Own your influence

I watched the Joe Budden interview with Nicki Minaj… and besides his split seam skinny jeans and her having her purse on her chair on set … I was super impressed with Nicki and Joe. Joe is an interesting character, I’ll stop there. Nicki… I haven’t rocked with her since the “Monster” era…

“Okay, first things first I’ll eat your brains
Then I’ma start rockin’ gold teeth and fangs
‘Cause that’s what a motherfuckin’ monster do”

But she schooled a generation in this interview…

OWN your INFLUENCE

She talked about starting the trend in “pink hair, thick ass” for female rappers and middle part dark hair that has come to be known in this time as “Kardashian” hair. Not that she invented those trends, but that she was the muse behind their resurrection in style. Her points were solid & salient!

But it did bother me a bit, she failed to give Kimberly Jones her due… like all of it… I mean …

But more importantly, it got me to thinking about a really solid statement she made… that when we, especially Black women fail to acknowledge and broadcast our influence we make it easy for people to attribute our style and beauty to White influence that is really just a mimic of us. It happens all the time. “Boxer braids”, the idea that wearing one side of your overalls undone didn’t come from Black folks in the 80s, the sneaker trend, stiletto nails, logo prints on clothes-helloooooo Dapper Dan… I could go on.

But unfortunately, very often when we do speak up and voice our influence even other Black people see us as cocky, narcissistic, and conceited. The number of times Soulja Boy has SHOWED us that he invented many of the popular trends in hip hop, yet he’s taken as a joke until he proves it… wild. For women it’s that much worse. Lil Kim is singlehandedly responsible for making very high end designer houses popular in hip hop and then in pop culture. But she never gets her props. I mean… again…

So it’s time we start… and not just in fashion… because most of us don’t reign there… but… in our everyday lives to own and not license out our influence for pennies. We can only get what we are due if we don’t allow our value to be stepped on so much it’s rendered invaluable… gotta sell the product while the buzz is still powerful.

So if you are championing breastfeeding in the Black community unlike anyone else before you; you are the youngest Black female engineer in a city, state, county; you were the first of your kind in a setting that used your knowledge and example to grow and change; you are a certified FIRST, breaking glass, plaster, and drywall ceilings and walls; or maybe your influence and presence forever changed a thing… anything… speak on it. Let anyone trying to take credit for it today know you started it yesterday. Then when they circle back, tryna get some more of that thing you do effortlessly, charge double. What did Fat Joe say… “Yesterday’s price is not today’s price!” You want this excellence, FYPE!

And when the White girl at Nordstroms admires your manicure and says… you have those nails like the Kardashians… let her know… Nope, I got nails like Queen Nenzima!

Then… “put your number twos in the air if you did it on ‘em!” –Did It On ‘Em, Nicki Minaj

By Black Design

The fashion world has long been short on Black influence. Aside from the King of fashion Andre Leon Talley and its resident Queen, Naomi Campbell, the global fashion world has taken from urban and street style, made popular by young Black kids in Brooklyn, Harlem, Oakland, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, and other chocolate cities, but it’s designers, models, and influencers were really very… vanilla.

When Dapper Dan started remixing the the iconic prints made famous by Vuitton, Gucci, Fendi, MCM, and other high fashion brands into sportswear that was featured on the backs of rap stars in the 80s, he started something major, that wouldn’t be realized until years later. “Back then they didn’t want me…”

Remember… there is a thin line between genius and insanity…

In 2016 Kanye went H.A.M. on the Ellen Show about influence, mentoring, and fashion. He spoke about how in music all great artists had great mentors which helped grow the art. In fashion, he proclaimed, even low end brands didn’t seem open to doing features with people of color, thus shutting us out. But when you alienate a group from any art form, you rob that art form of the unique perspective, innovation, talent, and vision of an entire group of people. So Ye was right to find flaw with this premise… but his delivery…

Its always his delivery…

Anyway, at that time the sole head Black designer of any MAJOR fashion house was Oliver Rousteig for Balmain. At Kanye’s urge, the Kardashians started to wear his designs…EVERYWHERE, ALL of them. And while Rousteig had previously designed for Roberto Cavalli and been at Balmain for a few years, in 2016 he reached his highest heights. From the whole family showing up everywhere from Fashion Week to the Met Gala in Rousteig designs head to toe, Balmain went from bringing in $30 million in 2012 to over $150 million.

Kanye had a point to prove…

ENTER Virgil Abloh!

Kanye and Virgil are friends, since they were teens. In 2009 they both interned at Fendi. Virgil started what has become one of the biggest sports brands, Off-White, in 2013. His remakes of ten of Nike’s most famous shoes launched him into space, and in March of 2018 he was named creative director of menswear at Louis Vuitton. STRATOSPHERE!!!

LV should just stand for Love Virgil because Virgil Abloh has done some iconic things with the label that has basically gone unchanged from the iconic canvas bag that has stood front and center at its brand… for years. In June of 2018 he showed his first runway show at Fashion Week in New York, and it was unlike ANYthing you have ever seen from the typical polished luxe Louis Vuitton is known for. His men’s collection was a collection of fabrics, colors, and sportswear meets professional style showcasing his very urban yet modern eye!

And at the end of the show, Virgil’s friend, the nigga we love to hate, Yeezy himself, embraced and cried with his friend. Cuz that’s what friends do and that’s how big King Kong sized their dream was…

And yesterday, after she has been the victim of such vitriol about her hair, clothes, body, strength, and motherhood, our newest icon outfitted our modern day legend, the Queen of the court, Serena Williams in a TUTU my G… after she was banned from wearing a compression one piece. (Cue … “dat ass, dat ass, dat ass, she bad!”)

Not only making clothes but making statements!!! We LV (Love Virgil)! And I still love Kanye. Why? Cuz Sometimes… to get shit done, your karate doesn’t work, but your crazy gets noticed, and heard! Sometimes, you gotta be okay with making noise, because that noise might turn into a difference. Sometimes your genius comes out as insanity… other times you just insane. And sometimes when you are passionate, you just go too fucking far! Ask my last boyfriend, I think I ended our last argument with … “I’m sorry for the realness!”

Oh and Dapper Dan has a full atelier in Harlem showcasing his custom Gucci designs… back in the day folks thought he was bold as hell, a thief and Gucci sued him. “Now [we] hot, they all on me…”