Page 1


Reiya & Riele Downs Issue 9


Music Growth Playlist 10 Sophie Truax 11 Austin Crute 14

Fashion Back to school fashion trends 18 Alexandra Chang 20 Back to school editorial 26 Lola Faleti 34 #NYFW 36 Shock and Awww 40


Culture Aly Kula 46 #NyotaEats 54 Ron Dadon 56 Claire Coder 58

Reiya & Riele Downs 62 Matt Ludak- Charlottesville, VA 68 Words of wisdom: Tina Wells 70

THE TEAM Editor in Chief Carol Wright is a Sophomore studying Journalism and Business Entertainment at American University. She realized at the age of eleven that photography was her passion and it was photography that ultimately led her to create Nyota Magazine. Carol is also passionate about public speaking and was given the chance to give a Ted Talk at

the age of seventeen where she talked about the lessons she learned from creating Nyota. Carol loves to create and hopes that wherever life takes her in the future, photography will be at the center.

Creative Director Niara Wright is a motivational speaker, fashion stylist, fashion designer and all around creative. She has directed and styled two fashion shows at the Cherry Hill Mall and one in Philadelphia Fashion Week and has styled fashion editorials for the Courier Post and SJ Magazine. Niara also taught entrepreneurship and served as a counselor for Independent Means at Oxford University, England.

Niara is the CEO and President of TWL(The Wright Look)Personal Image Firm, owns The House of Flair Lifestyle Boutique and helped her sister, Carol create Nyota magazine. Niara has a Fashion Industry Certificate from the Teen Vogue x Parsons program and is continuing her education at Rowan at Burlington County where she is getting her associates in fashion design.


Art Director Haley Bowcutt is a senior at American University studying Film and Media Arts, Graphic Design, Marketing, and Business and Entertainment. In addition to being Art Director for Nyota, Haley leads graphic design efforts as the Vice President of Marketing of the American University American Marketing Association. Haley had the opportunity

to design print, digital, and motion graphics for Fortune 500 companies through an internship with CLS Strategies this summer. She is currently working towards her career goals as the creative director of an ad agency by holding an internship with local creative ad agency SmithGifford this semester.

Lead Graphic Designer Nicole Cox is currently a Sophomore, majoring in Graphic Design at American University. Starting at a young age, Nicole has always enjoyed creating art, whether it was writing stories or painting with watercolors, she always found a way to create, but she never expected the computer to be used as another medium for her creativity. Thanks to the help from her college professor,

Kate Resnick, she was able to explore her interest in Graphic design and hopes to one day pursue a career in the field and become a User Interface Designer.

CONTRIBUTORS Matthew Ludak- Photographer Nomi Inanc- Blogger Alexandra Morrow- Blogger Maia Hatchett- Stylist Neah Gray- Model Mae Zhang McCauley- Model Katie Wong- Model

FEATURES Sophie Truax Alexandra Chang Lola Faleti Aly Kula Austin Crute Claire Buitendorp Shawn Buitendorp Ron Dadon Claire Coder Reiya Downs Riele Downs Tina Wells Martrice Sutton


& EDITORS LETTER It’s hard to believe that an idea I had two years ago while sitting in my bedroom would turn into what it has today. I have gained many new experiences, met people I’d never imagine I could be in the same room as, and found a way to follow my many passions in one central place. What’s even more exciting is the direction Nyota is headed. Our September issue has officially been deemed our Girl Boss issue, and as you read through each section you’ll see various women telling stories of how they’ve managed to start their own business, broken barriers in their industries or followed their passions despite what doubts they may have had. You’ll also see interviews with past features that are doing big things in their careers and a poignant article on the Charlottesville terrorist attack. As Nyota turns two years old I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to its success. I’d also like to thank our team of phenomenal women who continue to make each issue better than the last. Carol Wright


Lorde / Perfect Places Phoenix / Role Model SZA / 20 Something

Feist / Undiscovered First

Fleetwood Mac / Landslide

Tame Impala / New Person, Same Old Mistakes Kendrick Lamar/ PRIDE

Frank Ocean / Pink + White



ophie ruax

interview by Carol Wright photos by Karina Suwal and Ayush Varadhan

When did your interest in music begin? I’ve been interested in music for about as long as I can remember. When I was younger I liked a weird collection of music that included the soundtrack to the Annie musical and lots of old pink albums. None of my family (for the past couple of generations at least) had really played any instruments so while I didn’t have that exposure initially I definitely was introduced to a large variety of music from a young age. What made you decide to start a Youtube channel for your music? I had wanted to start a Youtube channel all throughout middle school but my parents were worried about who would be watching and weren’t comfortable with me putting my face on the internet for other people to potentially use. But as I got more into music and I started to talk to more managers and industry professionals it became clear that it was time to start putting my work out on multiple social media platforms.

Do you hope to release an EP or album in the future? I would absolutely love to put out an ep or album in the future. I enjoy writing and co-writing so much and I would be thrilled and proud to have my work out and published. Who are some of your music influences? My music influences vary a lot. I’ve gone through a lot of phases and with each phase comes new music, so I’ve listened to and genuinely enjoyed everything from old Patsy Cline to Death Metal to Mozart. I really admire artists like Frank Ocean, Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, and Bea Miller because they tell such fluid and beautiful stories of their personal experiences. Do you write all of your original songs? I do write all of my original songs. there are a couple of songs that I have co-written and recorded with people that I haven’t put out yet but everything else I write on my own.

You’re also interested in acting. Could you ever see yourself doing a musical one day? I would absolutely love to be in a musical! I don’t know if I have the vocal range for it but I’ve grown up loving musical theater. I think that the best music communicates a message or story so I have always been drawn to theater as it tells stories in a very clear and forward fashion. What’s your favorite album at the moment? My favorite album at the moment is probably DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar which I actually just saw in concert. Not only is it a beautifully executed body of work but the story that he tells is so authentic. As a white woman in the current political climate we live in, I believe it is really important to not only take a stance on issues but do that in a way where the voices of people of color are not overshadowed or silenced. And I try to do that in small ways like sharing albums similar to DAMN. and spreading artists messages without trying to communicate


#NYOTAmusic them through my own words, as I haven’t experienced what is being talked about. We hear a lot of hollow, “happy” songs on the radio these days that are used almost as a distraction from current issues. I have endless respect for artists like Kendrick who create art that challenges that blanket of diversion and

who speak up about the things that matter. Where can our readers find your music? Currently my music is up on both Soundcloud and Youtube, both under Sophie Truax.



ustin rute

You got the chance to be on the show ‘Atlanta.’ What was that experience like and how did the opportunity come about? It was absolutely incredible. I wish I had some crazy story as to how I got the role, but I simply auditioned and I got it! Hiro Murai and Donald Glover are an incredible team together, and they make the process so fun! Brian [Tyree Henry] and I had so much fun too, I love his energy. I met some crazy talented people and made some great friends on set that week. Brandon Shaw, my stunt double on the episode, is so skilled and talented, he’s doing great things. Jaleel White and I still roast each other from time to time, he has no chill and is mad funny. It was the first time I got my own trailer too and that was really cool. You now have a full album out and an EP. Can we expect live shows from you in the future? Yes, you can! We’re booking and locking in cities now so keep your eyes peeled on austincrute. com My DJ, DJ London, and I always come correct, it’s so fun performing with him.

where are they now? interview by Carol Wright photo by Tyler Mraz

What was the songwriting process behind Ungodly? I started making the beat in the Rotterdam Airport, waiting to board my flight. I wanted to make something sexy, a little mysterious, and something I could just tell a story on that wasn’t doing all that much- at least not to begin with. Then, when I got back to Berlin, I went to the music room in the NYU Berlin dorm, took my iPhone earbuds and sang ideas into the earbud microphone. That’s usually how I write songs: recording solid ideas into the session as if they are my final thoughts rather than writing them down. No pen, no pad, and, as of late, not even a phone- just me, the beat and a microphone are all I need, and as the song comes to me, I lay it down. And that’s how Ungodly was made. Did studying abroad in Berlin introduce you to new music or affect your style of music? It definitely introduced deep house music to me in the context of normalcy. I’m not naturally drawn to deep house or trance music, but when it’s the only music playing in the majority of clubs,

you learn to get used to it and slowly start to enjoy it more and more. But I don’t think it affected my style of music as much as my subject matter. Berlin allowed me to explore myself, experience new things, see things I would never see in America (or anywhere else for that matter). I would say I have evolved greatly from experiencing Europe and my new music, visuals, and all will reflect who I am now. I finally feel like I’ve arrived. I finally know who I am, and I’m ready to communicate that in my own weird little way to everyone who follows me. As your career progresses, do you think you’ll focus on singing or acting more? I’m actually focusing on songwriting for A&R’s more than I am focusing on my own artistry at the moment. But I wouldn’t say I focus “more” or “less” on one aspect of my talent as much as shifting the same laser focus to whatever needs to be focused on in the moment. For example, I’ll be making an appearance on Orange is The New Black this upcoming season, but I’m also getting in sessions with some of the most

#NYOTAmusic respected writers and producers in the industry. I’m constantly auditioning, consistently bettering myself, and I’m not rushing anything. I love, love, love the trajectory that I’m on and who I am becoming. When I arrive at where I truly need to be, the content will be ridiculous! What advice do you have for aspiring singers? Sing healthily at any cost! The more healthy you sing, the more effortless singing becomes and it literally just floats out of your mouth, it’s amazing. Singing is a mental game. It takes a lot of work to make a riff sound hot and swagged out and nice and effortless, while also being healthy and making sure you aren’t hurting yourself to get a certain sound that you want. In the studio, singing is one thing, but live, any habits you’ve already established will take over. Yeah sure, maybe you’re hitting the notes, but you gon’ be hittin’ the laryngologist office if you keep messing around. I’m so blessed to have had such great coaches in my life such as Raab Stevenson and Kenn Hicks. Choose your coaches wisely! And have confidence. If you’re going to hit the note, hit it. If not, don’t. But confidence is the only option. Make a bold decision, then boldly follow through. And eventually, you can transcend genres and vocally embody whatever vibe you want. Yeah, that’s my advice: Stay healthy, choose great coaches, and have confidence. How has your time at NYU affected your career? The most valuable thing NYU has given me is exposure. Without that, I’d have no career. I grew

up in a bubble in Atlanta, and if I didn’t come up here and experience the wonder that is, not only NYU but NYC, I don’t even know who or where I’d be. There are so many great resources at NYU. You meet so many likeminded people who are- the bomb, and together you can do so many great things. I’ve completed three years at NYU. This is the final frontier for me as a Senior, and I still don’t think I’ve utilized all the resources and networks I have at my disposal here. NYU was and still is the best place for me to grow

and shape myself, and I’ll forever be grateful for the environment here. Where can our readers find your music? You can find my music on Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, Soundcloudreally any major streaming service will hold my catalog! I cannot wait for people to hear all the songs I have in the vault. In due time. And follow me on Instagram and Twitter! @austincrute. Snap me @ acrute. Tweet me, slide in my DMs, say “hey.” I’ll be around.



Back to School Fashion Trends Nomi Inanc of the blog Modern Vanity gives us outfit ideas for Back to school.

#NYOTAfashion 19

Instagram: @mdrnvanity

#NYOTAfashion 21

A Did you always have a dream of starting a clothing line? Growing up in San Francisco and Los Angeles, I have always been surrounded by copious amounts of creativity, particularly in the arts. I appreciate creativity in all forms, and although I knew it would be a long process, I always thought it would be fun to be a designer. However, I also knew from the beginning that I wanted to incorporate writing into my company, so the blog portion actually came first. One day, after doing market research, creating a business plan, and talking with a bunch of manufacturers, I decided to finally exert my own creativity and start my line. With the fashion industry being so cut-throat, what motivates you to continue your line? My clothing line reflects my personality-- humorous, happy, and fun. I love working on The Zeitgeist more than anything else, and I’m very passionate about my business and customers. That’s what truly motivates me, along with my desire

lexandra hang


interview by Carol and Niara Wright photos courtesy of Felicia Lasala and Little Drill

to have a creative outlet and fill gaps in the market with products that people will love. What is the goal of your clothing line? To make people smile! That’s always been my number one hope for The Zeitgeist. I want my products to spread happiness, joy, and of course, a sense of humor. I also aspire to create a new brand with a Southern California vibe that’s both casual and sophisticated. What’s your creative process for the sayings/ quotes you put on your t-shirts? I’m constantly thinking of new ideas. My brain goes so fast, I probably come up with a hundred ideas a minute. Out of those ideas, however, maybe one or two are actually plausible! I also always listen to what people are talking about around me, whether it’s related to pop culture, current events, or anything in between. Since I have a wacky sense of humor, coming up with funny

slogans is one of my favorite things to do. Rather than dedicate, say, two hours a day, where I sit down and think to myself, “Okay, what are some new ideas for the next collection?” I am always coming up with original thoughts on the go. Having a loose creative process works well for me, and it helps me get things done in a way that is fun and not stressful. What has been the most rewarding aspect of creating The Zeitgeist? By far the most rewarding part of starting The Zeitgeist has been receiving letters from my readers and followers on social media. A girl from Iowa emailed me a few weeks ago saying The Zeitgeist inspired her to start writing more, and it made me so happy! I hope The Zeitgeist can be a small source of inspiration for young people to take a chance on something they’re passionate about. Also, I am incredibly grateful that I can give back to causes I care deeply about through my merchandise. I’ve designed products with


proceeds going toward Planned Parenthood, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, The Humane Society, and many other organizations. Aside from designing, you have a blog where you conduct interviews and share about your own life. What inspired your blog? Yes! I have a blog with the same name as my clothing line -- The Zeitgeist. I was a nationally-ranked tennis player for many years, and when I got injured, I was forced to lay around for several months. During that time, I had the opportunity to explore some of my other interests and began following different blogs. While doing so, I realized that a true teen lifestyle website did not exist. At the time, there were thousands of teen fashion blogs, but they didn’t offer unique content beyond outfit posts. The blog portion of The Zeitgeist encompasses everything from interviews to current events to style. So many wonderful opportunities have arisen because of The Zeitgeist blog, and I have been able to interview some of my biggest inspirations, such as filmmaker Zoe Lister-Jones and style icon Iris Apfel. What is it like interning with TSC (The Safran Company) and working on movie sets? Working for TSC is by far the best experience I have ever had! Last summer, I interned on the set of the upcoming horror film Annabelle: Creation, and I recently got back from Australia, where I was a production assistant on the upcoming DC movie, Aquaman. The comic books were amazing, and it was an incredible experience seeing the story come to life from behind the scenes. I felt so inspired

after working on both sets, that I’ve made some short films of my own. It was life-changing being in a working environment where everyone is the best at what they do, whether they’re a producer, an editor, an actor, etc. They bring out the best in one another, and they all respect the creative process. Working for The Safran Company has truly confirmed my future! I’m going to study film, media, theater, and writing, and become the best filmmaker I can be! What are some tips you have for balancing everyday responsibilities such as school, and your company? Balance is tricky, and I certainly haven’t perfected it, but I have learned how to prioritize well. However, when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I always go back to my core belief that if you love something enough, then you’re willing to work harder than anyone else and make certain sacrifices in order to get to where you want to be. The Zeitgeist is my passion and what I love doing the most, and I’m willing to make the sacrifices that come with running a business while in school full-time. What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs? It’s important to take your ideas, passions, and dreams seriously, but never take yourself too seriously. After doing all the proper research, give it a go! Stop talking about your idea, and as Nike would say, just do it. Also, it is always important to be a champion of others and support other entrepreneurs, because all of us know how hard it is to get a business off the ground! Do you plan to expand beyond

t-shirts? Yes! I just finished designing a bunch of new products. I’m going to release Zeitgeist enamel pins, stickers, iPhone cases, and notebooks this fall, all of which I’m super excited about. Will you be doing any collaborations in the future? Right now, I’m collaborating again with the amazing charity Children’s Action Network on some holiday designs, which will be released this winter. I also just made a kids tee for the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles where I was treated last year. I had a spinal fusion, and the profits of this shirt will be donated specifically to Dr. David Skaggs’ research for The Children’s Spine Center. Where can our readers buy your clothing? Currently, Zeitgeist merchandise is available exclusively on my website, www.shopthezeitgeist. com. My designs will be coming to stores soon!


photographer: Carol Wright stylist: Maia Hatchett models: Neah Gray, Katie Wong and Mae Zhang McCauley


Mae wears a thrifted top, jeans from Zara, thrifted bandana and converse sneakers.

#NYOTAfashion 29

Katie wears an Open Ceremony varsity jacket, Free People jeans, a Topshop Graphic-T and adidas sneakers.

Neah wears a Maia Hatchett bandeau, a skirt from Forever 21 and a thrifted jersey.


Neah wears a thrifted jacket, calvin klein bra, American Apparel jeans and Superga sneakers.

Mae wears a thrifted cardigan, earrings from Meeps thrift store, and an Urban Outfitters crop top.

#NYOTAfashion 33

Katie wears a turtleneck from Topshop, a skirt from Theory and boots from a boutique.


ola aleti

Has fashion always been your interest? Fashion has definitely always been my interest. My maternal grandmother and one of my mom’s sisters are both clothing designers/tailors. I grew up watching my aunt glued to her sewing machine, creating beautiful pieces for people, even for me! She is one of my biggest inspirations.

What inspired your clothing line ‘The Babe Society’? My clothing line was inspired by me. I started off knitting; one day I decided to teach myself how to knit. I knit a cute little top, but it was so complicated and there were a few limitations. I went to a craft party and a girl there taught me how to crochet and I showed her a few knitting basics. There was a crochet hook in my apartment left behind by someone who used to live here, and I decided to expand on what I learned. To this day, I still consider that hook to be my lucky one, and it’s essential to my creative process. Why crotchet? Why crochet? Crochet to me is freedom! I can do 10x more with crochet than I can do with knitting. In fact, there are ways to do what

interview by Carol and Niara Wright

knitting can do with crochet, but the reverse is not true. I can reproduce almost any type of garment with crochet and I think that’s so beautiful. How long does it take for you to make one piece? It honestly depends on the garment. If it’s a dress, it can take up to two weeks. If it’s a simple top, two hours might be what I need. I have to juggle a lot of things, so it all depends on that. I do consider myself a fast crocheter, though. Do you plan to expand? I definitely plan to expand. I feel like I have found my calling – to be a clothing designer. I would love to explore all realms and not limit myself. Why should I limit myself when the universe is continually expanding? Who is the ideal customer for ‘The Babe Society’? The ideal customer for The BabeSociety is any woman who is body positive, who loves custom made clothing, and who wants to be cute! What was it like being on the show Girl Starter? What did that teach you about elevating your

current business? It was definitely an interesting experience. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I had a lot of fun, I made new friends, and I was able to learn more about myself. Girl Starter opened my mind to all of the possibilities that exist. It also taught me more about myself as a woman and as an entrepreneur. There is always so much to learn and you never know who will inspire you, you know? At the Girl Starter event in Newark, you mentioned you like public speaking. What inspires you to speak? Who are some speakers that have inspired you? I love speaking because I am always inspired by audiences. I know my words will change the way at least one person thinks, and if it’s just that one person, that person could potentially change the way ten other people think. I love sharing my story and seeing the impact that I have on others. One of my favorite speakers is Francheska Medina; she’s more of an influencer but she’s on a podcast called The Friend Zone – whenever she opens her mouth to speak, it’s to improve upon silence and enrich listeners and I absolutely adore her and she’s one of my biggest inspirations in life.



his year, I was given the amazing opportunity to attend NYFW for the second time. New York Fashion Week will forever be my favorite week of the year. Whether I’m standing in line for hours waiting to get into a show or running into Alanna Arrington or Gizele Oliveira, I’m never not smiling (unless I’m perfecting my smize.) On Friday, I attended two unique shows Vaishali and Cindy Monteiro. Going into the shows, I didn’t know what to expect from either designer because I have never seen their previous collections. However, there was never a moment during either of these shows that I didn’t have hearts bursting out my eyes. Vaishali’s SS18 collection presented a modern twist on traditional sarees. The colors were earth toned and smooth, practical for everyday use. I think a lot of time when we think about fashion shows we imagine these insane outfits that are not wearable in everyday life, but Vaishali’s collection was the opposite. The fabric looked comfort-

able, the shape of the outfits were flattering, and the models looked pleased to not be in suffocating clothing. Similarly, Cindy Monteiro’s collection exhibited very form-fitting and flattering outfits. On the other hand, her collection could not be more different than Vaishali’s. Cindy Monteiro’s SS18 displayed various white and black dresses decorated with keyholes and seashells, perfect for a summer’s night out. When I imagine myself wearing one of these outfits, I picture a twenty-five-yearold me wearing lace up nude flats, drinking red wine, in Cape Town, South Africa. The fabrics were airy and lightweight, like soft clouds on a blue-skied summer’s day. Everything about both of these collections was fresh and renewing, making me already dread the upcoming winter. It was truly an honor to attend both of these shows, and I hope to see more of these amazing designer’s work in the seasons to come.

Alexandra runs the blog Pretty On A Penny that focuses on giving her readers affordable fashion inspiration.

#NYOTAfashion 37

Cindy Monteiro SS18

#NYOTAfashion 39

Vaishali SS18

#NYOTAfashion 41


A &



where are they now?

interview by Carol Wright photo courtesy of Barbara Nitke

Last time we spoke with Claire and Shawn was in issue four and the talented twins were discussing next steps for their clothing line. Now they will be seen on TV’s around the world as contestants on the show “Project Runway.”

What was the casting process like for “Project Runway.” The casting process for Project Runway is quite rigorous. In a process similar to other shows, Project Runway allows you to apply online via their website, whereby one can send in an audition tape, digital portfolio and complete a lengthy questionnaire. Of the three, the questionnaire was by far the most time consuming, being comprised of nearly 100 short answer questions that tried to illustrate who you are as a designer. After turning in all of those materials we received a rather swift call back, meaning that we would asked to travel to one of 4 cities (Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York) to complete in person interviews and present pieces of our work in front of a panel that would determine our level of competency. The panel

is generally comprised of Project Runway former contestants or winners as well as other fashion professionals from Marie Claire or the designated city. Designers walk in with their selection of pieces, provide a quick pitch and are asked questions by the panel in order to better determine their style aesthetic, skillset and ability to excel on the show. At that time, each judge can offer a “Yes,” “No,” or “Maybe” answer. If you are asked to continue, you complete an on camera personal interview that will be used to pitch you to the casting department. Then comes the waiting, which is inevitably harder than the whole casting process. However, Project Runway operates on a very swift timeline, so that time frame was more bearable than in the past. What has being on the show

taught you about the fashion industry that you didn’t already know? While we believe that Project Runway is an excellent platform to showcase new talent, it does not necessarily reflect how the industry operates. You’ve been on reality TV before, for the show “Twinning.” Was “Project Runway” a similar experience? Project Runway offered a very different experience than Twinning. On Twinning, when competing in challenges, if you were the fastest, the strongest, the smartest etc. you knew that you would have a good shot of winning and progressing throughout the game. In the case of Project Runway, even if you believed that you created a winning look, it still has to be judged by Heidi, Zac, Nina (and a

#NYOTAfashion 43 guest judge). Fashion is entirely subjective and thus, what you believed to be exceptional, they may see as hideous. Additionally, as the challenges are on such strict time constraints, we felt that we didn’t have the time to learn more about our fellow competitors. Twinning was as much an interpersonal game as it was a physical game – Project Runway was more challenge based.

photos taken and ask Tim various questions. We were curious as to how we might compete in the industry with designers who had attended more prestigious fashion institutions. Tim noted that it was the determination and drive of the individual that led to their success – not necessarily the institution they attended. We went on to dress Katy Perry for the first time the following year.

Was being a twin and having that support system a large help while filming “Project Runway”? Having one another’s support whilst filming the show was incredibly comforting. It is wonderful to have someone to speak with and bounce ideas off of, being confident that their advice is honest. We only want success for each other. However, there were also challenges we faced as twins on the show. We are the first relatives to be on Project Runway and there was definitely animosity from other designers. Going on this show, our goal was to offer a different perspective. The fashion industry is comprised of all different types of designers and different relationships and we felt that we would an excellent example.

What advice do you have for other aspiring fashion designers? The biggest piece of advice that we can offer to aspiring fashion designers is to design what makes you happy. The best way to sell your brand and your clothing is to be passionate about it and those who design for themselves are always passionate about their work.

What was it like meeting Tim Gunn? Did he give you any advice that particularly stuck? Project Runway was not our first encounter with Tim Gunn. We had the pleasure of meeting Tim in late 2010 at a mall outside of Detroit, Michigan. At that time, he was the Chief Creative Officer of Liz Claiborne, Inc. and was promoting their various brands through fashion shows and speaking engagements. As part of the event, we were able to have


Aulaly K

an interview by Carol Wright photos by Aly Kula

We sat down with Aly on a sunny day in New York and discussed her photography journey over avocado toast.

#NYOTAculture pg.# 47

#NYOTAculture 49

When did you realize photography was your passion? It was more of a gradual thing for me. In sixth grade, I would go around with my iPhone and say, “oh that looks cool.” Then I started bringing out my friends to the park to do stupid sixth grade things, and then once my dad got a camera I picked that up and when I realized I was doing it more and more often I gravitated towards New York City because it’s such a good base for the modeling industry and other photographers. When I started working with other photographers who knew what they were doing I started making connections and I just fell in love with it. Who are your photography inspirations? Honestly, my best friends, because I’ve made so many best friends through Instagram and photography itself. I’ve basically learned through my friends. I haven’t really taken many classes and I fed off of what my friends have given me. Will you pursue photography full time after college? Probably, I’m going to college as a photo and cinema major and then I plan on minoring in something like communication design. I kind of want to mix those two together and do something more commercial and fashion oriented.

What is your favorite style of photography? I don’t really have one style and that’s something I kind of struggled with for the past few years because I always realized my friends and everyone around me had one distinct style and I didn’t really have that. But I learned that it’s better to be more fluid with your style then to have just one. My work is mainly portraiture, but I really like fashion, and I like working with people in the music industry. What has been the best experience that photography has led you to? The best experience is overall being able to go places and using my creativity to see more when I travel and be more inspired by the things that are around me. It has opened a lot of doors for me to travel to certain places. For example, in May I went to Los Angeles with my friend Brandon and it was hard to fit in that time since I was still in high-school but I did it and we got to meet tons of people. Then this summer I was in Australia and it’s really nice to be able to go other places than New York City and be able to find inspiration there. Your work has gained popularity on Instagram. Does having that following on social media ever put pressure on your creative flow? Do you ever find yourself

taking pictures for likes instead of passion? I used to think that way, and I had to learn to post things that I like myself, and not what other people would like. Social media has only really encouraged me to keep creating and keep expanding my style. So, at first yes but I learned to get over that hump. What are your other interests outside of photography? I love fashion, and I really love art as well. I also love traveling, I try to do that as much as I can although it’s expensive. Anything that is art oriented. I was never a math or science person so high school was more about art for me. My school didn’t offer that many art based programs, but now that I’m going to college I can explore it more. What advice do you have for aspiring photographers? Practice. I’ve been doing this for five years now, and you’re only going to get better with time. Don’t take breaks, work as hard as you can. If you go out and shoot every week you’re going to get better at a gradual rate. It can be frustrating when you don’t like your work, but that just means go out more and shoot.

#NYOTAculture 51

#NYOTAculture 53

Cafe Select - 212 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012 On a sunny Sunday afternoon, I got the chance to sit in a picturesque Swiss cafe on Lafayette. Light streamed in from an opening near my seat and Fleetwood Mac played in the background. There was light chatter all around us, and the atmosphere was tranquil. I had the avocado toast with a side of scrambled eggs and salad. The food was delicious and each bite was better than the last. For anyone taking a trip to the city check out this quaint cafe and you won’t be disappointed.

#NYOTAculture 55

Odd Fellows - 62 Spring St., New York, NY 10012 For a sweet treat after lunch, I found myself in a small icecream shop reminiscent of a circus tent. There were red and white stripes that covered the walls, and toy monkeys lining one side. A photo booth that allows free pictures sat in a corner while both employees wore hats similar to Carnival employees. I kept it simple and got chocolate ice-cream on a cone and it truly hit the spot. If you’re looking for something sweet and happen to be in Soho check out Odd Fellows.

#NYOTAculture 57

Radon on D where are they now? an interview by Carol Wright

What inspired your new photography series Vignettes? Each indtividual shoot of Vignettes is inspired by the state of my life at the time of creation. It’s essentially my feelings and thoughts materialized. What’s the process for choosing your locations for the Vignette series? One rule that I’ve set for myself throughout this series is not to stress about a shoot and more importantly, not to plan too much — it’s more organic that way. Most of the time the model and I just get together and drive around until I find a spot that I like. Can we expect new music in the near future? YES! New music is in the works and I can’t wait for you all to hear it. I’m working on finding some places to play shows in LA in the meantime.

You are now a Glossier ambassador. How did that opportunity come about? To be honest, I was offered the opportunity because I genuinely love their products. I would tag them in all my photos I took of myself (I wear their highlighter every single day of my life, it’s to die for). They would like the photos that I posted and then they reached out to me to ask if I wanted to become an ambassador! That was a cool day. What clothing brand is it your dream to shoot? Dolce and Gabbana, hands down. Can you reveal any upcoming photography projects? Upcoming photo projects are mostly a secret, shhhh! All I can say is that I have some new concepts up my sleeve that I’m really excited about experimenting with! But, for

now, I still have a lot left to explore with Vignettes and it’s forthcoming seasons. What advice do you have for aspiring photographers? My advice to anyone who wants to succeed in the photography world is to find a purpose behind what you create. WHY do you shoot what you shoot? How can you show that through your work? Where can our readers find your work? My work can be found on along with my Instagram account, @ronathann.

C laire oder C interview by Niara Wright photos by Nick Francher

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Well, my name is Claire. A lot of people think my middle name is Annette because that was my facebook name for a while because I played the clarinet but my actual last name is Coder. So, Claire Elizabeth Coder, not Annette but anyways… So fun facts about Claire: I started my first business when I was sixteen and it was a promotional products company that sold buttons, magnets, and compact mirrors and it was a great experience. I was able to grow the business to eight global distributors. I was selling internationally online so that was my first dabble at business. I started my own business because I didn’t want to work in retail, and I wanted to do something that would create a larger impact. What inspired Aunt Flow? I was told by society that the only way you can be successful is by getting a college degree. So I went to Ohio State University for one semester and while I was there, I was like “Uhhh, this is BS and I need to get out of here!” so I started immersing myself into the greater Columbus community, exploring my options. I knew I loved business and I knew I wanted to start another company but I didn’t know what it was going to be. I ultimately went to a start up weekend and I got my period. I didn’t have tampons and I decided to solve the problem of people not having the menstrual products that they needed when they needed them. Whether it was at businesses, events, or other public places and I pitched the idea for a sustainable solution for everyone to have access to menstrual products. This is how Aunt Flow came about. So, I actually dropped out of college and became a full-time entrepreneur.

#NYOTAculture 59 You talked a little about your entrepreneurship background as a 16 year old, did you always want to be an entrepreneur and own your own business? Oh yes. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur because quite frankly I’m not employable. I have really strong opinions and am really strong headed which makes me a great entrepreneur but not so much a great employee. I always joke by saying another reason I didn’t need to go to college is because I’ll never need to show anyone my resume because I can employ myself. What are some of the obstacles with starting your own business? Oh geez, where to begin. I faced all of them. Owning a product company, I mean there’s a lot that goes into it and you have to have a lot of up front capital to even start something and it’s grueling. So, I launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 to raise $25,000 and I ultimately did that, which is exciting but $25,000 is only our first product run. So I guess the biggest challenge was, first of all, making sure that we have product and inventory, making sure that our cash flow is positive, and then, of course, the daily struggles of owning a business. June was the first month I paid myself and I have been full time for 9 months. So for 9 months, I was like “ is this really worth it? Why am I still doing this? Is this ever going to pay off?” And now I can look back and say yes this is worth it and I will be able to support myself. There have been so many times where I would question myself saying “Does this mean something? Is it worth it?” Every other month you

don’t pay yourself, you start saying, “Wow, I could just sell out, get a job somewhere else.” But it’s the passion that puts us through. Can you give me your own definition of what a Girl Boss is? So when I was on the Show Girl Starter, I will admit that my least favorite thing about the show is that they called it Girl Starter. I always want to be on the same playing field as my male counterparts. I don’t want to be a girl boss, I just want to be a boss, I don’t want to be a Girl Starter, I just want to be a starter, I don’t want to be a woman leader, I Just want to be a leader. So whenever I think of Girl Boss, I think ok yes I am a person who identifies as a woman but I am a boss and I can stand my ground right next to my male counterparts. You talked a little bit about being on Girl Starter, how exactly was that experience for you? It was interesting. Neha (Owner of Rungh Cosmetics) and I shared the same sentiment because both of us were business owners before and the other girls were not. So, when I went on the show, I was really excited about learning more about business. I’ve never had formal education, I’ve never had strong mentors to help guide me and so I was really excited for that but during the show, I wasn’t necessarily learning about that. Instead, I learned more about myself as an individual which is of course still important and I learned how to work with other people. Neha and I always joked that we became entrepreneurs so that we could lead our own companies and work on our own. But then when we worked together we were forced to work together and cooperate which I have not been forced to do before because I

am an only child and I actively try to avoid people. I think it taught me a lot about a partnership, being collaborative and making sure to respect other people. But respect in the sense of ‘don’t spit on people’ but to respect other’s creative ideas even though they are not your own. What advice do you have for other young woman wanting to start their own business? For any entrepreneur, I always have two pieces of advice: One is just google it. People are always asking me,“how did you know how to start your own company? How did you figure out operations? How do you figuring out sourcing?” My answer to all of those questions is that I googled it and figured it out. There were times when I was google translating everything because my manufacturer didn’t speak English. And so you just have to google it, you have to figure it out. My second piece of advice is: you don’t start a business to become a billionaire, you start a business because you’re passionate about it. Yes, you may end up a billionaire but there are months and months where you don’t pay yourself and if you aren’t passionate about the project, during those months that you aren’t paying yourself it’s going to fail. Those are the times where you need to keep pushing through and if you’re not passionate, it’s going to fail. Where can we find you on social media and how can our readers get involved in Aunt Flow? You can find me personally @ Clairecoder for the company, all of the handles are @Goauntflow. As far as getting involved, the primary portion of our company is actually selling directly to businesses and we sell 100% organic cotton tampons to companies so they

can offer them for free to their employees and customers. We always ask the question “ If toilet paper is offered for free if seat covers are offered for free, why aren’t tampons offered for free?” So we are the only company that supplies and works directly with businesses to ensure they can offer free tampons at their location. So, tweet at us whenever you see a company that offers free tampons if you see a company not offering free tampons tweet at us and tweet at the business and tell them to start offering them through Aunt Flow and that’s how we engage our Aunt Flow activists.

#NYOTAculture 61

#NYOTAculture 63

It’s Going Down: An Interview with The Downs’ Sisters written by Carol and Niara Wright photos by Amanda Elkins

If you don’t know Reiya and Riele Downs then you should make a point to put them on your radar. From the sets of Degrassi and Henry Danger, nothing can hold these sisters back! They have shared the screen with some of the biggest names in the Biz: Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P Henson, and Nia Long all before the age of 13. We caught up with the Down sisters via phone and were blown away by their work ethic and down to earth personalities.

Was your mom the main inspiration for you two to start your acting careers?

Riele: Definitely. Our mom was an actress first and she put us into acting at a young age. So we got the chance to adapt to the industry and have someone to look up to because we had a role model right at home. Reiya: Yes, our mom was the one that put us into acting. She brought us up going to auditions, coaching us and she’s the one who knew the business. We learned through her talents. How do you like acting as a sister duo? Do you ever give each other advice? Riele: It’s definitely fun and it’s always nice to have a friend in

whatever adventures you’re pursuing, especially if they also live with you. We’ve done movies in the past together and that always eases my nerves to have my sister be part of it as well. When we did movies together as kids, it was a very fun, lighthearted time. Reiya: I think acting as a sister duo is super cool because we know what’s happening in each other’s lives and we’re pretty close anyway. It’s nice to be able to understand how each other’s jobs work. Even though our jobs are different, for example, on Nickelodeon Riele has different responsibilities and privileges than I do on Netflix. There are times when we can exchange help, we go to acting classes together and sometimes we run lines back and forth to each

other. It’s also helpful because starting in the industry it’s hard to find someone who knows the business, and we’re lucky to have not just our mom but each other. What does being a girl boss mean to you?

Riele: It means trying to inspire others around you. This generation, although it gets a lot of hate, is a good chance to get the world to begin to change and be open to new ideas. It’s important to use our platform and use our voices to inspire others and lead the world. Reiya: Going after what you want and doing that while uplifting other people around you and finding security in who you are. I know it’s difficult sometimes to be

#NYOTAculture 65 comfortable with yourself and in the world people will try to judge you in different ways, especially on social media, people are always trying to find ways to bring you down. But being a girl boss means being a leader, and not tearing others down to uplift yourself. Who are some girl bosses that inspire you guys?

Riele: Beyonce, she is so inspiring to women and people in general, with her music and what she stands for. Something she did recently was give scholarships to students at historically Black colleges. Reiya: Alicia Keys, I’ve been listening to her since my childhood and she promotes messages of positivity and being yourself. Also, Chloe and Halle, they were fantastic at Girl Cult and they’re living who they are and what they want the world to be. Not only are they performing, but they’re doing it at peak performance. Riele: You can tell Chloe and Halle really love what they’re doing and it’s not about popularity it’s just about their craft, and improving on their craft. Earlier in your careers, what was it like acting with Taraji P. Henson?

Riele: That was for Four Brothers and that was one of our sister roles which was really fun to do. Honestly, I don’t remember much because I was really young, but I remember her being extremely nice to us. She’s very talented and I love the messages that she spreads as well. Reiya: I remember that Mark Wahlberg and Terrence Howard were also really welcoming and kind. It was awesome because they also were at the top of their craft, and now they had gotten

to the top of this peak, and it was awesome to see. Reiya and Riele’s mother could remember more of the experience on Four Brothers and said this: “I was more aware than both of them were at the time. They really did take to Taraji and she used to call them her babies. The whole time on set she was like, ‘Where are my two babies? Where are they?’ It was really awesome, and I saw her on another movie that I did and she remembered, she was like ‘how are my babies?’ She had a really good connection with them, and they were so young that they barely knew but she had a great connection with them.” As young black women, how important is representation in the industry?

Riele: It most definitely inspires me and I think it’s incredibly important, and kind of underrated a little bit. When I look on television there are so many roles that go to people that aren’t of color and even the roles that do go to people of color tend to follow stereotypes or fall into one category of people. That’s disappointing and we need to start putting more people of color into positions of power. When I see a show or program with people of color like that on it I always want to watch more and am inspired. Reiya: I want to see people of color in roles that are more everyday and common. It lets me know that those emotions shown are more common and that there are roles where you’re allowed to feel like you’re in control. Instead of being the young thug and the basketball player. It allows me to see all that you can be as a human being. Nickelodeon is something we’ve all grown up with, how cool is it to be a part of the nick family?

Riele: It’s honestly surreal and I didn’t believe that I got the role when I got the role, and I had no idea what to expect. It’s gone above and beyond my expectations, and the whole Nick family is a very tight knit family. So I’m friends with essentially everyone else on the network. We actually shoot side by side with the show Game Shakers, which is another show on Nickelodeon. It’s very nice to have that sense of community and I love the television programs Nickelodeon makes. I always have. It’s surreal and an extremely cool and different experience for me. What’s it like being able to work with your mom on Degrassi: Next Class? Reiya: It’s really cool because usually we work together on the scenes anyway so having her there some people may think it’s more difficult since she is there to see what I’m doing and maybe that would make me feel judged, and I get that but that’s not what happens. She can help me when I’m on set and I can help her because technically I’m the one who’s there more often so I can help her know how the set works and she can help me know how acting works since she’s been acting much longer than I have. It’s really cool to have her support right there on set.

You designed your dress and your sisters outfit to the Kids Choice Awards. Have you always been into fashion? Do you want to have your own line one day?

Riele: Yes, fashion design has always been something I’ve wanted to do ever since Kindergarten I’ve been drawing my friends and I have always had the dream of being a fashion designer. I remember in my sixth grade graduation I actually made

my own dress out of Dorito bags. It’s always been something I’ve been interested in doing. I love the arts, the whole creative aspect of everything, I love making clothes and I definitely want to come out with a fashion line one day. I’ve got a lot more things in the works, and hopefully, I’m going to be wearing more of my own clothes. How do you guys juggle school and your careers?

Riele: It’s a difficult task because I do work better when someone is actively teaching me so it does get a little more difficult when you have a job and school to juggle, but it’s also very necessary. You have to delegate your time wisely and have a good system going in terms of time management, and stay focused. There are a lot of distractions and it’s very easy to get sidetracked in this industry when there are a whole lot of events happening and you don’t want to miss out on anything, but you have to prioritize your school and your work. Reiya: It was definitely less difficult for me than it was for Riele because Degrassi shoots mainly in the summer. I’ve been able to go to a brick and mortar school. You definitely have to manage well, and during the times when Degrassi has been shooting during the school year, they have an on set tutor. The only downside of that is you get less time with them than you would a regular teacher so it can be difficult to juggle, but it is possible with hard work. In your TV shows do the two of you feel like you relate to your characters? Riele: I do relate to my character in the way that she is always managing the boys and making sure they don’t get too out of hand and on set in real life I’m

managing the boys. I’m also like her in the way that she’s focused on academics and the projects she likes doing. We’re also similar with fashion because my character wears different edgy, cool outfits and I’m always trying out new things as well when it comes to fashion. How we’re different is, she can be a little more upfront than I am. I’m more reserved at first until I get to know someone, but she’s just who she is and doesn’t really care. Reiya: Yes, I do relate to my character, not everything that she does because she tends to be more of a conservative person than I am, but the way she is kind of a stickler for the rules I feel like I’ve always had that. My mom when I was younger used to call me the police, and I would always tell her to “watch the speed limit.” Also, my character’s innocence in regard to relationships is definitely something that I can relate to. Who are some of your acting inspirations?

Reiya and Riele: There are so many because we see so many different projects, and there are a lot of people that stand out to us. Denzel Washington is very talented. We’ve always loved Will Smith. Viola Davis is fantastic. Leonardo Dicaprio and of course Meryl Streep. When you watch her (Meryl) she’s amazing so how could you not. There are so many people up and coming and the industry is shifting and changing, but those are the classics. What advice do the two of you have for aspiring actors?

Riele:I’d also say to stay focused because as I said before there are a lot of distractions that can distract you from the work that you have to get done. Definitely still delegate

time to have fun and enjoy the whole crazy experience. Stay focused and be careful in terms of friendships and who you’re signing yourself off to. Always stay aware of who is around you, because everyone who is in this industry may not want to hang out with you for the right reasons. Also, make sure you really want to be in this industry and you’re dedicated to your work because it is difficult to get noticed, and difficult to get roles. So make sure you want to be in the industry because it can get boring real quick if you don’t want to be in the industry. Reiya: There’s a lot to the business that could be difficult to grasp at first glance. I suggest finding someone you know who is not going to mess with you. If you have access to someone that’s in the business definitely ask them for advice in helping you do things because it can be difficult at first in the day to day acting lifestyle. Also, make sure you work on honing your craft because a lot of people work on getting themselves out there but they don’t work on getting their skills to a high level. You can do that by taking classes or taking on smaller projects. There’s a difference between a class setting and a job setting, but make sure to focus on getting better and that would be the difference between you and whoever your competition is. Who is someone you’ve always wanted to work with?

Riele: Right now, it would be Zendaya because she’s interested in the same things I am and I think she is doing great. Also, Kerry Washington, and Yara Shahidi. Reiya: Angela Bassett and also Grant Gustin because I want to work on something like a

67 superhero type of project.

words & photos by Matthew Ludak

The sun had not yet fully risen

when I arrived at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was barely 6:30 in the morning but already there was a large police presence in and surrounding the park. The main roads had all been shut down and a sort of box had been created to keep the protesters in and away from the local businesses. The rally was supposed to officially start at noon with a host of different white nationalist speakers, the headliner would be Mr. White Supremacy himself Richard Spencer.

The park and surrounding streets very gradually began to fill up, at first it was mainly locals stopping by to see if anything was happening yet but then by around 8:30 a group of about 40 Militiamen carrying assault rifles and wearing full body armor came marching up a side street. These Militiamen had come to “Keep the Peace� and positioned themselves at twenty foot intervals around the park. At 9:00 a diverse group of religious leaders arrived walking arm in arm and in the middle of their human chain walked civil rights leader Cornel West. The clergy men positioned themselves

in a single file line on the street facing the park and began to sing we shall overcome, in a day filled with hate, anger, and tragedy this was a fleeting beautiful moment. Before long, the songs of the clergy were drowned out by the loud and ominous chanting of a new group, the white supremacists had arrived. The first group was composed of about 50 white men ranging in age from late teens to early 40’s but the vast majority was in their mid twenties. They wore white polos and brown khakis, they carried riot shields and clubs, on their heads were helmets and

#NYOTAculture 69

as they marched they chanted “blood and soil.” They were followed by many other groups of fellow white nationalists and before long the park was full of confederate flags being waved accompanied by the odd nazi flag. Now I want to make something very clear, there were far more white supremacists than counter protestors, and the counter protesters were by far middle aged and white. Around 11, one hour before the protests were supposed to start things started getting out of hand. Fights began to break out, a white supremacist rushed a counter protester and started hitting him with his club, next to where I was standing a confederate flag wielding protester started spraying pepper spray at the counter protestors in front of him. As I moved to escape the pepper spray which hung in the air I saw a nazi run up and punch a woman in the face I watched in horror as she chased him back into the crowd where she was then pushed to the ground and kicked and beaten. At this point the first tear gas canisters began descending into the crowd of counter protestors, not from the police but from the white supremacist groups. The entire time these fights were breaking out the police stood silently and watched from behind a makeshift barricade, several times while fights were occurring I could distinctly hear counter protestors screaming “do your job!” but their screams fell on deaf ears and they were to receive no help from the police. Then at 12:05 just five minutes after the rally was supposed to start the Virginia Governor declared a

State of Emergency and the state police and swat teams moved in to disperse and arrest protesters and counter protestors alike. So I left, I walked back to my car and began driving back to New Jersey. Then the news came in about 15 minutes after I had left the rally, a man had driven his car into a crowd of counter protestors, and then fled the scene. The rest of the drive home I just couldn’t help being so angry and frustrated. How is it possible that in 2017, in an American city Neo- Nazis were able to march and hold a rally and not be met by thousands or tens of thousands counter protesters. My millennial generation is supposed to be the most socially conscious generation yet, well where were they? Where were all these “woke” millennials? Why was it that that there seemed to be only people my parents age out there protesting? Maybe it’s because their generation and era was one of actually marching for what you believe, not just sitting at home and tweeting or sharing Facebook articles. Maybe if there were thousands of protesters there the neonazis and white supremacists wouldn’t have felt so emboldened and empowered. They arrived and they saw more people supporting them and their beliefs than denouncing them. There needs to be more than online condemnation of what happened in Charlottesville. I’m not trying to single out those who couldn’t make it to Charlottesville all I am trying to say is that each person should attempt to do the most that they can to protest this resurgence of hate and bigotry. I say resurgence because it has always been here, however for some it has been easier to avoid. If posting on Facebook or twitter is the most you can do then by all means continue, but if you are able to organize, protest, attend rallies and demonstrations then that’s where you should be.

WORDS OF WISDOM from Tina Wells

When you were a little girl what did you want to be when you grew up? When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a fashion writer. That’s actually how I started my career and launched a company at sixteen that became BuzzMG. I even pursued journalism in college and graduated with a degree in communications. What drew you to the marketing business? I was not actually drawn to market-

ing! I didn’t even know what it was! I wanted to be a fashion writer, and my first job was writing for a newspaper for girls out of NYC called The New Girl Times. I was hired to be a product review editor. As I did product reviews, I’d share the published piece with the PR directors at brands, who always asked me the same follow-up question: if I send you more stuff, will you tell me what you think? I continued receiving products in exchange for my opinion, and I realized it was a great way to test products! I am a

self-proclaimed product junkie, so this was MAJOR for me. It wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I realized I could make money doing this. That’s when I discovered market research and eventually marketing in general. What inspired your Mackenzie Blue book series? Creating and writing the Mackenzie Blue series happened totally by chance. I was conducting a focus group focused on tweens, and during a break, a mom asked me

71 for some advice. Her daughter was 10 and reading Gossip Girl. She didn’t think it was age appropriate but loved that her daughter was reading. She was conflicted about it. We had a great conversation, and I spent a lot of time after that moment thinking about my career as a marketer and my personal responsibility to do good in the world and to use those marketing skills for good. Over the next few months, I wrote the skeleton that became the framework for the series. What has been the hardest part of creating your own company? The hardest part of creating your own company is learning on the job. I started my company at sixteen and there is so much I just didn’t know! I literally learned on the job through experiences. Now, at thirty-seven, there isn’t much I haven’t seen before. I definitely have more confidence. What was the most exciting part about being a judge on Girl Starter? I am definitely a bit camera shy, so committing to a TV show was a bit nerve-wracking, but how could I not?! Those young women were so driven and so clear about their ideas and the companies they were building. I loved being able to mentor and offer feedback. What does being a Girl Boss mean to you? Being a Girl Boss for me is about leading, being in control and ultimately having fun! If I am not having fun or enjoying what I do, there is no reason for me to do it anymore. I think we can all be Girl Bosses in our lives, too! How important is representation of Black women in the Marketing space? Especially because you own your own company.

I was so young when I started, I didn’t quite understand that I was literally representing young, female entrepreneurs of color. In 1996 there weren’t a lot of peers who looked like me, doing what I was doing. It was incredibly lonely and I was so grateful to see the community get bigger over the years. I got a lot of press very early on in my career, and I just thought it was so normal! LOL! Now looking back I realize how lucky I was that so many publications chose to tell my story. So many people were able to see a black woman who looked like them doing what she wanted to do. It’s how I felt about all of the women I looked up to. I remember being like twelve or thirteen and sneaking to watch Boomerang, and I wanted to be those black women working in marketing, wearing amazing outfits to that amazing office! I also wanted to be Lisa Turtle from Saved By the Bell too, though… What advice do you have for women who want to start their own companies? It’s funny you ask me about my advice for other women. I have really been thinking a lot about this lately. Running an agency, we tend to focus on certain types of clients with certain budgets. I often receive inquiries from businesses that don’t necessarily fit that scope, and lately, it’s really weighed on me. I feel like sometimes the companies that need the most help can’t always afford it, and we have to do better at making even basic information available. The majority of people working in America today are employed by small businesses, so we should all do our part to help them succeed. In light of this, I am expanding my personal website,, to include all kinds of advice for emerging business owners. I also just recorded an audio course called “12 Ques-

tions Every Business Plan Should Answer,” that will be available for free download next month. I also plan to launch an online community where members will receive access to the content I teach at Wharton and many other things. In general, I think people need to focus on the feasibility of their idea before they decide to pursue it full-time. It’s such a big step to leave a full-time job or decide to work full-time on an idea without making sure it’s been vetted in every way you can. I am hoping the audio course will help with that! You can keep up with Tina on her Instagram @tinawells_ and her website

very last page


Stay Tuned for more Nyota Magazine Subscribe to us on www.issuu/nyotamagazine Buy a print copy on Blurb Follow us on instagram @nyotamagazine Want to contribute? Contact us at

Nyota Issue 9  

September Issue featuring Reiya and Riele Downs

Nyota Issue 9  

September Issue featuring Reiya and Riele Downs