Friday, March 28, 2014

What’s in a Name

The term fashion icon is used so loosely nowadays, specifically with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West tainting the cover of Vogue Magazine. Vogue’s reputation of status, class, elitism, and exclusivity doesn’t couple well with the branding of reality T.V. and off-the-rack buys from Sears. No disrespect to Sears. Yes I know Rihanna has a reality show too, but hers is about fashion, not exploiting her personal life for financial gain. One journalist compared Kim and Kanye on the cover of Vogue to Meryl Streep being on reality T.V. The two simply just don't belong together. 

The 26-year-old, Barbadian born beauty Robyn Rihanna Fenty is an entirely different story. She has made such an impression on the world of fashion, on and off the stage that the Council of Fashion Designers of America is honoring her with the Fashion Icon Award at the 2014 CFDA Fashion Awards on June 2. 

Rihanna has officially reached fashion icon status. If pictures are worth a thousand words, these are screaming with base! Take a look for yourself.

I'm a fan and could go on for days! Can you tell? 

Ad Campaigns


Gucci campaign to benefit UNICEF


Perfume collection Rogue by Rihanna is projected on London's Marble Arch.

Magazine Covers

Paris Fashion Week
So yes, Rihanna is worthy of the coveted and sometimes misused title of fashion icon. Let me reiterate, she's only 26-years-old and has fashion houses begging her to lend them her face and brand. She has international appeal and ad campaigns. She's graced the cover of dozens of magazines. She even walks the streets red carpet ready. To be perfectly fair, she has had a few minor misses, but haven't we all? At this stage in her career she has so much more to show us. I can't wait to see what's next!

Congratulations Rihanna! 

I do not claim ownership to the above images.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Aja Brown and the Resurgence of Compton, California

Recently, Google’s Doodle celebrated Women’s and Civil Rights Activist Dorothy Height. A remarkable woman from Richmond, Virginia who spent her life in public service, serving more than 40-years as the president of the National Council of Negro Women. American leaders regularly took her counsel, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Height encouraged President Dwight Eisenhower to desegregate schools and President Lyndon B. Johnson to appoint African-American women to positions in government. These are just a few of her accomplishments. A true servant of the people, which leads us to a young lady cut from the same cloth-Mayor Aja Brown. 

On June 4, 2013, Aja Brown made history as Compton's youngest mayor ever to be elected. The desolate, violent realities of life in Compton, California were immortalized in rap anthems during the 1980s and 1990s and has heavy ties to celebrity. Some who have trudged through the infamously violent streets include Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre, Suge Knight, and Serena and Venus Williams. Brown however, has a deeper more painful connection to the city. Her maternal grandmother, Lena Young was the victim of a violent home invasion. Young was raped and brutally murdered in Compton in the 1970s. The case is still unsolved.

Despite the grim outlook many people would expect Brown to have toward the city of Compton, she claims that her city is "on the cusp of revitalization," and compared its forthcoming revival to the transformation of Brooklyn, NY.
Aja Brown alongside husband, Van Brown, a Petrochemical Safety Manager
We are so proud of you Mayor Brown! Thank you for being such an extraordinary representation of how far an education, hard work and dedication can take you. 

I do not claim ownership to the above images.

The Resistance to Diversify

Bethann Hardison's long legacy of supporting diversity within the fashion industry, and her ongoing campaign to end racism on the runway has earned her the Council of Fashion Designers of America 2014 Founders Award. The former model turned fashion activist will be presented with the CFDA’s highest honor on Monday, June 2, at the Lincoln Center. She and the Diversity Coalition continue to fight the longtime battle against the lack of diversity on fashion’s runways, its magazine pages and its ad campaigns.

Bethann Hardison and Iman-longtime friend and Diversity Coalition member
In a means of holding the governing bodies of fashion accountable, Hardison on behalf of the Diversity Coalition wrote an open letter. It reads: “Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches design houses consistently use one or no models of color. No matter the intention, the result is racism. Not accepting another based on the color of their skin is clearly beyond ‘aesthetic’ when it is consistent with the designer’s brand. Whether it’s the decision of the designer, stylist or casting director, that decision to use basically all white models, reveals a trait that is unbecoming to modern society. It can no longer be accepted, nor confused by the use of the Asian model.”

Most recently, notable change has taken place in ad campaigns and on the runways. Hardison addressed the governing bodies once more in another email.“Last season we addressed the international fashion industry for their lack of conduct in being racially diverse. There was a marked improvement on the runways and a positive response to the letters received by the major fashion councils and the designer brands they count as members. First we will share the results. It is important to say that there are design houses serviced by casting directors and stylists who are latent, as they seem comfortable with stereotypical images. Although progress was made last season within certain houses, the objective is to continue this improvement across the entire industry. We look for consistency and not because of advocacy or a season lending to darker skin. So we will continue to watch and reveal season to season. Diversifying is not difficult. The resistance to do so is intriguing.”

Click here to view the Guidelines on Racial Diversity and best practices submitted to Diane von Furstenberg, President and Steven Kolb, CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

President of CFDA Diane von Ferstenberg, Diversity Activist Bethann Hardison, CFDA CEO Steven Kolb
Thank you Ms. Hardison for your continued activism to diversify the runway as a means to have it more accurately mirror the world. Diversity is a beautiful thing and makes economical sense. Blacks have an incredible amount of buying power and are projected to spend more than $1.1 trillion by 2015. Don't believe me? Read here.

Congratulations Ms Hardison and the Diversity Coalition! For your continued efforts against, and at times with the fashion powers that be, you are appreciated.  

I do not claim ownership to the above images.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

When Black is Just Never Enough

Black is beautiful. The blacker the berry the sweeter the juice. These are familiar mantras in the Black community. Perhaps it was never meant to exclude the lighter-skinned group in our culture, but rather to serve as a reminder to include the dark-skinned sect who felt ignored, neglected and ugly. 

No matter the year and regardless of the shade of the person running the free world from the reigns of the White House-the complexities of complexion will forever be a factor. During President Obama's initial win, there was a seemingly unbreakable bond that had been forged in the Black community. Naïveté would be the only source for the continued thinking that we would hold hands, lift each other up and sit by the campfire of love and self-inclusion singing Kumbaya.

What is it that forces us to pick each other apart and hold fast to the classism or colorism in our own community based on complexion? I'm convinced that hundreds of years later we are still enslaved to the mindsets finely woven into our psyche from 'master'. In 2014 not only are we wrestling with racial injustices from external sources; but the crabs in a bucket role based on complexion that many play help to keep colorism in our community flourishing. 

Take Pharrell's GIRL album cover for example. There was an uproar concerning his lack of diversity in the artwork he used. 'Black Twitter' sounded off because supposedly Pharrell did not feature any Black women on the cover. Case in point, the young lady standing closet to the singer of the Oscar nominated Happy, is in fact Black. At first glance she may not appear to be of African descent but that is one of the amazing things about my people. We come in so many various shades of beautiful. From fair-skinned being able to pass as white-to Black, appearing as if the sun came down and gently blessed the skin with a kiss. Upon the discovery that the young lady is actually Black, does the argument shift to, "she's not black enough"?

In an interview with the Breakfast Club, Pharrell states his disappointment with the disgruntled critics. "What really disappointed me is that, man, they jumped the gun. She's a black girl from Wisconsin (speaking of the woman standing closest to him) I used to date over 10 years ago, maybe 12 years ago. Had haters bothered to listen to the music first, they'd have known that GIRL is an ode to women, period." Click here to listen to Pharrell's interview.
Before we rally together at the steps of injustice fighting against the external sources of racism that lurks in the shadows, first we must look in the mirror and ask ourselves- "Am I contributing to the belief that my complexion is superior, and thereby aiding in the intolerance among my own people?" When the unchecked privilege of complexion festers, light or dark, the storied crabs in a bucket manifests itself into the reality that no matter what shade of Black a person is, their Black is never considered quite as beautiful.

I do not claim ownership to the above images.