Posts in "Feature"

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

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BY: Melanie Santiago and Jada Jackson

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!

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A Positive Seed

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

Meet Whitney Frederic!

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Feature, Latest | by — August 20, 2019

A long time love for cooking, avid research + a motivated mindset are qualities that entrepreneur, Whitney Frederic, put forth to start her company, It’s Seasoned, LLC.

Graduating from Susquehanna University in 2016, Whitney officially launched her company only two years later in November of 2018. With Haitian roots, she was actively learning her way around the kitchen at an early age. Therefore, when college came around, she was well equipped with the knowledge of how to remix her meals and eat healthily.

After receiving her Bachelor’s in Biology and doing extensive research about the rate of hypertension in the African American community, she focused on making her seasonings for that niche market and other people who want healthy seasoning options as well.

“My dream is that individuals will no longer have to compromise their health for the sake of a delicious meal, but instead can choose both.” she says.

Let’s get to know Whitney a little better…

Being a college student forces you to get creative with limited resources. What were your cooking skills like before college? How was your love for food initially sparked?

I grew up in a Haitian household where my family emphasized cooking as a fundamental skill; my mother and grandmother taught me how to cook. At the age of 9, I remember helping my mother prepare chicken, we cleaned it with vinegar and seasoned it with epis, (blend of fresh garlic, peppers, and herbs), and an array of different spices. My love for food was always present because of my upbringing, but I have to say my cooking skills developed more while in college because by my senior year I opted out of a meal plan to save money.


College students are often times working with a tight budget and have a prepaid meal plan. How did you balance eating delicious and healthy meals while on a college budget?

While on campus I worked 3 jobs, and to be completely honest, most of my money went towards food. On the bright-side, I always loved eating fruits, vegetables, rice, and oatmeal (all of which are very filling). I balanced eating delicious and healthy meals while on a college budget by eating things like oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, and for dinner, rice or pasta paired with a side of vegetables, and meat (mainly chicken, or fish). I went grocery shopping every other week, and kept my eyes on all the sales. When fresh fruits and vegetables were on sale at Walmart or Weis, I made sure to stock up on them. I stored them in the freezer in Ziploc bags until I was ready to use them; I used the fruits for smoothies, and vegetables for lunch and dinner.  


What was your go-to college food hack? My go-to college food hack was not very healthy.

I remixed Velveeta shells and cheese with my own seasoning blends, (at the time my seasoning blends were combinations of preexisting seasonings that I placed in old sprinkle bottles) with a side of broccoli and tilapia; this meal was savory, and took very little time to make.

College students often times forget that “stress eating” can cause health problems as years go by, what motivated your mission behind It’s Seasoned in helping to prevent disease especially in the African American community? Why is it important for students to be mindful at an early age of what they put in their bodies?

I was motivated to start It’s Seasoned because it allow me to showcase 3 things that I love: experimenting/cooking and helping others. Having connections both past and present with individuals who suffer from hypertension, sparked my desire to want to help prevent disease in African American communities. I believe that in many instances, a preventive approach can help eliminate this disparity.

Even more specifically, I know individuals who suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure), some of which who were prescribed Valsartan. Last summer, the FDA recalled several batches of Valsartan, a drug used to help treat hypertension and heart failure, because traces of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), were found in it. NMDA is a known carcinogen.

After learning about this recall, I was compelled to do more research. I sought to better understand the causes of hypertension. Through research, I found that many people of color suffer from illnesses like hypertension and diabetes (type 2), and in many instances diet plays a major role. Statistics like “the prevalence of hypertension in African-Americans in the United States is among the highest in the world” and “more than 40 percent of non-Hispanic African-American men and women have high blood pressure makes it very clear that hypertension is a major concern. When you are not mindful of what you place in your body, you place yourself at risk. I started It’s Seasoned LLC. to help address this risk, by offering individuals an alternative.  By way of It’s Seasoned LLC., individuals can retrieve the ingredients necessary to prepare meals without compromising their health or the flavor of their food.

Where do you see It’s Seasoned in 5 years?

I see It’s Seasoned LLC. becoming more impactful! It’s Seasoned LLC. currently serves customers in more than 15 different states; in five years I would like to see us serving individuals in all 50 states and internationally. My dream is that individuals will no longer have to compromise their health for the sake of a delicious meal, but instead can choose both. That being said, I see It’s Seasoned LLC. being outsourced, so that it is not only available on www.itsseasoned.com, but in farmer’s markets and at grocery stores like Whole Foods. In doing so, I will expand my team, master the world of advertising, and will have hosted multiple nutritional based workshops.

Follow more of her delish seasoning here:

It’s Seasoned

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~Interview by Tia Banks

Meet Sujari Britt!

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Feature, Latest | by — July 30, 2019

Take a deep dive into the beautifully wrapped world of music as cellist Sujari Britt fills the universe with mesmerizing notes and captivating sound! Hailing from New York City, New York, Sujari began her musical journey on the cello at the tender age of 4 years-old! Sujari uses her prodigious talent to pursue her passion and blaze a powerful pathway for moving the world. 

From being invited to showcase her incredible talent at the White House for President Obama to performing numerous recitals at Carnegie Hall, Sujari continues to blossom while astounding and inspiring audiences worldwide! Among her recent and upcoming performance exploits, Sujari performed in Beijing, China in the Beijing Super Cello Festival (2018). In February 2019, Sujari was a featured artist at Musiikkotalo, Cellofest Opening Gala in Helisinki, Finland. This summer, Sujari traveled to Bari, Italy where she will return in September to participate in exclusive international master classes. Also in September, Sujari will be back in the USA to perform Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor with the Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra, Ashland, Oregon.

Sujari  is the distinguished recipient of prestigious academic scholarships and awards, and grand prize winner of several national and international competitions. 

Sujari recently earned her Bachelor of Music degree  in Classical Cello Performance at  Manhattan School of Music in New York City. She presently studies with world renowned cellist and pedagogue Martti Rousi, Sibelius Academy in pursuit of her Master’s of Classical Cello. 

In addition to her solo performance calendar, Sujari actively participates in the chamber arena. Among a variety of chamber troupes in her portfolio, Sujari is a member of JoSunJari, a classical string trio with her sister Joelle and her brother Sunnaj,  who both play the violin. Sujari also is a member of Helsinki Chamber Orchestra.

Let’s get to know Sujari a little better…

You began your incredible journey as a cellist at the young age of 4 years old! What initially triggered your interest to play? At what moment did you know this was your passion + purpose? 

I fell in love with the cello’s depth and resonance, having been en-rapt by Yoyo Ma’s rendering of Saint Saens’ Swan. It was not the first time that I had heard the piece, for classical and all genres of music were constantly being pumped through our days as students of home-schooling; but I was struck and held fast at a moment. I listened, and I felt that I was hearing a reflection of my own strong voice; as if I could feel the message of the cello’s sweet sorrowful swoon. Saint Saens’ message seemed to speak to me- a clear message of a longing, a need. Moved to tears, I was caught up in emotion and intrigue; the cello captured my soul and I willed that it would carry my voice.

 You have accomplished countless jaw-dropping achievements! From playing for President Obama in the White House to sharing your gift on global stages with renowned musicians, what accomplishment makes you most proud + why?  

Through the cello, I have enjoyed myriad experiences and individuals whom I might not otherwise have encountered; including new subscribers to classical music, as well as vested connoisseurs. Having the ability and opportunities to play permit me to lengthen my reach in the world. My joy comes from touching other souls, so each of my experiences holds special treasures for me.

Watching you play the cello is extremely captivating + instantly pulls the audience into a beautiful journey, where does the music take you in that very moment in time? 

I simply abandon myself to the music! The better I can tune in to the composer’s contexts- era, style, personal history, emotional texture, story- the further the music carries me, and the more complete is my rendering. I try to embody the composer’s will, and let the cello serve to voice the adventure.

Music can be a melting pot of who you are and the inspiration around you. Who and what inspires you to express yourself on a daily basis? 

My ardor is to seek out and to accept a responsibility to move the world, note by note; ear by ear; mind by mind. Specifically, this means looking for ways to be present each day; reminding myself that the end goal for my endeavors is both influenced by and is ever a part of the path that I choose for achieving it. If I can meaningfully commune with a single other mind every day, only then am I accountable for making use of and contributing to the inspiration that this rich gift of a life of music spurs in me.

Being young, juggling responsibilities while living your dreams can sometimes get to be a bit overwhelming, how do you regroup and motivate yourself when you’re feeling a little defeated?

I have adopted the mantra to “fail forward.” For me, failing forward means that I can use ‘misses’ or moments of low energy to inform, innovate and drive my next steps. By focusing on where I am- and not just on where I want to go, I allow myself the space to experience each moment, as well as the time to strategize my next steps.

I believe that in addition to accepting defeat as a part of the path to success, it is important to know when to regroup. For me, this sometimes means that I shift gears and do something else for a bit: Relax, reflect, let go…then, redouble efforts with renewed perspective and motivation.

We are all about empowerment, what does EMPOWERMENT mean to you?

In my mind, ‘empowerment’ has to do with taking the responsibility to free oneself to be. In order to be free, it is essential to celebrate talents, recognize penchants and fantasies, and uncover and confront areas for development. I believe that it is important to set up check-points to ask ourselves: Where do I shine? What do I wish? What do I not know?

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

I offer my encouragement to all dreamers! I believe that each of us deserves the joy of having self-worth; a delight that can be achieved if we learn to dream big and set small, achievable goals for getting there. Incremental steps may mean that your journey will not result in an overnight sensation; yet, some of the most profound achievements are reached over time, space, and personal growth.

Nervousness and anxiety are par for the course. In fact, there are bound to be moments when the going may seem tougher than you imagine yourself to be. USE that energy, and find partners, colleagues, and supporters who are willing and available to hear you and to cheer you on. Regardless of how steep the climb, how long the journey, and how seemingly far-fetched the goal, you are almost never alone in your endeavors, unless you choose to be. Remember, our humanity binds us. GO FOR IT!

Time for faves! Artist? Food? Movie? 3 songs currently on your playlist?

I spend my spare time painting and doing photography- from photographing to development and printing. I enjoy cooking and baking gourmet (vegan) dishes- I have a penchant for Mediterranean and Asian styles and flavors. I also enjoy long-distance walking, and recently re-learned biking: LOVing it!  I listen to an eclectic variety of music; Little Dragon and Tigran Hamasyan are on my playlist, these days.

Follow +  learn more + follow Sujari’s journey here:

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Meet Kayla White!

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Feature, Latest | by — May 9, 2019

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Intense ambition, undeniable speed + pure focus, has North Carolina A&T State University’s track star, Kayla White turning heads with a solid smile all season long! 

Hailing from Miami, the dynamic Aggie broke the world record for the fastest indoor 200m at the prestigious Tyson Invitational this year. She then went on to set a MEAC Championship record by winning the 100m with a time of 10.96 seconds + won the 200m at 22.52 seconds, the fastest in the nation this year!

“If you love what you do, if you’re passionate about doing it, no one can take that from you,” Kayla states while conquering this season!

Let’s get to know Kayla a little better…

Hailing from Miami, when did you first take an interest in track + field and what made you want to take it seriously?

 When I first took an interest in track and field, I decided I didn’t like it after two days of practice. I eventually picked it back up in high school in my junior year and that’s when I started to take it serious. When I realize I’m good at something I make sure to commit to it.  I realized my potential and knew I had to lean into my natural talent.

Clocking the world’s fastest time in the 200 M dash is simply A-MAZ-ING! How did you feel once you finished the race + what was your reaction when you realized your time?

 Finishing that race with a PR I was pretty happy! I walked off the track, went to get dressed and cool down, when my coaches ran up to me. They gave me a huge hug of congratulations. I didn’t know it was a world lead until they told me and that’s  when all of my social media started to blow up. It truly was an amazing feeling and it still doesn’t feel real!

Being a proud Aggie at North Carolina A+T, how has the support of your team, school + coach motivated you to step into your potential?

 The support of my team, school, coaches and alumni has been there since my freshman year. Being on a team where everyone has one common goal which is to win has definitely helped me step into my potential as an athlete and as a role model. Without them pushing me on and off the track I wouldn’t be the athlete that I am today.

Track + field is such a mental sport, how do you mentally prep before a race? Best piece of advice from your coach?

 The way I mentally prepare for a meet is that I put my phone on DND and try to block out any distractions. I listen to my ‘Meet Day’ playlist from the moment I wake up until after I run. The best piece of advice that my coach has given me is to always have fun whenever you step on the track.

Being young, juggling responsibilities while walking towards your dreams can sometimes get to be a bit overwhelming, how do you regroup and motivate yourself when you’re feeling a little defeated?

 Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed or a little stressed I like to take mental days for myself. So I’ll probably take myself to the movies or to dinner, or get my nails done. 

We are all about empowerment, what does EMPOWERMENT mean to you?

What empowerment means to me is uplifting and supporting everyone around you.

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

 The advice I would give them is if you love what you do, if you’re passionate about doing it, no one can take that from you! So embrace your talents and have fun!

Follow more of Kayla here! Instagram

Meet Isis Christopher!

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Feature, Latest | by — February 26, 2019

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Sweet lyrics fueling your daydreams matched with a cool + powerful voice that sweeps you away describes singer + songwriter, Isis Christopher!

Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, she recently graduated from Fisk University with a BS in Biochemistry/ Molecular Cell Biology. Knowing that her inner desire, true love and talent was wrapped in her musical gifts, she leaned into her purpose and gave the world her beautiful vocals + her authentic energy.

Recently dropping her 14:14 mixtape, Isis Christopher radiates in her truth and continues to empower each listening ear. She says, “I tell my own story. Sharing some of my vibe. That is my individuality. There is no place for unnecessary drama when the goal is love.”

Let’s get to know Isis Christopher a little better…

Currently living in Nashville, what motivated you to begin sharing your beautiful vocals + creating a lane for your talent?

Well, after graduating from Fisk University in 2017 with a BS in Biochemistry/ Molecular Cell Biology, it felt like more than ever I was pulled to share my voice and explore the possibilities of my artistic expression. I never really gave myself permission to do it before… I guess because I was never given permission as a little girl. But singing has always been one of the few things in life that gave me such raw pure joy and energy. I’ve wanted to sing and write songs ever since I could remember; singing has always been a part of me, almost like breathing, but I was never encouraged to pursue it seriously. Education was always my parent’s top priority. But once I graduated, honestly it felt like I had an obligation to the universe and to humanity; to share my voice and to share my story. I feel as though emerging into adulthood, I am really just now learning who I am, the philosophies I live by, and what I want. I always felt suffocated not doing what I truly loved. I share my art because, although scary, it is empowering.  It feels good for me and it feels good to make others feel good. Why not use the tools God gifted you with to help empower and inspire those around you?

You recently launched a video for your single COLORS! The video and lyrics pull you in with its feel-good vibe + heartfelt lyrics. What’s your writing process like when it comes to your songs?

Honestly, the process is a little bit different with each song that I write. Contrary to popular preference, I write all my lyrics in my iPhone Notes, that way I have them with me everywhere I go. I’m able to jot down lines of inspiration as they come and keep them organized. For me, songwriting is about feeling something, through melody and rhythm. Lyrics make these musical components concrete. And when a lyrical melody dances in balance with an accompanying chord progression, beat, or whatever it maybe, the song really comes to life. Because I am an untrained musician, besides high school marching band, I strongly go off frequency or feeling, components that are moreso metaphysical and less technical. The feeling always correlates with the inspiration, story, or message of the song. The powerful thing about songwriting is how it is able to take you back and relive certain memories, and emotions.

Not only do you have a smooth and captivating voice but you play a 6 string uke called a guitulele! How did you learn to play?

Haha thanks so much! Funny story, so I bought my ex a guitulele one Christmas…fast forward to about a year and a half after the break up, I find the guitulele tucked away in my closet. So naturally, I picked it up and started messing with it. I learned how to play as I was songwriting. I actually started writing Colors (March of 2018) just a couple of days after I first picked up the guitulele. And it’s like with each song I wrote, I explored different chords and strumming patterns.  I eventually became more comfortable with fundamentals of the instrument, like fingerpicking and executing barre chords. Each song I tried to challenge myself more. Just as I was and continue to develop my skills as a guitulele player, I also continue to learn to be more comfortable with singing and playing spontaneously, a whole other skill in itself.

In a time where talent can come secondary behind tons of gimmicks, what’s one way you protect your individualism? Is their pressure to conform? 

I protect my individualism by not pressuring myself to be who I think I need to be to “make it”. I am naturally a very quiet person, so for me its always about the music, the message, and the feelings first. I tell my own story. Sharing some of my vibe. That is my individuality. There is no place for unnecessary drama when the goal is love. When I remember to cast my ego aside and let the energy flow, life flows.

I’m blessed to be surrounded by and growing within a community in Nashville that values authenticity and love. Everything is love. Everyone is love. Art is love. So I don’t feel like there is pressure to conform. However, I admit that there is a rather slick inner critic that tries to make me feel bad for my introverted nature and not having the typical characteristics of an entertainer. Because I know my truth in that there is no shame in being a quiet person, I counteract that critic through acknowledgment then dismissal, and by encouraging me to just be me.

Music can be a melting pot of who you are and the inspiration around you, who inspires you to continue to express yourself?

Friends and family inspire me to continue to express myself. Society inspires me to continue to express myself. The future inspires me to express myself. I feel as through in order to truly spread light and to love, those around me deserve the real the true me. And truthfully, I am still learning how to express myself and who the true me really is. It truly is a process, the journey of life if you will.

We are all about empowerment, what does EMPOWERMENT mean to you?

Empowerment is living the realization that I am my own teacher, leader, healer. I feel as through having the courage to face your journey and the challenges it brings forth is empowerment. I feel as though empowerment is self-progression and elevation of self. Empowerment is accountability and action. Pair empowerment with your wildest dreams and with the homegirl faith, and you’ve got a success baby.

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

I was there not long ago. I didn’t have the courage to confidently sing in front of others or to consciously go after what my heart so longed for… not until after I had graduated from college (Fisk University ’17). It’s difficult when everything and everyone around is telling you that what you want is not possible. That agreement you make with your inner self believing that they are right seeps into your subconscious… and your subconscious directs life’s manifestations. But it’s not your fault. I believe once you have the understanding that you are the God of your life, the “captain of your soul”, anything you say goes. Granted it is scary to possess all that power in your mind (learning how to leverage that power is a whole other thing!), but if you have the power to align your life with your soul’s frequency, why not use it? And honestly, life is too short not to choose love; it’s too short not to do what you love. Why choose to suffer when you can choose heaven? It is a scary thing but the truth always prevails. You are going to have to get uncomfortable. It is not easy so be patient with yourself. Love yourself. Everything is a process. Everyone has their own unique process. There is no need to compare yours with anyone else’s.  

Time for faves! Celeb Crush? Artist? Food? Movie?

Rihanna will forever by my celeb crush. Aaliyah ranks as my all-time favorite artist, but right now my favorite artist is definitely H.E.R.

Honestly, I love any food with cheese, so I have a soft spot for Mexican and Italian food. But I just love food, I will eat anything tasty, but I do prefer moreso plant-based meals.

Not to be a 90s baby cliché, but The Lion King has always been my all-time fav movie. My fav movie right now would be Black Panther and Avatar. The graphics, storylines, and executions were spot on.

Follow more of Isis Christopher’s music!

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Meet Saneit Monae!

Cool vibes + a captivating voice introduces talented singer/songwriter Saneit Monae! Authentic lyrics meshed with effortless soul, she continues to flourish on the musical scene while unleashing her passions and talents.

Hailing from Chicago, the songstress went on to graduate from Howard University with a major in Public Relations/ Graphic Design Minor. Her musical career continued in the D.C. area which created a platform for her creativity to blossom.

Saneit’s love of music began at the tender age of five being a member of her church’s youth choir and led to interests of a vocal coach at only ten years old. This opened up a new world for her as she began to write her own lyrics and recording at 16 years old.

She recently dropped her addictive singles + videos for “The Real Me” + “No Luv 4 U.”

Saneit says, “I always remind myself that when I sing I’m not singing for myself, it’s for someone else. My goal is to move my audience. I want them to hear how passionate I am from beginning to end. “

Let’s get to know Saneit Monae a little better…

Hailing from Chicago, what first led you to tap into + discover your soulful vocals?

Growing up in Chicago, I was first led into music by my home church. My mom noticed I could sing at the age of 3 and at the age of 5 I joined the children’s choir. I always sang songs around the house when I was a little girl. My mom would always blast her favorite CD’s and I think the very first vocalist I learned to sing from was Whitney Houston. My passion for music never died once I discovered it! My mom placed me in extracurricular activities where I could showcase my talents. By the age of 10, I was taking vocal lessons.

You’re a recent graduate of Howard Univesity who majored in PR with a minor of Graphic Design! How did attending a HBCU aid in molding your talents + discovering who you are?

Attending the number one HBCU in the nation was an incredible experience. This was my dream school, so I enjoyed everything that it offered me academically and socially. Howard gave me a space to find myself and grow as an artist. The university is filled with so many creative and talented individuals. Everyone is pretty much working towards the same goals. It’s inspiring, and I’ve learned from many of them. Throughout every semester, there were endless opportunities to show my talents. Even when I was denied after auditioning for certain showcases, it made me hungrier. I gained the greatest of friends and supporters during my four years. Howard is known for breeding the greatest, so I believe that I am the next special Bison. I also feel like I have big shoes to fill, but I’m ready. By Howard being in D.C., I also networked outside of campus. I’ve built relationships with independent artists from all over the city and gained mentorship from musicians who have been in the industry for several years.

You recently put out a dope video for the song “The Real Me”. There’s such a relatable line that says “You tell me I’m sweet but I act so tough.” Why is it important to express your authentic emotions, strength + personality through your lyrics?

One thing I’ve learned is that the audience loves to feel like they can relate. I know when I listen to songs I sometimes imagine myself as the artist and the emotions they’re going through, but that only happens through authentic music. I always remind myself that when I sing I’m not singing for myself, it’s for someone else. My goal is to move my audience. I want them to hear how passionate I am from beginning to end. I’ve always wanted my music to reflect my personality. I’ve never been shy or hid myself, so you have no choice but to feel me. I want to be so great that my song is on repeat. I want to make them wish the song never ended.

In a time where talent can come secondary behind tons of gimmicks, what’s one way you protect your individualism? Is their pressure to conform?

You have to stay true to who you are. While there are tons of gimmicks real recognize real. Anything fake will only last so long. I don’t feel any pressure to conform, because nothing unrealistic motivates me. I love me some me, and anything that prevents me from being who I am is not something I’m willing to sacrifice. I don’t know how to be anyone else and one thing’s for sure it’ll never be another Saneit. Growing up I was not the “it” girl, so I grew into this confidence I now have. I was the tall, skinny, dark skinned girl. For a while I started to believe that I wasn’t as cute as the other girls because I was flat chested, skinny, and my skin was dark. My mom made me read this book called “The Skin I’m In” and truthfully, I’ve loved and accepted myself ever since then. I’m protecting me at all cost. If God is for me who can be against me?

Being young, juggling responsibilities while walking towards your dreams can sometimes get to be a bit overwhelming, how do you regroup and motivate yourself when you’re feeling a little defeated?

Adulting makes you want to call your mom for every little thing. Some days I definitely want to be 16 again, but everyone has to grow up. It’s funny how everyone else around me looks at me and says how proud they are of me, meanwhile I’m struggling and juggling aka Mrs. Do It All. There are times where I want to stop, but I realize how far I’ve come. When I’m feeling overwhelmed I give myself a day or two of doing absolutely nothing. That means I’m not taking any hair appointments, I won’t write or listen to any music, I just need to be to myself and my thoughts. A lot of people don’t know, but I draw and that’s definitely quiet time for me. Just me and my pencil. I also keep a lot of emotions inside so I’ll probably cry in the shower and then I’m back to normal.

We are all about empowerment, what does EMPOWERMENT mean to you?

Empowerment to me is making the commitment to improve who you are and who you inspire. We are all constantly evolving, so everyday we are going through changes. There is power in words. I’ve been told when I speak people listen, so I will make it my business to use my voice for the betterment of others, whether I am speaking or singing.

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

For girls who are following their dreams and passions it is important that you know exactly who you are and what you’re capable of. Everything that you dream of is on the other side of fear. No one else can get up and go get up for you. No one else is going to set alarms for you and remind you to do what you’re supposed to do either. Know your calling and move accordingly. There isn’t anything impossible for you even if people attempt to stop you from getting it. Your gift will make room for you.

Time for faves! Celeb Crush? Artist? Food? Movie?

This is funny, because I haven’t had a celebrity crush in so long but I’ll go with Quincy. He know he fine. I have more than one favorite artist, but everyone knows how much I love Monica. Musically, she gave birth to me because my mommy can’t sing. Shout out to my mommy though! My favorite food is pizza, but my favorite kind of food is Mexican food. My favorite movie is The Preacher’s Wife and Home Alone.

Follow Saneit Monae Here!

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Meet Alexandra’s Art!

Turning daily inspiration into dope + vibrant art, Alexandra Yasmine Togba has the magic touch of creating captivating characters that you wish were apart of your girl squad! Originally, born in the Ivory Coast of West Africa, she grew up in Montreal and continues to flourish in Toronto, Canada.

Alexandra unleasehes her artistic energy + creativity as a Freelance Illustrator and Comic Book Artist. Not only does she express herself through art but gives her audience a “slice of life” by making each character relatable. Every illustration creates a sense of connection with a glimpse of reality. Representing and developing diverse characters of color allows each girl to find herself in her expressive art.

Let’s get to know Alexandra a little better…

Your illustrations are vibrant, eye catching and tell such an authentic story, what made you want to express yourself through art?
I’ve always gravitated towards creative and artistic outlets: whether it’s painting, drawing, writing, (even piano at some point) I’ve always needed a way to express myself in other ways than to just speak out. Art gives me a break from life, a moment to myself to relax and focus on an alternate universe I’ve created in my head. I need this disconnection from life’s anxieties from time to time.

Life is filled with ups and downs and we all experience such an array of emotions, why is it important for you to showcase genuine illustrations of girls expressing real life emotions?
I feel like women of color, we don’t get the representation we deserve. We are often misrepresented, overlooked and/or shown expressing negative emotions only. Especially in the art world. If I can uplift and offer a better representation of WOCs, why not do it? I want to change the narrative a little to not have us feeling bad for existing, I want to show that we fit in this world just as much as everybody else.

As a comic book artist, what’s your all-time fave comic book?
Weirdly enough, I don’t read comic books that much anymore. In the past years my faves were ‘Aya from Yop city’ , ‘Blacksad’, ‘Inuyasha’ and ‘Saga’. I grew up reading ‘Nathalie’ a comic book by Belgian author Sergio Salma. I’d say this is my favorite comic book from my childhood, but for my adul I can’t choose.

Your illustrations also celebrate the LGBTQ community in such a beautiful way, why is it significant that young women of color are represented in your characters within the community?
I enjoy having people relate to my characters. I want them to feel safe expressing themselves without feeling judged. As I said earlier, representation of WOCs is something I want to push forward. We don’t have that much characters that look like us to relate to. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I feel like WOC representation is needed in the community as well. You can see that just by how people enjoy my characters Jennifer and Cassandra.

What advice would you give girls who want to follow their dreams and passions but are nervous or intimidated?
You can either be miserable because you didn’t follow your dreams and you’re living the life of someone else, or be miserable because of the challenges that are thrown your way during the process of following your dreams. In the end, only one outcome will be beneficial to you. It is a risk that you have to be willing to take. Leap and the net will appear.

Being young, juggling responsibilities while walking towards your dreams can sometimes get to be a bit overwhelming, how do you regroup and motivate yourself when you’re feeling a little defeated?
I love printing motivational quotes and sticking them to the walls in my room. So that these quotes are the first things I see when I open my eyes in the morning. It helps motivate me out of bed and reminds me of my potential. Sure, there are days where I ignore them and decide to stay in bed all day, but I try not be too hard on myself when it happens. Allow yourself to rest. You can’t be as productive as you want to if you don’t take a break from everything from time to time.

We are all about empowerment, what does EMPOWERMENT mean to you?
Empowerment to me is giving someone the confidence to live their best life. Make them know their worth and potential to accomplish what they desire. That is what I want my drawings and stories to convey.

Fun Faves! Fave Food? Artist? Song? Celeb Crush?
-My favorite food is a meal from Ivory Coast named ‘Attieke’ we usually eat it with some fried plantains, braised chicken and/or Tilapia fish. I love it!
-Fave artist: I have too many fave artists to choose!! But my top 3 would be Beyoncé, Kehlani and Jay Park.
-Fave song: these days is Body count by Jessie Reyes ft Normani and Kehlani.
-Celeb crush: I love a lot of different people, Kehlani, Amara La Negra,Park Jimin, G-dragon, Idris Elba, Trevante Rhodes ect. #PansexualProblems

 

Follow more of Alexandra’s DOPE art here:

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Meet TAMISH!

Have you ever just want to go after your passion no matter the sacrifices? Singer-songwriter TAMISH not only quit her job in advertising but she decided to pursue her passion for music full-time!

TAMISH has opened up for major artists including Babyface, Kelly Price, Slick Rick and MC Lyte. She has also provided back up vocals for Mariah Carey, Slick Rick, Charlie Wilson and T.I. on Showtime at the Apollo and Andra Day on BET’s Black Girls Rock. TAMISH is living passionately to inspire others and to make her songs have meaning.

You were born and raised in Chicago, what was it like growing up?

I grew up on the west side of Chicago, K – Town, so that’s in the hood. Chicago has some segregated parts of the neighborhoods. Being from K – Town, I was in the community but I was never influenced by it or it’s lifestyle from people who were in gangs, on drugs, etc. It made me want to do something more. Girls use to love the gangsters but that was not for me. I was never attracted to the bad boy type.
My mom and dad are both college graduates so I was exposed to a different lifestyle. My mom was trying to make it clear that I would see two different aspects of the black experiences: viewing people on drugs in my neighborhood and the college educated in my household.

For your debut, “Met You”, what inspired you to create that song?

Once I graduated from college, I moved to New York City and worked in advertising. Then I quit my job and focused on music full time because I felt lead to do so by the Lord. I moved to Los Angeles and I had an opportunity to work in a studio in LA. While working there I was able to record my music.
I wrote “Met You” in New York, but I didn’t have anyone here to help me put it all together. I recorded “Met You” out in LA and we literally created it from the ground up. And was able to add all of the musical elements that I wanted. Then I recorded a rough version of it. I wasn’t sure what kind of sound I wanted to go for when I was ready to release my first project. Once I recorded it and when I first heard it, I was like “this is something I will release and share to the world”.

You have opened for many major artists and have sang backup for many artists, how have those experiences affected your career?

I think it was life – changing because I knew I felt like I needed to do it and I went for it. The opportunities just reassured me that I made the right decision because from quitting my job to pursue a singing career, I felt like I was a little crazy. However, it made it clear that what God gave to me was true. I didn’t apply for these opportunities that came to me so I can’t take credit for anything. People who heard and believed in me recommended me to others. It made me feel validated. Once I released my debut and I had my single release show, that’s when I got connected with an opportunity to open for Babyface, and then Mariah Carey. I didn’t apply for any of these opportunities. Because of this, it helps keep me in check.

What was the biggest challenges you have faced as a singer?

I think the first one was finding my sound like what I want to talk about. If you’re not clear on what you want to talk about, you will write crazy stuff that you don’t believe in. Even in the beginning, we were writing songs or writing stuff with crazy topics I wouldn’t even say. It made me really clear on what I want to talk about and what I wanted to stand for as a creative person. I wanted to make sure that I talk about something that means something and worth releasing.

We are all about empowerment, what does it mean to you?
Educating, liberating and activating a person or group of people to take charge of their lives, and choices, and make a change, if needed, for the better.

Tune in + follow Tamish’s beautiful voice here!

Website: www.Tamishonline.com
Get social here! @tamishonline

Interview by: A’yanna Rouse, Teen Writer + C.O.R.E Intern