Gabriella Karefa-Johnson has had a very interesting few months for her career. In December, she became the first Black woman to style a Vogue cover for model Paloma Elsesser. The very first black woman. In 2020 and 2021. But I digress.
Additionally, barely a month later, her next assignment just so happened to be the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, for her first Vogue cover. And then one month after that, she styled Gigi Hadid's first solo Vogue cover. Oh, and she also styled the March Vanity Fair cover (featuring Billie Eilish). In the middle of it all, she managed to be tapped to style and star in Converse's spring 2021 look book.
So basically, sis is bookedT and busy, and her resume can go toe-to-toe with any of your faves. She's somehow flown under the radar as a boss of the fashion game, but in one of her most recent projects, her name is ringing bells.
In the cutest campaign you'll see today, Karefa-Johnson takes on the GOAT and GOAT Jr. for Stuart Weitzman's Spring 2021 Collection. The tennis star, who has worked with Karefa-Johnson for Stuart Weitzman before, poses alongside her daughter Alexis "Olympia" Ohanian Jr., age 3, who is shown wearing some of the brand's new styles that have us feenin' off the baby fever. It is the first fashion campaign that the mother-daughter duo has been featured in together.
Of the campaign, Williams says:
"It's a special campaign. I just felt like it was an opportunity because Olympia and I have been spending so much time together. Olympia is trying on my shoes all the time, it's so fun!"
But whether Serena Williams, or Zendaya, or the Vice President of the United States, GKJ (as she refers to herself), says through the whirlwind of her career, and the chaos of all her high-profiled projects, has been something she was ready for. On working with Vogue as the first black stylist, she tells The Cut:
"It really felt like a testament to how hard I've worked to get to where I am. It was an incredible honor, but it wasn't the greatest shock in the world. I'd worked for it, and I deserved it. I hesitate saying that, because I think it can sound hubristic, but it should be interpreted as somebody who set goals and worked really hard and who wasn't sure that they would come true. But when they did, it felt like it was the right time and the right opportunity. And I think that's why that cover was as successful as it was, because I was ready for it."
Her Instagram is filled with colorful, exuberant images of high-fashion nods to the industry, and comedic captions that show off her personality. Erykah Badu, Melina Matsoukas, and Lindsay Peoples Wagner (former Editor-in-Chief of Teen Vogue, also a black woman), are all flaunted throughout, as she’s basically screaming, 'I'm not new to any of this shit' as loud as possible.
Her start in the industry began when she realized her dream of "being a Spice Girl wasn't going to work out."
"I realized that maybe I don't have a good singing voice and maybe I don't actually care about music, I just liked the glam of it."
Instead, she learned by watching her grandmother and her aunt (a former model), and religiously reading Style.com and Teen Vogue. It opened her eyes to the world of fashion and clothes. She then took on a slew of internships to kick her way into the door; internships that included Women's Wear Daily and Vogue, telling Fashionista:
"I worked my ass off. I got to go on all of these amazing shoots, and I realized I liked being a fashion editor; it was the best of both worlds. You really have to be analytical, you have to be connecting the clothing to what's happening in the world, there are stories that are told through clothing, but those stories are also reflected in who we are as people, what people want to be buying, and how we translate that to any reader in America — actually, in the world."
And although she is often surrounded by those who may not look like her, she's very aware that, as a plus-size, Black woman, she carries a certain responsibility to be representative of the culture.
"I want people to know that if I'm working, literally anyone else can be working, because there wasn't a Black fashion editor that I'd look to when I was growing up — there was Andre [Leon Talley], who was amazing, but it wasn't a thing. I just want to be working consistently enough and creating pictures that are poignant enough that, to whoever's looking at them who might want to be a fashion editor, knows that it's fully possible."
Well, sis, that's exactly what you're doing.
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Featured image by Jan Zahradka / Shutterstock.com
This post is in partnership with Amgen.
The seemingly simple task of taking a breath is something most of us don’t think twice about. But for people who live with severe asthma, breathing does not always come easily. Asthma, a chronic respiratory condition that inflames and narrows the airways in the lungs, affects millions of people worldwide – 5-10% of which live with severe asthma. Severe asthma is a chronic and lifelong condition that is unpredictable and can be difficult to manage. Though often invisible to the rest of the world, severe asthma is a not-so-silent companion for those who live with it, often interrupting schedules and impacting day-to-day life.
Among the many individuals who battle severe asthma, Black women face a unique set of challenges. It's not uncommon for us to go years without a proper diagnosis, and finding the right treatment often requires some trial and error. Thankfully, all hope is not lost for those who may be fighting to get their severe asthma under control. We spoke with Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq. and Jania Watson, two inspiring Black women who have been living with severe asthma and have found strength, resilience, and a sense of purpose in their journeys.
Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq.
Juanita Ingram has a resume that would make anyone’s jaw drop. On top of being recently crowned Mrs. Universe, she’s also an accomplished attorney, filmmaker, and philanthropist. From the outside, it seems there’s nothing this talented woman won’t try, and likely succeed at. In her everyday life, however, Juanita exercises a lot more caution. From a young age, Juanita has struggled with severe asthma. Her symptoms were always exacerbated by common illnesses like a cold or flu. “I've heard these stories of my breathing struggles, but I remember distinctly when I was younger not being able to breathe every time I got a virus,” says Ingram. “I remember missing a lot of school and crying a lot because asthma is painful. I [was taken] to see my doctor often if I got sick with anything so I was hypervigilant as a child, and I still am.”
Today, Juanita says her symptoms are best managed when she’s working closely with her care team, avoiding getting sick and staying ahead of any symptoms. Ingram said she’s been blessed with skilled doctors who are just as vigilant of her symptoms as she is. While competing in the Mrs. Universe competition, Juanita took extra care to stay clear of other competitors to ensure she didn’t catch a cold or virus that would trigger her severe asthma. “I would stand off to the side and sometimes that could be taken as ‘oh, she thinks she's better than everybody else.’ But if I get sick during a pageant, I'm done. I had to compete with that in mind because my sickness doesn't look like everybody else's sickness.”
Even when her symptoms are under control, living with severe asthma still presents challenges. Juanita relies on her strong support system to overcome the hurdles caused by a lack of understanding from the public, “I think that there's a lot of lack of awareness about how serious severe asthma is. I would [also] tell women to advocate and to trust their intuition and not to allow someone to dismiss what you're experiencing.”
Jania, a content creator from Atlanta, Georgia, has been living with severe asthma for many years. Thanks to early testing by asthma specialists, Jania was diagnosed with severe asthma as a child after experiencing frequent flare-ups and challenges in her day-to-day life. “I specifically remember, I was starting school, and we were moving into a new house. One of the triggers for me and my younger sister at the time were certain types of carpets. We had just moved into this new house and within weeks of us being there, my parents literally had to pay for all new carpet in the house.”
As Jania grew older, she was suffering from fewer flare-ups and thought her asthma was well under control. However, a trip back to her doctor during high school revealed that her severe asthma was affecting her more than she realized. “That was the first time in a long time I had to do a breathing test,” she describes. “The doctor had me take a deep breath in and blow into a machine to test my breathing. They told me to blow as hard as I could. And I was doing it. I was giving everything I got. [My dad and the doctor] were looking at me like ‘girl, stop playing.’ And at that point [it confirmed] I still have severe asthma because I've given it all I got. It doesn't really go away, but I just learned how to help manage it better.”
Jania recognizes that people who aren’t living with asthma, may not understand the disease and mistake it for something less serious. Or there could be others who think their symptoms are minor, and not worth bringing up. So, for Jania, communicating with others about her diagnosis is key. “Having severe asthma [flare-ups] in some cases looks very similar to being out of shape,” she said. “But this is a chronic illness that I was born with. This is just something that I live with that I've been dealing with. And I think it's important for people to know because that determines the next steps. [They might ask] ‘Do you need a bottle of water, or do you need an inhaler? Do you need to take a break, or do we need to take you to the hospital?’ So, I think letting the people around you know what's going on, just in case anything were to happen plays a lot into it as well.”
Like Juanita, Jania’s journey has been marked by ups and downs, but she remains an unwavering advocate for asthma awareness and support within the Black community. She hopes that her story can be an inspiration to other women with asthma who may not yet have their symptoms under control. “There's still life to be lived outside of having severe asthma. It is always going to be there, but it's not meant to stop you from living your life. That’s why learning how to manage it and also having that support system around you, is so important.”
By sharing their journeys, Juanita and Jania hope to encourage others to embrace their conditions, obtain a proper management plan from a doctor or asthma specialist like a pulmonologist or allergist, and contribute to the improvement of asthma awareness and support, not only within the Black community, but for all individuals living with severe asthma.
Read more stories from others like Juanita and Jania on Amgen.com, or visit Uncontrolled Asthma In Black Women | BREAK THE CYCLE to find support and resources.
Two years ago, Hannah Bronfman, heiress, social media influencer, entrepreneur, and author of Do What Feels Good, shared her IVF, pregnancy, and motherhood journey with xoNecole, but she's also shared her experience with another amazing journey: becoming a passionate angel investor.
Last month, via her TikTok, she shared that she has invested in more than 70 companies in the past five years, and that angel investing “sits at the intersection of basically everything I do.”
Angel Investing Pt 2. Turning Obstacles into Opportunities #startup #investing #finance #business #womeninbusiness #entrepreneur #angelinvestor #blackgirlmagic #cpg #startuptalk
She continued with details on how she once co-founded a venture and faced challenges with getting funding. “I had a difficult time fundraising and was met with all the ‘isms,’ so I just wanted an opportunity to share those learnings with other founders,” she added in the video. (Her Beautified app would eventually get $1.2 million in seed funding and give StyleSeat some tough competition.)
“It was notable that a young Black female started a beauty tech company back in 2013 and the world wasn’t ready for it. And the world isn’t ready for more people of color in the venture capital world. So I’m here to just use my platform to open doors and share knowledge.”
This month, she dropped more jewels, schooling her more than 100,000 TikTok followers about what it takes for a business to qualify for angel investment and highlighting Topicals, a mega-successful skincare company co-founded by Olamide Olowe, the youngest Black woman ever to raise $10 million in funding. The company is one that Bronfman has invested in. (Oh, by the way, other investors in Topicals include Gabrielle Union, Kelly Rowland, entrepreneur and former Netflix exec Bozoma Saint John, and Yvonne Orji.)
The topic is Topical 👏🏽👏🏽 @TOPICALS @Olamide Ayomikun Olowe #startup #investing #finance #business #womeninbusiness #entrepreneur #angelinvestor #startuptalk #cpg #blackgirlmagic #skincare #beauty
Some of you might be reading all of this—heiress, Hollywood’s Black Elite, and millions of dollars—and saying to yourself, “Well, that’s for rich folk,” and you’d be somewhat right. The average net worth of an angel is $1 million (or at least $200,000 in annual salary). On top of that, Black and Brown women founders often face unique struggles when it comes to getting funding for their businesses, including biases associated with race and sex, and make up a small drop in the bucket when compared with the funding successes of startup entrepreneurs getting millions of dollars from their affluent white-male (and very well-connected) peers to make their entrepreneurial dreams come true. And even many of the Black women-led exceptions get funding from celebrity friends or other well-connected links to big money.
But there are indeed everyday professionals, entrepreneurs, and activists seeking to balance the playing field when it comes to investing in the ideas and startups of Black and Brown women, and they're rallying together to create opportunities for others to join them.
This is where some of us can do our part to get involved, put our money where our mouths are, and fund the next billion-dollar Black-owned empire (while building our own generational wealth off the dividends). Let’s get into a few basics of angel investing:
First Off, What Is Angel Investing?
Well, it’s not to be confused with family and friends donating money to help you make your side hustle the main one. Angel investing involves a savvy and committed investor—taking a high risk and expecting a high gain—who goes into a legal agreement to offer funds for the upstart and/or growth of a new business, particularly when the founder can’t get a traditional loan or funding by other means. The practice was made infamous by Broadway producers who relied on “angels” to support and fund their productions.
There’s typically an expectation of equity or the value of an investor’s stake in the company. Also, angels are more likely to invest in a great idea, unlike a venture capitalist firm, which requires a business to be a proven hit in the market (among other things). Forbes reports that oftentimes, angels invest after a startup company’s initial investment and before they need larger sums from venues like venture capitalists.
Today, angel investing has become a powerful method for funding Black and Brown women-led businesses since these enterprises have seen a decline and are often shut out when it comes to venture capital funding. Angel investing is a great way for everyday citizens to put their dollars behind a business they see is viable, has a solid business plan, has an actual market to serve, and can offer something in a way that solves a problem. (In Topical’s case, for example, had all of those elements in its favor when it launched in 2020, offering inclusive science-based solutions for common skin issues like eczema and featuring everyday models in their ads, embracing imperfections and normalizing depictions of a diverse range of natural aesthetics relatable to the masses.)
Who Can Become An Angel Investor?
While the net worth of the average angel investor is quite high, the minimum amount someone can invest in a company as an angel can vary (like this woman, who started with a $7,000 investment in NasaClip, a company founded by a savvy Black woman ER physician.)
And while accreditation is encouraged (and sometimes required based on some platform’s requirements related to income and other factors), it’s not a legal requirement for an individual to be an angel investor. Everyday professionals, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs, basically classified as non-accredited) get involved via angel investment groups, equity crowdfunding, or angel networks. Some groups have membership fees, while others bring together like-minded women who want to support one another in researching, vetting, and investing in promising budding businesses.
Look into networking events, pitch competitions, bootcamps, or courses offered by organizations and platforms like the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, Black Women Talk Tech, Pipeline Angels. AfroTech, The Black Enterprise Disruptors Summit, Level, or Black Girl Ventures.
With angel investing, the risks are high—which these types of investors are often well aware of—and there are challenges and pitfalls, but if you have the disposable income to offer, and you're willing to do lots of networking, conduct lots of research (on groups, investment platforms, and the companies), and commit to intentional, strategic planning of how often and how much you're willing to invest, angel investing is a great way to build wealth while supporting the growth and survival of Black and Brown businesses.
And who knows, maybe you can gather your network and their coins and create an angel investment support group or firm yourself. With Black women’s buying power still standing strong at $1.5 trillion and a collective move to support women entrepreneurs through actual schmoney, a change is certainly on the horizon.
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