These four young ladies are shaping our communities and dedicating their lives to making a difference. Read my full story at essence.com.
There is something to be said about people who are comfortable with being themselves. Despite up’s and downs, surprises and tragedies they never seem to lose themselves.
This comfort reaches far beyond mere confidence or ego. It is something that rests in the bones of a man or a woman. It is impenetrable. It is unaffected. It is unshakable. It is just comfortable. I truly adore those kinds of people.
So many people hide behind their accomplishments, titles and all the other things in the world that they have that you don’t. All the while, they are missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures—being themselves.
I rarely find those kinds of people. But when I do find people who are comfortably settled inside of their own skin, it’s like taking a deep breath of fresh air.
I’m happy to know that there are people in the world, however few, that are committed to being themselves. I am happy to know there are folks who find solace in their own imperfections.
My only hope is that I can continue to be a breath of fresh air for others who do the same for me.
“Just being me is enough”
keep it real all the time.
It has nearly been one year since I moved to the Big Apple and in a single word my experience has been nothing short of crazy—crazy nights, crazy mornings, crazy people, crazy fun, crazy friendships, and crazy grindin’. I came here like most people do with my wallet half emptied and a head full of dreams. Scared, no. Apprehensive and uncertain about the way things would pan out, most definitely!
Around this time last year, I was bidding farewell to my family and friends while toasting a glass of champagne with tears pouring down my face. That day the tears wouldn’t stop flowing. It hit me then and it still resonates even now that I was leaving the only life that I had ever known to start all over again. Start building new networks, stepping outside of my comfort zone and leaving myself vulnerable to hundreds of “no’s”.
I landed on the corner of 125th and Lenox in the heart of all the madness fully equipped with preconceived notions of life in New York City. The nauseating smells, the rats, the over crowded subways, the small apartment sizes, and the over-priced food all very well did exist. But there was something else about the hustle of the city that I needed to know. But I was too preoccupied with my own thoughts and my own personal goals that I was missing the mark. I really thought that I was going to take this city by storm in my first year! But after three long months of job hunting in 3 1/2” pumps in 90 degree weather, countless nights stuffing my face eating alone at Sylvia’s lunch counter, and bills piling up, I quickly learned that this city had much more in store for me than I ever imagined.
Let’s be real, being a twenty-something year old Black college graduate with brains and potential can sometimes make you feel like you are a giant among giants. And can you really blame us? For a large majority of young Black college grads, our undergraduate institutions were the steroids to our growing egos. We built strong relationships with peers and mentors that not only believed in us but invested time, money and energy into our success. Graduation day was nothing more than the icing on the cake. On that day we proved to our selves that we were indeed the sh*t.
Starting a new life, whether here in New York or anywhere in the world is not about waving around your degrees and successes. It’s about leaving yourself open to re-imagine your own possibilities—becoming a blank canvass. I think one of my greatest misconceptions about this move is that I had it all figured out. I knew what I wanted to do and how quickly I wanted to get there. But holding on too tightly to my own dreams only seemed to slow me down. I didn’t leave room for mistakes, and constantly beat myself up for what I called “failures”. While we’re told to stay focused on the long term outcome, we’re not told about the everyday compromises that we have to make in order for the long term to come into fruition.
Everyday we are changing little by little. And one day we look at ourselves in the mirror and don’t recognize the person we were last year today. And that’s okay! Taking hold of these experiences and allowing them to mold us is just a fact of life. Reconsidering our ideas, our goals, and our life plans doesn’t mean that we have failed, it can simply mean that we have changed. I for one will allow myself to be a blank canvass each day taking with me the pits falls and high peeks of this new chapter in my life. Who knows where I will be in a year from now, but whatever the case I can definitely say that I left myself open to all of my possibilities for a brighter future.
My greatest wish is to be an inspiration.
It seems we’ve lost it though. In this fast pace age of globalization, homelessness, rampant hunger, corrupt democracies and a growing desperation for “freedom”, we’ve lost the bigger picture—that is a universal effort to eradicate the injustices that live at the root of social corruption. I believe we are people first, and national citizens second. But somehow, we have convinced ourselves of the reverse. Somehow along the way, we have taught our children that “we” matter more than “them” and their lives are less valuable than ours. Who are we and who are they? I don’t know, but I’m sure you have an idea.
You see, the world seems so much more fun and quaint when you only look at it from one perspective. Everything makes much more sense when you are the storyteller. But I dare you to try and see things differently for once. Imagine that your eyes have seen the dangers that a young boy in Somalia has seen who is now a rebel in the city streets. Pretend for a moment that you are a 9 year old girl living with AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 75% of all AIDS cases in the world derive. Too global? Well, perhaps you could imagine being a child born into a poor neighborhood where you are surrounded by examples of the most uninspired and traumatizing experiences ever known to the land-of-opportunity. Who’s responsible for these lives? Who should care? Should it even be any of your concern?
Yes, it should.
I’m not trying to appeal to your sympathy. I am trying to expand your understanding of your own humanity. I bring up this topic not to question your sensibility, but to ignite a fire beneath your apathy.
There is no such thing as a common place in this space and time. It is my belief that everyone should be invested in developing the world around them. Don’t allow difference, or better yet indifference, to keep you bond to false pretentions. Search for worlds that reach beyond what you see in front of you.
"Have you wept for Japan" is a larger implication for our own understanding of our global citizenship. We are as much Japanese, as we are Egyptian, Libyan, Haitian or American. The same fuel that ignites the flame of revolution in all of these places is the same fuel that should connect us in times of tragedy and trouble.
Be an active global citizen.
It has been several months since my blog hiatus, and can I please say, nothing good has come from this break. I said I would change my background, come up with new article ideas, get a new camera…and the list goes on. None of that has actually happened. So let me not bore you with philosphies on why I haven’t done ish, and just move forward. I’m back online, definitely. You will be hearing much more from the womans word and I hope you take it all in.
Are you ready?
Black love is so beautiful, isn’t it. Truthfully speaking, nothing makes my heart smile more than seeing a Black couple genuinely happy. Smiling, holding hands, staring adoringly into one another’s eyes—just so in love. It’s a beautiful thing. But it seems to me those happy Black couples are few and far between. Nowadays spotting a Black couple of any kind is just that, a spotting— a rare siting of what seems to be a quickly diminishing pair.
Everyone from Black scholars, intellectuals, statisticians and just plain ordinary folk, all line up to discuss the break down of the Black unit. However, argument after argument becomes enthralled with blaming someone or something, rather than offering valid explanations to this apparent problem. Some say it’s white women, other’s say it’s Asian women. Some say the judicial system is to blame because they are taking away eligible Black men. Other’s support the conspiracy of the down-low brotha. While Black men accuse Black women of being too consumed with the idea of the “independent woman” that they can’t maintain a functional relationship with a man. But of course, none of these arguments supersede societal claims that Black people just can’t build families (The Moynihan Report, 1968). All this finger pointing, and still relationships between Black men and women remain disparate.
Black people are no different from every other human being on this earth, even though we talk about one another as if we should be stronger, tougher and more resilient than everyone else. This is especially salient in the relationship of Black women and their Black fathers. Yes, I said it. Black women’s relationships with their fathers directly effect the future relationships they build with their romantic partners.
Father’s lay the foundation for Black girls to understand the standard and quality of man she should aspire to be with. The way a father speaks to his daughter, offering her compliments and supporting her ambitions only act as seeds that are planted and will flourish into healthy mutuality between Black women and Black men. A father telling his daughter something as simple as, “honey, you are beautiful,” allows for her to hear the sincerity and pureness of that compliment. Later in life, she will search for that same sincerity in the voices of men who try to pursue her, weeding out those who are just looking for sex.
On the reverse, the absence of a father or more specifically, the inadequacies of a father to build up his daughter can result in rippling effects that damage future relationships between her and a man. In which case, a man may have to repair (and I do use this term loosely) the holes that her father left. What is further complicating is the fact that Black men are also, oftentimes, left without the proper father figure. In which, they are still defining what it means to be a man. So, helping a Black woman deal with her “father issues” becomes less of a concern for him, and more of distraction from his own personal journey.
I’m sure that we have all heard this before. But what we tend to neglect is how deeply wounding this can be to a Black woman. As a Black woman myself, I know all about the “strong Black woman” thing. You know, it’s what we all call our mother’s after we drag them to hell and back, and then suddenly we change and exalt her for being so strong. From my own mother I have learned to master the performance of the strong Black woman that is tough as nails on the outside, and even more fragile internally. And much of the fragility is a culmination of residue from past relationships that I never really knew or learned how to address—how to heal and move forward.
Before any one person enters into a romantic relationship, s/he has already begun constructing ideas about what a relationship is, how it functions and how to sustain it. Relationships are first built on the experiences and learned behaviors of previous relationships. That is to say, you carry all that you know from previous relationships, platonic or romantic, along with you in newer relationships. While this may just sound like an excuse for holding on to emotional baggage, it’s not. The challenge in holding on to learned behaviors from previous relationships is about managing your emotions and separating the good from the bad.
What should be examined to understand why Black couples are not surviving is the inability for both Black men and Black women to seal the wounds that were caused by their fathers. A boy learns to be a man from his father, and a daughter learns what a man is from her father. Without this common denominator, a father figure, an important player in relationship building is lost.
I write this not to romanticize the relationship between a father and daughter. I know that there are many other instances of father’s who are present in their daughter’s lives and are still bad dads. But I wanted to write this because I know too many Black women, strong, intelligent Black women, broken and picking up the pieces from a father that wasn’t there. There romantic relationships are complex and emotionally exhaustive because they are emotionally unable to give all that could because somewhere inside they have learned to close themselves off from men or protect themselves against men who will probably walk away from them. This is a letter to fathers who create children to raise their daughters with tenderness and care, uplifting her and feeding her mind and spirit. This is a letter to Black women who look for a man without considering their wounds are widely open and vulnerable to further damage. This is a letter to Black women and Black men written specifically to encourage a healing and loving relationship that will become the beautiful Black couple we all love to see.
In New York, nothing is more popular in the morning than breakfast carts. They are quick and easy to access and they are literally on every corner. The lines are significantly shorter than the Starbucks line which usually start in the small foyer of the coffee shop. It’s like every restaurant, shop, cart is selling breakfast food.
When I first got here I thought, wow, New Yorkers are really dedicated to having their morning breakfast! But considering that New Yorkers aren’t the necessarily the friendliest morning folk, I figure it must be something in the food.
Last week, I made it a mission to stop at a different breakfast cart everyday on my way to work. I wanted to know who had the warmest bagels, the freshest muffins and the lowest price. Unfortunately for me, I never found a good cart. All the food tasted a little stale to me. But more than that, I never felt energized after eating. In fact, those bagels and muffins usually had my stomach going crazy two hours later. It was the nastiest feeling.
How can something so good, make you feel so bad?
Well, it’s because not all breakfast is good breakfast. There are definitely some breakfast foods that can actually be your worse meal of the day. I found an article with some breakfast food advice.
Making Breakfast Too SugaryNext time you go to the grocery store, take a look at all of the pre-sweetened cereals. Basically, these sugary cereals are just boxed of candy with a few vitamins and minerals added in. The sugar problem isn’t just in boxes of cereal — many people associate breakfast with sweet pastries and things you pop into the toaster.
Skipping Breakfast AltogetherMaybe you’re in a rush or you think skipping breakfast is a good way to cut calories. But it really isn’t. People who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight, probably because they eat too much later in the day. You can have a quick but healthy breakfast:
- Keep ready-to-eat foods handy like hardboiled eggs, nuts, and fresh fruit.
- Make a fruit smoothie for breakfast.
- Make your own breakfast cereal bars with healthy whole-grain cereals.
This season there is not one magazine that won’t tell you, it’s all about burgundy or purple shades of lipstick. While I think that look is rocking, I can’t help but to miss other colors. As a woman of West Indian heritage, I can tell you, it’s all about the POW lip colors. We aren’t afraid to drape our lips in bangin’ pinks, reds and golds. I’m sure the blazing sun and the tropical weather are much more inspiring than the dying leaves and chilly weather we get here in the fall. But that’s certainly no reason to hide behind dark shades of lip stain.
Spring/Summer 2011 Jean Charles de Castelbajac
You can still wear pinks and reds in the fall, just try them out in various shades. Take advantage of the changing seasonal colors to change the shades of lipstick you wear. Instead of a steamy red, try out a firestone red color that is much more muted, with the same kind of pow effect. Or as an alternative, change the sparkly lip glass that you love, to a matte color lip stick. Matte lipsticks wear really nicely in the fall and winter, just remember to use a lip balm with moisturizer underneath.
Melody Ehsani Summer 2010 Lookbook
Don’t underestimate the power of fall purple! Make sure to visit a cosmetic counter at any beauty store to get the right shade of purple for your skin tone. Buying any shade of lipstick just by looking at the sample color is never the right choice. Invest in lip colors that can be wore with a mix of wardrobes and has long lasting moisturizer.
Spring/Summer 2011 Yves Saint Laurent
Spring/Summer 2011 Wunderkind
Forgive me readers, for I have slacked. It has been seven days since my last post.
Certainly not intentional. But you have to know, so much happens in one day that it’s difficult to slide myself in front of a computer, sit down and just write. Sigh, such is life. Nonetheless, I’m back to offer some insightful conversation.
While adjusting to the hustle and bustle of big city life, I have hit a major bump in the road. Usually, I would say, I’m a person of clear and precise direction and execution. I set a goal and I meet it. Simple as that. But this time, something feels oddly different. I have my goals, and I’m certainly on the right track to accomplishing them, but now, an added pressure—something like a lingering insecurity hovers above my head blocking out happy dreams. It’s the cloud of financial security.
Yes, money. I know, I’m not the only person concerned about finances. After all, we are at the tail-end of a national recession. The entire country has been flat out broke for the last nine or so years, but all this has made me even more concerned about my financial future. Have I made the right decision to enter into a non-tradition field of study? Is my graduate education a true investment or a potential pocket drainer?
It’s important for me to make these distinctions now to avoid the devastating mid-life crisis where I’m rocking back-and-forth in the fetal position wondering how I got into thousands of dollars in debt and still not doing what I love.
How many times a day do we hear, “follow your dreams, and the money will come”? But is that really always the case? Will the money really come in amounts that will provide security for myself and my family?
While I can certainly survive on passion for my love of writing, fashion, music and culture, I can’t say the same for my light bills or my rent. Not to mention the loads of government aid that supports my educational endeavors all have to be paid in full. And they could careless about my passion for writing if it doesn’t include sending them a written check.
I’m young, still in school and almost broke! I guess the real challenge here is striking the balance between passion and payment. I’m well aware that dreams only come to life through a series of great sacrifices. But sacrificing my financial security for a career driven by a childhood passion is non-negotiable for me. Perhaps it’s selfish to think that I can have it all, or maybe I’m just naive.
All I’m saying is this master’s degree seemed much more attractive $30,000 ago. With only a month of graduate studies under my belt and the deadline to pay back loans creeping up, I’m feeling the pressure. “What’s your business”, my family keeps asking me. What is it? I have no idea. But I’m starting to think that I should come up with one, fast!
I don’t want to give the impression that I’m consumed with an idea of making loads of money. I’m not. What I am concerned about is making sure that I’m secure, comfortable and making the right decisions. After all, it can’t be all about the money? Or is it?
Please share your thoughts in the comment box
Pause. Scream! It has been nearly ten years since her last musical tour in 2001 with opening acts India Arie and West African star Youssou N’Dour. But finally, Sade has released tour dates for her most recent album, “Soldier of Love”. The musical group, Sade, will host a nationwide tour of 50 shows that is sure to sell out at every venue. The tour begins on June 16th, 2011 in Baltimore, but tickets go on sale October 16, 2010 at Livenation for select markets. Tour dates and locations have been posted for 10 cities already, with more updates to come in the next coming weeks. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to miss this.
06/16 Baltimore, MD - 1st Mariner Arena (on sale 10/16)
06/19 Philadelphia, PA - Wells Fargo Arena (on sale 10/18)
06/21 Uniondale, NY - Nassau Coliseum (on sale 10/18)
06/24 East Rutherford, NJ - Izod Center (on sale 10/18)
06/28 Toronto, ON - Air Canada Centre (on sale 10/16)
06/30 Montreal, QC - Bell Centre (on sale 10/16)
07/06 Boston, MA - TD Garden (on sale 10/18)
08/05 Chicago, IL - United Center (on sale 10/18)
08/19 Los Angeles, CA - Staples Center (on sale 10/18)
08/30 Anaheim, CA - Honda Center (on sale 10/18)
Wonderful article about the myth of the strong Black woman that was posted on Clutch Magazine. This article speaks directly to my own feelings lately. Please read.
The title “strong Black woman” is as misappropriated and tossed around as the word “hater.” If you simply continue to exist in the face of some great personal challenge or tragedy, someone will call you a strong Black woman (see: Chris Brown referring to his mother as one on “Larry King Live”). If you don’t have any very obvious inability to support yourself, or some glaring character deficiency, someone will call you a strong Black woman. Joan Morgan runs the voodoo down on the SBW madness quite lovely in When Chickenheads Come Home To Roost. Do yourself a favor if you haven’t already and read that, sis/bro.
I never wanted to be a “strong Black woman”; in fact, I bristle when people call me one. I’m Black and I’m a woman and I happen to have a number of things about me that are strong: my mind, my personality, my resolve, etc. But putting them all together under that title reduces us to some sort of monolithical fembot who’s able to shoulder all burdens because she’s unable to feel. I don’t know about all of you, but my shoulders aren’t always broad enough for all your stuff and mine, and feeling? I like to feel. I need to feel. [Read More]
in an upcoming issue of XXL kanye announces that mos def is the newest member of G.O.O.D. music. damn there is a lot of talent on that label.
“Just as Kanye returned to his roots to scoop up Common, he recently recruited his buddy Brooklyn rapper/singer/actor Mos Def into the GOOD Music fold. Long regarded as a formidable talent by underground devotees and mainstream fans alike, Mos appeared on “Two Words” (from Kanye’s 2005 The College Dropout) and “Drunk and Hot Girls” (from KW’s 2007 Graduation). Since his 1999 solo debut, Black on Both Sides, Mos has increasingly been pushed — whether by generational choices or self-exile — to the fringes of indie, alternative hip hop. Maybe it will take Kanye to reign him in.”
All over the internet, web blogs are set ablaze as controversy surrounding Elle Magazine’s October issue with 2009 Academy Award nominee, Gabourey Sidibe, on the cover. “Gabby”, a 27 year old New York native, is pictured on the cover of Elle several shades lighter than her actual deep brown complexion. Her hair looks a bit untamed and poofy, while her make-up is kept bare-none with highlights of neutral colors that appear as though she has no make-up on at all. Surely it is easiest to criticize Elle for their inability to style and photograph a Black woman in a way that she is both recognizable to herself and to peers. But that would not be a fair claim.
Elle is a long time fashion magazine that is well known among women of color as being one of the few mainstream fashion publications that offers more women of color opportunity to grace the front cover. This past year alone, Elle featured Rihanna (July 2010), Jennifer Lopez (Feb. 2010), and Beyonce (Jan. 2009) on the cover—each of which received raved reviews. So, in retrospect, the notion that Elle is ill-equipped to properly style and photograph women of color is totally off base. The question here, as Newsweek writer Allison Samuels asks is, “why Gabourey”? What about Gabourey Sibide pictured so poorly on the cover of this particular magazine, rattles people so much that controversy arises? Well, it’s simple, it’s about representation and repercussions.
Sidibe, however talented she is as an actress, has been used as a mainstream media tool to represent the larger community of Black female actresses. Gabourey, who has only produced one major film, Precious (2009), has been hailed as the newest sensation among Black actresses. Yet, anyone familiar with films starring a Black female actress would most likely identify actresses such as Sanaa Lathan, Nia long, Gabrielle Union, Kerry Washington and Taraji P. Henson, who has been nominated for two Academy Awards. All beautiful, all talented, and still, no mainstream fashion magazine covers for any of these ladies.
Let us not forget the icons of Black female beauty that mainstream media is most familiar with—Halle Berry and Beyonce Knowles. Both women linger in the atmosphere of exceptionalism when compared to other Black women in the industry. As lighter-skinned Black women with, what some argue, are Victorian facial features, these two women have been placed above the rest in discussions about Black beauty. Either of these women are embraced by mainstream media and fashion in a way that ignores their blackness and makes them colorless. The dangers of being named “the exceptions” of the group takes us to the conversation that we are having right now about Sidibe.
I believe the recent Gabourey craze is in fact the good intentions of industry insiders to embrace and celebrate a diversity of black beauty that is not simply tall, light-skinned and curvy. What better opposite of this standard of beauty than Gabourey Sidibe?
I could careless that Sidibe does not meet the standards of beauty set by mainstream media. The moment is long overdue when mainstream media begins to see Black beauty as something worthwhile. So kudos. However, what concerns me is what happens when Sidibe, much like Knowles and Berry, becomes the other symbol of Black female beauty? If Halle Berry and Beyonce Knowles are the exceptions of Black beauty that embody a sort of European standard of beauty, then what does Gabourey’s beauty embody? Manufacturing standards of beauty based on specific individuals is a dangerous business. If the intention is to truly represent the diversity of Black beauty among women, then mainstream media should acknowledge Black women that meet neither the Beyonce nor the Gabourey complex. If not, then the echoes of these standards will forever be used against Black women who try to develop a sense of self.
Share your thoughts about the Gabourey Sidibe cover below.
I’m scrolling through Twitter Thursday evening to numb myself from what seemed to be one of the most exhaustive TGIFriday’s I have had in a long time. After countless tweets from hip hop bloggers, fellow fashionista’s and of course, Rev Run’s words of wisdom, I stumbled across a tweet from @MADvision that read:
“If I wasn’t going 2 see bmichael show 2night I’d so go to Studio Museum of Harlem-Andre Leon Tally talks about art+fashion-ALT=FashionGENIUS”.
Staying just a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from the Studio Museum in Harlem, I decided to take some initiative and hurry over to the event. I mean, after all, it is the great André Leon Talley, Vogue Editor-at-Large.
In a rush, I threw on a pair of vintage black leather knee high cowboy boots, an over-sized denim button down and brushed on two layers of a burgundy lip gloss and I was out the door. I literally had no time for playing around with my wardrobe today. But I had a feeling this was going to be a seriously dressed audience, so I wanted to look put together.. When I arrived to the museum, the room was filled with young Black immaculately dressed people. Fall colors of coral, green, brown, red and navy popped from every corner of my eye. Clearly, I should have spent a little more time on my outfit, but I didn’t come for a fashion show. I came to hear Talley.
With my Blackberry in hand as my reporting device, I tried to tip-toe across the back wall of the room. But my boots were made for walking, and that’s just what they did—and very loudly. The intimate setting of the room made the hallow knocks of my boots echo through the building. I, for one, was not interested in Talley calling me out in a room full of people. So I scurried to sit myself down in the last few rows.
As I sat, I noticed every single person in the room sitting at the edge of their seats as Talley began to speak. His stark, yet proper posture and charismatic personality had everyone hanging onto his every word. He told stories of his days working with Andy Warhol and John Wilcock’s 1969 magazine, Interview, and being paid nothing more than $75.00 a week to get Andy’s lunch and run to the stamp meter. All the while he was chumming up with fashion legends such as Karl Lagerfeld. Yes, Talley sure does have a way with words—enticing you with glamorous stories of traveling throughout France and experiencing legendary fashion moments first hand. But as quickly as Talley recaptured moments of wonderful “Pari”, he also shared stories of having to live in the YMCA while working for Warhol with, of course, the roaches and the “human roaches”. “Fashion is about hard work. It’s not about just making the glass slipper fit”, Talley tells the audience.
Just then, my eye is drawn to LaQuan, who until then, was over shadowed by Talley’s grandiose celebrity. LaQuan Smith, a 22 year old self-taught fashion designer from Queens, seemed to sit a bit meagerly on the stool next to Talley. But when he opened his mouth to speak, the humbleness of his words and the confidence in his voice made him appear larger than life. He shared with the audience his confidence in his future as a fashion designer and even possibly opening his own art and design school called the Smith School of Arts.
LaQuan, who is only in his second season of displaying his work at New York’s Fashion Week, is an ambitious young Black designer with aspirations of reaching the pinnacles of fashion notoriety. He is also one of few individuals Talley has taken under his wing . With the help of Talley, LaQuan had quite an impressive line-up for his Spring/Summer 2011 show entitled, “A Storybook Path”. If you attended LaQuan’s show, you were sure to see CFDA’s President, Diane Von Furstenberg, rapper/actor Common, and also, starlet Casey, singer, Deborah Cox, tennis player, Serena Williams and Giselle (America’s Next Top Model) all modeled Smith’s gowns around the runway. Smith’s designs were very reminiscent of ancient Victorian royalty gowns, with structured corset waists, broad shoulders and lucrative, yet detailed patterns adorning the gowns. Smith shared that his designs were inspired by the strong women in his life—his mother and his grandmother, but also by classic elements of fashion and art.
However, Smith’s story is anything but a story of royalty, let alone fashion royalty. LaQuan began designing and cutting materials at the age of 13 years old. After he completed high school at 18, LaQuan decided to pursue his dream of fashion designing and set out to create his own line, LQS. Without formal fashion design training, Smith used his passion for creative design to carry him through with each gown he creates. As an up-and-coming designer, LaQuan still struggles day-to-day to maintain the dedication to his brand. Without a team of assists, LaQuan buys, cuts and manufactures each of his designs single handedly.
The introduction of Talley to LaQuan could be described as somewhat of a fairy godmother who meets Cinderalla. Rather Talley says that he is merely a cultural custodian that wishes to provide opportunities and open doors for young talent that he recognizes has the passion, dedication and knowledge needed to succeed in the business of fashion.
As the talk came to a close, the audience frantically ran to greet Mr. Talley and LaQuan at the front of the room. I tried to grab a quick picture of the two, but all the conversation had caused Talley to run a bit late for his next fashion week appointment, so he was out the door! I left feeling inspired by all the positive energy and eagerness of future fashion designers, writers, and photographers that were in the building. There was something about that conversation of art and fashion that seemed to go beyond the concern of what everyone in the room was wearing. It was a sense of hopefulness for young up-and-coming individuals itching to get inside the fashion industry—a sense of hopeful relief that if LaQuan, who much like many of us who are untrained, yet very passionate, can achieve this little bit of success, than so can we.
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