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#AskAnActivist x Celai West

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Health/Beauty, Latest | by — January 21, 2020

#KinkyHairMatters is not just a hashtag but an empowering lifestyle that is perfectly embodied by natural hair + texture activist, Celai West! From runway model to entrepreneur, this young queen is boldly making a point to shred beauty stereotypes by embracing her natural crown and blazing a trail for girl + women!

Let’s #AskAnActivist with Celai West….

Photography by Julian J. Peeples

As an impactful texture + natural hair activist, why is it important for you to embrace your natural texture + encourage other girls to do so as well?

I think it’s very important because I was born like this. If God has given me this hair, I should love it. I think that everyone else should love it too, because He didn’t make any mistakes.

Your love for speaking + your stunning natural hair gave birth to “The Chatty Chick” T-shirt collection! How does your collection help others speak up against stereotypes often put on black girls and their beauty?

Well, I started out with only natural hair tees to help girls like me feel more empowered by our big hair. When I would wear them, they would make me feel like I’m showing everyone how much I love my hair, and I want other girls to feel the same way too.

www.thechattychick.com

Your activism simply doesn’t stop at fashion! Every t-shirt sold is a tree planted with Trees For The Future, why is it essential for your generation to understand and protect + care for the environment?

I just feel like it’s super important that we take care of our planet. I’ve traveled to places that don’t offer recycling, so I wanted to find a good way to help reverse some of the damage we cause to our planet.

Being a runway model + producer, what has been the most encouraging compliment or feedback that another young girl has told you about your movement?

We get lots of messages from parents, teenagers, and even older adults, in the U.S. and overseas, saying my pictures have helped them (or their kids) to start loving their big hair and that makes me feel really good.

(Photography by Julian Peeples)

What does rockin’ your beautiful + glorious afro mean to you?

Rockin’ my fro means I love my hair and it shows that I don’t have to change it or conform just to fit in. This is how I was born, and it’s perfect the way it is.

We know that “ACT” is the keyword in ACTivism, what’s one ACT you would tell girls to do to embrace self-love?

I would definitely tell them to BE YOURSELF. They are already perfect, so just own it!

Follow more of Celai’s journey here…

Celai West

The Chatty Chick

Instagram

The Struggle! 3 Money Wasters

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Finance, Latest | by — January 20, 2020

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College brings on many new responsibilities and being fiscally responsible is one of the hardest. It seems like money leaves your wallet faster than it goes in and your bank account is starting to collect spider webs. Believe it or not, there are plenty of ways you’re wasting your money in college. Check out some of these things to cut back on so you can stack those coins!

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Junk Food Foodie?– Although it is nice to treat yourself to fast food every once in a while, the campus is full of eating spots that are included in your meal plan. This is so much better than having to spend money on take out every time you’re hungry. The other benefit is that campus usually offers healthier options so it’s a win-win.

Rent’em + Return’em- Buying textbooks is a hard financial hit in the beginning of the semester. In order to cut costs, rent your books from websites like Amazon and Chegg. You should also ask your professor to see if you’ll even need the book before you buy it.

Ride Along– Having a car on campus is obviously convenient, but the money you spend on upkeep isn’t worth it. You’ll have to pay for gas weekly and some colleges even make you pay for a parking pass every year. Ditch the car and opt for a bike or walk like most students do. Large campuses even provide transportation to your classes.

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~Tia Banks

Meet Ashaka Givens!

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Feature, Latest | by — January 15, 2020

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Dripping in chic, wrapped in bohemian flare + topped with powerful statements, are all the ingredients poured into each piece created by Brooklyn-based celebrity designer, Ashaka Givens!

From dressing the most influential creatives in the culture to fashion mavens, she has married style + detail into her passion of design! Givens’ love affair with fashion began in high school where she intuitively taught herself how to design women’s clothing and produced her own runway shows! She went on to study fashion design at Buffalo State College and spent a leg of her time there as a student at the Manchester Metropolitan University in England. It was abroad where she honed her tailoring techniques and studied couture design. She further developed her signature style think “funk-meets-sophistication” at the Fashion Institute of Technology, graduating with the class of 1996.

The New York native designs have not only been featured on the runways of Mercedez Benz Fashion Week but have also dressed + created custom pieces for tastemakers such as singer Erykah Badu, rapper/actor Common, rapper Missy Elliot, singer Raphael Saadiq, The Roots’ funky drummer, ?uestlove, and Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu! Givens continues to showcase her authentic artistry while giving women the gift of beauty and confidence each and every day!

Our C.O.R.E interns had a chance to chat with designer, Ashaka Givens! Let’s get to know her a little better…

What do you hope to achieve by creating your clothing line?

I hope to make women feel empowered and confident in the things that they wear even if it’s a hat, a dress, whatever it may be, I want them to feel strong and beautiful because that’s what we should feel every day!

How do you reflect your own individuality (along with your clients‘) in the items that you create?

It’s all in how you cut [the fabric]. I always have my hand in the way something drapes or fits on an individual’s body. There’s always a sense of my passion for life and for femininity and for even a little bit of romance woven into my designs.

What are the biggest names you’ve designed for?

Erykah Badu, Wangechi Mutu, a famous artist whose pieces are in the MoMa, the Tate, and a lot of other art museums.

Some others are Common, Raphael Saadiq, and TLC.  Working with people who are worldwide has been a huge honor. There’s so many, but thankfully they have all been incredible and I had an amazing time with all of them. I’ve never had any complaints working with any of them. It’s been a blessing!

How do you keep up with society while also maintaining your style?

Staying in touch with the youth. I ask questions such as “So who’s inspiring you now or who do I need to listen to now?”

What do you think sets you apart from other designers and boutique owners? What makes your designs or your ideas special?

That’s hard to say because it’s me. You know how people make a pot of soup with the same ingredients it turns out so different from each other, that’s essentially what I do. I take different colors, or textures, or fabrics and things that are in right now to make something that stands out from other pieces.

Have you ever had any doubts about becoming a designer or boutique owner?

No, I’ve always been confident. You know what you know. I love to teach from high school level to my oldest student being 60 yrs. old. I know how to design a dress and turn sketches into an actual piece so I was always confident in myself and my abilities.

Were there times of frustration? Yes, times of frustration when I had an idea, but it wasn’t working out, but in the end I always put something together. You have to remember that you’re always learning.

I noticed that in your bio, it talks about you studying abroad in England, so I wanted to know what that was like for you and how it has helped you develop your skills as a designer

Yeah, it was amazing! It was actually my first time on a plane leaving from Buffalo, NY to London. It was awesome, it was a bit of a culture shock. But it was good to live somewhere else where people don’t know you so you can develop a new sense of individuality. It’s like trying a new food, but it’s everything, different culture, new people, etc. Just immersing yourself into a different culture can be great for developing your individuality and exploring yourself.

If you weren’t a boutique owner, what would you be doing instead?

Probably cooking, either that or perfumery not with chemicals, but with essential oils. Maybe that or traveling, like if I had an infinite amount of money I would travel.

As a woman in your position, what advice can you give to young people who want to get where you are?

Never stop learning. Interns, speak up about your interests and be confident about it because that’s what attracts us.

Travel. It opens your whole mind to cultures and ways of doing things. Just emerge yourself in it. Just keep trying until something resonates and you’re like “this lights me up”

I am confident in myself and my abilities and everything that I’ve learned. – Ashaka Givens, an affirmation.

Check out more of Ashaka’s beautifull hand-crafted designs:

Ashaka Givens

Instagram

BY: Melanie Santiago and Jada Jackson

Style Diary x Mechellé!

Scroll through the teen Style Diary of L.A. based fashion-lover, Mechellé!

What’s your name, age + the city you’re from?

My name is Mechellé pronounced Me-shell-lay, I’m 15 years old, and I live in Los Angeles, California but I’m from Richmond, Virginia.

Style is showing who you are with out having to speak! Name your top 3 trends you’re feeling this season?

My top 3 trends this season is long oversized jackets (I have this super long puffer jacket that goes down to my ankles and it’s the best thing ever), leather pants are so cute right now, and lastly, corset tops.

If you had 30 seconds to grab your 3 favorite style pieces, what would they be?

I can’t leave the house without earrings! Earrings and jewelry make you look like you put a lot of effort into your outfit when you really didn’t. Next, I would grab some platform sneakers to add some spice to it. Lastly, I would take a denim jacket for some extra warmth and because they’re cute lol.

Style inspo is everything! Who’s your ultimate fashion icon + why?

I love Rihanna or Bella Hadid for their edgy street style. I think it really shows their personality and plus they both look stunning in them!

Getting ready in the morning can be fun but stressful if you’re in a time crunch, what’s your go-to look if you’re in a rush?

My go-to look is probably a graphic tee and jeans with a statement jacket or shoes to spice it up.

What’s your number 1 rule when it comes to style?

My number 1 rule is…wear what YOU want to wear! I’ve found myself in a lot of situations where I want to wear something but don’t because I’m afraid of people’s opinions. But I realized it doesn’t matter what people think. Be different, be you!

Follow more of Mechellé + her style here:

Instagram

Youtube

Over.It. Already?

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Daily Blog, Latest | by — January 1, 2020

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A new semester is upon us! Our schedules just got busier and our workload is a little heavier. Just the thought of this would make any normal person a bit uneasy. However, there are ways to get ahead of the game so that you’re fully prepared for the semester and anxiety won’t creep up on you like those forgotten assignments!

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Pull up with a planner| Planners are extremely helpful especially when you have a schedule full of club meetings, due dates, and get-togethers. It will allow you to write things down and have a visual representation of what your schedule looks like so you’ll know when you can squeeze in a nap!

Get a head start| I know this is easier said than done, but anything you do to get a head start on an assignment will help you tremendously. You’ll have more time to plan and ask questions if needed. You’ll even have room for those days when you’re procrastinating.

Sleep, sleep + sleep| This is a fan favorite. Sleeping is not only a hobby for those who stay busy; it is also an essential part of your health. Getting a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep a night will improve your mood and give you the energy you need to kill it!

~Tia Banks

Meet Christiana Smith!

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Feature, Latest | by — December 17, 2019

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Finding your personal freedom + creating your individual rhythm is exactly what pro-skater Christiana Smith carved out in her love for skateboarding! Blocking out noise, distractions and all negative vibes, Christiana paved her own path into her passion while shredding stereotypes in the process. 

Originally from Southfield, Michigan, Christiana discovered her love for skating at 11 years old.  Sharpening her skills, she consistently began placing in the top 10 of her competitions with ease.  While progressing she noticed more unwanted opinions and push back. Instead of shutting down, she flipped the energy by creating her empowering “Skating In A Dress” YouTube video in 2014.

She states in the video, “When you’re young you overthink everything. Then you get a little older + wiser and you realize people are going to judge you for the rest of your life. If you let that affect you, you will never be happy. So do what you want and don’t care what other people think about you.” 

Soon after she  gave creative birth to  A Positive Seed Co. created with the mission of planting positivity and sparking a movement of inspiration + kindness!

Let’s get to know Christiana a little better…

Originally from Michigan, what first inspired you to start skating + how was the skating scene at that time?

What originally first inspired me to start skating was competing with my brothers.  I have two older brothers and they went through phases of trying different sports.  One day they got a skateboard and I ended up using it more than them. A combination of that, the video game Tony Hawk Pro Skater (me just thinking skateboarding looked like the coolest thing ever) then eventually getting invited to a birthday party at a skate park when I was 11 years old.

At the time I was very young and unaware what a skate scene even was.  All I knew was I was the only girl at the skate park. I spent days in my driveway with my best friend Justin and my mom taking me to Modern Skate Park , aka, my second home.  I was so in love with skating that I wasn’t even thinking about the scene itself.  I definitely received a lot of backlash from males as my skill level progressed and they became intimidated by my presence.  Looking back, it was very cliquey but again I was so in love with skating that it didn’t matter.

You created your barrier-breaking video “Skating In A  Dress” at 18 to shred stereotypes for girls and girls of color, why is it important for you to open up doors for the next generation?

It is very important for me to open doors for the next generation because I needed a video like “Skating In A Dress” to help me when I was a young girl.  I was so timid, shy and insecure.  By me being the only girl and a black one at that, certainly didn’t make it any easier for me.  There were many times when I wanted to quit.  Not because I didn’t like skating but because I cared more about what others thought about me and the negative comments, that it was felt as if it would be easier to just quit.  I never want another person with a love of skateboarding to go through that without having support and someone to empower and motivate them to press on and never give up on something you love because of what others think or say.  I didn’t know it was ok to just be myself and do what makes me happy.  It is so true that people will judge you whether you like it or not and if you let that affect they way you live your life, you will never truly live and reach your full potential.  Not to mention being happy and living with a sense of peace and purpose.

High school can feel uneasy because you’re constantly trying to discover who you are + oftentimes faced with a lot of opinions surrounding you, how did you stay true to yourself + navigate your way to your dreams?

High school was very difficult for me.  I simply did not fit in and refused to “go with the flow”.  I suffered from low self-esteem and depression through most of it.  I had to fight through feelings of inferiority and eventually dropped the idea of doing things because of what others thought of me.  I realized that at the end of the day, “they” don’t matter and neither does what they have to say about me.  I was fortunate enough to find something I was passionate about and that became my main focus, I blocked out the background noise and tunneled into what I loved. After school it was straight to the skatepark almost everyday.

Your amazing company + powerful movement, A Positive Seed, is all about planting the seed of kindness and respect both in + out of the skate scene! How can one act of kindness start a flame of change in the world? 

A Positive Seed truly is all about planting a simple seed of kindness.  I have seen the faces of young girls/boys light up when I give them one of my stickers or compliment cards and then tell them to do the same for someone else.

You never know what people are experiencing and one kind word at the right time just may be enough to save a life.  It doesn’t hurt and it doesn’t cost a thing to smile, speak or simply listen.  We are all fighting our own internal battles and at any given time, we can all need to know someone cares enough to be kind.

Skating gives you the freedom to be who you are! Has there ever been a time you were nervous to fully step into your authentic self?

There have been many times when I was nervous to fully step into my authentic self.  I think the hardest time for me was middle school/high school years just trying to fit in, wear what was trendy, make jokes being a class clown to mask my own insecurities.

I have made many a joke at the expense of someone else’s feelings just be be accepted by my peers and make them laugh.  That is something that I regret to this day.  That was certainly not who I was.  That time in my life made me contemplate giving up skateboarding entirely because the opinion of others made me believe that skateboarding “wasn’t for girls, especially black girls”.

What’s one mantra or positive quote you live by?

The one mantra or positive quote I live by is GROWTH is not found in comfort.

What advice would you give girls who want to follow their dreams and passions but are nervous or intimidated? 

For girls who want to follow their dreams and passions but are nervous or intimidated, my advice would be to find positive influences in your community, social media, etc. that will help you get through the “questioning yourself “stage of coming into your authentic self.  It is so important to believe in yourself and find someone who believes in you as well.

Time for faves! Artist? Food? Movie?

Favorite Artist: Sampha

Favorite Food: Elote (Mexican Street Corn)

Favorite Movie: Going to have to throw it back to my favorite childhood movie I can still watch and recite and sing all the words to today, Mulan.

Follow more or Christiana’s journey here!

Instagram

A Positive Seed

Survival Kit x Finals Week!

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Daily Blog, Latest | by — December 5, 2019

OH! The school year is almost over but you have to make it through finals week first! The pressure of studying everything you’ve learned this year is on. But don’t stress too much because we’ve put together Final Exams Survival Kit that will get you through.

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    1. Fresh Supplies – We all know how fresh supplies at the beginning of the school year make us feel good and put us in learning mode. Well, bring back that same energy during finals week with a fresh pack of pencils, highlighters, and sticky notes.
    2. Your favorite snacks – Use your favorite snacks as a reward for getting through that first chapter or memorizing formulas.
  1.  Noise Cancelling Headphones – Headphones that cancel out all outside noises allow you to focus on the task at hand.
  2. Noise Cancelling Headphones – Headphones that cancel out all outside noises allow you to focus on the task at hand.

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  3. Caffeine – Caffeine can give you that energy boost you’ll need when it starts to get late and you still have a sufficient amount of work to get done. Whether in the form of coffee or energy drink, make sure you consume in moderation. OR
  4. Emergen-C : During finals week we dedicate long nights to studying and therefore result in less sleep, which weakens our immune system. Keep a packet of Emergen-C nearby just in case you start to feel a little under the weather.

You’re almost at the finish line! So don’t blow it, love. We’re ready to see your victory dance after you crush this semester!

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Meet Martine’s Dream!

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Feature, Latest | by — November 4, 2019

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Imagination unlocks the secret of life’s hidden joys + dreams flourish as long as you fuel them! Debbie Martine has brought her creativity to life and continued to sprinkle her spirit + artistry into her blossoming boutique, Martine’s Dream!

Originally from Jamaica, Debbie gathered her colorful daydreams and spirit of women who shaped her to launch her boutique in Brooklyn, NY!

Living her light in creating flavorful prints + stunning silhouettes allows her to not chase trends but instead follow her fearless free spirit. Her amazing pieces encourage women to step into their authenticity and boldness of their beauty. Each piece is a collage of her global experiences that create wearable masterpieces!

How has Jamaica and Brooklyn influenced your style?

Jamaica and Brooklyn has influenced me by allowing me to express myself and be adventurous. I live by this poem:

I was born on an island the sun is within me.I reside in Brooklyn but the world is my oyster.
I am Martine. A sun woman, a traveler, a dreamer.
I am …”

This poem really captures who I am, as a person who is from Jamaica. And as a child who would tie up her dress to climb mango trees with her friends. I never stayed in a box. I would always venture out and find myself anyway I could. I am truly a child of the sun.

Can you describe yourself in 3 words or less? What are 3 colors that’s represent you as a person?

“Lover of Life!”

Blue, Yellow, and White! The colors change with season. I have always loved color even at a young age. As a child I saw a picture of India and became obsessed with colors. I made a promise to myself to go there when I grew up. I didn’t know if I would leave Jamaica, but as soon as I saw the picture I knew I would go there one day. At a young age I didn’t understand my love of color but, as I grew up I became more fascinated with color. I remind myself everyday “with Martine’s Dream I say live, love, dream in color.”

Do you feel that the neighborhood you are located in now represents Martine’s Dream? 

Yes, Martine’s Dream represents the neighborhood and brings true joy to me. This is reminded through my friends +  neighbors who are apart of the neighborhood.

Even though, the neighborhood has changed due to gentrification and the rise in property rent, my clients still travel to see me.  Also, new relationships are built through new faces in the area. These are my people.

I knew this shop was for me through the signs that were presented to me. From my friend who find the location to the circle in front of the shop. (Ms. Debbie shares the ink art/tattoo displayed on the center of her back of a circle). This was fate.

What became a struggle for you starting your own business?

Finding a balance between personal life and work because I worked where I slept.

Who would you say was there for you at your hardest times while you were building your boutique?

My friends and family have always been there for me since day one and always wished me the best especially my mother.

Who do you look up to now that you run your own boutique?

I look up to my mother, my grandmother that passed but she was always there to push me.  I also look up to Maya Angelou.

What are a few quotes you live by? 

  • “Dreams are never realized alone.”
  • “You never accomplish anything alone.”
  • “The one person who supports your dream  is a huge blessing”

Follow more of Ms. Debbie of Matine’s Dream here!

IG: @martinesdream

Website: www.martinesdream.com

Interview by Mariam Sikiru, Melanie Santiago, Naomi Aubin, Taffia Evelyn

Style Diary x Jordan!

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Fashion, Latest | by — October 29, 2019

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Scroll through the teen Style Diary of Philly-based fashion lover, Jordan!

What’s your name, age + the city you’re from?

Hello! My name is Jordan, I’m from Philadelphia.

Style is showing who you are with out having to speak! Name your top 3 trends you’re feeling this season?

My top three trends that I’m feeling this season are  leopard, platform shoes, and the rhinestone makeup look.

If you had 30 seconds to grab your 3 favorite style pieces, what would they be?

If I had 30 seconds to grab my three favorite pieces it’d definitely be my platform Doc Martens, my vintage high waist Lee mom jeans, and a white cropped T-shirt.

Style inspo is everything! Who’s your ultimate fashion icon + why?

One of my biggest fashion inspirations is Rico Nasty. She’s always authentically herself, and incorporates grunge and colorful aspects to her looks.

What’s your number 1 rule when it comes to style?

My number 1 rule when it comes to style is to just do you. And don’t forget to accessorize!

Follow more of Jordan’s style here!

Instagram

Mixed Signals?

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Relationships, Latest | by — October 22, 2019

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When you’re putting time and effort into a new guy, you want to make sure it’s worth it. Guys can be the biggest culprits of mixed signals and you don’t want to be left wondering whether or not he has feelings for you. Below, we’ve listed four “red flags” to look for. It’s important to remain honest with yourself so that you can avoid wasting your time. Then, you’ll also be ready and available for someone worth it.

He never texts you first|
Initiating a conversation shouldn’t be solely up to you. When a guy wants you, he will say anything just to have your attention. You are most likely not on his mind if he isn’t reaching out to you. Kick him to the curb.

He asks for relationship advice|
Sis, if he is coming to you for relationship advice, you have to throw the whole guy away. If he’s that into you, he’s not going to give you any idea that he doesn’t know something about relationships. He wants to be seen as the ideal man and will usually go to his friends (keyword: friends) if he needs advice.

He doesn’t make an effort to see you|
Talking on the phone and texting is one way to get to know someone, but meeting up in person is even better and if he isn’t trying to do that, then you need to move on. This means that you are not a priority and he isn’t that serious about you. On to the next!

Honestly, you can just tell|
When the vibe is right with someone you can tell. The same goes for when the vibe is off. Our instincts will tell us when something is wrong, which is why you have to listen to your gut even when you don’t want to. You can also tell from body language and your interactions if he’s into you or not. And if he isn’t, just let him go.

~ Tia Banks, Content Editor