Brittany “YB” Brand Speaks on Working with Dave East and Joe Budden, Teaming Up With the Grass Route Podcast Team, Overcoming Her Industry Obstacles and More.

With the visual aspect of our culture constantly evolving and getting better, I find it fascinating to speak with different people who are involved in that profession and grab their perspective from behind the lens. From doing small photoshoots to growing a brand that has become synonymous with working with the like’s of Joe Budden and Dave East, Brittany “YB” Brand continues to showcase how great she is from behind the camera.

I caught up with Brittany to talk about her inspirations, her camera work, how she was able to link up with Joe Budden and Dave East, her recent team up with Grass Route’s Podcast and much more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get into doing photography and videography work?

There was always a camera around when I was growing up because my family loved taking pictures. In middle school, I joined the yearbook committee and when I turned 16 I saved my money to buy my first “professional” camera. Once I got to high school I started taking pictures at the football games and other sporting events, creating these pretty cool collages for my friends and teammates. As far as getting into it professionally was the summer of 2015. So much was going on in my life at that time, I’ll never forget sitting in my car outside of my boyfriend’s house feeling like everything was just going downhill. I received a DM from a Video Director who wrote me with interest in collaborating together. He gave me a call, and that next week I was at my first video shoot.

2 – What was the inspiration for you to get behind the camera?

My dad was definitely my inspiration to get behind the camera early on. Most recently I didn’t get my 2nd camera until last year. My first camera was stolen in 2014, so I didn’t pick up a camera again until 2017. Before that, I literally upgraded my iPhone to the 7 Plus just because the camera quality was insane for a smartphone. I started shooting videos on my phone, like the French Montana and A Boogie Concert at LIU, or even the Mary J Blige concert I attended at Foxwoods Casino. When I posted the videos on Instagram, people couldn’t believe it was shot on an iPhone. The only reason why I bought a camera was because after attending a few video shoots, and being apart of the production process, I found a love for editing. After becoming the companies main editor, I got comfortable working with quality footage from the same director each shoot. Until it was time for me to work with other directors and videographers, where I didn’t always like their style of shooting quite as much. It was difficult finding someone who could capture visuals the way I liked it, which kind of forced me to get behind the camera and learn how to do it myself. The first visual I ever captured on my own was a pool party I was invited to at Irv Gotti’s house. He had a few of his artist there, and they were playing their music, so I just started shooting. Then I got some dope moments of everyone getting hype to Meek Mill – The Intro. I put the clip on Instagram, and Irv reposted it. That was pretty dope.

3 – Which one of your professions do you enjoy more – doing photography or videography? Why?

I enjoy videography more. I’m pretty much involved in the entire process, from directing to shooting and then editing in post-production. Editing could be time-consuming but it’s actually my favorite part of a production. Being able to piece a story together, where it’s appealing to the eye and ear is not as easy as it seems. I like my work to always look clean, simple, but impactful. If you notice, my fonts are always pretty basic, I don’t use much effects and filters, because I love the organic feeling of visuals as if it was a reality. I love for everything to look cinematic, and as long as I have quality visuals and quality audio, I feel like I can piece together anything. I realized I loved videography more when I started editing wedding videos. It literally feels like you’re creating a fairytale for Disney. With weddings, I learned the importance of audio, whether it be using sound bites or instrumentals, but audio plays a big role in getting that feeling.

4 – In your opinion, why do you believe visuals, whether still shots or video, have become so important today?

In my opinion, visuals have become so important today because of how the dynamic of media has changed, and the power of social media. These companies are creating visual content for their audience because people absorb it better than they do with words. Most people’s attention spans are a lot shorter now of days, and there are many studies that prove the human brain processes information faster when it’s delivered visually. Speaking for myself, I remember information a lot more when there’s a video attached, or some form of visual presentation, whether it’s a graphic, animation, etc. It allows you to get creative with your marketing, and I definitely believe it’s become the most important form of communication.

5 – You’ve done so many different types of visual work from music videos, sporting events, recap videos, podcasts and so on. What would you say was your favorite moment to cover? Why?

My favorite moment to cover would have to have been the video production for Dave East- Type of Time (The first release). There are so many other great moments that happened in my career, but nothing in comparison to this project. Literally a day I could never forget. At that time, I was apart of a production team. We would always talk about an upcoming artist coming out of New York, and just by listening to their music we would casually create our own video treatments. Dave was one of my favorite underground artists, so of course, I wanted my team to shoot a video for him. I wish I could go into full detail about this whole story, but I’d literally be here all night and still miss a few parts. Long story short that shoot was a real team effort. From the location scouting to my partner Crash getting the Jeep, me getting a whole bunch of dirt bikes to come out the day after a blizzard in Harlem. It was an epic moment for me, it was the transition into my career where I learned how to wear multiple hats at once, and to know I was apart of the beginning middle and end to a project made me wanna do this for a living. We shot this video on a Sunday, I handed in the final edit that Tuesday, and it was released on XXL that Wednesday. That’s a 2-day turnaround, which seemed crazy at the time based on how the whole situation played out. All in all, that’s the type of worth ethic I want to bring to the table no matter what the project is. That was definitely my favorite moment.

6 – What are some of the challenges or obstacles that you’ve faced being that you’re a woman so involved in this industry?

I’ve seen both sides of how women can be treated in this industry, but I think in a predominantly male environment your going to experience a lot more challenges than you’d intend. Whether it be your age, gender, ethnicity, etc. As long as you stay true to yourself, and remain focused on what you want to achieve, your work ethic will speak for itself. Through all the obstacles I’ve faced, I never let it hold me back from reaching my full potential.

7 – Being that there aren’t too many women out there that do what you do, have you ever had any moments of self-doubt or fear? How were able to overcome that?

The more I accomplish the more I get over my self- doubt and fear. I never want to be in an atmosphere where I feel like I don’t belong there, or my voice isn’t being heard. I learned to only work on projects I’m passionate about, rather than chasing a check. I overcome doubt and fear by keeping positive people around me, and people that keep it 100% real with me.

8 – You recently teamed up with Brandon “Killa BH” Hall and Erin Simon to join their Grass Route Podcast team. How did that happen?

It’s funny how that happened. I always say I kind of just speak things into existence. I had tuned into one of their episodes on YouTube, and when I watch content I always think of what could be added to the production. Those are things I often think to myself. I was familiar with Brandon “Killah BH” from his skits on Joe Budden: Mood Muzik projects, and from seeing him perform at his shows. I had the pleasure of attending 2 of Joe’s concerts at B.B. Kings in NYC where I formally met Brandon. Fast forward to now we both followed each other on Instagram and I had just posted my promotion video for my video production. In hindsight, He and Erin were looking for a videographer to join their podcast, so when he sent me a message inquiring business, it was a no-brainer for me. Within the next few days, I began shooting their podcast. I met Erin that first day, along with a few other team members and everyone was super cool, and pretty much made me “Apart of the Family” (which is one of their sayings for the brand) right away. As soon as they posted it on their Instagram that I had joined the team, everyone was texting me congratulating me like wow that’s a big move. Erin’s name was definitely brought up a lot in terms of good business, and just being an all around good person. I knew I made the right decision.

9 – Aside from the fact that you’re a videographer and photographer, you’re also a graphic designer. It is a visual aspect but \what made you get into that?

Graphic design is actually where it all started. Like in 2001, my sister had brought home her first computer from college. It was the first few times I used the computer by myself and she would open up paint for me. I was literally always creating graphics on Windows Paint. Where eventually as I grew older, and I’m literally growing with the internet; I started researching everything on google. My sister would always make her own cd’s, so as a teen I was always on Limewire downloading music and I noticed there was an option to download software. I started downloading programs like Corel paint shop pro and eventually photoshop. In 2007, when MySpace was super popular, that was really my first hustle. Creating myspace layouts for my friends and teaching myself HTML coding. It was pretty cool, I was literally creating a couple of pages a day. My friends would give me their account information, and I would set up their myspace layout. Most of my friends were doing music and rapping, so I started creating their mixtape covers. After graduating high school, and not getting accepted into any of the art schools I applied for, I pretty much got discouraged. I started working more and I didn’t have much time for my art. Until the popularity of Tumblr and Instagram. As that platform grew, I started showcasing my art again, and I would always create my own covers for new music releases hoping the artist would pick it up or repost it. There have been times that it happened. So graphic design was pretty much my introduction to music, video, and photography. Now I just combine it all together.

10 – What is one talent of yours that you want to expand on or at least give a bit more attention to this year?

I wanna give more attention to my photography. I feel like I have a good eye for capturing moments, but I’d love for my pictures to look more professional in quality, and that just comes with investing in more equipment. Right now I’ve just been building as a videographer, so the equipment I use for videos is not typically the same camera/equipment I would use for photography. So I’m definitely going to start investing in that side more.

11 – What valuable piece of advice have you received based on your craft?

A valuable piece of advice I have received was from Misa Hylton. We were meeting at Starbucks to go over a project we are now currently working on together called “The Secret Fashion Project”. As we spoke, and I told her a lil bit about myself she was telling me how she sees so much of herself in me. I mean, when she said that, we are talking about Misa Hylton. Automatically I’m like I can’t wait to tell my sisters. Cause they are the only reason I would know who she is, and the era she grew up in. A lot of her early success came from being at the right place at the right time, and that’s how I feel about a lot of the projects I had the opportunity of being involved in. She told me, it’s not about just being at the right place at the right time, you have to be the right person. And that stuck with me since that day. From then on, at any moment I feel self-doubt, I remind myself I’m where I am because I belong here.

12 – If you could shoot any type of visual piece with anybody you can think of who would that be? Why?

I think it would have to be Spike Lee. Most of my favorite movies are directed by him; Crooklyn, Do The Right Thing, He Got Game … like I can go on and on, and these are all independent films. Before I even got into film he was just such an inspiration to me. One of my favorite pair of Jordan’s from my collection are the Spiz-ike’s, and growing up as a Knicks Fan always seeing him sitting courtside, it’s just like HE IS NEW YORK. I would take pictures with my hat raised and the glasses just like he did (I know corny, but who hasn’t done that lol). I just think he’s the perfect representation of being successful and Black in this film industry because, to be honest, we don’t get enough credit. So I’d love to be apart of a project he directs, or even an interview. I mean I literally just had a dream about him the other day, so I already think something is going to happen soon. I feel it.

13 – What’s next for Brittany Brand for 2018?

I’ve already done the unthinkable, so I can’t imagine what’s next for me in 2018. I never even thought I’d be in the position I am in today. I’ve transformed from a graphic designer to a film editor, to a director, and to a videographer. I literally can’t imagine what’s next, but I know whatever it is it won’t be a disappointment.

D’ana of COVL Speaks on the Growth of Her Brand, The Rapid Evolution of Visual and Digital Content, Her Upcoming Project with Essence Festival and More.

I appreciate how the concept of an artist can range from a variety of different fields. I’m also a huge fan of the direction that the world is shifting to which is focusing more on visual and digital aesthetics whether it be social media, website related content or elsewhere. D’ana of COVL is one of the incredible forces out there that’s contributing to the growth and overall expansion of digital creation.

COVL, which stands for Collections + Volumes, is the graphic illustration company that D’ana started back in 2012. Using the brand as her foundation, D’ana of COVL has taken her storytelling abilities to new heights by working with brands such as the New York Times, Corona, Champs Sports, Agenda Show and many more.

I had the opportunity to chat with D’ana of COVL and she name dropped her biggest digital inspiration, the longest project she’s ever worked on, making COVL a tangible brand and what’s to come for the future.

1 – How did you get started in digital design?

I always owe my start in digital design to the power of suggestion. Without someone suggesting that maybe I was in the wrong industry, I probably would’ve never tried.

2 – What would you say your source of inspiration was?

When I stumbled across Hattie Stewart something clicked and suddenly it all made sense.

3 – What was the first ever digital piece you created?

Man, off the top of my head, I illustrated over a photo of me. And, I wasn’t even using PS back then. I was using Pixelmator so imagine that!

4 – Do you remember that first digital design you created that helped contribute to your come up? What was it?

I don’t. Which is a shame yet at the time I wasn’t going so fast that I can imagine whatever piece it was still holds true to who I am today.

Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 11.17.47 PM

5 – What is your creative process like? In other words, take us through the first step of creating a design to the final step.

My process is simple… well, at least for me. I always start with a color scheme because it sets the tone/mood of what I’ll create. Then, I’ll play around with shapes and patterns until it feels right, even if the piece never sees the light of day.

6 – It’s evident that depending on the coloring, the number of layers and the piece itself that some designs will take longer than others. Time-wise, what was the longest piece you’ve ever done?

A project once took me an entire week because it consisted of 72 illustrations and a custom alphabet. The campaign I’m currently working on takes the cake. It’s a month long project and it’s definitely keeping me on my toes.

7 – What is it about adding color that you think makes your designs stand out?

Color has always been my form of therapy, so it all comes from a very open and vulnerable place. It was never intended for it to be consumed by others yet over time it has positively impacted others which in return positively impacts me.

8 – It’s been said that some of the best creative minds see colors when they’re in the process of creating. Do you find this relatable?

Color is everything. It’s what connects us to many things from what we eat to what we wear. Some minds embrace this fully and others are too naive to understand it’s full potential.

9 – The world of digital is growing and thriving every day. In your opinion, how important has creating digital content become?

I identify myself as a digital artist. I’ve allowed myself to encompass any medium that thrives within the digital space. I’ve never underestimated its importance because it rules everything around me. It’s how I connect with new and familiar faces, it’s a portal for me to take such a mere idea and execute it on a level I could never fathom had this era never existed. Reaching a mass audience without having to overexert your resources still mind boggles me yet it’s exciting as hell.

Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 11.19.37 PM

10 – You’ve been given the amazing opportunity to create a piece for this year’s Essence Festival. How did that happen?

Someone once told me, “Build it and they will come” and that has been my mantra ever since then. I am always putting COLV first and by doing so, I live in a world where I can unapologetically be myself and fortunately, that has led me to opportunities with brands that appreciate that.

11 – Speak a little bit more about your upcoming COVL x HERSPAWN editorial project.

Simple: we just wanted to have fun and create. Sometimes you just need to play dress up and flex those creative wings.

12 – Talk more about the COVL brand. Are you only putting your focus on digital creation or are you looking to spread yourself out into other lanes? If so, what are those lanes?

This year I’m all about challenging the current facets of COVL and introducing it into the physical realm. That’s all I can say for now : )

13 – You’ve managed to be apart of a lot of dope collaborative projects. Which one would you say was your favorite project? Why?

I try not to play favoritism because it subconsciously puts a constraint on my future endeavors. So to be real, I still don’t have a favorite project. They all have equally contributed towards my growth, happiness, and love for design which is a win-win, right?

14 – What else can your fans expect from you for 2018 and beyond?

Becoming more present, more tangible experience, and more COVL magic!

Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 11.21.11 PM

Event Host and Curator Taqee Bond Speaks on Hosting Inspirations, The Makings of a Great Event MC, Creating His ‘What’s the Move?’ Newsletter and More.

There is a specific art form that goes into hosting an event. You can’t just be the guy or the girl on the mic shouting out a bunch of miscellaneous things. A great host has to be able to engage the crowd as much as possible but also be able to entertain. Every event host has their own particular way of creating that engagement factor but Taqee Bond has found his lane and has been using it to build his name throughout the event industry for quite some time. Taqee isn’t only one of the best MC’s to host an event in the NYC area but he also helps others find dope events with his well-known event newsletter, What’s The Move?, which he calls a “social directory.”

I had the chance to catch up with Taqee as he talked about his inspiration to get into event hosting, how he became known for his photobombing talents, the start of What’s The Move?, tips for the emerging event host and more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get started in event hosting?

I was managing artist at the time and I booked my artist a show and the original host didn’t show up. The promoter was a friend of mine so she asked me to fill in and host. I was like “what the hell?” So I just did it and it went really well.

2 – What inspired you to get into the event hosting business? 

After that night, I realized I had a sort of talent, a gift of gab over the mic. So I started getting little hosting gigs, for either free or cheap as hell and Q took me with him everywhere he DJ’d and let me host his set. I was just high off how much fun I was having being myself. Shortly after I started hosting we started, Q Shepard, Cleverly Chloe and myself launched Word of Mouth Radio and I became more of a personality, hosting made way more sense at that time.

3 – What was the first event you ever hosted?

It was that accidental hosting gig from the first question, but after that my very next gig was a couple days later, hosting at the launch of a skateboard shop in the heights some friends of mine owned. We had a fuckin blast. I’m not sure if I was doing a good job or if everyone was really drunk, but that night was the night I told myself “yo you can really do this.”

4 – In your opinion, what makes a great event host? 

A great host is an actual MC. Someone who brings personality to the party and creates moments that people will talk about days after the party has ended. A great host has to be well versed and of course a sharp thinker. That’s an actual host, not that person who has a picture on the flyer and just shows up to the party to drink in their section and be on Snapchat.

5 – You’ve used social media as a huge way to build your name, especially with your photobombing. That’s something that has become synonymous with you. How did that start?

I was at a party at the legendary APT78. Back when a glass of sangria wasn’t enough and you needed a whole pitcher for yourself, back when that middle table was notorious for providing support while you caught a dub from a beautiful woman. wild times, a simpler time. Anyway, I saw these 4 beautiful women setting themselves up to take a picture. I was drunk as hell and the party was so packed I literally couldn’t get out of their picture, so I smiled. After that, my friends kept saying “yo keep doing this, keep doing this!” So I did, slowly but surely my collection got bigger. Global Grind actually wrote an article about it, that’s how I knew shit was real.

6 – How did you start What’s the Move NYC? What was the inspiration for creating a platform that is a pretty much a newsletter for NYC events?

At the time I was hosting and entering my final months as an artist manager so I was all over the city going to these dope ass events and people couldn’t believe I was in these places and meeting these people, so I started slowly putting people on. Honestly, I was incredibly frustrated with everyone around me being so excited about doing the same things every weekend. Every weekend “let’s go to city island or a strip club or a hookah bar” and that’s cool, but damn every weekend? I started collecting emails and piecing together a newsletter of events and parties that were coming up. People loved it and people started using it. I became obsessed with making the newsletter better and giving people more options. Over the next 3 years, the newsletter became a website and the website sparked the complete WTM brand that I like to call a “social directory”.

7 – From all the parties that you’ve hosted, is there one that comes to mind that didn’t turn out the way you thought it would? Which party would you say was the best? Why? 

I can think of so many events that turned out horribly. Either it wasn’t promoted incorrectly, the names on the flyer didn’t find enough bells, maybe the date was no good, there are so many things that go into an event that was a dub, but each one is a learning experience. And that goes for events I’ve thrown and events I’ve hosted. The best party/event I’ve ever been a part of will have to be Anti-Lemonade. I was the project manager to Brianni T. for this event, so my job was to pretty much keep shit together and keep shit moving forward as well as help piece it together. It was the best because it was the most organized event planning process I’ve ever been apart of cause Brianni runs a tight ship and because there were over 1,500 people that came. We had a great night, everyone enjoyed themselves and I learned so much in the process.

8 – I know sometimes attending events day in and day out can become exhausting. What keeps you motivated at this current moment?

To be completely honest, I haven’t been going outside too much the past couple of months. I’ve been locked in getting my mind right and my business right. Ironically my business is based on going out and being social, but I’ve become a homebody in this process. I’ve learned that I don’t have to go to everything. I used to have such a fear of missing out, now I can’t wait to say “Nah, I ain’t gonna make it.” Nothing personal, I just know that I’m not gonna make it to everything, so I have to pick and choose what events or parties I’m going to pull up to. I mostly go places that will be beneficial for me to be at. Somewhere I can spread the word about “What’s The Move?”. I don’t really like clubs and parties are terrible places to spread a business to me (ain’t body tryna hear that, they want to party). So I try to stay away from those. A good networking event, mixer, launch party, lounge or happy hour is perfect for me.

9 – What’s the biggest piece of advice anyone has ever given you in regards to your craft?

Focus on what’s important. Not what you think is important, what is actually important. We waste so much time worried about the wrong shit and it distracts us. It makes it hard to complete a task or work efficiently because we’re not focused on the shit that will help us. We see other people getting to it and we start to think less of ourselves or start to try to achieve their goals. That sometimes stems from us not being focused. I hear this from people all the time, but I never really understood it until I watched LeBron become the greatest basketball player ever. That level of basketball requires a level of focus that is damn near inhuman. LeBron isn’t worried about shit that doesn’t make him a better player. He focuses only on what will. Now, look at that sweep in Toronto, that was all the power of absolute focus.

10 – If you could collaborate with any other event hosts or party curators, whether in NYC or elsewhere, who would that be? Why?

I came up with a couple of brilliant creatives that are all doing their thing right now. We’ve seen each other grow, we’ve helped each other grow and we’ve literally been becoming the people we said we would become. One thing we never did was throw a huge party together. I feel like with all of our combined talents, networks, and resources, we could throw one of the greatest party’s New York has ever seen, maybe even take it on tour. I always said we’re superheroes individually, but together we’re like the Avengers. (Pre Thanos)

11 – What would be some general tips you would give to the rising event host/event curator?

Do what makes sense for you. Not to you, for you. It may look like a good move, but it may not be the best move for you. As long as you stay true to yourself and put in the groundwork, everything you do will be great

12 – What’s next for Taqee Bond? What can we expect from you for 2018?

Only thing I’m focused on right now is What’s The Move?. I’m gonna host here and there, but really nothing else matters to me right now, which is actually a good thing. I’ve always had a full plate, trying to juggle so many different projects and brands, but finally, I have a full plate, with just one thing on my plate. By the end of 2018, What’s The Move? will be the go-to source for social life activities in New York City.

REC Philly Co-Founder Will Toms Speaks on the Rise of the Brand, The Freethinkers Membership Program, REC Philly’s Biggest Highlight, Working with Wyclef Jean and More.

It’s interesting to think that there are so many different kinds of creatives in the world that are thriving and contributing to our culture. They range from photographers, videographers, writers, actors/actresses, visual artists, musicians, fashion stylists, DJ’s and so on. Although the list is extensive, it’s disappointing to think that a lot of the creatives out there lack the resources to gain an opportunity to showcase their creative talent. This is where REC Philly has stepped in to bridge that gap. From a small music group that consisted of a few friends to now being one of the most recognized creative agencies, REC Philly is using their current streams of resources to give back to emerging self-starters and entrepreneurs. Ultimately, these resources connect the talents to the opportunities they need to build a foundation for their brand.

I had the chance to speak with co-founder Will Toms about how REC Philly started, their membership program, the biggest motivating factor for the brand, linking up with Wyclef Jean and much more in our interview below.

1 – How did you guys come up with REC Philly?

REC Philly came as a pivot from a prior business that my partner Dave Silver and I had in 2012 called Broad Street Music Group. Back in 2012 we were in a space where we always had musician friends but we realized that we’re playing management roles to rappers and creatives and such, we realized how difficult it was for hip-hop artists or musicians in general to get the opportunities that they were trying to get as far as opening slots on shows that were coming to town or even just knowing who to go to for services. So we were just out here saying to ourselves that if we don’t have the resources we need, we have to start building. At that time, both my business partner and I were in a fraternity so we basically had the resources of fraternity houses. We came up with the idea to create a space on an off night and allow people to express themselves, sort of like an open mic. Dave was out doing that at Temple out of his frat house and I was doing similar things over at IUP where I went and it just caught on.

2 – The team is apart of a lot of different things but before putting REC Philly together, did you have any experience in like music, photography, event planning and such?

When I was a kid I wrote a lot of poetry and I always had a passion for film production. I was doing TV broadcasting and journalism and that kind of stuff throughout high school. I ran the TV studio when I was in high school and then when I got into college I ran the TV studio there. I was able to produce a couple of shows so I figured my trajectory would be somewhere in the lines of producing TV for a big network. I actually got the opportunity to intern for NBC when I was in college and they gave me the opportunity to work in news and then they gave me the opportunity to work in the creative department and that’s where I fell in love with creating content and I knew I wanted to build an agency after that. That internship gave me that spark.

3 – Aside from Philly being a city of talented musicians, what inspired you guys to get into helping other creatives?

With my background in understanding communications, I always knew how important TV and media was and how it controlled the way people viewed themselves and how people understood each other. I knew that whoever was controlling that had power. I always said to myself how interesting would it be if better people had this same influence and power. As Dave and I started building with these artists, we just realized how little access these creative people in Philly had to the smallest things like business professionals. You know, the real resources to build. I’ll speak for myself first, it was really important for me to have people have that sort of access because it came to down my economic understanding. We live in a capitalistic society so if anyone is going to have a say in what the f*ck is happening, we have to have capital. We gotta know how to do business and as a young black potential entrepreneur I was like, it has to be easier for people who didn’t have the luxury that I had to be able to build their businesses. That was the driving factor for me.

4 – REC Philly has planted their flag in the city as far as events go but you guys also have your hands in a few other things outside of that. How exactly does REC Philly work as far as getting people access to what you offer?

That’s a great question. So essentially our business model is broken down into two sides. One side of our company is a more traditional creative agency where we help solve the creative problems from the hip-hop artists who need a music video up to Comcast when they’re trying to go to SXSW and engage with more millennial audiences. So in that realm, we’re creating content for brands of all sizes. Then on the other side of the coin, we have what we call the creative incubator. That’s the newer side of things. We launched a membership program called the Free Thinkers membership. That was a response to us saying instead of doing a little bit for a ton of artists, we want to do more for fewer artists. And the people who really understood what we were building and want to buy in and support that, they’re able to pay a low monthly cost for a membership that gives them access to our spaces including our studio space, our venue and more. They also get discounts to all kinds of service providers so, for example, an entertainment lawyer. If we get one of out creatives in contact with our entertainment lawyer, right away we can get them up to a 30% discount just because they’re REC Philly members. Essentially, I look at the Free Thinkers membership as a gym membership for creative people.

5 – Does REC Philly offer management for the creatives you work with or is it more so them just paying you for a specific service and you cater to that?

No, it’s not management. That’s the one thing that we’re not. Reason being is because typically management deals are structured with a manager who gets a percentage of ownership of everything. They make like 20% or 25%. For us, while we’re working together, we create things but the artists retain 100% ownership over everything. So when they sign up for membership on a high tier, they’re actually given an account manager internal. But the account managers’ job is to make sure the member understands all the resources that they have at their disposal and they can help manage projects. So for example, an artist says “hey, I want to throw an event.” We’ll say ok cool, let’s connect you to a venue. And then we’ll ask questions about the promotional strategy and XYZ and then we’ll help move that project from start to finish but everything that’s paid out to us is based on the services that we’re providing. But, when it’s all said and done the artist owns everything.

6 – You guys are doing something that not a lot of people have been able to do and you guys have a lot of support. What has been one of the biggest motivating factors to keeping REC Philly a household name?

For me, it would have to come down to impact. I hope that doesn’t sound cliche but it’s definitely impact. It comes to taking a step back and realizing what we’ve done. For me, I get excited when I see our internal staff. These are the people who have been with us for years and I’ve seen their professional development because of what we’ve been able to have them do with us. They are out here literally doing things that they are genuinely excited to do. Sitting back and looking at one of our members who’s a videographer. Last year, we were able to put over $12,000 in his pocket through projects that we were doing with him. Or a guy like Guru Media is who now a day to day shooter for A$AP Ferg through an oop we were able to throw him. We connected him to Tory Lanez randomly. Tory came by our studio and said he was looking for a shooter. I told him I had someone I wanted to introduce him to. They connected on a Thursday. Tory had a show that following Friday and believe it or not that same weekend Tory took my homie on tour with him. To see the impact that’s caused by the strategies, that’s the most fulfilling thing and I know there’s creative hope. Other cities and other countries need creative structures just like this to give people access to opportunities and resources.

7 – I know a lot of the team is pretty engaged in social media but how does the team manage to stay on top of what’s relevant in music, fashion, photography etc?

The one thing that works in our favor is that we are our market. The people that we’re servicing, these creative entrepreneurs are extensions of ourselves. How do we stay on top of new music? It’s the sh*t that we’re consuming. How do we stay on top of digital trends? That’s who we are. Scarlett is the queen of the internet when it comes to memes and new platforms and things like that. I think that’s our leverage. We are the people we’re servicing. I feel our team is the best people in the world for what we’re doing and that makes things easy.

8 – REC Philly has been apart of and done a lot of different things. What would you say is the teams biggest highlight and why?

I would say our SXSW show back in 2015. I say that because it was such a pivotal moment. You know how at SXSW there’s a Chicago stage and then there’s like Tokyo houses where people from that region come out… we went down there and bootstrapped our own show and this was all in the middle of us transitioning from Broad Street Music Group to REC Philly. We brought down like 12 acts from Philly and we were able to get an official Philly stage and when we got back home, we felt like we were really able to accomplish what no one else could’ve done to that point. And, I think the city realized that. When we got back and people saw what we were doing, there were so many inquiries of who is REC Philly, what is the brand, what are they doing etc. Every SXSW after that, the same thing has happened but just on a larger scale. To put things into perspective, David and I raised about $12,000 to throw that show and we had Lil Uzi Vert, Freeway on the same stage and this was when Uzi was on that same run before his breakout. This was when DJ Drama and Don Cannon were literally taking him to every single show and letting him pop up and do shows. When we got back to Philly and realized there wasn’t a Philly presence similar to what we did, we were able to go and tell the big brands like Comcast and Temple University. We were able to tell them that there’s no presence for Philly here. Fast forward to 2016, we raised $100,000 and helped create something called Amplify Philly. Once we did that, it really set us apart.

9 – Aside from REC Philly growing as a name, in what ways do you feel it has grown into an overall brand?

There’s a couple ways. The first way, the REC name I kind of gave it an acronym and that’s Resources for Every Creator. I think the brand has grown in a sense because it has really become that. I think we’re at a point now where people look at that logo and they respect it because when you see that logo on a flyer or on anything, there’s almost an inherent level of value that you know it’s going to have. And that’s just based on us consistently delivering quality experiences, quality content and more. I’m obviously biased and close to the whole thing but I think that’s what people look at us as. What I want this to ultimately feel like is when you see that blue check on Twitter and you know it’s official, that’s what I want our logo to become. You’ll see it on people events flyers and peoples content but not so much on behalf of the brand being important. More so saying what the brand has done is done with quality and you can trust it.

10 – I noticed that REC Philly has a hotline number. What exactly do you guys use that number for?

Great question. So that number that you see is what we call the REC line. We use that number to engage our fans on a much deeper level. I understand that we can always hit people through Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and email but it’s getting to a point that with social media now, even if you have a million followers when you post something that doesn’t mean a million people are going to see it. It’s with the understanding that if we can only connect with our fans through email and social media, we don’t really own that relationship. If Twitter and Instagram were to die tomorrow, how will we then engage with all of these people that we’re trying to reach? It’ll be difficult. So that number allows us an address book for everyone who supports our company and it just gives us a much better way of engaging with our audience. So at any given time, someone can call or text that number and get any info about anything that we’re doing. Members such as musicians can easily text that number saying something like #studio and from there they can get easy access to studios to book a session.

11 – I know the team was able to put something together late last year with Wyclef Jean. Talk a little about that. Is there anything else that might come from that event?

The Wyclef event came as a partnership between us and Professor Timothy Welbeck of Temple University. Prof. Welbeck conducted a Freethinkers Interview with Wyclef covering his upbringing, the state of hip-hop & more. This was a great experience, hosting an auditorium of students, artists & creative entrepreneurs eager to learn from the musical legend. After the first sit down, Wyclef was excited to come back and further the conversation earlier this month.  We got to chat a little deeper about the trajectory of REC Philly and he’s taken interest in what we’re doing.

12 – What can we expect from you and the rest of the REC Philly team for 2018? Any big surprises? 

In 2018, we’ll be increasing our focus on our technology and membership program. This will start to position ourselves less as an entertainment company, and more as a tech company that serves entertainment brands. Watch out for the growth of membership and the launch of our web app in 2018, as well as a mobile app in early 2019. You can also look out for the growth of our creative agency, powering really strong entertainment experiences this year.

Fitness Coach Irv Hyppolite Speaks on Health in the Black Community, ‘The Inner U’ Fitness Boot Camp, His Project with New Balance and More.

You don’t hear people speak about health and fitness often in the black community. As of lately, we hear a lot of conversations about uplifting and empowering black entrepreneurs and black businesses but not so much about the health aspect. Although the conversation itself is rare, it doesn’t mean it’s unimportant or a topic to shy away from. Health, in general, is an issue for many cultures and has been for decades and fitness coach/motivational speaker Irv Hyppolite is using this as the driving force behind his passion.

I had the chance to catch up with Irv to talk about his fitness upbringing, his views on health in the black community, how he started The Inner U boot camp, his link up with New Balance and much more in our interview below.

How did you to get into fitness and being an instructor?

Well, when I was 18/19 I started to take working out seriously. I knew pretty early on that people treat you better, and respect you differently when you show that you respect yourself enough to be the best version of you… as far as being an instructor/fitness coach, I hired a trainer(now my mentor) to get me ready for arena football and working with him for a summer made realize how incredible one’s mind has to be to change someone else mentally and physically, so I wanted to learn the craft and he taught me how to do it.

2 – What were some of your main sources of inspiration to get into fitness?

Terrell Owens ( I know that’s weird) but I grew up watching how he took care of his body and worked out harder than any other player on his team. I aspired to be that unapologetic and driven lol. Also, my uncle..he had weights in his basement all my life and was the most driven person I’ve ever met but and then got hit with type 2 diabetes … I do this for him.

3 – In your opinion, do you think that fitness is a cultural lifestyle? In other words, why do you think black communities lack good health?

Good question, I think it is a cultural lifestyle but I think we don’t give it the respect it deserves, we could dig into the system of how they (barely )educate black communities on health, the Popeyes on every corner, or even how the media target’s minorities but on the surface level… I think the lack of good health comes from us not seeing a fair representation of healthy eating, the gym being a 365 and not just a vacation-ready thing. After Billy Blanks, we got Shawn T, and neither of them did anything then who else?

image1 (3)

4 – How would you describe the state of black health in today’s world?

It’s on the right track but still far from the zenith. Right now it’s so gimmicky that you have to really dig to find quality information in it. Also, POC didn’t give health/fitness the attention it needed till Instagram and hashtags made it trendy then vanity kicked in. 10 years ago you would look at me funny for carrying a gallon of water with my book bag… now people understand “YOU NEED WATER” lo. Also, it’s also not popular in media outlets that are NOT fitness related, yet it’s a lifestyle and you still see a lot of blogs/sites with that section who don’t cover fitness enough.

5 – You started a workout boot camp called The Inner U. How did you go about starting that? What was that creative process like?

That’s my baby lol, I started inner U back in 2016. The goal was to create a space for POC, that made working out fun and affordable, while addressing cultural issues, and celebrating empowerment… it’s bigger than me at this point,

6 – Aside from getting people in shape, what are some of your main goals when it comes to The Inner U?

Great question, it’s impact has helped so many people with their weight goals but more-so mentally. We’ve  donated money to charities, hold clothing drives, touch on social topics, and even celebrate things like women’s history month, stress awareness month, and etc. the main goal for me is to provide something that people will take home after those 60mins, a new lease on life that can’t be erased with space or time.

7 – You pride your boot camps on mixing fitness, hip-hop, and culture into one. Explain what that means.

Yea, so I craft the hip-hop playlist to fit the class, whether it’s a women’s only playlist, black history month playlist or even a Houston playlist during the time they were hit with a devastating hurricane. All these things are part of us and it shows that while we’re working out there’s a bigger picture here and we’re going to do our part to honor that.

8 – Social media plays a huge role in helping market and advertise a brand. How else does a fitness instructor get their name out there to help contribute to their brand but to also show the legitimacy of your brand?

Make people happy lol. Word of mouth is the biggest factor for me. If you create a product that has morals, stands for something, and shows promise in the success rate of people who come getting in the best shape of their lives, you can move the needle because people want to share that experience with others, and who doesn’t want to be in better shape? It’s almost a no-brainer. The class is sold out 85% of the time, and it’s new faces every week… that means people are getting the message across.

9 – You recently teamed up with New Balance on a project. How did you link up with the brand and what is the project based on?

S/o to the guys at New Balance, a rep from NB reached out to me and asked me if I would be interested in working with them on a winter series project. She was familiar with my work and felt that a partnership would make sense. The project is basically a signed deal to bring Inner U Bootcamp to the flagship store seasonally and free of charge for y’all. They gave me the space to create and control the narrative of my brand while aligning with me to give the public the ultimate New Balance x Inner U experience.

image3

10 – What are some of your personal goals and/or aspirations for fitness? For the black community?

My goals are to make sure every month I give back to “us.” I have a platform and I believe, big or small, it means nothing if you’re not changing the lives of people with it, you’re not doing enough. I aspire to create “generational HEALTH” and that basically means create a better today so we can give our kids these gems and they can pass it on to their kids after. That’s how we beat obesity, diabetes, and all the other complications we’re leading the league in.

11 – What’s next for Irv Hyppolite for the second quarter of 2018?  

A lot lol. We want to test out The Inner U in a couple other cities, start production on my online training program, and release a couple more pieces from my apparel line “DCSR”…. and that’s just the top layer.

Amanda ‘ThatDancer’ Barona Speaks on Family Inspirations, Her First Photo Shoot, Working with Fabolous, Touring with Rae Sremmurd, and More.

I love being able to connect with people who have a passion for visuals because it’s intriguing to hear what they see through their lens. Visual content has become a vital piece of our lives and being able to provide your following with a story through every photo is a great talent. Amanda Barona, also known as ThatDancer, is by far one of the most requested photographers in Florida. She has photographed some of music’s top acts such as Gucci Mane, DJ Khaled, Travis Scott, Tyler, the Creator, Post Malone and the list goes on. Although her lens has shot pretty much everyone you can think of, Amanda has become famously known for shooting and traveling with music duo Rae Sremmurd.

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 7.56.01 PMI had the chance to chop it up with Amanda and we talked about her come up in the Miami scene, her first-ever photo shoot, how she managed to connect with Fab and Rae Sremmurd, the things that keep her motivated and more.

1 – How did you get into photography?

It began when I started going to concerts around 8th grade. Until this day I have boxes of Kodak Disposable cameras that I never got developed from concerts I went to. I was probably in Section 432, Row 13, Seat trashcan and was still taking pics of what looked like ants onstage lol. When MySpace popped off, I really got into it and my best friend gave me her Digi Cam on my 17th bday and I took it seriously from there.

2 – What was your main source of inspiration that got you into photography?

My siblings. I’m the oldest of 3. My sister is the baby, I purposely f*ck up in life so I can tell her “Yea don’t do that it was a failure” lol. My brother is a leukemia survivor, however, the cancer paralyzed him at 13/14? and sh*t was never the same. He’s now 26. His life changed and he no longer was able to be my partner in crime. So it’s like I started to live on the edge and run everywhere in order to show him the world he may never see. I have a habit of sometimes even recording full shows because I know he’d wanna see it, but he always thinks he’s a burden being in a wheelchair. I use my eyes to work a lens so he can have eyes, basically.

3 – What was the first ever shoot you’ve done?

It was probably my friends or fellow dancers. I was a hip-hop dancer in ’07. So I use to shoot myself, make my own comp cards and headshots. I told people all the time I took my own photos but they didn’t believe me. Power of the self-timer and running lol. I was also working in a portrait studio so I shot family portraits for like 4 years outta high school. It’s a blur lol.

But my first “Major shoot”? HA. It’s a tie between T-Pain or Yung Berg. I was an assistant to T-Pain so he opened the door for me way back in 2008. Pain was always letting me shoot when he was in town. Yung Berg contacted me to shoot his artist on his label and it was the worst business EVER. The story of Berg is the one I warn shooters about. He showed me that not all business is GOOD BIZ. No matter who the client is; famous or not. Long story short, I was still fairly new at shooting but he hired me to shoot an ALBUM cover for him and never got paid. I was jobless at the time so the money was important. I learned quickly the importance of contracts since we didn’t sign one. He pretended to be cool and was playing games about payment for months. Then when I’d ask about it he began to be unprofessional and go as far as disrespecting me. I told him off and never looked back. He’ll always have an ugly soul to me. The only thing I got from that was experience and to never ever let someone disrespect me and my art.

4 – Miami has grown a lot as far as emerging creatives. What did you during your come to get your work noticed?Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 8.02.33 PM

I think what helped me get noticed was being supportive. I was just hitting these concerts and always being front row to the point where these artists would legit recognize me when they came to town. Sometimes I had my camera sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I paid $300 to get a good seat, sometimes I bought a crappy seat and pretend like I was looking for my mom lol. But they saw the dedication I had for the music. Once I learned how to finesse and made some plugs, it was natural for me to get where I needed with my camera. Until this day I freak out when sneaking my camera in despite how long I’ve been doing it lol. But I tell everyone it’s not about the comp shows cause until this day I still buy concert tickets, I’m still flying myself out to catch festivals when people would assume I’m getting paid for it. Nope! It’s all a work in progress to be a household name.

5 – At what point did you realize your visuals were getting solid recognition?

When I was getting escorted to Big Sean’s photo pit some fans were yelling my name, complimenting my work, asking for photos and advice all while the show was on lol. Also recently, I went to a Waffle House incognito and the cook came out and legit said: “you’re thatdancer?” I died Lol. But, it was awesome to see my own city was starting to notice me. When I go to introduce myself to other artists and they say my name before I can introduce myself, that’s the best shit ever too.

6 – When did your first big break come to do your first established photoshoot or shoot an event?

Hmm trying to remember cause I go to way too many shows. 😩 I can’t even recall, unfortunately. I was always tryna find a way to make bread off shoots. Sometimes I feel like I haven’t had my break yet. I have so much more to prove. Someone who caught me off guard was probably Fab. I was already attending his show but a Ciroc rep asked me to shadow him and help. So I did. That same night Fab posted 36 images of mine on Instagram, that blew my mind that someone truly liked and saw my vision. That was one of the happiest days I had honestly. I kept screaming like Khaled “Another One?!?”

7- You’ve established yourself as a legit photographer in the state of Florida and it seems like you’re the go-to for a lot of different acts. How did you manage to build your connection with people like Rae Sremmurd and Fabolous?

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 8.08.48 PM.pngScreen Shot 2018-04-10 at 8.10.48 PM

That’s my goal lol. My sis once said “Whenever an artist lands in Miami it’s a NO FLY ZONE for all shooters” lol. I was always a Rae Sremmurd fan. I saw them perform at Revolt Music Conference in like 2014. I snuck my camera in and was front row for their show. The energy they presented was another level. The boys and Mike Will were reposting my images but I didn’t get credit. I ended up seeing them at a club a week later, ran up to their section, opened their IG and yelled: “I took this photo!!” Jxmmi immediately grabbed my phone, took a snap, and I was like “we’re best friends now” lol Well it was like I spoke it into fruition cause I continued hitting up their shows. One event they had I had DM’d Jxm and he actually noticed it. He thought my IG was a fake celeb photo Page lol. When he spotted me in the crowd, he handed me the blunt and let me know he knew who I was. We later found out when I was on tour with them that he was tryna link with me for work but didn’t know how. We both clicked and it’s super hard to find that genuine chemistry while working nowadays. So it was gods plan really lol. He saw my hustle. I never asked for his contact I would just show up to their events ready to work.

My story wit Fab goes back to the previous question. I was always just at these shows. I like to call myself a candid shooter. I hate the posing stuff. He loves candids and genuine moments. I feel like I’m able to capture it without them feeling the pressure of my shutter. I’m quiet too. I just like to do my job and go. I use to be super intimidated by Fab. Cause he’s a legend to me. Never would I have thought I’d know him. Sometimes I don’t pay attention cause I’m like “oh you were talking to me?” Lmao. It took maybe a year to really connect. Learning how he moves, how he likes to be shot, etc.. But it took time and work. He taught me ALOT about shooting and business. A lot.

8 – Aside from Fab and Rae Sremmurd, what other acts have you been able to connect with and shoot on a regular basis?

T-Pain hired me as his personal assistant in 2011? He was the first person to help me get out my moms house and experience life outside of Florida. The day he hired me my first gig was South Africa on Christmas. Epic. He was there before everyone and is still around. I have a great relationship with Justin Combs, Mack Wilds, Dave East. Hell… a lot of New Yorkers love me lmao. Um… Zoey Dollaz for sure and a ton of artists team members.

9 – What do you prefer as a photographer – photoshoots or event shooting? Why?

I guess event shooting, I love colorful lights, the screaming fans, mosh pits, energy, the rush, the work behind putting a show on, and not knowing what your gonna exactly get. I love candids so I’m able to be as candid as possible compared to telling someone how to pose. Just thinking of that reminds me of Napoleon Dynamites’ Uncle Rico 😂

10 – What were some of your struggles coming up in this industry? What are some things that you’re currently struggling with although you’ve already positioned yourself as a legit creative?

It’s sad to say but I still battle with the issue that I am a female in a male-dominated game. Some people think it’s a joke when this is literally how I’m able to pay bills. I don’t care too much about being in the “know” – I just wanna be able to shoot freely and spread the art. But men get intimidated easily when I’m around. I struggle daily with DOUBT. Doubting myself or feeling like I’m not good enough. Sounds terrible but I’m very hard on myself.

11 – At this current moment, what keeps you motivated to keep shooting?

The hopes of being able to travel the world.

And these grey hairs I got on my head lol

12 – You’ve done so many different shoots and have shot so many different concerts and events. What would you say was the best photography experience for you? Why? What did you learn from it?

Hands down the European Tour I did with Rae Sremmurd. I learned from one of the best tour managers (shout out to Tony) how to move and survive the fast bus life lol. We had an incredible team 360 all around. From Security (Zeekeyy + Cor) to the all the boys who I consider family now (G-Lo, Shane, JaySremm, Max, Swae and Jxm, of course Migo!) The shows were during the day, night, in and outdoors, all different light settings. I had to move quickly and adjust with barely any sleep, all the while keeping up with the boys. It’s not as easy as you think lol. I also learned to never put my camera down and to be ready for every moment. Jxm’s 100k chain was taken during a crowdsurf and due to my trigger finger, I caught frame by frame the moment and was able to help. Alongside Max’s visuals. If I wasn’t on point that could have been a huge problem. But that’s the sremmlife way lol.

13 – As a photographer, what was the biggest piece of advice anyone has given you?

To be honest, I don’t have a piece of advice that sticks out. I remember thinking the other day I wanted to ask Fab that to see what he says but I just remember certain comments and go by my story to keep pushing. I literally speak a lot of stuff into existence. Remain true and you’re never too good to practice or learn.

IMG_3616

14 – If you could choose one person or event to shoot, who or what would that be?

Corny as it may be, it’d be a dream to shoot or meet Justin Timberlake. I’d say Childish Gambino but I know I’m a make it happen this year. A lot of people I wanted to shoot I made happen. It’s more so about traveling now. Who I meet or work with along the way is just the cherry on top.

15 – What can your fans expect from you in the second quarter of 2018?

Hopefully a tour! I’m praying and working. If not, I’m hoping to really kick off a shooters club to help other photographers out.

But I def plan on trying to get out more and shoot more than ever. I wanna be able to say I traveled the world before its too late.

Esther-Lauren Speaks on Growing Up in Paris, The Creative Process Behind Her Babes in Color Clothing Line, Entrepreneurship and More.

Building your name from the ground up is difficult. Starting your own brand and sticking with it is even more of a challenging task. There are a few traits that play a role in accomplishing both but one of the main traits is consistency. Esther-Lauren is the epitome of someone who embodies the word consistent. With a Parisian background as well as immigrant parents, Esther was able to find her passion in fashion design as well as styling. The young creative used social media as a way to build a foundation for herself and since then has created all things women love such as clothing, accessories, shoes and more.

I had the chance to catch up with Esther-Lauren to talk about her design and styling world, life growing up in Paris, the pros and cons of being an entrepreneur and more.

1 – What was the experience like growing up in Paris, one of the capitals of the fashion industry?

I moved here when I was still young but my mother’s Parisian sense of style definitely followed me into America. Her old wardrobe influences a lot of what I wear. Berets, blazer, pressed button downs and slicked ponytails with minimal makeup was her go to look. On a normal basis, that’s what you’ll most likely find me wearing.

2 – With Paris contributing to your love for fashion, what else would you say added to those inspirations growing up?

I didn’t grow up in the best neighborhood so I would say my style growing up was a mix between urban and European influences. I would throw on bright colors and chunky jewelry with cardigans and ballet flats. I loved taking whatever was trendy at the time and adding my own twist to it.

3 – When did you realize you wanted to be a stylist?

To be honest, I never had any intention of being a stylist. I would just post pictures of my outfits on Instagram and people kept messaging me style questions. I would offer free advice all the time to strangers that would ask me for help putting together an outfit. People started offering me money to style them and that’s when I decided to offer it as an official service.

4 – Aside from doing stylist work, you also design your own clothing. What made you want to get into design?

I started designing clothing when I was about 5 years old. I was bored with my dolls’ clothes so I would make my own pieces for them. For as long as I can remember I always told my parents I wanted to be either a doctor or fashion designer. Like most immigrant parents, they supported the healthcare route which is why I wasn’t able to develop my skills until recently.

5 – What was the very first piece you ever designed? What was the inspiration behind creating it?

The first major piece I ever designed was an outfit for myself to wear at the African Student Union fashion show at Stony Brook University. I needed to wear an African print outfit, but I wanted to incorporate elements of modern day styles to it. I combined African fabric with a solid color fabric and magic was created. Till this day, people still ask me to make them that dress.

6 – Which profession do you enjoy more, design or styling? Why?

Design. I get a high from creating and wearing my own pieces. I love making clothes that fit me perfectly and compliment my features. I hope to get to a place where I can design full time.

7 – Social media has contributed to a lot of your success as far as building your name and brand. In your opinion, how important has social media become for entrepreneurs such as yourself?

Social media is super important. When people tell me they have a business, blog, podcast, or anything similar but aren’t on social media I automatically think they aren’t serious about their work. Social media provides a free platform to reach people from all over the world every single day. It also puts a face to your business which makes people feel more secure in giving you their money.

8 – What are some pros and cons of being an entrepreneur?

Let’s start with the bad news. The work is a lot and not always rewarding. You’ll put so much into something that you’re sure will blow up in one day and it doesn’t. I’ve sacrificed sleep, friendships, time, and so much money to create my own brand. If I told you how much I spent on Babes in Color alone your jaw would drop. It’s also frustrating because sometimes the people you call family and friends are supportive up until it’s time to actually buy something. That can make be super discouraging. The pros make it all worth it. It feels good being your own boss and being completely involved and hands on. I’ve always had a rebellious attitude so working for myself is a dream. Seeing people wear your clothes never gets old. I get so many questions from young girls about how to start your own business and brand that it makes me want to cry. I love having the knowledge to help other women accomplish their goals.

9 – You recently launched your own clothing and shoe line called Babes in Color. What inspirations did you use to put the line together? What was the creative process like?

My inspiration was black women. I wanted a line that represented us. My logo designer and I met at an event and bonded over the fact that there aren’t enough cartoon images of authentic, natural black women. I wanted the face of my brand to be a black girl with kinky hair available in several different shades so all black women could feel included. If you follow me on Instagram then you know I’m a huge fan of color so I wanted my brand to be as bright and colorful as my everyday style is.

10 – Fashion designers and stylist constantly get inspirations based on a wide variety of things when it comes to either designing a piece or putting together an outfit for someone. Where do you currently get your inspirations from?

Color. I love color. You’ll rarely see me in black. I start by figuring out what color I feel like wearing and work around that. Monochromatic looks have been my thing lately. I just love slaying one color from head to toe. I’m also really inspired by fabrics. If I feel like being sexy then my piece will probably be made of satin. If I’m in the mood to be edgy I’m picking up leather for sure. If I’m the mood to be girly then fur and super soft cotton are my go to. I try to work with the mood of the person I am styling but I also love pushing people out of their comfort zone.

11 – You pride yourself on being a black woman in a world where women aren’t getting as much credit as they deserve. In your opinion, why do you think that is?

Black women are the prototype. We are pop culture. The amount of things we have influenced is impeccable. I will never be ashamed of being on the creator side of creativity. I’m proud. Our ability to make lemonade out of the lemons life constantly hands us is my favorite thing about us. I’m so glad to be entering a position where I can potentially make life easier for other black women.

12 – From the designer side, what would you say is your biggest goal you’re looking to achieve? What is the biggest goal for styling?

My biggest goal for my brand is to be in a position to help others, particularly women of color. As my brand grows I want to hire more women of color and give back to charities that help women of color. Everything I do is for women of color. I want to use my position to elevate all of us. As for styling, I would love an opportunity to work with a celebrity or style a magazine shoot or music video.

13 – Who in the fashion industry now, designer or stylist, do you admire? Why?

I get this question a lot and the truth is I’m more inspired by other bloggers and influencers than I am by major designers. I find a lot of their content to be more refreshing and inspiring. I also have noticed that at times they end influencing the content of a lot of major brands. Some of my favorite influencers and stylists are Kahlana Barfield Brown, Ann Wynn, Alaia Ryan and Kelsey Ashley. I keep up with these girls daily and they definitely influence my style.

14 – What are some key tips for those living the entrepreneur life?

Be patient. I am still learning this. Good things take time. I struggle a lot with patience and my desire to rush things has gotten me in trouble more than once. I would also say don’t be afraid to spend money. I think a lot of people get scared about spending a lot of money on the business if they aren’t sure when they’ll get it back. If you’re not willing to invest in yourself how can you ask others to invest in you? You have to spend money to make money.

15 – What big plans does Esther-Lauren have for 2018?

I have some new designs coming out for Babes in Color which I’m really excited about. I’m also expanding the charity aspect of my brand to help as many people as possible. A portion of the proceeds from Babes will go to various women’s shelters in NYC but I still feel like I can be doing more. That’s all I can share for now but I will say stay tuned for some big surprises.