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Meet Jewelry Designer Lorraine West!

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Feature, Latest | by — November 24, 2020

Interview by teen bloggers: Lynara Richards + Aiyana Lockley

Lorriane West went from being intrigued by her mother’s jewelry as a child to creating a successful jewelry brand. Her interest in jewelry and art began at a young age and ever since then she never lost sight of that dream to become an artist! She went on to go to FIT and gain a degree in Fine Arts. Years later in 2010 that’s when she became a full time entrepreneur.

Her beautiful designs have been worn by Erykah Badu, Keke Palmer, Serena Williams, Zendaya, + Beyonce in the Black Is King video. Ms.West is still continuing to create dynamic + captivating jewelry today!

Let’s get to know Jewelry Designer Lorraine West a little better…

LynaraOk so my first question is what did you study in high school that showed you that design was your passion?

Lorraine: In high school, I had many subjects but art was my main focus.  I loved art and visual art which led me to take drawing and painting classes. You have to start somewhere, right?  I had a lot of support from teachers, friends and family because I always knew I was an artist since the first grade.  

Aiyana: What challenges have you faced as a Black woman in the jewelry design industry? 

Lorraine: Oh, that’s a good question as well! The challenge I faced the most was not having the support from the industry. I would say half of my career I was mostly around other women and men of color that appreciated my work and it did help lift me and catapult me to a certain level of success.  I didn’t have access to the so-called standard of the industry though. The industry is primarily ran by Caucasions which I didn’t have those connections nor did I seek for access. 

I told myself I’m just going to live in this realm and rock out with the people that appreciate me. In terms of support from Caucasians it was a small percentage.  I just got used to that. I got used to  when I apply for a job they probably wouldn’t hire me. They’ll tell me my work is great. They’ll see my name a lot of the time and think “oh Lorraine West sounds great, love your name” and then when they see it was a brown person it was a very different reaction.

I went on an interview with a designer named Alexis Bittar who is a legendary designer. I used to revere him so much and loved the work he did. It was early 2000 that I saw there was a job opportunity on Craigslist for Alexis Bittar. I was so excited to possibly have a chance to work with him. I happened to get an interview. 

Alexis Bittar comes in to interview me and at the time I didn’t have as much jewelry as I have  now.  I was meeting with him  and thinking “I can’t believe it, this is crazy” but something shifted in me when I sat down with him. I didn’t feel he was better or greater. I felt like we were on the same page. Here I am a black girl, no publicist, no money,  just kind of making it work with whatever I sell, investing back in the business and I was able to get my work on celebrities. 

He told me I had a strong point of view.  I have a degree in Fine Arts so I showed my illustrations. He said. “Your jewelry has a point of view and I don’t know if you would be a good fit here because I need someone who is going to shadow me.” Right then and there I told myself that I am not applying for these jobs anymore. I’m going to keep doing my work and that was the switch!

The universe wanted me to meet him. The universe knows what’s up! If I were to work for him I don’t think I would be where I’m at now and where my work is now. If you feel like you’re trying and trying and people are not hearing you, you gotta go harder for what you do. 

Lynara: It was great to hear your insight and to hear of the opportunities you took to make yourself greater! When did you know that this was your passion and something you wanted to do with the rest of your life?

Lorraine: Well, I knew that I always wanted to be an artist because I do consider myself an artist first.  I just happen to be a jeweler at the moment. In first grade I entered a contest and my drawing came in second place! I knew then that I wanted to do art. Sharing your point of view and getting rewarded for it, I loved it!  I just felt like I had a talent for it and  kept doing it.

I remember when I was in college something came over me. I had an impulse to go to a store on 38th street. They sold beads, wire, plated wire and all this different stuff. It was almost like the ancestors whispered in my ear “go inside there and go buy some stuff and try it out”.  I  started playing around and giving things to friends. They would wear it and some of them weren’t even anything great, but people believed in me at the time and I guess it was cool. When I made my first sale I knew this was for me! I made my first sale in like ‘97 or ‘98. But I continued doing it ‘98 to ‘99 and that was when I started selling custom work. I did meet a few influential people in the industry that invested in me.

I didn’t really know what I was doing that well. That was the time around the, late 90s early 2000s a lot of people were still sort of coming into themselves. Not to say that you aren’t coming into yourselves now but 20 years later so much has advanced. If you’re in any industry now you can advance quicker than maybe when I was in the industry because I wasn’t using the internet then. I don’t think I got an email address until the early 2000’s. I knew that this was what I wanted to add to my repertoire as an artist. And I just went with it and truly tried it. It wasn’t like I wanted to be the best jeweler in the whole world. I simply wanted to create and the fact that I could make money was awesome! It’s been 22 years that I’ve been selling my work as a professional.  

(Instagram)

Aiyana: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a jewelry business?

Lorraine: The advice I would give is learn the technicality of jewelry. Learn what type of jewelry is going to float your boat. If you’re wire wrapping I would say take a class. YouTube is phenomenal! You can learn how to make jewelry.

There  cold connection, wax modeling and CAD. There are some people who only use cad. They work for companies and work for designers. The designer gives you the sketch or the ideas and they punch it into the cad. They create the model where they can print and then cast.

There are also hand fabricators. There are people who do all of that. A little bit of everything. Then there’s the designers that focus on the look and the feel and the technical designers who will produce it. 

Once you jump into the professional realm you have to deliver a really good product to the expectation of the customer because they’re paying you. Start somewhere, start at whatever piece you’re into first. Start from there + do whatever type of design you feel connected to.

Lynara: How do you get your ideas for your jewelry pieces, what influences your ideas for the jewelry?

Lorraine: That’s a good question. Honestly, I feel like a lot of my influences, I don’t even know where it comes from. It just comes at  different times. I feel like we’re constantly seeing things so they’re stored in our subconscious mind. I mean in my bio I have my inspiration being geometry, symbology and experience. I really love symbols and love to abstract symbols.

For example, I have an astrological collection that I’m going to be relaunching. They’re cuffed bracelets and their a glimpse of the Astro signs where I like to stretch them out so they can cover your arm. I designed those almost 20 years ago and sold some here and there but never put out a full the collection.  I’m excited, but I made the samples and realized that because I evolved as a designer the sketches I used then I have outgrown so now I’ll be updating it.  I even did a little film for it with a director that looks beautiful and will eventually be released.  I’m constantly thinking of how I can improve.

The next stage for me is passing off the work and getting trusted manufacturers. When I say manufacturers it can be a small company of 1-4 people that are masters of the trade and are used to being in the business of producing the inventory of collections.

The more your business grows you have to learn to articulate your vision. You can sketch something but how thick do you want the gauge to be? What size stone are you gonna put in the piece? How many stones? You have to be clear because the manufacturer doesn’t know those details. Only you know what you want.  If you have a little bit of experience with designing and making pieces yourself, you’ll be  able to communicate it.

Aiyana: Do you have a favorite piece that You have made, if so what is it?

Lorraine: Well my favorite pieces are the ones that I’m wearing now! This is actually bezel wire. This is a wire that you use to put around a setting but because I feel like I wasn’t classically trained I use certain materials in different ways. I saw this garland and I loved the way the shape looked with the round beads.

Growing up my mother had a horseshoe over the door for good luck and she’s like if you have it facing up all the good luck will poor in and if you face it down you want to give it to others. So this is one of my favorite pieces!

My other favorite is my open heart ring which is kind of an evolved version of wire wrapping and bending.  I started  with wire and you can use wire and make it more sophisticated.

 I like jewelry to be a part of me. I don’t have any tattoos so the jewelry serves as like a tattoo. Then these are one of my favorite hoops, they are called the nipple hoops and this is actually inspired from bangles that I made almost 20 years ago. Serena Williams actually wore the same ones I’m wearing. So when pieces get seen and worn by people particularly people of high influence it does kind of give you that confidence.

You have to develop a thick skin because there is a lot of competition and when I say competition I don’t mean in a negative way. You are competing. It’s like athletes when they are playing they are competing with each other and they are competing with the best. If you are at that high level you are competing with the best. 

Follow more of Lorraine’s West jewelry  journey here:

Lorraine West

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#Freshman5 x Kene Kae!

 
Take note of Kenechukwu’s #Freshman5 Must-Knows for your freshman year in college!
 
Name: Kenechukwu Uwajeh

What college/university do you attend:

The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Friendship/Relationship:

Don’t feel obligated to stay with the first people that you meet in college! It can be really easy to get stuck in a bubble. I encourage you to branch out until you find your place with friends you genuienly connect with on campus.

Classes/Studying:

Utilize the 20 to 5 or 30 to 10 studying method. Essentially, this means studying for 20-30 minutes (no distractions) and breaking for 5-10 minutes to rejuvenate. You’re brain will love you for this.

Budgeting Money:

You do not need an elaborate budgeting plan. However, you SHOULD ATLEAST give yourself a cap on how much to spend each month. You can even get more specific by putting a limit on specific categories like food/groceries.

Time Management: 

If you don’t have a planner, get one immediately. I recommend getting one that has times listed for each day so you can get a better glimpse of what that specific day should look like (even if you don’t strictly follow it). This has changed my life!

Self-care:

Try to schedule a little bit of time each day and/or one day out of the week to do something that you enjoy. You don’t want to burn out by over indulging in work and school.

Follow more of Kenechukwu’s journey:

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Skate With Sade!

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Feature, Latest | by — September 1, 2020

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ROLL, BOUNCE, SKATE vibes is what skater Sade is serving all of 2020!  Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, the talented 19 year-old rekindled her love for roller skating + has inspired her digital community during qurantine to lace up, have fun + zone out. Documenting her journey as she masters her ‘Skater Bucket’ list showcases her bubbly personality matched with her addictive playlist. Sade’s  fresh skills + style will leave you feeling inspired to not only roller skate but conquer your goals!

Let’s get to know Sade a little better…

Watching your skating videos makes us want to lace us + head to the rink! What or who inspired you to start roller skating?
I have been roller skating ever since I was around 6 years old when my dad would take me to the rink and taught me how to skate. As I got older, I went to the rink maybe 2-3 times a year up until recently when I finally decided to get into skating more! I was always inspired by seeing amazing skaters at my local rink that would just glide across the floor with such ease. It was something extremely mesmerizing to watch and I would also tell myself I’d love to skate like them but never actually tried. The only thing I really knew how to do in skates was go forwards, turn, and stop by running into the wall! However, all of that changed when this February 2020 I was scrolling through my timeline on Instagram and randomly saw a skater who I now know is @lilyskatesalot on Instagram and was blown away by her skills! I didn’t realize it was possible to roller skate outdoors until that moment and I was hooked!

For hours after I found myself deep into watching other skate videos on instagram and spent the rest of the month researching different types of skates to buy. And now here I am today doing the 365 days of skating challenge!

Whats your fave ol’ school + new school songs you like to skate to?
Oh man there are so many! A large majority of my playlist is made up of old school songs and some of my favorites to skate to are “Get Off” by Foxy, “Love Come Down” by Evelyn “Champagne” King, “Give It To Me Baby” by Rick James, “Hollywood Swinging” by Kool &  The Gang, “Let it Whip” by Dazz Band, “Stomp” by The Brothers Johnson, and “Let’s Get Married –
ReMarqable Remix” by Jagged Edge.

Some of my favorite new school songs to skate to are “Toast” by Koffee, “Tadow” by Masego, “Work REMIX” by A$AP Ferg, “Jerry Sprunger” by Tory Lanez, “Spaceships + Rockets” by Bas; LION BABE, and pretty much anything by Childish Gambino or Chris Brown! The music you listen to can really make skating an even more magical experience and feel as if you are in your own world.

Practice leads to perfection which is easier said than done! What’s the hardest move youve nailed?
Toe spins! After lots and lots of practice, frustration, and determination I can say I have nailed the ability to do toe spins. However, there is still lots of room for improvement in store for me since toe spins have a ton of different variations that I am currently working on!

Being able to express yourself is such a gift! How does skating make you feel? What’s your ultimate goal as a skater?
The first thing I think of when someone asks me what it feels like to skate is like a butterfly. I feel like I can fly and go wherever I want to with my skates as if they have a mind of their own. Roller Skating is an amazing form of expression, self care, emotional release, and utter joy. Whether that’s lacing up at the rink, trail, skatepark, tennis court, parking lot..really any place I can roll is happiness for me. It is freedom on eight wheels and there is never a day that I regret joining the skate community.

My ultimate goal as a skater is not only to achieve a list of moves on my “skate bucket list” but also have a certain flow and style that I am comfortable with. It can be hard to explain in words but it’s something I feel will take a couple years to finally feel “achieved” and I look forward to that moment!

Being young, juggling responsibilities while reaching your dreams can sometimes get to be a bit overwhelming, how do you regroup and motivate/inspire yourself when you’re feeling a little defeated?
Recently, skating has been my way to regroup and motivate myself when I am feeling defeated or overwhelmed as a way to “escape”. However, my main way to do that especially before skating was through music! Listening to music is something so therapeutic and powerful for me and I do not know what I’d do without it. There are so many talented musicians out there that have no idea how big of an impact their voice, sound, and message have not only on me but on so many others as well.

One song I have gone back to for many years whenever I am really feeling down is called “All Right” by Carolyn Malachi. It is something about the combination of her voice, the violin in the background, and her assuring me that I am going to be alright helps every time. On the other hand, even songs that are more catchy and created for fun and dancing can have a huge impact on my mood as well!

Oftentimes black girls are labeled with numerous stereotypes, what’s a way we can continue to break barriers and create an authentic representation of ourselves?
BE OURSELVES!!! We are way too often put down, judged, or expected to act and look a certain way and for those reasons it can be difficult to live out our dreams and best lives. It can create a pressure to feel as if we need to change ourselves or act like someone we are not in order to be successful and respected but that is NOT the case at all.

As black girls we have so much strength, passion, and intelligence within us that is just waiting to be shared with the world. We are the beauty and the brains that are needed in so many fields in society whether that be STEM, Healthcare, Law and Policy, Arts, Education…you name it. We need to continue to break down the barriers that keep us from entering the fields of our dreams and showing the world the black girl magic we embody everyday.

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

I don’t really have a mantra but one thing I do always live by is to never pass up an opportunity. No matter how big or small, an opportunity is an opportunity and you never know how far it can take you! It could be something as small as going to a community event to as big as attending a career fair. If you don’t go, if you don’t speak up, if you don’t take the chance then you will never know what you may have missed out on. The same thing even applies for me when skating! There are some things I thought I never in my life would do such as dropping in at a skatepark. But one day the park was empty and I had the chance right then to attempt to drop in and I did successfully! Even though not all opportunities will end in happiness and success, at least a valuable lesson was learned!

Time for faves! Artist? Food? Movie? Celeb crush?
My favorite artist of all time is Childish Gambino and seeing him in concert for the first time two years ago was one of the most memorable experiences of my life! I also really love Maxwell, dvsn, and Erykah Badu.

As far as eating goes, I love all pastas especially spaghetti, Taharka
Bros Honey Graham Ice Cream, and Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn.

For movies I could watch Spiderman Into the Spiderverse, Do The Right Thing, and Let it Shine a million times and never get tired of any of them! And a Celeb crush I don’t think I really have a set one but I am sure there are many that I would very likely become speechless if I was approached by any one of them HAHA. 

Follow more of Sade’s skate journey here!

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#AskAnActivist: Sophie Ming

Owning your voice + dismantling systems that were created for oppression is not only a right but a responsibility we each possess! From tackling a variety of thought-provoking cultural topics on her YouTube channel to leading protests in the streets of NYC for justice, Sophie Ming is unleashing her voice both in the digital world + her community.

As a college student, Sophie has launched her platform NYC Youth Collective with clear + strong messaging to defund the police. Not allowing Black Lives Matter to be a moment or a trend but a movement to create long-lasting change.

An authentic voice leading a generation of massive progress for the future.

Let’s get to know Sophie Ming a little better…

From organizing impactful protests to pushing powerful initiatives for change within the black community, what made you want to use your voice + platform to launch the NYC Youth Collective? 

The NYC Youth Collective for me was my passion for social justice reform and my love for the youth coming together to form one organization. Also, it’s so extremely important for us to be having conversations about race with young people, right now. The reason why we have so many white, uneducated, and racist adults in power is because those adults never learn about intersectionality, racial inequality, and white privilege. This is something that’s very new, but something I want to give momentum to. And I encourage other leaders and organizers to do the same.

Defunding the police can make a radical change within our communities; what do you want people to understand about reallocating the police department’s funds? 

Something that I always say is “defunding the police means saving black lives.” It’s so common for people to hear “defund the police” and then get scared and skeptical. It’s okay to not know exactly what society will look like without police, but we already know what it looks like with police. It’s a literal civil war against black Americans and our entire race is being killed nation wide. That is what communities with the police currently look like, that can’t be the finish line.

How key is it to know your city council member that represents your neighborhood + exercising your voice through your vote?

I will always stand behind voting and staying in contact with your reps. Politics is scary if you’re black. The entire system is set up without considering our identities. It’s easy to shy away from contacting your reps and getting involved but I cannot stress how important it is. There will always be such immense power in numbers. That being said, we can demand and vote for change all we want and if it isn’t delivered, that’s when we use our power to shut it down.

There’s been a major spark of reminding the Black Lives Matter movement that  ALL black lives matter including black girls/women, the LGBTQIA+ community, and people with disabilities. How can individuals keep shedding light to the importance of unity + support within the black community?

We can only keep the movement united if we keep our peers and ourselves in check. This means seeing past your own experience as a black individual to other black individuals who may be even more marginalized. This means although I have my own marginalized experience being  a black woman, I have to be able to check my privileged being cisgender, or able bodied. It’s hard for people to look past their own experience and check their own privilege but it’s absolutely necessary to prevent certain identities in the black community from getting overlooked.

What’s an avenue students can stay involved if they are unable to attend local protests?

There are so many ways to be involved in change without going to protests. Use your social media to share and uplift black voices during this time, do your research on how you can personally be an ally, have productive conversations with friends and family about race (this is also a great time to check friends and family who may be ignorant on the matter).

We love a tweet you previously shared which said,  “dear black people, please do not feel pressured to be an activist right now. you’re allowed to be angry, upset, drained, etc. you’re allowed to delete social media and take a break from reality. the burden is not on you fix a system designed to break you.” Why is it important to regroup + remind ourselves about black joy + not just only the pain?

I think it’s important for black people to understand that it is not our responsibility to dismantle white supremacy. We quite literally need white people to check and change their own racist ideals and mindsets. So much of the burden is placed on black folk to organize and educate, and make the process of social reform easier and more digestible for white people. I want to remind black people (especially black women) to give themselves rest. It’s already triggering enough seeing our own getting killed on the timeline every other day, as we progress through a modern day civil war. It is okay to not be on all of the time.

If you had to give a message to black girls everywhere about loving themselves, what would it be?

The easiest way to navigate your confidence as a black girl is to not allow your standard of beauty to be white. Erase whatever Eurocentric features are considered beautiful, and allow your own to be.

Follow more of Sophie’s journey here!

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NYC Youth Collective

It’s A Vibe: Meet Binta

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Feature, Latest | by — June 9, 2020

 

Have you ever heard an album that flawlessly + seamlessly becomes the soundtrack to your life? Singer + songwriter Binta effortlessly wraps a vibe of honest lyrics with an addictively chill tone around you in her debut Ep LIMBO!

Originally born in London (Newham), England, Binta Binnet Phatty recognized her love for singing at the early age of 6 years old. After living in England for  8 years her family moved to her parents’ native country, The Gambia in west Africa.  By 2010 they relocated to Ohio in the U.S. where Binta currently attends Ohio State University majoring in Journalism and Communication.

The 20 year-old songstress released her first single 3rd Eye in January 2020 + shortly after released her debut Ep LIMBO on April 5th.

LIMBO is a beautifully fit musical puzzle where each song adds a soulful piece that brings her art to life! There’s confidence + vulnerability that leaves you feeling empowered into expressing who you are with no apologies. Opening her EP with the song Moment of Honesty instantly sets the tone of authentic transparency we’ve all felt before and can relate to. And ending it with her song Pretty Petal unlocks a feeling of freedom to let go of all judgment towards ourselves. The EP takes you on a much-needed journey of self-love + self-discovery that will have you yearning for more!

Let’s get to know the beauty behind the music…

Limbo is such an authentic, carefree + honest mood all rolled into one! Where did you gain inspiration to pour into your EP?

I gained a lot of my influence from personal experiences, but artists like Jhene Aiko, Erykah Badu, Summer Walker definitely influenced my style of music. I wanted to create a piece of work that everyone could relate to in some form, whether it be falling in love for the first time, getting over heartbreak, owning your authentic self, and overcoming hardships. 

Each song is strung together by a thread of beautiful vulnerability, how important is it to you to use your music as a form of self-expression?

I believe music is a window to your inner self, when I write or sing I want it to be a representation of me. I find that it is easier to talk about my experiences, goals, aspirations, or my feelings  better in music form. At the time of writing limbo I felt as though I myself was in a state of Limbo. I didn’t feel free to express myself but as soon as I started to sing I felt I was the most honest with myself. 

One of my fave songs is ‘Wild Child’ where you unapologetically own your authentic self  +  your worth, how were you able to evolve into confidently embracing who you are?

Wild Child is one of my favorites also! It took a couple of years for me to really embrace myself and realize my self worth. I had struggled with self esteem/ self confidence  during middle school and my early high school years. But as I grew older I realized that in order for me to truly be content and at peace with myself I had to accept who I was flaws and all. I am thankful to have supportive parents that have instilled great values in me. My mom especially has always reminded me of my talents and self worth, it’s important to have a strong and loving  support system.
 
Lingering love was also such a relatable topic throughout your songs.  So many girls have felt like they’ve been in ‘Limbo’ in a love interest’s life, how does uncovering emotional ups and downs impact your lyrics?
 
I wanted to create a piece of work that was authentic to my personal  experiences and at the same time something that people could relate to. At the time of writing limbo I was still in the process of learning about myself, and there were a lot of emotions involved.  Each song I wrote,  I wrote during different phases of my journey.  At times I felt anxious, sad, elated etc but it was necessary to include. We all experience things that trigger a variety of emotions and I wanted to be open and transparent, there are days that I feel like I’m on top of the world and other days where I’m a bit down. These are all normal things to experience in life and I felt I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t include all parts of my experience. 
 
Your EP gave me a feeling of someone singing straight from our personal journals! Thoughts that always swirl in our heads but we might not always say, why is self-love important in the journey of becoming and evolving?
 
Self love is extremely important, and that was something that took me a while to develop and am still developing. It is not an easy process but when you love yourself wholeheartedly, you begin to see things differently.  

“All of my songs have a personal meaning and when I write I tell my truths and I know that there are others out there that can relate and by writing music/singing. I’m able to not only raise awareness about things we all face but relate to my audience. My culture and heritage plays a huge part in my life and also has an impact in my music influence/ taste which is why I love to tell people I’m Gambian hopefully one day I can do my country proud 🇬🇲.”

~ BInta

Stream LIMBO EP today!

Apple Music

Tidal 

Spotify

Meet Kprecia Ambers!

Beautiful culture, bright illustrations + bold girls are all of the flavors that Kprecia Ambers mixes into her fresh designs!

Minneapolis-based Designer + Illustrator, Kprecia Ambers, is the founder of Kp Inspires which uses illustration as a tool to empower celebrate black girls!

“It’s important to see yourself in the world.” Realizing a lack of diversity within the Graphic Design field inspired Kprecia to open her own door of possibilities. Drawing from her positive spirit and desire to see people of color represented, she began creating illustrations painted in her mind and turning them into surface designs. She has since expanded into freelance work and is excited for the unlimited possibilities her career can bring.

“In following my dreams my hope is to inspire others like me to build their own door to walk through.”

Let’s get to know Kprecia a little better…

From your stunning illustrations to your beautiful accessories your pieces are instantly eye-catching! What first triggered your love of art + graphic design?

That’s a good question. I have always loved drawing, but as I got older I grew away from it. When I got to college I originally pursued a degree in web design and was introduced to Graphic Design along the way. I loved the idea of creating something eye catching that the consumer could relate to. This lead into my interests in Surface Design, which in my definition is the art of creating for a surface haha. I wanted my work to be seen, but meaningful. When I graduated I took my passions and desires to see black woman represented and started making illustrations from photos. My goal has always been to push positivity into the world. I do this by celebrating and empowering black women, highlighting individuals I find inspiring, sharing quotes in conjunction with my art, using images that display confidence, and topping it off with bright colors. I love bright colors, it’s captivating, exciting, and pure joy.

Being an entrepreneur + running your own business is an amazing accomplishment, how has your life shifted since starting Kp Inspires? 

My life has shifted tremendously. The upsides is being able to choose who to work with, having total control of my schedule, getting paid from my passions, and supporting others through my services and home decor products. The challenge is learning to wear multiple hats. Making art is fun and all, but running a business requires you to understand business haha. That is something that is not always communicated. Learning pricing (still), contracts, legal work, financing, etc is all things that require patience. Thankfully, I am surrounded by entrepreneurs so the support is awesome. But listening and getting guidance is still very different compared to actually doing the work. It’s something you have to do in order to understand.

Your artwork embodies black girl magic with such an authentic flavor! Why is it important that your art represents the beauty of our culture?

It’s not out there enough! I see women on Instagram and Facebook who are  killing it from creating art, and products, to opening restaurants. They do an amazing job at representing black culture and understand why it’s soooo important for it to be out there. The problem is, society has yet to fully understand the importance of representation. We have to fight to be seen. My goal is to become a black artist who is creating and producing work that celebrates black culture on a major scale. I feel Illustration is my voice in bringing light to social injustices, combating negative stereotypes, and giving hope to black youth. Purposefully I display black woman as confident queens because we need to see ourselves in a positive light. It helps our dreams feel more attainable.

What’s your favorite or most meaningful piece you’ve ever created? 

I love all my work, because each piece has meaning. I will say I am excited about personal projects I am working on. When I present myself to the world, I don’t just want to be an illustrator making pretty pieces. I want to be a business making art that contributes to something bigger. My hope is to work alongside major black owned brands incorporating my illustrations and to create a successful home decor brand celebrating black girls. I want my line of pillow characters to be printed on everything under the sun and to reach little black girls around the world.

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?

Listen to myself. Sometimes it’s time for a binge-worthy break. I am only human and I can only do so much. There is a guilt that tries to feed my brain into believing I am not working hard enough, but I have to shut it down. When I need inspiration I watch documentaries, interviews, listen to music, and read. Anything where I see someone fighting for their dreams. Sometimes focusing on other things aside from illustrating is a nice way to stay productive when not feeling motivated. This could include giving attention to other aspects of the business, educating myself on spiritual well being, hair care, and other things I feel is important. When I do feel defeated I give myself permission to be frustrated. I cry when needed, release, and move on. No matter how I cope or regroup I am always reminded that my talents are bigger than me. I have purpose and it’s my duty to use my gifts for good. That is my biggest motivator.

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

Empowerment to me means contributing to building and pushing out positive energy. I can’t give anyone the power to overcome whatever they are facing but I can encourage them to.

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

Be authentic to yourself (this is what makes you special) and start, but take things one step at a time. Don’t get too overwhelmed thinking ahead of yourself. Break down your goals and create schedules. One thing I am learning is you can’t just put “brand” in your schedule like it’s simple. There are a bunch of small steps in between before the bigger picture is actually accomplished. For example, If you are creating a logo spend time beforehand thinking about your business; What is your purpose, what makes it special, etc. That way your logo and brand can better reflect your company. When you do accomplish a goal rather it’s big or small check it off your list as a mini celebration. It feels amazing! Remember, you will always be growing so don’t get caught up in perfection. It all takes time, but starting is what will allow you to improve. Also I encourage investing time into learning business. No matter what you are doing/pursuing you will need to understand taxes, filing your business, financing, and other legal matters.

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

Celeb Crush: Rihanna is my female crush she is amazing and her style is lit. I also admire T.I. Given his age I have never dreamed of being with him lol, but I love his accent and how he carries himself.

Music Artist: Jhene Aiko, J.cole, Chance, Kevin gates, and a lot more. I love conscious rappers but there is always room to be ratchet or turn into a hustler haha.

Movie: I am not sure if I have a favorite movie, but I love animations and mystery films period!

Keep following Kprecia + her beautiful work + journey here:

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#Freshman5 x Charity!

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Feature, Latest | by — April 14, 2020

 

Take note of Charity’s #Freshman5 Must-Knows for your freshman year in college!

 
Name: Charity McCants 
College: Auburn University at Montgomery
 
 
Friendship/Relationship| Friendships are so important when starting college! Making them early on with your roommates and classmates will make the school year so much easier. Relationships aren’t always essential but are a good thing to have as long as you can still focus on academics and the things that are most important to you. 
 
Classes/Studying| GO TO CLASS! I made the mistake of starting to skip classes and it hurt me in the long run. If you know you are not a morning person make your classes later in the day so that you won’t lose motivation. Make a schedule to study by yourself and others that have the same classes as you. If you simply study every subject for 20-30 minutes a day it will help so much so that you won’t have to cram right before a test.
 
Budgeting Money| Learn to save money! If you can get a part-time job that will help with small expenses. Try to create a budget for food because that’s the quickest way to over spend. Buy groceries and cook sometimes if you can. It will help you save and it’s also fun + healthy. 
 
Time Management| Learn to have a schedule. Use your phone alarm to help you remember when you have class + when you need to study including other priorities in your schedule.
 
Self-care| Remember, that no matter what you come first! Make sure you’re eating, taking time for yourself and allowing yourself to make mistakes. College is a time to have fun, don’t forget that!
 
Follow more of Charity’s collegiate journey…

Meet Naseyah Williams!

Bringing  her authentic self to the stage allowed Naseyah Williams to walk away with the title of Miss Black USA Talented Teen 2019! Her passion  for expressing herself through the arts and serving others through her talents, is a true representation of a queen.

As a North-Carolina native, Naseyah is a dedicated and active member of Hillside Drama Department. Her major roles have included various high profile Broadway plays + musicals such as The Color Purple, Willy Wonka, The BodyGuard and Matilda. In addition, the young powerhouse serves as a youth leader for various community outreach organizations + has her own platform called “Soaring Through The Arts”  to inspire + to spark a creative movement with youth.

In December of 2018, Naseyah  competed for and won the title of Miss Black North Carolina Talented Teen 2019 under the Miss Black USA Organization. She then went on to compete at Nationals for the Title of Miss Black USA Talented Teen 2019 in August of 2019 + brought home the crown!

She desires for the world to realize that talents are not just attributes, but they are truly our life’s gift.

Let’s get to know Naseyah a little better…

You hold the crown for Miss Black USA Talented Teen! Why was it important for you to participate in the pageant and what impact do you want to make during this time? 

The most important thing as I claimed the title of Miss Black USA Talented Teen, was not that I would get the chance to be represented, but the chance to represent the countless other girls who had never gotten the chance or did not think they have the ability to do such things. I have found that there is a lack in our community. A lack of self esteem and self identity. Because of this, I make it my mission to be the best friend to every girl who feels alone. To be the role model to every girl that feels lost in a world of people who look down on her.

Theatre is your love + the stage is your home! You’ve been featured in The Bodyguard, Willy Wonka, and countless other musicals + plays, how does theatre bring your personality + purpose alive? 

Theatre is my HOME! I remember my first audition, I was invited by a friend and I thought all I would have to do was sing.

I remember I sang and I thought that was all! However, that was followed by as well as this intense improv which I never thought I could do until that moment. With that being said, theatre has caused me to branch out and no longer just hide behind my voice.

I love singing but the ability to add another dynamic to it when combined with the dancing and acting, just made my voice that much more powerful. I have learned so much about myself, my capabilities, through my performances. It has brought me out of my shell and enables me to just be me. I have a very “exciting” personality as most would say, and I have theatre to thank for that!

Art is such a beautiful space of creativity + non-judgment. Your platform “Soaring Through the Arts” brings the attention + importance to the power of arts! How have the arts impacted your life + made it easier to find your voice? 

Thanks to my legendary director, Mr. Wendell Tabb, I have had the opportunity to be on stage and embody these roles. I remember when we were reading the script for The Color Purple, my director told us all that we have to find ourselves somewhere in these characters, in the story, in  order to bring it to life. Ever since then, I have found myself somewhere in every story we have performed.

Many people think a good actor is just someone who can cry on the spot. That is not all there is. You have to be able to connect the story to yourself, which brings a vulnerability. I love the fact that the stage is one of the only places where I feel I can bring this side of me out, free of any judgement.

“Soaring Through The Arts” is my initiative to help all of those who have a desire for the arts, but don’t feel like they have what it takes. It is the opportunity to discover the you that you never thought you knew!

Oftentimes black girls are labeled with numerous stereotypes, what’s a way we can continue to break barriers and create an authentic representation of ourselves? 

Being a black woman in America, is one of the hardest roles to fill. Though faced with discrimination, stereotypes and obstacles, we continue to push forward and break barriers. We can continue to do this by letting our intelligence do the talking. Let our art do the talking. Let our voices be heard because we are the embodiment of what it means to be strong, beautiful, intelligent and talented. We have to push past the stereotypes and continue to pave the way for the generations to come! How do we do this? By letting our #BlackGirlMagic do the talking!

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

 When feeling defeated, I regroup and motivate myself by finding strength in God. For he has made me in his image so I can never be defeated. I have to admit, it is difficult to navigate through teen life especially when you are different; set apart. It is the moments when you embrace that you are not always going to be strong when you gain the most strength. So continue to go after every dream that you’ve ever dreamed because no one can stop you but you.

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

I live by the motivating words of former Astronaut, Mae Jemison, “Never be limited by the limited imagination of others.”

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

Favorite Artist– My favorite artist whom I will always love is Whitney Houston. I have drawn so much inspiration from her as well as Tori Kelly, who is not as known, but has had a huge influence on my songwriting.

Favorite Food– Fun Fact; I used to be a vegetarian for quite a long time but I stopped very recently and went back to my meat eating ways. All food is my favorite but if I had to choose, I would go with HOT WINGS! I love hot wings and they are part of the reason I converted back to the meat world haha!

Celebrity Crush– Lil Nas X!

Follow more of Naseyah here…

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#Freshman5 x Rebecca!

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Feature, Latest | by — February 5, 2020

Take note of Rebecca’s #Freshman5 Must-Knows for your freshman year in college!

Name: Rebecca Gaynor

College: New York University

1.Friendship/ Relationship| Be outspoken! I guess what I am trying to say is don’t be afraid to speak to your peers because just like you they are looking to make friends and study partners in this new environment.

2. Classes/Studying| Don’t procrastinate! Putting things like homework and studying for tests off until the last minute will not benefit you in the long run.

3. Time Management| Don’t register for 8 am classes if you know that you struggle with waking up early! You’ll end up missing crucial information in class if you’re always late or absent. Set an alarm they’re extremely helpful.

4. Self-care| As fast paced as this new environment may be don’t forget to take some time for yourself and relax. It’s also important to express how you feel whether it’s through a journal entry, song, or poem. Also make sure you are taking care of your body. Try to eat 3 well balanced meals per day.  I definitely know how easy it can be to skip a meal or 2.

5. Money budgeting| If you live on a campus please make sure you are using all of those meal swipes! At the end of the year you’re not going to get back money for those unused swipes. Also, get a job for personal expenses and purchase based on necessity. All in all be frugal!

Follow more of Rebecca’s collegiate journey…

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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