HERstory: #10BlackWomenToWatch

As Black History comes to a close, we're taking a look back at the 10 extraordinary women who were featured in our #10BlackWomenToWatch social media campaign.


We're keeping our eyes on these change makers.


We hope you will, too.

Oh, and with the winds of March blowing in, we'll be dropping some CHIC right here, in your inbox, shortly.



A bientôt, #TeamChic



 

Patrice McLaurin comes out the gate with her declaration. Don’t believe me? Check out her @patricemclaurin cover photo! Based in Georgia, McLaurin is a children's book author and image activist. She writes with the goal of dismantling racial stereotypes that too often precede black children, specifically black boys. I asked my new friend, "Why did you start writing children's books?" Her quick and definitive response: "I began writing children's books to humanize black boys and highlight black excellence." With that, I rushed to Patrice's website to order her STEM focused series. You'll find the link in her bio. With a gang of best seller awards and accolades on her shelf, I was curious to know... What's next? Where is her path leading? "My ultimate goal is to help other BIPOC authors share their stories through my publishing company, Khemrah Publishing, LLC." I'm keeping an eye on this powerhouse. I hope you will, too. Merci beaucoup, Patrice, for your contributions to this campaign, our children and our future. You are #BlackHERstory.


 

In full disclosure, I have had my eye on this changemaker since long before she became a working mom, and I've always known that Raena Joy was designed to do something special. What I did not know is that she would use her voice to speak for a generation of mothers who face archaic challenges in a national workforce that is systemically flawed. As a founder of @chamberofmothers, I wanted to know what motivated this working mom of 3 petite bébés to mobilize mothers toward national change. "I always knew that I wanted to be a mom, and I also knew that I would likely continue to work. When I became a mom, I realized that working moms lack support on an institutional and community level, are underestimated at every turn, and receive tired advice." Tired advice... Raena spares no mercy! In her brilliantly written blog @theworkingmomtras, Raena shares the good, bad, and the ugly as she and the Chamber of Mothers target monumental issues like paid family leave, maternal mental health, and affordable childcare. Though she's marching in the face of issues that, let's be honest, should be throwbacks from the 1970s, Raena Joy is the future of working mothers... no, Raena is the future of women in America. Watch her work!

 

Remember when we went to Nola last Fall? In celebration of her 50th birthday, my sister-friend @withrobo and I made a pilgrimage to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum to take an interactive cooking class. That's where we first met Chef Dee Lavigne. @eatdrinksofab

This woman is a powerhouse! Her story is one of resilience, perseverance, and unwavering faith in her God given talent. Following the trail that was blazed by Chef Lena Richard some 80 years ago, Chef Dee founded @deelightfulroux, the first black owned cooking school in New Orleans in nearly a century. I wanted to know, in the face of a global pandemic and a series of crippling hurricanes, what in the world inspired this New Orleans native to start a business. "My love for sharing my passion for food. I want to inspire women and girls all over the world to master your dreams!" Roger that! You can't be in Chef Dee's presence without feeling her passion. There's a light that shines inside of her that not only inspires you to create something magical with a cup of rice and the holy trinity; it almost puts you on notice that she's only getting started. When I asked about her next big move, she quickly replied, "My very first cookbook, more exciting cooking classes, and a cookware line." Yikes! I suspect that @chefdeelavigne will soon be a household name. Just remember, you heard it here first.

 

Meet Victoria Wilcox. @victoria.wilcoxx

The moment this bright, young filmmaker steps into a room, it becomes more interesting, and when she steps out, she leaves behind an excitement that comes, I think, from knowing that we've just been in the presence of excellence. As a high school student, she launched @torian.studios. In her first year at Temple University's prestigious School of Film, she is taking it to a whole 'nutha level! What inspired Tori toward filmmaking? "The escapism that film provides is what drew me into the craft. Within media like film and photography, we are able to temporarily leave what is ours and we get to explore the world in the lens of another. Not just from a different angle, but a different mentality and way of life. The aspect of empathy within this medium allows me to have peace, having the chance to creatively express myself while simultaneously being able to foster enlightenment through the motifs and principles of my work." OK, I see you! Where is her imagination taking her? What's on her horizon?

"Exploration. I have been blessed over the past months being exposed to multiple resources to elevate my content and help foster who I am as a creator. This past fall I was fortunate to intern at REC Philly, an incubator for the growth and success of creators. I am continuing my journey through them as a sponsored member. Being in the REC Philly environment will allow me to tap into realms I haven't even thought of. I look forward to exploring audio mixing and producing music, having access to dance studios so I can give movement in more projects, and more. As I continue to grow throughout this year as a creator, my voice will become stronger and my focus will become clear, and that's a journey I can't wait to start." I hope she lets me style her for the Oscars. No doubt, she'll be there!

 

It's important to remember that the way we love ourselves sets the tone for the way we will be loved by others. Meet Yvette Murray. @yvettejmurray Style influencer. Sustainable fashion advocate. Self image champion.

This Philly native is changing the narrative as it pertains to body image and beauty standards. Through her highly acclaimed style blog, A Fashionable Distraction, Yvette is redefining what CHIC looks like. I asked this style guru... how'd it happen? "This whole journey started for me as a result of my friend and photographer suggesting doing photoshoots to escape the chaos of the pandemic. The shoots rekindled my love for fashion and curating looks, mostly from consignment finds. As an avid reader since childhood, who read editorial articles in fashion magazines, I was inspired to create my blog, 'A Fashionable Distraction.' It is an ode to fashion and Susan Taylor, the former editor of Essence Magazine. When reading my blog, many will notice I take a journalistic approach to posting." Yvette's blog is... different. She's clever. She brings you to where she is standing in that moment. She encourages her readers to do... something. To try... anything. Yvette isn't following trends. She's starting a whole new conversation. I get so tickled when I see that she's dropped some chic in my inbox! Go ahead, subscribe. You’ll thank me later. What's next for this fire starter? "My next big move is collaborating with other content makers and brands. This year, you will see other people that I have styled featured in my blog. I am also gearing up events and workshops, teaching others to develop their style." I've got a feeling that HERstory is just beginning. I see you, Sis!

 

Don't call it a comeback. Est. in 2013, Katina Dowley was a pioneer in the now, immensely competitive, in-home specialty baking game. Fast forward nearly a decade, she is rebranding her booming business, @artandsugarbykatina, to incorporate more of her vision. We wanted to know more about her fascination with all things sweet. "I've been a lover of art and food since I was in diapers. My mom would calm me by sitting my carrier in front of the tv while #bobross and #juliachild were on. In school, I focused heavily on the arts and shortly after, I started experimenting in the kitchen. When I launched Katina's Cupcake Fetish, #cupcakewars was big and I focused on that aspect of baking. As trends have changed, I've been inspired to introduce my love of art into my creations.

Hence, the birth of the rebrand... #artandsugarbykatina

"My clients are elevated. They want custom creativity and attention to every sweet detail. My clients don’t need an event to celebrate. They call because it’s Tuesday and they want to be fancy. They call because they need a thank you gesture... or a treat to show someone they’re special... just because." Next up for this sugar sensation... "My next move is a commerce site so that I can ship custom cookies globally. I'm also developing the non-edibles to further explore my artistic passions. Custom acrylic cake toppers, ornaments, resin trays, and coasters to name a few." We've got our eyes on you, #queensugar!

 

She looks familiar? Of course she does! You've seen her on tv a hundred times... LAW AND ORDER: SVU, BLUE BLOODS (CBS), FBI (CBS)... and most recently THE EQUALIZER with @queenlatifah. Or... you may have seen her in #downtownhaddonfield. Narci Regina @narciregina is a local #shiningstar... and #herstory is remarkable! "What fuels my passion? God. My passion for acting and filmmaking wasn't fully realized until just 7 or 8 years ago. I didn't grow up acting. 'The plan' was to become a pediatrician. My parents were immigrants from the #dominicanrepublic and had few educational resources. They prepared their children to take full advantage of #theamericandream: Go to college and get degrees. I earned a B.S. in Biobehavioral Health and an M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology. Life was great! But in the midst of my 'planning,' God threw a curveball. Instead of returning to the workforce after our boys started preschool, I was to pursue a new path... ACTING. Once I received that bomb of a revelation, I pushed backed with a vengeance. 'Huh? That's not a part of the plan, God!' I was in denial for more than 2 years, afraid to take a risk, but I couldn't push away the feeling in my gut. I started taking acting workshops, got bit parts in community plays, and joined an acting conservatory. Then, I started booking local commercials and set my eyes on getting auditions in film & tv in NYC. Meanwhile, I would create, produce and write original short films and plays. Doors were opening (and closing) and before I knew it, I was a professional actress and a budding filmmaker. Looking back, I now see that this is what I've always wanted to do, but was too afraid to do. And I am so glad I decided to step out in fear and do it anyway." Narci's advice to anyone with a dream: "If you feel afraid about stepping outside of your comfort zone, that's a great sign that you're growing in the right direction. Entertain the possibility of accomplishing the impossible... just go for it." We're so very proud of you!

 

Shot caller, baller... Brittney Williams, Esq. is one of those women who just isn't wired to follow rules. She's much more comfortable writing the rule book. She's a first generation college graduate. She's a first generation law school graduate and member of the Bar Association. (Wait... there's more.) In 2015, with a well established legal career path in front of her, Brittney took a bold leap and established @eventsbybrittney. "After spending three years tied down to textbooks, I was ready to spend my free time doing something that made me truly happy. I was apprehensive in the beginning; but after realizing I was constantly looking for a reason to host an event and that people were always asking for my assistance with their celebrations, I began to see this as a possible business opportunity. I have not looked back since!" Of course, Brittney couldn’t do #eventplanning a little bit. That's not her style! She went full steam ahead and became one of the most sought after planners in the #DMV region. But wait, there's more... After coordinating a series of high profile weddings, being featured in national bridal publications and, oui, still practicing law, Brittney made another bold move. Literally. She packed it all up and moved 1,500 miles across the country. "I am planning to establish my business in Houston. I'm looking forward to servicing clients with a different style than those on the East Coast. I've been spending time learning the market and trends in the area. They say everything's bigger in Texas; let's see!" OK, in full disclosure, Brittney's success is especially exciting to me. Yes, she and I share a passion for achieving our goals. Yes, she and I share a drive toward excellence. But Brittney and I also share something especially divine... we share a great-greatGrandmother. Oui, Brittney is my #BabyCousin. This week, when headlines are focused on a new #SCOTUS nominee, I'm remembering when "little girl Brittney" came home from 8th grade and informed me that she was going to serve on the Supreme Court. I have never doubted for a moment, that if she wants to, she will. Watch this one, #TeamChic.

 

Passion and purpose. You'd better eat your Wheaties if you intend to roll with Margo't Goodson! (For those of you not born in the 1900s, google the reference.) In the first draft of this post, I attempted to list all of her professional degrees, executive certifications, industry accolades, charitable affiliations, etc... but I tired myself out! Margo't is accomplished, ok? VERY accomplished. But, like so many of the purposeful women leading the conversation, Margo't is a devoted member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc... and you can't be in her presence for more than a few minutes before her salmon pink and apple blossom green pride emerges. "Deep in my heart I love my AKA, I love my A-K-A, I love it, I love it. I love it! The sisterhood is like no other. We help each other. The leadership development and community service is something that has kept my heart beating for the 32+ years that I've been blessed to be a member of the illustrious Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Since my days on the HBCU campus of Hampton University Gamma Theta chapter to my OZOmazing graduate chapter, our service to all mankind ensures that we help boys, girls, men and women in ways that exemplifies excellence." @mickey1239seltzer An affiliation with the Black Greek Letter Organizations, also referred to as #thedivinenine, seems to be a common thread among our leaders and influencers. Rich in tradition and steeped in a legacy of pride that dates back to 1908, the women of #alphakappaalphasororityinc are an elite group of move makers and game changers. We’ve got our eyes on you, Ladies.

 

This is our official Entrée to Black Paris, #TeamChic. I first came to know of Dr. Monique Wells when I saw her speak on a French news panel during Madame #JosephieBaker's indiction info the #panthéon. A steward of legacy, Dr. Wells is a native of Houston, TX, and a 30-year resident of our beloved Paris. Through her entrepreneurial work as a veterinary pathologist and toxicologist, travel professional, writer, speaker, and mentor, she embraces and harnesses the power of education to change lives. Dr. Wells worked for 13 years in the corporate world before combining her passion for life sciences, literacy, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) education, the arts, travel/study abroad, and women’s empowerment under the umbrella of her U.S. non-profit organization, the Wells International Foundation (WIF). 2022 promises to be filled with breakthroughs for WIF and for @ENTREEtoblackparis - the travel business that Dr. Wells runs with her husband. The two organizations are collaborating on WIF's Entrée to Black Paris Cultural Awareness program, which offers a wealth of information about the historical and contemporary experiences of Africans and Afro-descendant people in the City of Light. WIF is also launching the L³ Alliance, a membership program for high-achieving women leaders, this year. "L³" stands for "lifestyle, legacy, and leading by example." The program is designed to help these women keep the concept of legacy "top of mind" and observe how doing so influences their impact as leaders, thereby reinforcing and magnifying their ability to wield positive influence in their professional and philanthropic arenas. Today, as I am aboard a flight to #parisfashionweek, Dr. Wells is celebrating her birthday. Please join me as we wish her a joyeuse anniversaire. All eyes on you, Madame.

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