• Celebrating Black History Month: Local Ladies That Inspire Us

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    Just as Beyoncé once told us, girls run the world…always. We’re always celebrating the beautiful, diverse female-owned businesses and locals we have in our community. For this month, however, we are taking a special moment to honor some of the women of color who influence and inspire us daily in Hudson County. Join us in celebrating Black History Month — as we share these beautiful, inspiring, and powerful women of color in Hudson County — and the work they do. 

    women celebrating 2019

    Tee Hundley {Manicurist, Owner of Suite Tee Wax Studio}

    tee women 2019

    Located in Downtown Jersey City, this beauty queen serves her clients with an age-old wax technique that she learned from another fabulous woman of color in the space. Her brand is based on a few of her obsessions: the beach, Caribbean, and relaxation. When not in the studio, she can be found designing manicures for magazines and celebrities.

    What WOC do you look up to in your personal life? Who inspires you?

    Growing up I had two cousins that unofficially mentored me. They taught me the importance of how to carry myself as a woman in general but also how to be in a professional atmosphere. My Nana [grandmother] has had an enormous effect on me through her love of decorating, cosmetics, and fashion. At 87, she is still quite a DIVA! There are so many women I look up to and I believe there are bits of inspiration from many. I am inspired by women who are unapologetic about who they are and understand success is a feeling, not a bunch of “stuff,” such as Erykah Badu.

    How has your heritage influenced your work?

    Being African American is a heritage of strength and innovation. I believe in living fearlessly and strategic which has allowed me to accomplish my goals. The ability to make a way when there isn’t one has been my saving grace for me and my ancestors.

    What advice would you give to others looking to get into your field?

    It is possible! We are here! Thankfully we are in a time where we are seeing more representation of successful women of color so even being in an outlet like this is helpful. It’s important to network and talk to people about your goals. I have literally received support from people I’ve reached out to on the internet or social media, neighbors, and other professionals. Be strategic. Write down your goals and research what paths you must take to get there. I am hoping to begin doing business startup consultations for people that want to start their own business.

    Write down your goals and research what paths you must take to get there.

    Kasha Reavis {Stylist + Co-Founder, Bohn Jsell Collections}

    kasha reavis

    This Virginia native found her passion in Washington D.C. before moving to Jersey City. While fashion has always been a part of her story, she knew she wanted to thrive in the “big city” after meeting her business partner John Bell. Reavis now works in NYC freelancing, styling, and designing.

    What WOC do you look up to in your personal life? Who inspires you?

    I look up to women who have a fire about them. Women who pursue their dreams unapologetically and stand up for what they believe in while doing so. One person stands out to me right now as someone who I should mention because she is so transparent, and I look up to her. That person is Christina “Chris Miss” Bright of Newark. She’s a mom, a creative, and an influencer who uses her platform to elevate her community both offline and online.

    How has your heritage influenced your work?

    Being a black woman in any industry you seemingly have to work harder than others to get where you need or want to be. You have to be smarter, more creative, more empathic to get a seat at the table. I use my platform to show black women and other women of color themselves on runways, in editorials, in lookbooks, and brand websites. I want us to see that we are capable and deserving of achieving things that we set out to, and if we don’t see ourselves doing those things, then that can limit what we and future generations dream up for ourselves.

    What advice would you give to others looking to get into your field?

    The best advice I can give is to be consistent, work hard, stay on top of your craft, and to treat people well. The fashion industry and the adjacent industries are small; therefore you never want to do anything that can hinder your career, especially starting out. People talk and you never want to be who they are talking about when it comes to disrespectful behavior. Respect people’s time and efforts. Please and thank you go a long way.

    Be consistent, work hard, stay on top of your craft, and treat people well.

    See More: Hudson County Women to Watch {in 2019}

    Jordan Lacey {Event Planner + CEO/ Founder, Light the Candle}

    jordan lacey

    This fellow Hoboken girl is an event planner by day, but fulfills her passion of giving back through her own 501©3 non-profit organization, Light the Candle, by night. Her work sends the message to foster children living in group homes to “keep shining” through free birthday cards.

    What WOC do you look up to in your personal life? Who inspires you?

    I look up to my mother and father, Priscilla and Malcolm Lacey. They are my biggest inspiration. My parents both grew up in the projects of Brooklyn with absolutely nothing and moved to New Jersey to give their children a better life. Both going into the service {my mom the Air Force and my dad The Marines} to be able to get a college education and the funds to put equity into a property and become black homeowners. My parents were always working, my mom during the day and my dad working nights while I was young. Both, constantly trying to break the glass ceilings in their offices. Every day my sister and I were educated on our culture and where we came from. My parents pushed us to be the best we could be in anything, no excuses. Growing up we were told that because of our skin color, we would have to work five times harder than the people around us and that always stuck with me and motivated me. Why finish high school in four years when you can finish in three? Why graduate college in four years when you can finish in two and a half?

    How has your heritage influenced your work?

    My heritage influences me in everything I do. It’s in the air I breathe and the way I think and do everything. I think about my family values and how far we’ve come. It’s about equality and each generation truly bettering the next and never letting anybody see you sweat no matter how hard it is. It’s not easy in this day and age. I think about the diseases that women and men and color face — my own brothers and sisters. Did you know that African Americans are at a three times higher rate for kidney failure? I became an advocate for kidney disease once my dad became a victim and mother donated her kidney to him – perfect match!

    What advice would you give to others looking to get into your field?

    Grind grind grind! I can’t even tell you the number of internships and jobs related to my field that I worked as a student. I did any job — paid or unpaid to get my name out there! And for every person who tells you that you can’t do something, do it, do it twice and take a picture.

    And for every person who tells you that you can’t do something, do it, do it twice and take a picture.

    Tarol Jackson {Lifestyle Blogger, www.taroltime.com}

    tarol jackson

    Born and raised in Jersey City, this girl has taken her life long passion and has made a full career out of it. Her blog, taroltime.com, discusses everything from beauty to dating and skin care to career advice and aims to allow women {and men} to feel confident in themselves and free to talk about anything. In addition to her own hustle, Jackson is also the Lifestyle/ Operations Manager at ChicpeaJC where she handles everything from content to client relations and more.

    What WOC do you look up to in your personal life? Who inspires you?

    That’s a good one. There’re so many powerful, educated and strong women of color I have the pleasure of calling my family. I have a strong base of black women with great careers that I get to call my cousins and sisters.  Seeing them work their way to the top inspires me to push myself because I know – first hand – my dreams are possible. It might be twice as hard, but it is possible, so I really have no excuses.  As far as female public figures, there are so many.  Jada Pinkett for her approaches to mental health, Michelle Obama for exemplifying grace, strength, and poise. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez for her representation of Latina women in education and politics, Issa Rae for her creative approaches to nuanced black humor, Beyoncé for being unapologetically black in just about everything she does…. the list really goes on and on.

    How has your heritage influenced your work?

    I am half Puerto Rican and half black so growing up in Jersey City meant I was always surrounded by diversity and inclusion.  My parents also made it a point for me to study my history.  In high school, I wrote for my school newspaper, as well as the art and literature magazine.  In college {I will have my B.A in English Literature in May} I’ve studied the works of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Ida B. Wells, and so on, so my heritage and culture are within me every single day. It influences my work because as a writer I see things through the lens of my heritage first and center a lot of my work around awareness and representation just like so many of the powerful authors that came before me did.

    What advice would you give to others looking to get into your field?

    Be intentional and open-minded with your work!  Working in Journalism and digital media marketing as a woman of color means that things are ever changing and you have to be willing to roll with punches, think on your feet, communicate well, and carry with you a PURPOSE OF INTENT, which goes for any woman – not just those of color.  Organizations will try to use your heritage as a prop, but if you have that purpose of intent, nothing can stop you.  Also, NETWORK!  Be willing to put yourself out there and have the ability to speak confidently about your work whether you have your own platform or work for a publication. Lastly, believe in yourself and cut out the noise. Don’t allow people to categorize you by the color of your skin.  “You’re well-spoken for a black girl.”  “You’re pretty for a black girl.” You’re xyz for a …. NO – that’s all noise. You are you for you!  Take full advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, black or not!

    Believe in yourself and cut out the noise.

    Read More: We’re Totally Crushing on These 13 Local Ladies

    Cassandra Wilson {Owner, The MAX Challenge Hoboken}

    cassandra wilson

    After falling in love with the workout post-partum, Wilson decided to make her obsession her daily reality. As the owner of the “the most unique fitness concept in Hoboken,” she is sharing fitness classes, nutrition counseling, and motivation with the Mile Square’s first MAX Challenge.

    What WOC do you look up to in your personal life? Who inspires you?

    I look up to my mother! She has a phenomenal spirit and attracts everyone who meets her. She is a retired educator who dedicated her career to an urban NJ high school. She was also an Adjunct Professor at Rutgers University and spent her summers educating the incoming freshmen in the Equal Opportunity Fund program. My mother told me, “You are the author of your life story” when I was very young. I think about that daily and strive to have an impact on many lives, like my mom does.

    I am inspired by many Black female public figures. Recently, I started following Bridgette Hyacinth on LinkedIn. She is a bestselling author and writes about leadership and how a businesses’ greatest asset is its employees. As a business owner, her leadership style really resonates with me. I would love to meet her one day!

    How has your heritage influenced your work?

    My heritage influences my work because every day I think about how studies show that African Americans have higher risk factors for high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. African Americans are disproportionately affected by obesity. As an African American woman in the health and fitness space, it is my mission to help as many people as I can live healthier lives. Being an influencer in this industry means people are looking to me for advice and guidance. Changing your life begins with education and I am happiest when I can help people and educate them about the benefits of what we do at THE MAX!

    I am proud to be an African American woman and business owner. I get to help people change their lives by providing them with a nutrition program that works and some of the best fitness classes in the industry.

    What advice would you give to others looking to get into your field?

    This is extremely rewarding work.  Find a company that aligns with your core values and goals. When you are happy in your position and the people you are working with, it will come across to your members or clients. Begin by committing to a healthy lifestyle for yourself. You are your best client. Do your research and find the right fitness specialty that you believe in.

    Find a company that aligns with your core values and goals. When you are happy in your position and the people you are working with, it will come across to your members or clients.

    Bryanna Lashley {Group Fitness Instructor, Cyclemixx}

    bryanna lashley

    This Jersey girl’s background is just as blended as she likes to make her workouts. With her roots stemming from Italy, Barbados, and Brazil, she brings that flavor to all her cycle classes. Be ready for an intense workout with this one as weights, spin, barre, and more are all fused together. Hudson County residents may know her from her work at various studios in the area, but can now visit Cyclemix to get a taste of her energy daily.

    What WOC do you look up to in your personal life? Who inspires you?

    Michelle Obama. Like myself, she understands the importance of health and fitness. Also, she has some killer arms!

    How has your heritage influenced your work?

    There is an underrepresentation of black women in the fitness industry. My role sets an example and encourages other women of color.

    Veronica Manning {Executive Director, The Jubilee Center of Hoboken}

    veronica manning

    Belonging on the “other side of the fence” is a feeling that Manning couldn’t shake after working in corporate America for many years. Then she started at The Jubilee Center, an afterschool enrichment program and summer camp that also seeks to help every child recognize and manifest their own greatness. Now she dedicates her life to ensuring that children are safe when in school.

    What WOC do you look up to in your personal life? Who inspires you?

    In my personal life, I look up to the black women in my family. My stepmother, who survived devastating abuse at the hands of my father, is a great inspiration to me. Also watching my four aunts, who are all in their 60s, navigate the ups and downs of their lives with grace, humility, and humor has been such a life lesson for me. They always encourage and support me, regardless of what I do, while never trying to tell me the “right way.”  That’s what sisterhood is to me.

    As far as public figures, Oprah has been a “mom in my head” for a large portion of my life. She taught me what it means to be generous in spirit and most importantly, kind to myself.  She showed me that it’s ok to love my body in all its shapes and sizes…that black women are beautiful without having to conform to Anglo standards of beauty.

    How has your heritage influenced your work?

    I’m not sure how my being a black woman has influenced my work in and of itself. I can say that it definitely has influenced the way I’m perceived by others.  I’m never assumed to be “the boss” unless I tell someone I am. I feel like I have to be more dressed up when I meet people in order to get the respect as the decision maker.  I’m so used to those realities that I barely consciously think of them anymore, but I am filled with a sense of responsibility to be the best I can be for the young girls of color that look up to me. Especially the ones that come into my office, ask if I’m the boss, then marvel when I say yes. I do this for them.

    What advice would you give to others looking to get into your field?

    The best advice I can give is to volunteer first. Identify an organization that has a mission that you could care about, and sign up to volunteer. That’s the best way to know what an organization is made of. How do they treat people that want to give their time? Often times, your volunteer work is a path to finding out what open positions exist and/or what other ways you can be valuable to the organization.

    Identify an organization that has a mission that you could care about, and sign up to volunteer.

     

    Do you have an awesome Hudson County women you’d like to honor this month? Let us know in the comments!


    Written by:

    Jordan and Joelle are true Jersey Girls. Originally hailing from down the shore in Hazlet, NJ, the girls made their "rite of passage" move to Hoboken a few short years after graduating with degrees in Communications from Loyola University. Outside of their 9-5 as senior publishers in NYC, the twins can be found walking their yorkie-poo Chica, working out at the best hot yoga studios, or trying out the best restaurants in town. Like many 20-somethings, Jordan and Joelle are balling on a budget and know how to score the best deals around town!


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