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letter from the executive editor... Lately, I been dreaming in numbers... Two numbers come to mind. The number 12. The number 30.


elcome to the 12th issue of INSPIRE Magazine, which marks our 2nd anniversary of sharing the stories and dreams of our fellow human beings. It feels like only yesterday when we came up with the idea of a publication that blended art, stories, and poetry. I wanted to create a product that would stimulate your mind as well as your eyes. And with every issue, I feel like we’re getting better at satisfying the two. If it’s the Lord’s Will, I will see the age of 30 this month. While most people try to drag out their youth as long as possible, I’ve been looking forward to reaching thirty for about a decade. The number 30 is a special number. King David took the throne at thirty and reigned successfully for forty years. Jesus began his ministry about that age. Joseph was thirty when he stood before Pharaoh, King of Egypt. God only knows what lies before me at this age. Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s gonna be great and I look forward to it. The past decade been a productive one. I have accomplished a lot of things, but I’m still far from where I want to be. It has been instilled in me long ago that time is a precious resource. Don’t let it go to waste. Now that my twenties are coming to an end, I look forward to the next chapter of my life. Stay with me, I feel like this is only the beginning... Enjoy.

BlackIce Bell

Executive Editor

INSPIRE Magazine #12 EXECUTIVE EDITOR BlackIce Bell SENIOR EDITOR Dominique Cannon CONTRIBUTORS Corey Jackson Essence Franklin Jerrica Raglin MODELS Kenya Thomas Quanetia Johnson Tonishia Wimbish Kabriana Keeler

PHOTOGRAPHY BlackIce Bell WEBSITE Contact BlackIce Bell



table of contents 26

Derick Halliman This Decatur, Georgia aqua aficionado envisioned the Mist brand of water, and then designed his own bottle. Now he prospers from our planet’s most precious resource. All that’s required of you is to drink.

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Ray Lavender

With a last name like Lavender his fate was sealed as a southern preacher, or a productive and seductive R&B singer. As lady luck would have it his mother and fan base approved of the latter.

Elle Young

She searches the depths of herself to single handedly supply the demand of her shelves. Elle is a sewing machine gone solo; challenging culture with couture while weaving her threads throughout the community one dress at a time. | 5

Eye of the Instructor - Michael Alvins After years of mentoring some of Atlanta’s best photographers; Michael Alvins has gone into business for himself, to prove that it’s his eye that matters the most.

03 Letter from the Executive Editor 06 Love Letter Sitting on the Coffee Table by Essence Franklin 08 Photography by Jerrica Raglin 09 Letter from the Senior Letter 14 Photography by Jerrica Raglin



Love Letter Sitting on the Coffee Table Essence Franklin

morning latte graced my lips like the rising sunshine that woke me checked for my “sista girl” attitude at the front door, smearing my crisp rose print lipstick mind on the matters of the day, I’m not up for any bullshit excuse my french, I just express myself differently from other ladies understand that I’m still a lady, draped in my pearls of elegance hair braided in the frame of Janet Jackson’s Poetic Justice, wrapped on my head as the crown of glory, I hold my fists tight as I listen to “Window Seat” through my ear buds walking steadily on the pavement of the walkway, I can’t help but to notice the work of God through my jeans, off the shoulder top, and smile holding my head high, I sense the stereotypical thoughts painted on the faces of the bystanders like clowns I laugh, simply because I know better with each step, I stomp down the negative and derogatory comments that attempt to slap me in the face with shame the curve of my hips and juiciness of my behind is just too sassy for them to...... well... shoot...I left my book too busy being wrapped into myself, I left my book on the coffee table at the cafe across the street from the diner picking up my freshly prepared latte with extra whipped cream and cinnamon dust, I sat down at the table next to the window, staring at the images passing by with each sip, I observed with each sip, I reminisced about my life going through my cross bag, I dug deep for my legal pad and favorite pen as Jill Scott crossed over to Chrisette Michele, my mind fell in place with the black ink pen glided on the sheets expressing every detail of my life at that moment in that cafe, | 7

staring outside the window....thinking interruption of the song scared me a bit, as I answered my phone tucking the letter into the book that I had intentions on reading, I hurried to leave the cafe, in a rush, I bumped into my past lost for words, I simply gave a smile and a mere laugh: I GOT MY LIFE BACK being so distracted, I left the book on the table checking my “sista girl� attitude at the door, I began feeling myself walking back to get my book, there he was waiting for me with my book laying on the table and the letter in his hand, I realized that the love letter that I wrote to myself about my life and all of its content was actually a love reminder for him... to remember..



Photographer: Jerrica Raglin

Model: Ezinne Eneh Stylists: Min Jung Kim & Caitlin White MUA: AndrĂŠe Georgette LaTortue | 9

letter from the senior editor... These hot and hazy summer days bring longer daylight hours that overlap into short, rambunctious nights. After work hours become filled with plans for those heels and linen outfits that will be shown off in the natural affects of a summer breeze. Extended hours of daylight fool the mind into thinking that we must rush through the work day to take advantage of beautiful weather. And after we shed the layers of that day’s look, and start to erase office banter with happy hour cocktails and appetizers, we make the trek home and realize we have to return to the same routine the next morning. This leads me to believe that doing a rushed job isn’t always the best option. I don’t know what is worse: rushing through an assignment or, waiting too long to get one completed. Some would say they do their best work while under pressure. Others choose to jump into work mode right away. And then there are the few who find a happy medium. They simply do the majority of work ahead of time, thus leaving plenty of time to review, analyze, and edit. That is how I tend to view summer days: full of bright sunbeams and extra time to put in work. Being able to take advantage of longer periods of light to work on new projects; the time to clean and clear old hindrances that keep you stagnant; renewing areas of well-being to advance physically, emotionally, and physically. Of course any amount of excitement that could be entered into a hectic schedule always brings smiles. What’s the point of working if you can’t play, right? Keep It Cool, Dominique Cannon, Sr. Editor



RAY LAVENDER words by Corey Jackson photography by BlackIce Bell styling by Marc Koger

Lavish M

y soundtrack to keeping it cool has always called upon the smoothest of the smooth to close the deal. From Marvin Gaye to Trey Songz; Teddy P to Pleasure P; my catalog of crooners is the perfect complement to fine cuisine and couch romantics. I remember the first time I heard Ray Lavender. He was on a track titled “Put It Down”, and I was trying to put it down on a particular young lady I had just spent my entire pay check on. Today, Ray is still in stride perfecting his craft. He is the premier artist of Global Artist Group, and he’s primed to make his mark on the industry once again with his upcoming album. His first single, “Tequila”, is a kinetic anthem for dance floor thrill seekers alike worldwide. His second single, “We Love”, is a sentimental ballad to assure ladies that love can stand the test of time despite the differences in mentality between the sexes. Mr. Lavender’s latest mixtape, The RnR Hustler, packs the perfect tunes to infuse into your body whether you’re in the bedroom or at the party. | 11

C*: Your family is deeply rooted in music. Who influenced you the most musically? RL: My dad. He wasn’t a singer, but he loved music. My dad was a guy who was a real music head, and he could hear a hit song a mile away. I grew up under him of course so I’m going to love all the music he loved. He couldn’t sing, but he could hold a note. His favorite guy was Sam Cook. If you like Sam Cook you have a really nice choice of talent. Listening to Sam Cook changed my life.

sell out arenas. All it did was make me better. C*: So now you’re with Global Artist Group. Is that your company? RL: It’s me and three other people.

C*: I got that feeling because you’re the flagship artist on the label. RL: Right. I’m the face of the label right now. I got to play the artist. This time I was wiser and became a part of the company instead of just being an artist. Now C*: You first started off on Akon’s label. You had the I own part of the company and I get to say when my single “Put It Down” and it was fire! How did your album comes out this time. I don’t have to sit back and first album get shelved bewait on anybody to get off cause I knew you from the “I got to go to Sweden, France, and the rest of tour, or to answer my phone T-Pain era when he was on Europe and get to really listen to what every- calls for them to get ready to body is listening to all over the world. So now put my album out. Now I the come-up. The single, “My Girl’s got a Girlfriend” this is what you get.” make boss decisions and its was hot as well; so how did coming. your album not make it to the streets? RL: They didn’t shelf me. It was one of those political C*: I like the new single “Tequila” with you and things. It’s a good thing you’re going behind the music. Jordan Humphrey. I haven’t been in the club in a You’re asking me questions that happened behind all the good minute man. I’m kind of more of a kick it at the T.V., glitz, and the glamour. There were some strange house and sip some Tequila dude, but I can see that things going on behind the scenes. Even though you’re heating up the club. It reminded of the “Shots” single hot and have some banging songs, that doesn’t mean Pitbull did. your politics and business is right. That just means you RL: (Laughing) yeah! Aight so let me tell you. My need to start looking a little closer at what’s going on. album didn’t come out, and you didn’t get a chance to Basically it wasn’t my fault. I know a lot of artists say hear my album, but it had a lot of party music like that. that, but this time it really wasn’t my fault. I had nothI’m kind of glad it didn’t come out because it broadened ing to do with it. I was collateral damage. There were my music spectrum. I got to go to Sweden, France, some internal things going on with the production and the rest of Europe and get to really listen to what company and the label. I was the artist and I really had everybody is listening to all over the world. So now this no say so. I couldn’t say, “Put my album out right now”, is what you get. You get Tequila’s out of Ray Lavender. because if I could’ve I would’ve. At the time it wasn’t This next record, “We Love”, is more urban, but still even my fight. I got caught up in the crossfire but it with a pop appeal to it. Then I go right back to my pop didn’t stop me from making great music. world with the record “Get Away”. I’m having a great time recording this album right now. C*: That’s the one thing we do know. The music is still getting cranked out. C*: That’s what’s up. I don’t know your relationship RL: Right! You’re only as strong as your grind. Even with Red Café personally but it seems like you both though I got kicked down and they lost the label deal have a good relationship as far as giving the assist to over there that didn’t deter me. It didn’t make me want each other back and forth. to give up. If anything it put some rocket fuel in my RL: Man let me tell you something about Red Café. Red system and it made me want to go even harder. Now I Café is going to be a legend. He’s a living legend right taste blood. I know I can rock a crowd and I know I can now and he knows it already too. As soon as he gets his



niche, and his lane, there will be no stopping Red Café. He’s one of my great friends. Nothing bad to say about him; he’s a very talented guy. You want to be on his team. You don’t want to be on the other side. He’s part of the reason why I’m who I am today. He introduced me to New York and New York wrapped their arms around me. After New York wrapped their arms around me the world did. C*: Y’all need to go ahead and give the streets what they need. Go ahead and do that joint project! An R&B cat and a rapper just like R Kelly and Jay-Z. RL: The Best of Both Worlds! In fact we were doing it for a second, but once you get your deals you got to kind of start going back to work. But we’re going to make that pop. He’s out there in Miami so next time I connect with him I’ll sit him down for about three weeks, and we’re going to make that project happen. C*: Which aspect of the game do you prefer the most? Do you want to be more behind the scenes as a songwriter or do you prefer being the artist? RL: I love being the artist. I would be lying if I told you I want to be behind the scenes. I want you to see me, I want you to touch me, I want you to say, “There he goes right there. That guy is special.” I want to be on stage burning it up. You know how Michael Jackson was when all the fire was dropping behind him when he was performing? I want it to be just like that. I want my name in lights because I see that. I feel that. I live that and dream that. All my life I’ve wanted to do that. C*: And Lavender is your real last name huh? RL: That’s it. My whole name is Earl Ray Lavender. C*: I was on YouTube going over a few of your past interviews and I saw you with Young Jack Thriller (comedian). I remember you said with a name like yours you had to be a pimp or a singer, and I see you chose the singer side. RL: Yeah man I had too. My mama ain’t gon’ let me be no pimp! C* | 13



Photographer: Jerrica Raglin

Model: Ezinne Eneh Stylists: Min Jung Kim & Caitlin White MUA: AndrĂŠe Georgette LaTortue | 15



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Hidden Gem Elle Young, owner of Diamonds & Pearls Conture

words by Corey Jackson photography by BlackIce Bell


ometimes when you hear the calling on your life you just have to move. No questions asked. Destiny doesn’t decide job descriptions. It only magnifies the attributes you already possess and puts them to good use. To some a career change can be seen as a quarter life crises, but to Elle it was an opportunity to fulfill what God predestined he her to do. She took a passion she thought was fun, sacrificed to come up with the necessary funds, and leaned on her faith when the going got tough. Several years later, after surviving the pressure from pessimists and an economy that succumbed to fiscal plunge, Diamonds and Pearls Couture has emerged as one of Atlanta’s most unique boutiques for years to come. The sparkle city native’s Peachtree suite sells dresses, shoes, necklaces and everything shiny in between. To shop there is to participate in her dream. Read between the seams. C*: How did you get into fashion? Where did that passion start? Elle: Even when I was younger I always loved fashion, but I grew up poor. We didn’t get to get a lot of new stuff. My stepmother knew how to sew, but I didn’t necessarily know how to sew so I always hand stitched stuff. Even as I got older I would fix things myself. When I moved here to Atlanta about 8 years ago I was still a nail tech. My back started bothering me from sitting and doing pedicures so I needed to do something else. I prayed about it and then I got up the next morning and said, “I’m going to buy me a sewing machine.” I went and purchased my first sewing machine at Wal-Mart. It took me at least two weeks to get it down because using the bobbin is the hardest thing to do when trying to learn how to sew. For the longest I couldn’t figure out how to thread it from the top. I had to realize that you have to put thread in the bobbin. After that it took me a little while to get a hang of things. Once I figured that out I started going to a couple boutiques to see if they’d take my stuff. Some turned me down and some didn’t. So that’s how I started. Each year I noticed I was getting better and better, and each year God showed me something different to help me get better and better. It hasn’t been an easy journey. Even today I hit stumbling blocks but I keep going. C*: So what inspired your move to Atlanta? Elle: I’m from Spartanburg, South Carolina. I’ve been here 8 years. I would come here and visit and I always wanted to move here. I was afraid because I don’t really have a lot of family, I don’t have parents, and it was scary because I had a small child. I was scared. I’ll tell you, when I would come visit here it felt like, “Go. It’s time to move. It’s time to get out of that small town.” I wish I would’ve done it when I was in my twenties because I actually moved here when I was 29 going on 30. Then one day I woke up and I was like, “I’m moving.” Spiritually something was telling

me to just go ahead. I feel like when God says go, you go. It was a walk in faith. | 21 C*: You mentioned earlier that you had a daughter. How often do you get feedback from her? Does she rock your clothes to school? Elle: She wears my clothes, but with her being 19 and I’m 38, some of her ideas I don’t want to use. I keep myself youthful, and I may even do something that’s sexy, but certain ideas I want to keep me. I make clothes for all women from her age and up, but some of her ideas are teenie-bopper.

C*: When it comes to fashion your dresses are very floral inspired and the tunics are tribal. Where did you come up with those concepts? Are you a person that loves nature, or are you the type that will go to Piedmont Park to check out the botanical gardens and become inspired to apply that to your product? Elle: I get ideas from anywhere and everybody. I am an C*: What can a new customer to Diamonds and Pearls outdoor person. I like to go fishing. I could look at a Boutique expect, from A-to-B, out of all the products you have for sale? homeless person and get an idea. Anybody can inspire Elle: When they come in (A) they should pick out what they me. I can even be inspired by a bad day! It sounds crazy, but anybody can inspire someone else with their dreams. want to wear before they go out; (B) if they decide they want to wear earrings. Then they go to (C) to see if they want to I did a dress with floral and zebra. Some people may wear a necklace with it. Then they may go to (D) if they want not like it, but I like it because I want to do something to choose shoes. Sometimes it may go in reverse! It’s different different. When I’m in the fabric store I might be in with each woman. there for two hours. I go in there and think of what ideas of fabric I want to put together. I don’t follow C*: Diamonds and Pearls Couture is a unique name. other people’s fashion trends. I do what I want to do. I When I think of diamonds and pearls I think of the presmight even use floral in the winter time! A lot of people sure and extreme circumstances it takes to create each wouldn’t do that because one. What is the biggest hurdle you’ve encountered along the they feel that’s not the rule “I would go online to YouTube and way of getting to where you are to fashion. I feel that you watch Tyler Perry’s speech about today? should set your own rules seeds. I try to watch that speech every Elle: It takes a lot of years put to fashion. I don’t want to into it. I’m going on my seventh morning because it helps me with my do what everybody else is year doing this. It takes a lot of business.” doing. C*: You’re also involved in the community. I saw online you that recently donated to the women’s shelter. Elle: Yeah! I want to get more involved with stuff like that. I even helped the Teen Atlanta Pageant. I really enjoyed that. I love to be around different kind of people. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for my people, but I want to be around different kinds of people and learn different things. It’s all about putting stuff together to help everyone. C*: How deep was your involvement with those pageants? Did you donate clothing or direct them? Elle: They contacted me because they heard about me and what I was doing so I was a judge in the contest. We had to meet the girls and I donated a gift bag to the winner. C*: How do you see the boutique evolving in the future? Do you see yourself running your own fashion show, pageant, or program where you can mentor young women? Elle: I actually see myself doing all those things. During prom time I donated prom dresses. I want to work with younger people. I want to do more in the community.

time to form a diamond and a lot of time to form a precious pearl. Trying to get to this point has been rough. I don’t like to sugarcoat, and I don’t like to pretend. I experienced not having enough funding. I put everything into this myself. I didn’t get loans from the bank like most people do. You can really put yourself in a financial bind trying to start a business, but because I believed in myself I held on to my dream. I’ll give you one example of something that kept me going recently. I would go online to YouTube and watch Tyler Perry’s speech about seeds. I try to watch that speech every morning because it helps me with my business. There have been plenty of people telling me I can’t do it. That speech will help you keep going no matter what anybody tells you. A lot of people thought I was nuts. I didn’t even see myself getting to this point, but God saw this before I did. Even to this day I may struggle with my boutique, but God always takes care of me. He surprises me a lot of times. I could’ve had a slow day, and it could be near closing, and he’ll send somebody in and they’ll spend good money. It goes back to what Tyler Perry was saying; you have to stay focused on one thing. I know God is going to take me to the next level, and I know it’s going to be something bigger. C*


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A Clear Destiny words by Corey Jackson photography by Jerrica Raglin | 27


any things are often dismissed amidst the mist of success. Oftentimes when we see a successful person we embrace it or mistake it for what it is. At face value one doesn’t take account for the many tribulations, financial struggles, and sacrifice sowed into the seed. Mist’s story of sleek satisfaction is no different. What lead you to assume that Mist was complacent with its merits? Maybe it was the bottle’s features in Fox Business, Uptown, and Black Enterprises that mislead you. Or maybe it was the 2008 Berkley Springs International Water Innovation Award it received for Best Bottle in Glass; that just so happens to share shelf space with the People’s Choice Packing Design Gold Award. Still, when distilled right, Earth’s most precious resource is the most abundant source of God’s gift any person can expect to receive in this life. Derick Halliman’s will to win over the bottling industry is simply a reflection of the never say die spirit he held deep inside.

C*: How did you get into the water filtration/ water filtration systems. I needed to get into something bottling industry? where I could make some residual income. I had some Derick: To make a long story short a lot of my money saved and I really wanted to make an impact in buddies drink bottled water, and I thought it the bottled water game. So I bought a bottling company was kind of silly to pay for bottled water. After called Ice Age. It’s like when people say “When you buy watching them drink it I researched it for a year, something you buy their problems.” It turned out to be and I felt like it was a pretty cool niche business a big flop and I lost a whole lot of money, and then that’s to get into. So I got with a company here in when I realized that if I ever did this again I’m going to Atlanta, and we went with own everything. Shortly “You know plastic is made out of oil. It’s the five gallon bottles. I after my appendix burst and put my own label on it, just petroleum. I wanted to go with glass I entered a depressed state. and then I found a cooler because I wanted my brand to look Then I dreamt up Mist, company I could get the better than just everyday bottled water.” designed the bottle, and got coolers wholesale from, with a bottle company in and started advertising in Tennessee. We did a partnerpenny saver magazines. ship deal and I owned a part It started to blow up from there. While I was of the company. I’m with the bottling plant I’m with now working at UPS I realized I couldn’t handle dobecause the previous plant burned down. It’s like an inside ing the five gallon bottles. So I quit UPS, and I joke! People always ask me “How can a water plant burn still had to change my business model a little bit down?” Haha! It ended up being a better deal. because when people ran out of the big bottles they wanted more that day. That’s when I got C*: Ha! That is funny! I like the bottle. It’s classy, into the water filtration side of the business elegant, and sleek! You’ve got companies that bottle because it suited me. I could still stay a one man their water in plastic, but yours is glass. I’ve also read shop, I could sell the water filtration system, I that if you go with glass bottles your susceptible to the could install them, and I only had to maintecleaning agents they use to clean the class, but I’ve also nance them every 6 months to a year. Plus I heard that plastic bottles may contain harmful BPA was getting my money up front. That’s what I chemicals. Why did you choose glass for bottling? still do to this day. Derick: You know plastic is made out of oil. It’s just C*: With your office being based out of Lipetroleum. I wanted to go with glass because I wanted thonia; how did you link up with your botmy brand to look better than just everyday bottled water. tling plant in Tennessee a state away? Just like when you have a Lexus; you have cloth seats or Derick: After 9/11 happened I realized I had leather. It’s the same car, but it’s a step up. Both plastic to change my business model again because and glass clean the same way during the bottling process. people weren’t spending 500 to 2500 dollars on It’s just basically hot water that gets put into the bottle.



sold to finer places, but do you plan on breaking out to the more commonplace market down line? We will ever see Mist at grocery stores or our local gas station? Derick: Not for Mist. I think that’s where a certain brand I know messed up. They were exclusive to hotels and restaurants, but when they went to plastic it brought the luster down for that particular product. I want to keep Mist as a niche market. We started over in the UK and we’re going to bring it over here. I don’t want to flood the market with this particular product. C*: Can you elaborate on the alcoholic beverage and the sparkling water products you’ve got coming out? Derick: The sparking water should be out this fall. We might do a real soft launch with the vodka this year in one or two places, but next year is really for the vodka. I’m hyped about that because it will open up the market for our company. Now people are saying “If he has an award winning water then I can really look forward to the vodka.” Photo by BlackIce Bell

You can check out the bottling plant on you tube. It’s basically about storage. When you go to other countries they put their water in glass. They don’t put it in plastic because usually their water is so bad they have to store water. You want to store that water in glass. Plastic can get hot and it could start leaking petroleum in the water. Glass doesn’t break down like that. The cleaning part is a big myth because you could say that about wine or vodka. You especially want to put wine in glass because of the bacteria and things fermenting. To me, it just boiled down to the look and the feel I wanted to push for this particular brand. Glass is even easier to recycle than plastic. C*: If I go to the gas station and I want a premium brand of water I usually have to choose from Voss which is headquartered in Norway, or something like Fiji which is based out of Fiji. You guys are headquartered here in the good ole USA. I know right now the brand is

C*: I know it takes a lot to start your own business. I can only imagine how it is having to negotiate your own deals and jumping into a field you had no prior experience in. In return we get inspired by your story. Derick: I appreciate it man. I just tell people to stick to it. I think most people respect me because I’ve been in the game for fifteen years. Look at my track record. I worked at Pizza Hut and UPS. I have 13 employees and eleven of them have been with me the whole fifteen years. Just stick to what you’re going to do. If you’re a writer, keep writing. Something is going to happen for you. I always tell people look at Too Short. Too Short had about 9 nine albums out before he went platinum. He kept doing it. Always stick to it, but don’t stick to something that you’re garbage at. I could tell you all type of motivational stuff, but I think the thing people love most about me is my passion and persistence. C* | 29



INSPIRE Magazine #12  

Diamonds & Pearls Coutoure Mist Water Ray Lavender