The King of the Crown: Meet the Mastermind Behind Zendaya and Lupita Nyongo's Natural Hair Slayage

PHOTO COURTESY OF LARRY SIMS, WEARING THE LARRY SIMS COLLECTION BY CENTRAL AVE

PHOTO COURTESY OF LARRY SIMS, WEARING THE LARRY SIMS COLLECTION BY CENTRAL AVE

Can you count on one hand how many black women you remember rocking their natural hair on the big screen growing up? Because we sure can. As much as we can all appreciate a long, straight, and luxurious Naomi Campbell moment, it’s incredibly affirming to see more black A-listers than ever embracing their natural hair by wearing TWAs, afros and waist-length braids everywhere from the Met Gala to the silver screen. This shift is largely a reflection of how our own views of black beauty have changed over time as a community. After all, we’ve BEEN celebrating natural hair over here, but it’s taken some time for mainstream Hollywood to catch up. Like all things including going natural, the transition hasn’t been easy, and it always takes a group of trendsetters to lead these cultural shifts in mainstream media. In the case of black hair, Larry Sims is one of those trendsetters.

Celebrity hairstylist Larry Sims stands as one of the few — and we do mean FEW — celebrity hairstylists committed to all things black hair. From sneaking in hairstyling gigs with Missy Elliot while on tour as her backup dancer to laying the edges of Lupita Nyongo, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Gabrielle Union for the world’s biggest red carpets, Sims has styled some of the most coveted black hair in Hollywood. In fact, many of our favorite hair muses  who were natural before it was “cool” turned to Larry Sims himself to define their signature looks. Today, he’s using his career and connections to not only style black hair, but to continue shifting the mainstream narrative about it by passing his knowledge forward to the new class of beauty professionals.

Larry Sims chatted with MILQ for an intimate conversation covering all things black hair, his favorite #SimStyled moments, and why celebrating black hair has become more important than ever.

On His Big Break

M:  You’ve been a choreographer, a dancer, a  tv personality, you design dope hats, and all of that. But you always say that no matter what you do, you always come back to beauty and the love for hair. What was that initial “aha” moment when you realized that [hair] was the full fledged direction that you predominantly wanted to go in your career? 

L: Being a dancer from Chicago, I was always sort of a secret, closeted hair person. I would do the local stripper’s [hair] in Chicago so I could keep money in my pocket during high school... I moved from Chicago to L.A. to pursue dance only, worked in Hollywood, and really became fascinated by the different levels; [how] hair stylists, makeup artists, wardrobe people, were able to work in the industry.

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On Mastering His Craft

M:  When it comes to a lot of the clients you work with, a lot of them have natural textures and in general there are a lot of celebrities we’re seeing that are making that transition [to natural hair]. What’s it like to navigate all these different textures, because no two natural girls are the same, and figuring out how to amplify their hair to make it the best that it can be?

L: A lot of stylists are great at just wigs, or they’re great at braided styles only. My goal was to always make sure that no matter what was thrown my way, I was gonna be able to tackle it and confidently execute it in a creative way no matter what texture it is.

M:  Our theme this month is all about style nostalgia, so we’d love to know: what style era you get the most style inspiration for hair?
L: I LOVE the ‘modness’ of the 60s, I love the blackness of the 70s, I love the hip hop of it all of the 80s, down to the asymmetrical cuts and stacked curls and all of that; the 90s were the poetic justice braids, you know? That whole movement; the patra braids. I LOVED the era. And then the 2000s was like just people exploring and playing with color, wigs, weaves, shaved sides, and you know, like really pushing the boundaries in terms of being creative. So all of those eras have played, definitely, a huge role in my inspiration and I draw from all of them.

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On His Celeb Clients & Their Top Hair Moments

M: Let’s take a moment to talk about some of the recent styles you’ve done on your clients and your creative process for each look.

Tracee Ellis Ross for Diana Ross’ 75th Birthday Bash

L: I wanted her to feel special and beautiful and fly. It was a great dedication to her mom, paying homage to her. And what better way to recreate a Diana Ross style than to do it on her daughter, so it was all Tracee’s idea, I just executed it and it worked it.

Gabrielle Union’s Statement Ponies

M: Gabrielle Union has been wearing a lot of afrocentric styles lately.  Like, you recently did this ponytail that was a fishtail and had the afro hair at the bottom, and you also did this really cool knot type ponytail. What inspired this shift toward all these really unique, different interpretations of her hair that you’ve been doing recently?

L: Gabrielle and I, we’re sort of like two fish in a pod. She really is sort of like my [muse]...we think so much alike, we’re so bonded creatively, and she trusts me so much...She’s tapped into our culture and our community, and we definitely were privy to the conversations about what was deemed beautiful or not in Hollywood, and what was accepted in Hollywood. And for a long time, textured hair wasn’t the popular thing for an actress in Hollywood. We decided collectively to shift that conversation.

Danai Gurira’s New Growth

M: Danai Gurira was bald during Black Panther, so I think a lot of us expected her to keep that as her signature. But she did the complete opposite and now she’s been doing all of these incredible looks. What has it been like, taking her from bald to all of these cool looks you’ve been doing with her recently?

L: I didn’t start working with Danai until after Black Panther...once she started growing her hair back, she really wanted to partner with me…[Lupita] connected us and we talked, and we’ve been rocking ever since. She wanted to creatively, really tap into her culture, her hair texture which is very specific, and do things that I can execute that doesn’t limit her to her hair...It’s given her another leg in terms of how people see her in fashion and she shows up on red carpets or in magazines. It really is cool to see the evolution of where she started and where she is now.

On #SimStyling Black On-Screen Characters 

Sanaa Lathan for Nappily Ever After

M: How did you feel being a part of a project [like Nappily Ever After] that sent such a powerful message about natural hair, and do you have any simple tips for girls who are embarking on a natural journey similar to Sanaa in that movie?

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L: We gave her the option to do a bald cap, where’d she wear a bald cap wig and she was like ‘No, I want to become Violet. I want to be this girl and I wanna be able to do this for the culture so that other girls can know that it is okay to shed the dead weight.’ She felt [that way] not only as an actress but internally as a woman. And for that I was just happy to be a part of [it]. 

Gabrielle Union for Being Mary Jane

L: We had a lot of conversations about what was acceptable for black newscasters. And it was like okay, well we don’t see a lot of black newscasters wearing textured styles, wearing braids. What if we pushed the envelope? What if we put natural styles on Mary Jane?...We were always conscious of the message we were trying to convey out into the world.

On the Met Gala 

“[The] Met is like the Oscars of fashion...you can’t really play around. Nobody wants to feel rushed, nobody wants to feel like you’re giving them your second best because you’re trying to get to the next girl; everybody wants to feel like you’re giving 1000%.”

M:  The Met Gala this year was probably one of the blackest Met Galas ever, you played a big part in that because you styled a lot of really heavy hitting women of color on that carpet. You did really cool campy concepts, but all with an afrocentric interpretation. Can you walk us through the creative process for each look you created?

Gabrielle Union

L: Our draw for Gabrielle was Coming to America. That’s a beautiful moment in black history. So we sort of recreated that idea by making a ‘hood’ that she had around her hair to create sort of a crown. 

Kiki Layne

L: With Kiki, we wanted to go super camp, super black girl and she wanted to bring a hood element to it. We know that black girls love a bun. So we decided to do an over the top ballerina bun and incorporated some fringe from the dress into it with that heavy straight across Chinese bang.”

Danai Gurira

L: Danai; the braids of it all, the black beads across the forehead. [It was] super black girl, super paying homage to the girls in the hood that wear and rock beads.

“They all had black girl references because it was really important to make sure that we were represented on that carpet and we weren’t conforming to an industry standard of what they think is beautiful. I mean especially with the Gucci controversy, we really wanted to make sure that we represented ourselves.”

On the Stigma of Black Hair 

M: Lately on the runway there is more natural hair, but most of the time the girl either has straight back cornrows or a fro. It almost kind of feels like it’s the only thing [the hairstylists] know how to do. Do you have any insight into why those are the only two styles that they seem to do [on runway models]?

L:  I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve gone on set and I’ve had a white photographer or a white Editor-in-Chief of a magazine say, “No, no, no the way her hair is now is perfect.” And it’s like yo, bro she slept in those braids for a week and they’re fuzzy. And she would never show these braids [in public]...It's disheartening to see. And I really wish people thought outside of the box [because] it doesn't have to just be cornrows and afros. 

M: It’s clear that you’re actively one of the leaders in the industry who is shifting how black hair is seen in Hollywood. How does that feel for you to hold that weight and that responsibility in the work that you do?

L:  To me, I’m just really proud to be a part of the conversation. When I think about my journey, [and] having a valid voice, [it wasn’t] something I ever really aimed to do. It kind of just came with the success of it; I wasn’t even thinking that far ahead. Now I feel like I have a responsibility to uplift and uphold us as a culture and really represent our Queens. And I Look at every actress that I work with as a Queen, and it’s always been my mission to represent that... I feel like it’s my responsibility to make sure that I actively take care of my girls’ hair and actively inspire stylists to be creative with how they style hair and push people that are not educated in these environments where they don’t know how to take care of natural hair to get educated.

M: Do you have any tips for girls who are embarking on a natural journey?

L:  I would say to anybody that is holding onto damaged hair, dead hair, dead weight, dead energy, old relationships, it’s so freeing to cut it off and the biggest message from me is that you are not your hair, you are beautiful; your skin and your hair. And true beauty starts internally and it really just permeates and shines outward when you feel beautiful about yourself on the inside --  and no hairstyle can dictate how beautiful you feel like you are. 

Summer Style Is In Living Color: An Expert Guide with Hanifa

Hanifa Designer Anifa Mvuemba explains why you should transform how you feel about color in your closet

When we think of our ultimate Summer style mood board, Hanifa is undoubtedly the first brand that comes to mind. Scroll through their Instagram feed and you’ll find an awe-worthy compilation of black girls in all shapes and sizes, dripped in the most vibrant ruby and neon hues, playful textures, and curve-hugging silhouettes.

The brand’s colorful aesthetic can’t be credited to trend-watching; since its inception in 2012, color and texture have remained a key focal point of their brand aesthetic. Designed specifically with black women in mind, Hanifa is unafraid to set its own rules  (rule #1: all colors look great on black women, period) and adamantly challenges the long list of fashion faux-pas that we’re conditioned to avoid. It appears that at long last, mainstream fashion brands have finally taken note and caught up to the black owned indie brand, as neon colors continue to be one of the biggest trends on Spring/Summer 2019 runways. While bold colors may be a seasonal fad for many of these brands, Hanifa is making a serious case for how important it is for black women to re-imagine their relationship with bold colors and embrace whatever makes them feel confident, regardless of the season.

We’ve asked Anifa Mvuemba, designer and founder of Hanifa, to share her top tips on how to effortlessly incorporate color, texture, and silhouette to create the ultimate Summer-ready wardrobe (Hint: Break every rule you’ve ever been taught). Whether you’re looking to master this season’s viral neon trend or simply looking to break up the monotony of the neutral staples in your closet, take note of these expert tips from the architect of Hanifa herself.  


COLOR

Anifa’s TIP #1: All colors look great on all black women

I don’t restrict color choices because I embrace all skin tones on different hues, textures, and colors. In fact, I’m usually inspired by the confidence that black women exude in colors which inspires my palette selections. Look at Lupita Nyong to Tracee Ellis Ross - they range in skin tone and look beautiful in so many colors.
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courtesy of shuttershock

courtesy of shuttershock

Anifa’s TIP #2: Don’t hold back on experimenting with neon tones, jewel tones, pastels, bright and dark colors

My favorite color is any color that makes black women feel powerful and special. I think that color is best when it is used to create and to be different.

Anifa’s TIP #3: Be different and be yourself.

Don’t play it safe and go according to what it seems like is the best color just because you read it or saw it somewhere. You are the expert and know what makes you feel good and look good, so go with that.

TEXTURE

Anifa’s TIP #1: Shake it like a tail feather

My current go-to texture has been incorporating fringe and fur accents in my pieces. It makes a big statement while allowing you to be unique and fun.

Anifa’s Tip #2:

The key to mixing and matching textures is balance.

SILHOUETTE

Anifa’s Tip #1: 

I always appreciate silhouettes that are natural and womanly. Staying true and adapting to the body forms of woman overtime will never go out of style.

ANIFA’S STYLE INSPIRATION

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1. What’s your favorite style era?

I love the fashion revolution of the 1960s and 1970s - those amazing styles from that era have inspired some of my pieces. It was truly the time of style transformation, and set the tone for many of the styles we have today.

2. Who is your ultimate style muse?

Rihanna, Rihanna, Rihanna! She does what she wants, and walks her own path when it comes to style. She’s everything that I want women to be when they wear Hanifa - confident and dynamic.

courtesy of the fashion police

courtesy of the fashion police

courtesy of people mag

courtesy of people mag

courtesy of we heart it

courtesy of we heart it

Celebrity Stylist Jennifer Austin Gets Real About Working with Angela Bassett & Fashion Industry Politics

Photo courtesy of Terrell Mullin @terrellmullin

Photo courtesy of Terrell Mullin @terrellmullin

A few months ago, Jennifer Austin received the 2019 Rising Star Award from Shadow & Act and Blavity in recognition of her work as a celebrity stylist. Take one look at her resume -- from styling some of the most legendary black women in Hollywood like Niecy Nash, Tasha Smith, and Angela Bassett  to working with media powerhouses like Vogue and Style Network -- you’ll realize that it took nearly 15 years for her to become the “rising star” that she is. Midway into the second decade of her career, Austin has overcome the fashion hard knocks to create a portfolio of work that speaks for itself with or without accolades. As proud as she was to accept her recent honor, its less-than-ideal timing adds her name to a list of incredibly talented women of color, including the likes of Ruth E. Carter, June Ambrose,  and Hannah Beachler, whose work took the span of some people’s entire careers to be adequately acknowledged. Their stories speak to a much bigger issue that plagues black creatives in fashion who not only have to fight twice as hard to get their foot in the door, but must work even harder to break the industry’s glass ceiling once they’ve sat at the table. During a deep-dive conversation with Austin, she shared her thoughts with MILQ about the the lack of diversity in fashion, how she’s fought through it in her own career, and how she’s used her platform to put on for fellow black creatives along the way.

The first thing that became clear during our conversation with Jennifer Austin was that her path into the fashion industry was unconventional from the start. Ditching a job in Corporate America to pursue her true dream career in fashion, Austin enrolled at the Art Institute and soon after volunteered at L.A. Fashion Week. There, she met a celebrity stylist who would help her land her first big gig as an Assistant Stylist on the set of Twista’s music video for ‘Slow Jams.’ She worked part time in the industry until she nailed her first client Niecy Nash, which motivated her to finally take the big leap into styling full-time. Once she got in the game, it took time and quite a few tribulations for Austin to boast the client list and credits that she’s accumulated up to this point: one of them being the xenophobia that often gridlocks the potential of black stylists, and black female stylists specifically, to excel in the fashion industry.

“I’m still here by the grace of God. I mean you know, with bumps and bruises and the ups and downs of the life of styling...It’s been an amazing journey. It’s been a tough one, but it’s been amazing.”

Photo courtesy of Terrell Mullin @terrellmullin

Photo courtesy of Terrell Mullin @terrellmullin

Austin’s work puts her in the league of fellow A-list celebrity stylists of color like Luxury Law and Jason Bolden, especially when you consider her role in creating some of Angela Bassett’s most viral red carpet moments to date. As much as they deserve their roses, Law and Bolden are the benchmarks for a nearly unattainable level of styling success within the industry’s current politics, as few slots are made available for black stylists to work with A-list celebrities to begin with. As Austin explains during our conversation, the number of them who gain notoriety, proper acknowledgement, and leverage for their work are even fewer:

“…From my personal experience being a black stylist, it’s hard to break that glass [ceiling]. Once you break it, there’s only a few that have crossed over because most of the time, the “A-listers” have white stylists...And as a black woman, it feels like there’s an even smaller percentage [of us].”

As Austin would learn, more often that not an A-list client still isn’t enough to combat the many challenges that black stylists endure. During a time when award-winning legends are passed up by fashion designers for the “it-person” of the moment, it’s become clear that the benchmark of success for black creatives is calculated on a constantly moving scale both behind-the-scenes and in front of the camera. This, Austin explains,  is one of the harshest realities that she’s had to learn, especially as her work with Angela Bassett began to gain steam.

“When people found out I was dressing Angela...everybody would assume and say, ‘Oh I bet designers are throwing clothes at you left and right,’ but not necessarily. This industry is [often] based on popularity and who the designers would want in their clothing. it's sad and it's unfortunate that still to this day, we have to come up against that.”

These constantly shifting measurements of success often tip the scale of opportunity for black stylists to diversify their portfolios. Austin has always set her sights on conquering every facet of styling. But even with years of diverse experience under her belt, it’s become increasingly difficult for her to land opportunities in editorial --  even though her work often lands her clients regular spots on the “best dressed” lists of these very same publications. Many of these publications, as Austin explains, have their own network of Stylists and Fashion Editors who they exclusively work with and few of them, if any, are black. Considering that Vogue appointed its first African-American photographer to shoot a cover in the magazine's 125-year history only last year, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

“There’s very few magazines that I would say have actually reached out and hit me up as [Angela’s] stylist and spoken to me. As far as the black publications, never...There have been times where they’ve brought other people in and I’ve had to come in and play the side role [during her editorial shoots]. I’d get the chance to pull items from the pieces they bring in, but I won’t get credit for it.”

Some black stylists, like Cardi B’s Kollin Carter and Zendaya Coleman’s Luxury Law, have managed to break through the clutter. Kollin Carter was credited as the Fashion Editor for Cardi B’s March 2019 cover of Harper’s Bazaar, and Luxury Law was credited as a collaborator for Zendaya’s S/S 2019 Tommy Hilfiger collection. However, this hasn’t quite become the industry standard, meaning that these limitations make coveted opportunities only available for a select few.

”...As far as we have come, we’re still battling that. And add that to being a black woman because you have so many men that are stylists. It feels like the circle is growing smaller for us as well.”

And these limitations are propelled within almost every other subsidiary in the industry; from talent management, to designers and the showrooms that house their collections. Many industry insiders, Austin explains, accept this as the status quo and aren’t hesitant to express their surprise when they discover that an A-lister is working with a stylist of color. While there is still some work to be done where black media is concerned, a bond of solidarity is cultivated among black creatives as they realize that the only way to break this cycle is to use their influence to make opportunities for people of color in these impenetrable spaces.

“When I meet other black stylists, we all have this sense of “OMG, yes” especially if they are a black actor or actress who has a black team. We love to see that among each other.”

Austin’s own career is the perfect example of this unspoken solidarity; not only has her rolodex of clients mostly been women of color, but she landed her 5-year stint as Angela Bassett’s stylist by a recommendation from her longest client, Tasha Smith.

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“The majority of my clients are black so I always want us to represent that. From our skin tone to every aspect of us.”

Photo courtesy of Terrell Mullin @terrellmullin

Claiming an outright legend as a client was not only affirmational for Austin as a rare victory for a female stylist of color, but it became a full circle moment that brought her back to her first experience in the fashion industry. You can sense Austin’s giddiness as she recalls her journey from asking Angela Bassett for a selfie during L.A. Fashion Week as a fan, to becoming a part of her team years later as a Creative Director. There’s no question that Jennifer understands the magnitude of her role as the fashion visionary for a treasured gem and staple in the black community. And her work has proven to live up to this magnitude as we’ve all witnessed Angela Bassett’s vibrant transformation as a red carpet belle over the past few years.

“I am blessed to say that Angela is an amazing client, she is the model for what you want your client to be as a stylist... Working with her has been one of the most gratifying experiences for me as a stylist. She truly is a muse...The journey and the process that I’ve had with her has been a blessing.”

When Austin speaks about her relationship with Bassett, she emphasizes trust and synergy as the keys to their success as a duo. Once she got the opportunity to get to know Angela Bassett beyond the body goals and legendary acting that we’ve come to love her for, Austin made it her mission to allow the world to see Bassett for who she really is through the expression of her style.She did so, in large part, by making her self-proclaimed “nubian chic” aesthetic a key staple of Bassett’s look.

“I don't dress her as a 60 year old woman. I dress her for the energy and the woman that I know her to be within that...I always put her in vibrant colors because she is the kind of woman that can come into a room and grab everyone’s attention [without] trying to do it. So [I told her] if they’re gonna look at you, we’re gonna give them something to look at.”

Austin lived up to that promise when Angela Bassett unveiled one of her biggest style transformations to date during her Black Panther movie press tour in February 2018. We witnessed the Queen of Wakanda influence Bassett’s off-screen style as vibrant Afrocentric patterns, rich textures, stacks of regal gold jewelry, and a mane of natural-textured hair became staples of her new look. We also witnessed Angela Bassett embrace her blackness through her hair and fashion during a pivotal moment when Black Panther placed black culture front-and-center, both on and off the silver screen.

“ I really wanted [Angela] to be that representation for who we are. Because as an actor and as a fashion stylist, we are at the forefront of influence and we have to set that example of what is made to be acceptable. Because if we don't accept it and we don’t stand for it every time we have an opportunity to do it, that’s what makes the difference.”

Barely three years after Zendaya was ridiculed for wearing dreadlocks to the 2015 Academy Awards, black actresses like Viola Davis and Lupita Ny’ongo were making a statement by normalizing natural hair on red carpets. Recognizing that the Black Panther premiere was the perfect time for Angela Bassett to join the conversation and show her solidarity, Austin transformed her look to take the message of Black Panther to new heights.

“I knew at the time when the press for Black Panther was hitting that I wanted to make a change for her and [the Black Panther premiere] was the perfect opportunity for us to do so. When [the film] came out, it was a celebration of who we were as a people, in this film, in the fashion industry. I wanted to bring the tribal drama to it. I wanted to bring the black to it. I wanted it to kickstart a movement when it came to Angela and the look. “

Black Panther created a rare opportunity for the mainstream spotlight to be placed on black creatives from nearly all arenas of Hollywood, from screenwriters to set designers -- and during Black History Month, no less. Staying true to the industry’s unspoken black code, Austin made sure to spotlight Black brands in Bassett’s looks, sourcing pieces from emerging designers all over the world including Darrell Roache, Kashmirviii, Mafishi Doll Co., and Mombasa. Many celebrities and stylists tend to focus on choosing designers that’ be a good answer to the inevitable “who are you wearing” question on the red carpet -- but this isn’t a factor for Austin, or her star client Bassett, at all. Rather than looking at the biased selectivity of high fashion designers as an obstacle, Austin considers it an opportunity to really get creative with her clients while creating more points of entry for up-and-coming black designers.

“All of the [black] designers that I’ve worked with were good to me and have been fortunate enough to work with me at the beginning of my career and later in my career...It’s not always necessarily [about] the high end price points. I’m a stylist that styles with energy and by the feel of what I want [the look for] each event to look like. So I’m always open to [working with] any designer.”

Austin has always been proactive about cultivating strong relationships with black designers -- even long before the recent Gucci debacle made it cool to do so. Embracing her role as a gatekeeper, she’s remained adamant about keeping a pulse on emerging designers of color and creating more opportunities for them in the industry. Although she expresses conviction and passion for forging more diversity among red carpet designers, she acknowledges the challenges that sometimes come with working with up-and-comers.

“ I always want to support us and be here for us and bring back the whole FUBU for us by us slogan so I'm always proactive to go to Black designers to get things. [But sometimes] you can reach out to pull pieces and it can be very hard depending on the professionalism of the designer. That's a problem that we run into.”

Still, Austin emphasizes how much she enjoys working with black designers, who she considers to be essential to her signature “nubian chic” aesthetic of rich textures, patterns and ethnic handmade jewelry. She offers one key piece of advice to young black designers who are still hustling to get that big break;

“I always tell black designers to be ready for the call because you never know when it’s gonna happen.”

As our conversation with Austin came to an end, it became clear that there might have been something to that Rising Star Award she received. When asked where she saw her career going from here, many of her future plans involved charting new territory in the fashion industry -- from starting her own accessories and handbag line to adding to her roster of incredible clients and mentoring the future generation of stylists coming into the industry.

“It’s always a journey to figure out what the next step is for my brand and my career. I’m always looking for unique opportunities to work outside of my comfort zone because I always feel that makes me a better stylist.”

Austin’s drive to constantly push the limits of her career and her nonstop quest to learn more about every facet of the fashion industry makes her a rising star in an entirely new sense of the term. She’s only begun to hit her stride -- and as she continues to break all of the rules and define herself in the big leagues of the styling game, she’s determined to bring all rising stars of color with her along the way.

These Black Marketplaces Make #LivingBlack Easy

We can all relate to the hilarious ‘Living’ Black’ episode of Killer Mike’s Netflix series Trigger Warning.

where he pledges to only use and consume products that come from the black community for 72 hours straight. That pledge quickly goes wrong as Killer Mike is left carless, foodless, and sleeping on a random park bench because he can’t find enough black owned companies to fulfill his day-to-day needs. Although his show is purely satirical, it speaks to the very real issue of how tough it can be to find black businesses to shop from, especially beyond the fashion and beauty industries. While black entrepreneurship has consistently been on the rise over the past few years, accessibility has remained a huge struggle for woke consumers who are looking to keep their money circulating black community.  At last, some black entrepreneurs are emerging on the scene to create a solution by launching pop-ups and online marketplaces that make black-owned indie brands easier to support than ever.

In honor of National Small Business Week, here are some of our favorite plugs for discovering and purchasing black owned products:

Her Market

Founded by black girl boss duo Kia Perry and Jazlin Pitts, HERMARKET™ is a platform created for female-owned indie brands. They connect shoppers, influencers, and local retail shop owners through curated experiences like market-style pop-ups, retail experiences and collaborations. Not only do they stay on the pulse of amazing up and coming women-owned brands, but they help them foster strong communities with consumers by hosting monthly panels and social events.

Their most recent pop-up marketplace, which took place in Mid-April, featured a diverse range of black-owned brands across multiple industries including personal wellness brand Project Free Woman and Rosanna’s Dairy-Free Ice Cream. Just a few weeks earlier, they hosted ‘The Working Woman’ panel where guest panelists shared their trade secrets on how  they achieved success in their respective industries.


Black Owned Brooklyn

The only thing more rewarding than supporting black owned businesses is supporting them in your very own hometown. That’s the philosophy behind Black Owned Brooklyn; a platform created by married couple Cynthia Gordy Giwa and Tayo Giwa to spotlight Black Brooklyn’s people, places and products. Since their inception in 2018 they’ve already amassed a loyal following over 27.3K strong on Instagram, where they not only put on on for local black owned businesses, but document the diverse stories and contributions of the people who own them. From local nail shops and juice bars to cafes and pet stores, they’re working to bring massive traffic to some of the most treasured little gems in BK.  


BLK MKT Vintage

Proudly standing as one of the only places where you can buy a vinyl copy of ‘The Boy is Mine’ and the book Images of Black by Jewel C. Larimore, BLK MKT Vintage is redefining vintage consignment shops by collecting items that showcase multifaceted expressions of black cultural identity, all under one roof. Equal parts consignment shop and historical hub, they collect black “collectibles and curiosities” including books, vinyls, artwork and even furniture. Online they host a digital dialogue called ‘Collecting while BLK’ where they explore black peoples’ vintage curiosities while keeping an archive of fun facts about the items they collect for their market.  They also host in-person pop ups and panels, such as their recent #BlackGirlsDoVintageToo event, where they convene fellow black vintage enthusiasts to discuss the importance of our cultural ephemera.


BLK + GRN

If you like your healthcare as natural as your hair, this one’s for you. Created by professor of public health and natural life enthusiast Dr. Kristian Henderson, BLK + GRN is an online marketplace that curates toxic-free, plant-based beauty products exclusively created by black artisans. The online marketplace carefully curates and sells the very best in black organic health from cult favorites like Black Girl Sunscreen, to newer must-haves like PH7’s Natural Kombucha Tea toner. They also educate black women on how to live greener lives  while creating healthier beauty regimens during their live panels and The BLK + GRN podcast.


We Buy Black

We Buy Black is more than an online marketplace; it’s a movement. Recognized as one of the first well-known online marketplaces of its kind, it’s mission is to help you find black owned businesses that create products for your most essential needs from personal hygiene to home goods. Beyond the items they sell in their online store, they also put the spotlight on black entrepreneurs who are breaking barriers with their highly successful businesses. We Buy Black also has a black owned supermarket chain in the works that will source naturally grown vegetables and fruits from Black farmers in Georgia.

Millennial Duo Creates New Online Beauty Market for WOC

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When you visit Coil Beauty’s website and see four fists of color, you know you’re home. In an industry traditionally known for its lack of inclusiveness, Founder and CEO Aisha Shannon-Bates and COO and partner Kethlyn White decided to create an online community and marketplace that caters to the unique needs of women of color. The new e-commerce site carries emerging beauty products for women of color - and it gets better, because the brands they carry are owned by people of color too! The site launched in 2018 after Shannon-Bates became frustrated with her shopping experiences at major retail stores. There was often no one to answer questions, make product suggestions, or give any advice on common beauty woes. Seeing this void, Shannon-Bates worked with White to not only improve the online shopping experience for WOC, but offer a well-curated selection of products to address their concerns. Their growing product selection includes some well-known brands, such as The Lip Bar, Camille Rose and Lime Green. From nail polish to tinted moisturizer, they have products women of color are eager to try.

In a MILQ Magazine exclusive, Coil Beauty Founder candidly discusses the upheavals of creating a brand from scratch, and offers some much needed insight on the value of more African-American women represented in the digital beauty arena.

MILQ: Why do you believe it's important to have a digital space for WOC and their beauty needs?

Aisha Shannon-Bates: We believe it is essential for the beauty industry to have representation and a space for all types of beauty in order to continue to evolve. Our site and social media pages showcase women of color in all shapes, sizes, color and everything in between. Coil Beauty gives us the opportunity to engage with our customers through a variety of platforms: they can email us, they can chat with us on any of our social channels, some of our #CoilBeauties and #CoilKids have made videos we’ve featured on our Youtube channel and our ever present “Hey” button lets customers interact with us quickly.

MILQ: What were some initial challenges that both overcame when starting a business?

Aisha: The biggest challenge I've had to overcome when starting Coil Beauty was not really knowing where to start when starting a business. The first task I completed was getting a logo which I thought was my brand but it was not a brand it was just a logo. Once I sat down with someone who develops brands for a living and went through brand discovery, logo development and creating our voice that was the moment Coil Beauty was born. And, the brand development paid off because now when people have questions about my brand or even when my team and I are trying to work through something whether it’s creating a social media graphic or a discount code we revisit our brand book to guide us and without it I do not think we would be where we are today.

MILQ: What makes COIL Beauty unique?

Aisha: Coil Beauty is unique because it’s a site that was created with the idea of showcasing people of color and making it easier to shop for people of color. Coil Beauty was created to make our customers feel like they are important and not an afterthought; we accomplish this with the products we carry and also they way we choose to showcase so many types of black beauty. Coil Beauty also interacts directly with our customers via email, via social media and our “Hey” button which resides in the top right corner of every page on our website. Questions our consumers ask are typically answered by professionals in the field of beauty. We also attend hair shows and expos always looking to interact with our customers, look for new products and to be educated at these events.

MILQ: What is the vision for the company in the long run?

Aisha: The vision for Coil Beauty in the long run is that Coil Beauty will be the go to place to shop for products for people of color. We want people to say I’m having this issue and I need something to fix it and then to say ‘let me go checkout coil and see what they have for me’. We want brick and mortar stores and we want our customers to know that Coil Beauty is theirs and we welcome their feedback and their smiling faces.


visit coilbeauty.com and be sure to follow their Instagram @coilbeauty

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2019 Style Tips with Celebrity Stylist Scot Louie

 
courtesy of Scot’s Instagram @scotlouie

courtesy of Scot’s Instagram @scotlouie

 

Behind every fashion forward celebrity is a stylist with a keen eye and a pension for aesthetic. In the case of young mavens including Ryan Destiny, Kehlani, and Elisa Johnson to name a few, that master of style is none other than Scot Louie; one of the industry’s youngest rising stars. Louie got his start in the industry at only 15 years old as a styling assistant on the sets of reality television shows. Now more than 10 years later, he’s created his own lane in the industry, known for taking young talent and helping them harness their own signature flare.

Sharing his glitzy work on his personal Instagram account, he boldly proclaims the phrase #FashionNEEDSMe with every post —and we must say that we agree. From red carpets to editorials, Scot Louie has truly done it all and along the way, he’s picked up a sixth sense on how to stay ahead of the pulse of what’s trending in mainstream fashion.

To kick the year off right, we’ve asked Scot Louie to dish on his best tips for cultivating a distinct sense of style while staying up on the latest trends


What was your favorite and least favorite trend of 2018?

I loved seeing a lot of the western from Fall 2017 carried over into 2018 especially from Calvin Klein. I’m a sucker for those Fendi cowboy boots for women.

Personally I don’t have a “least favorite” I’d definitely like to see less of the illusion nude and overtly sexy dresses on the red carpets. I love smart and timeless dressing personally especially when it comes to evening wear

Can you tell us a trend that will never go out of style in your book?

Women in suiting will always be timeless in my eyes. You can put a woman in suiting for everything; press looks, street style, red carpets, dinners. Suiting is so transitional.

Who is your ultimate celebrity fashion crush and why?

For the past like 8 - 10 years it’s been Rihanna and still is. She is so versatile with her effect. Always unexpected and noteworthy. I’ve also always loved Tracee Ellis Ross as Joan Clayton but these past two years she’s been killing the scene with her personal style.

In your opinion, what is a quintessential item that every person should have in their closet?

Forget the little black dress; the black blazer is a must. You can do so much with a black blazer. Go for sexy with no bra and no top. Go for studious with a fitted turtle neck. Go for street with jeans and a loose fitting tee.

Can you name a look that you think any body type can master?

I think the effortless “sexy tom boy” look has become easy for all body types to master and is something all my clients mention. There’s a huge surge of women who are tapping into their more masculine side and find more comfort in that realm. Most sexy tom boy looks feature a fitted item and a looser fitting item and every body type needs proportions

Courtesy of scotlouie.com

Courtesy of scotlouie.com

Courtesy of scotlouie.com

Courtesy of scotlouie.com

Courtesy of scotlouie.com

Courtesy of scotlouie.com

What is the key to mastering the power suit aesthetic that has become a signature look featured on your clients?

The key to the power suit more than anything is to have fun with it. Suits have a stigma for being a “serious” look. Have fun with it. Add some hardware (a strong earring, a bold ring, a belt). A burst of color or texture is fantastic with a suit. Try a colored shoe or a mock neck top for an additional layer. Also pay attention to the fit. An oversized suit can easily go from chic to sloppy if it’s too oversized

Courtesy of scotlouie.com

Courtesy of scotlouie.com

What are some of your favorite go-to designers to dress your clients in?

I actually try as much as possible to not pigeonhole my clients into go to designers. I love a wow factor and every designer provides something different. I think switching up designers is imperative especially when building someone’s image

What is your no-fail tip for making any look polished?

Pay attention to fit. A proper fit will always be no-fuss and comfortable. Fit can easily make you look much sharper.

What trends do you forecast that will dominate in 2019?

While it’s a timeless constant I think we’ll be seeing a bigger surge of faux animal use. (Snakeskin; leopard; feathers). Also plenty of tie die and the colors Coral and Marigold for spring.

What tips do you have for a fashion lover who wants to play with trends while staying true to their personal sense of style?

Have a point of reference. I as a stylist always reference another look I’ve loved whether it be from a runway or a old red carpet; music video etc. References make dressing up fun and aspirational.

Stay inspired and keep up with Scot Louie by following his Instagram @scotlouie

2018 MILQ Mavens Of The Year

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It’s official; we’re living in the era of the influencer. Thanks to the impact of social media, the power of fashion has been liberated where high fashion runways forecast what trends we can watch out for, but style influencers truly determine what’s in and what’s not. Now more than ever, everyday women of all hues, sizes and walks of life possess the power to shift the fashion landscape with the upload of a single photo. And thanks to these influencers, we can connect with content that truly depicts the multifaceted nature of our existence in an inspiring and relatable way.

Thousands of new influencers pop up everyday, but there’s a selected few who refuse to take their foot off of our necks, serving us with style inspiration that is coveted and editorial-worthy. For the first time ever, we’ve compiled a list of some of our top favorite influencers who we’ve given our official stamp of approval.

Here is our 2018 List of MILQ Mavens of the Year:

@Thedailyseyi

Style Profile: ‘Structural Flow’

WHY WE LOVE HER:

A master of simple chic, her style is subdued yet vibrant in all of the right ways, making it relatable for the everyday girl seeking some style inspo.

“I find myself gravitating towards structured asymmetric pieces paired with flowy designs. Materials such as satin and silk are the cherry on top when it comes to dressing up.”

Style Lessons Learned from @TheDailySeyi:

  • You can never go wrong with a classic wrap dress

  • Denim always wins

  • Make the trend; don’t let the trend make you

 

@Caribbean_Cowgirl

Style Profile: “Man Repeller Meets Fashion Bomb”

WHY WE LOVE HER:

Zesty and bold, she keeps us at the edge of our seats with her remarkable knack for mixing patterns. She’s always one to take the road less traveled to turn a look that’s true to her distinct style and vibe.

“I’m drawn to...iconic and recognizable and fashion aesthetics...I'm a show off in true Jamaican fashion. You gone see my outfit and remember me.”

Style Lessons Learned from @Caribbean_Cowgirl:

  • Knowing how to mix prints is a gift, not a privilege

  • Black designers need love too

  • Ankara is the new black

 

@Missenocha

Style Profile: “Eclectic”

WHY WE LOVE HER:

She’s the DIY Queen of fashion that can make a homemade piece look designer. She’s an avid travelista who knows how to reinvent her style to fit the aesthetic of every city, while remaining true to her signature vibe.

“[My personal style] is inspired by my travels and surroundings.”

Style Lessons Learned from @missenocha:

  • If you can’t afford it, make it yourself.

  • Rich in texture, rich in life

  • When you travel, pack light & shop often

 

@Lifeinbeverlyheels

Style Profile: “Sophisticated Flare”

WHY WE LOVE HER:

She mixes high and low fashion like no other, always a serving a look that’s sleek with an extra splash of sass.

“[My] fave designers are Victoria Beckham, Cushnie, and Brandon Maxwell.”

Style Lessons Learned from @lifeinbeverlyheels:

  • It’s called a power suit for a reason.

  • You can never have enough statement pieces in your wardrobe

  • Buy pieces worth repeating, then reinvent them.