I’ve had the privilege of being surrounded by women who have worn crowns on their heads, the world on their shoulders and they thrive! I was raised by a nurturing single mother that instilled in me at a young age the importance of being optimistic, protecting myself and my health, and always respecting the women in my life no matter how big or small the role they played in making me who I am today.
After sharing the first installment of The New Stereotype, I was positively overwhelmed by the response that was received. What surprised me more than the positive responses, was the dialogue created from the project. My goal with each installment is to address or “share” a new stereotype.
I did not grow up around a lot of men who wore suits on a regular basis, considering the men I was around the most did not work white-collared jobs. However, I still understood the fact that although they might not have worn a suit on the regular, they were still noble men. Which made me extremely proud to be a black man.
After a suggestion from my friend Nimi and some deep thought, I was compelled to incorporate a women’s installment of The New Stereotype. Just as the men’s installment, fashion was the medium. However, this time I wanted people to know the subjects behind the photographs. I wanted to share the stories of these amazing women that inspired me in an effort to inspire others. The New Stereotype: QUEEN Edition highlights seven women who are all relentlessly and unapologetically pursuing their passions. Standing bold, they are entrepreneurs, future lawyers, dermatologists, business consultants, analysts and leaders in the community.
In addition to the mission of this shoot being a platform to shine light on some of the amazing things that black women are doing in America, I wanted to show examples of unity among black women with different backgrounds. While all of the participants were strangers to each other before the shoot, the level of sisterhood portrayed throughout the shoot and behind the scenes reiterates that unity among black women is not an anomaly. Furthermore, I wanted to provide an alternate role model to little girls around the world by being inspired by the book The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color in a New Millennium by Kathy Russell. This read made me think deeply on the world, but more specifically the United States’ flawed view of beauty. This flaw is a social construct that was developed from many years of cultural wiping and the goal to create only one standard. In all of their shades of melanin and eccentric appliqué, these women represent many different versions of black excellence and they are what I consider to be QUEENS.
Chinyere Anyikwa, affectionately known as Chichi, is Nigerian-American born and raised in the Bronx. She is currently studying biology with an ultimate goal of becoming a dermatologist. While matriculating through college, Chichi is working as a wholesale team lead for a fashion jewelry company in Manhattan as well as picking up modeling gigs. When asked about her intent behind TNS, Anyikwa responded “I believe as black men and women we are often misunderstood. We are telling a story through fashion and I was eager to be a part of something that highlighted blacks for their many gifts.”
Kelly Pierre-Louis, MBA, is a Haitian-American who was born and raised in the small town of Stamford, CT. Kelly serves as a marketing and strategy consultant for various top-tier consumer brands and is the founder and creative director of Oui, Thérèse, a luxury accessory line. In addition, she oversees audience development and engagement at Black Enterprise where she created and launched the integrative global program BE Modern Man. “To me, the QUEEN edition is another opportunity to view and embrace ourselves through the innate lens of beauty that we naturally embody and not fall subject to the smudged standard of “beautiful” that’s often imposed on us today. I was honored to be amongst such people who personify the spirit of positivity, passion and love,” said Pierre-Louis in regards to TNS.
Brunnhilde “Bree” Wijnaar is Dutch and was born and raised in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. After accepting a position at an international hotel company, she’s spent the past ten years working and living in New York, Los Angeles, London and Puerto Rico as a business systems analyst. Proudly standing taller than the average at 6’4, Wijnaar also runs a blog called The Tall Society, which serves as an online platform for bringing together tall women worldwide.
Roxanne Paul was born and raised on the island of St. Lucia and moved to the U.S. when she was 15 years old. A graduate of the University of Maryland, she currently co-owns and is the principal event designer of All in Heels, LLC, a boutique events firm that is headquartered in Washington, D.C. When asked about TNS, Roxanne said, “This project uses fashion to deliver a powerful message of diversity and strength among women of color. I support the use of the arts to cultivate activism in any form”.
Rebekah Gordon is a graduate of Long Island University with a degree in political science and international relations. As a member of the Model United Nations program, Gordon has participated in conferences in Asia, Europe, South America and the United States. She founded CopywrittIN Consulting Services, which helps artists and entrepreneurs with strategic marketing, brand management and business development. She was recently admitted to and received a merit-based scholarship to attend Tuoro Law Center, where she’s working to obtain her Juris Doctorate. She is also a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Triana Elisia Woodard, MBA, was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Maryland. Woodard stated, “The New Stereotype: QUEEN Edition will not only highlight the diversity within the black culture; it also highlights the diversity specifically within black women, and can be used as a reference point for our black female youth. I would want them to see that being true to who you are is an essential part of building each other and the future generation of strong black women.” Today, Woodard is a freelance stylist and has worked on various editorial shoots, including international Vogue, Interview, i-D, Vanity Fair, and Document Journal. Recently, she was the assistant collection coordinator for the Yeezy Spring 2016 Ready-to-Wear collection during New York Fashion Week.
Amanda Moore-Karim grew up outside of Chicago and has embarked on the journey of becoming a creative enthusiast in fashion illustrations and advertising in New York City. As a Howard University and London College of Fashion Alumna, she is passionate about using fashion as a medium to not only showcase her creative talents on her blog, AMANDALUXE, but to also activate dialogue. Amanda said, “When asked to be a part of The New Stereotype: QUEEN Edition, I was pretty stoked. I saw it as an honor to be selected as a representation of black women as resilient, strong independents. As a young black American woman knocking on 25, I am proud of the cultured and multifaceted individual I’ve become. I believe my educational background, globe-trotting experiences, determination and sacrifices to chase my dreams define me.”
I love and respect black women so much because they represent so much strength and in some cases carry a lot of burdens. They are the glue that holds together the family and I hope that these images become a mainstay throughout the internet so that when a woman searches for the term “beauty” they are flooded with images of women of all backgrounds. I hope black women see these pictures and feel inspired to conquer the world and to take their rightful place on the throne.
Chinyere “Chi Chi” Anyikwa: @chi_thegod
Kelly Pierre-Louis: @mskellyp
Bree Wijnaar: @thetallsociety
Roxanne Paul: @_rox.anne_
Rebekah Gordon: @copywrittinbeka
Triana Woodard: @trianapdistrict
Amanda Moore: @amandawantsmoore
Photographer — Shola: @aqut
Editorial Assistant — Kandis Yeakey: @kandyreign_
Marquelle Turner-Gilchrist is a native of Johnsonville, NC and the creative director behind The New Stereotype. Currently, he resides in Harlem and works as an assistant buyer for a luxury fashion company. Passionate about culture, music, travel and three-cheese macaroni, he loves live performances and traveling to new countries. He lives by the simple mantra: Pray. Eat. Style. You can follow him on Instagram & Twitter at @marquelleturner.
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