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From Rocawear To Rich Girl Candy: My Fashion Brand Celebrates The True Empowerment Of Women

Empowerment isn't exclusive to a specific group of women. And it's certainly not for sale.

As Told To

As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.

This is Mieka Joi's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.

I have always loved fashion and how it makes us feel. I love the creativity and individuality that is encouraged. I love the places that it can take you. I love the happiness it brings...

Your outfit can literally elevate, and even transform, your mood and confidence. And what's even better, is we can achieve an amazing look on any budget.

Throughout my life, the experiences that I've had, the things that I've seen and learned, and the opportunities that I have come across, is what ultimately drove me to make the decision to dive head-first into a space that I oh so loved.

And from there, a dream was born...

The Birth Of A Designer

I've lived my life as the CEO and Head Unicorn of my fashion label, well before I even founded the company. It was always just in me.

I'm a Chicago girl—in every aspect—born and raised. I grew up with entrepreneurship at the forefront of my household, as both of my parents were business owners. Since birth, I saw my mother, a successful single black female entrepreneur, give everything she had to her business and family. So naturally, I didn't know any other way in terms of a profession. Witnessing her work ethic, instilled a different level of confidence in me when it came time for me to pursue my own passion and career.

My company is Rich Girl Candy. We're a mood-changing symbol, using neon and varying colorful elements to encourage happiness and light-feeling childlike bliss. We pride ourselves on being a feeling; a vibe. And we celebrate individuality and standing apart from the status quo.

When you see my brand, you see color, fun, flair, and fashion, something many shy away from.

Long before getting to the point of where we are today, I worked in the fashion and styling game, dating back to my sophomore year at Clark Atlanta.

My roommate and I were approached with an opportunity to intern for a top-tier district buyer for Rocawear. And for me, this was a dream come true.

Rocawear? As in Jay-Z's Rocawear?

Sis, I am on the way...

I mean, Jay has always been one of my favorite artists, and I adore the Rocawear brand, of course, even to this day. So, basically, there was never even a moment where I considered otherwise.

We each accepted and ran with being students of fashion. One of the dopest experiences ever. Being in that environment, and just being in the presence of so many people I could learn the inner workings from, was beyond priceless. I was able to first-hand observe the fashion industry from a different perspective, which of course, was intriguing.

From here, there were a few bumps and bruises, developed companies, and partnerships made. I even took on various clients for styling and consulting, and eventually, Rich Girl Candy was born. This was in 2013–I was 25 years old.

And since that internship, to now, you've seen my work on a few of our faves—Serena Williams being one (she looked so bomb that day)—in addition to many others.

The Beginning Of Forever

I'm often asked the origin of RGC, and for me, it's simple. Rich means "abundance". And in some capacity, we are all rich—whether rich in love, rich in friendship, rich in health, or even in wealth. Basically, I want all women to be fruitful. I actually originally planned for RGC to solely be a high-end resale shop for designer bags and shoes. The accessories would originally serve as a treat to women, similar to how candy is for kids. Thus, Rich Girl Candy.

Over time, we became an all-in fashion brand, complete with a girl's youth line, partnership collections with celebs, athletic wear, swimwear, and even grinders—color always being the focus. While evolving, I knew I wanted to target fly basketball and soccer moms—those moms who match sweats with a Chanel bag or mix their fave designer dress with sneakers instead of heels. I wanted our woman to be completely comfortable, but still turn heads, whether running errands or going to a concert.

Rich Girl Candy

Our first year, we honestly wasted way too much money, there was so much trial and error. My biggest disappointments and lessons lived in these moments, hell they survived there. I was forced to become well-versed in fashion basics—ones that people don't necessarily consider, such as understanding the necessity to plan 6-12 months ahead of time (because ladies, fair warning, no factory is ever on schedule). This changed my entire perspective on how I conduct business.

So, now, while most are mapping out their 2020 fiscal year, I'm thinking of 2022.

But make no mistake about it, I've had so many rewarding moments with my business. One of my favorites, last year—the first time we attended ComplexCon in Chicago. Such a monumental moment for my team and I. For one, it was ComplexCon, the mecca of the most influential minds in the country. And two, it took place in my hometown. Being in LA and traveling often, can all take its toll. So this, for me, was a full circle moment.

Entrepreneur Girl, In A Rich World

Listen, ladies, I tell my story solely to empower. That's all I really want. My entire brand is based on it. To empower is to truly want to see others win, while supporting that win in whatever capacity you can. It's being the example, or the leader, for all women to look up to and grow from. I may not agree with how someone runs their business, but we are all doing what works for us. Everyone has their own journey, and that's OK. And this goes for all women, of all shades, with all body types, and in all facets of work.

Empowerment isn't exclusive to a specific group of women who have passed a specific threshold. And it's certainly not for sale.

We are so much more powerful when we support each other in the lanes that we choose for ourselves, we deal with enough shit on our own.

And being in my world, I often see a faux notion of that support; a thin layer. This isn't enough for me. I believe in wholehearted loyalty and protection of our queens—and if you really wanna have that conversation, let me know. I'm always intrigued by the mere misconception.

So, my advice and affirmations as a business owner lie here:

  • If entrepreneurship is a path you want to take, or a path you're currently on, stay your course. It's your course.
  • There will be many people wanting you to pay them to build your brand. No one can build or sell your brand like you can. Get help where necessary, but when it comes to vision, save that money, sis.
  • The best publicity is free. Quality product sells itself.
  • You will want to give up. Don't. These times just confirm that you're on the right path. Nothing great comes without fear. Keep going, always.
  • Find your passion. Don't take on a journey just because you see someone making money from it, that's not your passion. It's forced. Therefore, it's work.

When I'm overwhelmed I meditate. I pray, I read, I take time to reflect inward; mostly tapping into what lessons the universe is trying to teach me. I'll listen to a few of my go-to podcasts and I'm big on journaling, it helps to release buried feelings and emotions.

As for what's next for me, with the quarantine, only God knows. A lot of the events and festivals we had for summer have been postponed, so now we're in campaign mode, which represents our new reality. I am, however, focusing on engaging with our customers and audience, letting everyone know we are in this together, and in the meantime, building out the brand, making key connections, and promising a solid next move.

And I'm making a point to do all of the above, while continuing to support everyone around me. And you too.

To keep up with Mieka Joi, follow her on Instagram at @miekajoi_.

If you have a story you'd like to share, but aren't sure about how to put it into words, contact us at submissions@xonecole.com with the subject "As Told To" for your story to be featured.

Feature image courtesy of Shaun Michael.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.

This is Maya's story, written by Charmin Michelle.

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