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How PR Maven Christina Rice Is Creating A Life She Doesn't Have To Take A Vacation From

On a Monday afternoon, Christina Rice packs up a little early to head to an impromptu yoga class. She’s the teacher, not the student, with

BOSS UP

On a Monday afternoon, Christina Rice packs up a little early to head to an impromptu yoga class. She's the teacher, not the student, with yoga being just one of the ventures that she has her hands in. As an owner of boutique PR and marketing agency LuxeLife Media Inc, and founder of lifestyle and adventure company LuxeLife Adventures, she's proof that when you're your own boss, you can make your own rules and create the life that you want—no permission needed.

In fact, Christina has always been one to not be confined by other's expectations of what her life should be. As a college student at Tennessee State University, she chose hustling over partying, and would spend her weekends in Atlanta to work with an artist management team. And at 21, when most college students were landing their first corporate job, Christina chose entrepreneurship instead. “I had graduated and I was like I don't really want to go into business information systems, I don't really want to work for a company because I had already had that taste of running my own business," she says. “So after three months or four months of figuring out what the next step was, I literally woke up one day and was like I'm going to start a boutique."

Photo Credit: Patrick Neree

With limited knowledge about the fashion industry and running her own retail store, Christina made Barnes and Noble her office for the next eight months, spending eight hours a day researching and learning how to start a business despite what naysayers were saying. “People were saying to me, 'you've never worked in retail and you should get the experience with how to run a store' and I was like no, I believe in myself enough that I can do this. So I did that," says Christina.

With her newfound knowledge and savings from her stint in party planning, the then 21-year-old secured a line of credit to rent the space for her boutique, and also used funds to purchase her initial inventory from a New York trade show. Within a year she had opened the doors to what would be the first of many businesses.

Being her own boss was a dream, but it didn't come without its challenges. Running an inventory-based brick and mortar store with a small staff proved to be more costly than anticipated. “Anytime you open up a business, especially something that's product and inventory based, you want to make sure that you have six to eight months of financing saved up because you're going to learn that as soon as you purchase product and sell you have to replenish it and invest back into the business to help grow that business," she advises.

Christina's lesson in frugality helped keep her business afloat, but after three years of being self-employed she learned another lesson in entrepreneurship—that sometimes change is necessary.

“At some point I just got burned out because I had so much responsibility. I had staff, I had office rent, apartment rent, and I had even bought a condo to rent out as an investment property. I just realized I didn't want to live my life in Nashville, and I was ready for a change."

Christina Rice getting ready to teach a yoga class at Yoga To The People NYC in Manhattan.

Reconnecting with the women who she worked with during her college days, Christina soon found herself packing up and relocating to New Jersey to stay with friends and assist with managing their artist, but after six months money was getting tight. She called up companies that she previously bought inventory from, and soon was working in the Frankie B. showroom. Two weeks in she realized that she didn't have the passion to continue the job, and once again found herself unsure of what her next steps would be.

At the suggestion of her friend, she began looking into public relations. She had all of the right attributes—great communicator, go-getter, and a background in fashion, but what she didn't have was the knowledge about what a publicist really does. “I started reading up on it and I was like okay, I think I can do this. Maybe I can go into fashion PR because at least I have a fashion background."

Browsing the classified ads of Women's Wear Daily—which she refers to as the fashion industry bible—she found three companies to send her resume to, one being a high-end cashmere sweater company. “I did my research and found out everything about them, and I went into the interview just very prepared. And they really liked me and hired me on the spot. Even when I got hired, I was still like I don't know what I'm doing."

Not one to make excuses, Christina became proactive and started developing relationships with stylists and publicists of notable celebrities such as Kimora Lee Simmons, Diddy, and The Olsen Twins, as well as taught herself about writing press releases. With an influx of publicity coming in, the company started growing and at 25, Christina was making a name for herself in the industry with no prior background or experience.

Christina Rice in Grenada

After eight months Christina was ready to take her talents into celebrity PR at the 5W PR agency—it was another area that she wasn't extremely familiar with but felt compelled to try. Over the next couple of years she learned the business, walked red carpets, organized large album release parties, and continued to build relationships that would later become vital when she would venture out on her own. By 2008, she had made another job change, this time becoming the Director of PR for clothing brand Akademiks. Being on the corporate side of PR offered her a new perspective of the business, but it also came with a new pair of bosses that clashed with her personality and made it difficult to enjoy the position that she once loved. After two years she once again started looking to transitioning into another role. “At some point I was just like it's time for me to go. I don't know what my next step is going to be, but I can't be here much longer because I clashed with the two [new] executives so bad and I just didn't care at the time. I was like I need to finish this project and then I need to go because I'm very unhappy."

The project was to launch a major event at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, which Christina hoped would be her last hoorah before turning in her resignation letter. But before she could go out with a bang, the company decided to let her go.

“I didn't know what I was going to do, I just knew I wasn't going to work for another company. I had gotten to a great place in my career to where I could strike out on my own. With PR, [people] wake up and they're like I'm a publicist, and you have no relationships or no formal training. Not saying you have to go to school, but working in an agency for me—as far as PR—I needed the relationships with record labels and I needed the relationships with editors. I needed that to be able to get good results for my clients, and over the years that's what my focus was."

Christina had built up a nice rolodex of contacts from her years working in the industry and freelancing, and within two months she had officially turned her side hustle into a full time gig under the moniker LuxeLife Media—a full service PR and marketing agency serving both celebrity, media and corporate clients alike.

Christina Rice visiting an underground museum in Grenada

For the next six years business was booming as Christina continued to build an impressive list of clientele. Days were spent meeting with clients, chatting with friends over cocktails, and working a job that she loved—all on her own terms. But something was still missing. Her weeks began to turn into a repetitive cycle where the lines between work and play were blurred, and she was doing little to satisfy her thirst for new experiences. One day, she took to social media to discuss her interest in indoor rock climbing and found that there were a handful of people equally lusting for life. She put together the details of the outing, and when 20 people showed up, it sparked yet another idea for the serial entrepreneur—a company centered on creating memorable moments.

Christina enjoying the breathtaking views of Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona

Though the idea came to her around the same time as starting LuxeLife Media, it wasn't until the end of 2014 that she was able to make LuxeLife Adventures official. Throughout 2015 she traveled across the world, putting together itineraries with one-of-a-kind experiences that not even a camera phone could capture. “We want your experience to be like what the local does, not just what you see when you Google the top things to do. What are some of those hidden places or the beach where locals go? Or the hole in the wall restaurant that serves the best food in Colombia? I think people miss that because they're going to all of the cool places and I'm just going to take my photo and that's going to be the trip when it could be so much more. You spend a lot of money, so you might as well get more out of it than just cool photos."

For Christina, not being afraid of change has afforded her a life that she's proud to say she doesn't regret.

“I think you have to follow your heart," she says. “You have to really be in tuned with what makes you happy. And of course making a very smart decision, financially and things like that, but also having confidence in yourself that you're going to land on your feet is what's really important. I talk to quite a few women who are afraid to make that leap, and I tell them if you want to start your own business or you want to change careers or whatever the case may be, you're only going to get out of it what you put in."

Whether she's launching her own PR agency, helping others to get the most out of life through unique experiences, or simply teaching a yoga class for some much-needed stress relief, Christina proves that the root of fulfillment begins with fearlessness—and sometimes that means betting on yourself.

Be sure to keep up with Christina and her adventures on Instagram and Twitter.

All images courtesy of Christina Rice

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

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