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Four Black Women-Owned Apparel Brands Share Why They Do It For The Culture

They're saying it loud, they're Black and they're proud.

Workin' Girl

When it comes to Black pride, it's something we wear loudly and proudly on our hearts and our on our sleeves. Self-expression is one of the many ways we celebrate and unapologetically uplift who we are as people. From popular sayings to mantras, we have an array of elements that remind us of how creative, how dope, and how multifaceted we are as a people, and dope ass apparel is a way for what we wear to speak for us. Style is an extension of self-expression, so quite literally some black-owned apparel and accessory companies aid in that freedom of owning the fullness of ourselves as well as our love affair with our people.

Since the 2020 Revolution started, everyone has been doing their research about how to support the culture. xoNecole has always been in the business of highlighting black women-owned businesses, so the new trend of supporting black businesses is actually our mission. Keeping that same energy, we rounded up some women making waves in the apparel realm.

Raven Nichole of Legendary Rootz

Photo Courtesy of Raven Nichole

"I was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. I founded Legendary Rootz while attending Arizona State University and earning my Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry. I love all things creative and I was inspired to create Legendary Rootz because I needed a safe space to just be myself. My ultimate goal is to inspire Black girls worldwide that they can accomplish anything they put their hearts to. I want the world to know that this brand is more than just a business. It represents the messages and encouragement that's been poured into me that I hope every Black girl and Black woman internalize. My passion for reclaiming our history and celebrating black culture pushes me to strive for that vision."

On The Why Behind Legendary Rootz:

"Whenever I looked around, whether that be on TV or in magazines, I didn't see anyone who looked like me. There wasn't a space where I could vent about things that were important to me such as my natural hair or even the microaggressions I faced in daily life. To be honest, when I started, I did not have the vision of starting a business. I just knew that I wanted a safe space where I could be my authentic self and express my blackness comfortably.

"I remember going to visit a local college in one of the smaller cities in Phoenix. While there, a student came up to me and told me how much she loved the brand. She went on to tell me how her little sister was being bullied at school about her hair and skin tone. After she found out about it, she grabbed a few Legendary Rootz items for her and she said how much that helped her. Knowing that my art could be of help is all I needed to keep creating and pouring into this brand."

Nareasha Willis of AVNU

Photo Courtesy of Nareasha Willis

"I am a fashion designer from Jersey City, NJ. I'm a firm believer to always create what you want to be a part of. I'm inspired daily by my ancestors. AVNU targets the modern-day fashion activist who loves fashion and acknowledges the importance of its role in our society. AVNU is unafraid to disrupt the fashion industry by setting its own trends. Featuring an array of controversial statements, colors, and textures, AVNU boldly creates a voice for garments, and the individuals wearing them."

On The Why Behind AVNU:

"I used to feel like I didn't have a place in the fashion industry. I always felt like an outsider in the industry that I loved the most. I was dismissed and told 'no' so many times that I finally created my own lane to pursue whatever avenues I had in mind in celebration of my Blackness. Initially, Avenue N was a fashion blog that highlighted Black designers. It later birthed my own fashion line, AVNU."

Holly Draper of DRAPED

Photo Courtesy of Holly Draper

"Draped is a handmade headwrap and clothing boutique dedicated to helping the outspoken modern woman outwardly express her innermost authentic self through our bold fashion power pieces. I founded Draped in 2016 after losing my job as a drug and alcohol counselor. Sewing was already a hobby of mine and in my huge amount of spare time, I started creating and designing my own clothes and accessories. We pride ourselves at Draped in handcrafting many of our pieces with daring prints and vibrant colors. Many of our prints are sourced from West Africa. We also are proud of our original tee line which boasts bold female empowerment statements."

On The Why Behind Draped:

"Here at Draped, we support and source many of our unique jewelry pieces from local female jewelry artisans. We truly believe in sisterhood, supporting small businesses, and straight-up celebrating girl-power! Draped's goal is to inspire and create more contagiously confident women inside and out. I started Draped to create a space for women (especially women of color), to boldly express who they are. I want to help the modern woman outwardly express their inner-most authentic self. I want the world to know that Draped's goal is to inspire more women to be contagiously confident. Our motto is 'Rock it. Own it. Spread your colors'. And I hope that more woman take the time to embrace who they truly are."

Kalilah Wright of Mess In a Bottle

Photo Courtesy of Kalilah Wright

"I'm a Jamaican native, born and raised in Brooklyn, but have made Baltimore my home. The quintessential creative, my mind is always going thinking of new MESSages, business ideas and ways to continue our growth. If you know me or follow me on social media, you'll see that I'm never shying away from the ups, downs and sideways of not just business but life in general. I do all of this while also being a mom to my son Kaiden."

On The Why Behind Mess in a Bottle:

"I started Mess in a Bottle as a way to be vocal about my feelings, injustices and life in general without having to say a word at all. As the company grew, I realized so many other people agreed with me and I've been able to continue to create MESSages that resonate deeply with others.

"I want the world to know that we all have a MESSage and we're here to help everyone share them. Everyone may not be as vocal but it is important to give a voice to the voiceless, to stand in solidarity and be the catalyst for important conversations. No matter how you feel about a particular subject matter, sharing your MESSage allows others to think past their own experiences or beliefs."

Featured image by @shopavnu/Instagram

I think we all know what it feels like to have our favorite sex toy fail us in one way or another, particularly the conundrum of having it die mid-use. But even then, there has never been a part of me that considered using random objects around my house. Instinctively, I was aware that stimulating my coochie with a makeshift dildo would not be the answer to my problem. But, instead, further exacerbate an already frustrating situation…making it…uncomfortable, to say the least.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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