An Open Letter to AKIRA
Screengrab of Kim Kardashian's Instagram of her going to Balenciaga Show makeup free
Source: Kim Kardashian/Instagram


As a loyal customer for several years, I was troubled when I opened your latest newsletter and read a caption making light of Kim Kardashian’s recent robbery in Paris.

Let’s be perfectly clear: violence against women is NOT a laughing matter. It doesn’t matter who she is and/or her likeability. It is not a situation that should be taken lightly nor should it be used for marketing purposes.

Your caption is disappointing, distasteful and dangerous. It is offensive to ALL women. It is victim-blaming. And the non-apology apology your social media person commented on my post AFTER blocking me on Twitter and Instagram is purely pathetic.


Listen, I used to run social media for a major magazine and I currently work in marketing. I understand that people are human, mistakes happen and nobody’s perfect. The best course of action, in both my personal and professional opinion, is to acknowledge the mistake, apologize (but only if you mean it), learn from it and do better in the future. But blocking someone for calling your attention to an issue is poor customer service at best and immature at worst.

I love shopping at your boutique and I’ve always had a pleasant experience with your stylists, but this incident has definitely altered the way I perceive your brand and will cause me to reconsider future spending at your stores. Similarly, I hope you’ll think twice before making light of a life-threatening situation.



P.s.: The following tweet was posted at 1:51 a.m. CT, after I published this blog. Coincidence or nah?

Akira tweet

I’m Not Wonder Woman … and That’s Okay


What the !@$# is wrong with me? Seriously!

I have a wonderful husband who loves and adores me; a supportive family; encouraging friends; a successful career and my health. What more could a girl ask for? Well, in my case — everything.

It’s so messed up. Most people, myself included, attend book readings/signings by their favorite authors/bloggers hoping to leave inspired. And I am — most of the time. But then there are other times, or sometimes within that same reading/singing, that envy and self-pity begin to creep up and leave me feeling like complete shit.

Why? Hell if I know. If I did, I wouldn’t do it. And the worst part is I can feel it coming on and, before I know it, the envy slowly washes over me and my formerly smiling face vanishes into a seething one.

I know, I know: “Stop comparing yourself to others.” “Stop comparing your success to theirs.” “The grass isn’t always greener…” “Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to their highlight reel.” I know. I’ve said and/or written those very lines about a million times.

But sometimes, ugh, just sometimes I wish it was me sitting in that chair, being interviewed, signing the books, meeting my fans. And I already know what you’re thinking: “well, what’s stopping you?”

The short answer: I don’t know.

The long answer: A couple of things…

  1. Not feeling like I’m good enough (hello, imposter syndrome!)
  2. Being afraid of my own success. Because what if I do “make it” — then what? What will I strive for? What will I do next?

I don’t want to peak “too soon,” but for crying out loud, I only have ONE year left to make Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list. Yes, Forbes. Because I shoot for the moon, dammit. Go big or go home.

And please, don’t tell me about how Obama and Oprah never made any of these lists. It’s not exactly like I’m going to grow up to become president of the United States or a multi-millionaire media mogul.

And the irony in all of this is that I’m sitting here writing this in my Wonder Woman pajamas, but I don’t feel so wonderful. I feel average — not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just not the life I envisioned for myself: a life of mediocrity.

I skipped a grade; made honor roll every quarter; was valedictorian of my eighth-grade class; editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper and literary magazine; copy chief of my college newspaper; graduated magna cum laude; and became an award-winning journalist.

And now what? Am I supposed to be content with paying it forward and empowering the next generation without accomplishing anything great myself? I don’t think so.

I know there’s more in store. I know that there is greatness awaiting me. But patience hasn’t always been my greatest virtue, especially when it comes to my career. Who am I kidding? The same could be said about my life goals as well.

But, like the old saying goes, I know I should be careful what I wish for. And I’m trying. Because that’s all I can do, really, despite my fruitless quest for perfection. It doesn’t exist, so why bother?

Because I’ve always been the best at everything I do and now I’m just average. I’m no longer the Beyonce, I’m just another girl in the group. But maybe, just maybe, that isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe it’s okay to be average. Maybe I should be a little kinder to myself, the way I am to my friends and my coworkers, the girls I meet when I’m volunteering and the woman I meet when I’m networking.

A little gentler and a lot more encouraging. Because, despite the Wonder Woman jammies, I’m not a super hero. There’s no cape over here or magical gold cuffs (although that would be awesome).

Nope, in the infamous words of Gwen Stefani, “I’m just a girl.” A bad-ass girl. But a girl nonetheless. It’s okay to be average. It’s okay to just be.

#GirlBOSS: Karissa Lindsay of A Leap of Style


How would you describe your personal style? Whether it’s a steady rotation of sheath dresses (me!) or a power pantsuit (what’s up, Hillary?), what you wear says a LOT about you. And if colorful, creative African prints are your thing, then you’ll definitely want to check out A Leap of Style.

Founded by Houston designer Karissa Lindsay in 2013, A Leap of Style began with a love of fashion and a dream. But before she took a leap of faith and kickstarted her career as a fashion designer (literally), Karissa first discovered her passion in middle school.


“My mom was a hardcore shopper, and I inherited her love for beautiful things at an early age,” she explains. “I still have one of my first sketch books from high school when I was really certain I’d pursue a career in design.”

After trading a “ridiculous relationship for an awesome relationship with Christ,” Lindsay turned lemons into lemonade and began designing the beautiful, bold African pieces her fans (myself included) have come to know and love.

Get to know more about Karissa below:

I absolutely love the name of your company! What was the inspiration behind it?

The name A Leap of Style has a kind of two-part meaning. First and foremost, there is the obvious play on the phrase “a leap of faith.” Everything about this business has been small and huge leaps of faith for me. From my first fashion presentation to getting into my first boutique three months in and leaving my career in education to pursue design full-time – it’s all been by faith. Secondly, it takes a little bit of risk to wear a bold print. Black is comfortable and safe, as are other solids. Fashion magazines warn us against wearing stripes in the wrong direction, but they’re fairly safe as well. But an African print? You will stand out, so you’ve got to be ready to take a leap of style.

So true! Your designs are not for the faint of heart.  What’s your personal design philosophy?

My design philosophy is rooted in my personal mission and that is to empower and inspire women through fashion. I believe the best way to do that is to design clothing that makes women feel powerful, yet definitely feminine and beautiful. I’m always concerned about the fit of a garment and whether we can get it perfect for our customers – I want every piece to be as flattering as possible. I think that makes the most difference in something you’d buy at Target versus buying from a small business like A Leap of Style. We’re more concerned with getting fit and quality right than with producing en masse.

Amen to that! And I can personally attest to this philosophy after receiving so many compliments whenever I wear your Rules of Engagement Dress.

What challenges did you have to overcome to make your dream come true?
I’ve got to be honest in that there are many challenges I have to overcome daily in this journey. I think so many entrepreneurs put out this message that you just get your freedom and go live your dream and you live happily ever after. And in the short of it, that is true to an extent. I battle with uncertainty and fear all the time. I’m open about that because I don’t think enough people in business are. People ask me how do I deal with the haters, and I tell them, the biggest hater you have to deal with is yourself. To believe in yourself and your product to this insane level that you just know you will succeed is the thing that will help you rise above any challenge. Working on that mindset is the greatest challenge for me.

Most definitely. Sometimes you’re your own worst enemy. What keeps you going when you feel like giving up?

My faith definitely keeps me going. I really believe that I’m living out my life’s purpose through this business. I’ve been able to impact so many people along the way and that keeps me going. I have several women who I mentor in some capacity and knowing that they are both empowered and inspired by me is often enough to reenergize myself.  If I didn’t believe in God and that He’s given me a purpose, I probably would have given up. On the “practical side,” if I need to recenter myself, I go back to my goals and data and work on what will make the numbers move. Emotions lie, but numbers don’t. So if I can work the numbers, it brings me back into the work of it all and not the feeling of wanting to give up.

That’s wonderful. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

I’m a huge believer that you’ve got to at least take a step first to see if your idea will work and then persist at it. So my first piece advice is to just get started! Don’t sit on your ideas. The second thing I’d tell an aspiring entrepreneur is to connect with like-minded people whether they are mentors or colleagues. Find the people who are skills in the areas you’re lacking and get their input.
Great advice! What words of wisdom would you share with yourself five years ago? 
Ha! So much! Five years ago, I was 25 and on the cusp of a quarter-life crisis. I wish I’d known then that it was okay to take more risks and that I really could build a life I enjoyed through my creativity. I wish I’d known that once I really started using my gifts, I’d be 100x happier. I wouldn’t have spent so much time in a career that seemed right, but didn’t drive me.
To learn more about Karissa and see her latest collection, visit

Why We Need to Talk About Tiarah Poyau

Tiarah Poyau

We’ve all been there — walking down the street, minding your own business when out of the blue you receive unwanted attention. Whether it’s a catcall or blatant attempt at groping, you’re suddenly faced with a decision: stand up for yourself and risk confrontation or ignore it and … also risk confrontation.

You see, there’s no “easy out” for women. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t speak out against street and/or sexual harassment.

Take, for example, the story about Tiarah Payouh, the 22-year old graduate student at St. John’s University who was recently slain for telling a man–who was grinding against her at a music festival without her consent–to get off her. Shot at point-blank range. For defending herself and the right to her body.

Let that sink in for a moment.

This young woman, full of so much potential whose hopes and dreams of becoming an accountant, was KILLED for saying NO. What the actual hell?!

When I first stumbled about Tiarah’s story on Facebook, I gasped. My breath was taken away because just a few months ago I’d rejected a man’s unwanted advances as I was walking to the bus stop and saw a man reach for my arm as he he tried to holler at me. I yanked my arm away and yelled “don’t touch me.”

It was a visceral reaction. I didn’t think anything of it. I saw him reach for me and I was NOT having it. So I said something. It never crossed my mind that that moment, that decision could have cost me my life.

But this is a reality that women are faced with every. single. day. Say something and risk consequences or suffer in silence to increase the odds of safety. It’s a lose-lose situation. A situation that wouldn’t even exist if these so-called men didn’t feel entitled to a woman’s body and their fragile male egos didn’t crumble when faced with rejection.

I’m not a psychologist or therapist or any licensed professional who can speak to people’s psyches. But I do know this: we need to treat each other with respect. We need to respect one another’s bodies. We need to respect a person’s right to say no. We need respect. And we need to stop blaming victims and hold the aggressors accountable. Simply put, we need to do better.

Don’t let Tiarah Poyau and others like her die in vain. It could have been any of us, but it should be none of us.

Why Representation Matters

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 17:  (L-R) Bronze medalist Kristi Castlin, gold medalist Brianna Rollins and silver medalist Nia Ali of the United States celebrate with American flags after the Women's 100m Hurdles Final on Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

As the 2016 Summer Olympics come to a close, I can’t help but feel like this has been the Blackest Olympics yet. No, I don’t have stats to prove this, but it just feels right.

From Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas and Simone Manuel taking gold in their respective sports to Michelle Carter making shot put history and Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin forming the first US women’s sweep in 100-meter hurdles, this year’s Olympics have been full of #BlackGirlMagic. And I couldn’t be more excited!

Four years ago, I wrote about why Gabby Douglas is a BFD. As the first
Black woman to earn the all-around gymnastics competition, she inspired a whole new generation of little Black girls to go after their dreams, whether it was gymnastics, world records or personal bests. Sure, when I was growing up, there was Dominique Dawes, but there’s been a bit of a drought between her reign and Gabby’s.

Now there are TWO Black girls on the U.S. women’s team, a Hispanic girl AND a Jewish girl. To paraphrase a certain presidential candidate, “this is HUGE!” While watching the team compete, I told my husband this is a big deal for Black girls everywhere.

There’s a saying that “you can’t be what you don’t see.” And while some people have the gumption to become the first Black/woman [insert occupation/record here], there are some who need to see it to believe it.

I have a Facebook friend whose daughter, also named Simone, is OBSESSED with Simone Biles. My friend posted a video of her daughter, a young Black girl, prancing around in her leotard while the elder Simone was doing her thing on the TV in the background. I cried.

This is why representation is so important. It opens doors and minds to possibilities. Here’s a little girl who sees herself reflected in her favorite sport and who knows that she can someday become the best gymnast in the world.

Same for the little Black girls watching Simone Manuel dominate the 100-meter and become the first Black woman to earn a gold medal in an individual swimming event, which is perhaps even more significant because of the historic racism Black people have faced when it comes to public swimming areas. Don’t believe me? Check out this article about the time a hotel drained an ENTIRE pool because actress Dorothy Dandridge dipped ONE toe in. This is why representation matters.

And I bet there are people who didn’t even know Black women competed in shot put (myself included). Michelle Carter represents for not only Black women, but full-figured women. And looks damn good doing so, might I add. I mean, do you really want to get on a shot putter’s bad side? I didn’t think so.

And last, but certainly not least, the image of Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin up on that podium with their medals while the national anthem played? Priceless. Pure #BlackGirlMagic.

I can only imagine the number of young Black girls inspired by these athletes and I can’t wait to see them go after their own gold medals someday. I’ll be cheering them on, too. Because until there’s a day when there’s no longer a first Black or woman whatever, representation will ALWAYS matter.