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Business Issue 2013

Celebrating Women of African Heritage



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AFROELLE MAGAZINE | Encourage. Empower. Entertain. Elevate

Model: Zoe– Malaika Glorious Photography: @Thomsonphotography Make-up: @Muthoninjoba Hair by : @NempsBOH

Thank you to all our contributors who helped make this issue possible!


Sifiso Maposa Writer SOUTH AFRICA





Taking A Step of Faith


started my first business in high school, making and selling handmade cards for extra pocket money. I did this all through university and after graduation while I waited for employment . Even after I started working 9-5, I still had my side hustles. I even tried my hand at making sandwiches and supplying them at a Tuck shop near my workplace. At the time I wasn’t sure I could take the risk and leave my full time job, I had my fears; the thought of not having a guaranteed paycheck at the end of the month or the discouraging unemployment rates and the what ifs and it was never the right time. Even though I wasn’t ready then, deep down I knew that one day I would be a full time entrepreneur; do something I loved doing everyday, instead of waking up every morning wishing it was Friday, a public holiday or end month.

Editors Note

A couple of months ago, I turned 28 and I realized that life is too short not to pursue those things that bring me fulfillment. I looked at older colleagues who complained who were frustrated in their work but just clocked in everyday not happy. I didn’t want that to be me 20 years from now. I didn’t want a scenario where one day I look back at my life and wonder what could have been if I had just taken the risk. It’s that realization that gave me the courage to hand in my resignation letter and take a leap of faith to follow my dreams. This issue is filled with inspiration from women who took the same risk and came out of their comfort zones, moved past their fears to pursue their passions and turned them into successful businesses. ( [Pg 49-77] . They share their ups and downs, things they wish they knew and what they are doing to better themselves and their brands. One common advice they give is ‘Just do it!’ If you are an aspiring entrepreneur or you are just starting out, you will find valuable advice for you entrepreneurial journey in this issue; from tips on networking, books you should read, to how to balance your business and family. This issue also comes with reviews, features and interviews. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed putting it together. Feel free to email your feedback and suggestions. Until next time, I leave you with the words of E’yen A. Gardner, “When you take the step towards your dreams you will be met with fears because you have never traveled this way before. As you go, you will discover that you had nothing to fear. Through overcoming your fears you give those that follow you hope that if they pursue their dreams, they will achieve their dreams.”

Patricia Miswa Editor-in-Chief

CONTENTS Music, Books, Art & Culture


8 In Her Good Books– Enuma Okoro

30 Cosmetic Chemistry Connections

10 In Her Words—Nana Ekua Brew

32 Girls n’ Cocktails

14 Musicians You Should Know

36 Bridging the Gap

15 5 mins with annieSoul

44 Conversation with Carmen Veal

16 DayBreak: Muhsinah

63 Own a Little Piece of Nairobi

24 Artist Spotlight: Keturah

40 Art of Networking with Vernetta

28 Art Picks

Fashion, Home, Food & Travel

Special Feature

100 At Home with Charmaine Werth

Behind the Brands [Pg 49-77]

94 In the Kitchen with Sheila Ocen 98 Q & A with Foodie Ijeoma

Taibal Lawal Andrena Sawyer

90 Travelling with Travelista Teri Johnson

Christal Beeko

82 Fashionistas: Tsholo & Vicky

Michelle Okafor

78 A Story of Vibrant Legacy

Claudine Moore

Ore Oyeleke

Inspiration Quotes The Future Belongs to Those Who Believe in The Beauty of Their Dreams. - Eleanor Roosevelt In The End, We Only Regret The Chances We Didn’t Take. Every Great Dream Begins with a Dreamer. Always Remember, You Have within You The Strength, The Patience, And The Passion to Reach for The Stars to Change The World. -Harriet Tubman We May Place Blame, Give Reasons, And Even Have Excuses; but in The End, It Is An Act of Cowardice to Not Follow Your Dreams. - Steve Maraboli A Dream Doesn't Become Reality through Magic; It Takes Sweat, Determination And Hard Work. -Colin Powell “Don’t Ask Yourself What the World Needs. Ask Yourself What Makes You Come Alive, And Then Go And Do That. Because What The World Needs is People Who Have Come Alive.” -Unknown “How does one become a butterfly?” she asked pensively. “You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.” -Trina Paulus

In Her Good Books Enuma Okoro is an award-winning author and international speaker. Raised in four countries on three continents, she now makes her home between America, Paris, and Nigeria. She shares with AfroElle some of her good reads. Learn more about her at

All Quiet On the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque I read it at the impressionable age of 16, after which I sat in my room and cried. Then I wrote a poem to God. It was the only way I knew to respond. This book taught me the power of how particular stories can lay bare the fundamental human condition in its raw vulnerability and tragic beauty across history and circumstance. We are created to commune and thrive with one another, to bear witness to the divine image that glimmers in every human being regardless of nation, race and culture. Something within all of us knows that yet instead we create or adhere to idolatrous illusions that those who are not like us cannot fully bear the holy image to the same extent. So we justify our mutual self-destruction. The real tragedy is that sometimes we catch glimpses of the lie but we persist regardless. Its funny cause the horror of that book actually taught me the necessity of God.

100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Collected Poems of Robert Frost

This was the first book that showed me sentences could be delicious, intoxicating and can transport us beyond our imagination. It elucidated what I truly believe is the blurred line between the sacred and the mundane. Every natural thing is tinted with a shade of holiness and mystery but we rarely have eyes to see it.

The first real poem I ever memorized (besides Mother Goose stuff) was “Nothing gold Can Stay� by Frost. Reading that poem and all poetry since, has taught me that if I pay extra attention in life I can catch significant nuances and metaphors and parables that can deeply alter my daily experiences.

This book made magical realism seem like a perfectly reasonable way to experience the world. I continue to take this as an invitation to remain enchanted with life, and open to the miraculous coming from the most quotidian encounters.

Poetry teaches me that a patient and willing student will reap endless lessons from the classroom of life. Poetry has also trained me as a writer on the importance of precision and of word choice. The right word in the right place can make all the difference.

Zenzele, A Letter to My Daughter by J. ozipo Maraire I was born in the USA and raised in four different countries around the world. Coming to terms with my identity as a Nigerian woman has been both a challenging and beautiful process. I read this book a few years out of college and it was the first book that helped me feel less alone in my ongoing internal effort to make sense of my multiple cultural identities. Zenzele is a beautiful epistolary novel of a Zimbabwean mother writing from her home country to her college-aged daughter living in America. In it the mother shares stories that tell what it was like growing up a woman in her country and what she hopes for her own daughter who is experiencing such a different world in the America.


IN HER OWN WORDS First generation American, Nana Ekua Brew Hammond, was born and raised in New York City to Ghanaian parents. The duality of growing up in an African home in an American society allowed for Nana Ekua to be fully aware of the contrasting environments she was living in. However, at the age of 12, Nana Ekua’s parents sent her to Ghana to attend school. It was this coming-ofage experience that cultivated Nana Ekua into the author and entrepreneur she is today. She sits down with AfroElle’s Erica Ayisi to share how she has built a career around writing about Africa.

What inspires you to write about the Black/African experience? I'm inspired to write about the Black, Ghanaian, and immigrant experience because I spent the early part of my childhood wanting to distance myself from my Ghanaian background. In the early '80s, assimilation was the order of the day and Africa in particular was portrayed as a troubled place. I remember the news broadcasts of the Ethiopian famine on repeat--the flies, the malnourished children-and rather than present the story as one aspect of life in Ethiopia brought on by environmental and global forces, it was presented as one of many African problems. When I was 12, my parents sent me to live and school in Ghana. When I saw for myself that Ghana was much more than the problematic Africa portrayed on the news and in other media, I knew I would write about the real Ghana and Africa one day. What type or genre of writing do you enjoy the most? Like a parent, I can't choose which form of writing I love most. All forms of writing make me giddy, and I strongly believe all writers should try their hands at genres they're unfamiliar or uncomfortable with to develop their overall writing muscle. 12|

What inspires me most is figuring out the most compelling way to deliver a story.

publicist, and assistant as well as "the talent"--it's compelled me to develop entrepreneurial instinct.

I love the challenge of fiction, for example. Whether you're creating a short story or long piece of work, good fiction requires mastery of several moving parts including character development, dialogue, and plot. Journalism requires the same mastery, but you're dealing with facts and real people and another level of responsibility comes with it.

As a writer, you generally don't report to an office everyday day. How do you maintain discipline, routine and structure?

I also really enjoy writing poetry because it is all about communicating an emotion or event lyrically, whether you adhere to the rules of a specific metered form or free write. Likewise, advertising and marketing copy constantly dares me to generate big ideas, and then distill them into clever, attentiongrabbing bits that compel readers to act. I'm just a word nerd. What makes you an entrepreneur within your chosen profession? I'm an author, freelance copywriter and journalist. Ever since June 2012, I've been self-employed. I've had to be my own agent,

That remains a challenge for me. Sometimes I don't know when to turn the computer off and I often pull all-nighters when I'm on a roll. Conversely, when I have multiple deadlines looming, I tend to shut down and indulge in a reality show marathon to ignore the pressure.

But at the end of the day, I feel amazing when my to-do list is complete so I start with a list of what needs to get done most urgently and get to what needs to get done. It also helps that I won't get paid unless I deliver. Which publications has your work appeared in? In addition to my debut novel Powder Necklace, which was released by Simon & Schuster's Wash-

Nana’s favorite reads The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta This is my favorite book. Emecheta created a masterful, epic portrait of post -colonial life in Nigeria that explored the social role of women, wives, and mothers. After I read it, I couldn't understand why Emecheta's name was not mentioned in the same company as Chinua Achebe.

A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe This is a sharp and hilarious account of moral compromise in post-colonial Nigeria. I was thoroughly entertained and learned so much about the nation's political climate at the time.

Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie

ington Square Press, my fiction work has been published in African Writing, Sunday Salon, and the This Woman's Work anthology. I've written articles for EBONY Magazine, JET Magazine, The Village Voice, Vibe Vixen, German fashion book The Style 100, the international newspaper group Metro, Trace Magazine, Parenting Magazine, and on NBC news blog,, and My poetry has appeared in the Growing Up Girl anthology and in Nike's Jumpan23 art book, among other outlets.

This should be required reading for all writers. His memoir was ostensibly focused on the time that made him a household name--when the Ayatollah Khomeina issued a fatwa against him because he felt Rushdie's 1988 book The Satanic Verses blasphemed Islam--but Joseph Anton gave me a window into the world of the literary elite. Rushdie shares the back story and gossip behind power agents and publishers, reveals deal making strategies, and talks royalties and revenue. It inspired me to know that one could earn a great living as a literary author.

Musicians You Should Know Compiled by Ashley Mukue

Jennah Bell

Lady May

Oakland native, singer-songwriter Jennah Bell was first exposed to a music career at a summer music programme affiliated with the Grammy Foundation. She went on to study music at Berklee College and has performed for important stages including the BET Awards.

Since the release of her SanlamNBC Award winning debut album, Kamali in 2005, Lady May's music has grown both in artistry and popularity.

Jenna's music is a place in your soul where epiphanies grow, lessons are learned and life sparked. A rare and special gift, her music is a powerhouse and a well wealthy with fire and inspiration. Her latest EP Live at Mother NY is a collection of seven alternative, folk and soul compositions that break you apart to build you afresh. An after-thestorm experience that ignites your spirit.

Her latter albums were a combination of Oshiwambo traditional music, afropop and house that found place within western pop and gained great air play on MTV Base and Channel O. Lady May's newly released album, Crazy Desires is yet another collection of good sounds. Essentially dance music, the songs make it easily to your "Happy Feet" place where you have no control over the urge to dance and the easiest response is to be young; sing along, dance with feet planted on top of furniture and live.

Sindi Nene A fusion of jazz, kwaito and afropop, Sindi Nene’s music is a beautiful medley of poetry, storytelling and melody. Her debut album, Infinite is a compilation of love songs and odes to proud womanhood that are sung in her beguilingly warm alto voice that was discovered in the 2010 South African Idols where Sindi became the third finalist. Sindi is currently working on her next album which is due to be released in 2014 and hopes for a greater platform to share her gift. Although not a regular tea, Sindi’s music is a hearty cup for all those who will have it.

Lily Million Photography by Richard Barr

Singer-songwriter Lilly Million is credited for her honest writing on critical and generally avoided social issues. On her debut album On Love, Truth and Freedom Lilly sings boldly about love and the liberating power of truth in a beautiful composition of soul and folk music. Her background of poetry writing is conceivable in her brilliant lyrics and the musicality of her songs. Her sincere and soulful voice draws you in so that you are a part of her music and a sharer in the experiences she sings about. A true artist, Lilly sings to the soul and there, is where her music is received.

Photo Credit: Ali Baba

5 Minutes with annieSoul

Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Annette "annieSoul" Oduor is a performing vocalist and pianist, a songwriter and producer who has skillfully and creatively blended her diverse influences into her music. She serves up her unique take on a Swahili (sometimes Luo)laden, socially conscious neo-soul sound, doused in African rhythms, with just the right tinge of jazz (aka Afro Soul). Drawing on her experiences in Nairobi, and across the continent, annieSoul has come to embody the cosmopolitan and multicultural nature of her hometown. Drawing from her experiences in Nairobi and across the continent, annieSoula has come to embody the cosmopolitan and multicultural nature of her hometown. Her debut album ‘Mwanauziki ‘ was released in November 2009. My music sounds like Swahili, sometimes Luo-laden, socially conscious neo-soul sound, doused in African rhythms, with a tinge of jazz aka Afro Soul. I was about two years old and I was singing a solo at a Christmas Cantata in the Church I grew up in. My songs speaking about various things ranging from heartbreak and love songs to social issues regarding hunger and AIDS. I have a wide range of musical influences but the most significant would be Stevie Wonder and Erykah Badu. I am currently listening to Busi Mhlongo – exploring more of my African roots. I am currently working on my sophomore album to be released in the near future. 15|

Day Break The heartfelt Journey of Muhsinah: Her growth, Her blossoming and the Fruits of Her labor Interview by Iman Folayan

You would probably never use Mozart and Chopin in the same sentence as Go-Go music from D.C. unless of course, you are talking about singer-songwriter and producer Muhsinah. A woman with many hats indeed, Muhsinah started her musical career in her youth first learning classical piano. The songbird had humble beginnings and after graduating from Howard University she decided to spread her voice around the world. The love for music continued to grow and by the time she realized her passion was her profession she was well on her way to success landing a Grammy nomination in 2009 for Best Urban Alternative Performance. The limelight of super-stardom never cast its shadow over her and for much of her career she remained underground surfacing like a hummingbird at dawn. Coincidentally her first EP, Daybreak, had a similar effect; it captivated listeners and left them searching for more. Since then she has released two additional EP’s and has worked with a myriad of artists from hip-hop to jazz. In a candid interview, the seemingly shy Muhsinah opens up about journey as an artist and a woman. AfroElle: The D.C. music scene is quite unique with a vast array of very successful “underground” artists that have found a niche in the small capital. Having now travelled the world, performing and sharing your craft, how would you say your influences have changed? Muhsinah: Starting from D.C., if you really think about it you’ll realize that it is a world inside itself.

The north has NY, Philly and Baltimore with its on section and the South has it’s own section. But D.C. is not North or South so it doesn’t really have much to identify with when it comes to influences, so it pulls influences from itself. That’s part of the reason why go-go music is so big. When I was able to travel I was able to see how unique D.C. really is and how unique I am, and how much I am like everybody else in the world on an emotional level.

Travelling really showed me that similarity and the fact that it’s much easier to create music when you’ve seen the similarities of people. It also improved my fashion sense, my humor, and a lot of other things. I just think it has expanded me as a person. Right now I can say India is the country that I gained the most from on a soul level. The amount of nice people that are born in that country is so much bigger than America. Now America is really awesome too and when I was able

to get on a tour bus and travel around the country you get to see how beautiful America really is. I see why they wrote that song America the Beautiful. But after watching Indian film and listening to the music I realized that their vocabulary is so advanced, and I would say the same about African music. I really want to visit Kenya since you (AfroElle) are based there and see more of the world especially since I’ve never been to the continent of Africa. I feel like if I get to go to Kenya I’ll probably never want to come home.

would consider him just as pivotal, but Common was more on the radar. I got a lot more press for working with Common and I got to tour with him for three years. That’s when I got to travel the country, we also went to Europe, and that was the first time I flew on a private jet. There were just a lot of special moments working for him that really made me appreciate being a musician.

Sometimes when you study something for a really long time you kind of take it for granted and you’re just really focused on AE: You’ve worked with a lot of different artists, of all the experiences getting better and better. You’re not really taking it in and who one was the most memorable appreciating that you’ve gotten and why? yourself to this point. Well I feel working with Common was a big M: I think Common was the most pivotal road mark and helped me really because when I started working with gauge how I created the life I really him I had no long term experience with love by doing what I love. working with a big artist. I sang back-up for Raheem Devaughn prior, and we have been friends for a long time so I

AE: Common is one artist that has been able to evolve in his career but it seems most artists seem to have this constant struggle of pleasing the audience and still being true to their art? How do you balance the two? M: I definitely have struggled with that in the past because I was experimenting a lot with my sound. I actually still am but now I know who my fans are. I really didn’t know who my fans were before and honestly I didn’t think I had any fans until I stopped making music and people were like “Hello, where’s the music?” That’s when I was like “Oh they do exist!” It’s tricky like that because sometimes you don’t know and if I’m not booking shows then I’m not able to see my fans face to face. That’s why touring is so important and I’m looking forward to putting more tours together because that’s the way you know that your fans exist.

As far as the struggle of doing what I want to do versus what the fans want me to do, I think it’s all one in the same. My fans want me to make good music and they want me to be happy, and I want to make good music and I want to be happy, so we want the same things. I think whenever an artist takes their fans for granted or want to fool their fans into believing that they’re something that they’re not, or want to forget about who they were and want to recreate themselves, that puts a gap between you and your fans. In the beginning it’s hard to see that you need them. I remember after I wrote Day Break and Triangle I went into this place where I wasn’t really enjoying myself. I don’t know what happened but I was doing shows and I was bored off stage; I just didn’t really like what I was doing. So I just started to write all this different kind of music, and experimenting just to find myself again and that’s when that questioning came into play like “Am I doing too much to please myself? Am I forgetting about all the fans that were with me these first two albums?” Now I’m getting back to a place where I’m giving back to those core people, making music that they want to hear and that I’m inspired by as well. I feel like I’ve bridged that gap finally. AE: Your background as a musician certainly plays a role in your music. Recently D.C. public schools received some backlash after cutting the music programs. How do you feel about that and how important is it to you to have arts in the schools?

M: I definitely would not be a musician if there were not music programs in any of the schools I went to.

I started making music in elementary school, I was in a glee club, I played the clarinet and this was all in public school this was all paid for with tax dollars. I just think if there were no music programs then I wouldn’t know anything. It’s very disappointing but I do believe that a way will always be made and I think you can learn music in other ways. I have no doubt that children who want to know music will learn music. I just saw a video, and I have no idea what country they were in, but there were two little boys and they had hubcaps and pots and pans but they were the most talented drummers I had ever seen in my life. So I really feel that if someone really wants to learn music they will find a way. And I feel that society or the government has to learn or figure out a way to make it possible for people who really want to learn so they can learn. It was their responsibility before and it still is in a way but I think this whole system needs to be restructured. So if artists like me start a school that’s what we’ll do. I’m noticing a lot of private music schools being started and I have a lot of friends that teach around the D.C. area in Charter Schools, at private music schools and do private lessons. So people still want to learn music and put their children in programs.

AE: Being a musician has shaped our artistry but how would you describe your voice/style and your message? M: I think when I pull it all in I have a very worldinfluenced style. I’m not just R&B, I’m not just Soul, and I’m not Hip-Hop. I have a more eclectic, cultural vibe to it.

I think my message is just self-expression no matter what and finding a way out of whatever problem you’re in. That’s probably the message of all of my songs honestly. Whether it’s finding your way out of being hopelessly in love with somebody, or finding your way out of being broke. Construction was all about figuring out how to make money and Discovery was about finding my way out of depression. All my songs are about finding solutions. I’m just one of those friends where my friends come to me when they have problems and I’m like “Okay let’s figure this out”. I’m the problem solver and my songs are the solutions. AE: You have spoken about how your music has blossomed, what further growth do you foresee? What are some of your ultimate goals musically? M: I foresee a lot more styles being influenced in my music but still having that familiar head nod and the “dance-ability”. I need that even for my own entertainment, meaning I have to be able to dance around to it. I definitely see myself dancing on stage more and I see a bigger production art wise at my shows. I just started a company where I’m going to be releasing my own records and putting clothing with them so each record will have it’s own look and feel. That’s always been one of my passions: music and fashion. When you think about it all the really big artists that you love have a typical image with them so I’m just giving people access to look like what I sound like. So expect that on the next album for sure! AE: Are there any upcoming projects we can look forward to hearing from you? M: I just wrote a song for Robert Glasper’s next album Black Radio II and I also wrote a song for Nora Jones called “Let it Ride” which is on her latest album available now. Another song I wrote for Caroline Malachi called “Choose Me” was recently added to the Grammy ballot so I’m excited about that. I should be releasing my next album in the winter either January or February and will be planning a tour soon after that. AE: Final Thoughts… M: I must say that I am honored to be in this magazine because I feel like black women, African women, American women, brown women, all women, we all need to see each other in a good light and we all need each other. I wouldn’t be who I am without every single woman who reads this and I appreciate all those taking the time to read this.

To hear her music and for more info visit 23|

Meet Artist Keturah Ariel


ell us a little but about yourself, where you come and how you got started with your art.

My family is from Detroit Michigan, but I grew up and live in Ohio. So I'm from the Mid-West region of the United States. I pretty much have been drawing since I could hold a pencil, I was home schooled as a child and my mother nurtured my love/talent for art at a very early age What the first art piece you created? That's a difficult question because I have always created. I have early memories of drawing characters of my whole family. My brothers and I even had our own comic book for a while, it was called "The Everything Guys" , embarrassing, not too many people know about that.


Where do you mostly get inspiration for your work? Real life, music, and film are probably the top three categories if I had to categorize what inspires me most. What do you like about your work? what would you call your artistic style? I like that it is the best way for me to express myself, it's the purest form of who I am. I also like that people are able to see themselves in my work; I love being able to make that connection. I'm still developing my style and I don't know if I would ever feel comfortable labeling myself. I just want my work to inspire others to find the light within themselves. What medium do you prefer to work with and why? It's just something about oil paint that cannot be duplicated, but drawing will always be my first love. Every painting I do begins with a sketch so I appreciate both of those mediums a lot.

push myself artistically no matter what. Have you ever felt like giving up on your art and what was the circumstance surrounding it? After I graduated from college, I didn't do any of my own art for a whole year. I was so burnt out from school and I was working a fulltime job. At that time, I started thinking that I should go back to school and get a degree in museum studies to be a curator. I feared the "Starving Artist" lifestyle, but I've never been one to force myself to do something I'm not passionate about either, so I started painting again. As an artist is your outlook on life artistic?

Absolutely, I think it would be difficult not to. That's one of the reasons why I love nature so much.. ‘Safe’ from Protect the Queen series . Mixed media How has your work Despite daily struggles there's so developed over the years? much beauty in the world and it is a constant source of inspiration. I love Well they say you go to art school to learn the rules sunsets, clouds, the change in season, all of and you develop yourself as an artist once you figure out how to break them. In school I was more those things have influence in colors I technical and wasn't really able to express myself choose to paint with and affect my art first through the paintbrush like I do now. I feel like I hand. finally found my niche. It was a journey getting here, but it's only the beginning. My plan is to always

What inspired the piece 'Internal Battle'? One of my Instagram friends told me how she was having a difficult time transitioning and how she felt torn about wearing her hair natural versus straight. Internal Battle was inspired by her. That piece is probably my most popular painting and it literally took me 30 minutes to paint. Which of your artwork would you consider your most favourite and why ?

"Internal Battle" Oil on wood. 2013. Illustration of teenage girl struggling with the idea of how she should wear her hair.

Hmm, that's a good question. It changes, right now I would say I'm really enjoying the "Protect the Queen" series because the entire series was inspired by real life events that have happened to me. Conceptually it goes really deep, but it's cathartic for me so the connection I have to it is directly from my heart. Can you name an artist you would like to be compared to and why? Wangechi Mutu and not because of our art, but because

"Young. Gifted. Black." Digital painting. 2013. Portrait of NYC based artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

as a black female fine artist she is a phenomenon. She inspires me. I was able to meet her and work in her studio in Brooklyn a few years ago and it really inspired me and made me change my point of few as an artist. Working with her was my "Ahh Ha" moment. The realization that it is in fact possible to be a black woman and be an artist and be successful. Is there an artist you relate to and why?

"I like Art" Type Girl. Digital painting. 2013. Paying homage to Lisa Bonet, inspired by Kanye West lyrics.

I don't know if I relate to him yet but I love Shepard Fairey and his brand Obey. I would love to be able to be on his scale one day. His art deals mores with political/ societal views and wordily injustices. And in a way mine does too just within the community of black people and the subculture of natural hair. Is there a purpose to your artwork? There has to be, and it's the reason that I exist. I feel like we are given this life to make whatever positive impact we can on the world. I will always route for the underdog, I just want to uplift others. I want them to know they are beautiful, smart, capable, and worthy. What advice would you give to aspiring artists? Never put yourself in a box. Never limit your art. Never rush, take your time. Inspire others. Be great. Listen to your heART.

"Angela: Liberating Minds/Liberating Society" Digital painting/Mixed Media. Matriarch Series. 2013. Portrait of Angela Davis.

Art Picks

Compiled by Sifiso Maposa

The New Africa Centre Formerly known as the Museum for African Art, the institution is reinvented itself. When it re-opens it will feature a museum, policy institute and members’ club for cultural leaders and policy makers interested in Africa. Its new home will be in Manhattan, New York City. The re-imagined institution will appeal to a broader audience. The centre makes this list because it is dedicated to increasing public understanding, awareness and appreciation of African art and culture. Photo Credit:

Harare International Festival of the Arts The Harare International Festival of the Arts is one of Africa’s largest international arts festivals. It is an annual 6 day festival showcasing theatre, dance, music, dance, fine art and poetry. It takes place from late April stretching to early May in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe. This festival is a top pick because of its role in unifying socially and culturally disparate groups through the arts.

Channel O Africa Music Video Awards Wangechi Mutu Wangechi Mutu born June 22, 1972 in Nairobi Kenya is an artist and sculptor. She is considered to be one of the most important contemporary African artists and her work has received much global acclaim. She makes this list not only for her amazing artwork but also because she was recently featured on Jay-Z’s Picasso Baby video off his Holy Grail album (pictured ) Photo Credit: Norell Giancana

Johannesburg- Art City of the Future Kari Rittenbach, editor of Art Cities of the Future, describes an ‘Art City’ as an urban area that offers something beyond just prestigious museums and a thriving gallery culture. It is a city that has its own critical feedback system. The ‘art world exclusivity’ is shifting from being only focussed on cities like New York and Paris. A group of curators chose Johannesburg as one of 12 Art cities of the future. Art enthusiasts can explore this cities artscape. Photo Credit:

Named Africa’s premier diva and Queen of African music, Angelique Kidjo will be releasing her album ‘Eve’ in early 2014. The Grammy award winner from Benin has travelled far performing for audiences on many stages and advocating as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. Angelique is a top pick because her new album will be a remembrance of African women and will showcase the positivity they bring to their villages, cities, and the world. As a preview, she released a single off the album in which she collaborated with Paris born Nigerian singer, Asa on the first official single ‘Eva’. Photo Credit:

Originally from Zimbabwe but currently living in South Africa, Sifiso Maposa holds a BA in International Relations and will be joining the Graduate School of African Studies at the University of Cape Town in 2014. Sifiso is African Arts and culture enthusiast interested in seeing all forms of artistic expression mobilised and included in development, and in societies. She considers herself a cultural curator and enjoys film, visual arts and literature. Sifiso loves film festivals and hopes to be a film critic in the future. She blogs at and you can follow her on @SifisoMaposa


e live in a beauty obsessed world which is ruled by advances in beauty products and treatments where not a week goes by without the launch of a new antiageing cream or Botox treatment. Unfortunately this is not reflected in the classroom where girls trail behind boys in STEM ( Science, Technology, Engineering) subjects.

Cosmetic Chemistry Connections A Campaign for more Women of Colour in the beauty industry

Cosmetic Chemistry Connections is a new initiative that was launched on October 30 to encourage young women from disadvantaged backgrounds to study chemistry at University. Cosmetic Chemistry Connections is the brainchild of Madeka Panchoo, Managing Director of 33 Boroughs Consultancy Ltd specializing in corporate responsibility programmes. Working with Generating Genius, a charity, that works with high achieving students from disadvantaged communities, the programme aims to encourage girls aged 16+ from the BME (black and minority ethnic) community to pursue a career in chemistry. It is supported by brands such as L’Oreal, Fashion Fair Cosmetics and Yves Rocher. Generating Genius was founded by well published education commentator and former teacher, Dr Tony Sewell, “Chemistry is everywhere,” says Dr Sewell. “It certainly dominates the cosmetic industry where chemical products are produced and consumed in what is a billion pound industry. Students are often unaware just how chemistry is used in creating even the most basic of products. We will be attracting technical, branding and retail aspects of the cosmetic industry to meet its future talent.” “I am really excited to be working on such a positive project,” says Madeka Panchoo. “I feel very passionate about the aims of Cosmetic Chemistry Connections and its role in

empowering young women and making them more confident about their skills in a science subject.” Drawing on the knowledge that girls react more positively to science subjects when they are presented in a user friendly way, Cosmetic Chemistry Connections aims to show the students the connections between beauty and science, how chemistry impacts their everyday life and the options opened up to them with a chemistry degree. The launch at Christ the King College in London saw 25 students work in a lab for one day to create their own beauty product and learn all about the chemistry processes involved. They worked on the life cycle of the

products from lab to shelf and learned about the sustainability issues involved. They worked closely with cosmetic chemists, contract manufacturers, scientists and marketers who will be involved in the programme. Subject to funding, the main programme will start in Spring 2014 with workshops looking at chemistry and hair products and colour cosmetics. The programme will culminate with summer work placements, mentoring, interview preparation and personal presentation advice. 31|

“Girls ‘n Cocktails is an Entertainment brand for Cosmopolitan women of color living in Africa, the Caribbean and descendants living in Europe.” 32 |

attended different film projects offered by the Dutch media fund to develop her craft as a writer. Being involved in entertainment both in Europe and America, made Rasheida realize that Europe is still a huge step behind when it comes to developing ethnically diverse media & entertainment concepts. After visiting Hollywood in the summer of 2010 and meeting with like-minded women and entrepreneurs, Rasheida decided it was time to turn her gained inspiration into an actual plan. That’s why she decided to develop an entertainment brand in which she could empower and entertain women like herself - Girls ‘n Cocktails.


asheida Adrianus is a Dutch-based cultural entrepreneur who develops educational and empowerment projects for young adults between the ages of 17 and 27. As a screen writer she has

Girls ‘n Cocktails is an entertainment brand for Cosmopolitan women of color living in Africa, the Caribbean and descendants living in Europe that aims to provide high-class entertainment products. Targeting women between the ages of 25 and 35, a typical Girls ‘n Cocktails woman is someone who values education and self-enrichment, she’s ambitious and enjoys the finer things in life. She’s fashionable and likes to stay upto-date on the latest fashion trends. She fully embraces her ethnical diverse social environment or background and is totally integrated into society. GNC will profile these women and portray them as role models to the next generation. Girls ‘N Cocktails aims to inform, empower and entertain their target audience. GNC’s first product is a talk show that Rasheida will be introducing.

What was the 'aha' moment or series of events that led you to start Girls 'n Cocktails? I’ve always been interested in entertainment and decided that I wanted to make a living in this business about six years ago. While trying to get ahead in the industry both in Europe and America, I realised that Europe is still a huge step behind when it comes to developing ethnically diverse media & entertainment concepts. In December 2010, on Boxing day, I decided to host a cocktail party at my house for my female friends and family members. I thought it would be a great idea to catch up and just have some fun with the girls. It turned out only three of my closest female friends/family members agreed with me. Even though they where the only ones that came, we had a blast drinking cocktails, eating yummy finger foods and talking about sex, career, lifestyle, men etc. The next day while cleaning my house and recalling the night before, I realized I had a new concept. Most women of my age like to have cocktails with the girls and talk about their everyday life, so why not create a concept that evolves around this topic? And just like that, I exhaled and gave birth to my baby. Have you experienced any challenges as a woman of color in the media industry? Well, I did attend some film projects funded by the Dutch Media fund and it was hard to meet with like-minded producers and directors. I wrote a synopsis about a bi-racial couple and their kids. It received good credits and I received paid coaching and several workshops to develop my script. There was one particular situation that made me realize that this road just wasn’t for me; I attended a workshop given by a renown filmmaker. He had read my synopsis and liked it but advised me to spice it up by turning the welleducated and well-mannered black husband into a man who repeatedly cheated on his wife. I was stunned and annoyed but politely told him that I would never do so and the reason why I wouldn’t.

He did not understand my point of view and that was when I realised that it would be a long road, if I was to wait for the Dutch Media Industry to finally realise that we’re getting a little tired of seeing stereotypical black characters on TV. The film industry in the Netherlands is very small and to this day mainstream media’s biggest target audience is white. When you look at mainstream media, there is still a lack of diversity in TV presenters, TV-shows and in music. It’s slightly changing but way to slow. This digital era makes it easier for film and program makers like myself to create and/produce content for a more ethnically diverse target audience, which is great but still hard. Especially in terms of funding. What more can we look for once the first season starts in January, what can you tell us about any upcoming storylines that may come into play? We will be talking about beauty standards amongst Black women: like weaves vs. natural hair, skin bleaching, social identity etc. Girls like to talk about sex just as much as men do, so there will be some spicy topics as well dating, flirt coaching and a lot more! In addition to Girls n' Cocktails, what else can we expect from Rasheida Adrianus? Well, my plan is to establish Girls ‘n Cocktails as thé entertainment brand that produces high-quality entertainment for women of color. The positive portrayal of women of color is key in all my productions. Next to this, I am an aspiring songwriter. I can’t give to much details but in early 2014 a very talented up and coming American singer will release an album including a track that I wrote. When the time is there, you will know! Hopefully, the world will know!

Keep updated with GNC

Bridging the Gap


ritish Actress, Screenwriter and Filmmaker Katrina Smith-Jackson is the Founder & Managing Director of arts organization Boardwalk Bridge Arts who's aim and ethos is to bridge the gap over the arts cuts for all emerging artists. Born and raised in Essex, growing up, Katrina never had organizations to turn to for confidence and skill development in the arts, and she felt as though her creativity was 'paralyzed' until she was 18 and old enough to travel into London to join with other organisations, learn new skills and hone existing ones. Katrina founded her first creative venture Amateur Shorts in 2011 in retaliation towards the arts cuts and the need for an organization that nurtures aspiring talent. Her concern for the reinforcement of the importance of arts education and break barriers around creative industries led Katrina to start Boardwalk Bridge Arts in early 2013, making Amateur Shorts an arm of this larger organization.


Setting up her creative venture was not without challenges, Katrina mentions building our audience was a challenge. “ I'm constantly told how Boardwalk Bridge Arts' ethos and services are fantastic, how it is a great org to help emerging artists, and a driving force in starting to revitalize the failing arts industry, but it's been hard reaching the masses. It is a continuous process, and one that I am grateful for by being able to appreciate Boardwalk Bridge Arts' work even more. Yet it has been a difficult task, having to reign back on our ideas to cater realistically and effectively to our current audience as time goes on, and it grows and develops.� Katrina has set up systems to help her business grow which for her, it boils down to continuing to connect with various established organizations and people that believe in their ethos and vision, and are willing to support them in any way possible or connect and work with them to #BridgeTheGap over the arts cuts, reinforce the importance of arts education, and dismantle the barriers of diversity

and eliminate the stigma around the creative industries. Has the perception around creative industries changed? “They are still the same” she says, “I think we have a long way to go in bridging the gaps our current government has made in the arts to support and nurture aspiring creative talent, and that revitalizing the arts officially starts by tackling the policymakers which is our next step. We need filmmakers, actors and artists just as much as we need doctors, teachers, lawyers and fishermen! Same way said professions require learning and access to learning, artistic professions do to.”

Next year, Boardwalk Bridge Arts will be launching The Networking Café, a monthly event where creatives of any discipline get together in one space to network. The Networking Café consists of 'open mic' styled showcases and screenings by up and coming talent, with networking icebreaker and game intervals, all to be enjoyed over a cup of tea & a slice of cake. The aim is for creatives to network with as many people as possible, encouraging connections between likeminded people in a positive environment, as well as giving people the platform to showcase their talents, and eliminate the fear and social anxiety that general networking events can cause.

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Cynthia-Laure Etom of “Les Diasperos” 30 year old Cynthia-Laure Etom is a freelance consultant in Communication and founder of the international network Femmes du Cinéma de la Télévision et des Nouveaux Medias FCTV Paris dedicated to the women working in the Cinema, Television and Digital Media industry. Having lived in Paris for 5 years and knowing the value of making valuable networks, she created “Les Diasperos”, a networking event called aimed at people of the Afro-Caribbean Diaspora.


While living in London, Cynthia discovered the principle of networking. “ I found the concept necessary. Back in France, I tried to find this kind of event. I wanted to be linked with other entrepreneurs from the Afro-Caribbean diaspora in order to compare our experiences. I was pretty sure of not being the only black entrepreneur living in Paris.”

Cynthia’s idea grew and the first event was held in February 2012. The Diasperos is held in Paris every month. Each event is sponsored by a recognized public figure and a different theme is discussed. At the Diasperos entrepreneurs are linked and are able to network among like minded individuals over a drink and buffet. But the event is not limited to those of Afro-Caribbean descent, its also open to those interested in the

culture and want to collaborate and contribute to member’s projects. “By this I get to know my guests and it is easier for me to connect people during the event. I introduce people to each other. I like to think that I give a push in this direction.” says Cynthia.

you are interested in attending. “The future is bright for Diasperos, says Cynthia , “We are launching "Diasperos The mag! With it we want to give a voice and visibility to entrepreneurs from the Afro -Caribbean diaspora.”

For one to attend Diasperos there is an email registration process where you indicate why


“I found an inner peace when I realized my true gift in life. I have a way of making connections for people that not only helps them but was something they were seeking and couldn't do on their own. I also worked in nonprofits for 5 years so it's really important for me to give back to small nonprofits and help them spread their message.�

The Art of Networking with

Vernetta Freeney When blogpreneur Vernetta R. Freeney left the teaching and nonprofit field after 9 years with no plan B, she fell into blogging and it eventually grew into a business. The Texas native who loves giving back and travel incorporated these passions into her business. Vernetta is the creator of Fusion Tour that creates intimate business atmosphere and conversations for women blogpreneurs, socialpreneurs and solopreneurs. She talks about her journey as entrepreneur and breaks down the art of networking.

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What was the circumstance surrounding your entrepreneurial journey and how has it been so far? Due to budget cuts hundreds of teachers in the state of Texas lost their jobs. Being one of the younger teachers I didn't have enough years to save my job. I fell into a state of depression. My mother and a friend encouraged me to get back into blogging as an outlet while I look for a job. The crazy thing is it became a new career path for me. What was your greatest fear starting in that path?

I had no fear starting this business. It just seemed natural as things fell into place. Now the fear I do have is not living up to my potential. I don't want to look back on life and feel I left anything on the table. I want to fulfill the purpose God gave me to leave the world. Why did you decide to start the Fusion Tour? I started Fusion Tour first as an event here in Houston. I didn't feel comfortable at most networking events. I felt so out of place trying to meet new people. In fact, just the thought of attending those events gave me high anxiety. Fusion was an event I was personally searching for. A place where women could come together, learn and connect with one another. I do better in smaller, intimate settings but wanted quality connections. People in other states and cities started hearing about Fusion in Houston. The response of wanting Fusion Tour in their cities is how the tour came about. I know there are other introverts or women in general who want to learn from a panel of experts while making connections in an intimate setting out there in need. I created what I needed for myself. Just so happens that others need it too. What has been the response of the Fusion tour so far? The response has been amazing so far. At the end of every event participants ask when it's coming back. Women have given amazing testimonials which can be seen on my blog and some wanted to know if they could apply to be a hostess. That's always a great thing when people want to know when your event is happening again. Do you have a successful networking story? I would say volunteering at the Texas Conference for women in 2012 was a great way for me to meet women across the state. One year later I was added to the speaker line up. I would say having my strategy in place and implementing it was a great way for me to get noticed by the right people. What made this a great thing for me is

“ Women are already at a disadvantage in business. So if we work together then we can build the businesses we want successfully with a supportive network ready to step in and assist if necessary.�

this conference is the biggest conference for women in the country. It has an international line up. Another success story is from one of the attendees who attended the very first Fusion in 2012. She took all the information I shared with her and now she is full time in her business and was able to leave her 9 to 5 on her terms. Being a part of her journey is something I'm extremely proud of. I became part of another women living out her purpose.

Why do you think is important for women entrepreneurs to network? It's important to network because no one lives in a bubble. We must collaborate and leverage the resources that are shared with us by others. Women are already at a disadvantage in business. So if we work together then we can build the businesses we want successfully with a supportive network ready to step in and assist if necessary. And by assist I mean we pay for their products/ services but know we're getting high quality. I don't recommend using a relationship to move your business ahead at the expense of another woman's business. 41|

What’s the difference between connecting and networking? Networking is mingling with others. You are there partaking in conversation and enjoying the company. Building connections is much deeper. You are actually getting to know the other person on a one on one basis. You are seeing how your two companies can complement one another or if this other person will be a potential client or customer. This is my philosophy. Networking leads to Connections. Connections lead to Relationships. Relationships lead to Revenue. Connections are extremely important because they lead to building a relationship with someone else. But you won't get that connection unless you are actually out networking. Even though they are different you can't have one without the other.

Can you compare online networking to showing up for face- to- face networking? There is nothing like face to face networking. Online networking is great. You make connections outside of your community like this one between you and I. But the true mark of a relationship is solidified face to face. Just having the human connection in the flesh allows you to truly get a good sense if that person is worth adding to your circle or not. Besides the connections I made online were strengthen when we met at Fusion. It was just something about finally

meeting in person that we didn't get speaking on the phone or chatting online. What is the ideal way to approach/ work through a networking event as a shy person? First actually show up. There are many times I don't show up because my anxiety got the best of me. Just the fear of being in a room with so many new people to meet overwhelms me. When I do attend I have a strategy in place. I created this strategy as a way for me to focus

on something other than the amount of people in the room. I always have 3 people in mind I want to meet. This helps me navigate the event and leave feeling accomplished. What other common mistakes should business owners avoid while networking? First, don’t just pass your card around at events. While it's great to get your name out there it's more damaging to come off as clueless, desperate and unfocused. Reserve your cards for people you truly want to build a relationship with. Another mistake I see people do is dominating the conversation trying to sell their product or service. When you first meet someone selling to them is a big turn off. I highly suggest just having a casual conversation. That will help you gauge if your personalities fit. This goes back to sharing your card with someone you want to build a business relationship with. What common networking advice do you disagree with? The one advice I strongly disagree with is the more people in your network the better. Everyone should not be in your network. I tell women to go for quality and strengthen those connections. You get more from people who truly know you inside and out and by that I mean your business. They know exactly what to send and not send your way. When you have random people in your network they send random information your way. That just clutters your inbox. Having a lot of people in your network usually occurs because you attend every networking event possible. Don't do that. Attend networking events where your clients are. Have your strategy in place and you'll get your quality connections. If you could network with anyone, who would it be and why? I'm sure everyone would say Oprah. But honestly she's not my target market. I would love to network with Ursula Burns. She is the first black woman to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I would love to get to know her story in her words and take what I learned from that to apply to my own career path.

Ask Vernetta What 3 important questions should someone should ask at a networking event that can build a strategic relationship? 1. What is your name? Seems simple but people begin conversations all the time and never know who they are speaking with. Then they get home and can't remember or know how to get in touch with the other person especially if no business cards were exchanged. 2. What brings you to this event? This opens the door to a friendly conversation yet helps you know why that person is in the same space as you. This question helps to let you know if the conversation ends at that event or can continue afterwards.

3. How can I get in touch with you? If you know for certain this is a person you want to go pass getting to know at a networking event, then get their card. That helps with your follow up strategy.

What one piece of advice would you like everyone to take away from this interview? The one thing I want all of your readers to grasp is to devote themselves to an idea and make it happen. You can't attain anything in life if you don't do the work to make it happen.

You can connect with Vernetta and find out where the Fusion Tour schedule for 2014


Conversation With Carmen Veal Fashion designer, interior decorator, community change agent, blogger, and more – Carmen Veal shares her passions, purpose, and evolving spirit with AfroElle’s JoVonna Rodriguez JoVonna Rodriguez (JR): Who is Carmen Veal? Carmen Veal (CV): A mother, daughter, sister, friend, an innovator, an influence, and a work in progress. JR: You’re involved in several websites, businesses, and initiatives. Can you tell me more about your passion and purpose with each? CV: For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been in love with fashion and styling. Growing up I had a love for bold colors and patterns, and usually incorporated them into my personal style. It was my own— completely trendless creative and unique. My love for fashion and styling led me to establishing Sani Auri, LLC in 2009, where I serve as CEO and Head Fashion Designer. Sani

Auri currently houses my line of women’s bodycon dresses and high-waist swimwear. In 2012, I established a partnering line of men’s ties and bowties called Final Frame. Today, I have had the opportunity of professionally styling clients and runways. When it comes to interior design putting a room together with custom made curtains and throw pillows were a hobby of mine since the age of 14. I watched my aunt in admiration as she made curtains and re-upholstered her living couch in the same print. Since then, I’ve always had a love for interior decorating. My passion was reignited when I was offered the opportunity to be an Assistant Buyer and Visual Coordinator for a furniture store. This prompted me to start Carmen Veal Interiors, LLC this

year, which focuses on residential and commercial interior design and event decorating. My skill set as a seamstress offers clients a custom and affordable approach to design. As a blogger, I started the Brown Skin Women (BSW) as a platform to empower and uplift women and girls of color. As a result of my personal experience growing up in poverty and never feeling like I truly fit in, I wanted a safe place that cultivates success and nourishes our self. I’ve grown to love my skin and natural hair, embracing both with openness. After sharing my personal stories, I started receiving requests for

mentorship and guidance prompting the birth of Brown Skin Women. With less than six months from it’s inception, BSW has a steady following and continuously receives offers for teen summits, beauty conferences, and natural meetups for women. In terms of community development, I founded Hope 4 Autism, Inc. a nonprofit organization in 2010 after my daughter was diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder. The platform offers unique programs and services to families and children affected by the disorder. Our first program to receive major publicity was our Not-SoTypical Autism Support group that focuses on the wellbeing of the caregiver through therapeutic direction. JR: What does greatness or success mean to/for you?

CV: For me, greatness is living out my fullest potential and being receptive to the opportunities in change and growth. Success comes as a result of greatness in all forms.

seem, I didn’t go into any of my endeavors with an “I want to be my own boss.” mindset. I just realize early on that the best way for me to do the things I loved was to create them myself. Entrepreneurship came with the territory and so I embraced it.

JR: What or who motivates you to be great?

JR: Please complete the following sentences:

CV: My upbringing and my present are motivators. Growing up my family didn’t have much. I knew as a child that I didn’t want that to be my reality as an adult. My past is a constant reminder and push for me to persevere. While now my focus is to build a legacy that serves a purpose now and beyond my existence.

CV: Before becoming an entrepreneur… I worked in Corporate America followed by working with adolescent girls in the mental health field for a combination of 5 years. I watched many of my coworkers, close to twice my age, doing the same work I did in misery. I couldn’t see myself being that person 20 years down the line.

JR: How have you broken the shell of entrepreneurship? What sparked your interest in having your own business? CV: As strange as this may

Now that I am an entrepreneur…I am content with the work that I do because it’s my work. It gets exhausting at times because I have to work twice as harder, but it’s worth it. JR: It’s apparent your knowledge of self has been critical in developing Black Skin Women, how does your

self-identity shape your purpose? How does it influence your business ventures?

Carmen citation for work as an entrepreneur and philanthropist

CV: Who I am personally is a direct reflection of who I am professionally. My self-identity allows me to live a life that feels as good on the inside as it looks on the outside. This way when I attach my name to anything – designs, events, décor, and fashion – it holds a natural feeling of authenticity and love for the process and result. I truly believe this mindset has allowed all the opportunities to come my way. Being called upon to do voiceovers, product reviews, and modeling for other brands are influences of how I carry my brands and myself. JR: What steps did you have to take in order to fuel your passions/goals that you normally would not have done? CV: I did a lot of research and not just on the Internet. I asked questions and read books, and articles. I haven’t always been a researcher but I started my first business at a young age, so none of my peers could guide me in specific areas. Some of the research included learning how to incorporate my companies, forming a board of directors, and just the overall process of being successful in business. The next step was asking for help. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to help but won’t unless you ask them. JR: What are your most proudest personal and professional moments? CV: Receiving the tax-exempt certificate from the IRS for Hope 4 Autism, Inc. I didn’t hire an attorney or other professional to assist me with the application. It took me 10 months to read and reread the applications until I fully understood it. I applied and within six weeks, I received an acceptance letter. I was very nervous and uncertain about the outcome from all the horror stories I’d heard.

The day I received the letter in the mail, I remember thinking, “And it begins.” It was my surprise to be able to read CONGRATULATIONS! JR: Everyone has goals, most importantly goals they’d like to meet by a certain milestone. Please share one of your goals, when you’d like to accomplish it, and why it is important to you.

CV: Professional, I am looking forward to the day when all of my items are housed in their own facilities and fully staffed. I put in a lot of trying hours to keep everything going and at times it becomes too much. I’m learning the importance of taking the necessary time to de-stress my life by compartmentalizing my professional endeavors. Because of this, not everything can get done when I’d like. This goal will allow me to focus on keeping my visions alive, while the team will focus on the details that support the mission. My goal is to accomplish this within the next 3-5 years. JR: What advice would you give to a young girl aspiring to be an entrepreneur? Aspiring to be involved in fashion? Aspiring to be active in her community? CV: Research, intern, volunteer, and take courses in business if you do not plan to major in it. Every single one of my opportunities were made possible because I did a lot of background research and volunteering in the field before diving headfirst. I’m still standing today because of the knowledge I acquired from my business management

courses in college. I feel it is essential to know how to operate a business before actually doing so. It’s one thing to be your own boss, but being the boss who manages finances, operations, and employees is on a completely different level. JR: What advice would you give to a single mother aspiring to be an entrepreneur? What is a tool she can use to stay motivated? CV: Balance. For me creating a system for my personal and professional life was essential for order within both. I don’t like to mix work with home life because of the distractions so I set time to cater to both. I also learned how important it is to NOT multitask. Everything I would work on at once never had my undivided attention.

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JR: Can you share some of your current and upcoming projects with us? CV: I am currently the host and stylist for Macy’s Winter Work Wear fashion show. In addition, I am in the process of launching Hope 4 Autism, Inc.’s Autism Nanny program, planning and assisting with Final Frame’s pop-up store tore, and Brown Skin Women’s next Everything I Am youth summit.

Some of Carmen Veal’s most notable accolades include receiving Hartford Business Journal 40 Under 40 Achievement Award and an official citation from mayor Pedro Segarro. You can learn more about Carmen Veal, her passions, and endeavors

Behind the Brands Christal Beoko of Be Bold Claudine Moore Aya Morrison Dielhomane Stewart of Madison Avenue Accessories Taibal Lawal of Tee’s Designs Andrena Sawyer Ore Oyeleke Lerato Malebadi Michelle Okafor

Christal Beeko Christal Beeko shares with AfroElle on how her education, professional work experience and confidence each contributes to her success as entrepreneur and CEO of the BE BOLD SHOW and INEN Limited. Written by: Erica Ayisi n 2009, Christal Beeko along with her partner, Sterre Mkatini developed BE BOLD, which stands for Bringing Education and Building Opportunities for Leadership and Development. The mission of the project is “to reverse the brain drain by encouraging Africans to return to help develop our continent, to empower our future leaders, and to create opportunities for socio-economic empowerment.” This mission has since been manifested through a weekly talk show and is now in its 6th season on the network ETV Ghana. Christal says, “The show features enterprising young people in various stages of fulfilling their dreams and contributing to the development of society. We also interview celebrated Africans within and outside the continent who are dedicated to self development and ultimately, the development of our continent.” Christal’s personal leap toward being a bold entrepreneur was an odyssey that originated in the continent that she loves so dearly. Born and bred in Ghana, Christal attended middle and high school in the country’s capital of Accra. She went to Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada where she majored in

Economics. Instead of applying her college knowledge to the business scene of the Western World, Christal decided to be a living example of her already developed project by going back home. “I decided to come back to Ghana to make a difference. The notion of INEN Limited and BE BOLD was already conceived and I needed to live by example so that I could encourage others to return home and reverse the brain drain. What better way than to face the challenges in Ghana myself?" Christal’s leap toward self-employment did not happen immediately after graduation. She spent 4 and a half years working as an event coordinator for Global Media Alliance and also served as business anchor for their television network ETV. In 2011, the BE BOLD SHOW premiered with the support of ETV. A few years later, Christal decided it was time to transition from employee of Global Media Alliance/ETV to becoming her own employer. . 51 |

She wanted to produce her show herself, create her own team and try her hand in starting up a Public Relations or branding company. She shares that “Transitioning from employee to employer was one of the most difficult things I ever did. Working at Global Media Alliance for 4 to 5 years is a long time. I gained a new family so to speaktherefore leaving them to go and start my own company was not as easy as I thought it would be. Another aspect was the issue of getting a pay cut. I thought, how was I going to pay my employees? What if my business failed? Those are the kinds of questions that ran through my mind, but I knew eventually I had to take the risk and that’s exactly what I ended up doing.”

“How was I going to pay my employees? What if my business failed? Those are the kinds of questions that ran through my mind, but I knew eventually I had to take the risk and that’s exactly

One of the biggest risks of working for oneself is actually getting the business venture started. With meticulous planning Christal took a leap of faith and jumped in. “The fear of jumping from a paying job to a self paying job was one huge jump I had to make. Like most things in life I access the situation, make a plan and close my eyes and jump. Usually I land on two feet, but even when I don’t I keep on moving.” Even with a bold persona Christal still had to face challenges with producing the BE BOLD SHOW. In addition to the difficulties of getting the project started, building the right team to push the project forward was hard. “Employing people that are a good match for my company has been a challenge. Ghana’s biggest problem is skilled workers. Some are either skilled without being efficient and reliable or very reliable yet don’t have the skills or innovation to move the company forward. The trick is finding that perfect blend and sometimes it’s hard to discover until the person has been in your company for a while. This is still an ongoing challenge that I am still working on overcoming.”


The success and sustainability of the BE BOLD SHOW is in part due to Christal’s previous work experience and education. Those experiences help her make sound decisions as she builds her company.

“My previous work experience really helped me understand how employees in Ghana work. Today with my own company I have a better understanding of what is expected of them and how I can lead them in my own company. I believe my university education built my confidence level more than anything. Economics was my field, with a bit of business in the background, so I was able to pick up a lot of knowledge and skills for my business. However, the most invaluable experience is being able to apply that knowledge and skill to my own company, which includes working hard every single day. Facing challenges that you have to research to overcome, understanding that there is an end goal and with those goals are due dates that you can reach and surpass if you put your mind to it.” As entrepreneur, Christal must be the ultimate team leader and maintain morale amongst her staff. She is responsible for the good, bad and all the in between in regarding her company. As a woman she must also balance her personal life. Although she reminds herself “God’s time is perfect” when the going gets tough, Christal has learned that with proper planning anything is possible. “I believe that with good planning you can balance it all. I wouldn’t say that I have put my personal life on hold because of my company however my priorities have changed. For example, before I could see myself going out on weekends just because it was fun, however, if I’m not going to make money where I am going- I consider it a waste of time. That’s not to say I don’t spend time with my friends, but I would rather a quiet place where we can chat, bond and network productively. Having a family of my own someday is one of my biggest priorities. Now that I am married that time is finally getting closer. Again planning, planning, planning has really come and long way for me. I plan to use these skills in managing my businesses and fulfilling my purpose in life.” In due time, Christal hopes to elevate the BE BOLD brand to an international level and expose more people to the public relations, branding, and production services of INEN Limited. In spite of her challenges and hardships, Christal believes that the

Christal interviewing Gracia Marcel at WEF

Christal interviwing Director Capital Jonah

choice to work for herself is worth it. Nevertheless, she advises other that “working for yourself is not for everyone. You should never allow yourself to be pressured to starting your own business if that is not what you are made to do. However if you are one of those that are good at this you must take it by the horns and do what you are set out to do. Hard work, perseverance and planning are three key ingredients.” With that being said, Christal is leading the way by being bold and taking her dreams and visions for Africa into her own hands.


Claudine Moore “I think it is important especially as an entrepreneur, to ensure as much of your natural sensibilities and interests are reflected in your work. It makes business seem less like walk and more naturally an extension of what you love to do. If you love something you can’t help but be good at it.” Who is Claudine Moore? Wow what a fantastic first question and a little intimidating but here goes.. Who am I, well firstly I am a blessed child of God and a daughter of Africa. I was born and raised in the UK with mixed Caribbean heritage (Barbados and Jamaica) lived in the US for over a decade and for the last 5 years I have been traveling extensively to Africa for business and pleasure. I like to really enjoy

my life, am adventurous, love a good laugh, am spiritually grounded in Christianity…I could go on but hopefully that gives you a general idea. (laughs) What drives you? I am blessed to have parents who from a young age instilled the importance of education, working hard and striving to do and be your best. That has

really stayed with me and my sisters, and all of us in our respective careers and lives just constantly walk forward, its now natural like breathing. In addition, and most importantly I am a born again Christian and so despite challenges I have faith that clearly speaks to me on a daily, sometimes hourly basis and tells me not to give up. God gave me a good foundation , opportunities, talent and resources for a reason. This is so comforting when I have moments of doubt. God wastes nothing. Please tell me more about your organizationmission/purpose, clientele, etc. C Moore Media is a boutique international public relations and communications consultancy. Based out of New York City, we specialize in corporate communications, media relations, business strategy, social media and branding in the US, UK and African markets. We launched a dedicated African division, which is increasingly becoming our core business. Our purpose, and the thought leadership platform we stand on is leveraging international public relations and communications to shape global perceptions and aid the economic development of Africa.

Claudine and Desmond Tutu at the global launch of the Tutu Desk Initiative in New York

We have worked with a variety of brands including Equinox (US), Arik Air (US), West and Central Africa’s fastest growing airline, House of Tara (Nigeria) and government organizations based out of West Africa. We also work on confidential assignments for brands, and as we pursue new business and are referred new clients, our clients roster is growing. How did you dive into Public Relations? Purely by coincidence. I did my Masters in Psychotherapy so am formally trained as a Psychotherapist, but upon moving to New York City after grad school, I decided that being a therapist in New York was something I did not want to do. While figuring out my next move I was temporarily working in the PR department of a British company and loved it. The rest as they say is history. I secured a permanent job with a global agency and then began a career working with top global Public Relations and Marketing agencies and Fortune 100 brands, which is what positioned me well when I decided to launch C Moore Media. I bring top global experience, network and knowledge and leverage this for our clients.

Claudine with Cameroon Minister of Tourism and Culture

Claudine w. reporters from top internatinal media outlets in Cameroon

of this in the new mobile technological and social media age can have serious consequences for your brand. Can you share a little more about your personal story of advancement as a minority in public relations?

How would you define Public Relations personally? What is one of the first things you advise your clients to do? Another great question. Firstly defining PR is not an easy thing to do in one simple phrase but generally speaking I would say that PR is strategic communication via a variety of medians that creates an engaging relationship between an organization and their stakeholders. The first thing I ask my clients to do is to define in their words what they want to be know for? What is their personal brand story, and then begins the process of creating a strategy. How has technological advancements such as social media- changed PR? How does your firm integrate these advances? Social Media has changed the PR industry dramatically in many ways. One the one hand it aids the work we do by allowing organizations to gain insights previously difficult to obtain. Nevertheless it has created challenges in the area of reputation management or crisis communication as we have to conduct ourselves in an entirely new way due to the immediate and rapid access to information and how news spreads. With technology and social media having an extensive crisis communications response is imperative. Lack


I made a conscious choice early on not to get pigeoned holed into working exclusively on multicultural PR projects. I worked in the general market PR industry for years and selectively chose multicultural projects and the reason is because I want to learn the industry from a 360degree perspective. One can always specialize afterwards. I will say the US and UK PR industry at senior levels is overwhelmingly white and this continues to be a problem, but the industry is now addressing this in a variety of ways which is encouraging. It is really important to seek diverse mentors. What sparked your desire to be international? What has your journey been like oversees with B2B or B2C relations? Is there a stark difference in international and domestic PR? If so, please explain. I am a truly global and international citizen in the most authentic of ways. The UK, Jamaica, Barbados and the US are influences that have shaped my life from birth, and I am a dual UK/US citizen. All of this on the backdrop of having African heritage I walk around with several nationalities and cultures shaping who I am. With this in mind, it is only natural to me that this would shape the work that I do. I think it is important especially as an entrepreneur, to ensure as much of your natural sensibilities and interests are reflected in your work. It makes business seem less like walk and more naturally an extension of what you love to do. If you love something you can’t help but be good at it. You recently returned from Cameroon, could you please share more about the purpose and details of your trip?

Can you please share more about your current project and upcoming projects?

Cameroon was an adventure that involved 8 international reporters on a press trip traveling in one bus reporting on Cameroon as an emerging tourist destination. Overall it was great but there certainly were some challenging moments (laughs). As an agency we have extensive relationships with a variety of international media outlets across different industries and sectors. Our client Arik Air partnered with the Africa Travel Association (ATA) on their 38th World Congress which was held in Cameroon. Arik Air sponsored the media delegation, so we invited 8 media outlets to experience Destination Cameroon. It was a great experience and huge opportunity for all involved. Cameroon is a beautiful country and I am looking forward to seeing it evolve from an emerging tourist destination to an established tourist destination. With the right combination of development, marketing and positioning it will be. What is the advice you’d give a young girl aspiring to venture into public relations or international media? Network Network Network. Also in the age of social media be very careful with your professional and personal branding. If you are a party girl and there are images of you all over the Internet partying constantly it can be hard for people to take you as a serious professional. Your whole life should not be online for all to see. Retain your privacy.

There are several projects in the pipeline and your readers will have to keep in touch with me/us by FB or twitter to find out what they are . Ok, I will mention just one project, we are currently working on an initiative connecting a leading African organization with top influencers in the US and UK Diaspora Markets. It is exciting as this is the first time a project like this will be done for this organization, and C Moore Media created the concept and are curating the event rolling out in Q1 2014. There you have it now wait and see what it is. What is one/or a few of your most proudest moments thus far (personally or professionally)? There are so many it is hard to pick one. One great moment was when I was honored on the UK Power list as one of Britain’s Top 100 Most Influential Black Britain’s. The Prime Minister hosted an event for us at 10 Downing Street. To have been away from the UK, my home, for over a decade and to still be recognized as an influential Brit as a result of the work that I have done is great. Being placed on The Network Journals 40 Under Forty US High Achievers was also awesome. Finally not necessarily one of my proudest moments but I am excited that in the last year or so I have become a bonafide published freelance writer specializing in African features. I have written for some top international media outlets such as CNN, as well as industry media outlets such as PR Week. The features span business, social media, tourism and travel, and that is exciting as I get to talk about and share a continent that I love with the world.


fashion entrepreneur

Aya Morrison


hen the summertime approaches, many women around the world begin to prepare for bikini season. In recent years, as African prints have made their resurgence, Aya Morrison decided to use her passion for fashion in a creative way. While most designers were creating African prints in modern wear, Aya chose to step outside of the box and created African print swimsuits.

Meet savvy fashion entrepreneur Aya Morrison , who went back to Ghana from New York City to create her own line of African print swim and resort wear. She shares her journey toward selfemployment with AfroElle’s Erica Ayisi.

Aya Morrison designs swimsuits, monokinis, bikinis, ruffles, sarongs, and much more for women and men. Born in Ghana to Ghanaian parents with British citizenship. Aya graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts, from Baruch College in New York City. After graduation, Aya decided to move back to her home country and jump first feet into the pool of African swimwear fashion. Aya loves African print-so it made sense for her to return to Ghana to pursue the next adventure in her life. “Ghana is home! I'm very inspired by our people, our culture, the things that we do and say. I love fashion and I love African print so it was a natural fit to come home and work with my talented team to create pieces fashion lovers can flaunt with pride.”

Aya’s vision of turning traditional African print into swimwear is ground breaking. Although Aya loves to swim, there’s a global perception that black people don’t swimespecially Africans. Her swimsuits are helping to dispel this stereotype. “Ghanaian women like unique things and were amazed at the concept of African print swimwear. People may not be big swimmers but Africans love to look good and Ghanaians have an unwavering pride in all things Ghanaian. Our swim/resort wear is made both for women and men who want to be comfortable as they enjoy a day by the pool or at the beach

with the needs of everyday women. Her made in Ghana handbags have a unique “shape, size, compartments, weight, color scheme, leather and other embellishments.” Her keen attention to detail contributes to her success as a self-made businesswoman. This leap of faith toward entrepreneurship doesn’t come without challenges. “No one said it was going to be easy, right?“ Prior to moving to Ghana, Aya had to tackle the problem of getting out of her apartment lease in New York City. She used the frustrations with her landlord as motivation to move on and

“No one said it was going to be easy, right?” and spark conversations around their unique and trendy look.” “I love to look good at the pool or beach even if I didn’t go to swim. It’s just an innate characteristic of me to always look fashionable or unique at any gathering and since the African print had become so versatile and trendy I thought incorporating it in my beachy idea would be fantastic – and it was!” Swimsuits are not Aya’s only fantastic idea-she has also spread her creative hand into the realm of handbags. What sets her handbags apart from the rest is how she has constructed them to comply

upward with her business aspirations and never look back, but that was just the beginning of the issues she would face as an entrepreneur. Aya came from fast paced New York City and found the Ghanaian work ethic to be extremely relaxed. “Ghana is a growing economy so challenges appear amplified here at times. We are a laidback society so there is a rift sometimes trying to get the things you need when you need them and that can set things back a bit. Also, not everyone on the production side has had the experiences I have been blessed with so it can be harder to share that vision.”

In spite of her challenges, Aya is in Ghana to stay. “I knew I wasn’t making the final move to Ghana to give up.” What keeps her motivated through difficult times is self-encouragement. This ‘self-talk’ keeps her company moving forward. “I hope to invest in extensive marketing to help me expand – it’s always been a dream to style and impart my fashion ideas onto my fashionistas across the globe. I’m also hoping to do some designer collaborations in the very near future.” The freedom to take her company to its greatest heights is the beauty of being an entrepreneur. Aya believes that’s all worth it. “Working for yourself requires a lot of determination because the road is very tough. You need to cultivate a habit of rising. It’s all a sacrifice so you need to start prepared for both the good times and bad and stay positive. It is worth it when you begin to reap the fruits of your labor.”

Whether it’s creating fashion forward African swimsuits or handbags, Aya Morrison is proving herself a force to be reckoned with. “Entrepreneur is just a fancy word for someone with a vision and the passion to pursue it.” And she is doing just that.

Website: Shop:

Own a Little Piece of Africa LONDONAIROBI is the new online retail destination for Luxury African Accessories by unique designers from the continent. the site is a collaboration between UK-based graphic designer Hannah Shore who spent time living and working in Nairobi and Nairobi-based stylist, Wambui Thimba, who brings in her keen eye for all that’s innovative and on-trend. The girls met by chance but shared the same dream; to put a spotlight on the creativity of the continent. Together they spent 18 months searching for designs strong enough to compete in a premium market place whilst maintaining an inherently African uniqueness. This premium brand showcases 12 designers previously unseen in the UK. The collection of artisan accessories includes jewellery, bags and scarves all handcrafted in East Africa using raw materials sourced from the continent, each with a unique story to tell. LONDONAIROBI's stylist Wambui Thimba says: "Being a stylist, I am always on the lookout for new, exciting pieces for my fashion pages. Using LONDONAIROBI as a platform, these small, upcoming designers now have an opportunity to have their collections seen globally."

Angeline Kioo Ring Evlyn Shaba Ring

The carefully curated collection has been sourced predominantly in Kenya but features Tanzanian brand Uru Diamonds, who were presented at this year’s New York Fashion week. Bracelets retail at £215. The brand also showcases Nairobi designer Evlyn, with her chunky geometric rings, earrings and bangles. Collection retails between £18£70. “We aim to put a spotlight on emerging designers from the continent, in turn changing the perception of Africa. Our accessories show a side to Africa that is innovative and on-trend.” says LONDONAIROBI's Creative Director, Hannah Shore.

Shop Africa, like never before with

AfroElle’s Erica Ayisi chats with the CEO and Creator of Madison Avenue Accessories, Dielhomane LouisGene Stewart, and finds out how she is using her entrepreneurial skills ‘to accessorize the world one closet at a time.’

Madison Avenue Accessories “I wanted to create a place where women and men could shop for fabulous and bold accessories without breaking the bank and that's how Madison Avenue Accessories came to be!

Share with our readers how the Madison Avenue Accessories brand came to be. Madison Avenue Accessories was born about 2 and a ½ years ago while working at my full-time job in the medical field. I saw some very dramatic things in healthcare, which can wear down on you at times. During those moments, I would revert to things that made me smile, which like most women, was shopping! Most businesses are started based on an idea that you can do something better, faster, or more convenient. I wanted to create a place where women and men could shop for fabulous and bold accessories without breaking the bank and that's how Madison Avenue Accessories came to be. I named it Madison Avenue Accessories because first I am a

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native of New York City, first generation Haitian, and second because Madison Avenue is known for it's very exclusive shops, style and is often referred to as the "Gold Coast" of shopping. Becoming an entrepreneur is hard work. It's awesome and exciting but stressful. I have so many ideas and so little money! Seeing the end game is easy: a glamorous brand overrun by gorgeous women wanting to adorn themselves in Madison Avenue Accessories. However, the detailed steps to get there are things that no one wants a hand in. For example, figuring out taxes, paying rent, international trade, state and city regulations as well as many other areas of business makes it not so glamorous. I love being an entrepreneur. It's satisfying. When girls come up to me asking for certain pieces or asking when and where my next show is going to be, it affirms in me that there is a need for fabulous,

“ I don't think it's necessary to have a degree to start up a successful business. However, I do think it's absolutely necessary to be as educated as possible in order to start up a business.�

wanted to start your own jewelry and accessories business? I didn't let people know I was starting a business. I just did it. I wanted people to know. It just didn't work out that way. I just called some people and said to come over for a girls’ night and told them to bring their wallets! The "opening night" went great. My girls were excited which made me excited. At that point, I knew I had a hit on my hands. Why do you focus on costume jewelry with all of the different types of jewelry out there for women?

affordable fashion accessories. Where are you from and where did you go to school? Do you think it's necessary to have a degree or background in business before creating your own startup? I was born in Brooklyn, New York. My mom moved us to Massachusetts when I was little and I lived between those two states until about the age of 10. Most of my schooling was done in Massachusetts. I attended college in Connecticut but couldn't finish because tuition was expensive. I joined United States Army to help defray the costs of tuition. I don't think it's necessary to have a degree to start up a successful business. However, I do think it's absolutely necessary to be as educated as possible in order to start up a business. That education doesn't necessarily need to come from a classroom. There are sources of

education all around us. We are constantly learning lessons that carry us through life, that can lead us to places we want to be and sometimes when we don't want to be. I'm learning every day about the direction Madison Avenue Accessories is taking. I see things that I want to mimic and make my own. I see things that are definitely not going to be part of my brand. You never know whom God is going to place in front of you to bring new and exciting opportunities that you can add to your business. Educating yourself, networking and making new connections are crucial parts to start up business. Starting a business can be scary. What was the reaction from friends and family when you expressed that you

I decided on costume jewelry because no one just has one look. People are always experimenting. For example, I could be preppy one day, Boho Chic or High Glam the next day depending on my mood and what I'm doing that day. With costume jewelry you can afford to be all those things and more. I have nothing against precious metals or stones, because let's face it I'd wear a fat diamond before an acrylic faceted crystal any day, but most people don't have diamond money. Madison Avenue Accessories cost $5 to about $30. With that price range you can get silver tones, gold tones, purple tones, accessories that bling, and those that don't. With costume

jewelry your style choices are limitless. You can be whatever you want.

“Believe in yourself and stand strong. You're the only one standing in your way. You're the only one that can pull yourself up whenever you feel like you doubt yourself. Close your eyes. Take a breath and know that people have done it before you and they will do it after you.�

Madison Avenue Accessories' pieces have such great quality people often ask, "Are these real gold or real silver?" They look at the price and the question answers itself. Your pieces are very eclectic yet fashion-forward. How do you select your pieces? How do you decide what the next trend will be or how women can follow it? We want everybody to shop at Madison Avenue Accessories but really we want to provide accessories for every style. Staying on top of trends is easy. We have fashion magazines,

worldwide fashion weeks, blogs, websites, and all of the rest of the social digital media world. Creating trends can be tricky. When selecting pieces, quality comes first then price. I use the equation: the girl that wears this style will want to wear this piece and will pay this much for it. I interact with a lot of people on purpose. I talk to young, old, urban, rural, students, working moms, stay at home working moms, city lovers, and beach bums! Just because they can be placed in one of these categories doesn't mean their fashion and sense of style can be. That's the awesomeness of fashion! You can change your style in the blink of an eye and Madison Avenue Accessories has to be ready for that. Costume jewelry allows fashion borders to be crossed very easily. It’s an outlet for smashing fashion boundaries. How involved are you in the operations of Madison Avenue Accessories? On a scale of 1 to 10, I am at 1000 in terms of involvement with Madison Avenue Accessories. In the beginning, there were plenty of people that were ready to help, but when it came down to doing the behind the scenes work, all I could hear was crickets (silence). I don't blame them, my dream is my dream and if you want something you've got to go out and get it. If you're waiting on people you'll be waiting forever! So my hand is in everything Madison Avenue does. The shows we do, events we take place in, the pieces, the website, the packaging, even down to picking the post office our mailbox is in. I touch it all. I don't claim to know everything and I'm constantly changing things due to trial and error. It's tiring, but I love the hustle. What has been the most important lesson you've learned along on this entrepreneurial path that you are on? I’m still on the way to where I want to be, but I’ve learned to not get so disappointed when things don't happen the way you thought. Mistakes are a great teacher. Also, when people you thought were going to support you don't, it can be disappointing. That's a bit

harder to get over, but a seed needs dirt to grow so let them throw it! What's next for Madison Avenue Accessories? We plan on opening a brick-and-mortar shop in summer 2014 and the second location in a few years to follow. We are definitely looking into possibly franchising as soon as possible. There needs to be Madison Avenue accessories in every state. In the interim, we will continue doing shows, participating in fashion events, nonfashion events, and fundraisers as we have been. Wherever there is a bare neckline or empty earlobe-Madison Avenue Accessories will be there to answer the fashion accessory call! After all the sacrifice, is it worth it? What advice would you give to young women who want to work for themselves? Of course it's all worth it. Nothing in life is easy and nothing in life is free. Everything has its price. I come from a broken immigrant family; my mom didn't speak any English and managed to raise a family. She taught me strength. Serving in the US Army taught me discipline. Lastly, life experiences keep on teaching me about life. Young women who want to start their own business should simply just go for it! Believe in yourself and stand strong. You're the only one standing in your way. You're the only one that can pull yourself up whenever you feel like you doubt yourself. Close your eyes. Take a breath and know that people have done it before you and they will do it after you. It's only up to you whether you want to be a part of that success or not. Finally, do one thing, no matter how big or small, to build your brand every day.


fashion designer: Taibat Lawal of Tee’s Designs Growing up in Kano, Nigeria, Taibat Lawal had always been surrounded by business values, helping her parents with their trade venture. She secured a Bachelors in Microbiology in 2005 from Lagos State University and a Masters in biotechnology in 2011 from University of Houston Clear Lake, USA. Taibat is also M(ASCP) and Oracle 9i Database administration professional certified. During her undergraduate studies, she juggled entrepreneurship – selling jewelry, academic work , travelling for business over the weekend and back to school on Monday for classes. She is currently a medical technologist and an entrepreneur and she shares her entrepreneurial journey .


suffer for the other. 3. Know when to let your business rest for a while, especially during exams or big projects in school in such a way that it doesn’t appear to your customers and new clients that you are closed, this can be easily done these days by setting up regular posts on the business social media account.

Tell us about your first entrepreneurial experience as a child? Any time I remember this story, I can’t help but laugh. I think I was in primary 1st or 2nd grade by US standard, my siblings and I decided since our parents stuffed our lunch bags instead of lunch money we had to make money somehow. We decided to make pastry for sale! So we made what we call “puff puff” in Nigeria and served them with loads of sugar. We made them after school when our parents were not home. Business was booming until mum realized, her flour and sugar kept on disappearing. Can you tell me about that epiphany moment that led you to launching your fashion business? I learnt how to sew after my Bachelor’s degree in Nigeria, but solely to make my own clothes since it was hard for me to get clothes that perfectly fit me; I always had to take clothes I bought to a seamstress to adjust them. Following a gift from my dear husband in 2008 - a computerized sewing machine, after

I moved to the US, my passion for hands on artistry and the creative business was born. My initial idea was to make clothes, so people with my sense of style, ladies that wear hijab, and size can easily find something they liked but, with the variation in sizes as a small business owner with limited time. My first business contract was for a bridal train and in my quest to stand out from the others; I made a custom purse for one of the bride’s maid. From then, I decided on accessory making because one fits all; and that was how Tee's designs was born. Having been an entrepreneur while in college, what three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs? 1. Dream big, be innovative and yet focused, work hard and study hard, you need your degree, it gives you some sort of leverage 2. Plan well – As this will help to plan classes and business appointments in a way that one department will not have to

What's the biggest thing you struggle with as an entrepreneur? New designs, after a while, you need to update your inventory or customers get bored, for me it means I need to work harder in Tee’s designs lab. What has been your most satisfying moment in business? With my designs being African inspired and in African prints, getting a customer that is not African appreciate my designs makes me so happy, making a set of bow ties for a grooms men train where neither the groom nor the bride was African was very satisfying. What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the industry? Be true to yourself and work hard, there is no one way to success, define your own path.

Behind the Seams : Fashion designer Michelle O


hen South African based fashion designer Michelle Okafor, journeyed to West Africa to visit family, the visit sparked a desire and interest to produce rich and colourful garments made from African wax prints. Michelle bought the fabrics, brought them home to South Africa and started making dresses for herself, before seeing the potential and gap in the South African market for print rich designs. West African print designs still being new in South Africa, Michelle started Michelle Okafor African Designs specializing in African print designs, particularly woman’s wear, shoes, bags and accessories. Entering a niche market, Michelle would like to use this first mover advantage to penetrate the market aggressively at this early stage, before too much competition enters the market. Her brand has explored other avenues besides clothes, like shoes, bags and accessories in order to appeal to a wider audience.

How is running a successful fashion business different than what you thought it would be? Fashion trends are constantly changing and what is ‘in’ now, may not be so relevant tomorrow. The fashion industry is ever changing and it is important to beware of that and not be caught in a time vacuum thinking that what worked today, will necessarily be ok for tomorrow. It is exciting, it keeps you on your toes and compels you to be innovative and constantly revisit your business model.


Okafor “Stay relevant, listen to your customers. Under-promise and overdeliver each time. Your customers are your brand, don’t underestimate their power.” What do you enjoy most about what you do? Seeing the excitement on my clients’ faces when they have purchased a product from me and they can’t wait to show it off to their family and friends. It gives one the satisfaction that there are people out there who believe in you. How do you then ensure that your brand stands the test of time and remains relevant? I do read up and try to stay on top of the latest fashion trends both locally and internationally. We do invite customer feedback and adapt where we can. I network with a group of fashion designers in the field and we share ideas and keep each other informed. It is wonderful. What inspirational book has inspired you the most and what one lesson did you take away from it that has helped you in your entrepreneurial journey. I have read a few of Eckhart Tolle’s books and The Power of Now : a Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment has this quote in it: “As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness

and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the presentmoment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love - even the most simple action.” It tells us not to wish away the ‘bad’ moments in life, not to want to become successful instantly without the hard work that goes with it. You cannot compare yourself with someone who started their business 5 years before yours. Be content with the early struggles of your start-up, learn and grow with it and success will be inevitable. To what do you most attribute your success? I have a great support structure. My family and friends continuously encourage me to aim higher, go bigger, do better. My husband has great business and financial management sense and he offers me invaluable support and guidance. We are a great team. What would say is a key element for starting and running a successful business and why?

start today. Do what you can with what you have. Many of us wait for ‘someday’ when the moment will be just right. There is no such thing as the right moment. The next step is to persevere. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Looking back, is there something you wish you understood about starting your own business before you ever got started? It makes it easier to start a business in your field of expertise, what you studied or the where you’ve worked before. I chose something completely different and the learning curve is enormous and can be overwhelming. I am constantly learning and had to up skill myself in this new field. Having said that, if you are passionate about something, with the right tools (mentors, courses in the new field and lots of enthusiasm), it can easily be conquered. I believe that first of all we have let go of the fear of failure and just

a few words with

Andrena Sawyer Interview by Carol Stewart


ndrena Sawyer is Founder and CEO of P.E.R.K. Consulting. Ever since her teenage years, she has lived her life according to one simple quote, “The more I help others to succeed, the more I succeed.” Her belief in these words, spoken by Ray Kroc, is based on early life experiences that have led to her dedication to help and empower others. Born, the oldest of three children, in Freetown, Sierra Leone at the age of nine her family left Sierra Leone due to a civil war. Andrena was encouraged and energized by the compassion she received upon coming to the United States that she vowed that when she could, she would continue to “pay it forward” to others. At 15, Andrena founded Triple “T” MAD (Teens Trying to Make a Difference), a community service organization for teens in central New Jersey. As a freshman in college, she continued to cultivate her interest in community development by founding “Rock, the MIC,” an annual community outreach for youth in Washington, DC. These experiences laid a firm foundation and defined her passion for empowering youth, women, and at-risk individuals . In 2013, she was named among the “Top 30 under 30″ in Washington DC by WKYS 93.9. In addition to her work with P.E.R.K. Consulting, she is also an avid writer. She recently published her first eBook, The Other Side of Assertiveness. As a program consultant and event speaker, her primary goal is to empower her clients to develop the necessary skills to reach their potential.

How did you decide what kind of business you wanted to start? I actually fell into my company by accident, but I have always enjoyed helping other people. By the time I was a teenager, I had decided that after college I would either go into non-profit work or teaching. Somehow, after graduating from college, I ended up going to law school. At that time, my family, like many other families in the United States, fell into economic hardships. I ended up having to leave school as a result of the financial strain. To fill my time, I began volunteering with local nonprofits. One particular organization really liked the work I was doing, and I ended up filling the role of a consultant for them. The Executive Director referred my work to another organization, and after working with that organization, they referred me to someone else. When I realized what was going on, I decided to monetize the work in order to build a more sustainable platform to work with several organizations at the same time. That period birthed the idea that is now P.E.R.K. Consulting. What 3 books, websites or other resources would you recommend to other entrepreneurs? For entrepreneurial women, I recommend the book Successful Women think Differently by Valorie Burton, and the website For entrepreneurial women with a commitment to social enterprise, I recommend The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam. Although The Road of Lost Innocence is not a book about business, it is a great story of how individuals can use personal tragedies to change the world. It also highlights the courage, patience and persistence that it takes to embark on a challenge, and eventually succeed. How do you generate ideas for new products or services? I usually have to take time off from my usual routine for idea generation. I find that even as an entrepreneur, it is easy to fall into the trap of a routine. My idea generation process requires that I step away from my desk and actively engage in activities that will lead me to look at the current state of things with a different perspective. This includes

taking time to analyze customer feedback, or researching market trends, or engaging in activities that stir my creativity. At the end of that process, I discuss the ideas with team members or family and friends who sometimes serve as a sounding board. What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? I enjoy the autonomy the most. It is wonderful to be able to schedule my own hours, take responsibility for my own decisions, create a team based on my judgement, and to see firsthand how our services and products are affecting our customers. If you were starting out again, what would you do differently? I would not do anything differently. I spent a great deal of time planning before I went public with my idea to friends and family. Every challenge that I have encountered has taught me a lot about business and about myself. I am grateful for the opportunity to fully commit myself to what I enjoy doing every day.


Going Above & Beyond Interview by Carol Stewart

Ore Oyeleke is a young female entrepreneur and owner of event planning agency Above and Beyond Planning. Both an Oxford University graduate and a business strategy consultant, Ore has spent the last few years working on projects that have shaped and driven the strategies of major global corporations. That was until she decided to use her skills to launch a company of her own and take her passion for planning, organizing and events into the business space. Launched in August 2013, Above and Beyond Planning specializes in organizing creative and bespoke events; from birthdays and weddings through to product launches and charity galas. In addition to full scale event planning services, her company offers a one -of-a-kind surprise concierge service.

What drove you to start your own business? I’d always been passionate about event planning and creating great memorable experiences for people but never looked at it as viable business or alternative career. Upon turning 25 however I realised that every day that passed me by where I was doing something I wasn’t truly passionate about was a day wasted and therefore I began the process of setting up my event planning and surprise concierge agency – Above and Beyond Planning. Since finishing university, I’d worked as a business strategy consultant for the last 4 years, providing business advice for FTSE 100 global organisations and so I knew there was absolutely no reason why I couldn’t take all that I’d learnt and use it to build my own successful business. The main driver was that I wanted to have a career where I could carve out my own future and be excited about what I was doing instead of counting down to Friday! In August this year Above and Beyond Planning launched and the rest is history!

What advice would you give to someone starting out in business? Don’t worry about the ‘what-ifs’ and ‘just do’ instead! I spent so much time when I first started the business worrying about what if it didn’t work or what if no one liked the idea and that held me back from actually just giving it a go and running with the business. It was only once I banished those thoughts, actually built the website and officially launched the company that I saw progress. Sometimes I feel we can be our own biggest obstacle and not having enough faith in our ideas or worrying about the outcome, can hold us back from achieving great things. So I’d definitely advise to forget the worrying, trust in your ideas and just focus on bringing it to life – after all, the worst that can happen is failure and it’s better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all! How do you balance your business and your family life?

What do you find most challenging about running a business? As a solo entrepreneur I think a big challenge I’ve found is literally feeling as though I’m somewhat alone in running the business. I don’t have a partner in which to bounce ideas of or someone to motivate me on the days that I’m facing challenges etc. I have to be my own number 1 cheerleader and push as hard as I can for the business, as there’s no one else to fall back on! Coming from a corporate background I’m used to the team environment however running my own business has forced me to learn to be comfortable trusting solely my own judgement and making big decisions in isolation. This was definitely a steep learning curve.

As an event planner I’m big on schedules and organisation so I have a set time for everything and that helps me balance things. Every other evening is set aside for a nonbusiness related activity like catching up with my partner or going to dinner with a friend. Although it means extra planning, doing it this way is great for me as it means my business doesn’t negatively impact my loved ones and it also helps me manage expectations as my boyfriend knows exactly what days I’ll see him and what days I have meetings. It’s definitely still a challenge but I believe having the schedule really makes sure I don’t lose track of the things that are important, such as my friends and family, and that I ensure they always get the quality time they need! How do you keep the motivation going during the difficult times? A lot of prayer and holding true to the belief that I’m doing what I’m meant to do and what I love to do and therefore that is the thing that matters most. Successes wouldn’t feel as great as they do if there weren’t pitfalls, therefore remembering that helps me keep going!


I have always been an independent selfstarter, one who always questioned and challenged the status quo. As an employee, I attempted to “fit in”, however, soon realized that I did not fit into the conventional mould of what was expected of me in the corporate world. I also had so any ideas and concepts that I wanted to implement, in order to better serve others. Therefore, I decided to take the leap of faith and venture into new territory. Hence the launch of both businesses, where I felt, I could genuinely serve and add value to the lives of others. Within Atologa, a typical day involves communicating and liaising with my clients, along with sourcing and interviewing sought after talent on behalf of my clients ,whom are predominantly in the financial services sector, thus acting as middle-man, or agent on behalf of my clients. Within Catalytic Power a typical day would be facilitating corporate workshops centered around performance development coupled with individual one-on-one life and performance coaching.


y name is Lerato Malebadi, I’m a child of God, a visionary entrepreneur, a Certified Life and Performance Coach. I’m married and have one son. I was born and raised in South Africa and I currently stay in Johannesburg, South Africa. I currently own two businesses, namely Atologa and Catalytic Power. Atologa is a specialist boutique recruitment firm and Catalytic Power is a Life and Performance Coaching business. I launched Atologa in October of 2011 and then launched Catalytic Power in 2013. I have been able to strike the balance by focusing on my deliverables and what value I would like to add through both individual practices and by managing my time effectively.

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What I enjoy most about what I do is the human touch and people interaction that both roles possess i.e. Recruitment Consultant and Performance Coach) is undeniably what I enjoy about what I do. I balance my work and family because I have good organizational and time management skills. On the business front, I ensure that I’m thoroughly prepared a week in advance, with regard to appointments and work demands. I have a strong support structure, which is of great help in my family arena, furthermore, when I work, I ensure that I give my work efforts my fullest attention and when I’m with family and friends, I ensure that I fully present. I have three tips for women who would like to create more of a work-life balance, the 1st being for them to prepare their work activities and

family activities in advance; 2nd to commit to what it is they have said they would do and the 3rd to be more present in the lives, when they are working so that they fully show up for work and be fully present in their work duties and the same applies for their family roles.

has been knowing which deals, projects and ventures to get involved in and which ones to turn down . At times one would lead themselves to believe that taking on every project that comes their way is best, whilst that may actually lead to them being spread too thin, resulting to them being a jack of all trades, yet a master of none!

I have had to make various sacrifices as a business woman, during the initial phases of starting Atologa, I had to sacrifice spending time with my new born son, to focus on establishing and launching the business successfully, however as the business grew, the work-life balance also improved as I had great support from my team. Some financial sacrifices were also endured with in the starting out phase, where I had to sacrifice spending money for personal pleasures and having to invest it back into the business. This too transformed as the business grew and revenue began flowing in.

Advise I would have given to my younger self would have been to rather outsource talent in my recruitment firm, as opposed to hiring staff full time as the responsibility of hiring full time staff in a new start-up far outweighs the risks and onus that taking on outsourced services does.

Success as an entrepreneur in my opinion is: doing what you love and loving what you do, using your entrepreneurial talent to better serve humanity and choosing to see the “failures” as learning experiences. For first time entrepreneurs, I’d advise you to work smart and work hard, stay humble, be teachable and be willing to learn from others whom are entrepreneurs and give back and teach others how they too can tap into their entrepreneurial abilities. I’m inspired by strong entrepreneurial African women such as Ms. Wendy Luhabe, who is well poised, elegant, intelligent and has a track record of philanthropic genius injected in her entrepreneurial ventures. She is also an advocate of transformation and economic participation for all in South Africa, couple with that, she appears to be a woman whom is anchored in her family life as well. My greatest challenge as a serial entrepreneur

I’m constantly learning and honing my skill, as no day is ever the same. I also like surrounding myself with individuals who have achieved success in the industries which I operate in and learning as much as I possibly can from them. I’m a strong believer that reading maintains a healthy mind, therefore, I ‘m constantly evolving and developing through the material I read. I develop my brand by networking through various platforms. For those who want to start their own business but don’t know what type of business they would like to launch, I would advise them to first know who they are, what they are good at (i.e. talents, skills, education, track record, potential) and what they want for themselves and others – which is truly defining and framing their purpose. Secondly, I would then probe them to identify needs or gaps around them, in their society and greater environment and then identify how best to fill those needs. Thirdly, I would urge them to marry the first and second points together to identify any alignments and eventually what type of product or service they may be excellent at offering to others. Lastly, I would advise them to invest themselves wholeheartedly to their business and never look back!

A Story of a Vibrant Legacy – The Matabele Collection 2013


icole Hayley is a fashion label aimed at meeting the needs of the modern woman who desires a quality, fashionable product. The label is inspired by the richness of African art and each collection will showcase fabric designs particular to a certain region. The Nicole Hayley brand is determined to showcase Africa and its rich cultural diversity. All elements of the genuine leather bags are sourced within Africa, the continent she again calls home.

“The first collection has been inspired by the region in which I was born, Matabeleland, which today is the home of the Ndebele speaking people. It is the mural art from this region that inspired the fabric for the Matabele Collection. The beaded bag charms on the tote were made by Ndebele women whose sole income is attained from the beaded items they make for sale to tourists. Supporting communities by paying a fair price for work is one of my priorities.� says Nicole.

Nicole was born in Zimbabwe and although she left with her family when they relocated to Australia, her heart remained in her homeland. She returned at the beginning of 2013 and within a few weeks of being back in Africa established her business.

Photographer: Nicole Hayley Models: Fungai Mawada and Diana Machakaire from AM Model Management, Zimbabwe Makeup by: Abby Gail and Amanda Mutangadura Wardrobe by: Nicole Hayley with handmade jewelry from local communities

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sholofelo Dikobe is a Botswana Fashion Artist, creative consultant, stylist and fashion journalist. Her experience in the fashion industry includes trend forecasting for Lapologa Magazine, and for the biggest newspaper in Botswana, The Voice Newspaper as a fashion stylist and fashion journalist for a weekly fashion column “Voice on Fashion”. Tsholofelo is the current Fashion stylist/image consultant for a fashion and lifestyle Tv show Bonang The Goodlife. She has appeared in campaigns for brands including Afro Africa. Tsholofelo has been profiled by Elle magazine SA, Marie Claire, Glamour “style diary”, Bonang Tv fashion show, Sunday standard newspaper, Mmegi, The Voice newspaper, Weekpost, Daily news, television programmes such as “Rolling with Faith”, “Bonang the Goodlife. She was the fashion stylist for Gaborone Weekend 2012 along side international fashion stylist and (River Island manager UK) Arieta Muray .

Photography by Petra Rolinec


Signature style I don’t really have a signature look but I gravitate toward, the vintage-retro look, as well as deliberately “mixing and missing” fashion. What’s different is I mix and miss fashion, deliberately. The oddity of mixing different textures, silhouettes and prints, I feed off it. I am not a fan of mix and match or matchy-matchy but I’d like to think that my look is easy on the eye.


For the love of fashion Growing up, when words failed me I spoke fluent volumes through fashion. Through this medium of communication, I developed a keen interest in how easily society can be influenced over a substantial period. The way in which an ensemble of words or a single item of clothing can instantaneously persuade the masses never fails to intrigue me. For this reason I fell in love with fashion and culture, the creative arts and its industry as a whole. My mother cemented this, and ever since everything I didcreating was a part of me.


Favourite accessory It has to be a bold statement neckpiece or hair. I love bold, quirky hairstyles as much as I do bold quirky neck accessories.


6. 7. 8.

Fashion no-no's


Perfect everyday shoe I am more of a flatform shoe kind- just enough elevation but still close to the ground. I love them, if I had all the money my perfect everyday shoe would be any Nicholas Kirkwood shoe.


How to look sexy Without fashion, sexy is always about inner great conversations you have with yourself, about yourself and you believe about yourself, your confidence and etiquette. With fashion, sexy is not going overboard with revealing yourself. It’s all about leaving a little to the imagination.

Trends overload and visible panty line. A definite fashion no-no.

Overrated fashion trends Fashion trend? All black and flower crowns.

Fashion advice If you have to think twice, you are right, Leave it. The Ultimate fashion DO is do you.

Fashionista Vicky Adegbola I currently live in New York, NY, I am of Nigerian descent and was born and raised in Columbus, Oh. I lived there through college until I went to law school in Orlando, FL. After graduating from law school, I moved to NY with dreams of working in the fashion industry. Once in NY, I began school at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in the Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology. Currently, I work in Product Development for a major Retailer, seeing the product through to the floors from the conception stage.

Describe your signature style I would say my signature style is funky sophisticated. And sometimes androgynous. I love mixing patterns and pieces that most people would think don’t go together. I’m not afraid to push the boundaries.

How did you get interested in fashion? I think I got interested in fashion as a result of my culture. I grew up in a Nigerian household and in Nigerian culture it’s customary to have your traditional attire designed and custom made for you. I had the opportunity to create styles on myself at an early age. From there my love for clothes, style, and fit only grew. Where do you draw your fashion inspiration from? I think a lot of my inspiration comes from the 1960s1990s. I love retro anything, mostly. I loved certain silhouettes and I love the idea taking an old trend and mixing it with something modern to create a new look. I also draw a lot of inspiration from tailored menswear. I love jackets and blazers and trousers and a nice collared shirt buttoned all the way to the top. 88|

What's your favourite accessory? This is technically not an accessory, but I have fallen in love with jackets. Long, short, floral, bright colored, stripes. I love throwing on one of my elaborate jackets over something simple. I finishes the look. What fashion trend do you think is overrated? LEGGINGS!! Leggings have been a staple for women for a long time, but I think it was more tastefully done back in the 80s and 90s. Nowadays, some women and young girls are wearing them as pants, with short tops. To me, it looks tacky and just generally displeasing to the eye. Nobody wants to see your camel toe or every dimple in your behind. Please ladies, use leggings as an accessory and not as the focal point! What do you consider as fashion no-no's? Leggings with short tops. Wrong sized clothing. Full-length spandex jumpsuits. Crop tops paired with short shorts or short skirts What is the best way of looking sexy without going over board? Finding the right FIT that shows your figure without showing too much skin. If you have well tailored clothing with the right silhouette for your body shape, you will look great in your clothes and walk a little taller. Confidence is sexy. What is your best fashion advice to every woman? Having the right bra size is very important. Not only will it help your posture but your tops, jackets, etc will sit nicely. Also, really understanding and knowing your body shape will help you shop better and help you style your body better. Not everyone can wear the same styles. For example, I know that I have to be careful with dropwaist dresses because they can look silly on my frame. Also, don’t be afraid to go up a size. The better it fits, the better it looks. If you’re wearing something too small for you, you will look bigger. And if you’re wearing something too big for you, it will make you look frumpy and as if your clothes are swallowing you. You want to look comfortable and well put together. Lastly, investing in great shoes saves you more money in the long run and having great shoes can complete a look.

Talking Travel with Travelista TV’s Teri Johnson There is so much of the world to discover, so much so that it seems you can never experience it all in one lifetime. If one of your dreams is to travel the world, have no fear the Travelista’s are here. In six years what started as a passion evolved into a career and company spanning the entire globe. Teri along with her friend Andrea set out to travel the world and did exactly that by launching Travelista TV, which is now the premier online travel channel. These Travelista’s have a front row seat to the worlds best in entertainment, food, culture, and just plain bliss. As the company continues to rise it’s only right we get a first look into the innerworkings with none other than the Executive-Producer, host, and founder herself. Interview by: Iman Folayan AfroElle: Some would say you have a dream job travelling the world and exploring cultures. How did you get started in this career?

AE: How important was it to you to build a team of women to work with/for Travelista TV?

Teri: I have always been a very curious person and I started traveling when I was in middle school. That was the first time I went abroad and I haven’t stopped ever since. I knew that when I graduated from school I wanted to do something that had to do with travel and storytelling. I along with my business partner conceptualized the idea of us traveling the world and getting paid for it. It was an idea that most people would laugh and say “Oh that’s cute” but we really stuck to it and we started getting sponsors. People started liking our content a lot and we started getting invited to places around the world to come film, conduct tours and tell our stories. We really took a leap of faith and decided to quit our jobs to pursue this full-time and it worked.

Teri: What we’ve found is that we were touching so many people and we would constantly get emails through our website about people wanting to contribute their content and be a Travelista as well. We decided it makes sense because there are so many other people who have amazing stories to tell about their travel adventures and we should give them the platform to be able to join forces. We have some really great writers and people who are so adventurous and fun and have that spirit and energy that we like. We built a team and we’re growing. We’re going to start having some of the other women do video outside of just blogging with the hopes of having Travelista’s all around the world.

Even if she’s traveling around her local area finding unique food spots we like that. We’re looking for people with a certain niche whether its food, or health and fitness, or wine. AE: Of all the places you’ve travelled, which country do you think more people should know about and why? What was one of your most memorable experiences? Teri: I really loved Bali. Bali is one of the unique countries that have such an amazing history and so much culture. The people in Bali are some of the most hospitable, down to earth, humble, appreciative, and loving people I’ve ever met. They’re very centered. You just feel great being there like there’s a special energy in the air. You’re relaxed, and there are definitely some great places you can relax. It’s such a magnificent culture, history, and people that you really come back changed. That’s an important element of travel that people forget or don’t think about. Travel isn’t just supposed to be the sun, the beach, the drinks, the partying; it’s supposed to be something that can transform you. It’s nice when you can have experiences that transform you and give you new perspective. AE: How has your perception of the United States changed now that you’ve travelled the world? Teri: As much as I love globetrotting and going from country to country and listening to different languages and eating different foods there’s so much in the United States that I haven’t explored. I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon. People travel from all over the world to visit it and I’ve never been there. I kind of feel like I take the United States for granted because it’s always going to be here and it is easily accessible. For a while I was all about going from country to country, having different experiences, meeting new people and understanding what their lives were like but you miss out on a lot of experiences you can have in the States. That’s one thing I’ve been trying to do a lot more of, travelling statewide in addition to the world. 92|

Teri interviewing farmer at Ithaca farmers market for Travel Channel shoot AE: Travelista TV is truly one of a kind, what future locations or changes can we look forward to? Teri: I will be traveling to Dubai soon as well as Mexico and the British Virgin Islands. It’s going to be interesting because I’m going to a city called Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is the city everyone sees and knows as the ‘sexy Dubai’ where you can drink, party and be out and about. Well in Sharjah there is no alcohol, there are certain things that women can’t wear, and certain things men can’t wear like tight European pants. Woman can’t wear bikinis. So it’s going to be interesting to go to a place, that’s extremely hot where I really don’t have true freedom to express myself in terms of wardrobe. It’s going to be interesting and I’m excited so be sure to check it out on our website. AE: There are so many cultural misconceptions that people have, what cultural stereotype/myth can you dispel? Teri: I would say Morocco is a good example. Being in Marrakech I was shocked to see how much they partied and drink there. The women and the men all party it’s not just the foreigners.

Far left: Teri interviewing Scarecrow expert And Teri in Soweto

media people are going to have their favorite and will follow them according to their specific preferences. I think guidebooks will be a thing of the past and everything is going to be an app on your phone. What I realize is most of the people on the nightlife scene who are Moroccan went to school in Paris or abroad and thing bring their skills back home. I was really surprised that it’s one of the top nightlife destinations in the world. They have some of the biggest clubs and the biggest beach parties in the world. When I was in Mali, West Africa I was very surprised at how unique the people looked. Because there are so many ethnic tribes that have migrated there over the centuries you can’t just look at someone and say ‘Oh this person must be from Mali’. There is so much diversity there. You can kind of tell if someone is Nigerian or if someone is Ghanaian but in Mali everyone looked so different. AE: Globalization has changed the landscape of travel and communication tremendously, how do you envision the world changing in the next ten years? Teri: I think people will be exposed to a lot more travel experiences because of Youtube and because of the travel blogging world. I think people will be more inspired and I think that when it comes to media, people are going to have their favorite travel bloggers and travel writers. This is who they’ll get their advice and recommendations from instead of a magazine. As a Travelista I may not be the best fit for a white guy in his 50’s but I can be the perfect explorer for women between ages 20-40. So I think when it comes to travel

AE: Any travel tips for the beginner and experienced traveler. Teri: For the beginner traveller sign-up for airline, hotel and travel rewards. Make sure your credit card has some type of reward. This is truly the best way to get those free trips, flights, and hotel rooms. For the more experienced traveler, or for all travellers, when planning a trip sign-up for fair alerts on, this way you’ll always know when the prices change and can choose according to your budget. If you are interested in communicating here are a few cool apps where you can talk and chat for free: Whatsapp (free instant messaging) and Viber (free text/chat) with WiFi. Also if you want to capture the moment with a video, Montage is the perfect app for you; complete with video editing features. If you are interested in sharing your travels stories and becoming a Travelista visit and click on Join Us to apply. Also keep in touch @TravelistaTV and @TravelistaTeri on Instagram and Twitter.

In the Kitchen With Sheila Ocen Culinary artist, Sheila Ocen was born and raised in London England, but a Ugandan at heart. The University of Surrey undergraduate student started her brand Signature S.O earlier this year. Signature S.O is a food business offering catering services for events. What kinds of food to you prepare? I find it so difficult to limit it to one type of food, I love so many things, Caribbean food, Mediterranean, Mexican, African food. You’ll find me making Pilau rice’s, Sweet Potatoes Pies, Honey Roast Chicken, smoked Salmon, poached fish, creamy mashed potatoes, Thai curries. But if I have so slot it into a category I’d say “Soul Food” Food that comforts the heart. Where do you get new ideas for cooking at home? Ha! A friend of mine found me in the kitchen the other day making a totally random recipe that turned out absolutely amazing, and he was like, “where did you even get this idea from.” I laughed and answered: “I dreamt about it” And I kid you not, I dream about recipes. I’m blessed with a very creative mind, so you may not find me reading a recipe book, but you’ll nearly always find me purging pallets of foods I’ve imagined. What food trends are you currently excited about? To be honest I’m never too fazed by trends, they

come and they go. My main concern where food is concerned is to stay: Creative, Innovative & Ethical. What do you love most about food? I love seeing how food can bring people of varying cultures and communities together. I love the conversation it provokes, the safety and consistency I gives family and friends who just want to catch up or spend time together. What is your favourite kitchen tool? My high heat spoonula, saves a ridiculous amount of money annually and it’s so handy! What is your best food memory? Wow! probably being in Uganda earlier this summer, my granddad passed away sadly and I travelled back home for the funeral, to our village home. During the day we would sit under his favourite mango tree and eat as many mangos our stomach could take, then my cousins and uncles would take me around the field showing me all the plants and crops, and then every evening we would sit in a circle around “Wang-wo” (A little fire) and have tea. So simple but so beautiful.

Lamb Creamy Coconut Curry Ingredients:

RECIPE Lamb 1. Begin with washing the lamb in lemon and water, and cut the chicken wings up into bite sizes amounts. 2. Season these with garlic salt and Aromat allpurpose seasoning, and a pinch or two of some sea salt and ground black pepper, and place them aside, I usually leave mine in the fridge overnight just so they can take in all the flavour. 3. Fry the diced red onions all together for about 10 minutes in some ground nut oil, and once they’ve begun to brown add the diced garlic, ginger root ( always begin with the onions as they have a longer cooking time than the garlic, will save you these not so pretty burnt looking bits of garlic.)

3 tsp fresh root ginger Garlic cloves and garlic salt Aromat all purpose seasoning 1 red Onion Ground nut oil Tomatoes Chutney Fresh chopped tomatoes Coconut cream or coconut milk 700g Lamb Coriander

6. Add coconut milk, and gradually add turmeric, watching the paste take on that beautiful orange colour.

4. Now increase the heat, but make sure you are continually stirring, as you add in your lovely lamb pieces, and fry it all together for around 15mins, until they begin to brown,

7. Turn the heat down, place the lid on the pan and give it around 20-30 minutes to cook.

5. Add in some chopped tomatoes, tomato chutney and continue stirring for another 5 minutes, just giving the flavour from the meat time to soak into the developing sauce.

8. When you return, cut into the meat to make sure it isn’t pink at the centre and is cooked all the way through, then sprinkle some chopped coriander on top and enjoy.


Now on to the accompanying maple syrup sweet potato curry So for this recipe I use orange flesh sweet potatoes, they give a sweet and creamy yet subtly nutty taste, and most of they remind me of Uganda! Ingredients 7-8 Sweet potatoes Llyes Gold Maple Syrup Salt & pepper Half a cup on milk 2 Full table spoons of butter

I always begin with making sure I have all my set ingredients out before me, particularly the seasonings, I like to ground my own black pepper and salt, so I buy whole black pepper corns and ground them myself, and leave them out ready for whenever I need the Step 1.) Boil the Sweet Potatoes in hot water, do this for approximately 30 minutes or until you can slice a knife into the potatoes and feel that lovely soft centre. Make sure the water is just covering the potatoes, and leave it on a medium heat.( Before you’ve boiled them make sure you’ve removed the skin, and cut them into smaller sizes, the smaller they are the more cooking time you save Its also important to note that once peeled and cut potatoes begin to oxidise so don’t leave them out on your desk top, place them straight into the water) Step 2.) Now if you have a food processor, this part is a walk in the part, but if you’re anything like me you’ll like to do it by hand. Once all the water has evaporated and you have those lovely small sized potatoes, use a potato masher or a ricer, to mash the sweet potatoes, now as you do this season the mash, adding that earthy black pepper and sea salt, adjusting to taste. Once you’re satisfied bring the mash back onto a very low heat and add half a cup of milk, and 2 table spoons of butter. Step 3.) Now thus far my favourite brand of maple syrup is Buckwuds Canadian Brand, but good old Llyes Gold will give some great results. Once you’ve plated your sweet potatoes drizzle a spoon full of the maple syrup over each plate. And voilà.

Q&A with Foodie Ijeoma founder, Ijeoma Eboh, is on a mission to change perceptions of kinky textured hair around the world. Born in Nigeria but growing up in the United States, After a 15 year relationship with relaxers, Ijeoma decided to grow out her thin, shoulder length wisps of hair simply to see what her God -given hair looked and felt like. She started making YouTube videos shortly after her big chop as a way to chronicle her journey. A graduate of Harvard University, Ijeoma is now pursuing a doctoral degree in History and Ethics of Public Health. She is based in New York.

greatness where I have a sixth sense for the amount of ingredients that goes into a dish, so until then, I may be struggling over common jollof rice. Shame!

What is your definition of a great meal?

What kind of place do you like to go to when it comes to eating out?

To me, a great meal is flavorful, in my world, that includes spicy, nutritious, and hearty. You should want to unbutton your pants, lick your lips, take a nap, and then wake up and eat some more. What is the most difficult recipe you have ever prepared? This is embarrassing but I cannot for the life of me get jollof rice correct! It hasn’t been completely gross the few times I’ve tried to make it, but it’s just not delicious. Part of the problem is that I learned how to cook rice primarily in a rice cooker rather than on the stove, and the other issue is that my mom refuses to give me an actual recipe. Like many African mothers, her instructions are to "just add this and this, o gwula (that’s it)”. I haven’t reached the level of culinary

Do you have a favorite food memory that you'd like to share with us. I remember the first time I made stew for my family all on my own, sometime while I was in high school. I was incredibly nervous and was expecting my mom to get up from the table and start cooking something else (as she had done once before when I made flavorless eggs), but she, my dad, and my brothers not only ate it but said it was tasty! I was truly proud of myself.

In terms of the cuisine I like for eating out, I really love Thai food. I'm trying to learn how to make it myself so I can get my fix whenever I want. But in general, I like to go out to eat anywhere I'm not paying . Can you describe your perfect meals for one day. Breakfast: eggs scrambled with peppers, onions, and tomatoes, fried plantain, and some piping hot akara. Lunch: grilled shrimp and avocado over some green leaves ,lettuce for cold salad, kale for warm. Snack: apple slices with yogurt, peanut butter, and honey dip, my latest discovery! Dinner: Fufu and okra soup with smoked turkey and stew. I probably wouldn’t be able to move all day but it would be well worth it.

What are your cooking inspirations? I’m inspired by my mom's ability to quickly throw something together at any time, as well as the quick creativity of the chefs on the American TV show Chopped. I try to challenge myself to use new and different ingredients in fresh combinations with each other, and if it can be made in less than 30 minutes, I’ve truly succeeded. If you were to carry only 3 ingredients to an island, what would they be? Red pepper, palm oil, and peanut butter. The peanut butter would be to snack on, not for cooking. As long as I have some oil to sautee something up, and some pepper, I think I’d survive anywhere. Are there any Nigerian dishes that you like preparing and why? Okra soup is my favorite Nigerian food so it was the first one I really committed to learning. It's just so yummy, and nutritious too! When I'm with family, I like preparing moi moi or akara because they’re labor intensive and require group participation. I have fond memories of picking out skins from beans with my grandma, so that warms my heart.

Ingredients 1 bunch mustard greens 1/2 lb fettucine/linguini 1 tbs olive oil 1 tbs butter 1/2 onion, sliced 1 shallot, chopped 2 handfuls cherry tomatoes chicken stock 1/2 tbs sugar 1/2 tbs garlic 1 sprig of parsley grated parmesan

Cooking Tip: Homemade chicken broth has the best flavor, but you can always substitute by mixing 1 teaspoon chicken seasoning to 1 cup of water. Recipe 1. Boil pasta in salted water until almost done. 2. Melt butter and oil, add onions and sugar to carmelize. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring. Add shallots and cook for 5 more minutes, until onions are soft and slightly brown. 3. Meanwhile chop mustard greens, removing thick stems. Turn off pasta. 4. Add chicken broth to deglaze pan of onions & shallots. Add garlic, salt, & pepper, let simmer for 5 minutes. 5. Add pasta, greens, and half cherry tomatoes to broth mixture, stir and cover for 2 minutes or until greens are wilted. Remove from heat. Add parmesan cheese to taste, remaining tomatoes (so some will be firmer than others), and torn parsley leaves. Stir and serve immediately. Enjoy! The sweetness of the onions balance out the slight bitterness of the mustard greens to create a delicious marriage of flavors! Mustard greens can be substituted for arugula, or any other more basic leaf, such as kale or spinach, but the powerful flavors won’t be the same. I would’ve loved to add mushrooms but ran out. Makes 3-4 servings.


Home & Design with Interior Designer Charmaine Werth

rofessionalyaccredited interior designer, Charmaine Werth has dedicated more than 20 years to designing visionary spaces exuding function, elegance and innovation. Born in the island of Grenada and raised in Antigua, Werth studied interior design at the distinguished International Fine Arts College - now the Miami International University of Art & Design. As an aspiring interior design student, she interned with the inimitable Tessi Garcia, an indelible experience that paved the road for a successful career ahead. While living in the United States, Werth held posts as senior interior designer at major U.S. retail outlets including Bed, Bath and Beyond and Ethan Allen. Charmaine returned to the Caribbean in 1997, where interior design services had not fully evolved. She launched the the first ever interior design department at the internationally renowned architectural firm, OBM Architects.

At OBM, she was tasked with overseeing an expansive portfolio of commercial, residential and hospitality design projects. In 2004, Charmaine and her architectural designer husband Kerry launched dstudio, a venture that allowed her the flexibility to pursue her own highly individualistic approach to interior design. Currently based in Antigua, she has a comprehensive and diverse portfolio having managed design projects for hotels, restaurants, ambassadors, and heads of state, ministers of government, banks, medical providers, private residences and retail outlets. Her bold and expressive style was quickly respected within the firm, allowing her to design projects in Antigua, Anguilla, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Miami, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, Tortola, and Turks and Caicos. Tell us a bit about who you are, your background, where you grew up and where you live. I’m Caribbean, born and bred born in Grenada, lived in Guyana, raised in Antigua and educated in the US; I returned to Antigua in 1997, with my husband, Kerry -an architect, and two daughters, Kierstyn, now an actor and Yensa, a photographer. The islands have had a tremendous influence on me, personally and professionally. But I draw on many different traditions for inspiration. I came across a word recently that stuck in my mind – mÊtissage, which refers to a merging and blurring of cultures and identities.

I think it pretty much sums up the spirit of what I’m interested in, of what I believe in, and also, I suppose, of who ‘I am’. My friends are from wildly different places and backgrounds – artists, musicians, actors, photographers, writers, potters, sculptors, stylists; but also doctors, lawyers, fishermen, gardeners and farmers. I thrive in this atmosphere of diversity, and on the edginess it can bring. ‘Sameness’ is a kind of death for me. What was your childhood like? Often filled with big personalities, laughter and tales of everyday life – Caribbean people love to tell stories, it’s a big part of our culture. My parents are kind, loving and always surrounded by friends. Growing up on an island, everyone knows each other: it shifts ‘It Takes a Village’ to a whole other level! We’d call our parents’ friends ‘auntie’ or ‘uncle’, even though we weren’t related. And respect was paramount. Most of our time was spent outside: at the beach, playing hopscotch, dominoes, cricket and board games. Having been immersed in all the different cultures, which one did you embrace more or identify with more? I’m an island girl, through and through. Although I’ve lived in the US and my husband is American, I find the European way of life more pleasing and chilled, particularly in the southwest. I’m laid back, so I’m drawn to cultures that are relaxed and have a great passion for life. I love California for this.

Hallway in Charmaine’s house in Hodges Bay, Antigua. Mid Century vases belonged to my husband’s grandmother.

What is your personal style? Retro, shabby chic, minimalist, it’s all over the place, really, depending on my mood and influences at the time. But mostly it’s Bohemian chic. And I love vintage elegance – I’m drawn to the ’50s and ’60s in particular. Thrifting for furniture, accessories and fashion from that era is my idea of a perfect day out. I’m a bit of a chameleon, so the client and whatever project I’m working on also often contributes to my style: so I take cues from this and then blend them through my ‘creative processer’.

Charmaine’s dining room holds a collection of sea treasures. Seafans on the wall and sea urchins in vases on the table.

Left: Living area in The well travelled Home - Villa Ensueno. Below: Living area in Pelican Cove. Charmaine painted the artwork and hung so that horizon in the painting followed the actual horizon and the red sky was the same height and colour of the niche opposite.

When did you first discover your love for interior design? Ah, no hesitation here – when I was given my first Barbie doll! Not for dressing her up or giving her funky hairstyles or even playing makebelieve, but because I was obsessed with designing cool interiors for her. And they had to be perfect, right down to the cups and saucers and the placing of sofas and chairs on my neighbour’s 24 x 24 verandah tiles, which I used as ‘rooms’. The tiles at my home were only 12 x 12, and my Barbie and her friends needed more space for their growing collection of furniture. So top of my Santa list every year was always ‘furniture for Barbie’, sad as that may sound. I soon progressed from Barbie interiors to my parents’ home – they lived in fear of my incessant rearrangements: one day the sofa would be safely against the wall; the next day they’d arrive home to

find it floating in the middle of the room or outside in the garden, accompanied by the television and maybe a lamp or two. So I guess that even at that young age I recognized the potential, and the joy, of creating outdoor living spaces! Does your interest lie in a certain field of design? I enjoy residential, as it’s so personal. My clients often become friends during the course of the project, and sometimes beyond. But I’ll always have a love for hospitality- hotels and restaurants- , where I can really push the boundaries. These spaces tend to be transient, so I can do crazier, wilder things that excite people, things that are great to experience for a while, but that you wouldn’t necessarily want to live with every day. In 1997 after graduating from University in the US you

returned to the Caribbean – what was the state of the interior design industry in the Caribbean then and how it may have changed since? Simple. There was little notion of interior design in the Caribbean back then, and certainly no design industry as such. It simply didn’t exist as a concept for most people. There was very little exposure to different ways of living, to different domestic environments, to different ways of seeing. And so it’s been a long, slow process to encourage people to appreciate the importance of the profession. But in the last ten years - – with the advent of the Internet and digital media, increased travel opportunities and a greater facility for sourcing products overseas – things, and people’s minds, have opened up considerably.

I’d say that nowadays many Caribbean people are alert to trending styles and have a keen eye on designing spaces that will uplift them and that maximize the beauty of the tropical environment. Design competitions and TV shows have also played a big part in alerting them to think more creatively about what’s available with limited budgets and resources. People are definitely more willing to spend some money on a designer or to use some of their own creativity and elbow grease to enrich their environment. What was your first design project? My first project, wow that was some time ago! In 1989 – just after my graduation and our wedding – Kerry and I did a brief stint in Antigua. We decided to open a lifestyle store and, to be honest, we were way ahead of our time. So my first project was a retail space in the heart of St. John’s, Antigua’s capital. We did the interior design and all the buying ourselves, and it was great. People still come up to me and talk about things they bought from us and still have. And that’s almost 25 years later!

This meant I was involved in all aspects of the project, from reception, bars, restaurants, pools and guest rooms to staff uniforms, landscape, signage and menus. The scope was terrific, really inspiring. I was also commissioned for the High Court of Antigua and the Prime Minister’s office, as well as for the island’s first national bank and the newly built Mount St John’s Hospital. More recently, I’ve been working on full residential renovations, both interior and exterior. What has been your secret to your success? It’s no secret really: listening, looking, learning and balancing my time. It’s so important to live life to the full. There’s a time for work but, more importantly, there’s also a time for play and hanging out with friends and family. If I didn’t play, my work wouldn’t be as effective, it would have less meaning. My love of life gives me an ability to inject a feeling of barefoot elegance into all my designs – I suppose that’s my signature.

What is the first thing you consider before starting a project? I imagine how the home will be used inside and outside: the breadth of interior and exterior spaces and what it will mean to those who live there. When I design a hotel, I try to create a particular feeling that each guest will enjoy in both the private and public spaces. I always consider the client’s perspective, the site’s story, the cultural background and often a particular exciting trend. I mix up all these aspects with my design philosophy, and this makes for a good starting point. What are some projects you've previously worked on? I’ve worked on a number of hotels, but my favourite was Sugar Ridge. Here the client effectively appointed me creative director. 104 |

Above: Chill-out area in the Sun Lounge of The well travelled Home Villa Ensueno. Right: Charmaine tends to chose art by her friends. These are by Nathalie Lepine. The desk is by Christopher Guy. This is a corner of the master bedroom in Pelican Cove.

Statues reminscent of Giacometti have their place of importance in this red niche in the living area of Pelican Cove.

For this piece, Charmaine played with shapes in the dining area of Pelican Cove. Art is by her friend Naydene Gonella.

Tell us more about your company, d-studio.

Front door and Garden lounge of Villa Ensueno.

My husband started d-studio in 2001. I joined three years later. Having our own practice allows us the flexibility to pursue our highly individualistic ideas – not only on interior design and architecture, but also on art, photography and landscape design, which we often integrate into our projects. Our approach offers an inspiring re-interpretation of Caribbean living. We try always to keep a firm focus on the clients’ needs and then develop strategies to deliver the services that meet those needs. It’s a simple formula that seems to have worked quite well so far! How has working with your husband benefited your career? Kerry has introduced me to many of his clients, who have then often commissioned me to work on their interiors. So that’s a cool perk. We have a similar design philosophy but differing viewpoints and we critique each other endlessly! But debate is an exhilarating part of the creative process and definitely pushes our work to a higher level. How does a typical day of work as an interior designer look like? There are no typical days for me. But I usually have coffee in bed while responding to e-mails and reviewing my schedule. Then I have a quick breakfast before going to the beach for my morning workout, an exhilarating jog in the ocean – an amazing way to start the day. My first appointment is generally at 10am. It starts getting crazy from midday: site meetings, sourcing, client meetings, visiting showrooms and more site meetings. I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to finishes on site. Lights -out for me is usually around 2:30am. What are you currently working on? I’m working on a couple fun projects at the moment. One is a store that sells locally crafted, beautifully designed items specifically for entertaining. I’ve been involved in the entire creative process: from logo design and branding, to sourcing and creating the merchandise and, of course, the interior design of the store, which is in a terrific 17th-century warehouse. I’ve used all regionally sourced items, local custom-

made furniture and repurposed and up-cycled pieces. I’m also working on a sushi restaurant at the Antigua Yacht Club, which has an open upper deck, with breathtaking views across the harbour. Again, I’m involved in all aspects of the project: logo and menu design, signage, dishes, glasses, as well as interior and exterior design. The overall budget is very low – this is a challenge, but it makes for really creative design. I’m taking full advantage of the incredible scenery, so not too much is needed besides tables and seating. I managed to score some awesome Bonaldo Viento chairs at a great price. I think it’s going to be stunning, especially the lighting installation I’ve designed. We’re also using locally grown succulents that we nicked from my friends’ gardens and arranging them in assorted white teacups bought at thrift stores. It’s minimal and modern .and very, very cool. What do you love most about your work?

Carmichael’s Restaurant at Suger Ridge Hotel.

Haitian–Italian fashion designer Stella Jean for her decadent combinations, a cacophony of colour, texture, ethnic prints and voluminous silhouettes. US designer Kelly Wearstler for her crazy, quirky mixes and English interior designer and decorator David Hicks for his masterful mixes – so luxe! The audacious set designs and costumes created for the Paris-based Ballets Russes in the early twentieth century also bring endless inspiration. I saw an exhibition on them at the National Gallery in DC recently – breathtaking. Other influences?

Well, for me, interior design is not simply about filling a space with pleasing colours and objects or of making spaces functionally effective , although of course these aspects are key. Instead, I see it as an interdisciplinary activity – one that draws on a wide range of disciplines and phenomena: from travel, Reception area of Sugar Ridge. Charmaine commissioned her friend, phofashion, the natural world, art, photography, tographer Jennifer Meranto, to take these Photos of sugar cane. architecture and geometry to politics, sexuality, philosophy, psychology and People, inspiration, ideas, execution and end product. literature Each stage of a project brings excitement and satisfaction: from the initial meeting with the client, How people move around in their spaces, what to conceptualization and development of the design they do in them, and what they demand from them, process, to the implementation of the design. But the of course changes as culture, society, ideologies and greatest pleasure always comes from seeing the families change and so I’m always alert to how client’s happiness and gratitude at the end of a different cultures seek to represent themselves – project. what’s desired and repressed; what’s excluded as much as what’s included. The ‘meaning’ of space in And what do you find most rewarding about your the 1950s, for example, was very different from its job? meaning now. My client’s happiness! Who or what have been major influences on your work? Difficult – there are so many people, places and things, but: the Mexican architects Luis Barragan and Ricardo Legaretta for their use of texture, solid volumes, bold colours and clean lines, often offset by rustic elements. The Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa – again, dazzling use of colour, as well as his ability to bring together elements from different times and places so successfully.

There’s been a greater democratization, if you like: areas that were once private, contained, and that often served to exclude, and to define certain roles, have been opened out and redefined. The kitchen is a perfect example. Once the exclusive domain of the housewife who washed, cooked and toiled alone, it has become not only a larger, lighter, freer space, but also one in which everyone is encouraged to participate and linger – friends as well as family.

106 |

Both at Werth’s residence

So the boundaries within the home that once separated and divided according to a strict, yet unwritten, set of societal norms and expectations have become increasingly blurred. And of course living in the Caribbean, where we have sun, sea and glorious year-round sunshine, we’re able – unlike many countries – to extend this idea of a blurring of boundaries even further. In my own home in Antigua, for instance, the division between inside and outside has been made purposely ephemeral and vague. I often create outside rooms using interior pieces and art. What is your home like? My home is my haven. It’s a simple, single-storey beach house that looks out onto the piercing blue ocean and to Prickly Pear island in the distance. The colours that surround us are sensational and change dramatically throughout the course of the day, and according to the weather – from deep greens of the foliage, vibrant blues of the sea and sky and touches of white from the surf and occasional cloud. So we’ve allowed nature to speak for itself in our home – to maximize the beauty of the landscape by keeping things clean and simple and in tandem with the tropical landscape. There’s no fuss and frills. It’s all clean lines and understated elegance: found objects from the beach, shells, driftwood, petrified wood and art. Lots of art.

Caribbean life is all about outside living and we’ve recreated this spirit in our home. We have several different outside ‘rooms’: a couple of secluded areas for quiet contemplation; another that is hidden away and embraced by tropical greenery; and then a couple of larger spaces for lounging, dining, entertaining, chilling and listening to music. The outside is an extension of the inside, which in turn is framed by the jaw dropping seascape. Everything in my home holds a special meaning for me and represents something important, whether a memory, an experience, an achievement, or a specific person, place or situation. I remember where I’ve purchased each piece as well as the emotion associated with that experience – the thrill and happiness. What colors do you like working with? ALL of them. It varies from year to year, month to month, day to day even. Sometimes I’m into pale monochromatic colour schemes. Other times, I love bold and using contrasting colours. Right now I have a passion for blue. I am all over cerulean blue with black and white, touches of brass and what I like to call bougainvillea pink happening a lot now – mixing materials and styles, and opposing colour combinations. And mixing metallics is really big, particularly brass and gold.

What common mistakes do people make while decorating their homes? They are either excessive and fail to edit, or they hold back and are too restrained. There’s a fine line between too little and too much. Designer Sandra Espinet has summed it up brilliantly: ‘Space should only be occupied by something that adds more than it takes away.’ What advice would you give to someone who wants to decorate their homes but on a limited budget? Think hard about what inspires you in life, what’s important to you and what you feel comforted by and at peace with. In other words, personalize your home, make it yours. Surround yourself by objects that reflect your personality, experiences and memories.

Charmaine’s painting called “peace".

What does the word luxury mean to you? Luxury, to me, is comfort. It’s not an acquisition but a sensation. It brings pleasure, contentment and happiness.

Collect things especially objects or artworks that have meaning and resonance for you. Don’t try to do everything at once, take your time – in this way, you’ll not only save money but you’ll avoid making mistakes. Live with different items for a while and then add to them wisely, not impetuously. Visit flea markets, thrift stores, garage sales, eBay, Craig’s list and other Internet retail sites as well as the traditional, brick-and-mortar furniture stores. But most importantly, be guided by your instincts rather than by the dictates of fashion. Lastly, what advice would you give to someone starting out in your line of work?

What are some new trends in interior design? The new trend is to marry the old with the new and mix it all up. There’s a style called ‘new traditional’ that I love – basically, a new take on old: combining industrial, worn, natural, ethnic and artisanal pieces with clean, modern, straight, simple spaces. It’s a great juxtaposition; I revel in opposites. This is happening a lot now – mixing materials and styles, and opposing colour combinations. And mixing metallics is really big, particularly brass and gold. So the new trend is to be bold and break all the rules – right up my street.

Love what you do and let passion drive you to success! Without passion, you’ll flounder when obstacles are thrown in your way. The bottom line is: if you don’t love what you do, then it’s probably not for you. Lack of passion is fatal.

See more of Charmaine’s work


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Business Issue 2013  

Our Business Issue is finally here, 100+ pages of great content and we are celebrating women of African heritage on every page. Inside this...

Business Issue 2013  

Our Business Issue is finally here, 100+ pages of great content and we are celebrating women of African heritage on every page. Inside this...