#WCW Christy Chong: MoCo-raised Fashion Designer and Artist

I had the pleasure of meeting today’s #WCW a few months ago, and she was such a sweet spirit and super passionate about her craft.

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Christy Chong, a 25-year-old, Korean-American and Maryland Institute College of Art alumna, is a woman who is taking the fashion design world by it’s reigns. Chong developed her passion for visual arts and had a passion for drawing and painting at a young age. “I admired fashion and styling for a long time and loved to play dress-up, paint nails, do my hair, etc. I was just a huge girly girl but never thought that I could actually pursue a career in fashion design just because I did not know too much about garment construction,” said Chong. While in middle school, her mom taught her how to sew, but she felt that the first she made was horrible, so that put a damper on pursuit of fashion, and she focused on her strong suit, fine art.  It wasn’t until Chong began college that she realized that she wouldn’t be able to make a living doing fine art. “It was more of a therapeutic, personal hobby and I needed to find another creative way to make a living. Fashion and styling was always fun to me so I tried to find a way to combine that with my love for drawing and painting. That’s when I started sculpting paper and sewing canvases together to create wearable paintings and drawings. I would hand-paint and draw out all of the prints and patterns of the garments after I finished casting these paper dresses and canvas garments. I designed my first collection of wearable paintings and drawings during my junior year of college when I returned from a semester long study abroad trip from South Korea,” said Chong

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Chong describes her designs as print-oriented, feminine, and colorful; and they are inspired by her environments, places she’s visited/traveled to, and mundane, overlooked concepts or images.
Although, Chong is an amazing talent, her location can sometimes pose a challenge. The DMV area has a smaller network of artists and fashion designers, so Chong doesn’t have the same opportunities she would in a place like New York City. However, Chong has made it work and was able to land a job right after college with a wearable art designer named Lee Andersen. “She took me under her wing and taught me everything I needed to know to run a small design business. I learned so much by working for her a little under three years, and even launched my own clothing collection with my own artwork custom printed on the fabric that I used to design the collection,” said Chong.
Chong’s ultimate goal is to run her own sustainable, profitable, clothing brand made with fabrics that are custom-printed with the artwork she creates. “My ideal life would look like this: I would wake up in the morning and go to my studio to paint and draw whatever I am inspired by that day, week, or month. I would then like to transform those paintings and drawings into prints for each new collection I design for every season. This would be my dream 9-5 job,” said Chong. But she has come to the realization that in order to sustain her own brand of high caliber, she needs a business partner and more resources which calls for a great deal of money. Now she feels that she is ready to expand her horizons by moving to New York City and working for a more global brand to gain even more experience and knowledge.
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Chong attributes her faith in God to her success and opportunities that have come her way. While she was at MICA, Chong became a Christian. She said that it changed her perspective on the way she lived and viewed life. She also developed a longing to connect more with her parents and her Korean heritage. “I prayed for God to open all the doors for me to attend a study abroad program through MICA and he answered every prayer. I received scholarship money to go abroad and was required to do a service project that educated the community about my time abroad/promoted the scholarships I received,” said Chong. “Being an art student, I wanted to do something a little outside the box and decided to design for the annual benefit fashion show. That is how I created my first real, cohesive collection of wearable paintings and drawings. I continued making work like this during my senior year for my thesis and that’s when Lee Andersen found me and offered me a job and opportunity to learn with/from her. Working with her taught me so much, and I am now ready to learn even more by working for other brands. I am now waiting for God to open more doors for me and excited to see what He has in store for my future.”
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When asked about her thoughts about the broad topic of women’s empowerment, Chong was reminded of the trials and opposition that women face on a daily basis. “Life happens to everyone; the good, the bad, and the ugly, so I admire the women who strive to face hardships and not allow them to sabotage their attitudes/mentality and their future. It is so easy to be tempted to give up and quit whatever it is that one is being challenged by, but persevering and waiting to see the good later is always empowering,” said Chong.
Follow the incredibly talented Christy Chong on Instagram!

 

#WCW Morgan Davis: Designer & the Face Behind Distinctly Creative

Morgan Davis is a 23-year-old Howard University alumna from Michigan who is a fashion designer and a creative that is bringing other DMV area creatives together. Davis received her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts and Fashion Design, but her love for theatre and music is what initially drew her to fashion design. Davis’ mother taught her how to sew, and she began doing costume design. From there she was drawn to other things like photography. But the summer before she started at Howard University, Davis created a plus-size clothing store where she designed made-to-order pieces. This lasted from her freshman year until about the beginning of her junior year.

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Due to a desire of rebranding, Davis closed down her shop, but will be relaunching MorganEliz on April 1. “Since closing the store I have sort of gotten into graphic design and illustration, and so I’m combining my love of that with fashion and making it more of a cohesive unit. Before it was like I was doing both things on opposite sides of the spectrum, instead of trying to bring it together,” said Davis.

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In November 2015, Davis launched Distinctly Creative. She was inspired to create this community because she attended tons of fashion shows in DC and other areas and became frustrated that there was only a small percentage of black and people of color represented. “I started helping other clothing brands with their brand development, etc. and my frustration was because many of them were black and it was upsetting to see such talented people have very little or no understanding when it came to business, but on the flip-side seeing white counterparts having this plethora of knowledge and resources, so I felt like these people deserve the same opportunities,” said Davis.

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With Distinctly Creative being fairly new, Davis was eager to get her name out there, but she felt like the mission of her brand was becoming misinterpreted, so in February, Distinctly Creative hosted events all month long for Black History Month such as Melanin Musings (an informal gathering and discussion for black creatives and entrepreneurs), #FortheCulture (a showcase for black creatives), and a screening of the popular YouTube web series, Tough Love. These events gave people a better understanding of the brand. “It was the perfect opportunity; given that it was Black History Month and to showcase that not only are there black creatives in business, but have people understand that there is a platform out there that can connect likeminded creatives,” said Davis.

Distinctly Creative’s website includes a directory of black creatives from bloggers to culinary arts, to visual arts and men’s fashion. The site also includes an apparel shop where you can order the “Black Creatives Matter” shirts Davis created, and last but not least there are vendor and artist opportunities available. Now if that isn’t #blackgirlmagic and #blackboyjoy, I don’t know what is!

IMG_4826Time management can become a bit of a challenge if you’re juggling a full-time marketing job, a designing career, a platform for tons of black creatives, and a personal life, but Davis makes sure she gets it done. “Sometimes it can be a little hard because there will be weekends when I really just want to go to brunch or whatever, but I’m going to instead kind of have to sacrifice time and put it towards either my personal brand or business because I know that in the long-run this is where I see myself in 5, 10 years, and to get to that, there will be some sacrifices that I have to make along the way,” said Davis.

The cut-throat competition between women is no secret, but Davis drops some gems about the reality of the thought-process of a lot of women (black women in particular) . “You’re constantly thinking ‘if I collaborate  with this person, will they outshine me or will they do this or do that or take money from me or whatever,’ instead of trying to focus on the larger picture,” said Davis.

Instead of trying to eliminate the “competition,” we should be supporting other Queens. We’re in this together, and there is enough food on the table for everyone. Morgan Davis is the perfect example of this. Her platform allows black creatives to shine, instead of diminishing their lights.

Follow Morgan Davis and Distinctly Creative on Instagram!

 

 

#WCW: LeahsEssence on Career, Faith, and Her Relationship

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Leah Clark aka LeahsEssence

YouTuber Leah Clark, also known as LeahsEssence is a 22-year-old from the Chicagoland area. She posts videos every Sunday that fall into the categories of Christianity, uplifting others, curly hair, makeup, and her lifestyle. She also works in corporate Human Resources.

Clark began recording YouTube videos at age 19, while she was a student at The University of Illinois. She initially started her channel to document her natural hair journey and to share her hair tips, but God had a plan for her channel since the beginning. She named it Leahs “Essence” because she knew it would evolve into more than hair, but she wasn’t quite sure what it would be. Fast forward to three years later, where she is still doing hair tutorials, but she is also spreading the Gospel.

The life of a YouTuber isn’t as easy as you may think. Clark said that the most difficult part about being a beauty influencer is coming up with new creative content. “I don’t typically do many styles with my hair, so after I upload a wash n’ go, or bun tutorial I’m usually at a roadblock!,” said Clark.

When asked how her relationship with God has transformed her life, Clark said, “My relationship with God has shown me that it is okay to be imperfect. Over the years, I became a bit of a perfectionist. If I did well at something, I took all of the credit. If I failed at something, I took all of the burden. When I was younger I was not necessarily humble, and did not truly see God’s involvement in my life at the time. It was only when I grew older that I realized how much God was involved in it all.”

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She also explained why she thinks others should have a relationship with God. “I think it’s important for others to have a relationship with God because, when you allow Him to, He can and will transform your life. He makes all things new. (Revelation 21:5) We need somewhere to turn to be made brand new. I don’t know about y’all, but I need God, because I need to be transformed,” said Clark. “I’ve learned that conquering things such as unforgiveness, anger, jealously, discontentment, anxiousness, or any other negative emotion is impossible to handle without God. Why live a life where you try to figure everything out on your own? Having a relationship with God allows you to cast your cares onto Him. (1 Peter 5:7) You won’t have to walk through life purposeless and alone when you pursue a relationship with God.”

Transparency can often times be difficult for some, but for Clark, that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Not only is she open about her relationship with Christ, but she is also pretty open about her godly relationship with her boyfriend.  Here are some gems she dropped about relationships…

“Being equally yoked is very important. My boyfriend and I are on the same page regarding most things, but especially our faith. In our relationship, God is the foundation. When we have troubles we turn to God, when everything is great we thank God, and every day we actively aim to seek God,” said Clark. “Years ago before I knew him, I would entertain guys who were not on the same page as me spiritually. They were not able to love me the way I needed to be loved, because they did not have a relationship with God. I always felt like something was missing. Before I met my boyfriend, I was completely taking a break from dating and entertaining pointless relationships with men. During that time I trusted The Lord would provide for me. It was not easy at all, but it was so worth it because God sent me His best. Everything is better when you surrender to God and let Him take control.”

Watch her Q&A video with her boyfriend Cory here!

Last but not least, Clark shared her views on women supporting each other. “I am learning that what God has for you, nobody can take. If somebody takes something from you, it was never truly yours. Jealousy and envy are real, and a lot of people deal with it. I have dealt with it too at times and it is a very nasty emotion, that simply is not of God. I think if any woman is having difficulty genuinely supporting somebody else, it is best to pray about it and let God mend that wound. We need each other! When you realize nobody can take what is yours, it gets a lot easier to show support,” said Clark.

Make sure you follow this beauty on IG and on YouTube! Her videos will not only help you achieve a BOMB wash n’ go, but your soul will also be fed through the Word of God!

#WCW Get Lashed By KAT!

It’s been quite some time since we have featured a woman on her grind, but I promise that in 2017, we’ll be feature many more #WCW. It’s only right to start the year off with a bang!

Kenisha Taylor aka KAT is a 37-year-old mom-preneur and MBA graduate. She is currently a Project Manager and she owns her own beauty business, Lashed By KAT, LLC. After receiving notice from her employer that her job might be in jeopardy, KAT made a big decision. “At that point I made up my mind. I would no longer be in a situation where someone else was in control of my finances. I also wanted to so something part time that I knew I would enjoy doing and not look at it just as another source of income,” said KAT. It was then that KAT decided to start doing lash extensions and make a business out of it.

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Now with her graduation from esthetician school on the horizon (Spring 2017), KAT has expanded her services. She now offers the new 3D Microbladed Brows, Eyebrow & Eyelash Tinting, Eyelash Lift, and a newly added Eyebrow Conceal and Fill.  This is a technique that includes 6 products that will give a client the look for a full 2 days, which is a great add-on service to eyelash extensions.  “Once I am a licensed esthetician , I plan to offer eyebrow waxing,” said KAT.

According to KAT, the most difficult part about starting a new business is not giving up. “An individual starting any new business needs to understand it is not easy in the beginning and all of the work will fall on you. It is up to you to market your business and also to remain knowledgeable about the industry you are working in,” said KAT.

In 2017, KAT wants to continue to market her business and expand clientele. She also thinks that supporting other women in business is important because the world is so male dominated. “Popular reality shows on television have shown such disrespect amongst women and unfortunately show acts of bringing each other down in such a negative way.  Supporting other women will give each other that boost of confidence, which will go a long way.  This will also show other women that we can support each other in a positive way!,” said KAT.

Interested in KAT’s services? Book her by clicking here. Check out some of her client photos and follow her on IG!

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#WCW: Two Business Woman Jasmine Hill-Carter

Many people don’t even have what it takes to run one business, but this week’s #WCW, Jasmine Hill-Carter is the owner of two businesses and she is a student at the same time. The 22-year-old is from Jersey City, New Jersey, but currently resides in Brooklyn. Hill-Carter has her associates degree in Fashion Merchandise Management from The Fashion Institute of Technology and she is working on her bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship at the same school.

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Hill-Carter always wanted to have her own clothing line, and by the age of 13, she was modeling. She stayed dedicated to the goal by selling candy in high school to start her graphic T-shirt line and put together a fashion show.  Hill-Carter also participated in all of her school’s fashion shows, researched what it takes to run a business (trademarking, copyrighting, etc.), and took sewing classes; however, she ended up going the jewelry route because she didn’t have the patience for sewing and has always loved jewelry as well. Hill-Carter says that she never left her house without her Juicy chain and a pair of earrings.

Now, Hill-Carter owns “Velz Monroe,” a costume jewelry line that offers a variety of pieces like bracelets, rings, necklaces, etc. Although her pieces are not real gold, they are aesthetically pleasing and will last longer if they are cared for properly. “Velz Monroe” even offer different collections like the Jesus Collection, the Culture Collection, the Angel Collection, and the Stone Collection.

After the success of a few years with “Velz Monroe,” Hill-Carter decided it was time to get her feet wet in another area. “As I mentioned before, I always wanted a clothing line and I just felt that it was time. I always get asked what I’m wearing and I promoted so many of people that it was time to start my own boutique and I can direct them to the exact item. I rather a customer feel comfortable when they are shopping for something that they may see me wear rather than I tell them where to get it from and they receive horrible customer service,” said Hill-Carter.

Her new clothing line that launched a few months ago is called “Closet of Royale,” which offers a selection of dresses, swimsuits, tops and bottoms. Of course all of this doesn’t come easy, especially because Hill-Carter is also in school while simultaneously running two businesses. She said that finding time is the most difficult task. “Days I have to promote and days I have a load of homework. I make it work but it takes all of me. I literally pull all nighters. I design my websites, build my social networks, and everything else that comes with building a business. I’m determined to graduate Summa Cum Laude next year spring,” said Hill-Carter.

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Not only does Hill-Carter have a plans for the near future, but she also has a vision for where she sees herself and her brand in five years. “I see myself in LA as a mom working from home developing website and building my kids careers from birth. I feel in the next two years, I’ll be able to hire people to run my social media and handle orders where I can focus on my MA and just work on the financial functions and be able to start my family,” said Hill-Carter.

She also has a great stance on why some women feel like they’re in competition with others, instead of collaborating with other girl bosses.  “I feel that some women see other women as competition because they don’t like to be looked over. It’s more of an insecurity in a sense because they are more focused on what everyone else thinks of them instead of what they believe about themselves,” said Hill-Carter. I was never the type to step on anyone’s toes. There are many things I have the ability to do but if I know someone who is passionate about what you need me to do, I’ll refer you to them before I take on the task. Not every female thinks like that. Everyone wants to be the lead but don’t know what it takes to lead.”

And with all those things on Hill-Carter’s plate, you would think she’s trying to take it easy. Yeah right! This girl boss is currently developing a personal website and she is planning for her cancer awareness fashion show and networking event that honors her late father who passed away the day before her birthday in 2014. “I felt like that was my biggest motivator and supporter. Losing him made me hungrier for what I wanted in life because he would go out his way to make sure he always was there for me,” said Hill-Carter. I attended the first show and it was truly amazing and a wonderful tribute to her father! If you’re in the NYC area or would like to travel to attend, tickets can be purchased here.