend Kettering University now, are AIM graduates,” Ricky D. Brown, the university’s director of multicultural student initiatives and the AIM program, told ABC News.

For many, STEM educational resources introduce an element of choice in considering STEM and exploring pathways of academic interests.

A study released in July by the National Bureau of Economic Research says that early intervention programs like S.T.E.A.M Champs, AIM and Black Girls CODE are effective in helping students achieve academic success in higher education and STEM majors.

“Some of these kids don’t have a computer at home to study,” Butler said. “When I go to some of these centers, they don’t have good Wi-Fi…they have outdated computers.”

According to the study, underrepresentation in STEM is due to a lack of preparation and access to educational resources.

“Given that STEM preparation and college access are shaped prior to college entrance, STEM focused enrichment programs for high school students are promising vehicles to reduce disparities in STEM degree attainment,” the study’s authors wrote.

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

Beverly Malbranche of Caribbrew Honors Her Homeland of Haiti Through Her Coffee Brand

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Beverly Malbranche wearing a yellow shirt and smiling at the camera

By Nashia Baker, Martha Stewart

Both personally and professionally, Beverly Malbranche has always wanted to make an impact in the world and honor her homeland along the way. To meld the two, she decided to open Caribbrew, her Black-owned and woman-founded Haitian coffee brand. “Once I realized that we used to be a major coffee producer, I felt challenged to revive this lost history and create opportunities through it,” she recalls, noting that she launched the business, based in Passaic, New Jersey, in November 2018.

“I decided to create my own business in order to have more impact and to use my creativity and determination to offer a positive image of Haiti,” she says. “I also wanted to share our gastronomy with the world in some form or shape.” Ahead, Malbranche shares how she took her desire for personal fulfillment and meaningful opportunity and channeled them into her work—and ultimately developed a thriving coffee business that is also a tribute to Haiti.

Increasing Brand Awareness

Malbranche opened her business with $1,000 and built it from the ground up. She turned to Facebook and Instagram to get her company up and running. Through these platforms, she discovered other small businesses and began to learn from them—and started networking offline to build her business, as well. She attended local pop-up shops to continue getting Caribbrew’s name out there, and gained business champions and her first customers as a result.

Producing the Coffee

Caribbrew offers an array of products, but is best known for shade-grown, chemical-free, premium coffee. Malbranche prioritized process when she first started production: Haitian farmers handpick the Arabica beans, which are then roasted in small batches. For those who can’t go without their morning cup of joe, you can shop options like the Caribbrew Dark Roast Premium Haitian Coffee ($15.50, caribbrew.com); it is characterized by its dark, aromatic, heavy-bodied flavor profile. Or, try Caribbrew Medium Roast Kcups ($22, caribbrew.com), made specifically with beans from Thiotte, a mountainous town in the south of Haiti (this roast has hints of chocolate).

“Haitian beans tend to be nutty and mellow in acidity,” Malbranche explains. “[The medium and dark roasts] are both smooth, and while you can taste the nuttiness more in our medium roast, the dark roast has notes of dark caramel and a bit of chocolate.”

Her company’s offerings go beyond coffee, too. Skin care enthusiasts can snag the Coconut Latte Body Butter ($25, caribbrew.com), a Haitian coffee-infused, full body treatment that can reduce stretch marks and cellulite; the Mango Mandarin Haitian Coffee Scrub ($15, caribbrew.com) which exfoliates and decreases facial inflammation, thanks to green coffee properties; and other beauty products, teas, and chocolates from the line.

Brewing with Inspiration

Malbranche’s mission is simple: “I want to create more transparency on the coffee supply chain and create a space for coffee originating from the Caribbean—starting with Haiti,” she says. “I also want to support the ongoing efforts to see more Black- and women-owned businesses in the industry.” As for her customers? She wants them to enjoy exploring her brand and “savor each cup—and also connect with the folks who grow the beans.”

While the entrepreneur has her sights on new goals (the team just launched Caribbrew nationwide via Sprouts Farmers Market and aims to get the brand in more retail locations soon), she has one crucial piece of advice for fellow business owners who are striving for something more. “Give yourself grace and take it one step a time,” she explains. “It’s good to create a roadmap for the vision that you have. That will help you eliminate some activities that do not align with your goals, so you can focus on what matters.”

Click here to read the full article on Martha Stewart.

Arizona Afro-Latina is raising awareness of her culture as leader for female empowerment

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Franchela Ulises founded the organization "Mujeres of all Shades" where she focuses on female empowerment for all races and colors. The Afro-Latina educates them through the acceptance and confidence of knowing that they are beautiful and important. Photo courtesy Uriel Iturralde

By , NJ

Where are you from?

It’s a question that Franchela Ulises hears often in Arizona when she speaks in Spanish. In her native language.

She is used to the question. But she’ll never get used to the strange looks from others when she’s in public. She’s seen that look at the grocery store or at the park when she’s with her kids and they’re all talking in Spanish.

Sometimes she laughs it off. Other times, she lets her frustration flow.

Franchela was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Her parents are from the Dominican Republic.

In the country of her parents, Franchela doesn’t attract attention. Here in Arizona, in a desert state on the border with Mexico, a Black woman who speaks Spanish is watched with curiosity and sometimes reveals the prejudice toward people who share her heritage.

Facing discrimination. Not feeling recognized, included or accepted as an Afro-Latina. It’s exhausting, she says.

Franchela channeled her frustration into creating “Mujeres of all Shades.” The organization helps women of all races and cultural and ethnic backgrounds champion their own style, their own identities, their own expressions of beauty and brilliance.

She’s cultivating a collective of women who are changing the fashion industry to be more inclusive of what women want and how they want to be seen and heard.

Together, they fight for confidence and self-esteem and against stereotypes about beauty, race and gender. For Franchela, it is a movement.

She has three daughters. She wants them to see more Afro-Latinas represented on television and other media.

On a cool day in downtown Phoenix, Franchela is posing for photos and speaking in Spanish and English. She explains what life is like for Afro-Latinas in Arizona.

She fixes her hair and adjusts her jacket with splashes of vibrant colors from lime green to indigo blue. She crosses her legs and sets aside her Gucci bag.

Looking at the camera with the confidence of a Hollywood star on stage, a model on the runway or mama with three babies, she smiles and says: “I’m Afro-Latina.”

She releases a mischievous laugh adding, “I’m a little bit of everything.”

Franchela is 30 years old. She tries to explain how she defines herself, shows her identities in simple, straightforward ways that still seem so complicated in the eyes of people who do not know her cultural mix and her roots.

Click here to read the full article on NJ.

US Black business ownership sees rise thanks to women, study finds

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Black Business Ownership with two black female business owners standing in their bakery store

By , The Guardian

Black business ownership is surging in the US despite the coronavirus pandemic, research shows, with a rise in businesses owned by Black women.

At the start of the pandemic, Black-owned businesses suffered. Between February and April 2020, Black business ownership dropped by more than 40%, the largest drop of any racial or ethnic group, according to a report from the House committee on small business.

When government aid became available, Black business owners received fewer small business grants than white business owners, with paycheck protection program funds only reaching 29% of Black applicants versus 60% of white ones.

But according to research from University of California Santa Cruz economist Robert W Fairlie, Black business ownership is now up by almost 30% on pre-pandemic levels.

The Biden administration has said a record number of people are starting their own businesses. Women of color are the fastest-growing group of female entrepreneurs.

“At a time when folks are rethinking their lives and choices, it is not surprising that more Black women are electing to become CEOs of their own companies rather than waiting for their intelligence and skills to be recognized at their current firms,” Melissa Bradley, founder of 1863 Ventures, an agency for Black and brown entrepreneurs, told Business Insider.

Pandemic layoffs could be another factor in the rise of Black business ownership. Job insecurity caused by Covid-related restrictions prompted many people to explore alternative options, including starting businesses.

Diamonte Walker, deputy executive director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, told the Pittsburg Post-Gazette: “Being beholden to corporations and institutions just doesn’t feel like a safe bet in times of uncertainty, whereas the risk of starting a business now starts to feel a lot less than the risk of sitting on a job not knowing when your number is coming up.”

Experts say the emergence of female Black business owners could be explained by Black women wanting more control over their work life.

Millions left their jobs during the pandemic due to inadequate pay, lack of childcare options and debates about remote work, all compounded by systematically low pay and workplace discrimination.

“If you start your own business, some of those obstacles may not be as acute as if you were relying on employment from someone else,” the Wells Fargo chief economist, Jay H Bryson, told Insider.

“There may be avenues that certainly benefit anybody, but proportionally they’d be more beneficial to the Black community than other parts of the population.”

Click here to read the full article on The Guardian.

3 Strategies Female Founders of Color Can Use to Secure Funding

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woman looking at her computer screen with a white coffee mug next to her

By Xintian Tina Wang, Inc.com

Black and Latina women founders received only 0.43 percent of the $166 billion in VC funding dished out to startups in 2020. That’s according to ProjectDiane, a biennial report on the state of Black women and Latina founders by the organization DigitalUndivided.

Two women who are beating the odds are Kelly Ifill, the founder and CEO of Guava, a neo-bank and community platform designed to serve Black entrepreneurs and small-business owners, and Evelyn Rusli, an angel investor and the co-founder and president of baby food brand Yumi. The two sat down with All the Hats editor Teneshia Carr to talk about the best strategies for overcoming the hurdles to getting funding as a female founder of color. Here are three that stand out.

1. Be prepared to hear ‘no’ and keep pitching.
Rusli says she receives probably hundreds of rejections when pitching to investors, but encourages founders to stay positive nevertheless. “I think you have to pitch a lot of investors in the beginning, where not everyone is going to say yes. In fact, you’re going to get many nos,” says Rusli. “For every no out there, there is a yes. If you believe so strongly in your vision and that’s why you took the leap, then you just have to continue to knock on those doors and try to find the angles.”

Ifill agrees and suggests that pitching is a numbers game — by pitching more, you’ll come to understand what resonates with investors best. “Some investors will give you feedback, so you can scrap from your pitch what’s not working and what you need to double click on,” she says.

2. Find a compelling story.
Practice telling your pitch story to get it right and tight. Investors are humans, and they respond to stories that have humane aspects.

“We don’t pay attention to the storytelling aspect of the pitches enough,” says Ifill. “Try to tell stories of the lived experience of people that you’re trying to change or an industry problem that you’re trying to solve. I find that’s [led to] the most successful moments that I have had with investors.”

3. Leverage your network to find the right investor
LinkedIn can be your go-to platform to get to know people in your industry. Rusli urges being unafraid to cold call people you don’t know. “People reach out less than you think they do in general. If an investor finds your subject line interesting, they might just respond.”

Click here to read the full article on Inc.com.

How 3 Black Women Entrepreneurs Achieved Industry Firsts

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Black women entrepreneur Tiffany Mason, founder of Harlem Pilates.

By Rebecca Deczynski, INC.com

Someone always has to go first–but occupying that role isn’t necessarily easy.

While Black women are the fastest-growing demographic of entrepreneurs in the United States, they remain underrepresented in many industries. And especially when it comes to securing capital, a lack of previous representation in an industry can be a barrier.

“During the time I was building my business, I was generating tons of money, but I just couldn’t get funded,” says Robin Wilson, founder of home textile brand Clean Design Home (originally called Robin Wilson Home). “I remember going to a seed capital group and showing how successful my business was, and a woman said, ‘I don’t know any brands like yours–I’m not trying to be racist or anything.’ I said, ‘I can’t really unzip myself and become something I’m not.’ So I was out.” After years of bootstrapping, Wilson became the first Black American female founder of a global, licensed hypoallergenic textile brand, and now has several successful companies under her holding company, A Blue Egg Corporation.

Wilson is just one example of the Black women entrepreneurs succeeding in spite of systemic barriers. Inc. spoke with her and two others to find out their best takeaways for strategizing, connecting with investors who get you, and achieving “firsts” in their respective industries.

Make the connections you can
By day, Rada Griffin is a senior software engineer for NASA, working on a project that will send the first woman to the moon in 2024. But in her off hours, she’s the owner of Anissa Wakefield Wines and Alabama’s first certified Black female winemaker. In 2006, the Huntsville, Alabama-based entrepreneur started a catering business on the side and quickly developed an interest in wine. “Back then, you really had to know someone in the winemaking business to get some insight about it,” she says. After years of self-study, she launched her business in 2017, releasing her first vintage of wine the following year. She became a certified winemaker in 2021, after she completed an online program through Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration.

Of the more than 8,000 wineries in the United States, about one-10th of 1 percent are Black-owned, Phil Long, president of the Association of African American Vintners, told Bloomberg in 2020. Finding people who are open-minded to diversity and inclusion, Griffin says, has been key to her success. She connected with a few other Black women winemakers working in Napa, where she produces her wine. “I’ve come across some really, really great people who have kind of taken me under their wing,” she says. “If you don’t reach out to people, if you don’t go talk to people and understand what it is that you’re doing or what you need to do better, you’ll keep making the same mistakes.” Griffin says that the support she’s gained from her network has made all the difference–she turns to her fellow winemakers for advice and inspiration.

Turn “no” into a learning opportunity
Tiffany Mason, founder of Harlem Pilates–the first Pilates studio in Harlem–recently won a $30,000 grant from Squarespace to put toward her business. But fundraising previously wasn’t easy. For that reason, she bootstrapped her business, running lessons from her apartment for about two years before she started looking for a brick-and-mortar space in 2019. After approaching a few banks, she got approved for a small personal loan, which allowed her to take the next step in opening her business.

“I got a lot of noes,” she says. “Eventually, you understand that noes are feedback to help you get better. It’s important to take those responses and learn how to refine your messaging.” On her part, Mason says that early noes taught her to become more confident in her pitch, being “loud and proud” about owning the only Pilates studio in her neighborhood. While trying to secure her initial bank loan, Mason says that she took a more passive approach, and didn’t really emphasize how significant her business was for her neighborhood; when she applied for Squarespace’s grant, she went in the opposite direction–to great success.

Understand the power of branding
Wilson started her career in the corporate world at the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles. When the company went public in 1999, she gained the financial opportunity to pursue her real passion–so, she went to NYU to get her master’s in real estate finance and launched her business, Robin Wilson Home. Over the years, she’s faced ups and downs, and particularly had a hard time garnering VC interest. “As a woman and a person of color, there’s real fiscal inequality,” she says.

But in the summer of 2020, she saw sales of her 2015 book Clean Design tick up, amid increased calls to support Black-owned businesses. Around that time, she had a conversation with an old business school professor, who advised her to change the name of her business to help expand her appeal.

Click here to read the full article on Inc. Com.

Soul Life Travel, the First Black and Women-Owned Travel Agency in Costa Rica

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Soul Life Travel, the First Black and Women-Owned Travel Agency in Costa Rica

By Yamily Habib, Be Latina

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a myriad of things in the way we live. Not only did we learn to value our personal spaces and our community solidarity, but we put into perspective the way we travel and the value we place on freedom of movement.

Combined, these learnings have made us more sensitive to the fair representation and authenticity of our experiences.

For Sadie Jordan and Emily Orgias, these life lessons came to fruition in Soul Life Travel, the first Black and women-owned travel agency in Costa Rica — Jordan’s mother’s native home (Jordan was born in the States).

After years of giving travel tips to their family and friends in the region, always trying to bring value to the authenticity of the Caribbean, Jordan founded Soul Life Travel; Orgias joined her afterward as a travel specialist.

This agency combines their decade-long experience in the travel industry and their more than fifteen years of personal globetrotting.

Soul Life travel offers unique and authentic trips that compete with irresponsible tourism, which poses a growing threat to local culture, especially in Costa Rica.

“We believe that sustainable travel is both possible and essential, which is why we craft exciting tours that highlight, not harm, the essence of places you visit,” the founders explain on their website “Our personal connection to the region not only enhances our expertise and commitment to the local community but also motivates us to carefully design tours that are tailored to every desire in your dream trip.”

As Jordan told Travel Noire, there are many things people don’t know about Afro-Caribbean Costa Rican culture. With Soul Life Travel, the founders hope people will learn by researching and planning trips for them. Their goal is to bring people together around culture, wellness, and adventure in the often forgotten Caribbean coast.

“I created Soul Life Travel to show Black and brown people our cultures. A lot of things connect us, whether it be our cuisine or how our mama’s throw down in the kitchen, and so many experiences,” Jordan said.

Soul Life Travel offers many tours, including “A Taste of Costa Rica,” “A Week In Costa Rica,” and “Afro-Caribbean Costa Rica.”

Click here to read the full article on Be Latina.

Zendaya Makes Emmy History Once Again as Youngest Producing Nominee for ‘Euphoria’

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Zendaya in a nude dress on the red carpet

By , Rolling Stone

Zendaya made history in 2020 when she became the youngest woman — and only the second Black woman (after Viola Davis) — to win in the lead drama actress category at the age of 24. Now, with the 2022 Emmy nods out, Zendaya, has made history yet again as the youngest producer to be nominated for an award after Euphoria’s Outstanding Drama Series nod. Zendaya serves as both a star and executive producer on the series.

The general drama series nod comes as she received three other nominations for her role as Rue Bennett in the HBO drama. She was, once again, nominated for Lead Actress in a Drama Series and also received two nods for Outstanding Original Music for both “Elliot’s Song” with Dominic Fike, and”I’m Tired” with Labrinth.

In the Lead Actress category, she faces off against Killing Eve‘s Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh, Ozark‘s Laura Linney, Yellowjackets’ Melanie Lynskey, and Morning Show‘s Reese Witherspoon.

Meanwhile, Euphoria is nominated for the Outstanding Drama Series category against Better Call Saul, Ozark, Severance, Squid Game, Stranger Things, Succession, and Yellowjackets. (Squid Game is the first non-English-language series to be nominated for the prize.)

The list of “firsts” doesn’t end there for the Oakland-born star. With her nominations, she’s also the first Black woman (and only second Black person) to receive both songwriting and acting nods in the same year.

More history could be made next year by Zendaya as she revealed in a recent interview with Vogue Italia that not only does she want to direct, but she “probably” will direct a future episode of Euphoria. “I was supposed to direct Episode 6 [of Season 2], but then I had to act in it,” she said in the interview. “I didn’t have enough time, so, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to this time around. I wanted to have enough time to do it the right way, so next season probably.”

Click here to read the full article on the Rolling Stone.

The Rock’s Daughter, Ava Raine, Debuts Nickname In First WWE NXT Promo

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The Rock’s Daughter, Ava Raine, Debuts Nickname In First WWE NXT Promo

By Robert Gunier, Wrestling Inc.

As noted, WWE NXT held another live event last night in Orlando, Florida, headlined by Bron Breakker successfully defending his NXT Championship against Tony D’Angelo. Elsewhere on the card, the leader of Toxic Attraction, Mandy Rose, defeated Ivy Nile to retain her NXT Women’s Title, and The Creed Brothers defeated Joe Gacy and a member of the DYAD to retain their Tag Team Titles.

But one of the biggest stories coming out of the show isn’t about the in-ring action at all. Fresh WWE NXT talent Ava Raine, the real-life daughter of The Rock that signed with WWE in February 2020, cut her first promo at last night’s event. She was presented as a heel to the audience as she talked down to Cora Jade and the rest of the NXT women’s locker room.

Raine also revealed what her nickname will be going forward and it’s possibly a nod to a recent horror film. Raine, a fan of cinema influenced by the supernatural, apparent by the many references to “The Craft” (1996) on her social media, was referring to herself as “The Final Girl” during her in-ring promo. The film, “The Final Girls” was a horror/comedy film released in 2015 that first debuted at the SXSW Film Festival before receiving a wider release in the United States later that Fall. The premise of the movie sees the protagonist, Max, along with her group of friends, getting trapped inside a B-horror film where they must use the tropes they’ve learned from watching horror movies to survive. There’s no certainty this film influenced the new description Raine is giving herself in NXT, but the connection is possible.

“The Final Girl” is also a common trope in horror cinema as a whole. She is recognized as the last girl or woman surviving in the film as the story becomes centrally focused on her.

As seen in the photos below, Raine was trending after she dropped the promo last night, signifying that we might be approaching a televised debut for the 20-year-old. She has been teasing her debut for several weeks until last night when she finally revealed her persona to a live crowd.

Click here to read the full article on Wrestling Inc.

Rihanna is now worth $1.4 billion–making her America’s youngest self made billionaire woman

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Rihanna attends a Fenty event in February 2020 in an orange turtle neck. she is now america's youngest female self made billionaire

By Megan Sauer, CNBC

The youngest self-made billionaire woman in the U.S. didn’t grow up in a Manhattan high rise or the Hollywood Hills. Instead, Rihanna amassed her fortune from her own music and entrepreneurial ventures.

Recently, the 34-year-old singer and Fenty Beauty CEO graced Forbes’ annual list of America’s richest self-made women for the third year in a row. She ranked 21st overall, and is the list’s only billionaire under age 40. Some of Rihanna’s $1.4 billion net worth is from her successful music career. Most of it is from her three retail companies: Fenty Beauty, Fenty Skin and Savage X Fenty.

In March, Bloomberg reported Savage X Fenty lingerie was working with advisors on an IPO that could potentially be valued at $3 billion. Rihanna owns 30% of that company. She also owns half of Fenty Beauty, which generated $550 million in revenue in 2020. The other half of the company is owned by French luxury fashion conglomerate LVMH.

The numbers are impressive, but Rihanna has said that her focus isn’t on valuations and accolades. In 2019, she told The New York Times’ T Magazine that because she never planned on making a fortune, reaching financial milestones was “not going to stop me from working.”

The nine-time Grammy Award winner also said she wants to give that money away to causes that matter, anyway. “My money is not for me; it’s always the thought that I can help someone else,” she said. “The world can really make you believe that the wrong things are priority, and it makes you really miss the core of life, what it means to be alive.”

In 2012, Rihanna started a philanthropy fund, the Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF). It aims to “support and fund groundbreaking education and climate resilience initiatives,” according to its website.

One of its first initiatives, which launched a year after the foundation began, raised $60 million for women and children affected by HIV/AIDS through sales from the singer’s lipstick line with MAC Cosmetics. And in January, CLF paired up with Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey’s #SmartSmall initiative to donate a combined $15 million to 18 different climate justice groups.

That money is meant for organizations “focused on and led by women, youth, Black, Indigenous, people of color and LGBTQIA+ communities” in the U.S. and Caribbean, according to CLF’s website.

“At the [CLF], much of the work is rooted in the understanding that climate disasters, which are growing in frequency and intensity, do not impact all communities equally, with communities of color and island nations facing the brunt of climate change,” Rihanna said in a January statement.

Click here to read the full article on CNBC.

Black-Owned Beauty And Tech Company Mayvenn Raises $40 Million In Series C Funding Round; Plans To Use Capital To Expand Partnership With Walmart

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Diishan Imira - Courtesy of Mayvenn DIISHAN IMIRA - COURTESY OF MAYVENN

By Raquel “Rocky” Harris, Forbes

What was once just a digital marketplace for hair extensions and weave bundles has expanded into an online database that offers a space for hair stylists to grow their businesses and consumers to find local salon services.

On June 26, Black-owned beauty and tech company Mayvenn announced it raised $40 million in a Series C funding round. Leading investments came from Chicago-based venture fund Cleveland Avenue, with participation from the Growth Equity business within Goldman Sachs Asset Management and a 16z.

With the latest round of funding, Mayvenn’s cofounder and CEO, Diishan Imira plans to expand its partnership with, creating more in-store Mayvenn Beauty Loungs within with Walmart nationwide.

Mayvenn allows consumers to search for and book hair stylists in their local area. Stylists are able to operate their businesses on the platform, including selling products and marketing their salon-based services. The company says it is now home to over 50,000 hair stylists across the country. “Mayvenn is a leading innovator in the beauty industry. The company has a thoughtful and profitable business strategy that also supports diversity, access and entrepreneurship,” said Dr. Mingu Lee, Managing Partner, Cleveland Avenue Tech Fund.

“In addition to innovating the beauty industry, Mayvenn is creating economic opportunity for independent stylists, who are primarily women of color,” says Hillel Moerman, managing director within Goldman Sachs Asset Management. “We believe that Mayvenn’s omnichannel approach, combined with its direct financial impact on local communities, embodies the goals of our One Million Black Women initiative, and we look forward to continuing to collaborate with the Mayvenn team as they scale their business,” referencing Goldman Sachs’ goal to improve the lives of one million Black women by 2030. The company says they have pledged $10 billion in direct investment capital and $100 million in philanthropic support to advance racial equity.

Imira, an Oakland native and HBCU graduate, says Mayvenn’s new funding will go toward expanding its partnership with Walmart. As part of its collaboration, Mayvenn has brought Mayvenn Beauty Lounges to five Walmart locations in Texas, bringing the business from online to in-store. At the lounges, consumers are able to buy wigs, hair extensions, digitally browse Mayvenn’s network of stylists and book salon services. Mayvenn is looking to bring its Beauty Lounges to 400 more Walmart locations.

“I couldn’t be more excited to partner with Walmart to bring Mayvenn’s brand and platform into the real world,” says Imira. “These Mayvenn Beauty Lounges are more than retail experiences – they drive digital bookings to local small salon businesses, bringing them added income, which is core to our mission. This expansion has the potential to elevate the beauty shopping experience for millions, while also scaling the financial impact to the community. The possibilities are endless from here.”

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

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