INFLUENCING IN COLOR
Shay Sweeney, Nikki Gamble, Meghan Adams, & Brandy Gueary
NIKKI – I have always had the “creative bug” but never really knew where to place that energy. After I had my second baby, we decided I would stay at home with her until she was old enough for school. I love being a mom, but I didn’t enjoy being a SAHM—I had no creative outlet and that is something my soul requires. I told my husband about what I wanted to do, so he did a little research and told me about Sincerely Jules’ book. After reading that, I knew that it was something I could do and be successful. So I started my website, took some pictures, started posting them, and the rest is history!
SHAY – My blog started out as a grad school thesis project, which I actually ditched and ended up doing something else. However, I had already bought the domain and started to see traction, so I decided to stick with it and see where it went! As my following grew and more people were reaching out to ask me about style advice, my husband pushed me to keep it up. Ahmad (my husband) started taking my pictures on a regular basis and that, mixed with me becoming more consistent with content, brought the Shay Moné blog to life!
MEGHAN – I knew this is what I wanted to do since I was in middle school. I would always paint, cut, and create clothing for myself and friends. When more and more people started asking me to “make a shirt for them,” I knew I was onto something. I got my first job at a retail store, which made my love for styling, being around cute clothes, and helping other people decide what to wear even stronger. Eventually, I convinced my brother to take random pics of me on my pink flip phone which I would upload to my blog and of course MySpace. In 2011, Style for Breakfast was born!
BRANDY – If you scroll way back in my IG feed, you’ll see that I first began sharing natural hair styling pictures very early on. I knew I wanted to share something with the world, I just wasn’t sure what exactly. I eventually started my blog as a place to share home renovations because we bought a 1929 cottage that needed a lot of love. Around the same time, I started noticing that people were always commenting and complimenting me on my adventurous styling choices (colors, prints, patterns) and asking where I got my clothes. What stood out to me is that women with deeper skin tones would say, “Oh I could never pull off that color!” It has been my pleasure to show women with deeper skin tones that we can wear whatever colors we please! From there, style and beauty became the focus of AuthenticallyB.com.
NIKKI – I looked up synonyms for trendsetter and two words stood out: Pacemaker and leader. IIC has definitely set the tone and pace for brands and other influencers to recognize and act on on the lack of visibility of women of color in the influencer space. We have worked with several brands as the first all female, African American group of influencers to lead a campaign, and that alone sets the pace and standard. As for being a leader, I read a quote that said “Great leaders don’t set out to be a leader, that set out to make a difference.” When we formed IIC, the goal wasn’t to become Trendsetter of the Year. The goal was/is to help create a seat at the table for all women of color who consider themselves a trendsetter. To be recognized for something that you didn’t seek recognition for is a really great feeling!
SHAY – Firstly, when I found out that we were being recognized as trendsetters I was absolutely speechless. It was one of those shocking moments—I didn’t know we were even being considered for such a thing! It’s a total honor. We started IIC with a mission to be more than just four bloggers who wear cute clothes and take pictures. Our mission is to bring diversity and inclusion into the marketing/blogger realm, so to be recognized for that is such a blessing and honor. Let’s keep the movement and conversations going. Make your mark, ladies!
MEGHAN – This is bigger than us. It means so much because for so long, so many of us (WOC influencers) were just trying to have our voices heard and make our marks. This goes to show that when you have that Kobe #MambaMentality, anything is possible. To me, a trendsetter is someone who sets an example and influences others to follow. A trendsetter is someone who is a self-starter and isn’t afraid to take the lead wheel first. A trendsetter doesn’t care about the noise, only conquering what’s in front of them.
BRANDY – Winning Trendsetter of the Year is such a great honor and celebration of differences and an acknowledgment in the beauty of authenticity. When I think of a trendsetter, I think of beaming confidence and beauty from within. It requires a certain level of fearlessness!
NIKKI – Oh, there’s more than one! I’m obsessively into white accessories. I’m also very into the resurrection of the late 80’s and early 90’s style. I think this season everyone will be sporting something that is or inspired by Bottega—their bags and shoes are everything!
SHAY – I am all about the mens-inspired suit trend! I grew up watching my mom wear the cutest suits to work and always wanted to do the same. The only problem is that I’ve never had a traditional office job, so I was so glad when suiting became a trend because now I can wear them wherever I want! They come in so many different styles, prints, patterns, and I’m here for them ALL.
MEGHAN – Oohh. This is a good one. Trends come and go so fast, so it’s always fun to see what’s going to be hot and what items I need to pull out my card for and order next. Currently, I would say tailored clean lines, (masculine yet feminine) silhouettes, and bermuda suit shorts, which I actually can’t believe came back but I’m here for it.
BRANDY – I’m really excited to see tie dye and neon colors making a return. Although they can be a bit shocking to the eye, there are so many styling options and fun ways to wear it. I can think of so many ways as I write this, so just imagine how it will evolve throughout 2020!
The biggest lesson I’ve learned through my career of teaching and blogging is that you can never be too busy, too educated, or too proud to take the time to truly connect with the people around you. Everyone has a unique story. You’d be surprised at all that you can learn and be inspired by when you take the time to “see” and listen to people.
I had the name Influencing in Color in my head for a while and was initially thinking of using it as a talk series that I would put into my highlights. I quickly realized that I didn’t want to talk that much via stories, and I put the name on a mental shelf. While the four of us were at NYFW in 2018, we went to several events and quickly realized that we were the only African-American women in the room. It was apparent to all of us at that point that someone needed to speak up. We went back to our hotel room and talked a lot about our experience and how we could make a difference. That’s when I tossed the name Influencing in Color out. I have always known that I wanted to be able to give back in some way, I just never knew how. I may have had the initial idea, but there’s no way this could have made the impact that it has with only one of us. We are a team!
I can recall at our giveback event when we met so many young college girls that had so much ambition, great stories, and were just so grateful that we took the time to connect with them. I feel like we left the event more impacted than they were because we learned their stories and so much about them! We could relate to them because we all have been there in college just trying to make it. For us it was about giving back to the community, but it wasn’t until we learned that the girls were able to wear the clothes we gave them to actual events and around school that it hit home for us!
It’s funny because I easily made my mark while being in Beaumont by doing what I loved and putting efforts into my hobbies. There were only 3 main high schools so it was super easy to make friends and establish a reputation for yourself. Moving to a bigger city like Houston was a little intimidating and challenging because I moved by myself at first and didn’t know where to start, besides school. I’m mostly an introvert with just a little bit of an extrovert, but it was easy for me to start networking out here once I made myself comfortable. It challenged me to put myself out there and not give up on what I love to do. So many times I thought about giving up blogging, but I was always reminded in some shape or form that this is what I should be doing.