How Black Millennials are Moving to the Organic Lifestyle

Kinky hair, coarse hair tied up in a bun, and natural hair that can be styled into endless patterns to rock those Ankara outfits are not just great, they look fabulous.

All over the world black women are reclaiming their roots and redefining what it means to be beautiful.

This generation of young black women is demanding a wider variety standard of beauty. We are letting the world know – “we get to be our own beauty standard, not someone else.”

We can all remember a time in our lives where our hair had to be dragged and stretched after our hair strands have been deconstructed by relaxers.

Now, organic hair is the standard, and this shows that we can decide what’s cool and what’s not.

The millennial generation is a unique one, we are not just absent-mindedly taking in everything given to us by the media.

We want to make an impact, and we are doing it in many ways, one of those ways is switching over to a more organic lifestyle, and here’s how we do it:


The Water Challenge – The Life Challenge

In an effort to drink more water, we bring to you the water challenge. Here’s what we do. For a chosen amount of days, (usually a month) we pledge to take just water or to take a stipulated amount each day.

We ditch our favorite drinks, soda, release ourselves from the addiction of carbonated drinks and we like, okay, for this time, for just this stipulated amount of time we would take just water.

It’s usually great to do pair up with a boss lady like you, what gets to remind you daily, have you drank your glass of water.

Before you go buying tons of products and organics, flush out toxins in your system with water and watch that skin glow and pop.

We can decide what’s cool and what’s not – @onukogufavour Click To Tweet

What’s fashion if we destroy the earth in the process?

Can clothes be fashionable and sustainable? Can clothes save the world, or change the way we do things?

Is it possible that a piece of item we wear can be made from materials that are renewable and do not take from our natural resources but give back?

There’s a word for that, it’s called Eco-fashion.  According to Stepin.org, Eco-fashion is about making clothes that take into account the environment, the health of consumers and the working conditions of people in the fashion industry.

Young people are choosing to build businesses that promote ethical fashion and balances the impact of an industry that does not harm the earth.

No plastics please, we’d rather save the earth

More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year. How this is our problem?

Plastics take thousands of years to decay, as these plastics particle break down, they are able to get into fishes and wildlife we eventually eat. Direct toxicity from plastics comes from lead, cadmium, and mercury which are overly dangerous to our health.

A friend of mine arrived in a Tanzanian Airport and was shocked that she couldn’t get through with her plastic cups, all over the world, the government is tightening the entry of plastics in its borders and businesses are doing the same.  

People are switching over to a healthier lifestyle. You can do it too. Read more… @onukogufavour Click To Tweet

Every action no matter how small can save us from the plastic tragedy. Here are a few habits that are fun and chic…

  • We have our fun straw bendable straws
  • We bring our bags from home when shopping, yes we are that cool
  • Organic wraps instead of plastic bags, cool.

Choose natural, one product at a time

From natural hair care products to natural beauty products, we switching up those alternatives.

The African beauty care industry is a billion-dollar industry and black women are beginning to take a fair slice of that pie.

Beauty products made by black women for black women are emerging into the markets, they are not just a great way to support a MotherLand mogul in your community, they are better alternatives to the paraben filled products in the market.

A beauty blogger, Sike Gbana reviews great products for skin and hair. You’d find a list of beauty entrepreneurs on our blog, which we have gone through the pains of listing out for you.

Know what materials your products are made of

And if it came from illegal poaching or through the effort of child labor, we don’t want any of that, we have our ears and eyes open and on the lookout for businesses who not only have great products but possess a good ethical standard to back it up.

If you’re on the other side, are you thinking of making a switch?

How can we support businesses and entrepreneurs who are daring to create a healthy trend? What ways are you switching your glow up? Is there a business in your community you know that is all about living an organic lifestyle? We want to hear from you.


Give us a shout out on social media.

How to rock these 5 Corporate Styles effortlessly

At the concluded MET Gala, head swooped and ears buzzed, we saw fashion statement from the future, from Queen mother Serena Williams’ magnificent dress, to Tracy Ellis Ross’ – Mirror in the wall black emblem.

We are trying to not mention Cardi’s overflowing regalia and Lupita Nyong’o statement headgear. Nonetheless, Zendaya was the star of the ball or MET rather.

She came dressed in an outfit that lit up from a wave of a magic wand. With her very own fairy Godmother or father.

Wouldn’t it be great if we all had fairy godmothers that would wave a wand at our swarthy wardrobes and Gbam, we are all glammed up.

While we are still waiting for a fairy godmother/Wakanda father, we put together a number of ideas and ways you can switch up.

Let’s take a more practical approach to our wardrobe.  These makeover and outfit ideas are for that goal-getter who knows she can slay and deliver at the same time and is doing just that, while she might be able to stretch her budget.

This boss lady wants to be in the know of fashion trend, she wants to be creative and classic, turning both eyes and heads at the meeting, for her we’ve set up an array of methods to switch that glam up

We don’t leave the entrepreneur out, she’s making boss moves, she’s running from an event venue to meeting with her clients.

She wants to make sure everything works well for her small business, and she wants to look like she means business to clients. She can’t bust a thousand box on clothes.

What ways can she creatively switch up the narrative off her wardrobe from “please-help-this-newbie-entrepreneur” to “here’s -why-you-should-invest-in-my-business entrepreneur”.

The Statement Stiletto

A stiletto can transform your look from plain to classic. First, it elevates your status, gives you more moral to look people in the eye, and a statement stiletto draws eyes from your heels all the way up to your face.

A statement stiletto can be stylish while remaining formal. They usually stand out in just one color. A bright red is an all-time favorite, a neon green will go too.

Whatever you choose, make sure to pair them off with soft brown colors and power glasses. Make a statement without saying a word

The Formal Ankara

What better way to stand out than in an all in one Ankara print pants or skirts. While you rep the Wakanda nation. you bring with you that extra sauce and excitement that is otherwise drab in a suit and tie setting.

Note: Ankara prints can get busy so it’s best to pair them off with single color, mainly white or black and minimal accessories.

The Stylish Joggers

Whoever told you pants can’t be stylish lied to you. There are days when a Motherland Mogul has to be on her feet, moving around to keep things in check, trying to meet up and staying all late to make orders move in the next morning.

This is certainly no time to do a catwalk.  When you really need that flexibility jump in from one car to another, a jogger’s gat you baby girl.

It’s light, free and flexible, allowing you to be comfortable all day long. Paired with a jacket you can quickly make the switch from entrepreneur to the boss lady

The Classic Pants

Pastel pants come in all shapes and colors. Single-colored pastel pants bearing softer shades like woody brown or pastel pink are great together.

Layering a turtle neck tee shirt or a tank top underneath the statement jackets makes your outfit pop.

It’s easy, soft and comfortable and you can always switch from feeling classic in a jacket to party style in a tee-shirt styled into a crop top to fit at a party.

However you choose to wear it, this outfit works for different occasions.

The Multipurpose Jacket

A bright colored jacket Is a must for any wardrobe. There’s barely anything you can’t rock with it. A bright colored jacket can be worn on a little black dress, a dinner gown, or even with a corporate dress.

You can pair it up with a tee-shirt and you make a unique fashion statement. And if you dare, mix it up with sneakers or all stars.

Now you have it, survey your wardrobe to find combinations that work.

Here are 3 tips to help you recreate a new wardrobe in a week.

  • Ransack your wardrobe, you would probably find a statement piece you didn’t know what to do with or a jacket you forgot from a long time ago, now is the time to bring out the slayer in you.
  • Pair each outfit by color and accessories them.
  • Next, you’d want to take photos of each outfit you think cuts the mark, scan through your Mirror, Mirror on the wall, and select the dopest of them all.

Here are a few online thrift stores you can get clothing from, all of which can be found in Mall of Africa.

  • Zara
  • Boho
  • Pretty Little things
  • Budget shopping Fashionaova

All outfits and dresses in this article can be found at StyleAmira’s fashion and lifestyle page. You can also find them on the gram.

Till next time, let us slay together.

10 MUST HAVE ITEMS FOR A YOUNG PROFESSIONAL’S CLOSET


In 2016 I moved back to my home country, Sierra Leone. Yes, sis— that tiny country on the coast of West Africa, no one knows much about.

Sierra Leone has a population of approximately 7 million people, we have government institutions, a growing and healthy private sector dominated by the mining, agriculture, hospitality, and the FMCG industry— as well as a large NGO presence.

With a range of middle-management and administrative job options so close, yet so far out of the reach of Sierra Leoneans.

None-the-less I was determined to learn the political, economic and social landscape of the country, work for NGO’s whose mission statements I believe in, and start my own business!

The only problem was that, at my big age of 24, I had no young professional wear!

I was coming out of a two-year job in a tech start-up where we wore jeans to work every day.

I quickly learned that to go on job interviews, or meetings with potential investors and clients for my own start-up, I needed affordable yet good quality business casual items in my closet.

Below I will share with you my the top 10 items that saved my interview and client meetings game for two years of freelance consulting and building a start-up.

Illustrating each item is the fabulous and unparalleled stylings by Fatouma Haidara, also known on the gram as @the_fashionartist_.

1. The high-waisted paper bag trouser

A good quality high-wasted trouser in black or dark/navy blue goes with almost every professional shirt and even casual shirts.

This piece changes any outfit from the casual to – “I’m fresh out of an important meeting” look.

The tip here is that it cannot be a tight fit or fitted trouser. The slightly loose wear allows you to run around flexible all day from meeting to meeting as most bosses do.

2.  The cotton poplin shirt

Every woman needs this in every color! Start with the basic office blue and work your way from grey to every color under the sun!

Even a basic office blue with different patterns like stripes and polka dots works. You can collect these over time. But if you find a store where they’re on sale, stock up!

3. The flounced/satin/silk blouse

There are a million and one materials, cuts, colors, and designs to buy this in.

Essentially, what’s great here is that its a stylish yet comfortable shirt that can be worn with many different kinds of bottoms while maintaining a professional/work-based air about your outfit.

4. The black ballet shoe

Practical, comfortable and transferable! This is best for work when fully covered (no peep toes— most offices and interview spaces have either a written or non-explicit policy against this anyway).

It is best to get this shoe in good quality leather (or good enough quality) so that it lasts long.

I had an all-black one from Aldo with an alligator texture and a small gold zipper in the back, and it lasted me 3 years of daily wear!

5. Closed-toe low-heeled pumps

Neutral colors like black, beige and nude are a good place to start. This has the same appeal as the black ballet shoe, however, I recommend having at least one or two of these because some offices require them for meetings.

I find pumps most essential for networking events and conferences, they add an extra layer to my self-esteem for some reason.

6. The non-fitted high-waisted knee-length (or below) pencil skirt

Yes oh, this one is mad specific because I find that if just one part of it is off, it doesn’t hold the professional gaze that I’m going for.

Pairing this with any kind of top or a classic round neck jewelry piece is a quick and easy young professional look for your more relaxed days.

7. The blazer

You may not work at a bank or in a law firm— but trust me, a blazer always comes in handy one day or another!

8. The Longchamps Pliage

This one is a bit of a splurge and a luxury I know! But if you have something similar then go for it!

What you truly need here is a black medium to a large sized handbag that is light even before you fill it with your planner, your lunch and your laptop!

Carrying bags all day can be heavy, you want something easy on the shoulders. The pliage is also waterproof for those Harmattan/rainy season days.

But if you don’t have access to one, then any good leather bag should do. Black is a practical color because it goes with every outfit.

9. The Pleated Skirt

I could go on and on, but the skirt speaks for itself. This is my favorite piece for a work presentation, networking events and lazy days when I don’t want to be confined by more fitted clothing.

It’s such an elegant piece, without even trying.

10. Your business card

You know how they say “you’re never fully dressed without a smile”? Well for a young professional— you’re never fully dressed without your card!

Not only does it allow potential employers to easily contact you but it’s a great avenue to use to ask people for their own business card in exchange for yours— so that you can send that follow up email and call later!

Haidara is the Malian founder and CEO of the interior design firm Haii Designs and her work can be found on Instagram at – @haiidesigns_interior.

In all aspects, Haii Designs, blends the traditional and modern birthing innovative and “never seen before” designs. Along with her clean, modern, and lively spatial designs, I have long been drawn to Haidara’s grown and #BossLady fashions! If you’re looking to purchase your next office ruling inspiration piece and jewellery after this article, explore tribia-by-hd.afrikea.com or @tribia.by.hd on Instagram.

5 fashion tricks to boost your attraction level

It is no longer news that some people are usually attracted to others based on how well they appeal to their minds.

The attraction can be physical, emotional, sapiosexual or sexual in nature.

But I will like to talk to you about how well you can kit up physically and still attract the right partner.

First, let me start by saying that there is no perfect person out there for you. But there are people who fit your ideal description of what you want in a man.

MR Right is simply a high-value man who knows what he wants, takes responsibility for his life and is on a journey to building great relationships too.

A lot of ladies are attracted to well-fitted men, with broad shoulders, and great fashion sense. If you want this type of man, it is not a bad idea, but you should understand that such men would want a classy attractive woman too.

That means you should look as classy as he would look too. If you are not conscious about how you look, you may miss out on important opportunities in other areas of your life.

Trust me, some people do not have the patience to know your content, they are merely moved by sight except they have an opportunity of being around you to see what else you can offer. So packaging matters a lot.

First impression is good, but it doesn’t have to be the final say but what about making sure your first impression is likable?

Let me share with you 5 areas to pay attention to look more attractive and classy to Mr. Right.

1. KNOW YOUR BODY TYPE

Should I confess to you? I just found out about my body type last year in 2018.

While growing up, someone once told me that I had a male figure and I felt bad about it. And then later, I began to compare my body with others. I wondered why I had broad shoulders and a small waist.

Don't wear a dress because it fits another person, you should be more concerned about how well it'll fit you too – @NikeFolagbade Click To Tweet

Most jackets and tops I wanted never fit me and I wasn’t conscious of the style I could blend so I simply copied the trend and close friend’s style.

I found out about body types in a learning class and I was like wow! I didn’t know that I had been buying the wrong dresses.

That could be you too. You should not wear a dress because it fits another person, you should be more concerned about how well it will fit you too.

Learn about your body type and wear what fits you.

Other types of body types are the apple, pear, inverted triangle body types, and so much more. Now that I know, I buy my dresses strategically.

So appreciate your body type, wear what fits you and flaunt well with a great style.

2. DO SKIN CARE ROUTINE

Gone are the days where skincare used to be expensive. You can actually do some organic regimen by watching them on YOUTUBE.

Not all skin care routine can fit your skin type so you may need to talk to a skin expert to know which suit your skin.

A clear and bright skin adds more to your beauty plus eating good food, fruits, and plenty of water makes perfect sense to look good.

3. YOUR SMILE AND BODY POSTURE

What is the point of having beautiful skin and body if you cannot smile and develop a good posture?

A lot of times, men are attracted to your smile and that can be the signal they need to know you are approachable.

If you are always keeping a straight face, you may have fewer people socializing with you. So put on some smile and carry yourself well.

4. ACCESSORIES

Do you know there is power in using a touch of accessories?

It can range from neck pieces, wristwatches, bangles, sunglasses, hats, scarf, statement bag, etc. it is all about adding a touch to your style and making a statement with it.

How well do you invest in accessories?

5. MAKE UP

There is something about adding a touch to your face. It makes you look more natural.

It doesn’t mean you cannot be a team natural but lighten up your face and that may be the difference you need.

When you start paying attention to how you look, you will be surprised at the kinds of attention you will get.

I know work schedule can be tight and you have no time, but you can use your mobile phone to do the necessary research and update yourself.


What will you start doing differently?

AMBER WILLIAMS: PEOPLE DON’T BUY PRODUCTS. THEY BUY STORIES

Amber Williams is the founder of Punkyflair, a brand story shop that serves beauty, fashion, and lifestyle startups. Building iconic statement-making brands is her jam, and she is committed to helping businesses grow authentically through a story. Through Punkyflair, Amber has positioned new businesses in the marketplace, molded magnetic personalities, crafted money-making narratives, and named global product collections for leading brands like Camille Rose, Heat Free Hair, Shea Radiance, and Marjani. Amber Williams connects young brands to the customers they want to reach through a story. She believes that story is the most critical business asset for one simple reason: it can’t be duplicated. It is the key to building a brand that will withstand the test of time and last forever. In this interview, she discusses how you can best understand your audience, communicate your vision, and sell with a story.  

Tell us how and why you started Punkyflair

  My early career was spent in corporate America where I used my formal training in psychology and integrated marketing to create and launch brand strategies for companies like Armani Exchange, Volkswagen, The United States Olympic Committee, and Feeding America. I was working within a world of limitless resources and possibilities in marketing. I had the freedom to be creative, spend however much was needed, and most importantly – test the water. After several years of implementing creative brand marketing campaigns, I realized that my signature approach to every strategy I created was rooted in a story. Every idea, every narrative, and every message I built told a story. Inadvertently, I used my knack for writing and understanding of human behavior to put words together that would sell clothing, jewelry, cars, and even promote funds for world-renowned athletes. Every idea, every narrative, and every message I built told a story - @punkyflair Click To Tweet I was a storyteller. At 29, I decided that I would package up my approach and all of my corporate learnings into a framework that would help startups launch and grow their businesses. I created Punkyflair to empower entrepreneurs with the tools, training and thinking necessary to understand their audience, communicate their vision, and sell with the story. Today, I have the good fortune of doing so for leading woman-owned brands like Camille Rose, Heat Free Hair, Marjani, BLK+GRN, and Shea Radiance.

What is brand storytelling and where does it fit in marketing strategy?

Simply put, brand storytelling is a method for connection. If you consider your favorite storybook or movie, there is most likely a character in it that resonates most with you. Maybe it’s because you see yourself in them. Perhaps it’s because that character represents who you want to be. All great stories make you look at yourself and consider how you connect to the tale being told. Brand storytelling is no different. A great brand story lets your customers know why you exist and how you fit into their lives. When done well, your brand provides the perfect reflection for who they already are but better.  Brand storytelling is the most effective, non-salesly way to build meaningful and profitable relationships with the customers you want to reach. A great brand story lets your customers know why you exist and how you fit into their lives.” - @punkyflair Click To Tweet

How can businesses effectively explore the core elements that make up their customer profile?

  All businesses should view their customers as the star characters in their brand story. Everything that your brand does–from operations to product innovation and marketing–should be built around your customer. It always amazes me how many entrepreneurs are willing to skip this essential first step. A strong customer profile is made up of three key elements: perspective, preference, and personality. Understanding your customer’s perspective is all about figuring out where your customer is coming from, the unique challenges they face, and what they really want from your brand. The next step is to discover what your customer prefers by digging deep to understand purchase motivators and where your brand solution fits into their lives. Finally, you’ll want to explore your customer’s personality traits. Doing so will help you tailor your messaging in a way that gets the people you want to reach to listen and buy from you. A strong customer profile is made up of 3 key elements: perspective, preference, and personality - @punkyflair Click To Tweet

As they discover their customers, how do businesses determine the best approach in talking to their audience?

  Now that you know more about your customers, you’ll want to speak to them in a language that they understand. The best approach is first to visualize precisely who this person is. Bringing the person you want to reach to life humanizes your communication. It brings back the reality that you, as the brand, are talking to a real person. When working to craft your narrative, ask yourself these four questions:
  • Why does my brand exist?
  • What problem do we solve for our customers?
  • What values or beliefs do we stand on as a business?
  • How do our products/services make our customers’ lives better?
The answers to these questions make up your core brand narrative, letting your customers know exactly why they should trust and buy from you. Plaster them everywhere (tactfully of course)!

As businesses increasingly incorporate storytelling in marketing strategy, how can “Motherland Moguls” craft a brand story that yields customer action?

The marketplace is getting extremely crowded! It’s never been harder to cut through the clutter than it is now. Customers are continuously bombarded with marketing messages and brands are spending a significant amount of money just to stay visible. In this landscape, the challenge lies in not only being seen, but in making money also. The best way that Motherland Moguls can yield a favorable action from their target customers is to keep a pulse on their customers’ wants and needs. Don’t get too caught up in the competition and what they’re doing. Always remember that people are buying from your brand for a reason. Serve them and then explore what else you can create to serve them again. Be authentic and tell the story only you can sell.

What’s your go-to advice to a business owner trying to instill more brand storytelling?

  My go-to advice is simple: take yourself out of it. Simple, right? The #1 thing you must do to grow your brand and instill more storytelling is to get yourself out of it. Sure, you are the founder and mastermind behind the business. It was your sweat equity and creativity that launched the brand. You identified a problem and created a solution. It’s your baby. I get it. However, if you want your baby to grow, you have to move out the way and tell a story in your marketing that centers around the customer, not yourself. Customers are drawn to brands that they can see themselves. Make your story a two-way dialogue, not a diatribe about your own journey. Spend some time understanding what matters to your people: what values they hold, what additional problems they face, what viewpoints they have on the world and your industry. Create stories from the deeper emotional layers that (above all else) truly connect customers to brands.   Customers are drawn to brands that they can see themselves. - @punkyflair Click To Tweet

What product and service offering do you have in the works to help rising entrepreneurs with brand storytelling?

  I recently released Customer Kamikaze. my 3-part customer discovery framework. It’s the exact same framework I’ve used to help my startup clients scale their businesses (some into the millions) by understanding their customers and building their brand stories around them. People love it because it’s self-paced and fun! The exercises are intuitive, simple and impactful. Also, the result, once the framework is applied, is far higher than the minimal cost of the product. I wanted to create something super affordable, even for early-stage entrepreneurs, but something that would have a tremendous impact and set the tone for a brand story that sells.

What are you most excited about at the moment, and what are you working on next?

  I’m most excited about my next chapter! I want to move in a direction that allows me to help multiple entrepreneurs at once. This fall, I’ll be speaking more and even playing around with group coaching and live workshops. Brand story is a concept that I absolutely love teaching and one that I love to see entrepreneurs benefit. Amber Williams is offering a free audio training on building lasting brands. Contact her here.
 Interested in contributing for She Leads Africa? Click here.

Philomena Kwao: When I started, I was different from anything that existed in mainstream fashion

Philomena Kwao is a plus-sized British-Ghanaian model who has many philanthropic interests.

Her meteoric rise came from working on multiple major campaigns for Torrid, MAC Cosmetics, Lane Bryant, Evans UK, Nordstrom and she has been highlighted on Huff Post UK, Guest blogger Metro UK, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Essence Magazine, among others.

This British-Ghanaian beauty is the perfect canvas and model for the fashion industry! Her regal unapologetic natural beauty is one to behold.

Philomena is also the Global Ambassador for Women For Women International Charity. She preaches the need for open dialogue and real inclusivity in the movement towards equal rights for women.

SLA interviewed Philomena during her recent visit to Nigeria to celebrate with the women who are graduating this year’s program and have achieved access to life-changing skills to move from crisis and poverty to stability and economic self-sufficiency.


 To pursue modeling, be yourself! - @PhilomenaKwao Click To Tweet

You bagged a degree in Economics, and a Masters’ degree in International Health Management, how did you make the career switch to fashion and style?

My original career choice was very different and my journey into modeling began by chance as I had planned out a career in health management and policy after completing my masters degree.

A friend of mine entered my details online into a modeling competition in which Evans and Cosmopolitan in conjunction with Models1 were looking for a new plus-size model to front their shape campaign and to also become the Face of Style 369.

I eventually won the competition and hence my career began.

I was going to take a career break anyway after my masters as I had continued through school and work with no break. 

So when the opportunity came for me to move to NYC a new adventure made perfect sense. I could make money and travel which were two of the things I wanted to do most at the time. It was a huge blessing.

I originally set out to try modeling out for a year. One year turned into seven and here I am today. It’s been an incredible journey so far. I am now signed to JAG Models and I am living and working in NYC.

Tell us about how you got your modeling debut

When I first got to NYC I didn’t work at all. It was hard! My look was new. I was everything you weren’t supposed to be rolled into one. Dark skin, plus and a shaved head. What would brands do with me?

It took a while for me to find my place in the industry but when a few brands like Lane Bryant, Landsend and Torrid took the plunge to try something new and widen the definition of beautiful my career really took off. 

My beauty is common in Africa but in the West its what defines me and sets me apart - @PhilomenaKwao Click To Tweet

As an African plus-sized model, what was your biggest challenge breaking into the fashion industry, and how did you overcome them?  

For so long, in the West, the standard of African Beauty was (and arguably is) very very narrow.

Extremely tall, extremely thin and extremely dark. Most of the African models hailed from East Africa and the west fetishized their beauty as exotic and a true representation of The African woman. There are many problems with this.

Africa is a vast continent with hundreds of thousands of ethnicities each with their own beauty. To homogenize the African woman is limiting and dangerous. 

My beauty is common in Africa but in the West its what defines me and sets me apart. When I first started I was different from anything that existed in mainstream fashion. I had a shaved head, my features are more commercial and I am a plus sized woman. It was very hard for people to get their head around it. 

Typically plus-size models are white and hourglass, and when they are black they are of a fair complexion with an acceptable hair texture. If they were slightly darker they had a long weave. The typical American girl next door look. 

African models were typically slim tall and dark. And yet here I was a mixture of everything; too ‘exotic’ for commercial modeling, too big for mainstream high fashion modeling. 

My biggest challenge was getting people to understand that black beauty exists in an infinite number of forms. This wasn’t easy, a big push for my career was definitely when Lupita was recognized as a world-class beauty because then I became the plus size Lupita. 

My biggest challenge in the industry was getting people to understand that black beauty exists in an infinite number of forms - @PhilomenaKwao Click To Tweet

What prompted you to get involved in the movement towards equal rights for women around the world?

As a woman, it’s hard to exist and live in this world without being affected by what’s happening to women around you. I was born in London, in the UK to a mother who immigrated from Ghana.

I will never forget my first visit back home to Ghana. The disparity between my cousins and I simply because of where we were born was staggering. Even at such a young age it just felt so unfair and I was determined to make a change in any way possible. 

How did you become a Global Ambassador for Women For Women International Charity?

Modeling is fun. It’s been an incredible blessing in my life, and I’m so grateful for every opportunity that I’ve been given but it isn’t enough. It isn’t enough for me.

I’m still very much interested in my first love and passion, the advancement of women around the world. Whether through health, economic empowerment or social empowerment, women around the world need advancement.

For too long we have been globally oppressed. The time for change is now and everyone can create change, firstly within themselves and then in their wider community. Social media has become such a powerful tool for this. 

One of the many blessings that my modeling career has given me is a platform and when I heard about the work women for women were doing I felt compelled to support. 

Women for women empower the women they work with by teaching them how to make a change within themselves and in their community 

The year-long social and economic empowerment program provides marginalized women with the opportunity, often for the first time in their lives, to come together in classes of 25 women to build support networks, to share experiences, to learn critical skills, and to access new resources.

.@womenforwomen empower the women they work with by teaching them how to make a change within themselves and in their community - @PhilomenaKwao Click To Tweet

Women for Women International supports the most marginalized women in countries affected by conflict and war. Their programs enable them to earn and save money, improve health and well-being, influence decisions in their home and community and connect to networks for support.

By utilizing skills, knowledge, and resources, women are able to create sustainable change for themselves, their family, and community. This is something I truly believe in. 

From your experience, what does it take to build a career in the fashion and entertainment industry?

Patience and resilience. Patience and resilience. I’ve said it Twice because I can’t stress how important these two things are.

I have an academic background and in that setting, one plus one plus equals two. The same can’t be said for the fashion and entertainment industry. A huge amount of luck is involved. Right time, right place. This can often leave hopefuls feeling very frustrated.

I often feel frustrated myself. But it’s something that has become easier over time. The best advice is to stay ready, so when your opportunity comes you’re ready to take it. Unfortunately, you just don’t know when opportunity will come knocking. And that’s where patience comes in.

Most things are entirely out of your control and you can’t always judge how people will receive you. That’s the resilience, for every yes there will be a thousand nos. You just have to keep going. 

What four skills have you found yourself using/learning frequently?

Leading on from the earlier question my four frequently used skills are:

  • Patience
  • Resilience
  • Communication
  • Adaptability

 You just don’t know when opportunity will come knocking. That’s where patience comes in - @PhilomenaKwao Click To Tweet

What’s your ONE advice for curvy girls who would like to model but do not have the confidence?

I’ll start with confidence, we all have down days, and honestly that ok. But it’s not ok to not be your own best friend and cheerleader. Whenever anyone says their feeling down about their looks I always remind them of the beauty in individuality.

There is no one on the planet that looks like you or has your unique features so you just celebrate them and not put it down. I’m a big advocate of the extraordinary and I believe everyone is inspiring because we are all different.

Confidence comes from understanding that you only have this one body and one life so make the most of it! You can’t compare yourself to anyone! Not anyone in fashion or on TV because most of what you see isn’t real. 

And to pursue modeling, be yourself!

Always stay true to you no matter how hard it gets! And don’t let criticism get to you because what works for one may not work for another. Be lucky to find a great Agent that believes in you. I was very lucky due to the competition I entered.

All reputable Agencies do have open calls where you can have an informal chat about modeling and the possibility of becoming one. 

Also, don’t take things personally. It all depends what the Agency is looking for and what suits all markets around the globe. Edgy editorial clients may get you instantly but the commercial ones may take longer to get that look if at all.

This industry is super competitive and you need a thick skin and determination and professionalism to make it.

For representation I would stick to Agencies that have great reputations, do your research, take a look who else is represented by them, go and meet them, it is all about feeling comfortable and trusting your agent. You will develop a very close relationship, and trust and communication are key.

What’s your morning ritual?

I’m trying to find one. Morning rituals are so important they center your day and help organize your thoughts.

I used to have one which included completing my five-minute journal, drinking water and meditating. However, the more I travel the harder it gets. 

For all our melanin Motherland Moguls, how do you keep your skin glowing?

I owe a huge part of my skin to genetics. You think my skin is glowing? You should see the rest of my family.  Genetics plays such a massive part in the health of your skin but there are definitely things that can help.

Inside out is my mantra. Eat well, make sure you eat your greens and veggies and try and eat as wholesomely as possible. Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water, hydrated skin is a good skin. And lastly, find what works for you and stick to it. 

For me, I love products from the body shop as well as my natural staples of Shea butter, black soap, and baobab oil. Keep your eyes peeled for something special. 


 Interested in contributing for She Leads Africa? Click here.

FACEBOOK LIVE WITH THANDO’S: TRANSFORMING THE WORLD WITH AFRICAN FASHION (APR 25)

African innovators are capturing the world’s attention through their unique designs –particularly in the fashion industry!

Examples include African designers like Mimi Plange, whose works have caught the eyes of Michelle Obama and Rihanna or Kisua, a luxury African brand that Queen Bey is a fan of!  

Amazing shoe brands like Thando’s, are revolutionizing the fashion scene with Africa’s first fashionable, comfortable and foldable ballerina flat that can fit inside a small handbag, office drawer or the glove compartment of a car!

Talk about convenience with style!

That being said, if you are looking to break into the fashion industry or want to harness your passion for fashion – this is one is for you!

Join us on Wednesday, April 25th, for a Facebook Live with Jibolu Ayodele – co-founder, Thando’s, and Chioma Okonkwo – Winner of 2017 Thando’s Design competition, as they share with us all a fashion innovator needs to know about changing the fashion scene through innovative designs.  

Change the fashion scene through innovative #AfricanFashion, with @ThandosShoes on, April 25th! More info at: http://bit.ly/Thandos Click To Tweet

Some of the topics we’ll cover

  • The art of designing for social impact
  • How crowdsourcing/collaborative consumption can work for Fashionpreneurs
  • Disrupting Africa’s fashion landscape
  • What you need to know about manufacturing in Africa

Webinar Details:

Date: Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

Time: 12PM Lagos // 1PM Johannesburg // 2PM Nairobi

Location: Register below to get access to this opportunity

Watch here:

She Leads Africa Facebook Live with Jibolu Adeyole, co-founder of @ThandosShoes and Chioma Okonkwo, winner of 2017 Thando’s design competition sharing insights on Transforming the world with African fashion. Join the She Leads Africa community by visiting SheLeadsAfrica.org/join!

Posted by She Leads Africa on Wednesday, April 25, 2018

About our experts:

Jibolu “J.G.” Ayodele is the co-founder of Thando’s, a Lagos and NY based fashion company that provides a platform for African artists to design for a global audience. 

Before co-founding Thando’s, Jibolu led the business development efforts of Viacom International Media Networks in Nigeria, where he co-created partnerships with brands such as Hewlett Packard and Lufthansa. He has also worked with Deloitte, Bank of America and GE Capital.

Mr. Ayodele holds an MBA in Finance, Entertainment, Media, and Technology from NYU – Stern School of Business. He received a Masters in Accounting from NC State University, and a Bachelors in Business Administration from the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

Jibolu is married to his co-founder, Taffi Ayodele.

Chioma Okonkwo, is a graduate of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, with a passion for illustration and animation. She recently participated in Thando’s inaugural print design competition, where she won with her unique design – The Akonmi Print.

She used this design to interpret how heavy rains result in flooding that displaces hundreds of thousands of people. Chioma was inspired to illustrate after her internship at an imaging company in Port-Harcourt.

When she is not working at her 9 to 5 call centre job or illustrating, Chioma is busy experiencing new places, cultures and foods. 

Kukua: Changing the narrative of the Motherland with africaboutik.us

africaboutik.us is the online store of Ghanaian-German designer and fashion blogger MsK NY. Five years ago MsK started her fashion blog African Prints in Fashion (APiF) and has expanded it since to a lifestyle brand with over 350K followers worldwide.

African Prints in Fashion is focusing on exploring the Imprint of Africa/African diaspora on Fashion and Design and aims to empower by showcasing the creativity and innovation that comes from the African continent educates and changes the perception of what people perceive to be African Fashion & Design.

africaboutik.us is bringing to you a contemporary mix of modern African Fashion and Interior Design. The platform offers a curated selection of Africa-inspired fashion, fashion produced on the African continent, accessories sourced from local artisans as well as designs handmade at our home base in Brooklyn, NY.


Kukua (MsK NY)

Tell us about yourself and what is africaboutik?

My name is Kukua and I am a professional Marketer and curator. Over 5 years ago I started with my Blog African Prints in Fashion. I used to always direct readers to online stores and online platforms when they asked me “where can I find that” or “where can I buy that?”

Eventually, it felt like it would make more sense to offer a platform with products instead of always directing the traffic elsewhere. That is how africaboutik.us was born.

africaboutik is a curated platform where I sell accessories and interior design items from artisans across the continent. And yes I do ship worldwide – also to the continent.

 

Which artisans across Africa are you working with and how do you connect with them?

I am half Ghanaian, so initially, I only worked with small artisans from Ghana as I felt more comfortable engaging with them and it was easy as I was able to meet them in person whenever I visited my family, and for new relationships, it helped to have parts of my family onsite.

My longest standing relationship is with an artisan in Accra, but I am also now working with artisans and small creative hubs in Morocco, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and Senegal.

My key communication tool with my artisans is WhatsApp – that really works best for status updates, exchange of images etc.

Authenticity is really important to me. I don't want to sell the same thing like everyone else - @MsK_NY Click To Tweet

 

How is africaboutik changing the narrative about Africa?

The frustrating thing about many textiles and even accessories that initially are made on the African continent are that so many are now made in China.

Even if you are in Accra or Nairobi you can easily come across products made in China. At Africa-themed events in NYC, I see a lot of so-called “Made in Africa” items that are 100% made in Beijing.

My goal from the beginning was to only select and produce items that I like and that are not too common on other platforms and that is authentic.

Authenticity is really important to me. I don’t want to sell the same thing like everyone else. I like to be different and unique.  Being connected to my makers individually, I know who creates the items, I know their personal situation and they know I am a one Woman Business. We work together to make things work for both of us, and I love that.

 

Can you give an example of products you are selling and how you are involved in some of the developments?

What I produce myself is the African City Bag – a high-end canvas bag that sports African City Names. That was my very first and for a long time my only product.

I also do temporary tattoos of Adinkra Symbols and furniture like the lollipop stools. All these things are made in Brooklyn where I am based.

Besides that, I am sourcing different basket designs and accessories from Ghana, Morocco, and Tanzania. My best selling accessories come from Ghana and South Africa.

I keep on editing and adding or removing products from the store, depending on seasonal trends or things I like.

 

What’s next for africaboutik?

I am focusing more and more on interior design and want to eventually make it my sole focus. I loved the process of creating my lollipop stools, so I want to my make more like that.

Currently, I am looking for young fashion/design influencers who can help me elevate my brand. If you are one and you are reading this, holler at me!

 

Where can people learn more about africaboutik?

Follow me on Instagram, check-out my online store, and follow my blog.


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Chinero Nnamani: I want to be remembered as a conscientious person who was Black, a Woman, and Proud

I created @ChineroNnamani to celebrate & give well-deserved credit to Africa’s influence in our culture Click To Tweet

Since childhood, Chinero Nnamani has been fascinated by the world around her. As someone with too many ideas, deciding a career wasn’t a straightforward process. Chinero wanted to be a nurse, a graphic designer, a lawyer, a social activist, an inventor, a politician, a psychologist…and the list goes on.

In her search for a calling, Chinero learned about: computer science and graphic design in Sweden, creative writing and public policy in California, philosophy and psychology in London, statistics and data management in India, anthropology and human anatomy in Nigeria, and much more. With these experiences, Chinero learned how deeply embedded African influences were to the foundations of civilizations.

She then created the Chinero Nnamani brand to celebrate, and give well-deserved credit, to Africa’s influence in our culture and other cultures throughout the world.


How do you blend technology and art in your aesthetic?

The many interconnections between technology, mathematics, and art provide a wealth of material to emphasize the fusion of African influences.

My patterns tend to also celebrate math and technology with geometric influences, and the use of simple grids and linear perspective. The symbiosis of art and technology, in my opinion, allows for the most striking prints and clothing designs.

You make your own original prints, how easy or difficult has it been creating them?

I enjoy making prints by hand, but I can’t emphasize enough how technology has changed the game, and become integral to how I create my patterns, as it is incredibly convenient to travel with a tablet and stylus.

So to answer your question, it is very easy and fun to create my prints!

Can you tell us more about what you worked on before starting your brand?

Before starting my brand I worked as a freelance graphic designer, illustrator and web designer. I also worked as the Practice Manager of a Mental Health clinic.

These experiences have only helped consolidate my undergraduate experiences, and contribute to my personal and professional growth as a thinker, advocate, collaborator, manager, and leader.

What was particularly challenging to you when you decided to create the Chinero Nnamani brand?

The most challenging aspect of starting the brand was human resources, and finding and/or training reliable people to uphold my quality standards in Nigeria.

You really have to firmly and consistently foster an organizational culture of efficiency and high quality in Nigeria, or the quality will suffer without proper systems in place. Fortunately, I have steadily built an amazing team of people in Nigeria that are always eager to learn and excel.

...the most valuable things I learned were how embedded African influences were to the foundations of civilizations. Click To Tweet

You are present online and your flagship store is at the Jabi Lake Mall in Abuja. How did you go about opening the physical store?

Opening the store in Jabi, Abuja was a beautiful experience.

From our massive ornate mirrors, to our gold shelving, and blends of ornamentation and joyful visuals, I really was able to fulfill my vision for the space and have it emphasize global acuity and African pride.

What’s the creative process like for you? Where do you go, and what do you do, when you need inspiration?

I typically begin with a simple doodle or sketch in a moleskin notebook. I like to be out in nature or sitting by a window when I want to create.

Inspiration is drawn from the fluid forms and sharp colors of nature, music, traditional food, Nigerian folk art, masked dance, ancestral drums, Igbo attires, and the shear wealth of African influences and innovations in cultures and textiles throughout the world.

What is your three-year growth plan for Chinero Nnamani?

My three-year growth plan for the Chinero Nnamani brand is pursuing more expansion opportunities in the U.S. with physical store locations in malls, and pop-up events.

I also plan to release more lifestyle products like furniture, leather goods, and more!

In one sentence, how will you like to be remembered?

I want to be remembered as a conscientious person who was Black, a Woman, and Proud.


This is a sponsored post.

Jacqueline Shaw: Pioneering a movement for “fashion made in Africa”

Jacqueline Shaw
I was inspired by the possibility of creating something new @jacquelineMshaw Click To Tweet

Jacqueline Shaw is the Founding Director of Africa Fashion Guide (AFG), a social enterprise and fashion sourcing agency.  She has worked and designed for various fashion companies around the world. Companies such as PUMA, Russell Athletic, Ocean Pacific, Fila and Chilli Pepper to name a few. AFG is a unique platform that promotes and supports the supply chain of Africa’s fashion and textile industry. AFG supports SME’s by offering online courses providing them with relevant skills, knowledge, understanding and opportunities to network in the African market.

Jacqueline is also a published author. She wrote, curated, produced and self-published the coffee table book “FASHION AFRICA- The Visual Overview Of Contemporary African Fashion”. The book launched at The Fashion Africa Conference, which brought together key industry leaders from African fashion and ethical fashion. Since the conference’s launch, there’s been an array of high-street brands and retailers such as ASOS, H&M, NEW ERA as well as press including Financial Times, Guardian and more attending this conference.

SLA contributor Neo Cheda recently met up with Jacqueline and here’s what Jacqueline had to say.


What inspired you to get involved in this industry?

I have always loved textiles and as a child, I used to sew and make clothes for my toys from scraps of fabric. I believe I was inspired by the possibility of creating something out of something else.

Getting close up to hand-made textiles for me was a dream. I feel some textiles should not be cut or passed down but celebrated with stories for generations to keep their craft alive.

What would you say is the innovative idea behind Africa Fashion Guide?

We are a team of disruptive innovators. As a recent CNN Africa report said, “A disruptive innovation is an innovation that shakes up an existing market”. I have worked in a market dominated by Asia and am presenting a new market to this industry, one that has been overlooked and considered “dark”, “poor”, “bad in quality”, and “unable to perform”.

I believe that Africa is a continent of future leaders. Hence at Africa Fashion Guide, we have pioneered a movement for “fashion made in Africa” and not just that but ethically, sustainably and responsibly.afg logo-1

What challenges have you faced in the fashion industry?

Fashion in itself is an industry that takes a lot more than it gives. One really has to prove themselves and that can take years. But above all, you have to maintain the belief in yourself to do well as you can face a lot of rejections too.

There are also general challenges of systems and finance invested to support the industry. I found that working out of the continent, I am challenged to persuade the general industry of the African opportunity and to get them to invest in that.

Fashion in itself is an industry that takes a lot more than it gives - Jacqueline Shaw Click To Tweet

How have you managed to stay the champions within Africa’s fashion supply chain?

We do not do fashion shows but we are here to talk business and to get the message across that Africa is, has been and will always be open for the fashion business. We have also focused on sustainability. I personally made it my effort to research, investigate and network with this community. I am even called to talk about this internationally.

With a Masters in Ethical Fashion and then completing an MSc in Social Research, I understand the importance of understanding the market and sustaining that market through responsible sourcing. Lastly, because we are consistent in what we do, we have gathered a strong following and a lot of respect too. We are not newbies to the field but have spent time digging deep to build the right foundation for building up our company.

@jacquelineMshaw here to talk business & let people know that Africa is open for fashion Click To Tweet

Advice to young women looking to venture into the fashion world:

  • Network: Build a strong community of people, supporters, mentors and those with skills you don’t have.
  • Always be willing to learn, be humble and know that real wisdom comes from acknowledging that you don’t know everything.
  • Grow a steel spine because there’s a lot you will have to overlook and ignore. Many opinions could make or break you but the key is to believe in yourself.
  • Read up on everything to do with your craft whilst perfecting it because as a mentor once told me, “The best leaders are the biggest readers”.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here