Now that we have made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas, it is time to start getting ready for the new year. There’s only a few more days left in 2017. It’s that time of year when we all start doing self reflections and making vision boards.
The “new year, new me” time of the year LOL
My goal for this new year is to get my finances together aka secure the bag, travel more aka finally order my passport, find a condo or apartment and continue to work on my craft. Last year around this time I started my online closet where I’ve been selling my clothes via Poshmark and Depop. I’m excited about everything I’ve learned about selling online this year.
If I could think of one phrase to describe 2017 it would be: New levels, new devils. I’ve found at times it is difficult to chase my dreams when life keeps getting in the way. Juggling family, friends, work, paying bills, trying to find a new place, my relationship, going to the gym, trying to keep my hair and skin healthy, trying to eat a balanced meal, and everything else in between makes it easy to sometimes neglect my passion.
After I graduated college in 2015, I moved back to the Bay Area. Like most people studying fashion, I had plans to move to New York or even LA. But starting out in San Francisco ended up being the better plan financially for me. Ever since I’ve moved back to the Bay Area, I’ve been staying with family and let’s just say it’s been a journey.
Over the years, I’ve worked in visual merchandising, dispatch and troubleshooting, product management, data entry, business administration, Public Relations and marketing.
I have been on countless interviews all throughout California and even a few Skype interviews for jobs on the East Coast. I discovered most companies I applied for weren’t interested in hiring someone straight out of college, even with my work experience. Most jobs would offer to pay below minimum wage or paid part-time internships with very little room for growth.
Interviews for jobs in the fashion industry were even worst. Top fashion companies expect at least a year of experience for a 3 month unpaid internship with no guarantees of permanent employment. Some people can afford to temporarily work for free but with the cost of living being so expensive, student loans to pay off, and working middle class parents, that isn’t an option for me. But as the saying goes “you have to be in it to win it”.
It didn’t take me long to realize that women of color are severely underrepresented in the fashion industry. According to a fashion diversity report of 2017 on thefashionspot.com, New York Fashion Week had the highest diversity rating with an overall percentage of 31.5 models of color.
Notably, for the first time in New York Fashion Week history, every runway we tracked included at least one model of color. The same cannot be said for Milan and Paris. (In addition, most plus-size and all transgender model castings occurred in New York, evidence that the city is embracing a broader definition of diversity than its peers.)
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Needless to say, it is time for change.
The lack of diversity in the fashion industry and most corporate companies has pushed me to be more proactive in working in my own community to provoke change.
Most of the books I read this year were written by black women who’ve all faced similar challenges in their career journeys . For example, in Janet Mock’s new book Surpassing Certainty she discuss her challenges of being a trans woman of color working in corporate America, being a first generation college student, and working towards a career in the highly competitive world of New York magazine publishing.
“In life, there are constants and there are variables. One of my constants is that I am Black; another is that I will be proud of that regardless of how those around me feel, but that doesn’t mean I don’t wish for a little warmer welcome in the fashion industry. And that speaks to the variables: I can’t control how people feel about people of color or how blackness is perceived. Fashion’s way of whitewashing cultures will hold us back until it begins to understand the subliminal messages it conveys every time women of color are left out of a runway line-up, and aren’t represented in the pages of magazines or catered to appropriately in the beauty aisle.”
Nylander, Lynette (2015) It’s 2015: Why Does Fashion STILL Have A Problem With Diversity?, Refinery 29
Today fashion is still one of the least diverse industries. Sprinkling a token black, brown, asian, or racially ambiguous model in a few editorials does not make a brand “diverse”. Most fashion brands love to sell the illusion of diversity when the corporate office, designers, models, and professionals working behind the scenes are still predominantly white. Fashion brands would rather appropriate cultures instead of just hiring more people from different cultural backgrounds.
There’s been some progress but it’s still a long way to go. The lack of diversity in the industry isn’t just skin color it’s also body type, hair type, sexuality, etc.
I am done complaining about the lack of representation in the corporate offices, on the runway, in the magazines, on set, behind the scenes, on the TV screen, etc. I am ready to help change the narrative.
Women of color showed up in a major way this year. By creating businesses, starting movements, and using our many talents we are creating platforms in order to push the culture forward.
Starting this blog is just the beginning of me spreading my wings and using my resources to create something of my own. So to wrap this up here’s a list of a few women I was inspired by in 2017:
Issa Rae, a Stanford graduate who started on YouTube made history last year as the first black woman to create and star in a premium cable series with her HBO show, “Insecure.” Issa went from the “Awkward Black Girl” on YouTube to Cover Girl on red carpets. Issa is currently working on two more black HBO shows and she also has a scripted podcast series on stitcher called, Fruit.
Rihanna, a fashion icon, released her Fenty Beauty makeup line this year “so that women everywhere would be included,” creating formulas that work for all skin types, and pinpointing universal shades.
Ibtihaj Muhammad is a sabre fencer and a member of the United States fencing team. She’s the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics. In 2016 she earned the bronze medal as part of Team USA in the Team Sabre, becoming the first female Muslim-American athlete to earn a medal at the Olympics.
In 2017 Ibtihaj Muhammad was announced as this year’s newest member of the Barbie #Shero family! Because of this phenomenal woman for the first time ever Barbie will wear a hijab.
“Ibtihaj is an inspiration to countless girls who never saw themselves represented, and by honoring her story, we hope this doll reminds them that they can be and do anything,” Sejal Shah Miller, Barbie’s vice president of global marketing.
Yara Shahidi made Time’s 2017 List of Most Influential Teens. I honestly needed a Yara Shahidi to look up to when I was in high school. This year she announced she will attend Harvard after receiving a recommendation letter from first lady Michelle Obama. Not only does she star in the hit TV show Blackish, her spin-off show Grownish is set to premiere Jan. 3rd. She’s also an activist who champions feminism, diversity, and inclusivity. Yara is working to make a difference and helping not just teenagers but people everywhere find their voice.
Crissle West, the Beyonce of podcasts! Co-host of the podcast The Read, she has created a career for herself through podcasting. She has won awards, walked red carpets, made TV shows appearances, held international live show tours, and interviewed some of the biggest celebrities.
In 2018, to celebrate their 5 year anniversary The Read will be holding a live show at the Apollo Theater in New York and it is already sold out!! Crissle has not only made a name for herself in podcasting but she has paved the way for other black women as well.
Franceska Medina aka hey Fran hey the natural wellness bombshell. I can honestly say she has inspired me to go natural and to just be more health conscious about the products I use.
Most of the natural hair, essential oils and skincare products I use are thanks to Fran’s twitter, Youtube, and her weekly Wellness segment on The Friend Zone podcast.
Earlier this year Fran was one of the top 50 digital influencers around the world invited to the White House and honored by the Obama administration for their passion and unwavering commitment to changing the world. With her international wellness tours, collaborations with different fashion brands, and working with a wide variety of young black creatives, Fran is definitely changing the game. It is inspiring to see her create a lane for black women in the wellness and beauty industry.
Ava Duvernay, the first black female director in history to direct a movie with a $100 million budget. Also, the first black female to be nominated for a best director Golden Globe. With Selma, she was also the first black female director to have her film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. She is a really big inspiration because like me, Ava also worked in public relations. She even opened her own PR firm, The DuVernay Agency, which focused on movie marketing for African-American audiences. Eventually she became inspired to make her own films and has been making history every since.
Ava DuVernay said she was shocked to learn that many of her black female friends were struggling to break into television, even though they had directed feature films. As a result picked an all-female slate of directors for her TV show ‘Queen Sugar’, in order to open doors for more female directors. Here’s a excerpt from Refinery 29 of Ava Duvernay and Oprah Winfrey on a panel discussing hiring female directors:
Both Winfrey and DuVernay are also committed to seeking out new, undiscovered talent. It’s common for people to want to work with the same people over and over again, but DuVernay recognizes that this strategy is problematic. So she put on a mandate on all her projects, including the upcoming film, A Wrinkle in Time, and Queen Sugar.
“If you’re a department head, do not come to me with a list of white men,” DuVernay said. “You have to show me that you’ve looked at other people. Other people are excellent other than the people you know, and you have to show me that you’ve done that before we make any hire.”
As DuVernay completes A Wrinkle in Time, she emphasizes that change needs to start at the top.
“It’s a cultural thing,” she says. “The culture of OWN and Queen Sugar and Wrinkle is to be inclusive. The culture of so many other things is not to be.”
I have a long list of women of color who have inspired me in 2017 but the moral of the story is we are magic. Since we are often the most underrepresented party I will continue to highlight our magic to 2018 and beyond!
To hear more about Diversity in Fashion check out Black Girls Being podcast episode 45 BGB Tokens: Diversity in Fashion
Be safe this weekend everyone! I’ll see you guys next year!