Page 1

e u h

back to the basics t h e a n t i - i n s a n i t y


w o r ko u t


France born, Viatnamese woman talks cultural acceptance

#NewYorkFashionWeek hairstylist tells us what the world’s cultural meltng pot means for hair stigmas, hair care and hair trends

+ 6

great men who love us

Signed, Me


women who rock their natural hair effortlessly


Loveless Nation

What 20-somethings are doing about the so-called no black love epidemic

editor’s letter

Dear Readers,

This magazine was born from a vision. A vision that saw our already multicultural world more connected – so that I, as an American-born black woman, could see a woman whose parents hailed from Indonesia, Brazil, or The Philippines, and call on more commanality than difference. I hope inside these pages you find women who look like you and whose experience mirrors yours. But I also hope that you’ll find women you can see yourself in — even if they rep’ a different part of the globe. The HUE girl is magnetic, stylish, independent, and courageous. She is proud of her culture and inspired by it. Her feet are firmly rooted but her mind is free. And this makes her genuinely curious about her world and eager to better it. The HUE girl will never apologize for who she is. The HUE girl is You!

What’s our


? e hu

We’ve got some goodies for you in our debut issue. On page 13, check out the makings of a multicultural fashion show – and snag some tips for your personal runway this Spring. On page 28, check out how four young women are getting on despite the depressing stats that say black women are likely to end up lonely and broken-hearted.From the loosest to most tightly curled locks, five women show us what it means to embrace (and rock!) their natural hair (Natural Attraction, page 32). So curl up in your favorite chair, soak up the culture, and then tell a friend. My guess is that if you’re a HUE girl, you know one, too.


Stay colorful!



editor art photography writers

sadé muhammad tierra taylor tuso boothe natasha benjamin gabrielle denson zoe fentz liane membis thao nyugen ivory sherman

in this issue Spring 2012


liane membis


7 9 11 13 15 17

Technicolor: Tech royalty and star of CNN’s Black in America Angela Benton talks bringing diversity to Silicon Valley

Dont call it a comeback: Mixed Berry Oatmeal Smoothie The Talented Tenth: Six gentleman who define success in their own right


Fashion rewind: Spring fashion tips straight from the runway Moulin Rouge: With the right red in your aresenal, you’ll have a guarenteed power lip. All Hair Created Equal: NYFW hairstylist Tiffany Basma shares this spring’s hair secrets for all hair type


19 24 27 28 32

Where’s the Good Girls Club?: Our “Young Michelle” of the month takes positive programming into her own hands Rags and Riches: Lisette Ffolkes journey closer to her fashion dreams

Love Connection: One girl’s crack at online dating

Generation Loveless: How 4 college-aged black women sustain hope despite the hoopla that says we’ll end of alone, bitter, and broken Natural Attraction: Five phenoms unafraid to rock their au natural locks



Liane Membis is a graduating senior at Yale University majoring in English and Ethnicity, Race & Migration. Originally from Atlanta, GA, she is passionate about cultural reporting and improving education opportunities for disadvantaged youth. Liane is the current reigning Miss Black America Connecticut and the founder and editorial director of Liberette Magazine, an online e-zine for young women of color.

Playing with the Big Boys: How Dr. Eng has made a name for herself

41 Rachel Roy-al: How American Fashion Design Rachel Roy turned fashion into profit (and how you can, too!)


43 My First Time in Lagos, Nigeria


Global Citizenship?: A French born, Viatenamese young woman living in America



Tweet, Tweet: Inspirational messages from women we love

thao nyugen Thao Nyugen is a graduating senior international relations and public relations major at Syracuse University. French-born and of Vietnamese origin, Thao commits her studies and work to provide a more level cultural playing-field in the first world. She will matriculate into Johns Hopkins’ School of International Relations in the fall.

toluwalope okeowo Toluwalope (Tolu) Okeowo currently lives in Montclair, NJ where she was born and raised to Nigerian born parents. A recent grad from Syracuse University, Tolu works in NYC at an independent media agency, Crossmedia. She is a huge lover of all things music, fashion and pop culture. There isn’t a day where you won’t see her without headphones on her head, or talking about a new jam.

lure Spring 2012


Tech royalty and star of CNN’s Black in America Angela Benton talks bringing diversity to Silicon Valley by Sadé Muhammad


he fourth installment of CNN’s Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley placed NewMe co-founder Angela Benton on a platform for both national and international audiences to see. However, among black digerati, the 30-year-old has been a wellknown mainstay since the 2000s. As founder and publisher of Black Web Media, Benton launched, the leading online publication for African-Americans craving the latest in technology and new media news. The BLACK ENTERPRISE August 2011 cover subject took her experience and paired up with blogger and social media expert Wayne Sutton to bring forth last summer’s NewMe Accelerator, the first minority led tech incubator in Silicon Valley. The program helped Benton and seven other techies execute their pitches and flush out business ideas before presenting to venture capitalists. The serial entrepreneur has been recognized as one of the Most Influential Women in Technology by Fast Company. Benton is the youngest inductee to enter the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) at just 29 years old. In 2010, she became a Woman of Power honoree by the National Urban League. The Northern Virginia native has also been recognized on various lists, including The Root 100, The Grio 100, and Ebony’s Power 150 in both 2011 and 2012. spoke to Benton about her success in tech, who she’s inspired by and why her vision for the future of Silicon Valley includes more “swag.” s a young, African-American mother and A entrepreneur in the predominantly white, male tech space, you’ve been able to make a substantial mark. To what do you attribute your success? I don’t think too much about being a young mother here, or being black and female. But I do know that it’s what makes me, ‘me.’ I had a meeting with a multi-billionaire. It would be so easy to psych myself out and say: ‘He’s probably never met anyone like me. I’m probably the only black woman he’s met.’ But I went in with confidence, and we were able to connect on a level that had nothing to do with race. You have to be yourself and realize everything you bring to the table is either an asset or a hindrance. How does it feel to know you’re defining history? nytime someone tells me that I’m making history in A what I’m doing, I just feel so blessed. People work their whole lives to get the opportunities and the appreciation that I’ve been given. It’s really humbling.


Name an African-American female leader that inspires you. Oprah. I can only hope to be a fraction as successful as she is. I respect how she makes all avenues of her business work for her in a very synergistic way. If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be? I would tell myself the importance of focus. As an entrepreneur there are so many opportunities to be distracted. I’m an ‘ideas’ person – I get really excited about ideas. I had to teach myself, to still get excited about ideas but to also stay excited about the idea and see it through to the end. CNN’s coverage of the NewMe Accelerator brought attention to the challenges facing blacks in technology, in particular, focusing on the plight of eight tech entrepreneurs. We saw the impact the incubator had on their lives; what can we expect to see from NewMe now? We launched NewMe Community, so now we’re able to service and help a wider amount of people than we were able to do in the [NewMe] Accelerator program.

"In ten years, I see Silicon Valley looking more diverse. Honestly, Silicon Valley, it’s going to be a lot cooler because us black folks bring our own swag." Where do you see Silicon Valley in the next 10 years? One of things I love about the accelerator is our ability to bring people to [San Francisco] from all over the world. That means we’re making a direct impact on what Silicon Valley looks like. In ten years, I see Silicon Valley looking more diverse. Honestly, Silicon Valley, it’s going to be a lot cooler because us black folks bring our own swag.

lure Spring 2012

Spring Training The Anti-INSANITY ® workouts By: Zoe Fentz

Chances are, if you have a friend that’s on the get-slim-quick-tip for Summer 2012, they are somewhere gasping for breath on their 60day INSANITY ® timeline. This “insane” workout features long periods of maximum-intensity exercises with very short periods of rest. But for some, that adrenaline rush present on Day 1 may have all but faded by Day 21. Check out these alternative, lower-impact (but just as framesculpting) workouts that you can enjoy with friends without compromising your sanity.

Jukari: Fit to Fly

Hula Nation

Cirque de Soleil is not just for contortionists. In 2008 the world acclaimed artistic entertainment company partnered with Reebok to create Jukari: Fit to Fly, a group exercise program designed for women that incorporates some of the Cirque’s famous moves. Jukari, a word dialect meaning “to play,” uses the company’s hallmark imaginative and fluid approach to movement.

Hula hooping is back in swing – no pun intended. More and more women have rediscovered their youthful pastime can tone their core and keep them smiling at the same time. Hooping, as the workout is referred to, uses large customized weighted hoops. The heavier the hoop, the slower it takes to swing it around your body. Moves like the “pulse” targets the core, the “limbo” gets those thighs and the “Wild West” builds your biceps and triceps. According to, hooping can burn as little as 210 calories or as much as 600 calories per 30-minute session.

The only prerequisite for the class is a water bottle. Each room is fit with specially designed trapezes, called a FlySet, one for each participant. With each move, the FlySet gives its user a sense of flight. Jukari focuses on upper-body strength but thanks to the jumping, swinging and spinning, most forget they are working out at all. Recently, Cirque de Soleil expanded the program and launched Jukari: Fit to Flex where the focus is shifted to flexibility. The trapeze is replaced with a special Jukari band that helps for a lengthening and sculpting full-body workout. Both programs are available in 22 countries in major cities worldwide including New York and Chicago. If the big city isn’t your thing, Reebok has also made some of the equipment available for purchase online.

Visit to find a location near you.


Several workouts exist nationwide. Zamor’s Hoopgirl began marketing the fad in 2001. Now they offer classes in San Francisco and sell workout DVDs on their website. Los Angeles based, Hoopnotica, has teachers nationwide. However, hooping culture doesn’t require a classroom. organizes “meetups” in parks and community centers where hoopers bring their gear and hoop together.

Visit to learn more.

lure Spring 2012

Don’t Call It A Comeback by: Gabrielle Denson

Our favorite fruits are back in season. This sweet, fiberrich recipe will have you energized for your workday, or prepped to cool out on a weekend with friends.

Yields 2 servings Approx. 7 minutes preparation

Ingredients ½ cup rolled oats 1 banana cut into pieces ½ cup of ice 1 cup mixed berries (fresh strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries) ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract 3 tablespoons of honey 1 cup soy milk or milk

Mixed berry oatmeal smoothie recipe

Directions 1. Using a blender combine the oatmeal and soy milk and blend until oatmeal is well blended. . Add the remainder of 2 the ingredients and blend until it reaches a smooth consistency. 3. Pour smoothies into the glasses and serve.

Chef Secret Add honey for more sweetness Adding oatmeal is a great way to add fiber and antioxidants. No fresh fruits? Substitute your berry mix for a cup of already frozen mixed berries.


The Talented Tenth six men show us their destined for success (and tell us why they love women of color!)


By: SadĂŠ Muhammad Photography By: Tuso Booth

Lawrence Jackson Spring Valley, NY 20 Activities/Organizations: • Literacy Corps Leadership intern • Mentorship leader at the award-winning Books and Cooks, a program that focuses on literacy, exercise, and nutrition • Vice President of the National Association of Black Journalists, Syracuse University • Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Future goals: • News anchorman What being considered part of HUE’s Talented Tenth means to him: • “It’s humbling. My fraternity’s cardinal principles are manhood, scholarship, perseverance and uplift. Whenever a woman looks for a man and whenever a man looks in the mirror he should want to see those four things within himself. They are more than principles – they are guidelines to a great man.” What he loves about women of color: • “I think of everything I love about my mom. She’s educated , she’s strong, she’s persistent. She’s anything you could want in a friend, in a parent, in a sibling. ” One thing he would say to women of color: • “Even though you may sometimes feel unappreciated or that there are no good black men just continue on the right path for [all of us], not just for a man or woman.”

Nate Woods Washington, D.C. 20

Lookman Mojeed Brooklyn, NY 21

Activities/Organizations: • Black Celestial Choral Ensemble • University Judicial Affairs Board • SEX SYMBALS – an organization dedicated to educating the community about sexual health Future goals: • To become an educator. To be in the classroom with African American men. When they see someone who looks like them they’ll know that success is possible. • Juvenile Advocacy lawyer What being considered part of HUE’s Talented Tenth means to him: • “Always setting an example.” What he loves about women of color: • “You’re powerful. Very strong. And very ambitious.” If you could say one thing to women of color what would you say: • “There are good men out there that aren’t afraid to love for who you are. What we adore most of black women is that you aren’t afraid to be yourselves. Continue to be yourself, uplift yourself, respect yourself, and you’ll get that in return.”

Activities/Organizations: • Office of Residence Life, Resident Advisor • Homecoming Court • International Youth Scholar tutor • University hospital volunteer Future goals: • “I’d like to consider myself a renaissance man and I like to dabble in a lot of fields. My main goal is to go into public health and study medicine” What he loves about women of color: • “Your beautiful skin color. Over the centuries our skin has been looked at as too dark. But I want you to have pride in your skin and know that it’s special.” If you could say one thing to women of color what would it would be: • “You’re beautiful”

Steven Perez Harlem, NY 21 Activities/Organizations: • Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. • Student supervisor for the Students for Community Safety • Studied abroad in Madrid, Spain Future goals • “Mentorship foundation to get kids like myself interested in going to college and off of the streets.” What he loves about women of color: • “Attitude – good and bad. Flavor. They way they carry themselves, the way they think. They really understand what their male counterpart really needs from them. All of the elements make them like no other.” If you could say one thing to women of color what would you say: • “Beautiful, always keep your head up.”

Luther Masanto Brooklyn, NY 22 Activities/Organizations: • Co-founded a dance group Expressive Elements - Won university’s Best Dance Crew • Society of Environmental Engineers • National Society of Black Engineers • Public Relations for Caribbean Students Association at Syracuse University Future goals: • Teaching. It’s the most dynamic way to give back to the community. I would teach math and science but not just that – I would teach life lessons as well. That’s what missing from a lot of schools. What he loves about women of color: • Women of color have come so far but are not afraid to show that they have a lot more ahead of them. I almost want to say you you’re there, you’ve made it – But there’s so much more that needs to be done that we definitely need them for.” One thing he would say to women of color: • If I were to joke, I’d say marry me. But – Don’t be afraid to be an innovator – don’t be afraid to be a creator, don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone.

Troy James Rochester, NY 20 Activities/Organizations: • Mentor for incoming freshmen through the WellsLink program • Public Relations Director National Association of Black Journalists, Syracuse University chapter • Campus promotional/advertising company to launch in June Future goals: • Advertising executive What being considered part of HUE’s Talented Tenth means to him: • “It’s a challenge – am I going to take advantage of the talents God gave me or fall by the wayside?” What he loves about women of color: • “I love individualism. You stay true to yourselves. You know your roots.” One thing he would say to women of color: • Don’t let anyone or anyone get in the way of your dreams. You control your future.

Put some girls

with color in the MoMa! Fashion’s Conscience presents a multicultural fashion show, “Night at the Museum” B y: Sadé Muhammad

Anybody have any hats?” shouts a designer as she hustles through skyscraping models and clothes racks. With a cloud of hairspray hovering over backstage, models touch up gloss before their next scene, and designers do close inspections to make sure their clothes are falling properly on frames before they hit the runway.

Fashion’s Conscience, a campus organization advocating the empowerment of underrepresented individuals in the fashion and retail industry, serves a fashion show every spring featuring up-and-coming local and New York-based designers. From a bow-tie accessories line to a local designer’s fierce line of dresses, Fashion’s Conscience gave fashion, style, and color. Check out these looks from the show and take note for your personal runway.

n i l u o M ge u o r With the right red in your arsenal, you’ll have a guaranteed


Photography By: Tuso Boothe Makeup By: Kimberly Parris

According to make-up artist Kimberly Parris, the perfect rouge lip isn’t necessarily about finding the perfect red, but finding the perfect blend. Believe it or not, Shereen, Helen, and Simisola are all wearing MAC Lady Bug with Sonoran Rain tinted lip glass. So what gives Shereen fire engine red, Helen a crimson, and Simisola a berry red? Lip pencil, says Parris. Simisola is wearing a Chesnut pencil, Helen is wearing none, and Shereen is wearing Cedar. -Sade Muhammad

polish Spring 2012 products created equal? Does that work for everyone’s hair?

what are the rules and regulations to hair coloring?

[Natural products are] great. But professional products that are sold directly through salons have come such a long with their technology and what

With color my biggest theory is that young women should stay within the family color. When you go too far out of your natural tones that will create more damage. Hair color goes on a level system – 1 through 10. 1, being as dark and it can be, 10 being the palest blonde. Most women of color fall between a 2 and 5. So if a woman stays within her tonal value – she might do a color that’s going to complement that. But when she gets that very, very blonde – that’s when causing a lot more damage. Subtle tones and colors and enhancements are great, but you don’t want to go across the color wheel. And sometimes colors are trendy. Someone might want to be a little punk and avant garde – but the more you go outside of the realm, the more you set yourself up for damage. You also have to take into consideration whether you have relaxed or natural hair because that affects the porosity (how easily water and other liquids can diffuse back and forth between the cuticle layer) of your hair. Most women of color have dark pigment hair with a lot of melanin in it. That means our hair is going to carry a lot of reds and warm tones. So to get us to those golden browns or light browns and blondes, it can take a toll on the hair. You want to want to make sure your hair is in healthy condition. If you want to you have that extreme color or tone, then make sure you have good products to recharge your hair with all of the proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and minerals that are lost during color service.

they offer for the hair. It’s


almost like if you hear eating raspberries helps you to lose weight. But, if you take a diet

lH air

a supplement, that’s going to give you maximum benefit. So you could take the one little pill instead of eating, say, 1000 raspberries to get that same result. The technology that’s in vitamins help to improve what’s going on.



te d


New York Fashion Week hairstylist and co-founder of Cosmo Bleu Salon in Princeton, NJ Tiffany Basma debunks hair texture myths, gives the real on professional products vs. natural, and dishes the summer’s hottest hair trends By: Sadé Muhammad Can we even talk about hair care for women of color as a group? Or is there too much diversity in our hair to have one conversation? Yes, I would have to say that. The first thing that professionals try to do is define hair by its texture and formation rather then a person’s background. The world is becoming such a cultural melting pot. [So much so that] If you were to cover someone up and just look at their hair, it would be difficult to say - that’s an African American, that’s a Latina, that’s an Italian. When [professionals] recommend styling products for hair maintenance, we try to identify hair through those categories.

Hair has divided women for so long. Women say, “You’ve

got black hair or you’re Puerto Rican so you have this kind of hair.” But when women talk about hair challenges like protecting their hair at the gym because they don’t shampoo everyday, they


realize they have [more in common with other races than they thought.]And it’s because they have similar characteristics within their hair texture and formation and that links them together. How do the stigmas associated with hair and women of color affect how companies market products to different ethnicities? How do you choose which styling products to use? My first recommendation is to go to your professional to get a proper consultation. You don’t have to be locked to a particular brand, but when you identify your hair type and formation, it becomes less overwhelming when you are shopping for products. It’s like shopping for makeup. Once you understand your undertones, when you’re picking different shadows and lipsticks, you stay in that same lane, no matter what company you go with. Once you understand what your hair truly needs to perform well, then no matter what manufacturer lane you go in, you’ll be able to take control of hair

and make great decisions. Take curly hair for example. You can have several women with curly hair – but not all curly hair is alike. So, one friend can go out and get this product that gives her shine and definition. She might give it to her friend with curly hair and her friend might not have the same result. It goes back to texture and formation of the hair. Is it fine? Is medium? It is coarse? Hair

itself can have multiple formations throughout it. Some people can

have a wave pattern on top, and totally different pattern underneath. It’s not just one formation on someone’s hair – it’s a blend. You may need a little bit more product – or a style plus a product – to give you the end result that you’re looking for. What about natural hair care products like 100% Shea butter, and olive oil straight from the kitchen? Are all of those

So we can go for the natural products like the Shea butter and olive oil. But to give you exactly what you’re looking for, you may have to go to a professional product that’s going to have what Shea butter has and then some to help you at so that you’re not overusing and going through a jar of Shea butter and a bottle of olive oil every couple of weeks. [Shea and olive oil] alone may not be enough for your hair type and texture. You may need a little help to give your hair the definition. And again it goes back to what your texture is – if you have fine natural hair you can use olive oil and your hair will look great. If you have coarser natural hair that oil may not even penetrate and sit like pellets on top of your hair. You’ll need other products that have certain humectants (products that promotes moisture retention) in it that will help your cuticle layer absorb the benefit of what you put in your hair. The only downside that I see to the trend of natural is that I see a lot of young girl’s going natural thinking its that healthiest way to maintain their hair. And that’s great – if you wear it natural. But the girl that decides to grow her relaxer out but still go to the salon every week to get her hair pressed is probably doing more damage to her hair physically by the heat that’s it’s going to take to get that smoother style than it would be to get a relaxer every 6 weeks. For the women that wear their hair natural 70% of the time and may blow it out or straighten it every once in a while – that’s awesome. With the textures and formations that you most commonly see in women of color,

What’s the secret to beautiful hair no matter the texture or formation?

1.Keeping the right

balance of protein and moisture. So many times we may

run out and get a conditioner that a friend recommended – but what do you really need? Protein or moisture? Moisture is for hair that’s dry; protein is for hair that is feeling weak because of chemical over processing. Too much protein can dry the hair out, and too much moisture can make the hair elastic where it’s going to shed quickly. So you want to have the right balance of protein and moisture. Some Latina and Asian

women were taught they had to shampoo their hair everyday. But women of color need a lot of natural oils. So shampooing might be every other day, every third, or once a week instead of every day.

2. Keeping the hair

clean. If you do apply heat, you don’t want to put heat on dirty hair. All of the protection that you get in your deep conditioners and moisturizers dissipate from the hair in 24 hours. So even if you did a great deep conditioning treatment, if you put the flat iron on your hair in the next day or two you, your hair is no longer protected.

3. Always check your

irons. Make sure they are not too hot.

Always temper it first on a towel so that the first thing that the heat touches is not your hair. The technology in blow dryers, flat irons, and curling irons is constantly evolving. So if you have the blow dryer from 5 years ago, you may want to update it. Not that what you’re using is bad, but know that technology is constantly evolving with these tools and that they’re getting better. What happens what heat appliances over time is that they may lose the consistency of the heat throughout the barrel or plate and it can cause hot spots. And that’when people can sometimes burn the hair unintentionally. And do you have any specific hair care tips for the spring and summer? Right now the trend in hair is more dressing of the hair. For such a long time, people were really into the straight styles and flat irons were very popular. Now you’re noticing more curl, more bounce, and more fullness. For the spring and summer you’re going to see that and a lot of hair accessories. If you take a look at the red carpet events, hair is getting a little more styled – it’s getting a little more dolled up. French braids are becoming very popular again. You’ll see the lead actress in The Hunger Games was wearing a French braid. This season’s hair has a little bit more style to it, and a little bit more of a polished look.

poise Spring 2012 inspirational media, but realistically, her primary audience is middle-aged white women, and I wanted to make something that young people of color could look to and feel connected to. Why did you decide to go on a 16 city tour?

Where’s the Good Girls Club? Our ‘Young Michelle’ of the season, Ariana Proehl, is committed to changing the depth of television programming with her online talk show, Know This! By Liane Membis Just when you think you’ve seen enough wig-snatching, man-stealing, bad-mouthing, and overspending to last you a lifetime, new installments of Basketball Wives, Mob Wives, and Bad Girls Club premiere simultaneously. And Ariana Proehl has had enough. Proehl is attempting to change the face of media by providing more positive programming through her online talk show, “Know This!”

current media landscape, and how she took matters into her own hands. Can you give me some background on your life growing up? Were you ever really into media as a child?

A California native, Proehl once worked in the non-profit sector as the Executive Director of DiversityWorks, a youth leadership development organization. She currently lives in New York City after completing a Masters in Public Administration at New York University and recently completed a 14 city-tour (on her own!) to promote her message about positive programming.

I grew up in Santa Rosa, a white suburb in Northern California. I was one of a few Black kids in my school and never felt like a part of the “cool crowd.” I got teased a lot for my looks and wasn’t really social in high school, so I focused a lot on my schoolwork, sports and community service. I never had any dreams of a media or journalism career, but I did love writing poetry, short stories and plays. I used to write plays for me and my friends to act in and perform for our parents. I also performed in school plays. Looking back, I really loved doing theater, which I see now lending to my work in public speaking and on my talk show.

Ariana tells HUE how her show came about, her frustrations with the

What inspired you to want to create your own positive media show?


I was tired of seeing the same old BS on television. I believe media is a powerful tool that reflects our values, and it’s a sad state of affairs to see how materialistic and degrading the majority of television shows are these days. After I’d started dabbling in video blogging at the advice of a producer-friend, I remember looking up Teen Summit, an old BET show featuring youth, music, culture and community issues. It was a smart show that was fresh. I came across an old clip where Mary J. Blige was a guest. The conversation between her and the youth was so real and so refreshing. I remember thinking, “why can’t we have conversations like this anymore?” And that’s when I decided I wasn’t just going to video blog and I wasn’t just going to write, I wanted to create a show. So Know This! was born! Also, I feel like typically “smart” media is relegated to PBS or news channels, but I want to marry a socially conscious message with mainstream media and culture. And then there’s of course Oprah, who champions

Because I’m crazy! Really, though. I graduated from grad school this Spring and had launched the show with 4 episodes. Then came the question of “what next?” I didn’t want to just get a job, and I also didn’t want to find a production

home for the show. I never created Know This! for the sake of having a TV show, so the thought of just finding a studio to shoot it in didn’t excite me. I created it to be a vehicle for a message. So I was sitting on a park bench one day, reflecting on possible next steps and what I’m most passionate about. I had just finished reading Manning Marable’s book Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention and was reflecting on how Malcolm X had a vision for the world that he would travel from place to place sharing with people. I realized that my true passion

is in speaking to and connecting with an audience. So that was it. I knew I had to go on tour, and that I ultimately created Know This! as my platform to travel the country and connect my message with the people. So, I basically identified my passion and my strengths and figured out what path would allow me to pursue those passions and exercise those strengths. Once I had the idea, I couldn’t stop smiling about it. It felt scary, but I’d also never felt more right about something. There was no question it was my next step, and I’m glad I’d done the inner work to allow that idea come to me; to be able to trust my inner voice with taking the risk. Have their been any challenges along the way? Any successes or enlightening moments along your tour? Of course! This might sound strange, but the way I’ve best described the tour process for me is that there’s the “new Ariana” that is completely aligned with my purpose and bold and that’s who decided to create this tour; and then there’s the “old Ariana” that is still scared of sharing my voice and worried about being liked and thinks everyone’s going to laugh at me, and that’s who was on the tour. So there was a constant internal struggle where I couldn’t help but just do it because I’d set the plan in motion, but many days I still had to give myself the pep talk to overcome my fears and connect with the greater mission. So that has naturally led to challenges on the PR side because I’m still hesitant to tell the world about it. I’m still hesitant about being as great as I know I can be with this. That Marianne Williamson quote “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure” is still definitely true for me. But the tour was a big leap of faith toward the greatness!

poise Spring 2012 And ultimately, the enlightening moments have out-shined the fears. On a few occasions I was able to speak to classes of college students and affirm my hypothesis that we want something more from our media. All the students I spoke to,

have been the most responsive to the show and feeding my spirit to go on with this work. I got to speak to a lot of us on the tour too, and am in awe of all the beautiful, progressive, trend-setting, creative things we are capable of, but again don’t always see projected.

I got to speak to a lot of us on the tour too, and am in awe of all the beautiful, progressive, trendsetting, creative things we are capable of, but again don’t always primarily students of color, were really energized by the show and the concept, and proved to me that if we offer it and offer a way to engage with the content, people will rise to the occasion. In general, I learned so much about our country and how many amazing innovative things are going on that we should know more about. And overall, we finished the tour--with 14 cities instead of 16 because of finances--but we did it! So that was proof that I can make my visions into reality. Have you ever had an experience where you felt challenged or strengthened because of race? Growing up, race was a challenge. I never felt discriminated against in a racist way, but I was made to feel different by my peers and like I wasn’t beautiful. I went through relaxing my hair and trying to fit into a white girl standard of beauty, etc. Today, I feel so empowered and so proud to be a Black woman. Black women, and Black people in general,


What message are you communicating through your show? I am communicating that it is sexy and cool to “Know Yourself and Know Your World,” and reminding us that we are so much more interesting, creative and diverse and amazing than the low bar Jersey Shore and Basketball Wives imagery that we’re being fed. I’m communicating that developing knowledge of self and self love is worth our time, for all the up’s and down’s and ugly cries that might be involved, because that’s what will unlock our abilities to go after our dreams. Why is Knowledge of the Self so sexy? Knowledge of Self is sexy because it’s what makes someone stand tall in who they

are and shine from the inside out. Knowledge of Self is identifying your purpose and fulfilling your calling in world. If you know who you are and what you’re meant to do on this earth, you are pursuing the highest form of yourself, and there’s nothing better, and nothing is sexier than that! What words of advice do you have for collegiate black women? Be bold and take risks. We come from a long line of strong, proud, beautiful, innovative women that used their hearts and minds, not their assets, to do phenomenal things. We’ve got women like Angela Davis, Shirley Chisholm, Sojourner Truth and Michelle Obama who’ve got our backs, so use that sisterhood as the wind on your back in propelling you toward your dreams. And in that vein, be proud of your attitude. We’re told we’re too mean, too cold, too strong, and sure there are some women that just have a stank

Ariana Interviews creator of “ The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” Issa Rae

attitude because they’re just angry, but our natural sass is something beautiful. Use it to speak out, to challenge, to encourage others, to stand up for things you believe in, and remember that that attitude comes from a long line of women who endured a lot to make a better way for those coming after them. There’s pride in it when used well.

Lastly, find a support system that will encourage your bold thinking and risk taking--be it a mentor, a student group, or a special crew of friends. I had a crew of 7 and we called ourselves the “Black Cal Girls” or “BCG’s.” It may sound corny, but I

couldn’t have made it through college without my girls. When you find those meaningful friendships and relationships, make sure to cultivate them.

I’m communicating that developing knowledge of self and self love is worth our time, for all the up’s and down’s and ugly cries that might be involved, because that’s what will unlock our abilities to go after our dreams.

Rags & Riches Emerging Fashion Designer Lisette Ffolkes measures her way to success By: Natasha Benjamin


very designer has her domain. And recent-college-graduate Lisette Ffolkes’ fashion domain is her quaint working station at Kimera Bridal Design in the Boerum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY.

fashion because she was “searching for something that would bring all her talents together.” By the time she designed and created her high school prom dress, she knew that fashion was her calling.

As assistant designer and seamstress, she helps to design, sow, and create jewelry pieces that compliment yet challenge traditional bridal wear.

Since high school, Lisette has traveled the globe for fashion inspiration, worked with some of the best in the business, and picked up some accolades along the way. Check out her fashion timeline.

As a second-generation Jamaican and Puerto-Rican American, Lisette pursued

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 Lisette matriculates into the University of Delaware as a freshman She scores first place in Annual Senior Show by creating a garment out of newspaper, plastic, and other nontraditional items

Her design style matures, colowr choices alter, and she begins to focus more on detail Her renewed focus shines through and she Red Carpet Scholarship: Fashion Design Competition and The Fashion Group of Philadelphia

She studies abroad in Hong Kong to gain inspiration for her work

That summer, She joins Tracy Reese as an intern in Technical Design

Receives the 2009 Fashion and Apparel Studies Initiative Award

In the fall, she joins Donna Karen as a buyer

She graduates from the University of Delaware with a Bachelor of Science in Fashion Design and Apparel Begins work at Kimera Bridal

Her tricks of the trade “Internships are the best things you can possibly do because they lead to connections. Those connections are imperative because of the nature of the industry. It’s also good to go on informational interviews, where you are not necessarily applying for the job but meeting with individuals and putting yourself out there. But most importantly, be confident in what you make.” To delve deeper into her craft and designs, visit Lisette’s website at http://lisetteffolkes. com/Welcome.html

Love Connection One girl’s crack at online dating

By: Ivory Shrman

“You’re crazy,”

my best friend said when I told her that I wanted to try online dating. “Why not?” I whined because I refused to face the looming amount of crazies lurking around online all by myself. Although the media reminds Black women everyday that our romantic prospects are slim, I blame Anna Faris’ film for my peaked interest in online love. In watching What’s Your Number?, where Faris’ character recalls her past love interests in hopes one would be Mr. Right, I began to think about my exboyfriends. In my stroll down memory lane, I realized that all of my exes are either in a committed relationship of more than two years, engaged, or married. So, since the dating universe likes to have a good laugh, I decided to take my love life into my hands. In my group of five girlfriends, three are in a committed relationship. That leaves me and my other girlfriend flying solo. I eventually convinced her, telling her that we would be like Sanaa Lathan in “trying something new”. Within the week, I had gotten messages from men all around the world. Some thought I was interesting to talk to while others wanted me to come spend a night with them. Out of the bunch, I had talked most with an attractive young Black man named Wallace*. Wallace was a year older and worked at a community juvenile center as a youth counselor. We exchanged phone numbers and talked non-stop for a month. I woke up every morning to a “good morning” text. We would talk every night after I was finished class. We talked about any and everything, including his dreams of opening his own juvenile center to help African-American boys. To be honest, I couldn’t believe my luck. It was refreshing to meet a Black man who simply wanted to talk without any intentions of marking a tally in his little black book.

But within a couple of weeks, Wallace started calling me “baby.” While most would think that is endearing, it raised red flags for me. After telling him that he should slow his roll, he apologized and said calling me “baby” was a slip of the tongue. We continued bonding until one night, he asked me out on a date. “I want you to come over to my house so I can cook you dinner and we can watch your favorite movie, Bamboozled.” Although Bamboozled is my favorite Spike Lee joint, something about going over to his house, especially on the first date, seemed awry. He and I have only talked to each other online and on the phone. Even though he seemed real, one can never be too safe. “What about going out for coffee?” I asked, trying to change the venue without hurting his feelings. He immediately caught an attitude, and said he was glad he did not develop deep feelings for me because he wanted a serious relationship and that did not involve Starbucks. After that phone call, I decided that Wallace and I would not work out. If a man cannot compromise, even for a place to meet and talk, then that is not a man I should be dating—especially one you meet online. Online dating was something I needed to experience and I do not regret it. It helped me learn how

“He [said he] was glad he did not develop deep feelings for me” to navigate the dating scene better. My experience with Wallace helped me reevaluate the standards I have for men. But more importantly, I realized how not ready I am to date anyone, as I need to focus on what lies ahead after graduation. Sanaa Lathan was onto something when she said to try something new.

poise Spring 2012

But as a black woman by birth, and an educated one by hard work, she is almost half as likely to be married than a white woman with the same academic credentials.

Generation Lo eless

“As a woman with my master’s degree part of me is like, Oh, I’m never getting married,” she says seriously but still with a girlish charm.

How four college-aged black women sustain hope despite the media hoopla that says we’ll end up alone, bitter, and broken in a decade’s time By: Sadé Muhammad

So we’re doomed. At least that’s what the media tells us. As a black woman who is well educated, talented, and soon-tobe successful in her career, says the media, I am probably going to end up unmarried and unhappy. And it’s likely because of my lofty relationship expectations and my affinity for the financially and morally cripple black male. It’s a theory turned cash cow that has launched the careers of relationship experts, inspired feature films, and produced bestsellers. But it’s left us black women feeling as useless as a penny with a hole in it. Television specials, books, and articles have zeroed in on the crazed black woman with her uncompromising, mile-long list of what she wants in her IBM – Ideal Black Man. The media have


manufactured a stuck-up, unrealistic, ultracompetitive, 30-something black woman who is book smart but love dumb. The media have had their say. So what say the 20-something, college educated black woman, who is told her insurmountable love odds give her good reason to be bitter? What say this young woman who is told to give up on the undereducated, incarcerated, or successful-butuninterested-in-black-women black man? What say this woman – who would ordinarily think about casual dating at her age, but is forced to think critically about who she’ll end up with in a decade or less because the media has sentenced her to “life” in

loneliness? Four women, all my friends, each with equally promising futures and unique love battles, share their side of the story. Listen up gurus, scholars, and columnists: it’s tough, but it’s not all bad.

Poison Ivy

It’s a day like any other at our local madeto-order Mexican eatery. Students bustle in and out, pots clink, and employees shout to the back for the ready ingredients. It’s a regular meet up spot for Erica and me. But today, the topic of black love is on the menu. In some ways 23-year-old Erica Doe – Ivy League graduate, and now a master’s candidate in social work – feels “ineligible” for love. But nothing about her says ineligible. She is insanely smart with beautiful dark skin and glistening white teeth. She literally can’t go on for 30 seconds without letting out a huge grin. I counted.

“The fact that I have a higher degree makes me even more ineligible. I’m like Ice Woman to these guys,” she says laughing. In her undergraduate career, there was no shortage of conversation about the shortage of black men. “It’s all we ever talked about.” Her friends weren’t satisfied with the slim pickings of the Ivy League because they thought those black men weren’t “real” enough. In their eyes, those men were unaware of their inherent “blackness” and what that meant in the white-dominated world of elite education. They wouldn’t date the men from her university’s surrounding city because besides being black, they didn’t have much in common. And even though she loves Justin*, a man who she has been seeing on and off since they first met as preteens, she doesn’t see herself marrying him. They may have a lot in common, but they are not compatible, she says. “And marriage isn’t just about love. It’s about compatibility, passion, and friendship.”

discourage her. “I’d like to be married,” she says to me. “Of course I want a lifelong companion. But it’s also very possible to be happily single. I’m single now and I’m happy. I’m learning to love myself and everything there is about me.” Our society programs us to believe that if you don’t have a child or start a family of your own, you’re worthless, she says. Single women are led to believe they are inadequate. “But I don’t buy into that. My mother is 56 and has never been married. And she is perfectly fine.”

same neighborhood, four years of Natasha’s schooling has catapulted her into a new world with new goals. She didn’t have a serious relationship in college. Now she is scanning the field in the Big Apple. “I’m still young. I’m only 22.” Although her parents are married, there has been no pressure from them to find love. “I never get the ‘when are you going to get married’ questions at family events. Any pressure that I have is pressure that I put on myself.”

“It’s almost as if the media is saying if you want to find love, you have to be unsuccessful,” says Erica.

Natasha has many aunts who are over thirty and unmarried. Some have children. Some do not.

“But is love putting food on my table? What would I tell my daughter – Mommy settled and didn’t do what she wanted because she wanted to find love? No. Mommy worked hard so she could provide for you.”

“But I don’t want that for myself. In ten years I see myself established internationally in my career and married with children.”

Erica isn’t the only one who fears her academic success may turn a guy she’s interested in ice cold.

No Strings Attached Natasha Benjamin, 22-year-old college graduate and new admitee to a prestigious graduate school, confesses she’s held her tongue on her accomplishments while dating because her love interests didn’t measure up.

One day she told Justin he needed to make plans to one day marry her or leave her alone. He paused for a long while, turned to her and said: How about a domestic partnership?

“The guy I’m dating doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree. He’s working towards it now, but he chose a different path.” She’s comfortable with him, she says, but also hesitant to share her success.

It’s statements like those that

Even though they come from the

She is one who doesn’t buy into the media hype. “I, Natasha Benjamin, take the bold stance in saying media you are wrong,” she says with her usual audaciousness and charisma. “The fact that I may be a successful black woman does not equate to me being lonely. I have watched many women before me become successful and build a family. It’s time for the media to start portraying this more.” But why is she so confident that she’ll find the one in today’s world? “My confidence in finding the one comes from me loving God and myself wholeheartedly first,” she says. “When you do that everything aligns itself. My life journey and fulfilling my purpose comes first, so I’m not

poise Spring 2012 boggled down by the fear of being alone.” Her sister, seven years her senior, and with a similar philosophy, is scheduled to be wed next summer.

A Mrs. Degree While some women came to college without relationships on their mind, others expected that they’d be in one. “I came to college open and looking for someone,” says 21-year-old senior Ashlee Barrett. Although she’s learned a lot about herself through her failed and successful college relationships, she says it also undermined other college experiences that are just as important. “If I weren’t in relationships throughout college I think my experience would be much more peaceful. You are spending time worrying about how you look and what the other person thinks of you. There’s less time to focus on schoolwork, friends, and activities.” Still, Ashlee is a big believer in relationships, love, and marriage. “The value of marriage is gone. A lot of people don’t know how to commit. So we are all trying to figure out what it means to be monogamous and in a committed relationship again,” she says. “I’ve heard men say that ‘man was not created to be with just one woman.’ We have to understand our own values first.” Her aunt made a joke at the Thanksgiving dinner table about


black men. She told Ashlee that she should marry a white man (as two of her three daughters had) because they were not “lazy like black men.”

And oftentimes because of this lack of foundation, black men are lost, Ashlee says. “They don’t have any idea of their strength.”

“The statistics bother me. But it doesn’t affect my view on

“And if they do, they are labeled too aggressive. So it creates this ‘us and them’ complex. If they feel like we’re overpowering them, they won’t want to be with us,” she says. “We need to learn how to respect each other’s strengths and not bring each other down.”

black men. We all make mistakes. We can’t eliminate the men that may be good for us because they’ve made some bad choices along the way.” But isn’t that “settling”? The grass isn’t always whiter on the other side, Ashlee explains. Speaking of her cousins’ experience in their marriages to white men, she knows the struggles are different, but still just as challenging. “There’s a lot they put up with, there’s a lot of jokes white men make to us while their dating us. We settle because we’re trying to keep our options open. So you can be settling when you date other races as well.” The biggest issues, according to Ashlee, are the broken black family and the emasculation of the black man. “I’m taking this class on marriage in society this semester. The family is the center of society. It’s where you get your beliefs and learn important truths. So if you don’t have both parents teaching you things, whether they both live with you or not, you’re at a disadvantage.” Ashlee, the daughter of a pastor, was taught about the importance of spirituality and to not compromise her beliefs for anyone. “I’ve been through some tough breakups. I wouldn’t be able to get through them if it weren’t for my foundation.”

Ashlee maintains her positive outlook on love. “I’m optimistic. I believe in true love. And my Mr. Right.” “I’m making A Betting Woman ground beef and pasta. Do you want some?” Karah asks sweetly as she crouches down to remove the pots from her cabinets. She’s entirely happy to talk, but after her day, she needs to refuel. Karah is recently single after a tough breakup. She’s getting on without him, especially with three close sisters and a very traditional father who doesn’t approve of any of his daughters seriously dating anyway. I ask her if she thinks she’s ever met her ideal guy. “No,” she says, laughing as she washes her hands to prepare her meal. Her natural curls, held loosely together by a jumbo clip, bounce whimsically back and forth. It’s senior year, so she doesn’t think there’s a chance she’ll find anyone again before she graduates. Even though this isn’t the first or second time she’s been hurt by a guy she really liked, she’s still optimistic. “I’ve been here for four years. It can only get better. It better,” she says.

So far she’s dated more white guys than black. Part of it is because it’s what she’s used to. She grew up in a largely white suburb in Long Island. Part of it is because she wants to increase her chances of finding the one. If a guy is smart, talented, treats me really well, and happens to be white, I don’t see anything wrong with that, Karah insists. The water on the stove starts to get upset as the penne pasta readies. Where does she envision herself in 10 years? One: at the top of her career. Two: with her own place. Three: with a significant other. “I don’t expect to be married by then, but I expect someone of interest…someone of significant interest,” she says matter-offactly. “Not just a fling.” “This isn’t the age our parents lived in when everybody got married at such a young age. I feel like at 30, hardly anyone’s married. And with the divorce rate going up I wouldn’t rush into anything.” Karah’s parents, both of whom emigrated from Haiti, raised her to focus on being a respectful and caring woman first, a hard worker in school second, and everything else third. She never came to college with the intention of finding the guy she would marry. “I feel bad for anyone who did. I was taught relationships will come later,” she says. ** Names have been changed.

The Cold, Hard Facts (and some chastising from the naysayers)

1 2

T here are 1.8 million more black women than black men. – ABC News

Nearly twice as many black women as black men graduate from college each year. – Is Marriage for White People?


I n April 2011, the black male unemployment rate hit the highest rate since the government began tracking it in 1972. Only 56.9 percent of black men over 20 were working, compared with 68.1 percent of white men. – U.S. Department of Labor


“ In 2009, for every dollar of wealth the average white household had, black households only had two cents.” – Adds Algernon Austin, director of Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy


Forty-two percent of U.S. black women have never been married; double the number of white women who’ve never done so. – ABC News


The black divorcee rate has increased nearly five-fold over the last thirty years, and is double the rate of the general population. – The Decline in Marriage Among African Americans


Black women are less than half as likely as black men, and only a third as likely as Latinos or Asian Americans, to marry outside of their race. – Is Marriage for White People?


I n 2008, for every 100,000 persons, 3,161 black males were imprisoned, compared to 487 of white males. – Bureau of Justice Statistics


“You are not Michelle Obama, and you will probably

not end up with Barack ... or Denzel. If you want to find the right one, lose the high ideal and get your priorities in order.” – Jimi Izrael, author of The Denzel Principle


“Stereotypes of black women as angry or bitter are pervasive. They are also more accurate than many people would like to acknowledge: many black women have perfectly good reasons to be angry or bitter.” – Ralph Richard Banks, New York Daily News staff writer


atural Attraction Five phenoms unafraid to rock their Natural Locks Photo: Tuso Boothe

Model: Amanda Williams

clout Spring 2012

And even though she doesn’t practice medicine, her years of training were not in vain. Her work developing doctor-patient relationships during her residency has helped her in relating to her current clients and staff.

Playing With the Big Boys

If she had to do it all over again, she assures, her decision would be nearly “on par.” “I’m really happy with what I do.”

Dr. Karen Eng switches career paths but stays in the driver’s seat of her success

The Giver A large part of this contentment comes from seeing people like her succeed.

By: Sadé Muhammad

Say Kraft Foods wants to design a new production line for Capri Sun. They’ve been given specifications on the details like the pouch size and the juice-to-water ratio. It is the job of Dr. Karen Eng, president and 100% owner of Chicago-based Cybernet System Management, Inc. (CSMI), and her nearly all-women-of-color team, to design and engineer that product line from start to finish. CSMI buys all the equipment to integrate the line – the tanks, valves, conveyors, and even bar code machine. They ensure the product is FDA and USDA compliant, and then construct the line so that by the time the team is done, the product is ready for shipment. It’s a calculated, refined system that’s garnered the company return clients in multinational corporations like PepsiCo, General Mills, and Wrigley.

Change of Course But Dr. Eng wasn’t always the “brains” behind the CSMI operation. In fact, you’d be more likely to see her in a doctor’s office. She earned a B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of California, San Diego and her doctorate from the New England College of Optometry. She completed her residency at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute. Her father founded CSMI in 1983. After her schooling she moved back to Chicago and started working at the firm to help her dad out. But she hunched that from an entrepreneurial standpoint, this would be a good business to enter.


“In five years, I want to take over this business as president,” she told her father one day. And indeed she did. She entered the firm as an office administrative assistant and served as office manager and Vice President of Operations before becoming president of the company in 2000. So how does a doctor by training take the wheel of an engineering firm and drive-up business? By studying the trade meticulously and having a stellar team, Karen insists. “I’m not an engineer, but I have great engineers that work with me,” she says of her women and majorityminority employees. “Our group is awesome. They are technically savvy and work well with clients.” “I want it to be that we are a great engineering firm first. And then, it’s kind of cool that we are Asian-Americanand-women owned, you know?” In a space with largely white-owned firms, her company is a standout in both service and staff make-up, she says. But how does she navigate through this space of engineers with traditional training – as an Asian American executive? Her doctorate doesn’t hurt. Everyone is partial to engineers in this industry, Karen explains. She feared she might not get respect because she didn’t have an engineering background. But that feeling was soon subdued by her doctorate. Her staff calls her Dr. Eng, so there is an inherent level of respect.

“I really want to help other Asian American firms do well, especially women. I have a passion for Asian American women business owners and making sure that they’re okay,” she says. She advises a handful of woman-owned small businesses and has a passion for philanthropy. “The non-profit boards I sit on are a reflection of me.” She is a board member for the YWCA, the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA), Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council (CMSDC), and co-chairs the Advocacy committee for the Girl Scout’s STEM program for young women in science. I evolve even more through this work, she says. But her work for some of her not-for-profit boards gives her a deeper perspective into some of the issues that Asian American women as a whole face in the workplace. “In Asian culture you’re not really supposed to speak up. You’re supposed to do very good work, and [the idea is] you’ll then be rewarded by doing very good work. But a lot of things that happen in business are by asking. ‘How does a procurement process work for my services?’ Or, ‘Can I bid on this project?’” “[As a whole we] kind of just work diligently and don’t exude the confidence that we are accomplished in what we’re doing.” There’s not a lot of Asian American women in the C-suite, she says. “I really think we are qualified. We just need to make sure that we can play in that space.”

“You don’t have to be the loudest in the room. But instead of keeping quiet, make sure you’re very confident in what you’re doing. And do it well.” She also thinks that as a culture, Asian Americans must work on the art of networking and collaboration. She says a lot of Asian American organizations dilute fundraising capabilities by focusing on their own businesses and overlooking synergy in vision with companies like theirs.

Words for her daughter Ultimately Karen wants CSMI on top. “I don’t want to be a small business. I want to play with the big boys. So that when you think of an engineering firm, you think CSMI. ” Even though Dr. Eng takes her work very seriously, she’s not all business. In her spare time she motorcycles, plays golf, and even has her own small wine boutique. Her most important role, though, is as a mother to her sevenyear-old daughter. “We’re not allowed to say the word can’t in our household. But she is allowed to dream very big. One day she wants to be a professional golfer, the next she wants to be an optometrist, the next day president of CSMI. We’re like all right! Do `em all!” she says laughing. In all seriousness, one of the important things Karen does is ensure her daughter makes her voice heard. “You don’t have to be the loudest in the room. But instead of keeping quiet, make sure you’re very confident in what you’re doing. And do it well.”

Rachel Roy-al

Rachel Roy Ready to Wear 2012 (top) Amare + Rachel (bottom)

How American fashion designer Rachel Roy turned passion into profit (and how you can, too!)


ike me, you probably have a few aspiring entrepreneurs in your circle. Some friends with side hustles that capitalize on highly-demanded skills like web design, and others grinding out a lifelong passion in fields like culinary arts, fashion, and music in hopes of making their destinies manifest. In fact, you’re probably an aspiring entrepreneur yourself. But what will it take to live out these dreams? What will it take to establish yourself as a budding, important voice in your field of choice? And to (don’t forget) profit from it? For fashion designer Rachel Roy, it meant getting her start at an already-established but still young company, Rocawear. It meant rising in the ranks, shaking up the company creative culture, and making her mark as an innovator in the company. In 2005 the California-native, born to an Dutch mother and Indian father, launched her own line, ‘Rachel Roy’. And it didn’t take long for the big names to take notice. The First Lady, known for fashion poignancy, has worn Rachel Roy at major political events. Iman, Kate


Hudson, and Penelope Cruz have also dazzled in her gowns. To this day, she’s in the driver’s seat of her own brand. She uses her twitter account (@Rachel_ Roy), which doubles seamlessly as personal and professional, to tweet pictures of stars out and about wearing her clothing. She always includes a link of where to buy the look on her site in the same tweet. Her personal interest and fervor in translating looks from couture to your closet builds upon the brand that she has already created: an everyday American woman who LOVES clothes and just so happens to be stellar at designing them. She hasn’t lost that edgy, but still personal touch. She even collaborated with iconic basketball star Amar’e Stoudemire to create a limited edition collection of designer casual wear (Amar’e + Rachel) for all of us all-woman, allbasketball stans. With this project she leveraged her prior experience with a streetwear brand to create an innovative line of sexy, fun courstide must-haves that make any girl standout.

The takeaway and action plan: So what do we all, as aspiring entrepreneurs, have to learn from Rachel Roy? 1. Be on the front lines of building and sustaining your brand 2. Think of tangential fields where you can reach new and excite old markets (like Rachel did with Amar’e +Rachel) 3. Practice passion. If you love it (whatever ‘it’ is), then know everything there is to know about it, and practice it everyday.

essays Spring 2012

My First Time in Lagos, Nigeria By: Tolu Okeowo



uring my freshman year of college, my parents told me that the family would be traveling to Nigeria. It wasn’t a big deal for the rest of my family, but it was a huge deal for me. It would be my first time going back to my parents’ country since I was about 1-year-old. Since I didn’t have memory of it, I considered this to be my first trip back home. My parents however, travel back at least once a year. But I was anxious, nervous, and very intimidated. I was very naïve when it came to the country my parents called their only home for most of their lives. All I knew were stories from my parents and their friends about their childhood. They wanted more for themselves and knew that coming to the US would be their golden ticket. They were sure they wanted their family to live a life with more opportunities. The trip crept up. At the time, my parents had just finished building a flat within a complex that we could stay whenever we visited. We arrived and my father called our driver to come and pick us up – he would also serve as our driver throughout our trip. “A driver?” I thought silently. However, I learned that having a driver was more for safety reasons than anything else. It was too dangerous to drive alone, especially at night. My parents smiled as we headed to our flat. My father, the very enthused tour guide, began telling his childhood tales. As we traveled, I absorbed the heat and paid attention to the look of the country. It was so open and vibrant. I giggled as we passed a Billboard for Coca-Cola with a Black Santa; that was definitely a first. Once settling in, one of the first things I noticed was the relationship between my parents and our driver, Mr. Tayie. My mother bought him gifts for him and his family. He stayed with us and would cook, help wash clothes, and fix things around the house. I was very confused when I saw his living quarters. I assumed that for someone who was helping us so much, he would at least have his own bedroom. He was however given a small room close to the pantry and a small mat to sleep on. This was my first glimpse into how Nigeria drew a line between the social classes. I would learn that the wealthy Nigerians stayed very close together and broadcasted their wealth. Meanwhile, those on the other side of the spectrum were to live together in villages and were often seen begging for money on the streets. Begging was very common throughout our area of Lekki. Countless beggars would knock on your car windows for money or food. A lot were young boys and girls who were missing limbs and used boards of wood with wheels to navigate through traffic. My parents told me to not make eye contact because it would show interest. It was all very scary to me – but comforting when my parents would roll the window down to give them money. Our first stop was Lekki’s first supermarket/mini-mall

“Shoprite.” My father mentioned Nigeria was becoming more westernized, and was trying to gain more modern services. The mini-mall had everything from electronic and clothing stores to pharmacies, restaurants, and a movie theater. During one of my nights I went to a lounge/club and en route, a gunman stopped us to check our vehicles. Everyone else in the car reactions revealed this practice was a norm and actually an annoyance more than something to fear. They had no real reason to search our cars, but did it as a form of harassment, I would learn. That wouldn’t be the last time I was shaken up. “Nepa took light,” my parents joked. The electricity had gone out. Come to find out, the lights and electricity could not last an entire day. So for a period of time, you were sitting in the dark. Sometimes it’d be for 15 seconds; and sometimes for 3 hours. It all depends on whether or not a home was connected to a generator, or where the home was located. I found that wealthier families were able to keep their electricity on due to back up generators. I learned a lot about my culture and myself during my stay in Nigeria. I was able to see what my parents have been talking about for so many years – first hand. It transformed the way I stressed about certain things. It taught me that while I my stress because my iPhone battery didn’t last all day, there are people who would never hold a cell phone in their lives. I could have been one of those people. Things that many take for granted, like having food on the table, or a personal car, could not even be an option for a lot of Nigerians. I truly grew up and was able to put a lot into perspective and realize what’s worth my attention.


essays Spring 2012

Global Citizenship?:

A French born, Viatanamese young woman living in America

By: Thao Nyugen

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igration has counted as a strong foundation of my family history, and thus, on the formation of my roots. In twenty-one years, I have personally migrated once; however, my family, including my mother, have uprooted their lives at least four times going to and from four different nations for personal and professional reasons. Yes, I am a direct product of globalization: a young woman with dual American-French nationality of Vietnamese origins. I was born in Southern France and lived as a secondgeneration immigrant who did not feel “French” due to my cultural and ethnic differences. Instead of being known for whom I was, the majority of my small French community identified me as the “Chinese girl”, chiefly because my parents did not speak French very well. This I absolutely hated because people only considered me Chinese even though French was my first language and am French born. Eventually, my parents separated and I immigrated to the United States with my mother. But then, I was no longer viewed as the Chinese girl but as the French girl. During my first year at college, my differences once again became a prevalent part of my self-image, due both to my French/Vietnamese identities and to the fact that a large majority of my classmates came from a more privileged socio-economic background. To gain a better understanding of the meaning of having dual citizenship and identifying myself with three different continents as a result of my ethnicity/citizenships, I decided to study international relations. The question of nationalism, immigration policies, and ethnic/racial identity was intriguing to me since I explored on a daily basis. As a result, it became imperative for me spend a year abroad in France at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques of Strasbourg. Not only did I want to have the opportunity to study French politics and its relationship


with the European Union but I wanted equally to explore the meaning of what it meant to be a French citizen from a French perspective. Interestingly, I was no longer viewed as Vietnamese or French, but mainly as an American. This past summer, I took a spontaneous two-month trip to Brazil and taught English and French to earn some money and travel. I learned that my diversity of roots is acceptable, and that no perfectly conformed identity truly exists. Even though I have no cultural or historical ties to Latin America, I became completely integrated in its culture and society. In addition to falling in love with Brazilian culture and understanding that an “identity” is not square, I also experienced the rewards of being a teacher upon seeing that my students had acquired additional foreign language skills by the time I left Brazil. This was the first time in my life that I traveled to a part of the world where I did not have roots—one I could not call my own. Yet, interestingly, I felt like I belonged to this part of the world, just as I felt like I have belonged to my other three continents for many years, even if never entirely. This is the 21st century, the first time in our human history where more individuals like me are now identifying themselves as global citizens, rather than solely as citizens of their legally stated entity. Citizenship from a nationalistic standpoint will always be important to me. Political borders do exist and it is always the states that govern international relations even if citizens around the world are increasingly becoming cosmopolitan. While I am a “winner” of globalization, I am equally aware of the fact that it produces losers as well. It is therefore my sense of social responsibility to give back to the international community, whether it is through my work in politics, international education, or in corporations.

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