The moment Candace Marie Stewart took her first trip to New York City, she understood why her life in Arkansas didn't make sense. While southern girls have a unique perception of style and flair, Candace felt a soul tie to the Big Apple that she couldn't ignore. Ever since she made the fashion capital of the US her home, this social media maven has been creating a name for herself despite the status quo. We all know that behind every dope Instagram account is a super lit black woman.
The Arkansas native found a way to marry her two loves: fashion and social media. With brands like ESSENCE, Vogue, People and Lucky on her badass resume, it's hard not to root for Candace. She is wildly known for bringing the culture to international Fashion Weeks where she might be the only woman of color in the space. Not only is she a certified street style killa, she has brains to match, holding a MBA in finance.
Candace Marie can't be put in a box because she's too much of a creative soul. When we asked her how she describes her style, she said, "I can never put it in a box because I can appreciate so many different types of style. I love that you can create a character depending on what place you're going. I can create myself and be anything that I want to be and it really can be different. It could be t-shirt jeans or it could be super fabulous over-the-top designer couture. I like to play both sides where it doesn't have to necessarily be in this statement of 'this is what it is' or one word."
The creative force to be reckoned with recently leveled up and traded her time as the creative mind behind Barney's social to the role of social media manager for PRADA. Yes, the PRADA. We had the chance to kiki with the boss babe about how she feels about inclusivity in fashion, what's next for her and the biggest lessons she's learned from holding her own in these major domains.
Do you remember the moment you fell in love with fashion?
Photo Courtesy of Candace Marie
It always felt internal but the thing that I can pinpoint was in middle school and I tried to find myself like with any other teenager in high school or growing up. You're trying to find yourself in a lot of ways and you express yourself through the way you dress. I never felt like I could find anything that I really, really liked and then the internet became more popular where you could see things but not too much. I remember always being on ASOS because it was one of those few places. I remember taking one of my mother's silk scarves and there was a really, pretty orange and pink scarf so I thought, "I can tie this and make it to a shirt and wear my denim jacket over it."
My mother saw me on the way out and she didn't say much but then I'm in class and I hear, " Candace to the front office," over the intercom. I get there and my dad said, "Hey, I'm checking you out for the day." I was thinking something had happened and he tells me that my mom told him to come pick me up and make me change. So my dad took me to this sewing place and he told me to pick out a sewing machine. He said, "The next time you want to wear something make it yourself." I ended up teaching myself how to sew and seeing different designs I even made my own prom dress. I kind of want to get back into that world because my mother knew how to sew as well and anything that she knew she taught me. That's the first memory I have of like actually putting it into motion.
You've worked with big brands, like ESSENCE, Vogue, People and Lucky. What was the biggest lesson you learned from being in those major domains?
Hard work. I would look at my peers and then compare myself because we started off interning together then we did freelance together and we worked here and here. You go back and start measuring yourself up to what everyone's doing right now.
I always said, "You’re u don't have to be the smartest in the room or the most clever person but a hardworking person will outlast anyone because you have to be consistent."
The thing in the fashion industry and other industries, is hearing alot of no's. Hearing 'no' a thousand times can make you feel this industry is not for you. I've had alot of friends that felt it got too hard and they decided to take another route. I never felt like just because you didn't get the 'yes' that you thought that you wanted or thought that it should be, doesn't mean you weren't meant to be in the industry.
How do you feel about the state of inclusivity and fashion?
Photo Courtesy of Candace Marie
They can do way better. So much is hidden and deep-rooted that they don't realize what it is. I could be sitting in a board meeting and I question why am I the only black person out of 45 people that are here? I'm analyzing it in my head; there's not one other person of color in the room. I've had conversations with peers who are black or a minority and we don't want to be the Bible for all things black. It needs to be a shift and a change. I honestly noticed it more as I started to travel and go to Fashion Weeks. You're not seeing any other women of color at the shows especially going into the luxury space. I remember a photographer told me he was shooting me because he wanted to make the street style some type of diverse. It's not their fault.
Women of color are not being invited to these shows therefore you can't capture what's not there so it's like this domino effect.
Also, it was a goal for me to not even try to fit in because I like to rock braids and cornrows; this is how I feel. I'm looking different than every single person. It starts internally at these companies with the people that are behind the closed doors. Not the models. They're not thinking about us because people are normally thinking about who they're similar to naturally because you're going to pick someone's beauty standards who look like you. With that in mind, you need to have other people of various diversities, religion, etc because you're going to naturally be biased. And I said that so many times on my own team. I'm like, "Listen, I keep on picking black women. Can y'all give me somebody else because I'm always going to be attracted to the dope black girl." But again, it starts behind closed doors.
If you had to choose the best and worst parts of your job. What would they be?
Photo Courtesy of Candace Marie
The best part is that it's ever-creative and fast paced. I love that because I'm creating it as I go. From the videographers I work with to the talent, I've always been able to try new things without having stipulations. Just because, again, it's a newer industry. Honestly, a lot of times people don't even know themselves what they want so it's nice to be able to try different things and bring the diversity factor from the talent to the photographer to the space. Like, how does that look? I would say the worst part is…two things.
The fashion industry is already crazy, but social media is 24 hours so I never have a break and I need a vacation. I need to chill.
I have to constantly remind myself that I need to take care of my body because I haven't been to the doctor the entire year. I need to keep up with myself and the older I get, I'm putting what is important in perspective and what is not. Also, the other worst thing is that because social media is very on display, from a company standpoint, I always say imagine if every email that you sent was displayed to your entire company every time you send it because everyone has an opinion on it from a company standpoint. Everyone thinks they know how to do it. So you get a lot of opinions about your job. At the end of the day, I love to do recaps and reports stating this is why we did what we did.
With you saying you have to remind yourself to take care of yourself, how do you make time for Candace? How do you do self-care?
Family time. All of my family is still back in Arkansas but I literally FaceTime somebody from my family every single day whether it's an aunt or my nieces. Just hearing the kids laugh on the phone is good for me. I'm consistently on the phone with my siblings and my parents because those are the people that are going to love me regardless. They could care less about the fashion industry. They can care less because they don't understand it and that's such a breath of fresh air to step away from it. Also, I always take a bubble bath every single day just because it makes me stop and say, "This is my time."
I can disconnect and separate myself and put things back into perspective.
I just started working out again after I fractured my foot last year. I was rushing to work and fractured my foot. And I thought, this is crazy. Work is never that important. Your physical health is more important than all of this. I am my number one priority, everything else comes second. I am starting with a new company and I told them I needed a week off before I start. They asked if I could start Monday and I said, "No, I need a week off." I have to be at my best to give you my best. If I am empty, I can't give you anything. Thank
As a woman of color, what do you find the most intriguing about us magical beings?
I would probably say our hair but it is more like our creativity. Because we are so creative and I posted a meme I found where the woman changes her hair every week to a different hairstyle. It was so me and I can never keep the same style for long. That creativity comes out in my job as well. At work, they always ask what I think because I always give the most out of the box ideas.
That's what people don't see. When you hire us, you are getting so much creativity.
When I look on social media, from dancing to jokes, my friends and I talk about how only black people can create this type of magic. We are really so bomb. I was watching Beyonce's Homecoming and I think she said some of these things that we can do isn't normal and that's the thing, our creativity is not normal. I am in awe of how we can take something so basic and make it so creative.
You've already made a huge impact on fashion and social media, what's next for you?
Photo Courtesy of Candace Marie
I'm coming more into my own, if that makes any sense. I'm becoming more comfortable being in such an industry. Sometimes people feel like it's such a juxtaposition for black people to exist in luxurious spaces but we do it and we are seeing it with collaborations like Dapper Dan and Gucci. And with that, there were still some underlying things that were like taking place. For me, I just want that next step to include me bridging the gap.
We belong in this space and we can own this space and we deserve job opportunities, from modeling to photography to being invited to these shows.
My next step is going to really start to intertwine that. Social media will always be there too because that's a passion of mine. I love doing it for friends and different businesses and things of that nature, but I do want to see that gap close up where you don't have to second-guess yourself [as a person of color] or I don't have to worry about being the only black person in a space. Am I going to see anyone else that looks like me in this space? I feel that my next step will allow me to own that better because I feel like a lot of what I did at Barney's was me laying the foundation and seeing a lot of those fruits from my labor happen. As much as I love social media, I'll always be a black woman. There's no separation from that.
Keep up with Candace on social.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Joce Blake is a womanist who loves fashion, Beyonce and Hot Cheetos. The sophistiratchet enthusiast is based in Brooklyn, NY but has southern belle roots as she was born and raised in Memphis, TN. Keep up with her on Instagram @joce_blake and on Twitter @SaraJessicaBee.
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
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Y’all, I don’t know if now just happens to be a heavy season for this or perhaps it’s just me, but whether it’s been on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, or “X” (which we all know is still Twitter…LOL), have you noticed that a lot of people have been talking about the pain of going through a friendship break-up? I’ll be the first to raise my hand in this class and say that some of the ones that I’ve personally experienced over the course of my lifetime damn near took my breath away; especially when it comes to the unexpected levels of grief that oftentimes typically follow (check out “How To Heal From A Broken Friendship”).
When I write my next book (that’s currently slated for release in June of 2024; just in time for a big milestone), I’m going to share some of the things that personally caused me to go through the ending of some friendships. For now, I’m going to share a big one: friendship infidelity.
Yeah, I know — oftentimes, whenever the word “infidelity” is used, the main (if not only) thing that comes up in people’s minds is someone cheating on their partner. However, if you’ve read my content for a while now, you already know that an “occupational hazard” of mine is the fact that, as a writer, I’m pretty word-literal. Therefore, when it comes to infidelity, I’m aware that it’s got more than one meaning. And when it comes to friendship (or so-called friendships — check out “Ever Wonder If A Friend Is Just...Not That Into You?” and “7 Signs Your Friendship...Actually Isn't One”), yes, there is a definition that totally applies. Let’s discuss.
What Does Infidelity Literally Mean?Giphy
In order for this to “scratch any itch” that you might have about this particular topic, let’s get into the definition of infidelity that I was referring to. While yes, the most popular one is “marital disloyalty; adultery” (one day, we’ll have to talk about how the Bible doesn’t define adultery in the way that folks think it does (check out Matthew 19 sometime), another definition is “unfaithfulness; disloyalty.” While we’re at it, let me share a few synonyms for the word too: betrayal, falseness, inconstancy (bookmark that), deceit, double-dealing, fraud, breach of trust, violation, dishonesty, and false-heartedness.
Okay, so now do you see how it is totally appropriate to use the word “infidelity” in the realm of friendship if someone has been unfaithful or disloyal to you in any of these ways (that inconstancy one is a mutha!)? Do you also get that there is a huge possibility that, even if you don’t want to admit it to yourself, there are times when you’ve committed some form of infidelity when it comes to one or more of the friends in your life?
Because be real — have you never breached their trust? Have you always been consistent? To violate is to treat someone or something with disrespect. Have you never done that before? Only your ego would tell you that you’ve been a perfect friend — and the ego lies.
That said and with the meanings of a different kind of infidelity established, let’s now talk about how to approach this type of experience…because it ain’t easy.
When It Comes to Faithfulness in Your Friendships, What Should Your Expectations Be?Giphy
As far as having my own accounts, I don’t do social media (still trying to decide if I will, a little bit, around my book release) — and it has been peace, wonderful peace, to live that way. This means that it’s pretty rare that I’ll read comments via any of the platforms I write for (also peaceful). Oh, but a few years ago, when I penned “Why I Prefer My Friends To NOT Be Friends With Each Other,” I did tiptoe out a bit, and boy, some folks were disgruntled with me, chile. I was called petty, problematic, and a host of other stuff.
Uh-huh first, I don’t get how you can be mad at me about what works for me and my life (being controlling manifests in all sorts of cryptic ways) and secondly, time and experience have taught me that it’s a boundary that has served me extremely well. One of the reasons is that, since friendship infidelity is a very real thing, my lines not crossing helps to keep people from betraying my confidence or double-dealing in a way that may not even be intentional.
An example? Say that I have two friends and I tell one of them something in confidence. Then she tells the other friend, assuming that I already had because she thought that the other friend and I had similar discussions. This would be a non-issue if I hadn’t brought them together in the first place.
Another example is, one of my closest friends has some people who I like a lot who live in Nashville (my friend doesn’t). Sometimes, when she comes into town, we’ll all hang out. I don’t do it outside of that, though, because there are things that she shares with me about them on occasion (from a getting a different perspective to make certain decisions angle; especially since I’m a life coach) that I don’t want to make her or them feel awkward about (even if it’s just due to somewhat of a shift in my energy). Plus, everyone just needs to have their own people. This ain’t high school; everyone doesn’t have to be in the same cliques.
If one of my friends wants to vent about me…I don’t care if/when they are talking to someone who I don’t even know…because I’m not friends with that person… because I don’t expect anything from a complete stranger. So again, this type of boundary has served me extremely well over the years — and my friends agree. It has made “faithfulness” so much easier for all parties involved because again, lines don’t cross and things don’t get messy.
Okay. I’ll give you one more example that has to do with one of my male friends and his personal friendship-related preference. Due to his high-profile profession, he doesn’t like to be discussed at all, not even casually (really). He doesn’t want me to bring his name up and, when someone else does, he prefers that I keep the conversation down to an absolute minimum, no matter what the topic is. For him, it works for his close friendships to be somewhat private, so that people don’t know who they can go to in order to get in touch with him or to receive any intel that he hasn’t directly shared — professionally or personally.
Some people may call that “paranoid.” For him, it’s safe to move that way. And so, as his friend, it’s not my job to try and talk him out of his standard. If I value our friendship, I simply need to honor his request — plain and simple. To do otherwise would be an act of unfaithfulness (especially if I agreed to what he asked me to do and then switched up on him).
So, when it comes to you, what are your expectations? What do you need — actually require — of your own friends? Have you stated those things? Because you should never assume that your definition of what a friend should be is exactly the same as someone else’s. Next, have you made it abundantly clear to them that if those expectations are not honored, you will feel some level of betrayal? If you haven’t, you should because, although most of us can agree that a partner sleeping with someone other than their own spouse is a form of infidelity, friendship infidelity isn’t quite so black and white.
If you want your friend(s) to be faithful — “true to one's word, promises, vows, etc.,” “steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant” — you need to be upfront with them about what they are vowing to do…what you want them to be constant in? Because, again, how you might roll as a friend may be something different to/for them.
Come to think of it, love languages in friendships is a good example of this. One of my close friends is a quality time person; I’m not. On the other hand, I am a words of affirmation person; she isn’t. She used to think that it was a given that I should want to hang out at least once a month and I used to get irritated that she wasn’t big on words. When we had a talk about our individual expectations, we found a “middle ground” and that made things so much easier…on both sides. Indeed, in order to be faithful (or unfaithful), you first gotta know what you’ve agreed to be faithful to. It’s not fair to expect someone to honor you and what you bring to a friendship if you’re not communicating your expectations on the front end.
So, what should your expectations in your friendships be? That, I can’t answer for you, because even when it comes to across-the-board traits like support, availability, and communication, honestly, even those are gonna manifest differently for different people.
All I’m saying is make sure that you share what your expectations are as you listen to theirs as well. That way, you both can move forward in your friendship knowing what you have mutually agreed to actually be faithful to.
What Should You Do If a Friend “Cheats on You”?Giphy
Okay, so what if, after you have established what you need/expect from your friend, they are unfaithful or disloyal? That’s kind of a loaded question because there are a lot of different ways that this box can get checked. For instance, I once had a friend who kept trying to put me in touch with someone who I knew was unsafe (on a lot of levels). She kept asking and I kept telling her “no.” One day, she called me and then handed that person the phone — she was disloyal because she dishonored my boundary.
Back in the day, I used to write devotionals and I shared the story (sans her name) in it. All of a sudden, she thought that she was the victim (gaslighting friends are something else). So wait — you put me in harm’s way and I need to apologize to you for it? If her identity was obvious (I didn’t even say “she”), I get it — it wasn’t. She just felt guilty and didn’t want to take accountability. As a result, she weaponized our friendship by going ghost for like a year and then tried to come back as if nothing had ever happened. Chile.
For me, there was no coming back. The way she handled that, on a few different levels, was emotionally draining and I honestly didn’t have the stamina for it. So, I ended the relationship officially. Years later, we saw each other and made our peace. I’m fine with it being just that (check out “Why I Don't 'Cut People Off' Anymore, I Release Them Instead”).
That’s kind of an extreme example. Still, the reason why I brought it up is because I wanted you to see how I handled one form of friendship infidelity: I thought about what happened, I pondered what I was getting (and not getting) from the friendship, I thought about how she handles things when she is in the wrong and I focused on what would be the benefits and challenges of keeping her in my life. The conclusion that I came to is I care enough about her that we’re not rolling our eyes in the mall or sucking our teeth whenever one of our names comes up to the other yet I don’t want her to continue walking closely to me in my journey. I’m good.
For you, it might be a bit different. What if one of your friends betrays you in some way? Is it fair to take a “one-and-done” approach? I dunno. Is that how you would want your friends to handle you? Do you want to feel like, no matter what, after you make one mistake (or poor choice; not everything is a mistake…some things are intentional), there’s no coming back? If so, you might not want to have relationships at all because humans are fallible, INCLUDING YOU. You might as well settle in with that fact now or you’re about to be triggered, irritated, or angry for most of your life, chile.
What Should You Do If YOU’RE the One Who Cheats?Giphy
Over the weekend, I watched a movie where a woman cheated during a long-distance relationship and then claimed that her boyfriend was “punishing her” because he wasn’t over it a month later. The first thing that came to my mind? A lack of accountability. Why? Because I’m pretty sure that if the shoe had been on the other foot, she wouldn’t be all rainbows and sunshine four weeks later…either.
Being that I grew up in an environment (pretty much everywhere, including church) where folks absolutely sucked at taking personal responsibility for their actions without trying to make excuses, using justifications, deflecting, or gaslighting, I am almost violent about making sure that I don’t follow suit. And because I’ve had times when I’ve violated someone’s boundaries (I used to be more controlling than I should’ve ever been) and/or betrayed their trust (just because I’m basically an open book, that doesn’t mean that I should assume that everyone is the same way) — I’ve had to learn how to take full ownership for my actions. Then, if the person is open to accepting my apology, I would take things up a notch by making amends (check out “Heads Up: It's NOT An Apology If An Amends Isn't Made”).
If you’re not sure what an "amends" is, basically, when you’ve done something that has offended someone or caused them some type of harm if you’re truly remorseful, it’s not enough to flippantly toss a “my bad” in their direction. No, when you really get the magnitude of what has transpired — and if you want to restore the damage that was caused — you need to be intentional about doing something that will help with the healing process. This can happen with a simple, “What can I do to make things better?” People who apologize and then ask something along those lines show that they really get what they did; not only that but they are displaying that they want to humble themselves enough to help the person they hurt to “recover” in any way that they can.
So, if you are the one who was unfaithful or disloyal — own it, address it, apologize (without any unnecessary extra-ness, make amends, and then give your friend space to heal…however they need to do so. Infidelity hurts in any kind of relationship dynamic yet when two people — BOTH INDIVIDUALS — really want to make things work, they can come back from it. Oftentimes better than they were before.
How to Heal from Friendship InfidelityGiphy
It really can’t be said enough that humans are fallible. In fact, it is my belief, that if more of us said that as a mantra, five times a day, we’d probably be a lot more merciful than we tend to be. Because since none of us are perfect — INCLUDING OURSELVES — it really is pretty ridiculous to expect to be in relationships with folks and have them never disappoint you (where they do that at?!). The reality is sometimes a friend may be disloyal — not in a malicious or redundant kind of way (another message, another time) but just…they didn’t meet your requirements, they hurt your feelings (even if not intentionally) or they simply made a poor decision. Just like you have before — and at some point, will again.
Yes, it can hurt; trust me, I’ve been there. At the same time, you can heal from the pain and your friendship can survive too. The key is to really process the character of your friend, the track record of your friend, and if the benefits far outweigh the challenges with them. If everything is on the upswing, talk to your friend about how you are feeling, pay close attention to how they respond (if there is remorse, compassion, and patience), and then make the decision that you want to move forward. And then move in a way that shows that you’ve learned from it all.
For instance, say that you told one of your friends something in confidence and they repeated it. After getting context, if it was reckless chatter, healing begins with forgiving them, them trying to make things right and then you easing into sharing anything else. No, it’s not about keeping the door shut forever — it’s more like, telling them something that you don’t really mind if it gets out. If it does, although that’s not a big deal, you will now see that yapping is a pattern for them and so, although you like having them in your life, being a “confidant space” is not where they need to be — at least not for quite some time.
And what if, in your opinion, there is no coming back from friendship infidelity? How do you heal from that? Well, you need to grieve it like you would grieve anything else. Go through the five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The key is to not stay stuck; especially in anger. Because really, how is that gonna help or change anything?
I’ve gone through some acts of extreme infidelity that took me a while to move to acceptance — really accepting that it happened and fully accepting that I had to let the relationship go. Yet once I got there, healing was waiting for me. Because I wasn’t beating myself up trying to read someone else’s mind or motive or exhausting myself by wishing things were different. No one can change the past. Even accepting that can restore you to some pretty unexpected levels.
This is the kind of topic that I really could write an entire book about. For now, I just hope that this article provides some clarity that, if you wonder if unfaithfulness is a real thing as far as friendship is concerned, it most certainly is. It’s also not automatically unforgivable either.
Last example: I’ve got a friend of decades who prioritized a woman that he barely knew over our friendship. Meaning, she was threatened by me being around and so he did whatever to make her happy even at the expense of what we agreed to do and be to each other, as friends. Friendship infidelity. He has since apologized and I told him what I am a firm believer in: the apology needs to breathe. I need to take some time, he needs to take some time and, in time, either we will still see value in our dynamic or, because an apology was made and then accepted, peace will always remain between us.
Infidelity is something that none of us want to experience — oh, but we probably will. When it comes to your friendships, perhaps you’ve got a (better) grasp on how to handle it.
Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end. Live long enough, chile, for better or for worse, you will know about both. I can almost guarantee it.
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