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AFRO

ELLE

Celebrating Women of African Descent

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Encourage. Empower. Entertain. Elevate


CONTENTS

93

EVENTS/PROFILES 18

Suzie Beauty Launch

20

Reading Habits With

86

101

42

IN EVERY ISSUE 44

Featured Cause; Focal Point Global

Rhoda Wilson

30

Featured Couple

BOOK REVIEWS

101

Business Spotlight;

21

Change Your Mindset

22

Pieces of Me

22

Success over Statistics

Uniquely Niyia FASHION

PROFILES

98

Jezreel Designs

40

dream hampton

96

Vanessa Mukasa

36

Benny Bonsu

102

How to find your style

46

Bringing Diversity in Tech

94

Afri-Kaan Discovery

42

One Night In Brooklyn

BEAUTY/TRAVEL/ HEALTH

INSPIRATION

103

All about GMO’s

23

Power of Purpose

105

Evita: Nomadness

23

Truths That Changed My Life

24

Building A Fab Life

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FEATURE Women Making Moves & Music

74

61

Coming Out of Her ‘musical closet’ EVON

65

Music According to Samantha Mogwe

68

ALL EARS on NANJIRA!

72

Sista with Soul

74

Alycia’s Sound of Music

78

Jazzin it Up with LOIDE!

80

One in A Million

82

Sounds of a New Voice ;Domanique Grant

86

Ayanna On Top of Her Music Game

88

Indie Jazz Meets Afro Groove with Pyeng

92

Musically Speaking ; Lianne Love

93

Getting To Know Gospel Sensation Anu

20

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Get Involved! Volunteer with us. Volunteers keep our magazine and website running and you can join our team too! AfroElle Team is currently looking for volunteers in the different departments that make up the magazine. We are looking for individuals who have spare time and want to get involved on a voluntary basis or who want to contribute occasionally for experience. Volunteers can work at their own schedule from anywhere in the world.

Contact us for more information info@afroellemagazine.com


CONTRIBUTORS

Feyruz.Tefazion

Iman Folayan

Stephanie Popoola

LOS ANGELES

HOUSTON , TEXAS

LONDON

Feyruz is a twenty-something aspiring writer with an affinity for the beauty industry. Her interests include travel that requires her passport, photography, beauty blogging and uninterrupted reading sessions. She currently lives in Los Angeles. Twitter @EritreanEmpress

Iman hails from Houston, Texas but considers herself a world citizen. As an active member of the West End Community in Atlanta, GA she uses her writing to promote change.

Writer, wardrobe stylist, image consultant, designer, poet are some of the titles Stephanie is recognized by. She currently freelancies under SGJP Creative, styling and directing shoots and videos.

Find her here; www.iamiman.bandcamp.com

Twitter @SGJPCreative @JustJumi

Nikia Pope ATLANTA, GEORGIA Nikia is a 23 year old currently pursuing her Masters in Public Health all the while pursuing her passion of writing in hopes of inspiring other young black women to purpose their purpose in life. Twitter @Popit4Pope

Ms.K runs African Prints in Fashion blog. She features African Designers and Designers of Africa-inspired fashion as well as any fashion and accessories platforms that she comes across that deal with African Prints in Fashion. Blog: africanprintsinfashion.blogspot.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AfricanPrintsFashion

Madre is the CEO and Fashion Stylist of DiVine Styling (Where Individuality and Fashion Meet) and Founder of NonProfit Organization Modernistic Inc (We make a Difference). Twitter: @DiVineStyling

Amber J. Adams is on a mission to teach people how to define happiness and success on their own terms. As the voice behind the blog, The Fab Life Project, Amber provides weekly inspiration, ideas, and resources for twenty-somethings who want to be the C.E.O.’s of their own lives. She is a journalist who has published over 100 articles in national, regional, and online publications. Currently, she is co-producing a documentary about Generation Y’s shifting attitudes towards careers and entrepreneurship. Site: thefablifeproject.com Twitter: http://twitter.com/amberjadams Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/generation.inovation/

PLPT is co-authored by Kim Jackson and GG Renee with the intention of connecting with women through messages of selflove and personal freedom. We use this platform as an opportunity to share our personal experiences, and to help other women who are seeking guidance to find their own truths and live fabulously. Blog: http://www.PeaceLoveandPrettyThings.com Twitter: http://twitter.com/#%21/PeaceLovePretty Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Peace-Love-and-Pretty-Things/173671875981209

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AFROELLE MAGAZINE | Encourage. Empower. Entertain. Elevate

AFROELLE MAGAZINE

FOUNDER& PUBLISHER

ON THE COVER

Patricia Miswa (In this Issue) ASSISTING EDITOR Iman Folayan CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Feyruz Tefazion, Nikia Pope , Stephanie Popoola, Amber J. Adams, Kim Jackson and GG Renee

ONLINE www.afroellemagazine.com To subscribe, visit www.afroellemagazine.com For inquiries regarding general information, advertising, contribution or feedback email info@afroellemagazine.com AfroElle Magazine is published monthly. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in parts without written 16| REFRESH ISSUE | www.afroellemagazine.com

Model: Monifa Miller Photographer: Photographer : Brian K Fuller MUA: Beautifulone Artistry


Publisher’s Note

REFRESH Your Life

I

f there’s someone who loves new beginnings, it's me. That’s because I’m a believer in second, third, fifth and 365 chances that comes with a new day. While most people wait for a New Year to turn a new leaf, I see a each day as an opportunity to start over and reinvent myself, an absolutely blank page with which I can decide to do things differently, write new dreams, right yesterday’s wrongs and achieve just about anything I purpose to. We are already three months into the year, some still feel the year is brand new , while others may have had a rough start, gone back to old habits and are not where they hoped to be. But that can change because every new day is a blessing from God ; every sunrise is His way of saying, ‘you probably didn’t achieve what you wanted yesterday, you probably shoulda-coulda-woulda done this or that, but it’s not too late, here is a new day, TAKE TWO.’ Isn’t that beautiful? The day I started viewing each day like the first day of the rest of my life, is the day I started facing my days with renewed optimism that I have the power to REFRESH my life and create my own new beginnings. You can refresh your life too. Are there things about your situation that you want to change? Are there dreams you want to pursue? Go for it! You don’t have to wait for tomorrow, start right now. Our Refresh Issue is a reflection of fresh starts. We tried to squeeze in all our inspirations from the past few months into this issue, from great informative articles to inspirational interviews touching on self help, technology, business, fashion, and travel. In our special feature; we interview 12 women making moves and music sharing the stories of their musical journeys. This issue is a labor of love, I’d like to thank every one who worked tirelessly to put it together. I’d also like to thank you, our readers for supporting our vision issue after issue. I hope you enjoy reading every page and when you are done, share our magazine with other women and men in your life, join us on Facebook and Twitter (if you haven’t already) and email us your feedback to let us know how we are doing so far. Until next time I leave you with the words of Jonathan Lockwood Huie, “Let everyday be the first day of the rest of your life, but especially let today be a new beginning” Peace , Love & New Beginnings ! Patricia Miswa EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

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EVENTS

Suzie Beauty Launches Premier Makeup Line On December 15th 2011, professional make-up artist Suzie Wokabi officially launched her make-up line at lash plains of 1 Degree South Hotel . The event was marked with lots of fashion, food and drinks with a make-up station for all the guests to get a full make over done according to the cocktail menu. The Emcee of the day was Patricia Amira, with a list of special guests, socialites and celebrities in attendance . On the general turn out of the event Suzie said, "The launch of my product was a million times more than I expected it would be - and I had very high expectations! Left me absolutely speechless!''

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BOOKS

Rhoda Talks

Books Rhoda Wilson started The Rhoda Wilson show in 2005 on OBE TV and she is making enormous moves in the world of Television and The Media in the UK. Her 30 minute show is mainly consists of interviews based on the lives of inspirational and growing talent across the UK. When did you start The Rhoda Wilson Show Book Club? November 6, 2011 How many members do you have in your book club and do you meet-ups? 7 members of our newly established Linked In group, but we've had countless responses and comments from readers via our social media portals. It’s an open book club with no restrictions on numbers thanks to our use of social media. Why is reading important to you and is it a culture you developed from a young age? It is escapism for me and gives me time to relax. I have to thank my father for this because as a child, I can remember my father lining up my siblings and me and asking each of us to read to him. Who are some of your favourite female authors and why? I have too many to name them all but here are some of my favourites: Jasvinder Sanghera - She wrote a book called Shame. The book is about struggle and survival. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - I fell in love with Purple Hibiscus. Intelligent book and well written you can tell she has done her research. Zadie Smith - I was introduced to Zadie when her first novel: White Teeth was published and since then I have tried to get her on my show. I love this book because it brought to light culture, race, families, war and love. Which book in your opinion is a ‘A MUST READ’ book? Too many to count! For inspiration I would recommend The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

What book is currently on your night stand? I actually have 3 books by my bed: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez– I have read this so many times but love to read extracts once in a while. A friend gave me a book by Lisa See called Peony in Love which I only just started reading and the other is the best seller “the Bible” for divine inspiration. And what is your group currently reading? We are reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. What advice would you give to someone who wants to cultivate a lifetime reading habit? 1. There is nothing like reading! It is an enjoyable pastime. The book you read should give you some level of joy whether it is inspirational or autobiographies. If you don’t like a book or it is a chore to read, abandon it and find something that you really enjoying. Make it pleasurable. Have a glass of wine, tea or whatever you prefer whilst you read and truly make it a “me time” 2. Whilst is it good to find a quiet place to read, for me who is always on the move, I have develop a technique which allows me to read on a crowded train or in a busy airport cause I want to escape and more importantly relax. 3. Even though I have the Amazon Kindle, believe it or not, I always carry a book. So carry a book. 4. Be a member of your local library, if you have one. I have kept all my books that I have read and if you don’t have space make a list of books you have read and those you would like to read.

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How to Change Your Mindset+ Live Your Most Fabulous Life By Jaime Fleming which is “Live your most Fabulous life.” And I believe that the phrase means whatever you want it to mean; you have to define what your most fabulous life looks like for yourself, and take the necessary steps to living it. Can you share a little more with us about what your book is about?

Dreamer. Lover of life. Goal getter, these are just a few words to describe author and entrepreneur Jamie Fleming-Dixon. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of For Colored Gurls, a personal development blog with the mission of inspiring and empowering women to live their most Fabulous lives. Additionally, Jamie is the owner of Mocha Writer, where she specializes in creating fabulous copy and content for women solopreneurs. Jamie talks to AfroElle about her new inspirational e-book, How to Change Your Mindset+ Live Your Most Fabulous Life and shares everything from purpose to how to live your most fabulous life. What inspired you to write How to Change Your Mindset+ Live Your Most Fabulous Life? I was inspired to write this book because at the time, I had been doing my blog, For Colored Gurls, for three years. With the blog, my goal is to help women live the lives they want and inspire and empower them to follow their dreams and goals. And since the motto of my blog is “Live your most Fabulous life,” I thought, 'Why not write a book that outlines the steps to actually doing that?' And the book was born! The title comes from the motto of For Colored Gurls,

The book is an inspirational guide that helps the reader create and live the life they've always desired, starting right now. In it, I share a little of my personal story to let people know that I've been where they are and that I've taken the same steps. Some things the reader will learn are how to determine their purpose, how to get rid of limiting beliefs and how to set and achieve goals. What is one lesson you learnt from writing your book?

It's okay if it takes you a while to figure it out. It takes some people longer than others to find their purpose, so don't give up! Just keep searching for it, and I promise, you will find it. When you look back to the process of starting and finishing this book, is there anything you could have done differently? One thing I would have done differently is not procrastinated. Because I was a little scared to write the book, it took me longer than it could have to finish. If I had just gone ahead, wrote and published it, it would have been out sooner.

One of the most important lessons I learned in this process is that when God gives you a vision, just do it, no matter how scary it may seem. One of the mottos I live by is “Feel the fear and do it anyway,” and that's exactly what I had to do when writing this book. It was an intimidating task to undertake, but I knew it was something I was supposed to do, so I felt the fear, and did it anyway!

Do you have another book in the works?

I love the part in your book (Chapt. 1 ) where you talk about finding your purpose, I know many people have found themselves on the journey of finding their purpose, what one thing can you tell someone who is trying to find their purpose?

Define what living your most fabulous means to you, then get on the path to living that life. Don't let other people discourage you and convince you to live a life of mediocrity. Think big, dream big, and create the life you want and deserve!

I would tell them to really think about the things they love to do, pray about it and journal.

Website

I do! My next book is called “The Black Girl's Guide to Life as a 20-something,” and it will be released this summer. It's a self-help book for black women going through their 20s, which can be a very trying time for a lot of people. Any parting message for our readers?

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SUCCESS OVER STATISTICS By Nicole Gates Success Over Statistics is a book that seeks to help women who have given up, lost their way and think that there is no hope simply due to crisis in their lives. Lace up those running shoes ladies, failure is not an option! We are Women of Possibilities, Purpose & Power. We have to be the obvious choice, poised for greatness and the authority on our future! “Success over Statistics… I Choose!” will give you the courage to learn, the vision to lead and the passion to share! Nicole Gates, a Woman of Possibilities, Purpose and Power who resides in Memphis TN is the proud single mother of four beautiful daughters. Being plagued by the perfect storm of crisis... divorce, single motherhood, living paycheck to paycheck, no support system on top of being in a new state with no family support… FAILURE was not an option. Nicole made a choice to defy the odds, no longer categorized as a statistic, but rather recognized as a success story! 43 honors to her credit for advocating on behalf of women and children, Nicole learned the revolutionary power to choose success over statistics and shares her insight in her new book Success over Statistics… I Choose!

PIECES OF ME By MJ Forbes Peer into the life of Olivia Caruthers via a collection of short stories, each one detailing a particular circumstance of her life and the priceless lessons she took away with her. Olivia is just like most of us. She has good days and bad days, friends and enemies, triumphs and heartbreaks. Follow along as she learns the true meaning of friendship, real love, and most importantly, about loving and respecting herself. Everyone who reads even one chapter of her story will see a reflection of themselves in Olivia’s experiences. A Chicago native, MJ Forbes began writing at the age of five. MJ continued writing throughout her school days, and won several literary awards. Once only a childhood hobby, MJ later realized the true power of the plume, and began using writing to give a voice to words which might otherwise have been left unsaid. Her writing brings attention to common issues from a different perspective, allowing the reader to experience a variety of emotions vicariously through her characters. MJ believes that writing is a healing both to the writer and the reader. 22| REFRESH ISSUE | www.afroellemagazine.com


INSPIRATION

Power of Purpose By Nikia Pope

I

“Don’t find yourself wondering aimlessly through the life, it’s a new year and an even more perfect time to create the life that you were always supposed to live. Define your purpose. Define your life.”

believe that we were all sent here for a reason and that we all have significance in the world. We are all blessed with unique gifts, and the expression of our gifts contributes to a cause greater than ourselves. Each person in this world was created in accordance with a greater purpose, and the more we know about our purpose, the more we can live our lives in accordance with it. Life becomes simpler and without the unnecessary clutter. If you want to discover your true purpose in life, you must first empty your mind of all the false purposes you’ve been taught (including the idea that you may have no purpose at all).Finding and clarifying your life purpose and core intentions can help you to move with greater focus and clarity every day of your life. In these challenging times, setting clear goals and refining our life purpose can bring ease as we navigate life's stormy waters. At this point, more than likely, you may be wondering what YOUR purpose in life is and how to discover it. Discovering your purpose is a process, and that process is different for all people. The more open you are to this process, and the more you expect it to work, the faster it will work for you. But not being open to it or having doubts about it or thinking it’s an entirely idiotic and a meaningless waste of time will only make it take longer. Remember, you must be open to receive what is for you. Purpose is what keeps me sane amidst the insane situations that I too encounter everyday just like you. I know that Purpose is what drives me every day, even when I feel like I am out of gas. Purpose is what sets the stage for a lot of the choices and decisions that we make. Your morals and values should always line up with your purpose and complement each other. Don’t find yourself wondering aimlessly through the life, it’s a new year and an even more perfect time to create the life that you were always supposed to live. Define your purpose. Define your life. You are just a few steps from living the life that even you did not know was possible. This is the Power of Purpose .

I started making this list in my journal; this list contains truths that I have learned from MY life. These are not things that someone told me or drilled into me. GG shares

14 Truths That Have Changed Her Life 1. I can't miss out on what is meant for me.

2. Loving myself has allowed me to be more vulnerable and thus more outgoing and more impactful. 3. A peaceful and calm nature is strength, not a weakness. 4. Abundance is not just about money. It's a feeling of knowing that you already have everything you need. 5. I can't change other people, but I can change how I interact with them. 6. Guilt nags at me in every situation where I have yet to let go and live peacefully with my decisions. 7. Just because someone is angry, loud, or dismissive towards me doesn't mean they are right. 8. Failure is temporary. 9. I don't need constant attention to have a good time and feel sure of myself. 10. Asking questions is empowering. 11. The things that other people do have nothing to do with me and everything to do with themselves. 12. Finding meaning in every moment is more valuable than finishing first. 13. I don't need to always be right, always have the last word or always be faultless. 14. The only thing that has prevented me from achieving anything in life is my belief that I could not do it. 23| REFRESH ISSUE | www.afroellemagazine.com


Stop Seeking Approval to Live the Life You Want “Too many of us are running scared and doing what we are “supposed” to do out of fear of being told that we are wasting our time.” writes Amber J. Adams The list of complaints about Generation Y is miles long. We are lazy. We’re entitled brats who don’t know what it means to work hard for a buck. We’re whiny. We’ve heard it all before. But we know the truth. What they don’t know is that more than anything we want to look like we have life all figured out. We want to look like we are mastering our universe. Monday through Friday, many of us pimp ourselves out in button-down shirts and polyester pants to head to jobs that have us living paycheck-topaycheck because we are hesitant to admit we are scared. We aren’t afraid of getting our lights cut off. Making credit card payments late is unpleasant, but we don’t fear that. We aren’t terrified of eating MSG-ladden Ramen Noodles for a few more years. Nope. What are we most afraid of? Disapproval. We are scared of everyone thinking we are failures if we aren’t hustling in some profession that half-way resembles what we got a degree in. We are afraid of people telling us that we are wasting our potential. We are afraid to really question the status quo because we are terrified that some gatekeeper in a corner office will think we are too radical. We fear that our chance at corporate success will be snatched away from us if we say what the HELL is going on here? Too many of us are running scared and doing what we are “supposed” to do out of fear of being told that we are wasting our time. We have young professionals who are out there busting their ass for wages that are so low you have to laugh to keep from crying. There are way too many of us working for free in hopes that we will catch a break that never seems to come. Why? We want to follow the rules they set out for us (even though they suck) because we need to make it look like we have SOMETHING figured out. We are too busy looking for people to validate us, our existence, and the circular path that we seem to be on. If Gen Y is guilty of anything, it’s of tirelessly seeking approval for doing things we really don’t care about. No, not because we are lazy. Far from it. But because we have been taught to strive to get the stickers. You know, the ones that say “Good Job!” in bright, neon colors.

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Question: Who are we trying to impress? Whose opinion of ourselves are we trying to save face for? When you start to get too caught up in putting up a front for the sake of others, you have to ask yourself, whose version of your life are you trying to live? Everyone isn’t cut out to be an entrepreneur. I get that. Many people have no desire to create a Fortune 500 company. That’s totally fine. But you owe it to yourself to be the C.E.O. of your own life. If that means you have a gig at Chuckie Cheese on the weekend so that you can spend your week days working on your goals, so be it. Getting ahead starts with getting over yourself and getting past the fear of people thinking you are foolish because you aren’t doing what you “should” do. Yes, people might give you the side eye if you admit that you quit a full-time job to work in a restaurant because you felt it was more conducive to your goals. Yes, maybe people will think you are wasting your time. But if you feel so passionate about your goal that your heart sings, then why should you care what others think? We have to let that go. Building a fab life starts with getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Why? Because when you aren’t somewhat uncomfortable with some part of your existence it means that you have become complacent. Complacency is never fabulous. Pic source


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Ready To Wear | Casual Wear | Evening Wear www.saffronpj.tumblr.com


RELATIONSHIPS

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Beautiful ethnic chic celebration of love, life and family! MiMi Dabo & Kevin McHenry Wedding Date: September 17, 2011 Ceremony: Hyatt Regency Hotel at the Inner Harbor, Baltimore MD Reception: Hyatt Regency Hotel at the Inner Harbor, Baltimore MD Photo Credits: Ready Luck Photography and Ibdabo.com 31| REFRESH ISSUE | www.afroellemagazine.com


From A Distance MiMi Kevin and I met on match.com. and my first impression of him was that he looked like a nice guy. He sounded thoughtful and was very engaging. I'd been on a couple of other dates with other guys, but with Kevin, we just clicked. I knew he was the 'one' a few years later because of how thoughtful he truly turned out to be. He's compassionate, caring, loving, kind and generous.

Kevin My first impression of MiMi was that she was smart, had a great smile and fun outlook on life, and that she was quite beautiful.

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When I Found You MiMi I love Kevin's spirit, his generosity, his thoughtfulness and his personality.

Kevin I love her jokes. I love her smile and her outlook on life. She makes me laugh and feel that I'm living life in full.

Holy Matrimony MiMi So far, the part of marriage that I love most is knowing that I have my best friend by my side through this wonderful life journey. There's no one else I'd rather experience life with other than Kevin. I've always said that I'll marry the person that I'd like to be reminded of if we weren't together. Kevin is that guy. Kevin I like that we communicate well and talk things over, whether it is a small decision or just how things are going in our lives. 33| REFRESH ISSUE | www.afroellemagazine.com


Pearls of Wisdom MiMi: The best advice I received before we got married was "Put God first”. Kevin: The best advice I was given; “keep communicating and talking to each other.”

Spring All Year Round MiMi: We keep our marriage alive and fresh by staying thoughtful and loving no matter what. Kevin: We do the things we enjoy together but also give each other personal time when needed, which helps to keep things "fresh."

To All the Single Ladies!

MiMi The advice I'd give to any newlywed or single woman hoping to get married is to love yourself and live life to the fullest. The partner you're looking for will fit into whatever life you've created for yourself. Don't wait to live because you're searching for some elusive soulmate. Do you!

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ENTERTAINMENT Award winning presenter Benny Bonsu is an underground media phenomenon whose career at Basketball 247 started 5 years ago. Many describe Benny as one of the UK’s most intelligent and dynamic young hosts. She is known to be equally comfortable about interviewing politicians, celebrities, athletes and members of the public and has an immense passion for equality. As the female face of Basketball247’s (now known as MVP247), a successful online magazine entertainment strand, Benny is part of a groundbreaking team of Basketball and Football presenters. She has previously interviewed Kevin Prince Boateng and many of the world famous Ghana Blackstars players. During a show dubbed, “When Benny Met Andre Dede Ayew”, Benny was granted unprecedented access to the superstar Ghanaian football player who plays in Marseille, AC Milan.

Getting Sporty With Presenter

Benny Bonsu 36| REFRESH ISSUE | www.afroellemagazine.com

AfroElle caught up with Benny, to talk about her career as one of UK’s best sports presenters. As sister to basketball sensation, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, growing up was you always into sports? Being Pops Mensah-Bonsu sister isn’t always easy as he is an amazing athlete. You just have to watch him to know what I am talking about. We have all been into sports from a young age. We inspire each other through sports. As I answered earlier, sport has always been a part of me. I gave up sports full time when I went to University but I was still training in track & field, basketball and occasionally football. I have also picked up one of my other passion... street dance. Great for the body ladies!!

Do you have any favourite football or basketball teams? Of course I do, I live for this. I am a super fan of Manchester United and for basketball a diehard fan of Boston Celtics.

Who would be an ideal sports personality on your show? It would have to be Kobe Bryant or Mo Farah. As much as I don’t like the Lakers basketball team, I think and believe


that Kobe Bryant is an amazing athlete who can really inspire a whole new generation of young athletes. Mo Farah because has an amazing story! He came from Africa and now wears the Union Jack to represent Great Britain. I would love to hear him tell his story of what he has been through as a Somalian teenager, growing up in London and then representing Great Britain. I believe he would have an interesting life story to share. A great man and an inspiration to all athletes.

It must have been a great opportunity interviewing Kevin Prince Boateng, what was the experience like?

despite what you read in the press, he is real cool.

Are high profile politicians or sports personalities hard to interview? With politicians, they always have an agenda and I am always weary of it. It makes it harder to interview them at times. But I must say, I recently interviewed the High Commissioner of Ghana to London Prof. Kwaku DansoBoafo. He is by far, the best politician I have interviewed because he wasn’t scared to tell his story. I am not political in any sense but I really enjoyed my time with him.

Kevin Princes Boateng is the man! I would like to say at this point that, I am not mad at him for leaving the Ghana Blackstars, I am disappointed but I am sure he has his own reasons.

With athletes it’s different and its fun, depending on the chemistry you have with them. Usually, I feel like I am talking to my friend.

I mean, the guy is straightforward talking and I love people like that. There is something about him. Anyone that has met him will know what I am talking about.

I enjoy interviewing athletes as it really gives them the opportunity to show what they are really like to the public. Most of the time, it’s different to what you read in the press.

He is a really nice guy, cheeky, smart and funny. He also loves his basketball too,

You’ve been described as being outspoken with a contagious laugh

on screen, is it hard keep a straight face while presenting? (laughs) I love to laugh and to me, when presenting you have to be as natural as possible and be yourself. I speak my mind a lot because I want to ask the questions my audiences would want to know the answer to. I am outspoken because it is the person I am.

I don’t speak just to speak. I speak because there is something to be said. I am never scared of people’s reaction or thoughts of me because being real, is what it important to me. My mom brought me up to have a voice that counts. Not a voice that just exits. I have a dangerous laugh, I can’t help it ... its loud and can be infectious, but hey, that’s life (laughs) it’s not hard to have a straight face when presenting. It depends on the topic in discussion. I like to be myself all the time and I don’t have a straight face all the time.

PIC 1: Benny Interviewing Great Britain star Kieron Achara PIC 2: Benny and brother, NBA Star, Pops PIC 3: Benny interviewing Great Britain Stars Laurence and Kyle Johnson

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You’ve been in the industry for 5 years, what are some of your career highlights? My highlights would be, having the opportunity to do what I love everyday and inspiring others while doing it. Others include the opportunity to live and travel the world and meeting inspiring athletes with inspiring stories to share. My most memorable highlights include NBA ALLSTAR in Dallas, which was epic, Toronto Raptor v New York Nets in London, Ghana playing against England at Wembley in London and having the opportunity to meet and interview Gordon Brown – Former Prime Minister of the Great Britain. That was awesome. You have a vlog called The Bedroom Diaries, sounds very interesting, what do you talk about? Bedroom Diaries is a video blog show that challenges the perspective of the modern

women especially black women. This is a topical show that gives you the real, straight and upfront answers to some of the questions people find hard to ask women. It talks about love, adultery, careers, motherhood, single lifestyles, education, loneliness and much more. Bedroom Diaries vlog is featured weekly on Break London TV and also a 15mins radio show on Break London radio also. It’s a great show that really challenges that mind set of the modern black women and men. This started in 2009 as a blog, as I am a writer also and it grew over night. It is simply sexy and straight to the point to be honest. It’s all the things we are scared to talk about in public, but it feels so good to hear it from others. I hope to bring it to the motherland soon.

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It would be interesting to get the views of people back home. I really do enjoy Bedroom Diaries, especially with the new format that came out in February. My co-presenter Isaak Badru will be bringing the men’s point of view so be prepared for some heated heated discussions. 2012 London Olympics, will you be covering the event? Keep your eyes opened. 2012 has been a great year so far and I have many things coming out this year. I love sports and for the Olympics to be coming to London, it’s a great opportunity to showcase some home grown talents. So, you never know, big things are coming. Also, watch out for the new show “Because I Am Black” on OHTV in June 2012. I can’t talk on it too much, but you don’t want to miss it!!!


“ I am one of the only black female presenters in Basketball in the UK and I love it. I have worked hard to get here and I intend to be here for a while and I did it by silently achieving away. It is always the best way. Gaining respect by showing your ability, knowledge and talent and the rest will do it for itself.” You are the Goodwill ambassador for Hoops Care International, how has that experience been like for you? It has been great. I love young people and I love being able to support and help charities when I can. Hoops Care International does great work with young people and training leaders of the future. It’s a great charity that needs more exposure and support. The young people deserve it and the people who volunteer for it do an amazing job. It is a great experience and I would like to encourage everyone reading this to go and find out more about the great work they are doing in Cape Coast, Ghana. www.hoopscare.org There are few female sports host/ journalist, are there any challenges you’ve faced due to cultural heritage or gender. It is always hard to be a female in sports and on top, be a black female journalist/ presenter that actually knows what they are talking about. When I first started it was hard, because some people have no respect or time for female presenters or journalist in the

media and it was almost like you have to prove your worth. Which is fine because it made me work harder, it toughened me up and helped me work on my game to be the presenter I am.

men in the UK and in Africa, who are great. My family, especially my mom Mary Bonsu, is simply the most amazing woman you will ever meet. So, I am grateful.

I am hard hitting and straight forward because, I had to learn it the hard way. I can’t get away with things because I have a great smile or because I have a great body. No. So, the work I put in is paying off. I made a lot of mistakes and believed a lot because I was new in the industry. But this was all good; a learning curve.

What can you tell any aspiring woman who would like to venture in your field?

These challenges make you a beast and I am for sure I’m a beast (in a good way) and you learn from it. I am one of the only black female presenters in Basketball in the UK and I love it. I have worked hard to get here and I intend to be here for a while and I did it by silently achieving away. It is always the best way. Gaining respect by showing your ability, knowledge and talent and the rest will do it for itself.

You have to keep at it. Beauty is not going to push you through, but knowledge and skill will. If it is your dream, something you talk about and think about? Then be about it. Make it happen.

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I have a great group of friends who are basketball journalists, of course all 39| REFRESH ISSUE | www.afroellemagazine.com


ART&CULTURE

Dream Girl By Feyruz Tefazion

J

our nal is t, d ir ec tor , collaborator, cultural critic, filmmaker, feminist and social activist are just some of the roles that the brilliant and multifaceted dream hampton plays. Named by her father after Martin Luther King Jr.’s famed "I Have A Dream" speech, her work in music, culture and politics has made her one of the most respected and gifted voices in film and print. Detroit born and bred, dream attended NYU for film school and spent fifteen years as a writer for Vibe magazine in addition to writing for numerous publications such as Spin, Essence and The Village Voice. Her most famous role to date as an author is for cowriting New York Times Best Selling book “Decoded” with Jay-Z as well as his unreleased autobiography, "The Black Book”. In addition to being an award-winning author she is also an acclaimed film director. She won an Emmy for producing VH1’S “Behind the Music” documentary on close friend Christopher “Notorious BIG” Wallace and won the award for "Best Short Film" at Vanity Fair's Newport Film Festival for her film on schizophrenia, “I Am Ali”. In this candid interview, dream was gracious enough to share some of her thoughts with me.

Hip Hop is an extremely male driven arena. How have you been able to successfully have your voice heard in such male dominated industry? dream: I don't necessarily consider myself a hip hop writer because I'm not limited to just writing about that but I do think that the world is male dominated. It can be one of the hardest things because all writers aren’t interested in voice. Some people are just interested in reporting and that’s noble. It can be very difficult to find a voice because so much is always shifting and changing in our inner spaces and our hearts, our thoughts and our minds. Most of the important work done in hip-hop, the documenting, the history and the important cultural force was done by women or at least fifty percent by woman. You have Kierna Mayo, Joan Morgan, Trisha Rose, Danyel Smith, Raquel Cepeta and Sheena Lester. It isn't like I was this single woman writing about hip hop. Many of the people doing important work around hip hop were women and we were all thinking about similar things. How can I love this music so much at the same time that I'm dealing with the misogyny and sexism and consumerism and all of the other things that are also true about hip hop?

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We were kind of all naked in our criticism of hip hop. I think that also represented so many of the women who were fans of it as well. Has it been difficult being a writer and a woman in this industry and getting respect? dream: I get respected, period. Have I ever felt disrespected? Sure, but I think that writing is a space that equalizes things. You can do it or you can’t. It's not about being young or about being a particular race or gender. You produce writing in complete solitude. When you're in a room all alone or at least you're all alone with your page and people consume it in complete solitude. We don't all go and get together at a museum and chew it up to look it at or you don't experience it at the club. Even if you're on the subway reading something someone wrote, you're doing it with your eyes alone. It’s a very merit based kind of ability You’ve worked with some of the most gifted artists to ever hit the mic. Do you feel that the best is behind us or yet to come? dream: I think that in terms of lyricism that we've seen our best emcees but I think that there will always be really good ones. I’m not sure what the height or what the comparison would be. I guess Jazz is a good comparison. I just heard Roy Haynes album and I was listening to Roy Hargrove’s solo on that and there is no denying him as a trumpet player but certainly Miles and Coltrane have happened. The really innovative work has happened. People have come in and kind of put a signature on what the height of the possibility is with this music but that doesn't take anything away from Roy Hargrove's ability. I hear Meek Mills do a song Like Tony Montana and he’s as good as G Rap in that song, maybe even better. I hear what people say when they say that there was this golden era in music and it’s just not true. There has always been good and bad music.

There was a time where black men got to realize their fantasy of patriarchy and really providing for the women in their family and just their families period. We had already been talking and thinking about it so it was fun and a great process. It was me going to his house and sitting on his couch and having the conversation that we've been having for sixteen years but recording it this time. Many people were looking forward to the release of The Black Book (Jay-Z's biography). Why did it ultimately get shelved? dream: For the same reason that Oprah shelved hers after it was written as well as Jackie Onassis. I think that people sometimes think that they want to write an autobiography but then they see it in black and white. Jay-Z told Toure’ in Rolling Stone that when he held The Black Book in his hand, he wanted to faint, just the idea of someone holding his life in their hands. That’s the answer to that question. If I were to really think about it, probably the things about his wife. Every single thing that they do, people read into it all these different ways. It doesn't really pay to share in this era of hyper virtual intimacy where people are status updating and tweeting. People always come to think with these ears that have their own investment. As a friend, privacy is one of the things I value most about him. As an artist, I think it's compelling. Who do you read and what inspires you to write? dream: Deadlines inspire me to write. That’s hard to answer because I’m always reading. Around my bed at this moment are, “The Classroom and The Cell” by Marc Lamont Hill and Mumia Abu-Jamal, “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk” by David Sedaris, “The Collector of Treasures” by Bessie Head and “Adulthood Rites” by Octavia Butler one of my favorite all time authors.

How was it working with Jay-Z on Decoded?

What book has changed your life?

dream: Jay has been my friend for sixteen years so we have an easy way about us. It was just a conversation that we have been having for sixteen years about what we believe are the true cultural form for our generation which was the billion dollar crack industry. I think that shapes so much of our thinking around each other in terms of the African American community and the Black American phenomenon on how we dealt with each other as a community, generation and inter gender.

dream: Of the books that have changed my life, “Maru” by Bessie Head tops the list. Project you’re most proud of? dream: I’m very proud of Black August and Decoded, two of my more recent projects but I still love a short film that I had directed back in 2000, Ishmael Butler (Shabazz Palaces). 41| REFRESH ISSUE | www.afroellemagazine.com


One Night in Brooklyn

a feature film Actress, Writer, “Directress” Esosa Edosomwan will be directing her first feature film titled “One Night in Brooklyn.” Esosa, who is a first generation Nigerian born in the United States, was recently named a “Young African Visionary” by Obaasema Magazine and included in Applause Africa’s list of “30 Most Intriguing Africans in NY” “One Night in Brooklyn.” is about a group of Brooklyn bohemians whose bonds of friendship and love are put to the test when they decide to throw a TransAfrican independence day party. The multicultural cast will bring to life characters of Nigerian, Ethiopian, Haitian, Afro-Latino, and African American backgrounds. At the core of "One Night in Brooklyn" is the idea of the TransAfrican community. I define the TransAfrican community as a group of people within the African Diaspora...who are not afraid to honor where they come from and let this inform how they express themselves where they are today. Esosa realized how many others 42| REFRESH ISSUE | www.afroellemagazine.com


“When you commit to making a film, you have to have the passion and determination to continue pushing the project through ups and downs. It's like a long-term relationship!” of varying multi-cultural backgrounds shared similar experiences. This film is for the generation worldwide that is looking to consume content that reflects their experiences as TransAfricans living abroad.

“One Night in Brooklyn” launched a fundraising campaign online through Indiegogo.com on February 15, 2012 and has the goal of beginning production in July 2012. Esosa, who studied Directing, Producing, and Marketing Management at Columbia University and Textiles & Apparel Design at Cornell University has written and directed several short films including: "Simple As Blk & White," and "50 Bucks in Argentina," . AfroElle got a chance to ask the filmmaker a couple of questions about the film ‘One Night in Brooklyn’ How has the process of putting together One Night In Brooklyn been to you as a woman of African Descent, any moments of self discovery? The process of putting together this film has indeed been a journey that has sparked self-discovery. When you commit to making a film, you have to have the passion and determination to continue pushing the project through ups and downs. It's like a long-term relationship! I initially thought we would shoot this much sooner. The first draft was written in 2008. Above all, committing to make this movie has taught me extreme patience and reliance on divine timing. We still have along way to go as we must raise $150,000 dollars to make this film a reality and shoot it in July 2012, but I have faith that the money will come, because finally all of the right crew and cast are on board and everything is falling into place. As a woman of African descent, I'm just excited to make a feature film. There are not enough women making movies, especially black women, and also I realized a couple years ago that there aren't any women of African descent doing what I want to do which is act

and direct. There are countless men who have made names for themselves directing and acting in their movies, but I can't think of one black woman. What were you looking for in the cast? Authenticity and raw talent. I wanted actors that were talented and really connected to the lives of their characters, and we got just that. Every single actor has a very strong personal connection to their character and I believe that this is going to be evident on screen. When I came up with the idea for One Night in Brooklyn, I knew I wanted a relatively unknown cast with tremendous talent. I hope that this film becomes a platform for the principal cast, because this truly is an ensemble film that gives all of us a chance to show off our talent. Nowadays people are taking less and less chances on unknown talent but I still believe that even with unknown actors, if the talent is there and the story is there, people will enjoy the film and tell others about it. What do you think will be the most exciting thing about shooting this film? The most exciting thing about shooting this film is seeing a vision that I have labored so hard and so for long come to reality. Shooting this film will be the biggest accomplishment of my life thus far, seriously. I cannot wait to shoot it and to work with my incredible cast and crew to make the best film we can with the resources we have. What overall message do you want the film to communicate? Hopefully there isn't one set thing that people take away from the film after it's complete. But my intention when writing the script was to create a diverse group of characters that are very culturally specific, and also to explore growing into adulthood and show a group of young men and women who are forced on this one night to examine themselves and really make new decisions that make them more responsible human beings. I also hope that the film will inspire people to embrace and express their cultural roots. If all above fails, at the very least I hope they laugh!

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FEATURED CAUSE

T

win sisters Hassanatu and Hussainatu Blake are CoFounder and Co-Executive Director of Focal Point Global, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization empowering disadvantaged youth to tackle community issues through global education and innovative technology. Since the launch of Focal Point Global in 2010, The Blake’s have developed and organized the U.S.-Namibia HIV/AIDS Education Initiative and the US-Cameroon Anti-Child Trafficking project; these are both interactive teleconferences between US, Namibian, and Cameroonian students to discuss actions to reduce HIV/AIDS and child trafficking in their respective communities.

Focal Point Global Fostering Global Partnerships Through Education al Technology 44| REFRESH ISSUE | www.afroellemagazine.com

Both sisters are thriving in their careers. Ms. Hassanatu Blake is focused on improving health issues domestically and globally, she currently works with BroadReach Healthcare to implement a national management and leadership training program for health professionals in Zambia. She has written on a variety of health topics for the AfricanAmerican health resource BlackDoctor.org and Bushfaller’s Magazine, a magazine targeting Cameroonians in the Diaspora among her many achievements while her sister Ms. Hussainatu Blake began working with African immigrants while living in Germany, where she assisted the NAACP with educating Africans about their legal rights and available health resources. She worked for the United Nations (UN) affiliate, International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Counter-Trafficking Department in South Africa, where she aided African immigrants who were trafficked throughout the African continent. She has also written about slavery and racial discrimination in Africa for International Affairs Forum, a publication of the Center for International Relations in Washington, DC. Hassanatu was named 2011 Washington DC Capital Cause Changemaker finalist and Hussainatu was named 2010 Washington DC “Power 30 Under 30” finalist.

The Roots Hussainatu: We are identical twins born In Limbe, Cameroon to a Cameroonian mother and a Black American father.


FAR LEFT: Hassa discussing the videoconference that Atlanta youth conducted with Cameroonian youth via Skype

RIGHT: Hussa explaining childtrafficking epidemic to Atlanta youth .

Focal Point Global's vision is to foster global partnership amongst youth to create social change in their communities. Our team is a group of volunteers who serve as great Advisory Board Members and Board of Directors, as well as individuals who design our website, advice and evaluate our projects and events. Hussa and I serve as Executive Directors.

BELOW: The Blakes, Atlanta youth from Young, Fit, and Fly Leadership Academy, Founders Brandi and Karli Harvey of Young, Fit, and Fly after the 1st day of Focal Point Global Child Trafficking Awareness Project concluded.

We grew up in a bicultural home in Baltimore, MD, with both cultures shaping our perspective of the world. Our parents made sure to introduce and expose us to experiences that would open our minds to different worlds while appreciating our own. We both graduated from Tufts University in Medford, Masschussetts in 2004. I then graduated from Middlebury College's Monterrey Institute of International Studies with a Masters in International Public Policy Studies and Hassa graduated from Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health with a Masters in Public Health concentrating on Health Policy and Management. I went on to work in South Africa for the International Organization for Migration in the Counter Trafficking Department, where I assisted with training law enforcement about how to identify the crime. Hassa works for BroadReach Healthcare as its Training and Capacity Building Specialist to im-

plement a national management and leadership training for health professional in Zambia. Currently, Hussa and I are the Executive Directors of our nonprofit organization Focal Point Global as well.

Focal Point Global Haasanatu: Hussa and I started Focal Point Global after returning from working in Southern Africa in 2008. I had read an article in a local DC newspaper about the stunning HIV prevalence rate in DC. I called my sister immediately thereafter and explained to her what I read. Having just returned from Namibia supporting CDC global AIDS program and where at the time the prevalence rate around 18% was, Hussa and I both thought we needed to do something. We always wanted educate youth through a cross-cultural experience and have them dialogue to create social change in their communities. In early 2009, Focal Point Global was born and we started developing our first project.

Milestones In 2010, ten (10) US and Namibian high school students were linked via Skype to discuss HIV and ways to combat the disease in their communities in our USNamibia HIV Education Initiative. In 2011, became 501c3 organization, invited to UN High Meeting on Youth and the White House Cameroon American Council Roundtable. In early February 2012, our Child Trafficking Awareness Project launched, empowering youth in US and Cameroon to address child trafficking their communities. This year, e-learning and social networking tools will be used to link and prepare about a 100 youth from the US, Namibia, and Cameroon to address HIV and child trafficking.

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TECHNOLOGY

Women of Color

Bringing Diversity to Technology At a coffee shop in New Jersey, a coincidental meeting brings together two emerging leaders and thinkers, both pushing for more inclusion in technological global arena. Kaia Niambi Shivers, an adjunct professor in Media Studies at Rutgers University, and Lindsey C. Holmes, a social-media marketer and tech-entrepreneur, just so happened to attend a poetry event in downtown Newark. During the show, they found out they had similar interests when Shivers Photo credit: Kween Moore. overheard Holmes mention her marketing agency. Excited to see another woman of color involved in digital media, Shivers exchanged information with Holmes in hopes that they could collaborate. In 2001, while Holmes attended the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), she noticed a severe lack of diversity in industry analysts, exhibitors, press outlets, and especially tech executives. Not only is CES the largest and most important tech trade show in the US, but it features the latest and upcoming consumer electronics from around the world that will shape the future of the globe. Though the trade show draws a crowd well over 150,000 Holmes recalls, “I could count the black and brown people on my fingers.” Later on, Holmes asked a top level tech executive how could CES, and ultimately, the tech industry, include

Holmes was astonished and offended. “As a social media marketing professional, I know that we are spending a lot of money on consumer electronics” continued the industry veteran. Yet he neglected the fact that, nonwhite populations and those in developing countries are the biggest consumers. The Consumer Electronics Association estimates that China and India alone would spend over US $1 trillion in consumer electronic gadgets in 2012; and the Nielson Report listed African-Americans as having US $1 trillion in buying power in 2011 and US $1.1 trillion by 2015. With ten years of experience in new media technology and being noted as one of the pioneers who pushed social media to the forefront, Holmes believes that all demographics of consumer spending should be respected.

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Kaia Niambi Shivers “I wanted CES and the tech world to recognize the buying power of minorities, and the leadership and innovation that we bring to the industry as a whole.” Nevertheless, Holmes points out that though “countless studies delineat[e] minorities as the largest consumers of tech”, the industry still results in “so few minority tech CEOs.” Drowning in frustrations, Holmes reached out to Shivers, whose PhD research explores the consumption of African videos in the New York Metropolitan area. She asked her sister -friend in a matter of fact manner, “Why wait for them? Do it yourself.” Holmes and Shivers thought that there partnership was perfect.


Photo credit: Kween Moore.

“When I tell most people that Nollywood is the third largest film industry in the world they look at me crazy because most haven’t even heard of the industry,” Shivers points out. “Then when I tell them that this film industry, an industry created from the old technology dumped into Africa by China, has in fact invigorated the informal economy, they do a double take and want to listen I think we need to be tapping into those creative minds that can take one nation’s trash and turn it into a multi-billion dollar industry.”

Lindsey C. Holmes One had extensive experience in the industry, while the other focused on the social and political aspects of technology. For Shivers, studying how developing countries and minority communities are marginalized in technology was nothing new. At Rutgers, Shivers worked on projects that focused on female students learning how to develop digital portfolios, hone their social media etiquette, and participate in online news reporting. “The students were enthused," she said. The biggest challenge, however, was keeping the funding to continue such an important task. Shivers knew all too well the disappointment Holmes faced as she continued to res earch the consumption of Nollywood films in the New York area.

After the pair agreed to coordinate a diversity mixer they had to tackle the issue of marketing the event and seeking funding with only a six week window. They soon discovered that private investors and sponsors were reluctant to offer financial support at the last minute, so they took a leap of faith and funded it with a small amount of their own resources. Holmes and Shivers used their social media background to reach out to as many attendees as possible. “The event started off as an idea to host a simple mixer to assemble like-minded individuals who saw the need to bring diversity to the table,” explains Holmes. “We hoped that a dozen people would attend but once I put out a press release and created an online invitation through Event Brite, the RSVPs hit the roof.”

Almost 150 people confirmed attendance and left the pair scrambling to upgrade from a modest suite to three meeting rooms at the Palms Hotel. The women also canvassed the conference and passed out invites through Holmes’ marketing tool that places barcodes with event data on Mardi Gras beads. “When I would hand people a bead and explain its purpose, I would get a resounding response of support and replies like ‘Its about time,’” recalls Shivers. The event included everyone from CNN correspondent Mario Armstrong, college professors, government officials, and tech inventors who were interested in employing more diversity and being the change that Holmes and Shivers hoped would happen. “The response was phenomenal,” says Holmes. “People really do care about diversity and creating actionable plans to ensure that the tech industry is inclusive.” “When we both came back we literally slept for two days. We were exhausted, but we were happy that we used our resources to make a mark that there will be a significant increase of diversity in technology,” says Shivers reminiscing in jubilee. Since their diversity forum on January 12, 2012 the dynamic duo are still sorting out the hundreds of connections they made from CES.

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K H E T K H U M.™ clothing is about creating a new experience with every piece made.

Facebook Twitter Photographs by Jonathan Anzuluni - http://sudigraph.tumblr.com/ & Dillion S Phiri Models: Khetiwe Khumalo / Vimbiso Tiny Nzuma / Nokulunga Mateta Make Up :@Vimbiso Tiny Nzuma Clothing - KHETKHUM (Primrose Vundla Founder/Head Designer) / (Assistant) Nokulunga Mateta Creative Director - Dillion S Phiri Location: Claremont Gardens, Claremont, Cape Town, South Africa


WOMEN

MOVES


N MAKING

S & MUSIC


U

gandan soul and jazz singer, EVON finds it hard to identify her first experience with music because music has been there her entire life.

EVON Coming Out Of Her ‘Musical Closet’

The singer who until recently, was working as a Head of Department at a reputable financial institution, has been on the underground Ugandan Music scene for quite some time and came out last year with her You Tube release ‘Touched Me’. Though relatively new to the music scene, EVON’s video Big Blue Boots, also on You Tube, has received rave reviews especially from Ugandans across the globe and this has steered her music in the right direction. For anyone who has not heard EVON’s sound, it’s an eclectic mix of her influences in jazz, soul and traditional African music. “I’d like to believe it’s what Ella Fitzgerald and Salif Keita’s music child would sound like” she says. EVON was inspired to pursue her music career because music was something she wanted to do all her life but it was the

SPECIAL FEATURE

enormous positive responses from people across the world that re-affirmed to her that it was a high time she took her love affair with music seriously. Her songs, a cocktail of everything from Love to Loss to Living, are an expression of her own observations and experiences. She says, “I usually hope the listener is left with the feeling and thought that music is fluid and it doesn’t matter whether it’s traditional, jazz or soul or R&B, music is the same everywhere for everyone.”

N

aming some of her musical influences; Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Zap Mama, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, EVON mentions she has been privileged to have Moses Sabiiti (MMC) the creator of The Hostel , a Uganda TV seri es, as an instrumental part of her music and artistic sense. "We have the same musical mindset. He has been in the

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background of the Ugandan entertainment industry for a long time. He and Paul Mwandha (P-Tech RIP) founder of Music Uganda.com.

scene and locally, to have more Ugandan artists step out of the comfort zone to much more edgy music and sound.

U

The songbird who has been NO. 1 on Reverbnation charts in the R ‘n B and Soul category for Kampala, Uganda, a position she has held the entire year in 2011, is currently in the ‘creative kitchen’ cooking up a ‘contradictory’ broth.

ganda’s first online sources of music have been pivotal to this industry.” she adds. So has she encountered any challenges since coming of her ‘musical closet?’ “It was a challenge finding my own sound; I spent lot of time inwardly pursuing how to sound more me and less an ‘Americanized imitation’. I later resolved that I am a culmination of a lot of things including my American

musical influences that coupled with the Ugandan Market earlier on not being as open to hearing Ugandan Music in English.

Her upcoming album called ’CONTRADICTION’, is an unusual musical meeting of Ugandan traditional music and rhythm, blues, soul and Jazz. She chose the name ‘Contradiction’ because, “In Africa, tradition and modernity is always at odds.” To any aspiring musician, EVON gives her word of encouragement, “Like NIKE –Just Do it! Turn a Deaf ear to Nay Sayers.”

I was often turned away for not sounding ‘Ugandan’ but that has changed significantly, plus I learnt to write songs in Luganda.” EVON hopes to see more African artists with more African music on the Global

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“Like NIKEJust Do it! Turn a Deaf ear to Nay Sayers.”


Music According to

Samantha Mogwe Born to a Zambian mother and a Motswana father, 23 year old Samantha Mogwe’s passion for music stems deep from growing up in a family that loves and appreciates all types of music. Growing up as the youngest of her siblings, Samantha was fortu nat e her parents encouraged her to follow her artistic talents. “At the age of 6, our family friends knew I loved to sing and would often make me sing at Christmas and other gatherings. As I grew older, I went into hibernation for a few years until I was 14, where I joined a youth band because I had a huge crush on the bass guitarist in the band. Soon afterwards, I found myself on various stages and platforms, singing and sharing my gift.” She retells of her beginnings with music. Samantha admits that at the beginning she wasn’t very confident about her abilities.

She spent the next years working on her relationship with God, character building, enhancing her vocals and establishing a specific sound that made her unique. At 22, having matured, Samantha felt ready to handle the pressures that would come with being in the music industry; being vocal and able to speak for herself in terms of her expectations and what she was not willing to do to become famous. She then approached Sauti Arts Management and made a plan for the taking her music to the next phase. Soulful, fresh and vibrant, a range of Neo-Soul, RnB, Gospel, and Hip Hop to Rock, Pop and even Indi music play a major role in how she creates music. “I try not to box myself into one specific sound but the easiest way to describe my sound is RnB/Neo-soul.” She explains.

that includes winning the Gabz Karaoke Idols in 2004, making it to the top 24 African Idols as the only representative from Botswana and featuring on songs with local artists such as Kast, Andreattah Chuma, Beat Premiers, Concept, Stretch and LEE. Having spent the past couple of years helping other artists on their projects, she is excited about finally working on her debut album due for release hopefully by mid 2012. “It is a learning process, experimenting with different sounds and working with various people to make it a reality. Over all, I can’t wait to let people hear it.” She says. Read on for AfroElle’s interview with this Bostwana songbird.

Samantha, now 23, has already accomplished a lot in her career

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“I try to learn from the various people I come across who have been in this industry for longer than me. You can never stop learning and you can never know

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What do your songs speak about, do you have a specific message you hope your listeners will go away with once they listen to your songs? The songs I have written often stem from personal experiences, either something that I have gone through or something that I have had to witness a friend or family member go through and so I write what I know about. I try by all means to let my character come through my music and try to stay honest. Music in itself is such a powerful tool. And those few bars that you are given to work with speak volumes and even cross social and cultural barriers and so my songs are about life’s struggles, hope, love, change and pushing through trials and tribulations. At the end of the day, I want anyone listening to my music to walk away with the idea that they understand what I am singing about and feel the genuineness. Apart from having lighthearted songs, I want some of the songs to be thought provoking and emotional to a degree. Who are some of the people who have been instrumental in your musical; journey up to today? I try to learn from the various people I come across who have been in this industry for longer than me. You can never stop

learning and you can never know enough. Apart from God, some people who have played a huge role in my musical journey include Neo Quashie, Tj Dema, Tcm, Fify Loewen, Juby Peacock. Not all of them are in the music industry but they possess qualities that I feel I can learn them from and aspire to possess. Being in the industry, have you been faced with any challenges and if so, which ones? Like any dream, my dream of being a renowned musician and singer has its challenges. Some of these challenges are for example, people wanting to take advantage of your talent in various ways like expecting me to perform for free and record on their songs for free, forgetting that as much as this is an art and a passion, it is also an expensive investment and certain costs are incurred when preparing to perform or giving your time. There is the lack funding when it comes to recording, mastering, distributing and copyrighting music. Also, the Botswana music industry hasn’t gotten to a place where music is taken as a serious art and a way in which someone could make their living. What do you see as the future of the music industry in the next 10 years?

The music industry, particularly in Africa has come a long way in terms of perfecting the art. We still have a long way to go, however, I hope to see a shift in terms of more female vocalists coming up, especially in the RnB genre, which is often over-looked. I also hope the channels of getting to the public would become more clear cut and not be based on who you know in the industry. Away from music are involved in anything else?

you

This might come as a shock but I am a 4th year Theological student studying at Baptist Theological College based in South Africa. I am also working for a software company and also working on a huge business project that is in the pipeline. What words of encouragement would you offer to any aspiring musician? Don’t be afraid to dream big and don’t stop fighting to make your dreams into a reality.

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ALL EARS on NANJIRA AfroElle talks to Kenya’s music sensation and Ma3 Band’s lead singer , Nanjira, about her musical journey, Ma3 band, her inspirations and everything in-between.

A Journey of 1000 Miles Starts With A Single Step My earliest recollection of really consuming music and desiring to someday go into it was in the very first Hill Song cassette. I was probably 7 or 8, and I knew every melody, every ad-lib to every song.

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I’d lock myself up in my room, comb my hair into a Mohawk (who knew that’s what they were called then, and the fashion statement they’d make on this side of life), use my brush as my microphone and sing my heart out. It was pure, but it was very private. Then when I got to high school I became bolder, so I signed up for the school choir, and slowly built the muscle that’s gotten me where I’m at today.


What started as jam sessions with friends before youth church services led to my being catapulted to leading worship for one of the biggest churches in Nairobi, Mavuno Church, to doing background vocals for some of Kenya’s finest musicians, to working with regional and international artistes, not to mention being signed up to be a lead singer in the quirky Ma3 band. It’s been amazing so far, more importantly, it’s been fun. The 3 or so years I’ve been in the music industry have been driven by spontaneity, passion and really amazing fellow band members, and it’s something I look forward to telling my grandchildren about.

Quirky, acoustic, soulful Ma3’s music is about life. About everyday experiences, from rants and frustrations, to hope and love. The takeout we always hope for with listeners and fans is that ‘happy sigh’ effect. By the time you get to track 11 of the record, we hope we’ve touched

on most of what music can capture through catchy, dance tunes that urge you to spread the word. We hope it leaves you refreshed. If we must categorize our music, we’ll call it Afro-pop, the new sound capturing Africa’s ‘urban culture.’ Its fun, its light, it reminds you of sunshine and getaways, that’s what we really went for with our debut album: Beba Beba.

Of Influences and Inspiration I absolutely love Yvonne Chaka Chaka, when I was growing up; she was the real princess of Africa. No one has taken this title, at least not yet! Her music is my earliest recollection of pop music of the continent,

there not a song of hers that I didn’t know! Closer home, I’ve had the good fortune of working closely with two amazing Afro-pop musicians: Atemi Oyungu and Eric Wainaina. They’ve enabled me to learn-on-thego, and offered me opportunities into music and music industry insights. I’m also big fan of Richard Bona, Freshly Ground, Asa...the list can go on and on and on. Also working with other Kenyan industry greats like Tim Rimbui, producer-extraordinaire and the brains behind Ma3 has seen me being mentored by default, if you will.

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What inspired me? More like whom. There are many musical people I’ve been fortunate to meet and interact with. I was careful to hide among them, but they called out the talent within and encouraged me to get over myself and just go for it. Interestingly enough, I never walked up to anyone and said I want to do music, I just found myself in the space, but it’s the people, the friends I’ve been blessed to have who’ve kept me going. Left to my own devices, I probably would never have taken up music as I have.

Moving on Up! When I think of the success, wow! Just doing this, daring to live out a very fickle dream to the point of

being identified as a musician is a huge personal success for me. Irony is, I’m not big on fame or the spotlight, so I don’t know how that’s going to work out for me as I forge on but hey, que sera,sera. I’ve worked with Tanzanian songstress Lady Jay Dee, UK king of Neo-soul: Omar Lye-Fook as a background vocalist on their Kenyan tours was pretty cool. I also lent my voice to the BBC/Disney Tinga Tinga Tales production, it was tonnes of fun. Also working with Kenyan hip hop artistes: Juliani, DNA and Rigga has been an interesting twist for me, I’ve definitely earned street credibility.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

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We’ve faced some challenges, like getting our music out there, especially in this digital age, has been tricky. The culture of purchasing music online is yet to pick up, in Kenya and Africa as it has in other parts of the world, people favoring physical CDs more. While we’d love to get the album, especially the cool artwork to every fan on every corner of the earth, the only fastest way to do so is through digital platforms. This is a big issue with the music industry in Africa as a whole, not unique to Ma3’s music. I long for the day that we embrace the digital purchase culture for music as we have for many other products.


New Year, New Things I definitely have new projects in the works. I’m looking into an EP release of our Beba Beba album, fused with some new stuff that we are working on. I hope to work with cool artists from all over to make good music and make history while at it.

The Future of Kenyan Music 10 years from now there had better be an artist or ten who’ve won some serious international music awards. I hope we’ll have seen a BET, a Grammy and a myriad of other accolades. There’s just so much amazing talent in this country, it deserves its place at the top! Heck, I expect lots of nods and acknowledgement of Kenya’s enormous musical talent.

Outside of Music Outside of music, I’m a mathematician by academic training; I guess that makes me part-geek? I studied Actuarial Science in university, and I’m a sucker for numbers, probabilities and financial stuff. Though not pursuing this actively, it’s still at the core of what I’m all about. I’m an activist, working with lots of initiatives, in Kenya and across Africa to rally her greatest stakeholders to act for Kenya, to act for Africa. After all, we are the ones with the sovereign power, though for far too long, it’s been implied otherwise. I’m a firm believer in the fact that Af rica is not p oo r , jus t mismanaged. I’m extremely passionate about politics and governance, institutions that have been abused and as a result, misconstrued.

“I know it’s become an adage that sex sells, especially for female artistes, and while that also is one’s prerogative, don’t water down your talent by caving into the pressures that come with this line of work. It’s definitely a road less travelled, but it’s well worth it, to look back and see that your music legacy was built on more

than oozing ‘sex’. I love my country and my continent, I don’t see why its prosperity should remain an aspiration thing, and it’s very possible to make it a reality! I’m also that girl on the interwebs, meeting new people, connecting people with others, a proper social media enthusiast I am. (I refuse the phrase addict) Pearls of Wisdom To succeed in music, consistency, discipline and hard work must supplement your talent. Just as you would apply focus to any other career, music is no exception. One also has to have it clear in their mind what it is they are going into music for. Is it the fame, the glitz and glam? Or is it to create a benchmark for talent, keeping in mind that talent that makes it to benchmark level is coupled with the traits I mentioned above? Very important questions yourself.

I know it’s become an adage that sex sells, especially for female artistes, and while that also is one’s prerogative, don’t water down your talent by caving into the pressures that come with this line of work. It’s definitely a road less travelled, but it’s well worth it, to look back and see that your music legacy was built on more than oozing ‘sex’. I think talent well used, well honed in itself is sexy, and bankable in the long term.

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S

ista with

oul

Sistasoul, whose real name is Okwei Veronny Odili, is a musician and poet from Lagos Nigeria. The 27 year old’s love for music grew from listening to music with her father as a toddler. Her earliest recollection of music was from her parents, especially her father jamming records by Bob Marley, King Sunny Ade, Hugh Masekela, Evelyn King, Fela to Michael Jackson, James Brown and Kenny Rogers. When Soul was 3, her father passed away and it was his favorite records that would give her and her mother strength to carry on long after that period. “There was this phase where music seemed to stop in our home, then Amen, it started again.” she remembers fondly. At eight years old, Soul went on to join the church choir and dazzled everyone as the youngest. In her late teenage years she grew fascinated with the guitar and found it completed her rich husky voice. She went on to start her solo musical career not too long afterwards. Soul’s music is real, evolving and experimental, speaking about life, love, politics in a positive light to give renewed hope and curiosity to whoever listens. 72| REFRESH ISSUE | www.afroellemagazine.com

“I love music and I am always up to try anything new, however, I'm very into soul music, music that is heartfelt. I love to collaborate, try new things and speak on life and its issues. Good bad and ugly.” Soul who cites her musical interests to include but not limited to, sounds from Africa, also speaks of a love for Rock and Roll and the 50’s and 60’s soul movement in America. She is also a fan of pop and will listen to anything great from apala, fuji to highlife, salsa, kwaito and reggae. “I have been blessed to have worked with people like Funsho Ogundipe of Ayetoro fame and Panji Anoff of pidgen music in Ghana.” On the successes achieved on her journey as a musician, Soul takes them as they come . “People's definitions of success differ. I am doing my best to pursue my happiness and I feel this is my first goal here as a human. I have collaborated with great minds, been invited to a music residency in New York and played at great venues with beautiful people.


“People's definitions of success differ. I am doing my best to pursue my happiness and I feel this is my first goal here on earth.” People say they love me and I feel blessed. Do I feel the need to do more regardless? Yes.” As for the challenges, she embraces them as an important part of like. She says, “Imagine if you were watching a movie and no conflict arose where the protagonist would really shine. Boring. I've had and I still have challenges. I believe in proper music and my love for experimental music means I have to have enough resources to explore the kind of music that plays in my head. Great sounds equal great investment. Then of course you can't forget those who won't like you for no good reason. And yeah, I'm not going to play that annoying gender card. Men sing, women sing. Deal with it.” Aside from being a solo artiste, Soul doubles up as the lead vocalist for West Africa/UK based band, Ayetoro under music directions by Funsho Ogundipe, she will be putting out an EP titled ‘The Irritated Nigerian Project’.

“If you follow the happenings of Nigeria since January 1st 2012 or preferably since we gained independence in 1960 you'll see why we're collectively pissed off; corruption, dishonest leaders and the like. This will be a free online project that I hope to complete before March. I still have to work towards my music residency this year.” Soul hopes young people with dreams of music and entertainment would be a lot more confident at giving it their best shot because there is real support and structure which makes it easy. She looks forward to a time when people can let go of the common stereotypes and try to forge ahead and see what can be achieved. Website

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Alycia’s Sound of Music “Someone needs the gift that God has given to you and someone is waiting for you to impact their lives with your talent and your testimony,” says Gospel Musician Alycia Levels I create upbeat, joy-filled, praise songs that uplift and encourage people going through everyday situations. I love to write music with messages of hope. I have a very bubbly personality, so naturally when I write my music; I infuse my lyrics with words of encouragement. I want people to think about all the positive that can come from their everyday situations.

Chapter 1 I had my first encounter with music when I was 6years-old. My mother was a professional singer and also the choir director at our church in Rochester, NY. I would sit around and listen to the choir rehearse for performances. One day, my mother heard me singing one of the rehearsal songs, and discovered my strong vocal talent. From that day on, she wanted me to perform in the choir. I would travel with them and perform on Sundays at our church. I’ve never been afraid to perform on stage! God needs to use somebody to touch others, I’m glad He chose to use me. One of the biggest things my music talks about is following your passion in life. It's the same passion God put on the inside of you when He created you. I think that a lot of the time, people in general gets caught up in everyday routine situations and we put off things that we are truly passionate about, sometimes forever. One of my favorite songs on my album is called, “Go.” “Go” is about relinquishing the spirit of fear, trusting in God and boldly going after all that God has placed in your heart to do. God did it for me, so I know He can do the same for others.

That’s why a lot of my songs encourage others to move forward in their dreams despite the naysayers and obstacles.

Helping Hand One of my major musical influences is Yolanda Adams. She sings so gracefully and effortlessly. It’s funny because people always compare me to her, which always makes me feel honored and humbled. My biggest mentor and supporter in my singing career has always been my mom. Since I was 6, my mother was signing me up for talent shows, helping me develop my vocals and my stage presence. When I was younger, I would sing with my eyes closed because I didn’t want to see people watching me. My mother would make me stay up all night and sing while looking in her eyes. She wanted me to make her believe every lyric. She wanted to get rid of any stage fright that I had. She pushed me and believe in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.

Thus Far…. In the 2 short years that I’ve been working in this industry, the response I’ve received from people has just been overwhelming! Since releasing my album I’ve had a chance to perform at the 2011 Gospel Choice Awards in Atlanta, GA.

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I’ve been nominated for two 2011 Gospel Choice Awards including, “Song of the Year,” and “Best New Gospel Artist.” I won the award for, “Best New Gospel Artist.” It just feels so great to be recognized for all of the hard work me and my team have been putting in. This December I had an opportunity to tour with the Alabama Gospel Choir around Europe for 41 days, which was amazing! It was my second time traveling to Europe to perform, but it’s an adventure every time I go. It was amazing to see crowds of people who could barely speak any English, sit for hours, and be truly moved by the music they heard. I met people who would tell me how much it meant to have us performing Gospel music in their country. Children were coming up to me telling me that they wanted to be Gospel singers one day! It was really a rewarding experience.

There Would Be Times Like These I have certainly encountered challenges. For me, it’s a challenge everyday to stay true to myself. It’s hard working in an industry that constantly criticizes you and dictates what you should wear, how you should look, and what you should sound like. At the time of writing this album, I was in the process of transitioning from a R&B artist to a Gospel artist. I decided that if I was going to walk with God and be an everyday representation of Him, then I didn’t want to write music that would contradict my walk. Everything from my musical content, to the album presentation, and even my clothing, had to change. I have also had to overcome the idea of fear and failure. I realized that nothing is guaranteed in life and at some point I said, ‘I’m going for this.’ This is my dream, this is what I want, and I’m not looking back. I had to learn to have confidence in myself and truly trust God. When I did, God began to open up doors of opportunity for me. I’ve met so many people who have told me that they’ve been impacted by my music and my testimony. It just makes it all worth it in the end. I’m just so grateful to be able to have this opportunity to reach people and to share my music with people all around the world. I want people to know that I’m no different from you or anyone else. I initially was going to go to law school after I graduated with my undergraduate degree. I never thought I’d have an opportunity to live out my dreams. I just want people to know that anything is possible, when you believe in yourself and trust God. 76| REFRESH ISSUE | www.afroellemagazine.com


Giving Back Aside from music, I am very passionate about uplifting and encouraging young people- especially those who may not have the resources to pursue their dreams in a performing arts field. Currently, I am in the process of on establishing my own non-profit foundation that will be aimed at helping underprivileged youth pursue professional careers in the performing arts industry. My foundation will give young people a chance to develop their innate performing abilities and give them an outlet to express their God given talents. I want to teach them how to utilize their talents and help them navigate their way to jump-starting a professional performing art career- whether its dance, singing, or acting. I’ve always wanted a chance to give back to my community that helped mold me into the person I am today. I know that with my non-profit foundation, I’ll be able to do just that.

Future 10 years from now I would really like to see more Gospel artists have more outlets to perform their music all around the world so that more people will be impacted and saved through the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. Not just on traditional outlets but on non-traditional outlets too. I would love to see more people embracing Gospel music and its artists and supporting the movement for the Kingdom’s sake. It's all about using our gifts to glorify God. I would also like to see more positive role models in the media for young men and women to look up to, because children do emulate what they see in the media and it would be great if we could put more positive images out there for them to emulate. Advice I would tell people who want to pursue a career in music to believe in yourself and in the God that you serve. You can literally do anything that you put enough focus, dedication, and hard work into! One of my favorite scriptures is Mark 9:23, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Someone needs the gift that God has given to you and someone is waiting for you to impact their lives with your talent and your testimony.

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Introducing

LOIDE

Though she was born in France and raised in Carlifornia, LOIDE (pronounced "loy-deh'), has roots in Mozambique and GuineaBissau. The Washington DC-based jazz vocalist, an immigration lawyer by day, serves up a music blend of contemporary jazz and warm afro-Lusophone rhythms; a reflection of her own eclectic roots. Loide spent the last 10 years honing her musical craft in some of the nation's hippest speakeasies and jazz clubs at night.

Within the last few years alone, Loide has had the privilege of performing in Hollywood for a star-studded televised event, opened for the legendary Hugh Masekela and Oliver Mtukudzi, and performed at a Miriam Makeba tribute in New York on the same stage as Paul Simon, released her self titled album "Loide, Live at Bohemian Caverns" and most recently taped for an one hour live special on The Africa Channel. AfroElle interviewed Loide to find out more about her music. 78| REFRESH ISSUE | www.afroellemagazine.com

How do you find a balance between your music and your career as a lawyer? So far, it works because the two do not have to compete. My law career is on full speed ahead and full time. However, as my own boss, I can slow down, take time off, push pause, and/or schedule performances around my case load. So far, it’s been a working marriage of my two passions. My motto, make time for what you love, do it well, and the rest will fall in place. Who are some of your musical influences? Do you have people who have mentored you in this journey? My influences cover a range as broad as my life journey. Growing up in a Christian African home in southern California means that at any given time I was listening to hymns, zouk, marabenta, funk, doo wop, reggae,


alternative, classical, hip hop, bossa, jazz, R&B, and oldies. In brief, all music has influenced me, but just some of my favorite artists, alive and passed, are Miriam Makeba, Cesaria Evora, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Carole King, Buika, Sara Taveres, U2, OK, you can stop me now. My most contemporary musical mentor has been South African guitarist Mongezi Ntaka, who has co-written a good chunk of my soon to be recorded original tunes. I believe my African heritage has provided me with a fresh musical perspective, a unique sound, and her native tongue. Can you share with us some of the successes you have experienced so far in your career? I'd say my most memorable experiences have included the honor to have opened for Hugh Masekela as well as for Oliver Mtukudzi. Also, when our beloved Miriam Makeba passedon, I had the privilege of singing Soweto Blues with Paul Simon's original Grace Land band right before Paul Simon himself took the stage, chance in a life time! What plans do you have for your music this year? I just had an intimate valentine show, as well as a special performance at a United Nations Associations event at the Africare House honoring Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Rosa Whitaker. In the most immediate months, I'll be performing a full length concert at the Centennial National Cherry Blossom festival during their jazz concert series, and I'll be featured in the DC Jazz festival at the Kennedy Center. However, my major goal for 2012 is to start recording my sophomore album, a full length project of original tunes. As God wills.

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Young and charismatic, Lillian Million, better known as Lilly Million has been captivating audiences across Johannesburg with her soulful organic folk vibe. The 22 year old singer songwriter has one of the most strikingly deepfelt voices that craft melodies into raw, quivering dialogues of persuasion and she has managed to produce a sound that’s uniquely unlike anything South Africa has ever heard, stirring great excitement among the lonely hearts of SA’s music enthusiasts. Lilly’s songs speak about everything ranging from Politics, love, fear, freedom and captivity which are all inspired by God. “There’s honesty and an intimacy to my music, while it still remains current and relevant to the youth I speak to it’s still accessible to the older generation due to the heavy lyrical content. It’s also quite eclectic to some degree where I experiment with different sounds ranging from very acoustic elements to heavy rock, country and reggae influences.” She says describing her music.

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Lilly started singing at an early age but never pursued music due to a robust interest in performing poetry. The opportunity to seriously consider music as a career only presented itself at the age of sixteen when her song writing and confidence hit a growth spurt. This happened at a high school Poetry Evening event where she performed her first composition on a then, very out of tune guitar. “I didn’t know it was out of tune but the song still worked. I had experimented with song writing on the piano but it only truly came to me when I picked up the guitar and the transformation into which I am now as a musician began” she recalls. Lilly who works at remaining authentic to herself, lists Bob Marley, Phil Collins, Oliver Mtukudzi and Gospel artist Mali Music as some her musical influences. She has been influenced by these people because of the honesty in their sounds and how they remain true to who they are, what they feel and what they represent. Million’s biggest mentor has been God. She says, “I’ve had to be spiritually sound to gain concept of the kind of content He has and still leads me to


write, which includes how I sing, how I play and how I present myself. It all comes from a very real place; there are no formulas or mechanics. However, as a performer I have been mentored greatly. I am part of a long running theatre production called 21 Poets and Poem and have been coached by the creator Mlindelwa Mahlangu and previous director Jefferson Tshabalala who have frequented the theatre circles over the years, also by actor Thabo Malema during my days in university. It is men like these who’ve helped me feel at home on the stage and fully enter into who I am as a performer without fear, simply because of the methods they used which weren’t necessarily “musically inclined” but were definitely useful and beneficial to me as a performer.” As a relatively new artist, starting out Lilly’s biggest challenge was learning patience. “As a young musician you want everything to happen immediately and it’s so easy to get desperate that you end up signing the wrong contract or getting swindled simply because you so badly want to be “out there”. That was the greatest challenge and sometimes still is. I have to remind myself daily to take it “one day at a time” and not try to rush the procedure or get anxious about what is happening or what isn’t happening. However it’s this very struggle that reminds me who’s in control – GOD and then peace comes with knowing He has it covered which then gets proved in how things will just come together with sometimes very little effort.”

with a debut album. Lilly’s upcoming debut album is entitled “Lilly Million…On Love, Truth & Freedom”. The three part title basically houses the three themes. There is something for every experience she could encompass in 14 songs from her 22 year old perspective. The songs under the theme ‘Love’ explore from various, but not all, spheres, ranging from romantic love, self -love, paternal love and finally GODLY love. The songs under Truth are the more hard hitting “statement” songs where Lilly basically explores topics people don’t really want to talk about. These include politics, depression, desperation, fear and supernatural encounters which affect our realities. While the compositions in Freedom, are dedicated purely to the wellbeing of the listener and are purely for enlightenment, spiritual cleansing and upliftment. “This part of the album is where I want to affect the way in which the listener lives as a whole.” she says. Lilly is positive about the future of music in Africa, she hopes to see music affecting how people live their lives in a positive manner and African artists really rising above the waters they’ve been sailing on for so long and surpass our “greater” and more “successful” international counterparts in terms of To those hoping to pursue a career in music she advices, “stay true to who you are, don’t ever try to be like anyone that has come before you simply cause all you would be giving us is repetition and the world is evolving, we don’t need repletion. So don’t be afraid to be original, everything is strange when it’s new, be fearless in presenting your sound. Finally, be clear about what you are doing, this is what will determine whether you’ll have longevity, be effective or be like a weak breeze which will come and go and be forgotten.”

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Sounds of a New Voice A dynamic artist, performer, dancer, actress and youth advocate, singer songwriter Domanique Grant truly leaves the phrase “triple threat” lying in the dust. She is the new emerging voice who has spent more than a third of her life on stage, spreading her unique vocal style and lyrical content to the masses. Driven by the rawness of life, Grant’s unmistakable sound is captivating audiences, with the smoky stylings of Billie Holiday, the soulful substance of India Arie, and the edge and versatility of Feist. Whether you’re captivated by her unique R&BAlternative influenced vocal fusion, or intricate song writing style, one thing is unmistakable: Domanique Grant’s alluring voice is bringing a fresh sound to Toronto’s roster of up-and-

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coming artists and redefining the role of young artists in the city. Where It All Started I don't think I can say that I came out of the womb singing, but I knew that at a young age music and theatre together were those things that helped me balance my constant daydreaming, loud voice and strange fascination for instruments, with my growing up in a world that I never understood. The unique people who have connected with my music primarily and the moments that I’ve have with them are what inspired me to pursue music.


I like to take really raw particular situations and life experiences, mesh them with storytelling and turn them into music. I love to mix literal experiences with light soothing content. Almost like lullaby music. I enjoy creating music that makes waking up everyday a bit easier. My songs speak about finding the calm in your everyday, and finding the you in a world that’s broken. My single Young World, that my team will be rereleasing this year, really talks about this. It talks about battles between conscious and conscience and how rarely we wake up and acknowledge the new, in our day. How many of us wake up and say good morning to life or to your heart beat? I wish I could categorize my musical influences but they're literally all over the place. From Sam Cook, James Brown, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, TLC, Lauren Hill to Alanis Morissette, Madonna, Adele, Florence and The Machine and Feist. I grew up listening to RnB, Soul, Hip Hop, Pop, Alternative, Indie and folk. I generally pull from all of these influences, but for the sake of categorization I like to call my genre RnB Alternative. Whether it be KRS ONE calling me onstage to sing, out of an audience of 800 people, at my first ever hip hop concert when I was 17, twelve hour rehearsals in the theatre, or singing for a mother whose only comfort after losing her son was my voice. It's just moments. For some reason people underestimate them, but they've always been enough for me. Defining My Music When I can sit down and envision all of the worlds that I used to create as a child, I know that I’m in the right music head space. Broken smiles, dreaming lovers, flickering skies and shooting bullets replacing shooting stars are just a few of those worlds. Playful music for dreamers I guess. I truly use life to inspire my writing, that’s it.

I've been fortunate to have worked with some of Canada's leading directors and coaches who have all acted as mentors throughout my career, including vocal coach Falconer Abraham (Melanie Fiona, Jully Black, Andreena Mill), Weyni Mengesha (Da Kink in My Hair, A Raisin in the sun) and Lauren Brotman (Apricots, Jenny's Room) to name a few. My Time To Shine Growing up, having begun training in theatre and dance in addition to music at an early age, by 14 I had already worked with

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“ I learned at an early age that not everyone is going to support you and that every door closes for you to find the key to a new one. I've also learned that unless you’re willing to invest in yourself and make things happen no one else is going to do it for you. I think it's important for young artists’ who are starting out to really take time to hone their craft and to take time to learn about the business.” 84| REFRESH ISSUE | www.afroellemagazine.com


influential choreographers including Trey Armstrong (So You Think You Can Dance Canada), and by 17 I was onstage free-styling with people like KRS ONE and Michie Mee . However I think 2011 was a pretty amazing and hectic year for my team and I. This summer alone we performed for over 40,000 people in Venues including The Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, a double performance week at Dundas Square, and The Rivoli naming a few. We received extensive support performing in Cuba for audiences from Milan, Cuba and Germany. Opening for Emmanuel Jal (Alicia Keys, War Child) and performing with him at The Sold out Guelph Hillside Festival on my 21st birthday this year, was a pretty amazing experience also. And Those That Help Me Grow I learned at an early age that not everyone is going to support you and that every door closes for you to find the key to a new one. I've also learned that unless you’re willing to invest in yourself and make things happen no one else is going to do it for you. I think it's important for young artists’ who are starting out to really take time to hone their craft and to take time to learn about the business. Having to juggle work as a singer, songwriter, actress, dancer and advocate, while in school it's easy to burn out, so finding a strong team was something that I really had to put work into because I learned the hard way that you can't do everything yourself. Lastly be a perfectionist, it’s your work. Plan the work and work the plan.

the rights of over 50,000 students at York, I'm also one of The Vice presidents for The Coop Housing Federation of Toronto representing 45,000 people living in 126 not for profit cooperatives in Toronto and The York Region. In addition I am currently the youngest ever President of Atkinson Housing Cooperative, which is the 3rd largest housing cooperative in the city of Toronto, which has provided outstanding experiences in travelling and working with young people. Something New I was recently nominated for a Toronto Arts Council Artists for community engagement award; I'm currently in the midst of recording my first EP Album, rereleasing my single “Young World”, and a tone of international ventures, which I'll be releasing information about shortly. Finding Your Voice Having grown up in a low income community, I learned at an early age that you need to find your voice among all of the boxes and shapes put around you, so that you can remould, reshape and redefine the barriers put in your way. Hold on to your ability to dream, trust that your voice is enough and remember, to be great you have to do what the regular person isn't willing to-work. It’s also important to understand that people are not always going to be able to see what you see in yourself. That’s okay. It’s up to you to create the vision, trust that you’re enough and paint it in colour.

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Life is pretty hectic offstage. In addition to juggling a Double major in Theatre and International Development at York University, I work extensively on youth advocate issues across Canada. In addition to working as The Fine Arts Director for The York Students Federation, which represents

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On Top of Her Music Game Ayanna graduated from Trinity College of Music in London with a First Class Degree where she studied composition with Alwynne Pritchard and classical ’cello with David Kennedy. She has also studied composition with John A. Thomas, Errollyn Wallen and Andrew Poppy; arranging with Paul Bartholomew; orchestration with Stephen Montague and classical ’cello with Sue Sutherley (London Philharmonic Orchestra) Among her numerous accolades, Ayanna won Amateur Night Live at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, NYC, making her the first non-American to do so, following in the footsteps of Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Jackson and others. In 2011 she was commissioned by Bath Festival to create a new programme in response to the work of Nina Simone, the legendary singer, songwriter and civil rights activist. Ayanna has worked with groundbreaking composer Nitin Sawhney on his Aftershock project for the re-opening of the Royal Festival Hall and with award winning film composer Jocelyn Pook, preparing music for her ensemble. She is a regular collaborator with Jason Yarde and has worked on three of his large scale projects: as a performer in the B-Trade ensemble; the assistant orchestrator on the landmark Urban Classic project, which brought together leading UK Grime artists and the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Charles Hazlewood; and as arranger and orchestrator for Belief!, a concert with the London Symphony Orchestra and legendary South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela. Last year saw the release of her debut recording – Truthfully- – produced by Marc Mac (4Hero) and has since recorded one of those featured songs with the Kronos Quartet with whom she had the opportunity to perform in the finale of their Awakenings tour in association with the Barbican. Ayanna is currently coorchestrator alongside Jason Yarde for Urban Classic 2012 featuring the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Ms. Dynamite, Skepta, Fazer and Devlin and can be seen this spring touring the UK with Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca. Photo by: Angela Radulescu 86| REFRESH ISSUE | www.afroellemagazine.com

Learn more about Ayanna’s music in this Q&A with the talented composer.


Photo by: Bumi Thomas What words can you use to accurately describe your musical style? Acoustic soul-folk. My songs express my experience as a 21st century woman and compare it to that of my 19th century ancestors. Who are some musicians who have influenced your music and mentored you throughout your journey? Some of my musical influences include Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Bach, Bob Marley, Charles Mingus, Take Six, Sting, Steely Dan, Sounds of Blackness and Bjork. As for my mentors, two amazing saxophonists and composers, Courtney Pine and Jason Yarde, have provided me with essential first-hand performance and compositional experiences. And my piano teacher David Smith as well as countless other teachers to have helped shape my musical direction. I got a chance to watch the You-Tube video of your perfomance at the Apollo Theatre which was amazing, how did you feel being the first non-American to win the legendary Amateur Night and to perform at such a historic venue?

It’s still hard to believe that it actually happened. I wasn’t even planning to audition and a friend encouraged me to. Even then I was just happy at the thought of stepping on to the stage much less going through 4 rounds! I am so grateful for that entire chapter in my life and I still get goose-bumps thinking about how it felt to be there under the lights with the amazing band behind me.

Photo by: Angela Radulescu to record with the incredible Kronos Quartet and perform live with them last month when they toured the UK. I have recently been commissioned to be coorchestrator for a project called Urban Classic, a live musical performance featuring Ms. Dynamite, Skepta, Fazer (N-Dubz) and Devlin alongside the BBC Symphony Orchestra on the 3rd of March at the Barbican, London. Any scheduled performances? I will be touring the UK alongside Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca starting the 23rd of March and heading to Holland to perform solo in a few festivals. There are some very exciting shows in the summer but I cannot yet release the information… J On the 7th of March at The Forge in Camden, I will be showcasing 12 new songs as well as old favourites that are currently shortlisted for the album.

It must have been a great experience, what other successes you have experienced so far in your career? I have toured the UK with Courtney Pine’s Afropeans Jazz Warriors and was chosen by groundbreaking composer Nitin Sawhney to be one of the first Emerging Artists in Residence at the Southbank Centre, London. I recorded a song for 4Hero for their last album ‘Extensions’ and again worked with them in producing my debut EP ‘Truthfully’, released last year. Last year, I had the opportunity

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Indie Jazz Meets Afro Groove Pyeng Threadgill was born into an artistic family on the Lower East Side of New York in the 1970’s during a time when Polish and Puerto Rican, Chinese, Jewish and Black people were all in close proximity. Her childhood was to be characterized with days spent in community gardens, box theatres, Jazz night clubs or on the road with her mother, who happened to be a dancer choreographer. These experiences proved to be as instrumental as listening to soul and jazz singers Sam Cooke and King Pleasure, Tribe Called Quest, Al Green, Depeche Mode and local alternative Rock Bands. Pyeng later went to Berlin Conservatory to study classical music and when she returned home, she felt ready to find her unique musical sound. Her music has been heard in front of different audiences, from The Sun Side Jazz Club in Paris to The Montreal Jazz Festival. She is also a gripping storyteller by using such instruments as swaggering horns, impressionistic guitars and the keyboard. Through her third album, Portholes To A Love & Other Short Stories, which explored concepts of reality and magic, humanity and nature, Pyeng earned a fellowship in Music Composition from The New York Foundation for The Arts. Find out more about Pyeng, who sees her general outlook on music as being part of the same African Diaspora worldview that understands the interconnection of all things. Through her third album, Portholes To A Love & Other Short Stories, which explored concepts of reality and magic, humanity and nature, Pyeng earned a fellowship in Music Composition from The New York Foundation for The Arts. Find out more about Pyeng, who sees her general outlook on music as being part of the same African Diaspora worldview that understands the interconnection of all things.

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In your fourth album, you researched lifestyles of Africans and indigenous peoples, what sparked that particular interest? Yes, one of my two current projects is my Songlines Project which I am looking to fund for a larger performance and recording of. Over recent years I have become more and more concerned with the lack of care for the environment. Each time I hear about a new natural disaster, I feel the earth is trying to talk to us. So in connecting to this "planetary voice" (if you will), I became inspired to write songs for the earth. And while the green movement has been taking speed and building great momentum I think it is really crucial that we acknowledge those cultures that have always sought to live in harmony with nature, such as the African and Indigenous cultures. So in fact I think the growing wave of urban farming is in fact an African influenced movement. And that is something I hope more people of African descent will honor and be proud of and therefore join in. Our health and the health of the planet are connected. Can shed more light on the Songlines Project? Well like I said, this project is influenced by the state of the planet, animals, plants and humans and our relationship or "collaboration" as one of favorite mentors, Hattie Gossett, puts it. It is set for vocals, keys, electric bass, electric guitar, cornet and drums. My hope is to team up with more environmental organizations to share the music. Right now I am in the process of talking to Earth Celebrations, a non for profit based in NYC that helps to spread awareness about ecology through the arts. What are some of your musical goals for the year? One of my big goals this year is to do some traveling so that I can conduct more research on various vocal techniques from around the world. I teach vocal technique and a mind/body re-education technique to

improve physical tension called the Alexander Technique. So I am always interested in ways to enhance vocal freedom through the mind and movement. Your third album is titled, Portholes to A Love & Other Stories, what inspired that name? "Portholes To A Love" got its name from one of the first songs that I wrote for the album. It actually didn't make it to the album but that title is so much associated with the project in my mind. I really imagine a whole world with visuals for each project I do. And for "Portholes" I had this image of peeking through a porthole on a ship at sea. Each song is meant to be a new looking glass into a different experience or "short story".

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MUSICALLY Speaking

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ianne Love is a trendy, vibrant and fresh R n B pop singer and songwriter in the UK. Raised in North West London, Lianne has a very musical background including major influences from her cousins Heshima and Zalon Thompson, backing vocalists of the late Amy Winehouse. With music reminisent of a young Mary J Blige, mixed with new age production and quirky songwriting, Lianne’ s music is unpredicatable with a soul influence. You will hear deep tones and soulful melodies even if the beat has a pop or rock feel. Though coming from a musical background, Lianne names her father, also a singer, as her biggest musical influence. Her father was in a lover’s rock group with his brothers, so she was surrounded by music at an early age. Musicians such as Mary J. Blige and Erykah

Badu also played a role in inspiring Lianne to music, she also made sure she got involved in school productions and sang in church. Lianne’s songs speak a lot about love, feelings and everyday situations, they touch on issues that many have experienced in their personal journeys. She has had opportunities to perform at live events in and around London. Although it was hard for her to find the right people to work with that compliment her sound and vision, Lianne says, Jai Amore, MOBO Award winner, an amazing artist, has guided her through her journey and helped produce her first EP entited "Hello, hi".

Currently touring the live circuit in London, Lianne’s future is filled with bigger ventures with her focus being pushing her EP and a few collaborations in the pipeline. She hopes to see a nigger commercial platform for RnB, soul music and artists. With pop dominating at the moment, she would like to see more neo soul on the charts.

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Gospel Sensation Anu

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pcoming gospel sensation ANU has always utilized the gift of singing to raise the Kingdom of God. Anu, whose real name is Anuoluwapo Oyeneyin Osilesi, started her journey in music as a child singing in the choir back at her church in Nigeria at only 6 years old. The encounter she had then increased her love for music. Currently with the New Direction Choir at Redeemed Christian church of God Victory Temple Laurel, Maryland USA, Nigeria

this Nigerian born, Ondo town native has songs like “You are God” and “The Rock” all on ITunes. Her music has been described as inspirational, uplifting, and soulful; a new generation mix with creativity that talks about God’s kindness, His faithfulness to believers, grace upon the earth and overall His unconditional love.

upcoming album, and her next music video, Anu looks forward to an expansion in the Gospel Ministry and more Gospel record labels. With her dream fulfilled, Anu’s hope is that her music will provide a new means for her to give back to her community, the body of Christ and the world as whole. “When God blesses you with a gift or dream please don't seat on it. When it looks like the journey is impossible or hard to take, always remember that God will never give you a task that is bigger than you.

“I believe that by his grace my music will restore hope, healing, deliverance, courage, and strength to the Close your eyes and put all your trust in him and watch him surprise you. Everyweak.” Anu says. one has dreams and goals,” she conAt one point, Anu was to form a gospel group, and this discouraged her because it did know come to fruition but it was what she called a revelation from God to become a solo artist.

cludes. I am just going for mine to the extreme!”

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Presently working on new music for her

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Afri-k

Disco Last season it was clear that many designers were inspired by colourful African prints and the rich texture found in the fabrics. This obvious trend trickled down and integrated itself into accessories and footwear, where we witnessed international brand ALDO feature footwear with African prints and wicker finishings, from wedges to sandals.

Another brand that totally embraced African print was international online store ASOS, which dedicated an entire collection to ethnic sourced garments, named ASOS AFRICA, again helping to draw our playful use of colour and pattern into the western fashion world. This isn't to say that before African prints were not there, I believe as a trend our style and print have not been embraced as liberally as we have seen last spring/summer.


kaan

overy The Afro-Techno Princess Domination shoot emphasizes the difference between designers Debbie Shasanya and Betty Margai, whilst exploring them both in their individual beauty.

Designers : Betty Margai & Debbie Shasanya Stylist : SGJP Creative MUA : Nat Cors Photographer : P Designs Media Models : Aniselle Amy Ty Akingbola


Fashion and Fabrics Vanessa Mukasa is a fashion designer behind Vanessa Mukasa label, a strong, stylish, cosmopolitan woman from all walks of life. Her love for color and different texture shows through her work. Vanessa’s designs vary with what is inspiring her. With the Metropical Deluxe collection she was inspired by her urge to try to change the way Kente/wax print cotton was worn by the younger generation, and to inspire nonAfrican women to wear it without it looking cliché. Vanessa talks to AfroElle’s Fashion blogger, MsK NY about fashion and fabrics

first Ugandans to obtain a Masters from Yale University in the 1930's. My heritage keeps me aspiring for more, always knowing I can do better. Why did you choose a career in fashion? Since I can remember I have been obsessed with fashion. At 8 or 9 years of age I already designed clothes and sent out mini newsletters together with friends based on our designs. My Dad would get me the latest Vogue and Elle and I would admire the photos and ad campaigns. When I reached secondary school (similar to High School), I did a work experience project at Storm Model Management.

What is your cultural heritage?

This gave me my first insight into the fashion industry and I loved every minute of it. Initially I was into PR and styling, but after I interned at Vivienne Westwood, I knew I had to design.

I was born in Uganda and moved to the UK when I was 5 years old. My grandmother is a princess from the Bonyoro kingdom and my grandfather - Balamu J. Mukasa - was a politician, who started out as a teacher and was one of the

When and why did you start designing with African Prints and Fabrics?

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I started using African fabrics in my last year of university.


FASHION I would always collect different prints from various African fabric shops in London but would never do anything with them, until I came up with my graduate collection Metropical Deluxe. Although I love my African prints, I can't use the material for the sake of using it. I only will be using them again when I have something unique to showcase. I would love to create my own wax print maybe that is the way forward. Who is your fashion idol? My mother has always been my fashion idol! She looks effortlessly elegant and stylish no matter what she wears. She reaffirms my motto that it is not what you wear, but how you wear it. I remember when I was in primary school; my classmates usually dreaded being pickedup by their parents for fear of embarrassment. I always looked forward to my Mum picking me up, because she was well dressed, highly fashionable and charismatic. Matthew Williamson is also a great idol of mine, his use of print and color is something that I adore. I always find his collections exciting with intricate use of beads and color which is powerful. Fashion Finds: What is your favorite piece in your closet or of your collection and why? My favorite piece in collection is the Green Eve dress; it embodies everything I wanted to portray with the collection as a whole: fun, bold and beautiful! How do you market your designs and how do you make them accessible to a global audience? I use a range of marketing tools. I am still learning the best approach here. I do a lot of shows to meet new clients; Twitter and Facebook are fantastic tools, too. My upcoming website is also a great way of marketing garments. Which collections are you working on

right now? Right now I am working on two collections simultaneously, which is new for me at this stage in my career. Without giving too much away, the theme of one collection is African birds and the nature that surrounds Africa. The second theme is around my family heritage. Being from the Bonyoro Kingdom in Uganda, I want to create a powerful collection to show the strength of my people and hopefully divert some attention to their plight through the medium of fashion. Any tips for new designers/start-ups in the fashion industry? Keep an open mind, be prepared to work super hard because it is not easy, but it is rewarding at the end of the day. Keep in mind what it is you want to achieve with your brand! Please finish this sentence: "Designers from the African Diaspora will ......" Redefine what it means to be a fashion designer in Africa. Sometimes in Africa being a tailor and being a fashion designer is the same thing. Our continent is so rich in many ways so it is about time we pioneered in fashion and not rely so much on the West. As a Ugandan Designer, I want to inspire young people in Uganda and, most importantly, young women to aspire to be entrepreneurs as to change their destiny through hard work and books instead of a quick fix that doesn't last. What are the next big events for you? I will be at the Africa Fashion Week in New York and attend the South Africa Fashion Week later this year.

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to save my life BUT, when it comes to bags, I pray and the Holy Spirit shows me exactly what I need to draw. At times my husband even asks if I ACTUALLY drew them myself! Even now, my mum is still shocked that the tomboy she tried so hard to realize she was a girl is doing the most girly thing of all, designing bags!

I love that you use African fabrics for the bags, what kind of outfits do they accessorize best with?

Bag Lady Jezreel Designs (JD) was founded by Creative Director Abiola Egbeyemi in 2008. Abiola decided she wanted to do something with Ankara that would appeal to people globally. Although a UK based label, Abiola says that she is Nigerian through and through and her use of fabric is about paying homage to where she’s from and showcasing what her people can do and achieve. Read AfroElle’s Q&A with Abiola.

wear it. Also, at that time, Ankara wasn't the "fabric to be seen in" like it is today so, I also wanted to make it more appealing to my generation. I wanted to work with artisans in Nigeria in a way that challenged the way "Made in Nigeria" products were viewed. Thankfully, both have been achieved. The name Jezreel really stands out, what does it mean? The name Jezreel is a Hebrew name taken from the book of Hosea which means "God plants".

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When did you discover your love for designing bags?

I loved Ankara but was wanted to be able to do more with the fabric that is so synonymous with my culture, than just

The love for bag design was bestowed on me by God! I had no clue before I started that I even liked bags like that. Generally, I can't draw

What was the inspiration starting Jezreel Designs?

All our pieces are created to compliment a woman's existing wardrobe so you can dress them up or down as you please. They are also all created to move effortlessly from day to night. The fact that the bags use print means you can unleash your inner stylist. What are some of the collections you've made so far? Some of our previous collections include ‘Spiral and Sophomore’; a sophisticated assortment of geometric shapes, vibrant colours and silhouettes. We are currently on our third collection, which is amazing! We still have people enquiring about pieces from previous collections, which is always very flattering but unfortunately once they're gone, they're gone! Our first two collections had everything from bags, belts, bangles to fascinators. But our current collection focuses on bags and bangles.

All your bags are wonderful and unique, if you were to pick the best which would it be? Thank you for the kind words *hand over face*. Choosing my fave is like a mother having to choose from her kids! I LOVE them all!

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BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT

Uniquely Niyia Image and Style Coach Niyia Whitsett is a woman on a mission to improve the selfdevelopment of women & girls from the inside out by creating a better "You!" and that is why the image and style coach started Uniquely Niyia. “I have simply decided to live the rest of her life fulfilling her God-given purpose. The areas I impart in include spiritual growth, self-development, mind care and style.” Niyia says. Read on and find out more about Niyia and her work as an image and style coach and get some tips on how to create your own personal style. How long have you been in this career and how did you get into styling? I have over 7 years of experience that involves style; I was born to do work in this area. I have a natural niche for color schemes, personal flare, while seeing missing details to create the most current look for the time and season. I got into styling after having being asked privately by many women to assist in formulating a personal style of their own. Beyond style consulting, I offer coaching responsive etiquette. What qualifies me for the responsive etiquette is the amount of challenges that I have personally respond to and failing at it. Our responses to life responding must be acceptable and pleasing both to God and any opposing party. An amazing awareness shook my life not very long ago and since then I have change my posture inwardly not just concerning my attire.

In fact I developed a manual called “HIS Style” it is a mission for me and women all over the world to take on. Becoming “HIS Style” changes everything. What can you say are the most important skills one should have to succeed in your industry? The most important skills is readiness, willingness and being adaptable. You cannot just say what you can do, you MUST acquire the skill and the rest falls in to place. Your guest may have views of what you do before engaging, so giving clarity of what it is you offer to avoid illusion and gain agreement is also vital. You want the guest to trust their choice of selecting you to get the task done, which leads to progression on both sides. In this business developmental feedback can help build your work ethics. Know your fabrics, colors and style choices. Budget and be a risk taker. As an image and style coach, what services do you offer to your clients? I have a host of services here are a few UNDERSTANDING STYLE 101: an hourlong style class designed around your lifestyle & style choices. We provide a personal blueprint for you to build your best look. CLOSET CONSTRUCTION: a 2-hour session in which we appraise your wardrobe & offer style modifications based on your blueprint.

MAP OUT YOUR PASSION: a 3-hour session designed to identify major detours to your new look. This is a challenging session, as we will be assisting you in disposing of your style pitfalls. CREATING WITH DIRECTION: This 4-8 hour shopping experience is unlike any other & requires a tailor-made budget (set within the first three sessions ADD-ONs: This is a personal style service to help individuals spice up their current wardrobe without overextending their budget.

Why is it important for every woman to have a personal style? Every woman should have a personal style in and out because it is her rhythm as she dances through the highs and lows of life. What are 5 ways according to you, can help any woman create their own unique personal style? 5 ways to help create a style: #1 know that you are fashioned by God in HIS image (this involves knowing who you are) #2 embrace the shape of your body. #3 know what colors enhance you. #4have a great selection of shoes #5 stay open to change Website

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BEAUTY

Achieving Your Own Unique Style with Madre

I have noticed that when it comes to dressing, a lot of women have difficulties with finding a sense of style and usually purchase outfits off the mannequins or follow behind their friends. This may work for some ladies, but there is a thing as “everything isn’t for everybody.” Here is the best way to tell if an outfit is for you, after all, your clothes should be a reflection of your beauty, not an artificial replication. When you get to where you’re going do you feel comfortable? If your answer is No, then that’s a problem because when you aren’t comfortable it show’s through your speech, your body language and of course your attitude. You have to get to know you and what works for you. When you're picking out your next outfit ask yourself, "Does this flatter my body?," "Do these colors compliment me?," and most importantly, “Do I feel comfortable?”

Finding your own comfort level is so important, so instead of trying all the trendy items, start with a staple piece, then pick out that hot, trendy item. A trendy piece and a basic piece are the pieces that you truly need to make an outfit. However, it’s not the clothes that make the outfit; it’s you and your personality. When it comes to fashion you have to remember to be true to yourself at all times, and let your style work for you not against you. Instead of trying to have fashion, search within yourself and find your style. Look into the mirror and enjoy yourself as a woman and as a person. Trial and error make for the best lessons so if you are in need of a style makeover try on a lot of colors, at least two layers, and add or take off from there. The key is to find what works for you.It’s like doing research, but instead of it being on a particular subject, you’re doing research on yourself. You’re not trying to find your fashion; you're

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merely trying to locate your style which will elevate your fashion level to 10. When you reach that level of comfortability and style, no matter what you put on, even if it’s a t-shirt, jeans and some heels, you will always be fly and people will begin to notice your style instead of your fashion. I started out like many women searching for their unique style, then I realized that wasn’t me at all. Yes it’s cute, but one, it isn’t my style, and two; I wasn’t in the mood for all of that at that particular time. I have destroyed many outfits only to rescript them to fit my mood for the day, or whatever the case may be. So go in your closet grab your staple piece, a basic piece and your most trendy piece and go to work. Look in the mirror while you’re at it, cut some music on, dance and make yourself feel good. You will begin to see your style more and more, and at the end of the day you'll want style over fashion!!! Why, because “FASHION FADES BUT STYLE IS FOREVER.”


HEALTH

Get Informed about GMO’s Genetically Modified Foods could spell out serious health problems for women and children advices Iman Folayan New technology brings the promise of greater advantages, but at what cost? The unhealthy truth is that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) are by-products of recombinant DNA technology, or simply, genetic engineering.

Reproductive problems were also cited in livestock and pigs that consumed genetically modified (GM) corn and cottonseed, and in India farmers reported skin rashes and other complications associated with GMO’s.

The Monsanto Company, a lead company in biotechnology, is known for producing seeds that are genetically modified and made resistant to herbicides and pesticides.

GM food products are designed to produce a toxin and have a built-in pesticide that when eaten by humans affect both the reproductive system and immune system.

Most farmers would agree that pests can be detrimental to crops, but the health risks associated with GMO’s are quite hazardous and can potentially lead to infertility in women and sterility in men.

Biologist David Schubert of the Stalk Institute stated, “children are the most likely to be adversely effected by toxins and other dietary problems associated with GMO’s.”

Studies conducted on mice and genetically modified soy confirmed a decrease in fertility rates among female mice and birth defects among the offspring.

Most consumers are not aware of these issues although GMO’s are found in various food products including corn, milk, soy, cereal, and deli meats to name a few. For the sake of the future doctors suggest organic foods as the healthiest alternative.

So next time you are at the grocery store, think twice about those seedless fruits and be mindful of the ingredients in your favorite snack. The little more that you spend for organic foods could save your health and future generations.

103| REFRESH ISSUE | www.afroellemagazine.com


TRAVEL

A

fter graduating with a B.A. in Television and Film production from Iona College, Evita Robinson, who grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York, hit the world running, or creating, rather. Within weeks of graduation, in 2006, she attended the New York Film Academy, studying Digital Filmmaking in Paris, France at La Femis film school. Since her first taste of Europe, at age twentyone, Evita has traveled to eleven countries, on three different continents. She has since lived in Paris, Japan, and Thailand, filming her travel series, the Nomad•ness and teaching English. Nomad·ness TV is the reality series of one woman, with one Tribe, traveling the world, one country at a time. Through these journeys, Evita brings you urban life as it's lived around the world.

On The Road with

Evita 104| REFRESH ISSUE | www.afroellemagazine.com

Exploring art, music, food, local pastimes, and causes unique to each area she travels within. Within each country, Evita links with members of her popular Facebook Group: Nomad·ness Travel Tribe. Previous meet ups with members have taken place in New York City, Los Angeles, Rio, London, Shanghai and Houston, Texas. This is the travel experience for the young adventurer that has a creative edge and wants to see the world through a relevant eye. It is a movement for an underrepresented demographic in the travel industry. Weeks before her trip to Panama with her Travel tribe, AfroElle caught up with Evita to learn more about her love for travel an her travel series Nomadness.

What excites you about travel? Everything. I like risk. I like change. I get bored extremely easy, and I need to continually challenge myself. I love the opportunity to never stop learning. Everywhere you go, you see new faces, witness new customs, and find a piece of yourself in every single city you visit.


What motivated you to start your travel series and what do you hope to achieve with it? I believe conformity is a choice. I believe that most of the world's population suffers from analysis paralysis. They think about things so much, to a point of dissection, and become paralyzed by fear. I found that to be largely true when it came to why people didn't travel. Fear of the unknown, of not knowing the language, of how much it would cost. Many people's perceptions on the cost of travel are completely off balance with reality, and it forms a barrier. My goal is to have Nomad•ness web series picked up as a television series, funded, and given the platform it deserves to reach the masses. There is no travel figure, let alone show, in mass media that has a face attached to it that people in urban areas can identify with. Not one. I am the face of that change, of that movement. Not only do I represent young women, and women of color who backpack, but I want my show to have a reach for all those that identify with an urban lifestyle. I want a kid from my neighborhood in the Bronx to see my Berlin episode and watch me camp out for three days at splash Hip Hop festival in Germany. I want them to see that there are facets of travel that directly relates to their interests here in the States. The goal is to catapult that into growing the movement of young people traveling. What was the inspiration behind the name ‘Nomadness’? As a world traveler, I am a nomad. I wanted to have a unique play off of the word, yet I had trouble coming up with a name for the series. The actual name, Nomad•ness came from a friend during a Skype conversation, while I was living in Japan. He used it as an adjective describing how I lived my life. It stuck out so much. I knew immediately I had to make it the title of the series.

So, any memorable destination? They're all memorable and all for different reasons. Living in Japan for a year, is differ-

ent from living in Thailand for two months, which is different from being in Germany for a week. One of the most memorable places that I simply found enchanting was Cambodia. I had to do a visa run from Thailand to Cambodia, by myself and I decided to go to see the Angkor Wat Ruins in Siem Reap, Cambodia. After seeing the Taj Mahal, I'd become obsessed with seeing World Wonders. Walking through Ta Prohm, Angkor Thom, and eventually Angkor was mind numbing and soul fulfilling. Climbing through these ancient civilizations puts life into true perspective.. Many people have a mindset that travelling is expensive, what are your top 3 tips on traveling on a budget? 1.

2.

3.

Plan where you are going based on your budget. There's a reason why most backpackers go to South East Asia first for long winded trips. You can have a three course meal for the equivalent of $1. Put your priorities in check. If you are serious about traveling, act like it. Put it out into the Universe, and take action. Don't buy those new shoes or drink at the bar. Start saving little by little. Closed mouths don't get fed. Ask for help. This can range from using social media as a way to do an online fundraising round to fund your trip, all the way to using skill sets you already have. If you are in media, even simply a blogger, use that as a pitch to Boards of Tourism, hostels, and companies to see if you can get accommodations or activities for free.

When the time comes I will slow down, but I'll never stop. My goal is to have kids once I know I'm in a place financially where I can take them to physically visit the places they will learn about in text books. Do you have any travelling goals you have for this year? My Nomad•ness Travel Tribe and I are experiencing our first ever group trip starting January 15th, to Panama. I threw a poll up in our group to see where everyone is interested in going, post-Panama. Our top three, vote wise, are Germany, Spain, and Peru. Those will be my focus upon my return from Panama. You started your own travel bag line, can you give us more details about that business venture? Of all the 'types' of travelers there are, I identify most with backpackers. That's how I travel. In my observations I found that backpackers were given this bad rep as being 'dirt bags'. I, being the personality I am, said I'm going to embrace that name, and give it a sense of pride. In conjunction I'm going to flip the backpacking industry on its head. All the backpacks I've seen are really bleak and that bothered me. Why are there no bright, graphic, vibrant backpacks. Again, being true to my entrepreneurial roots, I said ok I'm going to make them myself. Thus, the creation of my travel bag line (still in its infancy stages) called DRT•BG.

Do you think at some point in your life the travelling bug will leave you? No, but I do think my priorities will shift when I want to start a family. I'm twenty seven now, knocking on twenty-eight years old, and I find that my life is more fulfilled than many people I speak to that are my age, with the proverbial American dream of kids and marriage.

Website

105| REFRESH ISSUE | www.afroellemagazine.com


Celebrating Women of African Descent. Encourage. Empower. Entertain. Elevate


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