Upon graduating from Arcadia University with a Bachelor's in graphic design and taking on a job in her rightful field, Iris "Barbee" Bonner felt creatively stifled by the restraints and rules that are attached to the 9-5 life. With full faith in her path and the willingness to manifest her destiny, she knew a "normal" career path wasn't for her, and called her corporate lifestyle quits in pursuit of her passion. Later, Iris became known as the artist behind the vivacious brand, These Pink Lips.
These Pink Lips has been worn by a number of celebrities including but not limited to Mary J. Blige and Cardi B., whose large personalities complement the brand and their shared mission to empower women. As I walk the halls ready to enter this palace of pussy that I've stalked via Barbee's Instagram account, I'm almost immediately greeted by the provocative writing on the wall that screams, "pussy garden," confirming one thing, and one thing only: We. Had. Arrived.
The brand made its debut in 2012 at the Black Light District Showcase, but the concept was born long before then.
Iris told xoNecole that her artistry dates back all the way back to kindergarten. The young creative went on record in her 8th grade yearbook saying she would be fashion designer and artist, proving that even during childhood, she was hip to the power of manifestation. She later began sketching voluptuous women in skin-clad clothes who are otherwise hypersexualized by society, which would turn out to be the foundation for her business.
Some of the brand's mantras include: "Pussy not war," "pussy power," "goaldigger," and many more proclamations from the soft-spoken Bonner, which all aim to prove that our sexuality cannot be characterized by an outward appearance or persona. Through the brand, she hopes to evoke confidence in women and men alike without regard to societal rules.
Warned against naming her brand 'Pussy' during its inception, Iris displays the type of faith that affirms she would've been successful regardless of her company name.
Through the pursuit of her passion, one thing is undeniable: Iris has built a brand with her identity at its core and little regard to the opinion of naysayers or conformist.
She and her body of pussy prints march to the beat of their own drum.
Despite her normally reserved nature, having an edgy, provocative brand has helped nudge her extroverted side to the forefront a bit more as she navigates press, networking, and growing interest in her art and fashion. However, that doesn't stop people from drawing their own conclusions on who and what Iris and her work represents.
"People look at my work and they're like 'oh this girl is crazy.' And, I am ... a little bit, but you have to get to know me. I go out and people expect this 'AHH!' and I'll be like 'I'm still a little shy.'"
Being the only black woman in many places, Iris cites judgment as one of the most challenging parts of her work -- finding that, "People [are] judging or people [are] not really paying attention to the work. They're only looking at one word or one painting without knowing. I don't expect everyone to get it. I just let my work speak for itself."
"This art is supposed to be a way of me expressing myself, so if I'm not even able to express myself and do the things I like then what's the point?"
Certainly you, my fellow girl bosses, have heard "your vibe attracts your tribe" before and this seems to be a philosophy that Iris effortlessly lives by. This is only made more evident as she recalls the excitement she felt garnering celebrity attention, and the day Cardi B. chose These Pink Lips to pull her wardrobe from. She exclaims how perfect she feels the femme-c was and still is for a brand that shamelessly embodies feminism at its finest.
"It feels good, but most of those relationships happened so organically. Like, Cardi B. I think she's the perfect person for the brand."
Other notable entertainers being draped in pussy power include everyone from Amber Rose, Remy Ma, and Missy Elliot, to PINK!.
Despite the obvious excitement that comes with gaining celebrity attention, Iris modestly explains that while celebrity recognition is great, the "everyday people" who have been "rockin'" with her are equally appreciated and thrilling. She maintains a humbleness that is critical to maintaining momentum and success, yet a quality that is frequently M.I.A. as she thoughtfully acknowledges, "They really believe in me." And, that we do!
In addition to believing in the vision, the goal, and the brand, there's also so much we can take away from Iris Bonner and her ever-growing movement. The young creative had this message for budding girl bosses:
"Before Instagram, before any of that, I'm Iris and I would still be doing this. You gotta be passionate, original, and true to yourself."
Hold onto that with your faith in tact and a desire to manifest all that's yours and you shall receive it.