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Joce Blake

Inside Style Writer Joce Blake's New York Fashion Week Diary

An exclusive behind-the-scenes gander of this southern belle taking over NYFW!

Style

It's been 573 days since my last New York Fashion Week. That's one year, six months, and 24 days. The last time I was in Manhattan, February 2020, was just as Big Rona was placing a chokehold on the world. I would have never guessed that while I was living my best life in the NYC streets, a pandemic would soon change my life completely. Because of the state of the world, there were no shows in September and by February 2021, the fashion houses were trying to figure out how to put on runway shows which led many brands to the digital space.


When the New York Fashion Week calendar was released for September, there was no doubt that I needed to be there. I was a bit anxious thinking about how we normally do fashion week -- packed and chaotic -- given the pandemic. But my nervousness subsided when I learned of the vaccination requirement for all NYFW events.

I knew that this season would look different with smaller events but my soul still beamed at the opportunity to get dressed up again, learn about emerging designers and leave a stamp on fashion's biggest month. I'm sure you're ready to hear all about it so keep reading for an exclusive behind-the-scenes gander of this southern belle taking over New York Fashion Week!

Day 1 of NYFW

The weather gods decided that fashion week needed some rain so I opted for a comfy, chic look. This leather dress and sneakers paired with my Telfar bag was ideal for a day running around the city in the rain.

I kicked off my New York Fashion Week with Essence Magazine's Fashion House, "an elite experience discovering and recognizing cutting-edge Black creatives in fashion and their contributions." From the talk with Sevyn Streeter on her style inspirations to the runway show featuring Eclectist, I couldn't ask for a better start to my favorite week of the year.

Next, I headed to NYFW on Fifth, a new location for the shows this year. Fifth Avenue is known for its plethora of stylish stores so it was only right to showcase the future of fashion in the epicenter. I attended the ROOKIE USA show which gave more than it was supposed to in the best ways. In its 12th year, the collection gathered tiny humans (aka kids) as models which made for the most adorable show ever. The celebrity and professional kid models lit up the runway with the latest dance moves and their bright personalities. Seeing celebs like Yung Miami, Dr. Wendy Osefo, and Victor Cruz cheer on their babies made my heart so full.

The last stop of the day: AVNU Back on the Block. If you don't know about AVNU, let me introduce you. Nareasha Willis created this luxury streetwear brand for everyday people. Her most popular creations are the "Ghetto Until Proven Fashionable" pieces because... well, the statement is all facts. I have been a fan of the brand for years so I was in love when I finally met my long-lost cousin. The event was the ultimate family reunion with jamming music, the Electric Slide and 'ayyyyyeeee's all around.

Day 2 of NYFW

I woke up with such excitement because I knew the lewk I planned would eat up the gworls. My talented friend, Candra, made me a custom top speaking all facts, "Ghetto Girls Did It First," and I wore it with a matching mesh top and pants and the oh-so-fabulous Char workroom shorts. My extra-large bamboo earrings and bamboo Brandon Blackwood bag brought it all together. I love making a statement with my outfits and this lewk definitely did that.

Day two started with Tiffany Brown Designs. In her NYFW debut, she created the "Lavender" collection comprised of 50 shades of purple. The pieces were versatile in style from tailored suits to athleisure getups. When speaking about the collection and why she chose NYFW as her coming out, Tiffany said, "Because it's the fashion capital of our country and this is the time to shine and celebrate the human spirit," said Brown.

Photo Courtesy of The Riviere Agency

"Lavender symbolizes and represents spiritual healing, tranquility, easing of tension, and purification. Today, with this collection, we are celebrating the human spirit."

Then, I headed to Spring Studios for one of the most anticipated events this season: The Black in Fashion Council Showroom. I was beyond thrilled the attend the showroom as BIFC's mission "to represent and secure the advancement of Black individuals in the fashion and beauty industry" fills my heart all the way up. I bumped into Blake Van Putten, creator of the cult-favorite bag, "Protect Black Women." We talked about his new designs and the future of CISE and let's just say that he has some heat in store for the people. I also met other Black designers like Samantha Black of Sammy B Designs and Nalebe Footwear designer, Amina E Means.

Joce Blake

Continuing in Spring Studios, I checked out the Rebecca Minkoff "I Love New York" collection. In celebration of the brand's 20th Anniversary, Rebecca unveiled her first-ever collection of NFTs. This new take on fashion week presentations featured model portraits shot by Cass Bird. The immersive NFT experience by Yahoo was definitely one to remember.

Day two's finale show, The Athletic Side of Us (TASOU), left no crumbs. It was definitely one of my favorites this season. For me, the diversity and inclusion of all sizes and bodies was everything. The pieces were designed for everyday life and meet at the intersection of transitional fashion and ancient civilization from southern Nigeria.

Day 3 of NYFW

I wasn't attending the MET Gala but that doesn't mean I couldn't bring MET Gala energy. Day 3's lewk gave blazer and crystal skirt realness. Memphis wardrobe stylist, Jenil Askew, made me this custom skirt and yeaaaaa... she did that!

By Day Three, I was definitely feeling the exhaustion of NYFW but I knew I had to push through. Our first show was the Global Fashion Collective, a platform specializing in supporting creative designers by establishing their presence around the world. I always enjoy the assortment of world designers because it exposes me to new designers and how they embed their culture into every single thread. This season's lineup included Ay Lelum (Vancouver, women's), C'EST D (NY, women's), CEDIM The School of Design (Mexico, women's), Irene de la Vega (Mexico, women's), [unusual] (UAE, men's), SAINTJESUS (Chile, women's), Carlton Jones (NY, women's/men's), SARAL ZENS (China, women's), and Blue Tamburin (Korea, women's/men's).

When I arrived at the Bomb Fashion Show, our girl Olivia Dope was spinning -- it was a whole vibe. The first of its kind, the goal was to increase diversity during New York Fashion Week. Not only was BFS sponsored by Shea Moisture, it also featured two designer ensemble runway shows with beloved brands like Oyemwen, London Couture, and Mah Jing Wong.

Photo Courtesy of Fashion Bomb Daily

Next on the schedule was Deity New York. While Renee Bishop created her black-owned luxury women's wear brand Deity New York, she was determined to leave her mark on her official entrance to NYFW with her signature utilitarian staples designed to make women feel and show up as their best selves.

We love Renee's vision of normalizing black entrepreneurs running luxury brands, so watching the models strut down the runway in her BOLD collection at THE Spring Studios is nothing short of manifestation at work. When thinking about my wardrobe for Spring '22, I'm going to need every look from this collection.

Photo Courtesy of Dynamically Branded PR

One of the events I look forward to the most each season is The Glow Up Meetup. Being surrounded by some of the best and brightest melanated content creators is a badge of honor I don't take lightly. These women move culture and pour into one another authentically. For Glow Up creators, Shay and Tania, it's always been about bringing black women together in a positive space. Saturday night was just that.

Sitting on the Public Hotels rooftop with the most breathtaking views, I kiki'd with some ladies about moving to NYC, how we all are changing the narrative around Black women in luxury and what it really means to be a content creator all while sipping on Moet and nibbling on tuna tartare. If that ain't art imitating life, I don't know what is.

Day 4 of NYFW

For my final outfit, I wanted to serve up "Trench Coat At Your Front Door." Assignment: overstood.

It's now Sunday and the official last day of NYFW. Kevan Hall did what needed to be done and took us to church with his Parisian inspired collection. The architectural structuring, detailed paneling, hand-painted prints, and textured fabrics made for timeless pieces that looked like they were in slow-motion in real-time.

Look no further than Kevan's "Brushstrokes" palette for your spring color mood board. The final walk took me out as the models walked intently to the sounds of a gospel choir singing an upbeat worship song. Even on the front row, I had no choice but to tap my feet and clap like my granny taught me. What a moment!

Photo Courtesy of Kevan Hall Designs

In between shows, I was able to link up with some blogger friends that I hadn't seen in years. These women really taught me so much about the industry and inspired me to keep going when my dreams felt unattainable.

To Sam and Marsha, thank you for being the light I didn't even know I needed. My NYFW journey is nothing without you two.

Courtesy of Joce Blake

To complete my Spring/Summer '22 NYFW, I attended the NOLCHA Shows, a place for independent designers to shine. "Ones to Watch," was the theme this season as they showcased independent fashion brands that epitomize elegance, freedom, and individuality. Each designer came with heat; this was arguably the best Nolcha showcase in years.

While the vibe of NYFW was different due to COVID, it still owes me nothing. I am forever grateful that I get to make my dreams a reality in the Big Apple.

I prayed for this; I love that for me!

To get your fashion fix and to stay up to date with the latest trends, check out the xoNecole Style section here.

Featured image courtesy of Joce Blake

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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