If you've seen films like Couples Retreat, Bridesmaids, and Fifty Shades of Black or TV shows like New Girl, the name Kali Hawk might sound familiar. What we didn't know about the starlet is that she has been an avid jewelry collector for many years while also slaying the big screen with some of Hollywood's biggest talents. While on the set of movies and television shows, Kali would often use her own jewelry and accessories. She soon realized that at a certain point, shopping begins to cultivate a certain taste which leads to experimenting with having things custom-made.
That's when the light bulb illuminated and Kali opened the gateway to designing; she went from customer to creator.
At 28, Kali created H.CROWNE, with the 'H' in the name stemming from her last name Hawk and 'CROWNE' from her first creation. It's both reflective of the brand aesthetic and magically mysterious. H.CROWNE began when Kali commissioned a selection of museum-quality crowns for her personal use. Her frequent trips to the Metropolitan Museum in NYC piqued her interest after seeing amazing crowns and ancient jewelry. The womanpreneur even jokes about watching the classic film Coming to America one too many times; but once she began wearing the pieces around, the overwhelming responses proved that she had touched on something that the public wanted. Kali had no choice but to move forward and share her vision.
More than anything, the actress covets the quality of her pieces which speaks volumes. H.CROWNE was a private endeavor she funded on her own as a way for her to share her joy of jewelry with others. Since its inception, H.CROWNE has been rocked by the likes of celebrities like Ariana Grande, Ella Mai, Nicki Minaj, Janet Jackson, and Queen Beyonce herself. "To have had my jewelry worn almost exclusively by superstars over the last four years has been like a dream come true. Now that I've expanded into manufacturing, I can bring the superstar experience to the public, and that's maybe what I'll be the most proud of in the end," she told us.
In an exclusive interview with xoNecole, we catch up with Kali Hawk to talk about life as a multi-hyphenated boss, never taking "no" as an answer, her popping clientele and keeping squares out of your circle.
xoNecole: You told Essence, "I've taken tricks of the trade for the wealthy customer and made it available to everyone." What are some of the tricks of the trade you learned?
Kali Hawk: The main trick is to keep the focus on quality. When you buy a $1M diamond necklace, generally a decoy will be made that you can wear around if you choose to keep the real version in the safe. The decoy has to be made to the exact standard as the original diamond necklace, all while using materials that lessen the value. Now, the decoy of the $1M diamond necklace may cost around $30K, but it has to look like a million, and feel like it at a fraction of the cost.
I've given this same attention to everything H.CROWNE puts out. There is a range of price points on the site, so there are options to suit everyone, but the quality remains the same across the board. You can wear one of my $168 rings alongside any of your most expensive jewelry and it will fit right in. Oftentimes people get more compliments on that one!
xoNecole: Why do you think it's important to make your designs available to everyone?
Kali: Being an actor has given me a window into a world where the Cinderella experience is happening everyday. We all look very basic when we show up in the morning, but when we step onto the set with our perfect hair, perfect makeup and accessories, it really is a magical transformation to behold. I know intimately how wonderful it is to be made to look and feel like a star, and I think everyone can have that experience. With H.CROWNE, I get to share some top-quality sparkle, and also the added star power that comes from knowing you're wearing jewelry made famous by some of your favorite celebrities. It's just way more fun to be inclusive of everyone, and fun is what fashion is all about!
"I know intimately how wonderful it is to be made to look and feel like a star, and I think everyone can have that experience. With H.CROWNE, I get to share some top-quality sparkle, and also the added star power that comes from knowing you're wearing jewelry made famous by some of your favorite celebrities."
xoNecole: As a New York native, you don't believe in taking 'no' for an answer. How has this frame of mind shaped your journey as an entrepreneur?
Kali: To me, a "no" is just a signal to find my "yes" elsewhere. And there is always a "yes" to be found if you've got the energy to keep going. As an entrepreneur, and just as a person, I don't get stuck on the "no". I'm looking for the organic "yes", in the best way I can have it. Just knowing that you can create your dreams and feel good throughout the process is the most wonderful thing. I set that as my intention and just try to keep everything in alignment with that.
"A 'no' is just a signal to find my 'yes' elsewhere. And there is always a 'yes' to be found if you've got the energy to keep going. As an entrepreneur, and just as a person, I don't get stuck on the 'no'. I'm looking for the organic 'yes', in the best way I can have it."
xoNecole: We have seen your designs dripping on celebrities like Beyonce, Janet Jackson, Migos and many more. How did you come to build your star studded clientele?
Kali: Quality, variety, and availability. I pride myself on being able to deliver the very best and I put my whole life force behind that. There was a week where Janet [Jackson] was in NYC doing press, and I had just landed at my hotel after completing a movie I'd gotten injured on. Once her stylist Aquiles told me he needed things for Janet, I turned my hotel suite into a showroom and rushed many new styles through production so she could have them. I was limping around my suite showing him all the new jewelry, and we were just laughing at how crazy the world of celebrity style can be, and how dedicated you have to be to stay in it.
The first time Beyonce wore an H.CROWNE piece, her stylist Zerina Akers requested a headpiece that was needed in 48 hours. I did not sleep for the entire time just to make sure it got completed on time. Both Beyonce and Blue ended up wearing that piece in the artwork for The Carters album Everything Is Love, and in the On The Run II tour film visuals.
At the end of the day, I love being able to contribute to bringing someone's vision to life. That's true of being an actor, and an entrepreneur. I am endlessly available to contributing the best there is to offer, and I think that's what attracts and maintains strong relationships.
xoNecole: What does it mean to you to be a black female entrepreneur?
Kali: To me, it means I get to experience the excitement that comes with what I represent to others like me. People are always so happy H.CROWNE is my vision and many times people are eager to support any way they can because they know what a male-dominated field I'm in. When I'm walking through the jewelry district, I don't see anyone that looks like me, which adds a unique element to what I'm doing, but it also opens people's minds to the fact that someone like me exists.
xoNecole: You've said, "When you align with people whose abilities you can trust, it takes the guesswork out of creating success." Can you share some experiences you have had that brought you to this conclusion?
Kali: A person's track record and resume really matters if you're looking to launch or build something. Before I showed the collection publicly, my friend got me an appointment to preview the collection at Vogue headquarters. It was like a scene out of The Devil Wears Prada, but it was so important because Vogue has the track record of being at the forefront of fashion and style. I streamlined a lot of my ideas for H.CROWNE after that meeting, and also got confirmation that some of my ideas were right on the money!
"When I'm walking through the jewelry district, I don't see anyone that looks like me, which adds a unique element to what I'm doing, but it also opens people's minds to the fact that someone like me exists."
xoNecole: One of H.CROWNE's offerings is a monthly subscription box. Why do you think this is important for your brand?
Kali: The subscription box is just another fun way to be inclusive, while also presenting a little monthly sample sale experience that comes right to your mailbox. I like the idea of accessible luxury, so the subscription box option is wonderful for fans of the brand that want to experience some of our new styles in an affordable way before they're formally released. There are three price options, and so far, people have been loving the consistency and the quality of it all.
xoNecole: What's your favorite piece and why?
Kali: My ultimate favorite stuff is the 24 karat gold collection. Many people told me I couldn't make jewelry in 24 karat gold because it's "too soft", so I really just did that collection as an act of defiance. It was a great experiment that yielded some lovely pieces I often wear everyday, and the richness of that pure gold color has a real Wow Factor. Most people have never seen pure gold at all, so it sparks a lot of great conversation. I'm also just in love with the African vibes. I feel like Mansa Musa casually walking around with kilograms of gold on.
Featured Image Courtesy of Kali Hawk