Posts in "Feature"

Meet Chanae Richards!


Feature, Latest | by — December 20, 2022

Chanae Richards is an interior designer and entrepreneur who has created a name for herself. Graduating from Rutgers University, Chanae lately discovered her passion for interior design. Before pursuing interior design, Chanae was a financial director at local school. Chanae later felt more connected to interior design and chose to follow her intuition.

She believes intuition can take you as far as you want to go and with that she listened to hers.

Chanae is now the CEO of her own interior design studio, oloro Interiors!

Let’s get to know Chanae a little better…

What is a fundamental piece of advice you would give a young
woman as she prepares for her future?
Stay committed.
And we don’t always have to stick to one thing. If you want to do more than one thing in your life, do it. Don’t let anybody stop you.

How much impact did race and gender have on you when you were
making a name for yourself?
Only 2% of people in this position are black so you can imagine the impact it had on me. Not only was I black though but I was a woman and that made it harder for me.

Can you recall one of the first moments you realized this is what you
wanted to do with your life?
I don’t think there was a specific moment when I realized it, at least not
that I recalled. Somewhere in my mind I just knew this is what I wanted to do and I went for it.

Do you have any role models alive or dead?
I’ve had many women in my life who are role models starting with my mom, aunts, and my sisters. They’ve each experienced life from different lenses and are open with both the joys and pitfalls that come
with it.

Can you think of one quote that really impacted your journey?
“Intuition will take you further than education can.”

As someone who struggles with anxiety, do you have any advice for
others who struggle with it as well?
Feel the fear and face it. I have tried not to let my anxiety stop me from doing what I have to do because I have a plan and nothing is going to get in the way of it.

What is one of your ultimate end goals?
To retire my mom.

To stay in touch with Chanae:
Instagram: @olorointeriors Pinterest: @olorointeriors

~ Interview by Jada Boothe

Meet Destiny Williams!


Feature, Latest | by — June 23, 2022

Motivation, inspiration + dance simply melts together into the perfect combination and pours out of Destiny Williams! Taking TikTok + Insta by storm with her fresh rhythmic moves + her uplifting scriptures to motivate Gen Z (and every other generation), her talent goes beyond social and into real life. As an actress + photographer, this Atlanta native is making her mark while sharing gems on her journey along the way.

Let’s get to know Destiny a little better…

Let us know your name + the city you currently live in:

Hello, I am Destiny Denise Williams, and I am a native of Atlanta, GA!

Your social channels are a safe haven of inspiration, dance + encouragement for your digital audience! What inspired you to connect scriptures and dance?

I think it’s important to guard our eyes and our hearts, so that we may not yield to temptation. With the expansion of social media, and the advancement of technology, it can become a challenge to filter what we digest through our eye gates. My goal is not to add to the challenge but to provide encouragement and safe entertainment that keeps our minds on the things above. I’ve always found it to be a natural ability of mine to encourage, and the mental well-being of others is truly a concern of mine. Therefore, I decided to use my social media platforms as a beacon of light to uplift others. 

 I started posting on Tik Tok during the pandemic and began to strategize about the most effective content to continue my mission of spreading love, light, and uplift. As I began to think I was reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul. Paul talks about becoming all things to all men so that one might be saved. Then I began to think about what abilities I have that will reach young and old. Without hesitation, I landed on dancing! I felt that dance is inclusive and has no barriers to who it can impact. My bubbly personality along with scripture has become a great combination to spreading hope, light, love, and entertainment, not just for the audience but for me as well. 

Daily meditation and quiet time is such an important tool to stay grounded. How do you calm your mind in those moments?

One tool that helps me stay grounded, is the ability to be transparent with myself. I am a perfectionist and my biggest critique. I have to remind myself that I am human, and I won’t always be in a good mood, or positive headspace. The roller coaster of life has a great way of trying to steal your joy. Even in the happiest of moments the enemy comes to try and plant seeds of doubt, anxiety, depression, and confusion. SO, for me, it is beneficial in being aware, and transparent with my emotions. Documenting my emotions down in a journal not only allows me to be aware, but also allows me to give myself grace, and holds myself accountable to what I feel. I pair this transparency with the truth of God. Decreeing that I am loved, worthy, saved, talented, enough, above and not beneath, the lender and not the borrow, and victorious aid me in staying grounded.  

I love nature, and I truly believe that sitting outside is my form of therapy. The stillness, the way the wind caresses my skin, the soft melodic bird-chirping creates a space for me to calm my mind, rejuvenate, and regroup so that I may continue to the next challenge. RELAX, RELATE, RELEASE! I also love to listen to wise people speak about their experiences in life. This helps me understand that we are all human and no one is subject to a trouble-free life, but if they can overcome then so can I! 

I created a series called “The peace Series”. This is a series that grants people the opportunity to reflect on their breath. In this fast paced- microwave- generation we have created a notion that the one who rests are weak. However, I believe without rest, without stopping and giving ourselves time to sit and be thankful for our breath we run ourselves dry, and ultimately living dead. 

You’re also an actress + a photographer! What do you love about each one? 

I love being a creative, and each avenue mentioned in this question allows me to fulfill that passion. Acting allows me the space to vent or come to what’s called a catharsis (purging of emotions). I have always been intrigued by provoking an audience’s heart by what I create on stage, or through digital platforms. Acting has helped me to understand my identity. Each character tugs for you to bring your personal life experience so that the character can be believable. It is in the development stage of these characters that brings my fears face to face with me. It is a good healing experience. 

I’ve always been intrigued by the testimonies and stories of others. The bible says we are saved by the word of their testimony. So, photography allows me to capture the test and trials and victory of those around us. It allows me to celebrate life, and love. I believe that we are a divine creation of God, and its an honor to capture the testimony, story, love, life, and victory of His creation.

Social media has its ups and downs, how often do you take a social media detox? What are the benefits?

When I find myself comparing my gifts or content too often, and harshly I know that’s a direct relation to the amount of time I’ve spent on social media. This indicator leads me to take a social media break. 

I take a huge two-month social media fast twice a year.  This year I started to give myself a day every week to get a break from my phone in general. I turn it on do not disturb and I shut down all social media notifications. I believe this has given me balance in my life and allows me to become more present with life. I always try to remind myself that social media is a highlight reel and a tool for marketing. What I see may not be the full reality, and this helps with comparison, and it limits my time that I spend on social media as well. 

Social Media fasts are great for becoming present. Your awareness with your identity, purpose, and the quality of close relationships increases. I believe that social media fast usher healing. Fasts in general provoke an increase of faith and a push into inner healing journey.

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? What’s your go-to scripture that keeps you focused?  

I love this question because I’m still learning the ins and outs of this question as we speak. What I have come to understand is that obtaining the goal will not fulfill you, but enjoying the journey will bring true fulfillment/ contentment. Allowing yourself to enjoy the journey presents different lens/ perspectives / revelations about our world. It enhances, defines, and brings the destination to life. 

When I am feeling overwhelmed after being super consistent with content creation, schooling, business marketing, and editing I give myself time to slow down. I may relax a bit more in the mornings or take myself to the spa. I engage in my favorite hobbies, and truly allow myself to not feel bad for resting. In these times, I have observed that I speak to my support system a lot more for so that I can be poured into with love, light, encouragement, and motivation. When feeling defeated, I pray, and talk to my support system. I think it’s imperative to invite God into your most inner thoughts and feelings. He can handle the disappointment, the tiredness, the defeat, and the confusion, and He has the best way of speaking gently over you His truth, encouragement, and love. 

Scriptures like Jeremiah 1:5; 29:11; Philippians 1:6; 4:6-9; and the message of grace keeps my mind focused on the bigger picture. Do not compare because there will always be room for you no matter how saturated that field may be. Believe in yourself 220 percent. Keep the dream in the forefront of your mind that way you can remember why you started or why you go so hard when you are being lead through the valley of the shadow of death. 

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

Tip number one is understanding the WHY. If you cannot understand the why behind you doing something then it may be good to change the trajectory of the direction you are heading. This does not mean know the ins and outs of the vision, because some dreams require great faith without knowing the small blueprint details. What I mean by knowing the WHY is because when you are weary or in disappointment your WHY will set as a reminder to preserver. Sometimes you may forget your why and its good to have people around you who can give insight to your why. Your why will be the driving force for the vision/dream. 

Tip number two is do not compare because there will and always be room for you no matter how saturated that field may be. Believe in yourself 220 percent. Other tips that I’ve gained along this journey is don’t wait until you have all the tools to start, you will gain them along the way. Don’t wait until you feel motivated, because there will be times where you might not feel motivated. Consistency is key. Don’t share your dream with everyone because sabotage is real. Trust your gut. DO IT SCARED! The most important advice is to embrace failure. 

Fun faves! Food? Movies? Artist?   

My favorite food is a good home-cooked southern meal! My mom’s mac and cheese is award-winning in my book, and my Nana is a chef sent from heaven. Southern, Chinese, and Moe’s southwest grill would have to be my favorite food/ places to eat. My favorite movies would consist of Love and Basketball, The Blind Side, Ratatouille, Coach Carter, Sister Act 2, Beyond The Lights, Just Go with it, and more. Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge Kendrick Lamar fan! Artists such as Kiayote Hiatus, Bruno Mars, Anderson Paak, Charity Bush, Chandler Moore, Zaria Hall, Shawb B have a special place in my Spotify playlist! Their artistry, in my opinion, is unmatched.

Follow more or Destiny here:



Meet Ty of Ty Talks!

Imagine a space where you can unapologetically be yourself by entering into a judgment free-zone when it comes to figuring out life + societal pressures. Well, the good news is you don’t have to dream up this place because this space already exists with Ty Talks!

Hailing from Orlando, Florida; 21-year old college student and YouTuber Tyasia (aka Ty) navigates adulting while inviting you to peek into her journey. From handling toxic friendships to dealing with the lopsided standards of beauty; she dives into honest convos that many viewers relate to on a regular basis. Her words wrapped with authenticity and voice dripping with bravery + vulnerability; she speaks on the ups, downs and inspiring lessons she’s learned. Tackling cultural issues, Ty encourages her community to ask themselves who do they truly want to be in this world!

Let’s get to know Tyasia a little better…

Your channel is such a safe haven for dope girls to build community as you share your journey with your digital audience! What inspired you to originally launch your YouTube channel?

I have been trying to do YouTube for a few years now and could never really stick too it due to personal, financial, and motivational reasons. The past year I had a lot of changes happen in my life that I felt I needed to share with everyone and to be the voice that girls my age, younger and even older didn’t have growing up. To become the voice of reason and advice that they currently need. I want them to know that they have a safe space and someone that understands life, decisions, mistakes, and growth from their perspective.

You beautifully dive into important and impactful topics such as self-confidence, colorism, dating and so many more subjects Black girls relate to on a day-to-day basis, what has been the most vulnerable topic that you’ve discussed? Why?

The most vulnerable topic for me thus far would have to be the topic of relationships in terms of their effect on your growth, mental health, and life as a whole. Many people fail to realize this but the connections that we make teach us a lot about ourselves and our outside circumstances. Personal relationships can affect our focus on tasks everything from career and school to simply trying to fall asleep at night. It’s hard because we become so emotionally invested within things, and I just want to guide people through that. Without indulging too much, due to future content I will be releasing, the relationship we have with others is reflected in our relationship with ourselves.

Insecurities can seep into our minds without us even knowing + we all definitely struggle for them not to dictate our actions BUT sometimes it can seem impossible! How do you navigate + overcome your insecurities?

To be honest I normally do one of two things to battle with my insecurities, I give in to it, because like everyone else, I am human.  Having and maintaining a strong mind isn’t something built within a day, and most of the time I find myself falling back into habits that do not serve me. The other thing I do is not focus on how I will make things happen, but to do or try instead. As an overthinker, the best thing that I can do for myself is to simply not think about it and do what needs to be done, because the longer you sit and loath taking care of the task, that’s time spent that could’ve been done completing it.

Your YouTube community has definitely shared their love for your authenticity and transparency! What has been the most positive + touching feedback you’ve received from your videos?

Honestly, seeing the overwhelming responses from Black women and girls is what keeps me going. My focus is to make others feel seen and heard because it’s something that I didn’t have. It makes me feel less alone, knowing that I am doing that for others, it’ s the best gift ever. Especially from someone who didn’t talk much growing up and never felt like her voice mattered.

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

The most honest and truthful advice I can give is that you must be ready and completely willing. When you are on your journey, you are going to be doing, feeling, and realizing a lot about yourself, those around you, and the world. You are going to feel a whirlwind of emotions, but you can’t allow your temporary emotions to stop you from reaching long-term fulfillment and joy.

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

It’s so hard to just pick one so I’ll give you both a quote and mantra. My favorite quote is from Audrey Hepburn, it says, “nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m Possible.” My favorite mantra right now is “expect nothing, accept everything”, it takes away the weight of expectations and mistakes, something we all need.

Fun faves! Food? Movies? Artist? Celeb crush?

My favorite foods would be pasta of any kind, shrimp and Korean food. My favorite movie of all time is Jumanji, the original one with Robin Williams. My favorite artist changes frequently but right now it’s Tierra Whack and no celebrity crushes for me at the moment.

Follow more on Ty’s journey here:


Tik Tok


Meet Tommyleei Skaggs!


Feature, Latest | by — August 27, 2021

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“You Are ART.”  The motto that artist Tahlei Skaggs aka Tommyleei lives by and infuses in each vision of her creative masterpieces! Shaking up society and shredding standards; her belief of staying true to herself is the compass that guides her artwork. Hailing from Mcdonugh, Georgia; Tommyleei is an inspiration to be unapologetically bold while spreading the message of standing in your truth without the world’s approval!
Let’s get to know Tommylei a little better…
Your artwork is bold, powerful + beautifully unapologetic! What inspired to start your path of creating art?
What inspired my path to creating art was definitely my father. Although he was murdered when I was 5 I still had memories of him being a very creative person and me being as young as I was I looked up to him. I aspired to be like him but still in my own way. He was more musically talented and had a way with words but he could also draw. I however enjoy my artistic talents more when it comes to drawing and painting but I too have the gift of words as he did with poetry.
You infuse your fresh style and captivating art into wearable materpieces, what does fashion + style mean to you when it comes to expressing your vibe?
Fashion and style to me is a visual representation of your personality. It is a part of who you are and it can also be used to display messages. Like things, you believe in or stand with and again that is also a big part of who you are as a person. To me fashion and style is way deeper than the latest trend or a piece of clothing; it definitely tells a story about who you are personally. 

What inspires your art + your creative flow? 
And how do you get out of a creative rut? 
What inspires my creative flow mainly is music or beats. I always listen to music when creating and based off the genre I’m listening to determines how the piece will turn out. It even carves out the vibe the piece will bring out of my targeted audience. It may even determine what that audience is. But also what inspires my creative flow is my want for change in things we currently deal with in society.
Most of my art is about being true to yourself, loving yourself and being  comfortable enough to live and speak your truth. A lot of people really struggle with that due to the false teachings of society.  I encourage positive things like accepting everything about yourself rather than what society chooses to only accept about you.  That is also how I get out of a creative rut. I think about what I may be going through personally or something I want to advocate for that will have a positive change on society.
“You are art” is your motto, which we love! What does that mean to you?
You are art means you are a masterpiece. No matter what you look like, where you come from, what you’ve been through; you are art. Art tells a story and everyone has a story and just like art is appreciated and cherished by many; so are you even if you don’t know that or see it at first.
Currently, so many people chase the  ‘same look’ or try to ‘fit into the same box’, how do you stay true to yourself?
Staying true to myself has never been a problem for me. I have always done my own thing. I never really liked to follow trends or beauty standards like most people and because of that I was always considered weird or lame until it became a trend to be yourself. Then everyone around me considered me an “inspiration”. But I stay true to myself by simply being myself and not allowing what other people say affect how I choose to be or live.
A great example of this would be the fact that I just recently shaved all my hair off and it was because I love the skin I’m in I know I am beautiful inside and out and that I don’t need hair in order to be considered beautiful. I’m not scared to try new things and that’s a major part of how I remain true to myself. 
What advice would you give others who want to follow their dreams and passions but are nervous or intimidated?
The advice I would give to those who want to follow their dreams is to never give up. It’s easier said than done. Trust me, I swear I know because as I’m giving this advice I am also talking to myself. It’s so easy to get discouraged when you keep trying time after time and it seems like you’re not making any progress or that you’re not going anywhere with it but in reality you really are.
Everything you’re experiencing when you’re at your lowest is preparing you for how to move when you finally reach it to the top so that you can remain at the top. It’s ok to get discouraged, frustrated and cry it out. Take time for yourself but then get back up and keep going because you’re one step closer than you are behind. 
Time for faves! Music? Food?  
I don’t have a favorite genre of music I’m opened to all music based on how it makes me feel when I hear it really. Favorite food is Food period I love to eat lol. 
Follow Tommylei and get your dose of creativity:

Meet Tales Of The Text Podcast


Feature, Latest | by — July 27, 2021

Jumping on the subway? Melanin glistening on the beach? Relaxing in your room? Well, we’re giving you the best soundtrack and dose of entertainment that can keep up with your full summertime agenda through Tales Of The Text podcast!

Tales Of The Text is scripted short fiction stories filled with drama, secrets, and plot twists marinated in Black teen and college culture. This addictive podcast will literally have you attached to your headphones with its spicy surprises, relatable voices and jaw-dropping scenarios.

Creator Joi Mitchell  launched this brilliant and authentic space for black teen + young adult stories to be heard all over the world. Based in Southside Chicago, her platform allows teen voice actors and writers to explore their creativity dipped in every day realities.

Let’s get to know Joi + Tales Of A Text podcast a little more…

From dating to peer pressure to drama, Tales of The Text Podcast gives such genuine lens of what goes on in high school/college on a daily basis! What made you first want to launch the podcast?

I was listening to a podcast about entrepreneurship when I literally popped up and thought, “How can I incorporate what I love which is music (having worked in the music business during the golden era of hip hop the late 90s early 2000s), working with teens, the art of storytelling, and production.” In addition to  asking, “Why isn’t there a podcast that tells authentic uncensored stories relatable to Black teens with a chat at the end?” At the time I had no idea that what I was describing was a scripted audio fiction podcast mixed with a host chat segment. Who knew? lol The next step was to run my idea by the audience I wanted to serve so I sent a text to teens Shay, Taylor, and Cameron (they are all in college now) to get their thoughts. I pitched the concept with the name and when they said YES the rest is history. 

We love the “After The Text” portion where the teens give their honest feedback + relate to each story, where does the inspo come from when creating the storyline for each podcast?

I’m so glad that you connected with After The Text! Story inspiration comes from my crazy imagination and more importantly the lives of teens and young adults. As a former educator who has been humbly blessed to be on the “guest list” of some teens and young peoples lives, I listen to them and I hear them with purpose. For example, our most popular episode is Accidentally Crushin’ and all but 1 of the 5 episodes was written by a young teen and they were based on her real life relationship where she caught feelings for her best friend and the journey they experienced. I also research writing prompts and work with our screenwriters to remix the prompts to include the Black teen/YA experience.

(Joi Mitchell, Creator of Tales of the Text Podcast)

Relationships, friendships + situationships pop up in different ways throughout the stories which we know is a major part of life;  how important is being able to know when someone is a good fit for you whether it’s in dating or trusting your friends?

This can be tricky because we all present our representative in the beginning of any relationship/friendship and we have to remember that none of us are perfect. How in the ever, there are 3 things I think you should pay attention to in order to maintain your sanity as you navigate the world of all the ‘ships’. 🙂

1) A friend should not be trying to sabotage your other friendships nor your relationship with Bae. This can get messy and is just not worth all the drama that ensues. 2)Remember that you want a friend who genuinely has your best interest at heart. Make note that it’s more important to watch what people do vs. what they say. Ladies this transfers to potential Bae too. 3) Lastly, ask yourself how does this person make me feel and do they add positivity or negativity to my life. I had a beautiful “let’s catch up” conversation with a teen and she mentioned that she realized breaking up with her boyfriend was necessary because he was a drag on her life and that’s not the direction she’s headed.

Adults focus on the stress of classes BUT oftentimes forget that so much stress of being in high school/college is trying to navigate your personal + social life. What made you want to highlight the social aspect? And how can you stay true to yourself during these years?

I was an instructor for an After School program for several years and I realized quickly that the social aspect of a teen’s life is a form of escape and entertainment. My overall goal with Tales Of The Text Podcast is to be a form of edutainment that takes the listeners to a place filled with fun, risque, relatable stories made just for their ears. As for staying true to yourself during the high school years I would say that it’s ok to feel awkward at times.

I suggest keep a journal, follow your heart, NEVER try to be like someone else, surround yourself with dope and different friends who challenge you, learn to laugh at yourself, use the social media platforms that best fit your personality and although it can be hard, try not to compare yourself to others because honestly most people, including celebrities, are posting a highlight reel of their lives. No one is really sharing the whole truth. Lastly, trust me when I say that it does get better and if you as a teen are not feeling good about yourself PLEASE ask for help. 

Do you feel like black teen stories + experiences get shared enough in an authentic way on mainstream media?

I honestly don’t think there are enough black teen stories/experiences being shared via the mainstream media or in the world of podcasting. Black teens like Black people overall are not monolithic. We all like different things and have different experiences while at the same time there is something beyond special about our Blackness that connects us. I’ve personally noticed that some of the teens I know , due to quarantine, are bingeing shows like Riverdale, Pretty Little Liars, and Gossip Girl. My job is to figure out how to produce similar audio fiction stories through the lens of Black teens.

What advice would you give a teen who has the interest of storytelling? What’s a good way to get started?

Ok I’m going to admit something… I’m not a writer but I work with some of the dopest young writers ever and what I’ve discovered is that you just have to start. That means writing short stories with NOTES on your phone. Research young authors/writers on social media and DM them to collab on a project.  Ask yourself what you want to write about and why? Is it fiction or non fiction? Are you interested in beauty, fashion, hair, history, music, entertainment, food, politics and more. DM your favorite author and ask them for an informational interview. (I can explain that in more detail through email)

I created #tuesdaytexttales which are messy creative fiction stories written by teens and/or college students. They can write about anything they want or I’ll provide them a scenario and they build the story from that. I’m accepting applications and we do pay per story. Lastly, consider sharing your stories through a podcast which you can literally record on your phone. The possibilities are endless!

 Listen Here:


Tales of the Text


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Meet Designer Tori Nichel!


Feature, Latest | by — February 16, 2021

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(Interview by teen bloggers: A’Yanna Rouse, Sidney Charlemagne + Kiarra Charlemagne)

Tori Nichel is a fashion designer and entrepreneur who has carved out a major lane for herself in the fashion industry! Growing up in Detroit Michigan and throughout her childhood, she had a passion for fashion and sketching. After dedicating her time apprenticing with a retired designer, she later attended Michigan State University and Fashion Institute of Technology where she earned multiple degrees in Fashion Design. She went on to design and played pivotal roles in the fashion industry such as Senior Designer at Kenneth Cole and Head Designer at Tibi. She was also a contestant on NBC’s hot show, Fashion Star where she competed against other talented designers.

Having a passion of expressing herself, Tori launched her own business and label that represents her style and aesthetics!

She is currently also the Design Director for Kohl’s New York Design Office, she has led design teams to collaborate with numerous brands and celebrities like Jennifer Lopez. 

 Although she is one of the few African Americans in her position, she is committed to paving the way for the next generation of Black design talent through coaching, mentorship and career development.

Let’s get to know Tori a little better…

What inspired you to have a passion for the fashion community?

When I was about seven years old, I knew that I would be a fashion designer. All the women inspired me in my family; my mom was the oldest of six, which included four sisters who were all fashionable. I always chose to hang out with them because they were always shopping. I believe that this somewhat inspired me. Also, seeing pictures of my grandmother, my mom, and my aunts inspired me. They were so stylish and would wear gloves and hats while going to church which I absolutely loved.

From your website, you mention about helping the next generation and helping invent brands, what does it mean to you to uplift others and help others stand out?

I genuinely believe that you have to reach behind, pull someone with you, and pass the baton.  It is important, and many reasons why I am passionate about this is I didn’t have that trying to navigate the fashion world. No one in my family knew what to do with me in the fashion industry at all. When I got to New York, and when I got into the  industry, I realized no one looks like me. It is so important to take the learnings, the opportunities that I have been able to explore and pass that on to the next generation. I know how important it is because when I was creating my business, it was very hard, and it felt like it was only one of me. If I only had one source where I can rely on, that was only half of the battle.  I want to be that resource to give others what they need to be in their career.

I learned early the importance of building relationships and the importance of nurturing your network as well. It is also important to have representatives of black women and to make sure that we share our resources with our community and setting everyone up for a successful future.

FASHION STAR — “Sex Sells” Episode 202 — Pictured: Tori Nichel — (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)

What inspired you to start your business? 

I felt like the movie Mahogany! I just wanted to have my own business. I set my goal, and I achieved it, and now I think, “now what do I do?” I was very strategic in the jobs that I took because I knew that was my endgame. I had great professors and people. I would go to a lot of speaking engagements and just listen to people talk on businesses. Work for somebody and learn the in’s and out’s of that business on someone’s elses dollars before you spend your limited funds. As I got into those roles, I took on more work to learn all aspects of the industry. For my second job, I shadowed many other fields like PR, production team, etc., and it worked for four and a half years. Then I changed from a big corporation to a small company because I needed to work hands-on to learn how to start my own business. For people who know, I think I was an entrepreneur before a fashion designer. I still want to be an entrepreneur, and I think there is nothing better. If I can contribute that to my community and leave a legacy, that would be wonderful. 

What is your proudest project, and why?

My proudest project would have to be launching my namesake collection Tori Nichel.  It had always been a dream of mine ever since I was a little 7-year-old girl,  and to be able to live my dream was remarkable truly.  I sometimes still pinch myself!

What are the steps that you took to become successful and the women that you are today?

One of the things that definitely helped me at a younger age, shape myself as a designer was getting into sketching, dedication, and being curious. Although I didn’t have anyone to teach me sketching, looking at magazines definitely helped me. One thing that was very pivotal in my career was that, from high school to my junior year in college, I started apprenticing with a retired designer, model, and professor from the Art Institute in Chicago. By doing this, I learned pattern making and draping as well as professionalism. Later on, I got accepted to FIT and that foundation helped build the person I am today.

What is your advice for someone that wants to follow in your footsteps?

First and foremost, own your truth, own every ounce of that authenticity that you were given by your family, and why you are here on earth. Do not let anything stop you from achieving your goal. Show up in your truth, own who you are with any stage that you are given. Be fearless; if you don’t engage yourself and ask questions you’ll never know the opportunities that you can have. 

What are the responsibilities that you have on a daily basis?

I am the design director for Nine West at Kohls and my day usually starts around 9 in the morning. Typically I have 3 fittings a week. I also guide and present various ideas to my team at meetings for seasonal clothing so that we can receive a sign-off from our merchants and leadership. Usually, a couple of hours of my day are spent discussing details with my designers and guiding them on development. 

What qualities do you think an entrepreneur should have and why?

Passion and love. Whatever your business is, you’ve got to love it! There are going to be times where you are on top of your game and times where you are down and wondering “what did I get myself into”. You’ve got to love it because, on those harder days, your love and the passion alone is going to get you out of those hard days and back on level ground. Also it needs to feel like it’s not work because you love it so much. Hence, discipline, because as an entrepreneur you don’t have a boss, so you have to give yourself a structure and stay on track. Be curious and willing to learn as well.

Follow more of Tori’s journey here: 


Meet Jewelry Designer Lorraine West!


Feature, Latest | by — November 24, 2020

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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.  


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


#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


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.


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!


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:


Skate With Sade!


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!



#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!



NYC Youth Collective