Bold statements allow us, as Black women, to affirm ourselves, be sure we are heard, and let the world know we are to be loved and acknowledged. They unite us, spark healthy discourse, and allow us to build community in a way only we can.
"I'm Black and I'm proud."
"Reclaiming my time."
"My Black is beautiful."
These are all rallying cries of pride and joy, and for entrepreneur Bianca Kathryn, one bold statement is helping to enhance the conversations around what it means to be a Black woman of richly diverse cultures and experiences. As an Afro-Latina whose father is African-American and whose mother is Mexican-American, she's adding her own unique perspective to the global narrative, telling the story of millions of other women who can tap into both their Hispanic and African heritage through Yo Soy AfroLatina, a brand that offers apparel, accessories and mugs.
The foundational premise of her company speaks volumes in the way of empowering Black women in the Hispanic community, with products that feature prominent sayings like, "Mija, I'm busy," and imagery that encompasses what it means to be a woman at an intersection of cultures.
Launched in New York in 2017 as a "passion project," Kathryn got serious about expanding Yo Soy AfroLatina into a viable e-commerce business in 2020. She's now been able to not only grow the company's community on Instagram to more than 16,000 followers, but also curate a website where she offers more products that are relatable, practical, and fun.
"I was on my journey of learning more about Afro-Latinas. It was just really learning more about my identity, especially as I was coming into myself as a Black Latina woman," she says. "It’s one thing to grow into your identity in having your parents around you, but as I left for college and left my home state [to pursue] my career, I was having all these new experiences, which really ignited something in me to learn more about my culture. I created this small collection of T-shirts, hats, and mugs and all of it was basically phrases or things that pertain to my culture in some way or another."
In the beginning, she adds, she had no intention of turning it all into a business, and she'd juggled her day job working in social media marketing for a major TV powerhouse while self-funding to scale. "I love mugs and I love coffee—and that’s a part of our culture—so, I wanted to come up with phrases and statement pieces that could not only spark conversation but empower you at the same time," she adds. "I was just having fun with it. When I realized the impact of what I was doing, I said, ‘Okay, I think I need to shift my gears a bit and I need to put on my business hat and transfer this passion project into a small business. I had that epiphany around the start of the pandemic and ever since then I’ve pivoted my approach."
Kathryn says many of her personal experiences related to culture and identity as an Afro-Latina have informed her passion for continuing to promote support and sisterhood for Afro-Latina women, starting from her roots in Detroit, to her time working in New York, to spending time in Los Angeles, to today, having a base in Houston. She's had the opportunity to navigate personal and professional growth in several major cities that have large, influential Hispanic communities. Along the way, she's flourished in that journey, one that includes seeing how stereotypes can be perpetuated and how oftentimes, people can create a certain vision of what they believe a Latina woman should be or embody.
“It’s interesting having those experiences with your own people," she says. "I have to remind some that the Latina community comes in so many shades and colors. We have different hair textures and body types that you really cannot tell me if I’m Latina or not simply because of what your family looks like or what you see on TV.
"We are not a monolith. I think with the help of social media, a lot of people have slowly learned what a true representation of a Latina looks like. And we’re still learning."
For Kathryn, continuing to represent, not only via her brand but through her speaking engagements and social platform, is all about remembering her mission to provide a space for Afro-Latinas to feel welcomed, loved, and seen.
"To be an entrepreneur in 2022 means you just don’t give up," she says. "I think to be an entrepreneur nowadays is staying focused and not easily getting distracted by what you see on social and what your competitors are doing—staying close to your brand and your vision as to why you created your business. That’s what I try to do every day."
For more of Bianca Kathryn, follow her on Instagram @biancakathryn_.
Featured image courtesy of Bianca Kathryn
How Content Creators Hey Fran Hey And Shameless Maya Embraced The Pivot
This article is in partnership with Meta Elevate.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the past decade, chances are the names Hey Fran Hey and Shameless Maya (aka Maya Washington) have come across your screen. These content creators have touched every platform on the web, spreading joy to help women everywhere live their best lives. From Fran’s healing natural remedies to Maya’s words of wisdom, both of these content creators have built a loyal following by sharing honest, useful, and vulnerable content. But in search of a life that lends to more creativity, freedom, and space, these digital mavens have moved from their bustling big cities (New York City and Los Angeles respectively) to more remote locations, taking their popular digital brands with them.
Content Creators Hey Fran Hey and Maya Washington Talk "Embracing The Pivot"www.youtube.com
In partnership with Meta Elevate — an online learning platform that provides Black, Hispanic, and Latinx-owned businesses access to 1:1 mentoring, digital skills training, and community — xoNecole teamed up with Franscheska Medina and Maya Washington on IG live recently for a candid conversation about how they’ve embraced the pivot by changing their surroundings to ultimately bring out the best in themselves and their work. Fran, a New York City native, moved from the Big Apple to Portland, Oregon a year ago. Feeling overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of city life, Fran headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of a more easeful life.
Her cross-country move is the backdrop for her new campaign with Meta Elevate— a perfectly-timed commercial that shows how you can level up from wherever you land with the support of free resources like Meta Elevate. Similarly, Maya packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden, where she now resides with her husband and adorable daughter. Maya’s life is much more rural and farm-like than it had been in California, but she is thriving in this peaceful new setting while finding her groove as a new mom.
While Maya is steadily building and growing her digital brand as a self-proclaimed “mom coming out of early retirement,” Fran is redefining her own professional grind. “It’s been a year since I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon,” says Fran. “I think the season I’m in is figuring out how to stay successful while also slowing down.” A slower-paced life has unlocked so many creative possibilities and opportunities for these ladies, and our conversation with them is a well-needed reminder that your success is not tied to your location…especially with the internet at your fingertips. Tapping into a community like Meta Elevate can help Black, Hispanic, and Latinx entrepreneurs and content creators stay connected to like minds and educated on new digital skills and tools that can help scale their businesses.
During a beautiful moment in the conversation, Fran gives Maya her flowers for being an innovator in the digital space. Back when “influencing” was in its infancy and creators were just trying to find their way, Fran says Maya was way ahead of her time. “I give Maya credit for being one of the pioneers in the digital space,” Fran said. “Maya is a one-person machine, and I always tell her she really changed the game on what ads, campaigns, and videos, in general, should look like.”
When asked what advice she’d give content creators, Maya says the key is having faith even when you don’t see the results just yet. “It’s so easy to look at what is, despite you pouring your heart into this thing that may not be giving you the returns that you thought,” she says. “Still operate from a place of love and authenticity. Have faith and do the work. A lot of people are positive thinkers, but that’s the thinking part. You also have to put your faith into work and do the work.”
Fran ultimately encourages content creators and budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Meta Elevate’s vast offerings to educate themselves on how to build and grow their businesses online. “It took me ten years to get to the point where I’m making ads at this level,” she says. “I didn’t have those resources in 2010. I love the partnership with Meta Elevate because they’re providing these resources for free. I just think of the people that wouldn’t be able to afford that education and information otherwise. So to amplify a company like this just feels right.”
Watch the full conversation with the link above, and join the Meta Elevate community to connect with fellow businesses and creatives that are #OnTheRiseTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Shameless Maya and Hey Fran Hey
Savannah James Credits Her Mom For Helping Her Deal With Fame By Instilling Self-Confidence In Her As A Child
Savannah James has won the hearts of many over the years because she showcases the power of self-confidence and staying true to oneself through various fashion and beauty posts, regardless of the current trends and the opinions of others.
The 36-year-old, who has been with Lakers forward LeBron James for over two decades, shared she was able to form her own identity with the help of social media by unapologetically being herself because of a past experience and the lessons her mother, Jennifer Brinson, instilled in her long before LeBron became a basketball star.
During a recent interview with Vogue, Savannah revealed that one of the reasons why her mother was adamant about her having self-confidence and self-assurance was because Brinson didn't want her to conform to societal pressures as she entered the spotlight alongside LeBron.
Savannah On The Self-Confidence Her Mother Instilled in Her
In the discussion, the mother of three recounted a time when she experienced a hair disaster before her prom due to not explicitly informing her hairdresser about the particular style she wanted.
Savannah disclosed that after viewing the finished product, which consisted of a "partial updo with long bangs," she left the salon with tears streaming down her face. Although she made the best of the situation after composing herself and even posed with LeBron for the infamous prom photo, Savannah explained that was the last she remained silent about what she wanted.
As LeBron got drafted into the NBA in 2003, and the spotlight increased for the pair, Savannah stated that when it came to her looks, she took into account the past horrible experience and the advice her mom gave her about being herself to become the woman she is today.
"My mom always instilled a certain level of confidence and self-assurance in me, so I didn't go into LeBron being in the NBA and having all these spotlights around thinking that I needed to change anything about myself," she said, "I was just going with what I knew, what I was comfortable with, and what I felt looked good on me."
Savannah also mentioned to the publication that she feels it's "pretty dope" that she receives positive remarks about her life, beauty, and fashion choices.
"I'm honestly just being myself. I don't put on air or try to pretend to be something that I'm not because I can't do that very well. So for people to receive me for being who I am, that's pretty dope," the star added.
Savannah On The Talks She Has With Her Daughter Zhuri When It Comes to Hair and Beauty
Later, Savannah opened up about why sharing the experiences she learned about self-love and self-confidence with her 8-year-old daughter, Zhuri James, was necessary.
In the interview, Savannah revealed that once becoming aware that she was welcoming a girl in October 2014, she asked God for Zhuri to have a lot of hair so that she could do it "all day."
"Once I found out I was having a little girl, I was like, 'Please Lord, can she have a lot of hair? Because I just want to do her hair all day.' I never thought it would get to where it is now. You get what you pray for," she said.
Savannah also mentioned that her wish of wanting Zhuri to have long hair wasn't solely based on her physical appearance but rather on the bond they would build overall as they do beauty routines together, something she did with her mom growing up.
"It's important for me [to do her hair] because it's something that I did with my mom. It was a true bonding time that we had, and a time for her to instill confidence in me, tell me that my hair is beautiful, and embrace my curls. I do the same with Zhuri, and we can have an open dialogue about not just hair but other things too," Savannah explained as she shared details about the conversations that occur between her and Zhuri.
Whatever tactic Savannah uses when it comes to being in the spotlight, it appears to be working because she is trending so often on social media for just giving fans an honest view into her life, which is commendable.
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Feature image by Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images