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| I SSUE no 6


Adele, winner of Album Of The Year,Best Pop Vocal Album for '25' and Song Of The Year. Record Of The Year and Best Pop Solo Performance for 'Hello,' poses in the press room during The 59th GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center.

Givenchy Red Carpet Dress Adele looked to Riccardo Tisci and Givenchy for this look!

Claudette Ortiz L ife After City High Page 29

Photographer: Antoinne Jones Creative Director: Michael Lopez Stylist: Jerry Thompson Designer: Five 13 Studio Hair: Terrence Davidson Hair Asst. Sweetstyles by Kai & Tamora Patrice Nail Tech: Redd Flythe Location: ATL GA Weldon Bond Studios Jewelry: The Vintage Bar






With Latise M. Howie

Contributors Anitra Scott- Operations Manager/ Stephanie Majewski~(Marketing)~Shartiera Wilkerson~(Journalist/Event Coordinator)~Marage Blakeney (Journalist)~Shannon Rawley~(Co-Editor)~Desiree Helm~(Writer)~Monica Jones~(NYC Contributor) Jerry Thompson~(Executive Assistant) Cover Art: Ty Statz Photographer: Laurence Logan (The.TZ.Studio) Photographer/Video: Emmanuel Toussaint (Toussaint Studios) Writers: Tasha McClarrin~(Writer/Contributor)~Davita Collins~Writer)~Administrative Assistant: Maranda Moore Creative Director: Michael Lopez-Bond Public Relations: Pac PR Tempestt Harris: CEO Maresa Scott: COO/Editor Chief




TheAnniv er sar y Issue A NOTE FROM THE CEO Tempestt Har r is

It seems like we were introducing our end of year kids issue just a few weeks ago, but now spring is at our door! In my family? as I?m sure is the case in yours? the season is a time for sports, spring break and beaches. But for me it is all about the FASHION! I enjoy the vibrant colors, loose sundresses, skin, and bare feet. Whether you fashionistas enjoy layering your favorite winter/fall trends or are just ready to break out for spring, this issue will give you the tools you need to step out in style. This Issue is our Anniversary issue. This is our official 2 year anniversary as LEVEL21 MAGAZINE. We are so excited about the growth and the amazing new partners and associates we have come to meet and love. I hope that you all continue to challenge us and support us as we step into new and exciting heights! The Goal is GREATER and we will get there together!

XOXO, Tempestt Harris M ar esa Scott- NOTE FROM THE COO/ Editor & Chief Now that the holidays have come to a slower pace, we can begin to focus and prepare ourselves for better weather, additional outdoor activities and even more luminous colors! I am sure that most people will agree with the fact that spring is a time for transition. Not only is it a transition in the weather, but it is also a time for a transition in style. I am super excited to be putting away my warm neutral wardrobe colors and stepping out in bright vibrant colors this Spring! Who cannot be excited about the fresh air, cherry blossoms, day parties and barbeques?! I know I am fully prepared for this Spring Fashion Issue, and we hope that through this editorial we help you to transition in style too. This issue is a very special edition for the Level21 Team. We have made several modifications, we have come into contact with various partners, and have vastly grown as a company. We have been working on this publication for roughly 7 years, but we are enthusiastic to be celebrating our 2nd Year Anniversary of becoming Level21 Magazine! I hope that our readers have grown to love and appreciate the dedication and time we put into providing you with current, trendy and accurate communications. Our hope is that you all continue to grow with us, continue to challenge us and continue to soar with us to new avenues that we may have never envisioned reaching! This issue is for you! We hope that you enjoy reading it.

Sincerely,M aresaScott

Al anl ux st udios

& TheFashion Mobst er

Alan Lux Studios is a creative, unique and bold studio that focuses on sports, commercial and portrait photography. We take great pride in delivering a personal approach to your photography needs.

Meet The Inventor Of The Smart Pillow


fter a hard day?s work, you pull up to your driveway, anxiously pressing the garage door remote control so you can dash into the house to begin the first night of a long weekend. Once inside, you have managed to eat, take a hot, steaming shower and you are ready to hit your high-thread count cotton sheets. Because your alert mind prevents you from immediately falling asleep, you decide to lay down to relax with some soothing music. Imagine if these wonderful sounds echoing about your room were actually coming from your pillow? Is that even possible? Yes it is, thanks to the brilliant mind of Shelton McCoy, Founder and Inventor of The SmartPillo Company LLC. Tell u s a bit abou t you r self . Wh er e ar e you f r om ? I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. I am the middle child of five. I am the left handed middle child, which is why I think that ventured out into extreme things to get attention; the middle child is the ?invisible child?. You h ave a back gr ou n d as an ar t ist . Tell u s a bit abou t t h at ? I entered the music industry, and the first time going for it, I became a platinum recording Hip Hop artist with a group called Divine Sounds. ?What People Do for Money?, is a record that is still being played today. So you collabor at ed on a son g w it h Not or iou s BIG, can you elabor at e on t h is? How did t h is af f ect you r m u sic car eer ?


I paid and requested reference vocals from the Notorious B.I.G., on a song I wrote called ?Macks N?nor

Shelton McCoy

Dons?, which eventually became part of the soundtrack to his biopic. But, I never received credit, nor funds for, even to this day. His mother insisted that it was his song, but I have proof that the song belonged to me. After his untimely death, I lost my taste for the industry and left the music scene. Then, I packed my things, and moved to L.A. without knowing anyone. Even t u ally, w h at led t o you r car eer in celebr it y secu r it y? Six months after moving to L.A., I was hanging out with some guys, and I just bumped into a really cool guy, who approached me, handing me a business card. Because of my size, he said I should join the security team for American Idol, and I worked there for three years. Next, I toured with Carrie (Underwood) for two-and-a-half years. The year I joined American Idol, was the same year she won, and because she remembered me during the competition, she asked me to join her on tour as head of security. I traveled all over with Carrie, and met all kinds of high-end people, so that is when I began submitting patents because of my exposure to the world, and my mind was just running crazy and I realized I had an invention. You m en t ion ed t h at you h ad su bm it t ed pat en t s bef or e. Wer e t h ey pr ot ot ypes of t h e Pillo? I had a prior invention before the SmartPillo. It was a dual-screen net book, which was before there ever was a tablet, kindle, or an iPad. It was insane, I still have it. Because I was ahead of my time, I was told that people wouldn?t want to give up their books, because they like the

feel of paper. Now, look at everybody; they are on their tablets. I lived in L.A. for eleven years, and after I had that experience, I moved to Fargo, North Dakota, just for a year. I was put into a technology incubator at NDSU (North Dakota State University). I met some cool people in North Dakota who believed I had more to offer than working security. I told them that I do have some great ideas, and that I am working on this patent, which was the net book at the time. So, I took my earnings from working with Carrie and started The SmartPillo Company. Wh at con cer n s did you h ave t h at led t o you r in ven t ion ? Wh at per son al h ealt h issu es did you h ave t h at con t r ibu t ed t o t h e Sm ar t Pillo?s cr eat ion ? As a protector and someone who is protective by nature, I saw my daughter, who was fifteen at the time, stick her iPhone inside of her head wrap so she would be hands free. Prior to that, I saw a segment on CNN about cell phone radiation, and I even got a tumor on my ear due to cell phone radiation. This is why I don?t put a cell phone to my ear anymore. I knew that it was dangerous so I told my daughter to stop putting the phone to her ear.

That night, I went to bed and as clear as day, had a vision for a Bluetooth Pillo, through which she could talk to her friends, and even listen to music. I put it all on the line. I took my patent and went to China alone. I even shared my idea with my barber, Damian Johnson, Owner of No Grease Barber Shop. Barbers are also great therapists, so I told him, and he is one of the first people to tell me that it was a great idea. That gave me the fuel to pursue my dream. Three months later, I had a working prototype for the Pillo. If you ever want to pursue something, write it down, so you can see it everyday. So I sketched what I wanted it to look like on paper, and I looked at that paper everyday. The paper now is talking to me. It is indicating that ?Shelton, you need speakers, because it is enabled by Bluetooth technology.? I am now looking at the paper for further inspiration, and it says ?it is a Pillo, now you need foam to hold the speakers.? So I had to cut the foam so all the components could fit perfectly. Now, I needed a seamstress to put the cover together. And that is how I accomplished this by the paper telling me what to do. And here we are, five years later, that The SmartPillo Company has now turned into Kushion, the world?s first Bluetooth Pillo. Did you k n ow it w ou ld go t h is f ar ? No I didn?t know my invention would go this far, but I knew I had something. Everyone I met and let test the Pillo were in awe. I would let them connect their phone to the Pillo and they would be so impressed with it. But, I didn't know I would ever partner up with a business tycoon! I called it a divine connection, that I had nothing to do with. Here I came from a group called Divine Sound, and now here it is I am having a divine connection with a mogul like Michael Fux (pronounced Fewks), who is the inventor of the memory foam pillow. I could have never orchestrated this myself. I do not even have an engineering

background. Sealy Corporation also has a headquarters in Charlotte so we met there. And, the CEO of Sealy was even impressed with how I met Michael Fux, asking ?how did you two guys meet?? The Pillo is so amazing and ahead of its time. So, if anyone asks who the inventor of the Kushion is, I can say, ?Shelton McCoy is the inventor if the Kushion Pillo?. We saw you on Good M or n in g Am er ica, f eat u r in g som e celebr it ies t est in g t h e pillow s. Wh at w as t h eir f eedback on t h e pr odu ct ? How did you lan d a licen se agr eem en t w it h dist r ibu t ion com pan y Com f or t Revolu t ion ? I was on Good Morning America, during Cyber Monday, where I received great feedback from many celebrities, who thought the idea was dope. The bodyguard for Randy Jackson (American Idol Judge) wanted me to show Randy the Pillo, because he thought Randy may want to partner with me. So, he sent me to meet Randy, who was at the race track at Concord Mills in Concord, NC. So I had in my mind that I would partner with Randy Jackson, as I grab my Pillo and head over to meet with him. Twenty minutes later, I get a phone call from Randy, who tells me that everyone headed back to the Ritz Carlton! I told him, ?I am twenty minutes away, I will meet you guys tomorrow.? And Randy said ?No, no, no, we want to meet with you now?, so I decided to head over to the hotel after all since I haven?t seen him in awhile. So, once I got there, I walked up to Randy, who was in the lobby. and he said ?Dude what are you

doing in Charlotte, Man? What woman brought you to Charlotte? We missed you man, everyone would love to talk to you and meet with you about the Pillo?. I laughed and said ?No, I am here because I started a new company, called The SmartPillo Company?. As he was checking out my Pillo, I got a tap on the shoulder from behind. I turned around to see David, the nephew of Michael Fux, who asked me about the pillow because he thought the Pillo was awesome. So I began pitching the Pillo to David, who was intrigued by it. So, now he wanted to show his Uncle the pillow, and asked me if I had some time. So, what I thought was supposed to be a meeting with Randy Jackson was really God setting up a meeting with Michael Fux, a successful owner of a pillow company! So Michael Fux and his team came down after receiving a call from David to meet me. After pitching to Michael, he said ?This is the future guys, pay attention. The betting industry never changes. Putting this type of technology into the industry is looking into the future. This young man is onto something. If you stick with me, you are going to make a lot of money?. I told him I didn?t know who he was, but I told him I would Google him once I got home, and I did! Fux is also a world-famous car collector, which he purchased with earnings from his successful pillow empire. If you go on Instagram, his name is spelled Michael F-U-X, and you will see his car collection. It is the sickest car collection ever. And that is whom I am partnered with.

Wh at is t h e n ext st ep f or t h e Pillo? If someone asked me, ?what else do you have going on?? I can show them these other great products I have. I have a bunch of deals in the works now. NFL Kushion Pillos are coming soon, as I have a licensing agreement with the National Football League to patent them for its individual teams. I also am working on another Kushion called the ?S1 Kushion?, (for now) that you can speak commands into. There are some smaller, more lightweight Kushions that I am also coming out

in ven t ion s an d pat en t s? How m u st on e r em ain f ait h f u l w h en it appear s t h at t h in gs ar en?t m at er ializin g yet ? It is going to sound simple. Just do it. If you envision it, and believe it, you cannot see it on your own; it is coming from another place, deep down inside of you. God is saying, this is what I have for you. Don?t let your fear, because God did not give us the spirit of fear, distract you and keep you from seeing your next step. If you let fear dictate, fear will rob you Bird Man-Hip Hop Mogul

piano. Because those two pianos are connected. God will connect you with someone who is praying to invest in your gift. That is how these marriages work. It has all been vision, and God has aligned me with the right people to help me on the journey of fulfilling my dream. These investors understand that they are not investing in my Pillo, they are investing in Shelton McCoy! This has all been a vision of people, tapping me on the shoulder and asking me about my invention. Also, be open to receiving those blessings from God when they come, and they will come

Waka Flocka -Hiphop Artist

are some smaller, more lightweight Kushions that I am also coming out with. What is great is that it only takes three weeks to produce the Pillows. Wh at else ar e you w or k in g on ? I am putting up an eco-friendly community with Darryl Williams, President and CEO of Neighboring Concepts, called Shelton Beach, which will be the world?s first eco-community. It has seven-acres, a salt-water swimming pool, imported white sand, and we are building thirty, 1-2 bedroom, bungalow-like homes surrounding it. It will give the appearance of being in a place like Bora Bora. The First Lady of Congo also wants me to travel there to invest in my eco-community, and I am not sure what will happen next. My end game is to become an investor. I have to be a blessing to others because none of this happened based on my credentials. I also want to hit the circuit and talk to our youth, and share my story. Wh at advice w ou ld you give t o ot h er bu sin ess ow n er s r egar din g

of the gift God gave you. Step out on faith. God will put those opportunities in place for you. There is power in the unseen and unknown. If this is a pure vision that comes to you, you know it is from The Most High. You will have concerns but keep working at it everyday, and God is going to put those people you need in front of you. You will go see a Randy Jackson, who you think will be the face of your business, and you will get a tap on the back from behind, someone I did not see, and God will have the right person in place to assist you on your journey. Anything coming from lust, saying ?look at me, see what I drive?, materialistic thoughts are not of God. He will introduce you to someone; I call that person a crossroad. Everything has a crossroad. For every left there is a right; everything has an opposite. There is someone out there looking for something you can offer. For example, if you put two pianos in the room--- one all the way to the left and the other to the right--and play a chord on one, then walk to the other, that same note will resonate on that

in ways that you won?t expect them. Wh er e do w e f in d Th e Sm ar t Pillo or Ku sh ion ? Customers can go on my websites,, and For the readers, I have something for you; if you use my exclusive promotional code F1MCCOY, you will receive a $100 discount off of your order! Shelton McCoy?s dreams of having safe yet convenient technology has now become our reality. He is a shining example that faith, along with hard work and dedication will align us with divine opportunities to see our own ideas to fruition. Also, when that passion involves serving others, it is a guarantee that success will surely follow close behind. As technology advances forward, it is vital that we have someone like Shelton, who invents products that keep the health, safety, and comfort of the human race in mind. Take that discount code and ?Get a Pillo that could do both."

The Cur vy Girl


Ways to Fier ce


Make Sure You Know The Fit Of Each Retailer.

n o i h s a F h g i H g n i r p S

Not every plus size brand will fit the same (just like straight sizes). While some brands DO have fit issues, knowing which brands are more junior cut, missy cut, or true to size is critical. This will help you navigate through the designers, retailers and boutiques!

Pull Tears (Create A Pinterest Board) Of Your Personal Style


Get Playful In Color

Oooohhh I am sooo here for the intensity of color for spring. I am looking forward to rich blues, blinding yellows, juicy oranges. AND bold and bright prints of all scales!


I am currently obsessed with Carine Roitfeld. Like, I love that she has an edgy signature style. She slays the midi pencil skirt paired with daring blouses and killer heels. While I won?t copy her look head to toe, I remain inspired by it and am finding how this rocks out for me. I even have a Pinterest board of other ?s whose looks have me thinking!


An Eye For Detail

One way to add a bit more tude or interest to your look? The details and finishes of your look- whether it be the belt, jewels, or even the buttons on your jacket. Think the clutch, the shoe, and the glasses you rock. They are JUST as important to your overall look!

ala Raassi grew up in suburban Washington, D.C. and then in Iran. She knows both cultures? but wasn?t ready for what happened to her one night in 1998.


By: M IRANDA FRUM I met Tala Raassi at a nightclub in West Hollywood. She was a friend of a friend. At the same table sat Marilyn Manson. The alcohol was seemingly unlimited. The club?s strict no smoking policy rapidly began to be ignored as party goers clustered around the open windows as the night wore on. Within moments of meeting this charming, bubbly woman I learned that she had served time in an Iranian prison. Intrigued, I asked why. Her story is an inspiring one? and one that many young Iranians might find to be a common phenomenon. Tala Raassi was born in Silver Spring, Maryland. At the age of 2 her family decided to move back to Tehran. American culture was always something she enjoyed. ?I would watch illegal satellite TV? watching [shows like] Baywatch and 90210. I wanted to copy [their style].? The inevitable conflict of living in a state-run religious atmosphere and life within a less than religious family created an identity complex. ?I grew up in a post revolution-Iran,? she told me. ?There were so many restrictions imposed. We grew up with families who had [under the Shah] drunk alcohol and partied. Then, I also grew up in a society where I had to cover myself head to toe.? Growing up, Raassi had heard many stories of arrests. But like all strong-headed young people before her she believed herself immune. It could never happen to me.

In Amer ica, She Designs Swimwear . In Ir an, She Got 40 Lashes f or Being at a Par t y. One fateful evening this mantra was challenged. Raassi was attending a small co-ed party (very illegal in the Tehran of 1998). There were no drugs or alcohol, but there was American music (?illegal music?) and illegal male-female intermingling. An ex-boyfriend of the girl who organized the party called the notorious Basij? the ruthless military police? when he discovered he wasn?t invited. The Basij raided the party and began to make arrests. Raassi attempted to outrun the religious police guards, but she stopped when they managed to catch up to her and threatened to shoot her. ?I never thought we would get lashes,? she confided to The Daily Beast. ?Normally, if you apologize, they will let you go. We were convinced we would never go to jail. In the car on our way [to jail], we weren?t taking it seriously. We were sort of laughing. I was convinced there was no way they would keep us there. Someone would pay for our release, and then we would leave.? The group was taken to Vozara Prison, where they were sentenced to 40 lashes for the girls, 50 lashes for the boys, and would spend the

next five days. Rats, cockroaches, shared toilets. Drug dealers, thieves, prostitutes. Tala?s voice becomes an octave more emotional when she describes seeing a woman in her wedding dress. Her wedding had been busted for being coed. The woman spent the remainder of her wedding night in jail. Raassi?s group was kept in a small holding area in a narrow hallway in between the trash and the bathrooms. At the end of the hallway was a locked cell door with a small window? which they later discovered to be the torture room. ?We would hear screams coming out of there all day. During the call to prayer, which happens five times a day, the guards would line us up. They would tell us we were about to be lashed and then make us sit down and wait. Then nothing would happen. It was mental torture. You had no idea what was going on. At night time you would hear the sounds of women getting raped. Sometimes they were raped with glass Coca Cola bottles.? At the end of Raassi?s jail time (five days), a guard approached her group. Her name was called. She was then transported to another detention center. Raassi was

fun and she?s fearless. I asked her about the restrictive dress laws in Tehran and if it creates an internal conflict regarding her own swimwear line.

ushered into a room where items from previous arrests were on display? evidence of indecency. A judge lectured Raassi?s group about how they had misbehaved, how they had broken the law. ?I realized my parents were never strict with me to suppress my individuality and expression,? she said. ?They were strict with me to protect me from being in the situation I found myself in? arrested and lashed.? Outside of the courtroom, Raassi?s family waited. One by one, her friends were called forward to receive their punishment. ?You see your friends leave the room with bloody backs, and you hear your friends shouting out in pain. Next thing I know,? she said, ?I?m in the room myself.? Her family had to wait outside? and listen to her screams. ?It?s not like getting punched or hit,? she said. ?It burns. For me, it was personally, so insulting and disrespectful. The mental part was just as bad as the physical agony.? A woman covered head to toe in a black chador waited for Raassi in a room with two beds. Raassi and her friend were strapped into the two beds. A leather rod with a braided

whip was dipped into a bucket of water, which was then inflicted on their backs. ?There are different types of lashings,? she said. ?I learned this in court. And in our case we were allowed to keep our clothes on. In some cases, they make you take off your clothes.? Fashion was always a solace to Raassi. Despite the strict laws regarding chadors, she told me of how women of Tehran always had great clothes on underneath, the care and time women put to their hair and cosmetics. Despite the restrictions, women really do what they can to express themselves through their own personal style. And because one could be stopped and arrested at any moment for being ?indecent? it takes the young women?s expression of style to a completely new level. ?Being a fashion designer is like being a drug dealer [in Tehran],? she said, ?Everything is word of mouth.? But fortunately now, she has returned to the United States, where she has her own design label. She has designed bikinis for the Miss Universe competition. She has written a book. The ordeal hasn?t embittered her. She?s bubbly, she?s

Raassi paused thoughtfully, and then responded, ?Freedom is not about the amount of clothing you put on or take off, but about having the choice to do either. The last time I went to a beach in France, I saw women who wore hijabs, covered from head to toe, walking on the same beaches as women in their European-cut bikinis. Their freedom of choice empowered me. I found a new respect for women who chose to cover themselves in accordance with their religious beliefs. I also respected those who fearlessly wore bikinis. All of these women had made a choice about how they wanted to present themselves.? ?[I?ve navigated] two different worlds. From Iran to the fashion industry in America (as a swimsuit designer). To overcome the obvious differences was hard for me. I?ve fallen before. It was interesting to put it all in writing and get some form of closure.? Raassi?s book, Fashion is Freedom, was published in September. She said: ?As someone who came to this country not speaking a word of English, to have a book published in English is a big deal for me.? She laughed proudly. Source: The Daily Beast Cipriana (left) wears suede trench coat, Tod?s. Gold cosmic earrings, Coco?s Liberty. Gold hoop necklace, Pichulik. Flower-pattern sunglasses, Matthew Williamson for Linda Farrow. TK wears patterned coat, Miu Miu. Gold choker,Etro. Metal and stone choker,Marni . Leopard-print sunglasses, House of Holland. Chain earrings, Arme de L?Amour.

Make-up, Sophie Haig. Models, Cipriana Quann and TK Quann. Fashion coordinator, Vicki Wright. The Parker Hotel Palm Springs, California

Claudette Ortiz Behind T he Scene Atlanta Shoot

Get the look. Specializing in Celebrity Hair Terrence Davidson and his team venture to give Claudette Volume and waves with this Spring time TOP PONY




Kissed Get your own orange lip for a lower cost with "Color Pop Ultra Matte Lip"

T he Anniversary I ssue


Claudette's Nails Shimmering pink

Pop! Make your nails pop with shimmer using the "Color Club Brand." Editorial Photographer: Antoinne Jones-Atlanta G.A Based Creative Director: Michael Lopez, Stylist: Jerry Thompson,Designer: Five 13 Studio Jewelry: The Vintage Bar- Based in Charlotte NC




Photography by: The.TZ.Studio


CREAT IVE By: Davit a Collins

DIRECT OR Innovat ive, Fashionable, & Inspiring


Michael Lopez-Bond

s with most publications, Level 21 Magazine is forever evolving. W hile the brand expands, there are many aspects of the business that shift to accommodate operations, marketing and merchandising needs. In addition to Internet, social media, and their upcoming talk show Level 21 TV, it is vital that our branding stays consistent throughout each media channel. Recently, I sat down to talk with Michael Lopez, Level 21 Magazine?s newly minted Creative Director, who will be the driving force behind the Level 21 vision.

You can?t just say you want to be a designer, you have to be a designer. 21

MEET MICHAEL Whereareyouf romoriginally? I am originally from Brooklyn, NY, but I was raised in historic Coney Island. People do not know this, but I was initially born in Denver, Colorado. I moved from Denver to Brooklyn when I was two years old, so I do not really remember much about Denver. I pretty much stayed in Coney Island up until high school. W hat made you decide to get into the Fashion Industry?

Tell usa bit about your backgroundin Fashion. It was a series of events that lead up to my decision to go into Fashion. Initially in high school, my friends and I would airbrush, cut, and sew clothes because we wanted to create our own style. I really was focused on branding and marketing, and making sure that the business was legitimate. I appreciate how my friends pushed me in that direction; how they said ?we really need to have our own logo, our own style, and our own target audience.?I was more interested in the business aspect of things, not so much the artistry.

I eventually grew a passion for Fashion. But at the time, my designs were more urban. Then, I began to hang around some friends who were into high fashion. I traveled around, and then moved to Tennessee. There I met some photographers and models, which have been on the high fashion scene as seen in Vogue or W magazines. And it opened my eyes, and revealed to me that this is attainable, especially coming from an ethnic background. So, we began putting together mood boards to get this collection done.

Initially when I wanted to be a fashion designer, I was thinking ?cut, sew and painting?clothing. Until one day I just woke up and asked myself, what does the community have?The community did not have a ?preppy?line, a high-end line that is not Ralph Lauren, or Polo. Everyone that I knew locally made custom dresses, or if it were anything else the focus wasn?t on the brand. It was about creating whatever ?off the wall?garment that looked good. I wanted to create a brand where people recognized my logo, my editorials, my images and still associate them with high fashion. I?d still produce images that could go inside of a Vogue, W W D, or W type of magazine.

I met with a friend, and he stated, ?you can?t just say you want to be a designer, you have to be a designer.?Then, he introduced me to a room full of amazing fashion people. And he said, ?W hen you go into this room, you will say you are a designer from now on, because whatever you tell them, they will believe what you say. Now that they believe you, you have to back it up.? He went on to say ?you have to

to do your research, and find your features. I will help you do that?And that is how my business started. I was super nervous, but I went in there and said that ?I am a fashion designer, and I am launching my first collection soon?. The rest is history. There are things in my life that happened that I feel strengthened my emotional passion for fashion. To make a long story short, I had a friend who was a major fashion designer, who motivated me to launch W orld of Cashmir. He passed away. Right after his passing, his sister and I got together and worked on the collection. We decided what we were going to do, and what the collection was going to look like. And I haven?t slowed down since, and that has not even been an option to me.

What challengesdidyouencounter along your journey, andhowdidyouovercome? I have encountered insecurity, since I did not have the educational background, nor the financial backing that other brands had. Despite this I felt blessed to have the amount of support from people from the beginning. There are people I haven?t spoken to in about a year or so that I could instantly call and we can continue where we left off: making business decisions and closing deals, because we never lost communication. I traveled a lot! It was a gift and a curse. It was a gift, because I was able to reach out and network with so many cultural people. I was able to go back and forth to New York, go back to Tennessee and to Atlanta doing so many different things. But it hindered me because I did not have the foundation to say that someone knew me for an extended period of time.

Every time I went to a different city, I would see what I call ?fashion juggernauts?, people who are in charge or have built their brand up in a specific area. I feel as though those platforms are not meant to allow others succeed past a certain level. They want to see people succeed, as long as they are not surpassing them. I have a business to build a platform for others, and I have ambitions to grow my following in so many areas and so many different cities. But I saw this as a struggle because I did not have the money to pay people what they wanted to get paid. See, I was used to getting paid a certain amount as a designer, but then I moved to the South where that?s not the norm. It was a huge struggle dealing with different cultures and different people, while being true to myself, my brand and elevating as a designer, before opening doors to everything else I do in the Fashion Industry.

HowdidyoucomeupwiththenameWorld of Cashmir, andtell uswhat isits signif icance?

It is so much that goes into that name. Initially, the name of the brand was Cashmir, not W orld of Cashmir. I went into my closet thinking, what do I want my brand name to be?W hat will be my niche?And as I was going through my father?s closet, whom I was visiting with at the time, I noticed he had these vintage cashmere ?Cosby?sweaters. I thought that they were so cool, and that I had to borrow some of these sweaters. So, I was able to wear these sweaters, and my father was wearing them years before I was born! The quality was still good, and if you were to go out and buy cashmere sweaters today, you would pay hundreds, sometimes-even thousands of dollars for them!

So I realized that the quality never changed, and it was an expensive, timeless brand. Actually, I asked myself what did I want my brand to represent?And it was everything that sweater represented. It was timeless, it would not lose its value over time, and it was detailed. And so I named my brand Cashmir. It was first an urban collection, based off the concept that ?it?s merely cash so go ahead and spend it?.

As I grew, transitioned, and hung around different types of people with different audiences, I changed the brand name to Cashmir. ?MIR?is derived from the Kashmir goat reference in the Bible. So, it has a biblical meaning to the name. As I dug deeper into the meaning of ?MIR?the Russians were the first to attempt to land on the moon, and the name of their rocket ship was The Mir!

Although they never made it, I believe they were the first to strive to attain greater at that time. That is what I strive to do as a creative. I also used MIR, because in Russian it means ?peace?. That is the Cashmir brand. I take several different elements, and several different art pieces and put them all together under one brand. So MIR is a concept that I am creating with Level 21 Magazine that will also appear in other publications as well.

Whowouldyouconsider a musef or your designs? I don?t have one particular muse, because I get inspiration from so many different places. I feel as though where ever I travel, I get inspiration from people interacting in their own habitat. There is a collection that I am currently working on, that brings me to Soho, NY. I just go to Soho and just watch people. I had an important meeting at the Soho House, which I was early for, so I literally watched people my age come out of business meetings going back and forth. I just imagined them wearing my own designs, in that setting and what destination they would be going to. I may see someone who may say, ?OMG I

Every time I went to a different city, I would see what I call ?fashion juggernauts?, people who are in charge or have built their brand up in a specific area. I feel as though those platforms are not meant to allow others succeed past a certain level. They want to see people succeed, as long as they are not surpassing them.

love your look.?But I would not do too much to deviate from their personal style. So if I work with a model, I will style them based on what I have seen them wear already. I am the type of person who may not have consistent contact with a model for about a year, but then call them one day and say ?I came up with a collection that fits you. Let?s work.?

Youmentionedthat youdressedclients. Can youtell usmoreabout that?Any celebrity clients? I have been blessed with the opportunity to style people, but not as a stylist. People would approach me as a designer to style or create pieces for someone, not knowing the difference between a designer and stylist. For example, I have been asked to create custom pieces for different artists and celebrities for their events. It has been great, because it shifted me in the direction I wanted to go. I had the opportunity to design a piece for a collection for Sevyn Streeter when she signed her record deal, and promoted her first single with Chris Brown. I had an amazing piece that I had the opportunity to design for Bruno Mars. I love his image, and music so I designed a Hawaii-inspired piece. I also designed a piece for Elle Varner. I love her music. I was asked as Creative Director to come on set for certain projects and I am excited to say that those pieces I made were their brand and style, as well as, mines.

Howexcitingit istobethenewCreative Director f or Level21Magazine!?Howdoyou f eel about that?Can youtell uswhat youhave accomplishedsof ar in your newrole? I am ecstatic. I was really familiar with the magazine prior to this. I never thought about the opportunity until it was presented to me. I

met Tempestt, the CEO of Level 21 Magazine, and we just ended up clicking in a meeting that we were both in for a client that I had. We really impressed each other with our talents, and I am really excited to be onboard. She gives me a lot of freedom and does not try to put me in a box, which I love about her. The whole team is amazing, and I am honored to have a team who supports me and admires my work. I hope that I have accomplished putting things in perspective. One thing I can say is that I am proud of my brand and everything that I have accomplished, so I could be a reference point for the magazine. I will focus on structure building and I look forward to accomplishing more.

What doyouhopetoaccomplishwiththe Level 21Brand? I want to take Level 21 to another level, even taking it to Level 22! I want to be able to break down barriers in the fashion and entertainment industry. So, with my background I would like to streamline that, on the PR level. Recently we worked with Claudette Ortiz (formerly of the group City High and R&B Divas LA). In the future, I would like to help with choosing the right photos, but selecting those that the magazine normally wouldn?t so Level 21 could be exposed to a different market.

What shouldwelook out f or thisyear?What f utureprojectsareyouworkingon? Right now, the main thing is getting back to myself. I think last year, I took an entire year off my brand to help others, so I want to get back to my brand. I?d like to help other brands on a case-by-case basis. I want to create packages that are reasonable to

entrepreneurs. Another project I am working on is called Emerge, which is a model talent agency that is developmental. This agency was put in place to prevent models from going through the unnecessary challenges that other models have gone through. Some don't understand the marketing aspect of the industry. So, it will be more for consultation purposes. I have partnered with The.TZ.Studio , They have a passion for young models.

We have a booking agent now, who is amazing and experienced. I am also very excited to get into more collection pieces. I am currently working on a collection using Black Diamond. So the theme is going to be anniversary pieces that will be black diamond. I am also working on a purse and wallet (accessories) collection, as well as, more Cashmir Designs. Those are the main things that have my primary attention right now.

Howdopeoplecontact you? I have a website, Also I am very personable. So for any major affairs, I can be contacted on Instagram @worldofcashmir FB: W orld of Cashmir. I am also a fan of video chatting. If someone wanted to reach me I would not mind exchanging numbers and video chatting, or if I am in the same city meeting with them. Sometimes when people try to reach me on the website, they have to go through several channels of communication with my team. I have a huge team based out of several different cities, so they help me to filter out what needs to be prioritized. Michael Lopez is quite accomplished! Having the vision and dedication, he was able to take a mere idea and catapult it into a successful career in Fashion. Taking personal tragedy and other life lessons and utilizing them as tools to guide him on his journey to entrepreneurship, Lopez has been able to launch several other businesses, and therefore able to penetrate many aspects of the industry. Lopez is both a style and entrepreneurial chameleon. W ith his extensive background with PR and branding, we are confident that he can catapult the Level 21 brand even further into the stratosphere.

Welcome to the Level21 Family!

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Photographer: Antoinne Jones Creative Director: Michael Lopez Stylist: Jerry Thompson Designer: Five 13 Studio Hair: Terrence Davidson Hair Asst. Sweetstyles by Kai & Tamora Patrice Nail Tech: Redd Flythe Location: ATL GA Weldon Bond Studios Jewelry: The Vintage Bar


By Desiree Helm

CLAUDETTE ORTIZ L Life After City High


ooking over the reel of Claudette Ortiz, it?s easy to understand why she is making her mark on the entertainment industry. W ith her bright smile and incredible talents, she maneuvers the world between songstress and actress with ease. Riding the peaks and valleys of the road of life, to arrive at a destination of joy and peace with her life and career. From her early years as a teen pop star with the Hit Group City High and their Grammy nominated song ?W hat W ould You Do?, to her current roles on TV, the road to becoming the star Claudette Ortiz has

?I wasunf ortunateenoughtohavea f ew abusivetimesin my lif e. When I wasgoing throughtheabuseI wasyoungandreally didn?t understandat thetimetheimpact it wouldlater haveon my lif e. Lookingback nowI think survivingmademestronger. It hashelpedme becomea better mother, anda better f riend. Asa woman youhavetocontinueon withyour lif e. Youhavetof inda way tomoveon. I couldnot havemadeit without theloveandsupport of my f amily andf riends, without prayer or without God. I haveput that part of my lif ebehindme. Abusecan break down your spirit, your conf idenceandyour worth. Youloseyour senseof value. I lost my senseof value. I hadtolearn tolove myself again. If youknowanyonethat isdealing withabuseyouhavetolet themknowthey don?t havetoaccept it. They don?t havetostay in that situation. Let themknowwhat they areworth. I realizenowjust howstrongyouhavetobeto surviveandwant tolet othersknowthey can make it to.? Having dealt with the pain of abuse, Claudette made a crucial decision to put the past behind her. She has truly healed and is strutting forward in her life with plans to embrace the stage.

the screen today. Level21 sat down with Claudette Ortiz to learn how she turned tragedy into triumph while redefining her own version of fame. Looking at photos of Claudette, it?s hard to imagine that this beautiful and confident woman was once a victim of domestic violence and grappled with insecurity. But underneath the dark black curls and smooth brown skin is the heart of woman that has learned to love and experience hope again. In a voice that was as equally soft as it was resilient, Claudette went on to describe hard to talk about seasons in her life. Your past relationship with a former group member made headlines steaming from abuse. How have you dealt with that?


W hat was it like coming back into the spotlight? When I wastouringwithCity High, we weref amousbut I still hada senseof privacy. I couldwalk intothegrocery store andshopwithout peoplereally recognizing me. Wehadf ans, but our f acesweren?t plasteredeverywhere. Wecouldleavea show andthen goon withour lives. Theinternet andreality TV havechangedthat. People recognizeyour f aceandthat makesit hard sometimes. Youhavetoalwaysbeon point whereever yougo. I enjoy it, andI amnot complaining, but f ameisjust dif f erent now f or me. Speaking of Reality TV, do you regret your decision to do reality TV? No, I don?t regret it all. Beingon R&B Divaswasdif f erent than anythingI thought it wouldbe. I wassurprisedtof indit was

very structured. I wasworriedabout havingmy lif eandmy kids?livesexposed, but it wasall very organized. (smilingshe adds) Weactually hada schedule. It wasa blessingover all. It wassoamazingtowork witha groupof talentedwomen that I had admired. I didn?t really knowthecast bef ore I joinedtheshowandit wasa great experiencetoget toknowthem. Theshow openedsomegreat doorsf or me. Since returning to the industry you have also had the chance to work with Tyler Perry. W hat was it like? I learneda lot whileworkingwithhim. His teamisvery prof essional. Hehasreally

taught mehowtobeon point. (laughingshe goeson) Youcan?t bea minutelate. Hereally caresabout hisemployeesandhisteamdoesa great jobof casting. They arenot just talented people, but goodheartedpeople. In all the hundredsof peoplethat work f or him, I haven?t met oneperson that I didn?t like. There arealwaysgoodpeoplearound. I?vebeen f ortunateenoughtowork withthemon plays, aswell as, f ilm. Tyler makessurehispeople aretreatedwell sowecan f ocuson thework at hand. On and off the screen, Claudette is a true hustler. After her divorce from Ryan Toby, a member of her former group City High, Claudette faced rough times as a single mom. Despite her previous fame, the divorce caused her to shift into a season of financial struggles; including dealing with foreclosure and being unable to provide for her kids. She ultimately found herself, like so many single moms, applying for social services. Down, but determined not to stay there, she began taking on new opportunities to get by. Claudette taught herself to be a chef and became a certified personal trainer. Taking care of her family was her top priority. She has always been willing to do whatever it took to provide for them. Her family is her place of peace and joy, and you can hear the cheer in her voice as the conversation deflects to her family and personal life. How did you get into cooking? I got intocookingbecauseI enjoy cooking f or thoseI careabout;toseethejoy on their f aces. I havegiven somethought tohavinga cookingshow. Maybeoneday in thef uture. I just lovetobebusy. I couldnever just sit around. Beinga singlemom, youaretheone that your kidsdependon toprovidef or them. I guessmy f ervor comesf romwantingtomake suremy children haveeverythingthey need. My oldest is12, andI alsohavean 11and 8-year-old. They aremy world, andI woulddo anythingtomakesurethey haveeverything they need. (Happily, sheadds) anda f ew thingsthey want too!



Is it hard to balance being a single mother in the entertainment industry? I couldn?t doit without my support system. It wouldbealmost impossiblewithout thehelpof my f riendsandf amily. Youhaveto havepeopleyoucan trust. Do your kids want to follow in your footsteps? I think becausethey grewup aroundit, they knowa lot morethan other kidsmight. They areawareof what I doandunderstandhowit?s done. They eachhavetheir own gif tsandtalents. They arestill so young. What I really want f or them istobewhat Godnaturally hasf or them. W ith her career reaching new heights, Claudette is happy about the journey life has taken her on. She has grown wiser and more mature with each new opportunity. Although her career is blooming, Claudette has managed to remain grounded. She doesn?t take anything for granted and refuses to let fame come at the cost of her family.

Yes, I makeall my decisionsbased on what?sbest f or them. It hastobe that way, they just simply come f irst. And what about marriage, do you see a future Mr. Ortiz in your family? Despitewhat othersmight say, I really enjoyedbeingmarried. There isa misconception that my last relationshipwascrazy anddif f icult andit wasn?t. Don?t believewhat you readonline. Our relationshipended, but it wasgoodandwearestill good f riends. I wouldlovetoget married again. What I won?t doisget divorcedagain. Claudette is extremely selective when it comes to choosing the next man she will share her life with. W ith good reason. The pain of the past is something she never plans on repeating. I wouldlovea hardworkingman. Onethat isbothspiritual and passionate. Hemust bealsobe compassionateandlovekids. Most importantly hewill valuef riendship rather than control. A man shouldbe a man, but heshouldalsobegood withmepursuingmy dreams. He won?t mindmy scheduleor my occasional needtobuildthings. He

will bea balancetome. The conversation continues, and soon we find ourselves talking about Claudette?s first love, music. Are you working on an album now? I amalwaysworkingon music. Musicisin my heart. It isnatural to me. I amalwayscreatingsomething. I wasnever lookingtobea superstar in music. If that happens, if God willsit f or me, then I will takeit. For me, it hasalwaysbeen about my love f or music. I amin a season of lif e nowwhereI can makemusicbecause I enjoy it, andthat?snice. I will alwaysreleasethingsf or my f ans. I don?t havea set dateon thealbum, but it?scoming. W hat advice would you give to young girls dreaming of music careers? If I wastalkingtoyounggirls comingup, I wouldtell themto watchtheir money. Learn toinvest it, or get withpeopleyoucan trust to helpyoumanageit. I wouldalsotell themtobuilda brandtocreate longevity f or themselves. Music

Photographer: Antoinne Jones Creative Director: Michael Lopez Stylist: Jerry Thompson Designer: Moniquea Renee Hair: Terrence Davidson Hair Asst. Sweetstyles by Kai & Tamora Patrice Nail Tech: Redd Flythe Location: ATL GA Weldon Bond Studios Jewelry: The Vintage Bar Shoes: Blended Bartique

changes, andbeauty f ades, but a brand, an image.. that?ssomethingyoucan builda lif e on. I wouldtell themtohavetheheart togive back. It?skey toyour success. My mother instilledin methat everyonedeservesrespect andshouldbetreatedwithlovenomatter what their station in lif e. Younever know whoor what peoplewill become. Youcan?t use your popularity asan excusetotreat others bad. I knowwhat it?sliketoneedhelp. I have been in seasonswhen I hadtorely on f riends andf amily tohelpmeget by. I don?t want anyoneelsetoexperiencewhat I f elt. Staying humbleisimportant tome. In f act, I seeany f ameI haveasa tool. I ambuildinga f oundation. Givingback iswhat it?sall about. My goal istousemy f ameasa vehicletobless others. I want toleavethisworldbetter than I f oundit.

At only 35, Claudette has ridden many waves as she has navigated her way through the seas of the entertainment industry. Steadfast in her commitment to never return to her season of lack, Claudette makes wise decisions with her finances and her brand. Enthusiastic with hope, and the new prospects before her, Claudette is redefining her career. From fame to surviving abuse, the heartache of divorce, and the hardships of poverty, Claudette has overcome all odds and has risen back to the heights of success. She has redefined what fame means for her life and is pushing away the boundaries that once lay before her. Claudette has come full circle and is owning every moment of it.


New Yor k Fashion Week Runway Recap

Nicholas K - Runway - February 2017 - New York Fashion Week: The Shows A model walks the runway at the Nicholas K show during, New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Gallery 2, Skylight Clarkson Sq on February 9, 2017 in New York City.


In This Album: Christopher Kunz


Kylie Jenner and Sofia Richie attend the Jeremy Scott collection during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Gallery 1, Skylight Clarkson Sq on February 10, 2017 in New York City.

Model Gigi Hadid walks the runway for the Jeremy Scott collection during, New York Fashion week Jeremy Scott Jeremy Scott has always been a firecracker? unafraid to flaunt the most outlandish collections as the creative director of Moschino and his own eponymous line. But when he took his finale walk down the fur runway after showcasing his fall 2017 collection, the fire in his eyes was one ready to fight.

NEWYORK Fashion Week Runway Recap # YOUTH

Photography by: Miranda Rivers Date: Feb. 10, 2017

Sh ow Design er s Alora Safari Angora Boutique Belle Threads D?Lora Moda Elizabeth Cordelia Jackie Tejada Jacquie Barbavian Janay Deann Designs Janelle Funari KK Swimwear Krissy King Lil Jewel?s Boutique Little Royals Mara Skye Pink Lemonade Sabrina Marie Talisha White The Porcelain Teacup TWT Design Wear Young Socialites

T ar r i ce L ov e


?L ov e? Is C r eat i v e

fashion or as a body photographer, I capture many types of photography. I am not limited to black and white or nude. I still define myself as a fashion photographer, and a Fine Arts photographer. I will photograph any image.

By: Anitra Scott

t was a chilly day in New York as snow added a hint of white to the limbs of leafless trees, cars, and those passing by. We sat down with Mr. Tarrice Love in his New York apartment to discuss his many works of art through photography. As I watched in preparation for his daily blog, I was able to see many works of photographed art as his dĂŠcor. This Memphis, Tennessee native has so much talent that we can?t wait to see released.

In the field of photography, an artist has a spectacular way of ?freeze framing? the actuality of a moment in time. Mr. Love has obtained many snap shots of images that most dare to capture. Tarrice Love?s collection includes: Fashion, Portrait, Still Life, Black and White; just to name a few. I enjoyed all of his artistry, which includes his works of art in nude photography. Mr. Love has captured many intriguing photos, in my opinion. His talent behind the lens attracts many. How did you get started in photography? Initially I was a fashion designer. I studied fashion at the University of Memphis in the 90?s. Surrounded by beautiful African American women in my hometown as a kid, I wanted to show the fashion world what they were missing. I never understood why the women I saw every day were missing in the industry. I mean, you couldn?t tell my mother that she was not beautiful. My granny and all her sisters were beautiful, and were not being represented. I noticed that if you don?t look like someone who came from an island or straight from Africa,


Ph o t o gr ap h er

You shoot a lot of Celebrities and Actors. Who was one of your favorites to shoot and why?

then you just weren?t in the industry. How long have you been a photographer? In 2001 I decided to become a photographer. What challenges do you feel you had to overcome in the industry to be as successful as you are? I came to New York in 2006 and the challenge I faced was being southern in New York. I had to overcome the fact that I was from the south, Memphis. Most people in the industry from the New York area had a preference to work with those from the northern states. There is a lot of black and white photography and nude art. What is it about this type of photography that intrigues your eye? I like to make people see themselves in a different way. Whether it is in

I like to work with new talent such as actors and actresses, singers, dancers, who are starting out in the industry. I like to see them develop and grow in the industry. I just recently shot Black Bird star, Julian Walker who is in this season of Being Mary Jane. Also, I have photographed Anthony Barrell, a choreographer who has choreographed for Beyonce, Rhianna, and Kate Perry. I have worked with a lot of dancers lately. What new projects do you have coming up? I am working on my book right now, trying to get my collection of images together and it?s a book of my creations and my works of art, my compilation. What advice would you give to upcoming photographers that want to be in the industry at a higher level? I would suggest always taking courses that can help build on to your talent. Actually taking one class can change the way your work will look forever. How do people get in contact with you for photography? Email: Instagram: @bytarricelove Blog:

Remain on the lookout for photographs captured by Mr. Tarrice Love. Remember a picture is truly worth a thousand words.

T ar r i ce L ov e Ph o t o gr ap h y

T ar r i ce L ov e Ph o t o gr ap h y

T ar r i ce L ov e Ph o t o gr ap h y

T ar r i ce L ov e Ph o t o gr ap h y

T ar r i ce L ov e Ph o t o gr ap h y

T ar r i ce L ov e Ph o t o gr ap h y

"You have to recognize the bigger picture, the purpose of your travels is to build the Kingdom of God"

I nspiration:With L atise M. Howie

When Your lifeI s A Novel


istening to Latise speak, it is clear that she was purposed to be a writer. From the moment her voice resonated through the phone line, there was something about its confidently smooth tone that felt both familiar and comforting. Her words seemed to flow with ease, and with each story she imparted, seemed carefully selected to engage the mind as they painted a vivid picture of Latise?s life. Like her books, each word and phrase is precisely placed to invite you into a world she is delighted to share with you. Born and raised in North Carolina, author Latisse Howie is a writer to her core. Penning ink to paper comes as naturally to her as breathing. It sort of oozes from her and is apparent in everything she does. At 45, Latise is loving herself, her life and is a poised and self-assured. It?s hard to

By: Desiree Helm

imagine she didn?t always feel that way. Although her hometown was mostly black, Latise went to a predominately white high school. She was into cheerleading and being on the student council. As a teen, she struggled with self-identity. Her peers from home thought she behaved too white, and her white class members didn?t see her as ?really? black, but still managed to treat her differently. She didn?t feel as if she had a place in either world and grappled with fitting in. Life began to look up for Latise when she made the decision to attend North Carolina Central University, a Historically Black College. Latise explains: ?There is nothing like a Central experience, or really an HBCU experience. North Carolina Central is always going to be extraordinarily special to me because that is where I came

into my own. It was the best experience I could have embarked upon. I learned so much about Latise Howie, who I really was. That?s where I fell in love with myself, and with writing. It became part of who I am? Latise wrote her first book right out of college, but she never published it. She never really felt like it was ready. She didn?t think that she had lived enough, or had enough wisdom to put something out. Over the next few years, Latise endured two really poor relationships. At the time, the circumstances appeared unbearable. However, looking back, Latise is grateful for the experiences. Joyfully Latise expounds: ?I thank God for the experiences now. Nothing is coincidental. Those things were supposed to happen. I learned a lot through the process. When I was writing the first book in the series, Elevator Silence, I realized that I was meant to write from my experiences. What I went through was meant to be a teaching tool for others. I originally began writing a book on celibacy. I had made a decision to be celibate and wanted to write a book to help others deal with the situation. I began to feel like my book was more condemning than helpful. When I made the decision to start writing about my experiences, I didn?t want it to sound preachy. I wasn?t sure what to do. One night I went to bed and was awakened with thoughts of different characters. I tried to go back to sleep, but I couldn?t. It was as if the characters wouldn?t let me sleep. I had to write their stories out. It was like that all the time. Once I was at a conference, but instead of paying attention to the keynote speaker I was writing the ending to my novel. It didn?t matter where I was, or what I was doing. I had to write. Sometimes I would wake up at 1, start writing and would still be writing when the kids got up at 5am.

I believeGod, or theHoly Spirit, was helping mewrite. I was getting idea after idea. I know my book 50

was anointed and spirit driven. I could write about things I had never experienced, like drug addiction, but from a firsthand point of view. It was amazing. I have been able to reach people with my books and impact their lives.

All 3 novels together arecalled theChronicles Trilogy. Thebooks are: Elevator Silence, The Chronicles SideTrack, and The Chronicles Highways I ntersections and Exits. Giving birth to a vision often comes with labor pains. Although Latise knew that she was purposed to write the books, the process of birthing her novels came with its?s share of struggle and strife. As a self-publisher, she was confronted with many obstacles. Writing the books was never a burden. It was the easy part. Words always came easy to her. It was finding the time to write, financing the books on her own dime, and finding ways to market her books that obstructed her process. However, somehow God always seemed to provide provisions just when she needed it most. (She knew he had her back) Other ordeals, like editing and marketing were challenging too, but she kept pressing because she knew there was purpose in her trial. The depth of Latise?s voice changes as she describes how she made it through the hard times When God gives you a purpose and vision, he will also give you the provision to make them happen. Sometimes the thoughts of others can also get in your way. The fear of what others will say and the fear of failure can be overwhelming if you let it. Knowingly she admits that when she began writing the books she was sort of moseying along. She was working as a property manager and had saved up close to $40,000 to buy a house. Then one day, out of the blue, Latise was unexpectantly let go from a position she had gotten to

comfortable in. Instead of getting discouraged and giving up, Latise realized in that moment that God was releasing her to finish the books. She pushed on and used the money she was saving for her house to instead publish her book and pay for the marketing campaign. I didn?t know what was going to happen, but God knew. My favorite quote is ?Faith removes all limitations?by Napoleon Hill. Every time I felt doubt I knew it was fear based. I had to conquer fear to move forward. My children became my reason why. My book wasn?t just for me, it was for them. When I remembered that, everything else was easy. I could close my eyes and see the books on my coffee table even though they weren?t really there yet. I willed them into being, spoke them into existence. I would see them in the supernatural with my spirit eye. I knew that if I kept at it, they would manifest into reality. If we speak it we can have it. Since the release of her books, Latise is moving full steam ahead with life. She has been fortunate enough to see her books in the hands of major celebrities that helped to spark the initial popularity of the series. However, it has been the sustenance of the content in the books, and its?realistic portrayal of life that has kept people reading them. Her books have become so well loved that she is now working on converting her books to a stage play. Latise has won the Gospel Image Award for Best Inspirational Author, and Author of the Year from the Queen City Awards. In addition to writing, Latise is also using her talent for words to speak to other women. It can be hard to balance working on your goals with being a mother. It was something that she herself was challenged with when she first stepped out on her own. Latise knows that success would not have been possible without the help of family and friends encouraging and supporting her along the way. She desires to pay things forward by inspiring and

empowering other women. She is working with a group to produce a Women?s Empowerment Forum. She desires to use this platform to equip other women to be successful and along the journey of life. ?I named my last book ?Highways, Intersections and Exits?because life is journey. Every step, and every person you meet are part of your highway. Your interactions with other people are the intersections along the road. Going through life you realize that not every situation was meant to last and not every person was meant to stay. Those are your exits. Life itself is the journey. You have to recognize the bigger picture, the purpose of your travels is to build the Kingdom of God. Everything I do is to help others succeed in order to Glorify God.

"Don?t let anything stop you from winning. Not your family, your life, your fear, your age, or your education. Nothing can stop you from doing thething you weredesigned to do. " Latise believes that although writing and speaking comes naturally for her, it comes with great responsibility. She has been gifted the ability to capture an audience. Whether it?s her warm inviting voice, or her passionately told stories, people are drawn to her presence and will listen to her words. The gift of words is her superpower. But like any superpower, it can be used for good or evil. She understands the importance and power within her words and is determined to use them to the best of her ability as a positive force in the lives of others. She is unfaltering in her decision to live life to the fullest, and intends to leave a legacy of change and transformation to all she encounters. For more information on Latise Howie, or an autographed copy of her books you can visit her website

Koko Nanga Design Label Koko Nanga's most recent collection was entitled Mwaleni- which is an African term in the "Bakweri" Culture in Cameroon, Africa. The term means "Warrior". The shoot model represents the characters in the Art of War. (See Below) Photographers include Karli Evans @KarliEvansPhoto, Model Leah Wright @MsLeahWright, MUA Carine Eyoum-Czubba and @NinaFly23 for this powerful presentation. Styled by @MagnoliaEmporium (A curated home decor and design service boutique based in Charlotte, NC.) Koko Nanga's collections and shop items can be seen on the website at Maryanne Enanga Mokoko ( The designer behind the brand) is based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She can also be contacted for custom or ready to wear looks. Instagram/Twitter @KokoNanga. If you find this exciting, look forward to greater things from KN in 2017!

Lisa Bennett

TheWOMANbehind Charlotte?sLABEL w it h f in din g places t o per f or m ? I envision Label showcasing more talent, and expanding laterally to offer more services, such as ?LABEL PRESENTS?, a concert series where there would be a platform for popular, as well as local artists to perform. So I definitely sympathize with a need for more places where Charlotte?s talent can showcase their music. Also, we plan to open a second club in Dallas, Texas. By Davita Collins


harlotte, NC is distinctive for a plethora of reasons, from the famous Queen Charlotte,whom the city is named after, to becoming the mecca of the NASCAR Dynasty. The jewel that remains seemingly hidden is the nightlife here. Like other major cities, Charlotte has her own bevy of eateries, sports bars and nightclubs where the locals and visitors alike tend to frequent. But none have a presence like those at The Music Factory, home of upscale nightlife venue Label. I had the pleasure recently to talk with Lisa Bennett, Owner and Founder, about what makes Label cut from a different cloth from the rest of clubs on the scene, her future plans, and more. Tell u s w h o you ar e, w h er e you ar e f r om , an d w h at in spir ed you t o st ar t you r bu sin ess? Oh, it is an odd, roundabout story; I am originally from the New England area, specifically Connecticut. I attended University of Connecticut (UCONN), where I received my degree in Mechanical Engineering. I was in the industry for 22 years, having owned a design and manufacturing business, which I dissolved in 2011. Later, I met my boyfriend and business partner, Robert, while attending for Ballroom and Latin dance classes at which he was the instructor. He had an appreciation for music and loved being on the dance scene. So, then we decided to join forces to open Label, in October 2012, which has a dual concept: both a club, and a separate venue where special events are held.

Do you h ave a specif ic t ar get m ar k et ? How do you adver t ise? Label typically attracts people at least 25-years old and older. We advertise via social media and local radio. We also have a street team, called Label 4.0 who is also responsible for marketing. Do you h ave an y f am ily m em ber s or ch ildr en in volved w it h you r bu sin ess? Yes, my son, who is involved with the marketing aspect of the business. How did you cr eat e t h e n am e Label?

Is it t ou gh bein g a w om an in a m ale-dom in at ed in du st r y? Wh at advice w ou ld you give t o ot h er bu sin ess ow n er s as f ar as h ow t o k eep door s open w it h all t h e com pet it ion ? Although it is a challenging industry, aside from being male-dominated, I don?t see it as being tough because I am a woman. Many of my employees are women, and while there is a lot of labor we have fun along the way. When you are passionate about something and you are doing what you love, it does not feel like work. My advice to other business owners is to put your customer first. Customer service is the key to loyal clients, and continued business.

It took us 5 months to create the name, and prior to the name Label, we had 3 Cen t r al In t er collegiat e At h let ic other possible names. But, the concept of Associat ion?s (CIAA) t ou r n am en t is label came from ?designer labels?, as in the ar ou n d t h e cor n er . Do you h ave an yon e upscale clothing brands people like to special lock ed in so f ar ? associate themselves with. So when people think of Label, they think of exclusivity and Although I cannot disclose which performers we will feature, I can guarantee luxury. you it will be big! Wh at m ak es Label dif f er en t f r om ot h er How do people get in t ou ch w it h you ? clu bs? We have 32 VIP tables, which is more than typical clubs. Our customer service is #1, so we treat all of our guests like VIP. Also, we have been able to attract A-list celebrities and entertainers, such as David Guetta, Future, Drake, Calvin Harris, Tiesto & Hardwell, Trey Songz, and Young Dolph. They customarily request our services whenever they are in town. Wh er e do you see you r self in 5 year s? Wh at ?s n ext f or Label? How do you in t en d on h elpin g ar t ist s in t h e n eigh bor in g ar eas w h o ar e ch allen ged

For in qu ir ies, em ail in f o@labelch ar lot t , or go t o t h e w ebsit e w w w.labelch ar lot t an d click on t h e ?con t act ? t ab, f ill ou t t h e f or m w it h you r qu est ion s an d con t act in f or m at ion t h en click ?su bm it ?.

Label is undeniably a nightclub here to stay. We look forward to its long-term success! The verity of events, celebrities, and DJs there weekly, we knew all along it was a woman running the show! Hats off to you Lisa, and your awesome partner in greatness, Robert! Be sure to follow Label on social media! Twitter: @LABELCharlotte Instagram:

NOW YOU CAN ST RUT YOUR ST RUT EVERYDAY European Wax Center Launches Strut 365? , a New Collection of Skincare, Bath & Body, and Brow Care Products


avid Coba, CEO and co-founder of European W ax Center (EW C), the leader in the lifestyle beauty and waxing services categories, announced today the launch of Strut 365? , three collections of products designed to extend the EW C experience into your home. EW C?s mantra is W alk In, Strut Out? and now you can feel that way every day. W hile many brands claim they know waxing, and others claim they know beauty products, only European W ax Center understands both. Strut 365 gives EW C guests the opportunity to really get gorgeous, every day, through their new collections; Strut Smoothly? , Strut Lavishly? , and Strut Boldly? . W hether you are searching for something to maintain gorgeous skin in-between waxes, something to seduce your senses while bringing out your skin?s natural radiance or something to achieve daily Browfection? with, there is something in it for everyone, every day, in every collection. We have got you covered; lavishly, boldly, and smoothly! ?After years of intensive research and development, I?m beyond excited to see our vision for a beauty line come to fruition,?says Coba. ?We have leveraged our team's expertise in scientifically formulated skincare products with efficacious ingredients to design a comprehensive line of products that will enhance the services offered in our centers and inspire confidence and gorgeous skin. It will allow our guests to bring European W ax Center with them wherever they go.? Each Strut 365 product is formulated with its own key ingredient complex to produce results that will leave skin looking renewed and refreshed. 27 luxurious products, all free of harmful parabens and mineral oil, make up the complete portfolio of Strut 365. Products are enriched with ingredients to keep skin nourished, retain moisture and protect your skin. The EXCLUSIVE Comfort Blend? , featured in eight products, is designed to help replenish the skin's natural moisture barrier. Infused with the highest grade roman chamomile, aloe vera, vitamin E, english cucumber and mediterranean sea kelp, this complex calms, nourishes and restores to reveal your most beautiful skin. Get

ready to walk in, and strut out of the bathroom as you enjoy the confidence that luxuriously smooth skin can provide. EW C?s hair growth inhibitor (Narcissus Tazetta Bulb Extract), featured in four products, helps visibly slow hair regrowth between waxes and promotes hair to grow finer and softer than before. The bulb of this flowering plant has been shown to significantly reduce the length of the hair shaft while inducing the hair into the catagen stage of the hair cycle at which time the hair stops growing and gets ready to shed. In other words, Strut 365 continues to work for your skin in-between waxes to ensure visibly smooth and hair-free skin.


Anniversary issue Feb/Mar 2017  

Featuring Life After City High with Claudette Ortiz, NYFW and More!

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