Serena Williams Partners With Bumble Fund To Invest In Female Founders of Color

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Serena Williams is a force to be reckoned with on and off the court. The 37-year-old tennis superstar was appointed to join Poshmark’s board of directors last month. Now, Williams wants to zero in on investing in female founders of color as she has joined Austin-based startup company, Bumble Fund.

According to Black Enterprise, Bumble Fund was launched by CEO of Bumble Whitney Wolfe Herd to invest in early-stage ventures focused primarily on businesses founded and led by women of color and those from underrepresented groups. Wolfe Herd says working with Williams has been a dream of hers since the company’s launch.

 

“Partnering with Serena Williams has been a dream of mine since we launched Bumble as she is one of the most inspiring women in history and a shining example of someone making the first move in all facets of her life,” she said in a statement. “She is the epitome of strength, integrity, kindness, empowerment, and everything Bumble stands for.”

While Bumble Fund will not be able to fund every business, they want to ensure that all ideas are supported and provided with the necessary tools for growth and success, so they’ve invested in and partnered with Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered platform Alice to provide entrepreneurs with a community, access to experts, how-to guides, and more.

Click here to sign up for the Bumble Fund Community on Alice to learn more and apply. You’ll be able to collaborate with other members, check out relevant resources, and stay up to date with the latest Bumble Fund news.

According to a press release, Serena Williams will also serve as a global adviser to Bumble. She says their partnership will help create a place for women of color to grow personally and professionally.

 

“I’ve learned how impactful one woman’s voice can be when given a platform to speak and be heard. I am passionate about building on this progress and opening doors for women of all backgrounds, especially women of color, to share their message and trust in their potential to accomplish great things,” Serena Williams said in a statement. “By joining forces with the Bumble Fund, we will continue amplifying female entrepreneurs and creating a place for them to personally and professionally champion their growth.”

Gucci Launches Changemakers Program To Promote Diversity & Inclusion

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Gucci is the latest fashion powerhouse to announce that they will be taking the proper steps necessary to ensure inclusivity and promote diversity. This comes after Gucci released a turtleneck sweater that notably resembled blackface, which sparked an outrage across social media causing several people, including celebrities, to boycott the high fashion luxury brand.

According to Complex, after issuing an apology for the racially insensitive imagery, Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri pledged to institute long-term initiatives that would embed cultural awareness within the company. The Gucci Changemakers Program, spearheaded by Dapper Dan, will include a scholarship fund, community and global exchange programs, and onboarding directors tasked with promoting diversity.

Dapper Dan took to social media on Sunday (March 17) to announce that he met with Bizzarri and has “seen real action towards the solutions” and wanted to share them with us.

“After meeting with some of the industry’s leading Black minds and others in fashion, business, and culture, we’ve helped Gucci come up with programs that will positively impact the Black community and fashion as a whole,” he said. “Black designers and fashion professionals will be given new opportunities through these new initiatives. It’s imperative that we have opportunities to learn on a world-class level, and also have a seat at the table to say how we should be represented.”

The first component is the Gucci Changemakers Fund, which is a $5 million fund that will invest in community-based programs, particularly those helping communities of color, in cities across the U.S. The programs will be selected by the Changemakers Council, a board of advisors including Dapper Dan, Bethann Hardison, Cleo Wade, Will.i.am, and more.

The second component is a scholarship program helping a more diverse talent pool of students pursue careers in fashion. Each student selected will receive a $20,000 grant toward their education over the course of four years.

The third component is a volunteer initiative that will allow Gucci’s 18,000 employees across the globe to take up to four paid days off to participate in volunteer work that addresses issues including equality, support for refugees and the homeless, protection of the environment and education.

Dominique Brown Talks The Start of Coin Convos, Importance of Social Networking Events For Young Black Professionals, Lessons of Entrepreneurship, & More With Live Civil

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International Women’s Day may be over, but we’re still celebrating Women’s History Month all month long by bringing to you a series of interviews with several successful and influential women that we thought you would love to hear from.

Dominique Brown is an Event Producer and the creator of Coin Convos, an event series that provides a collaborative networking environment for young Black professionals. We had the opportunity to speak with Dominique about how she got her start in event production to which she admits happened by accident.

“The crazy part about my role now as an Event Producer, was that it all happened on accident,” she says. “I had no clue that an Event Producer was a real thing. When I decided to leave my job as a Publicist, I took an odd job working for an Interior Designer just to make ends meet. I instantly fell in love. I loved watching a space come together and how people would react to the color choices, fabrics, and our ability to create a timeless space. At that moment in my life, I knew God had given me something special.”

 

Dominique also shared how Coin Convos came about, why it’s important for cities with large pools of Black talent to have social networking events, valuable lessons learned in entrepreneurship, and so much more!

 

At what point did you realize you wanted a career in event production — and what was the first step you took towards making that happen?

 

The crazy part about my role now as an Event Producer, was that it all happened on accident. I’ve always been super visual and creative, and I worked at a PR Agency that typically had small budgets, so I had to be crafty when it was time to be impactful. I became the DIY girl for my team. I had no clue that an Event Producer was a real thing. When I decided to leave my job as a Publicist, I took an odd job working for an Interior Designer just to make ends meet. I instantly fell in love. I loved watching a space come together and how people would react to the color choices, fabrics, and our ability to create a timeless space. At that moment in my life, I knew God had given me something special — I had the ability to create unique environments. I was so new to the industry and understood the importance of being prepared for opportunities, so I proactively enrolled in Otis College of Art and Design to ensure that I had the skill set to be competitive in the market. I never had the chance to finish the program because as soon as my friends and past colleagues discovered I was interested in designing spaces, opportunities began to prevent themselves. One relationship led me to the next, and a year later I went to work for one of the leading entertainment companies in the world, The Walt Disney Company, producing events. I’ve since moved on to a new opportunity with YouTube Marketing.

 

What sparked the idea behind your Coin Convos event series — and how has it grown since you first started?

 

Coin Convos came out of a desire to find a sense of Black community in Los Angeles. I went to college in Atlanta — and one of the things that is really special about Atlanta is that there is a constant presence of Black culture. I felt like L.A. was missing that vibe. In Atlanta, you can go to a coffee shop, bar, or a restaurant and find young, Black professionals at every table. In L.A., there’s no such thing. I yearned for that moment here and since I couldn’t find it, I created it.

It’s interesting because Coin Convos started as a mixer/ game night kind of environment. There were no hosts or panelists during its first iteration. It was a unique sort of happy hour. I sent out a bunch of texts along with a few other young women, who were on board to launch the series at the time, and people actually came. Then I decided to add a couple of hosts to the next installment and more people came. Then someone asked if the hosts were going to be answering questions. So at the next event, we added a small speaking portion and more people came! There was no real formula. The programming evolved on its own and as we began to meet the needs of our guests, we have continued to grow. There aren’t any real rules which is one of the things that makes Coin Convos so unique.

At this point, we are into our third year of hosting events and the longer I go without an event, the more I get texts, DMs, or stopped by random people asking for the event. We’ve had two events in NYC and planning to hit a few other markets soon. Coin Convos has partnered with some great organizations and sponsors such as the 100 Black Men of LA, Champion, AquaHydrate, Martini & Rossi, and host of many others.

 

 

I’m from a city where there’s an abundance of talented black millennials and entrepreneurs — specializing in everything from hair, makeup, and blogging to music, photography, and event planning. However, we don’t have any Coin Convos style events in our city. How important do you think it is for cities with such a great amount of black talent to have these social networking events?

 

I think it is very important for concentrated areas that have large pools of Black talent to host social networking events. We are nothing without collaboration. We would still be slaves if it were not for collaboration. I hate to sound frank, but imagine how much further we would be as a culture if we worked together. What is unique to Coin Convos outside of most networking events is that there have been tons of businesses built, jobs secured, and romantic relationships formed through our events. I make it my business to ensure that we host our events in immaculate, high-end venues because the stigma that “black people don’t do nice things” is some b*llshit. I make it my business to curate an esteemed panel of people who have actually put real points on the board and avoid the social media famous “experts.” I especially take pride in creating an environment that is free from ego and pretentiousness. Everyone who walks through the door is welcome and equally important. Events like Coin Convos are needed to create and sustain the eco-system of entrepreneurism, recycle black dollars, and to continue to build successful Black communities.

 

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned about entrepreneurship thus far?

 

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned through entrepreneurship is the importance of doing your research and maintaining strong relationships. Doing research will save you a ton of time and a ton of money. You become self-sufficient and make fewer mistakes when you make informed decisions concerning your business.

Great relationships will save you from yourself. Relationships help garner income and revenue streams. Most people will help you, introduce you, support your business, or even hire you, simply because they know you. When you are an entrepreneur, your business will have a level of dependency on others and how they show up for you will be the difference between sink or swim.

 

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceForBetter, which is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the government, boardroom, media, and sports coverage, in wealth, etc.. How important is a gender-balanced world to you?

 

Gender balance is a huge deal because as women we bare the heaviest load in society but we don’t catch the toughest breaks. We are naturally burdened with bearing children and leading our households, and then we are expected to work twice as hard alongside men only to receive a fraction of the benefits.

 

 

If you could celebrate someone in particular for International Women’s Day who has inspired you, who would it be?

 

The first person that comes to mind at this point in my life is Tracee Ellis Ross. I love how she is unapologetic about everything that she stands for and completely confident in who she is. She embraces her flaws and the things that make her unique, she pushes the limit with her fashion, she shares her raw personality, and she is organically herself 100% of the time. To me, that is the true essence of a woman.

 

What advice would you offer someone looking to start a career in event production?

 

ALWAYS BE WILLING TO WORK THE DOOR! Working the door at events gives you person to find out who is in the room, their affiliation, and unique ways to connect with them. When you’re at the door you are the gatekeeper and if you are strategic you will know more about a person than they know about you. It also increases your visibility. Make sure you look your best, be pleasant, and always be willing to help troubleshoot a situation at check-in. You are the guest’s first point of contact so you can make or break their experience.

I would also recommend anyone looking to get into event production to volunteer, intern, or PA for multiple event agencies or producers. It’s important to understand how a successful event is run. At the end of the day, we are onsite problem solvers and the best way to hone in on that skill is to actually do it. You’ll also develop relationships and learn different styles. The great thing about events is that a good event will always need staffing so there is always opportunity. Be relentless and genuine, it always goes a long way.

 

What is a quote that you live by?

 

I keep it simple and frank, “business before bullshit.” I try to take care of all of the business first so that I can party hard later. I can really relax and enjoy my time away from work if I am confident that the business is handled. Get the important stuff out the way so that you can make the best of your free time.

Alicia Keys To Release Memoir Through Oprah Winfrey’s Publishing Imprint

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If you’re always searching for new books to read, there’s one coming your way and it’s from singer-songwriter and 15-time Grammy winner, Alicia Keys. Keys will be releasing an autobiography titled More Myself, through Oprah Winfrey’s publishing imprint, An Oprah Book. The announcement was made Wednesday (March 13).

“I can NOT believe this is happening! My sister, mentor & the QUEEN herself helped me share my journey! Thank you @Oprah for letting me share my truth as the 1st release of your new book imprint & for challenging me to become MORE MYSELF,” Keys tweeted.

More Myself will be published by Flatiron Books and is described as “part autobiography, part narrative documentary.” It will cover Alicia’s journey from her “girlhood in Hell’s Kitchen and Harlem, to the process of self-discovery she’s still navigating.”

In a video published on YouTube, Alicia Keys reveals not telling anyone that she would be writing a book. She also prefers to call her upcoming release a journey versus a memoir. More Myself will be released on Nov. 5.

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‘The Read’ With Kid Fury & Crissle West Is Coming To Television

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The Read, a popular podcast hosted by Kid Fury and Crissle West, will be coming to television!

The Read with Kid Fury and Crissle West (a working title) has been set for a season order of ten 30-minute episodes on Fuse TV. The official description reads, “Inspired by their juggernaut podcast, with more than 85 million listens worldwide and 1.5 million unique listens a month – Kid Fury and Crissle host this talk/ variety format that carries over their beloved segments like Hot Tops and The Read, while additionally featuring a special celebrity and/ or musician guest. The duo uses their sharp, honest brand of cultural commentary and perceptive opinions to drill deep into the roots of the issues and stories affecting their millennial and Gen Z peers, from social justice and politics to dating and music culture, and everything in between.”

Executive producing the show will be Chloe Pisello, David Martin, Alexandra Rago, Jon Thoday, and Richard Allen-Turner, alongside its hosts Kid Fury (Gregory A. Smith) and Crissle West.

As of now, no official air date has been announced.

Issa Rae Talks Choosing A Healthier Diet & Getting In Shape With Women’s Health Magazine

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Issa Rae is on the cover of Women’s Health magazine’s April 2019 issue. With so many things keeping the 34-year-old actress and executive producer busy such as the fourth season of her HBO hit show ‘Insecure’, which will soon begin production, the body-swapping comedy film ‘Little’, a limited-run series on HBO titled ‘The Dolls’, and so much more, it’s hard not to wonder how Issa stays in shape with such a hectic schedule!

During her interview with Women’s Health, Issa recalls gaining what she called “new money weight” once opportunities started to pour in following the success of ‘The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl‘, a web series in which she created on YouTube in 2011.

“When the Web series started, I was very, very broke,” she explains. “Then more opportunities began to come. I was gaining new money weight. When you get a good job, you’re like, ‘I can afford to eat at restaurants all the time!’ That adds up in weight.”

 

Even though she’d become extremely busy, it wasn’t until she saw herself on television that Issa knew she needed to make some changes. And as most of us can relate, exercising and making healthy eating a priority isn’t easy.

“Time to work out is so limited, but when I first started seeing myself on TV, I was like, ‘I gotta make time,'” Issa says. “I was a big excuse person when it came to exercising and eating right. I’d have spurts of trying to work out and being good. Then once I fell off, I’d be like, ‘Well, there’s always next year. Let me make it my New Year’s resolution.’ But even then, I would still be eating wrong while exercising vigorously.”

Instead of hitting the local gym, Issa Rae sets her alarm clock for 4:55 am and alternates between walking and jogging in her neighborhood, which also provides her with a sense of peace.

“I exercise for, like, an hour each day,” she explains. “My neighborhood has a bunch of hills, so it’s walking up hills. Then I alternate between walking and jogging. I hate jogging—you’re going in circles, but I recognize that it helps.” She continues, “You know those earbuds that you put in your ears? I was running, and one fell. It was dark outside and I couldn’t find it. So I was forced to just be alone with my thoughts, and I was like, ‘Oh, I need to do this more often.’ Those moments are the most creative. I think finding those moments while also nurturing your body is important.”

To read Issa Rae’s full interview with Women’s Health, click here.

Steph & Ayesha Curry Foundation Launches Scholarship Program For Girls

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The Steph & Ayesha Curry Family Foundation has launched an annual scholarship for college-bound female students from the Bay Area who are interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.

The idea of the scholarship was inspired by 9-year-old Riley Morrison, who wrote a letter to Steph Curry expressing her frustration with the lack of sneakers in the girls section of the Under Armour website. Not only did the Golden State Warriors point guard send Morrison two pairs of Curry sneakers, but the two also collaborated on a special purple colorway version of the Curry 6 sneakers, which was introduced in honor of International Women’s Day. Because Curry didn’t feel comfortable profiting off of Riley’s shoe design, he decided that the profits will fund a scholarship.

 

“The Steph & Ayesha Curry Family Foundation is funding an annual scholarship that’s given to a college-bound female student from the Bay Area who has shown an aptitude for overcoming adversity, catalyzing change within her community and demonstrating excellence in a STEM-related field of study,” according to the foundation. “The $30,000 scholarship, whose first recipient will be announced at tonight’s Golden State Warriors game, is paid over two years and requires the recipient to take two or more STEM-related classes each semester while maintaining a minimum 3.0 GPA.”

 

During the Golden State Warriors’ Friday night (March 8) game against the Denver Nuggets, the first recipient of the scholarship was announced. Vivian Wu is a senior at Oakland Tech, has a 4.2 GPA, and has completed over 300 hours of community service as an advocate for marginalized communities, including survivors of domestic violence.

#CivilChat: Meet Larry Lambert, the Pianist Behind Ella Mai & Summer Walker’s Tour

For as long as Larry Lambert can remember, his love for music began between the ages of two and three years old. Whether he was dancing on the tables, singing with family members, or being apart of the musical scene in church, his mother noticed his gravitation — making a conscious decision to place him in piano and drum lessons at the start of kindergarten.
Just at the age of 10, (5th grade), Lambert picked up his very first saxophone and stuck to it until he began college.
FINALLY STARTED TAKING MUSIC SERIOUSLY 
“His mom later sent him to South Philadelphia where he attended Girad Academic Music Program (GAMP). “It was one of the best music schools so my mom sent me there. That’s the first time I was around a whole bunch of musicians my age — my peers, who love music, did music.”
Being apart of this encouraged Lambert to take school more seriously.
He eventually stopped going to school to focus on music full time. “I started doing my own music in Atlanta, before I left. I actually started my own band, recording my own music — trying to make a name for myself.”
“I stayed in Philly for the most part just doing my music, working with my band, putting out singles, solo projects, collaborating with different artist. Then, I finally decided that I wanted to move back to [first] LA, but I chose Atlanta because I was more familiar with it.”
GETTING THE CALL TO DO SUMMER WALKERS TOUR 
Before moving to Atlanta, “I got called to do the tour with Summer Walker. A good friend of mine I went to school with at Morehouse, was a tour manager, and he just called me to ask if I was available to do it.”
BEING A BLACK MAN & WORKING WITH OTHERS 
“I just worry about sharing my gift, that’s the most important thing to me.“
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU KNEW?
“I wish I had focused more on my craft at a young age, to where I took it more seriously. Other than that, I think I’ve been pretty okay.”
CURRENT CLIENTELE AND FUTURE COLLABORATIONS  
“Well I am currently on tour with Ella Mai, so that’s my current job. But in the past for a birthday party, I got to play for multiple artist. Musiq Soulchild, Angie Stone, and a couple of other people. I’ve also played for Freeway the rapper, Lauryn Hill.”
GROWTH + SOCIAL MEDIA 
“I feel like this social media thing is very intense, but I also look at it as — you don’t really need it, if you’re working. If you’re good at the work you do, your name will get you more work. Not social media.
I think social media is a big plus, and I could have more work if I took advantage of it. The things I get called for is because of what I already did, not because of what I posted. I don’t want to rely on posting to get me work, it takes too much energy and time.”
PERFORMING IN A NEW CITY 
“I take the day of the show in as much as possible. I try to connect with where I am and what I’m doing. I try to forget about anything else that I’m going through. So if I’m like going to the hotel, I like to take my time walking up the stairs — or get in an elevator, observe where I am, being grateful for what I am. When I get in my room, I chill in there, look outside at the view. I get dressed, put on what I’m going to wear to perform, I take pride in all that stuff.
Going to sound check, I pay attention to the route we take to get there, the weather, the time change, the food…taking it all in. By the time I get on the stage, I let it all out. This is what I am, this is what I’m doing. I just feel really good and just play.”
BEING ON STAGE + NOT GETTING NERVOUS  
Lambert says that he hardly gets nervous in front of an audience. “I think about what comes next. Once I’m playing, I’m not thinking about what I’m playing, because it’s already happening. I play it in my head.”
SELF CARE, CLOSING STATEMENTS, + COMMENTS 
“I love it all. I try to drink a lot of water, eat fruits and veggies, hit the gym at all the hotels.”
ADVICE  
“Take advantage of what’s happening. I’ve been doing this music stuff since I was a kid, so I didn’t need social media to build my credibility. But if you’re getting into music now, take advantage of it, because it works. That’s your resume at this point.”
5 THINGS YOU MUST HAVE WHEN PLAYING A GIG 
  1. My orange beanie (because it’s dark on stage. That’s how people noticed I was on stage.)
  2. My Best Friend Obituary (He got killed in 2017, so I carry that with me all the time.)
  3. My Headphones
  4. Water
  5. Prayers

Yara Shahidi, Naomi Osaka, & Adwoa Aboah Among Mattel’s Newest Collection of 2019 Barbie ‘Sheroes’

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To celebrate their 60th anniversary along with International Women’s Day, which is this Friday (March 8), Barbie has announced brand new dolls from their #MoreRoleModels collection as part of an ongoing commitment to inspire the next generation of girls by reminding them that they can do and be anything.

“We’re committed to highlighting empowering role models as a key part of the Dream Gap Project–our ongoing global initiative aimed at giving girls the resources and support they need to continue believing that they can be anything,” reads Barbie.Mattel.com. “By introducing girls to stories of women from all walks of life, they begin to see more opportunities for themselves.”

Among Barbie’s newest collection of extraordinary women and role models are actress and activist Yara Shahidi, tennis superstar Naomi Osaka, and high-fashion U.K. model Adwoa Aboah.

“I’m honored to be repping all the young ones as a Barbie Role Model,” Yara wrote on her Instagram page. “Let’s continue to inspire the next generation and each other.”

Yara Shahidi
Actress, Model & Activist, U.S.A.
2019 Barbie Shero

Yara Shahidi is an actress, model, activist and breakout star of ABC’s Emmy- and Golden Globe- nominated comedy series black-ish. Yara has been awarded an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress and a Gracie Award for Female in a Breakthrough Role. Recently, she also appeared on TIME magazine’s annual “30 Most Influential Teens” list as well as Forbes “30 Under 30” list in 2017 and 2018 for her television contributions and humanitarianism.

Engaged in politics, she launched Eighteen X 18 last year to educate and motivate first-time voters to turn out for the 2018 mid-term elections. She created Yara’s Club in partnership with The Young Women’s Leadership Schools in NYC, a digital meet-up for high school students to discuss societal issues, self-improvement, and higher education. Yara also served as a spokesperson for DoSomething.Org and 3M’s STEM campaign, which raised funds for classrooms in need of science and tech resources, and worked with the Obama White House on STEM initiatives.

 

Naomi Osaka
Tennis Player, Japan
2019 Barbie Shero

Naomi Osaka is a professional tennis player who represents Japan. Born in Osaka to a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, she became the first Japanese player in history to win a Grand Slam, defeating her childhood idol, Serena Williams, to capture victory at the 2018 U.S. Open. She followed up that feat by winning the 2019 Australian Open and reaching No.1 in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings. Having been featured on the cover of TIME magazine in January 2019, Osaka will be the face of the 2020 games in Tokyo.

 

Adwoa Aboah
Activist & Supermodel, U.K.
2019 Barbie Shero

British activist and supermodel Adwoa Aboah, is the founder of Gurls Talk, an online community where young women are free to discuss issues such as mental health, education, self-care, and relationships. Leading from her personal experiences, Adwoa founded Gurls Talk to be a completely open online platform, where anyone and everyone can share their experiences in a safe, judgement-free space. The community is made up of a diverse mixture of people from across the globe. Gurls Talk was founded on the idea that by coming together young women will become individually and collectively stronger, inspire each other, and influence a positive impact on the world.

Adwoa is one of the freshest faces in today’s modelling industry. To date, she has starred in global campaigns and walked in shows for some of fashion’s biggest names including Dior, Chanel and Versace. Adwoa joined British Vogue as a contributing editor in July 2017 and was the inaugural cover star of British Vogue’s December Issue, the first issue from editor Edward Enninful’s “New Vogue,” as well as appearing on numerous international covers for Vogue, Dazed, i-D and LOVE magazine. In 2017, Adwoa was named the British Fashion Council’s Model of the Year, a prestigious accolade awarded to the person who has had the most global impact on the industry that year.

To see the full list of Barbie Role Models, click here.

Will Smith To Star As Father of Venus & Serena Williams In ‘King Richard’

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There’s a new film in the works and it will tell the story of the father of tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams. Will Smith will star in the film ‘King Richard’ as Richard Williams, based on a script by Zach Baylin.

According to Variety, it will center on Richard Williams overcoming tremendous hardship, skepticism, controversy, and his own troubled past to raise two of the greatest and most talented athletes. Despite having no tennis background, Williams drew up a 78-page plan for Venus and Serena’s professional tennis careers. He began giving them tennis lessons on public courts in Compton. The sisters would then go on to become tennis champions and arguably two of the best athletes in the game – with Serena winning twenty-three Grand Slam tournaments and Venus winning seven.

Will Smith is not only starring in ‘King Richard’ but will also be serving as a producer through his Overbrook Entertainment banner. You can catch him starring in ‘Aladdin’ for Disney, as well as on the set of a movie I’m super excited for, ‘Bad Boys For Life’.

Vanessa Anderson Talks Getting Her Start In Public Relations, Destination Crenshaw Project, International Women’s Day, & More With Live Civil

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March 1st officially kicked off Women’s History Month — and while every day should be spent celebrating the vital role and contributions of women to American history and society, we are more than happy to have a full month dedicated to elevating women across the world. In honor of Women’s History Month, we will be talking to several successful women who we feel will inspire and empower the next group of female entrepreneurs and executives.

I had the opportunity to chat with the owner and Senior Account Executive of AM PR Group, Vanessa Anderson. AM PR Group is a boutique public relations agency specializing in the entertainment, digital, and lifestyle industries. The agency’s current roster of clients includes Issa Rae, Marsai Martin, Cassie, and Melina Matsoukas. Vanessa opened up about not only the moment she realized she wanted a career in the public relations field, but what she went through mentally and emotionally before deciding that this was the career path she wanted to take.

“I felt like I had been so pressed to find a job and start my career that I had gotten myself into something that was detrimental to my emotional and mental stability.”

Vanessa also expressed how much it meant to her as a Los Angeles native to be selected as the Publicist for Destination Crenshaw, an art project spearheaded by City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson that aims to reclaim the neighborhood for black L.A.

“In 5 or 10 years, the people walking their dogs and pushing their strollers around Crenshaw and Slauson may not look like me, but they’ll very clearly know that they are walking on OUR streets, in OUR neighborhood. This is the largest project of its kind in the U.S. and I am honored to be on the communications team. I imagine my grandparents, who raised me in this community, would be proud.”

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day (March 8) is #BalanceForBetter, which is all about marking a call to action for accelerating gender balance. Find out what Vanessa Anderson had to say about conversations surrounding diversity, inclusivity, and gender-balance by checking out the full interview below. She also offers advice to those looking for a career in public relations, as well as who she celebrates for International Women’s Day.

 

 

When did you realize that you wanted a career in public relations — and what was the first step you took towards making that happen?

 

“I graduated from college in 2007 just as the recession was hitting and upon graduation could not find a job —anywhere. At the time, I wanted to be a high school history teacher and couldn’t find a school or district in LA to hire me. Here I was with this very expensive Ivy League degree and couldn’t get a job. By the end of the summer, I had found a job as a first-grade teacher. And even though I loved the kids, I absolutely hated the principal and would cry every day on my way home. I knew I was destined for something — anything — better, so I put in my notice and started working part-time at the GAP. I felt like I had been so pressed to find a job and start my career that I had gotten myself into something that was detrimental to my emotional and mental stability. So, I worked at the GAP for about a month and in that time went from folding clothes to a junior management position. My bosses there quickly recognized my genius (laughs) and wanted to put me on the corporate tract, but I knew retail was not for me long term. I had gotten the job to hold me over while I figured out my life and when they told me they felt like I could have a real career within the company it really made me get my shit together. I started thinking about the things I enjoyed— music, tv, movies — and how I could be a part of those worlds without being talent. I had a friend in high school who’s aunt was a high-profile entertainment lawyer, so I called her and told her what I had interest in and asked if she could help point me in the right direction. She was the one who suggested I look into publicity. After talking to a few people in the field and doing my own research, I was like “YES! This is the career for me!” I felt like it was a job where I could utilize all the best parts of my personality and character as well as my education. My friend’s aunt helped me get an assistant position at a boutique pr firm and that was the beginning of who you see today.”

 

 

What were some of the challenges you faced early on in your career — and how did you overcome them?

 

“Well, I was 25 when I opened up my own company and even though I had saved some money, it wasn’t enough. No one in my family had ever opened their own business so I didn’t have anyone close to me to show me how to run a business so it really was trial by fire. I was also struggling to get clients because people were hesitant to work with me and pay me because I didn’t have 20 years of experience and wasn’t coming from one of the large communication firms. It was hard to get paying clients so I worked for free for a long time until I got enough experience. My unemployment and savings were enough to pay my rent, car insurance, and basic necessities every month. Everything else my friends covered for me out of pity (laughs).”

 

Last year, you announced that you were selected as the Publicist for the Destination Crenshaw project. How important was this opportunity to you as a woman who grew up off of Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. and Crenshaw?

 

“This project means everything to me, especially because I grew up in this area. Destination Crenshaw is a very L.A.-specific project, but the history of Black L.A. is really the history of Black people in America. Like most urban enclaves in major cities, South L.A. is undergoing a serious change. It is vital and mandatory that we document and memorialize the contributions Black Angelenos have made to L.A. and the world for that matter. Often times these types of projects are done or conceptualized after Black people have been pushed out but not this time around. In 5 or 10 years, the people walking their dogs and pushing their strollers around Crenshaw and Slauson may not look like me, but they’ll very clearly know that they are walking on OUR streets, in OUR neighborhood. This is the largest project of its kind in the U.S. and I am honored to be on the communications team. I imagine my grandparents, who raised me in this community, would be proud.”

 

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceForBetter, which is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the government, boardroom, media and sports coverage, in wealth, etc.. How important is a gender-balanced world to you?

 

“Conversations surrounding diversity, inclusivity, and gender-balance are always so interesting to me. I honestly believe that the idea that people have to be “called-to-action” is moreso for my white and male counterparts than for me. Every day that my company is open is a call-to-action. Women of color, and in my case a Black and Latina woman with an immigrant parent cannot and will not thrive without us living and breathing inclusion and gender balance. I don’t need a special occasion to remember to hire women and people of color. However, if days like this can encourage people to look twice at women for executive positions, not just assistants and coordinators, then I am in full support.”

 

 

If you could celebrate someone in particular for International Women’s Day who has inspired you, who would it be?

 

“First would be my grandmother, Nettie Martin, who taught me everything about life and being a woman and a partner. She died when I was 17 but managed to give me all of her life gems and lessons before she left me. She taught me that when you leave a room people could either remember you for your beauty, your intelligence or both. The decision was up to you.

Aside from her, I would want to celebrate a woman who I aspire to be like and who constantly inspires me, Tammy Golihew. Tammy currently is the head of Amazon Studios Television Publicity, International and Prime Video but used to run the Unscripted and Scripted TV PR department for Warner Bros. Studios. She and I met when I had a contract at WB doing publicity for The Real, and she singlehandedly changed my life. This version of Vanessa would not exist without her support, guidance and example. She and I are cut from the exact same cloth and our birthdays are days apart — she actually has the same birthday as my grandmother. She is a constant reminder that I can be a boss, command respect, get what I deserve, and absolutely never compromise on what I’m worth — and do it all with a red lip and a pair of designer stilettos.”

 

What advice would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking for a career in public relations?

 

“Think twice. This is the era of #publicists. Thinking this career is for you because you see someone on Instagram pretending to be on a private plane will have your feelings hurt and your bank account on life support. To really be great at this job you need to be willing to work hard and put your ego to the side. I get passed up all the time for bigger agencies and you can actually google and see the covers and exclusives and work I’ve done. Constantly hearing “no” or “you’re not the right fit” is hurtful and could make you start doubting yourself and your capabilities. It’s disappointing but I have to remember that it’s not about me. This field of work is built for those who can withstand a bunch of no’s because the real blessing is on its way.

Owning a company is hard and requires constantly thinking of new streams of revenue, new ways to engage with potential clients, constantly building relationships with agents and managers and brands and writers — it’s a 24-hour job. The private jets do come but you need to be okay with the basic economy first and for a long time.”

 

What is a quote that you live by?

 

“For a long time:

“Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.” – Zora Neale Hurston

More recently:

Every lyric in Drake’s “Mob Ties” (laughs).”

 

Napa Valley Black-Owned Winery Partners With Delta Air Lines

What started out as a way to celebrate Black History Month has now turned into a long-term partnership between a black-owned winery and a major United States airline.

Napa Valley’s Brown Estate Vineyards is partnering with Delta Air Lines to be featured on Delta’s 2019–2020 winter wine menu aboard its domestic Delta One flights. Featured wines will include Brown Estate’s 2017 Betelgeuse Sauvignon Blanc and 2017 Chaos Theory red blend, selected by Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson. Yesterday, Delta hosted a surprise tasting with Brown Estate owners and Robinson in the San Francisco Sky Club and onboard for customers traveling on a flight to New York.

“Partnering with innovative, diverse suppliers from certified small, minority, and women-owned businesses like Brown Estate is fundamental to Delta’s strategy to keep climbing year-round,” said Heather Ostis, Vice President of Supply Chain Management. “Seeking employee perspectives and leveraging unique ideas brings us closer to meeting that goal, while creating the highest quality experience for our customers.”

Brown Estate was founded in 1996 and is headed by president Doreen Brown and winemaker David Brown. According to their website, in April 2017 Brown Estate opened their Brown Downtown tasting room on the re-emerging First Street corridor in the heart of downtown Napa.

“We are delighted to partner with Delta Air Lines,” said Deneen Brown. “Delta’s all-in commitments to the spirit of inclusion and to their wine program are perfectly aligned with our core values at Brown Estate.”

The 2017 Betelgeuse Sauvignon Blanc is described “endless summer in a bottle” — straw gold in color, with refreshing clarity. Tropical fruit comingles with subtle citrus, fever grass and lemon verbena, while night-blooming jasmine and honeysuckle are complemented by a cascade of stone fruit, lychee, pineapple and guava.

Brown Estate’s 2017 Chaos Theory is a well-balanced red blend of Merlot, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel, greets the nose with a lively aroma of ripe Rainer cherries, blackberry compote, winter spice and heavy cream. Hints of Asian apple and Meyer lemon are followed by dark chocolate, tiramisu and fresh-baked croissants.