Colourful Woman Wednesday: LaurenAsh

This week’s Colourful Woman is LaurenAsh (Lauren Stephenson), a hip-hop artist (and fledgling blogger) based in NYC.  Her debut single, “She Is”, is available for download NOW!

What makes you a “colourful woman”?

I believe it’s more than my skin color that labels me a “colourful woman.” It’s my passion to create and be a voice for all women regardless of ethnicity, sexuality, etc. My drive and continuous fight to stand up for what I believe in and be who I am give way for all women to do the same.

LaurenAsh_She Is

Who are some of your colourful inspirations?

I have never really had a particular or go to person I’ve leaned on for inspiration. I tend to be inspired by life and the experiences it brings. My good friend and mentor Jerry has probably been one of the most influential people in my life. I’d also have to say Maya Angelou. Her book “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” gave me a whole new perspective on life.

What message would you like to share with our readers today?

Dare to be different! People are going to try and stop you before you can even get started but you must strive for excellence within yourself!

And check out my music video!

Credit where it’s due: Anne-Marie Slaughter

Critical, us? Yes. Absolutely. All the time.

Case in point: we flagged this piece in the Atlantic by Anne-Marie Slaughter on what Obama doesn’t get about gender inequality with no small degree of snark:

And then we were completely taken aback (positively so) when Slaughter replied to and engaged with us:

And then she updated the Atlantic piece to reflect the conversation. Examples in bold:

Equal pay for equal work certainly remains an issue for women, particularly women of color, but white women who do not have children earn the same or more than men.

One step at a time.

Did the NYTimes just call Michelle Obama an uppity negro?

Let’s just get this straight. According to Cathy Horyn and the NY Times:

many people, disappointed that [Michelle Obama’s] clothes get more attention than her values and leadership, hope that a second term will give Mrs. Obama more latitude to speak out on issues that are more controversial, like educational reform and work-life balance.

But it’s a funny thing: four years ago she denied conservatives the chance to vilify her as “an angry black woman” by taking immense pleasure in traditional first lady pursuits, like fashion, entertaining and gardening.

Issue one: if you’re into ‘traditional first lady pursuits’ [read: white first lady pursuits, because there’s never been a black first lady prior to Michelle Obama] like ‘fashion, entertaining and gardening’, you remove any fodder for critics to accuse you of being ‘an angry black woman’. Ok.

One designer, who doesn’t dress Mrs. Obama, observed, with some accuracy, “Her clothes are too tight.”

Issue two: Too tight? Too sexy? Too revealing? Too body conscious? Would ‘mom jeans’ and sweaters be more ‘appropriate’?

Even more astonishing is that Mrs. Obama’s spending on clothes has attracted little scrutiny. Clearly that’s because she is seen as helping the American economy. Still, she has spent tens of thousands of dollars on clothes and accessories. She was criticized for wearing $500-plus Lanvin sneakers at a food bank, in 2009. But at a time when economic inequality is a serious issue, you wonder why the first lady’s fashion spending hasn’t caused more fuss.

Issue three: Michelle Obama, high powered attorney, should be criticized for spending her own hard-earned money on clothes that have played no small part in making her palatable to ferocious critics. Got it.

One clue was Mrs. Obama’s decision, in late 2008, to accept an invitation to pose for the cover of Vogue. As Ms. Kantor wrote, her advisers were divided, with some concerned that Mrs. Obama, a woman of substance, would be seen as a fashionista. She argued, “There are young black women across this country, and I want them to see a black woman on the cover of Vogue.” In the end, there was little criticism of the Vogue cover.

Issue four: Oh, see what you did there. Dare not criticise her for appearing on Vogue and wanting to inspire young black girls, because then those social justice types might call you the r-word.Clutches pearls

Still, he hasn’t changed his view that Mrs. Obama can be a powerful voice on issues like equal opportunity and work-life balance, given her own background. “The engines of the American dream and meritocracy have slowed down dramatically over the past 20 years,” he said. “She is a person who has lived through that, came from the South Side of Chicago, went to Princeton and Harvard. It ought to be something she’s addressing. And the more she dresses in glamorous clothes, the more it looks like she’s cut off from her roots.”

Issue five: Oh, wait a minute here. Dressing in glamorous clothes cuts Michelle Obama off from her (poor, black) roots. SHE’S THE FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. SHE IS THE POSTER CHILD FOR MERITOCRACY AND THE AMERICAN DREAM. AND YOU THINK BECAUSE SHE CAN NOW AFFORD TO WEAR FANCY FROCKS SHE’S FORGOTTEN WHERE SHE CAME FROM? WHAT WOULD YOU PREFER? WALMART SNEAKERS AND FOOD STAMPS? GTFOH WITH YOUR “UPPITY NEGRO” NONSENSE.

‘I felt like I either didn’t know the rules, or I was breaking them’

In this episode of The Broad Experience, Ashley Milne-Tyte interviews one of the Colourful Collective about her experience of being a brown-skinned woman at a very white, male-dominated company. Ashley also talks to a white man who’s been through – and actually enjoyed – diversity training, and discuss how it changed his attitude to the workplace.

Colourful Woman Wednesday: Manoush Zomorodi

This is the sixth post in our “Colourful Woman Wednesday” series, which features stories of colourful women surviving and thriving. If you’d like to share your story, or nominate a colourful woman for this feature, email us or get in touch via Tumblr,Twitter or Facebook.

Manoush Zomorodi is a freelance reporter, moderator, and media consultant. Her multimedia ebook CAMERA READY: How to Present Your Best Self and Ideas On Air or Online is the definitive manual for anyone appearing on camera.

Manoush is piloting a new public radio show about how innovation is changing New York. She contributes to the BBC’s Talking Movies show and hosts conferences on digital technology (including social media, online publishing, and start-ups). She also conducts private media training/strategy sessions and moderates videos for corporations and non-profits.

She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, NY1 reporter and anchor Josh Robin, and their two kids. Manoush was born and bred in NYC and is half Swiss and half Persian.

Oh, and the name? It’s pronounced mah-NOOSH zom-or-ROAD-ee.

Manoush talked to us about her motivations and inspirations:

‘What makes you a colourful woman?
My excessive potty mouth? No, I guess I’m colorful (or colourful- I also speak British) because I just can’t help myself from jumping into a conversation and asking lots of questions. I’m nosy and that’s always been very helpful as a journalist and makes people remember me, for better or worse. I remember a game we once played in the BBC’s Washington bureau where each person had to be labelled with one word. The word they come up with for me was “zesty.” Like a good salad dressing.

‘Who are some of your colourful inspirations?’
Right now, I would have to say Elmo. My 2 year-old is in love and I have developed a real fondness for Elmo’s combination of kindness and sass. Plus, red is a power color that really pops on camera!

‘What are some of your projects right now?’
Sheesh, too many. Besides having a multimedia enhanced ebook coming out on Tuesday, we are running a Kickstarter campaign to get the ebook’s “Quality Video for Everyone” message out. I’m a first time author and finding the whole process very exhilarating and emotional. I’m also piloting a public radio show about how innovation is affecting the NYC economy. Plus, I do my regular media training. Oh, and I have 2 kids and I’ve been dealing with the New York public school system and Kindergarten placement. That’s a full-time job in itself!

‘What message would you like to share with our readers today?’
Just do the best you can. If you are a mom, don’t kill yourself but also, don’t put everything off “until the kids are older” because things are moving too fast in media and the digital world to jump back in whenever you want. And not everyone is going to LOVE you. After being a news ‘wunderkind’ in my twenties, it’s hard to get used to that. But I’ll always have Elmo.

Colourful Woman Wednesday: Ramona Wright

This is the fifth post in our “Colourful Woman Wednesday” series, which features stories of colourful women surviving and thriving. If you’d like to share your story, or nominate a colourful woman for this feature, email us or get in touch via Tumblr,Twitter or Facebook.

Ramona Wright, Colourful WomanRamona Wright is a media and strategic communication specialist with more than 10 years of international experience. Ramona has been a consultant, creative entrepreneur, spokesmodel, fundraiser and an event producer who has managed multi-million dollar budgets. She is the publisher of Wiles Magazine (WilesMag.com), a leading online destination for multi-cultural women and co-creator of themojamoja.com and the annual MojaMoja Pre-Grammy Brunch, a live event and online destination to discover pop and international alternative music and culture. Ramona lectured for more than four years at her alma mater Loyola Marymount University, teaching Principles of Public Relations to more than 200 undergraduate students.

Ramona set aside some time in her busy, bi-coastal (LA, NYC, DC) schedule to share her experiences as a woman of colour in a world of black and white:

‘What makes you a colourful woman?’
My versatility. I am a colorful woman because I am a serial entrepreneur pursuing various ventures. One of which, is publishing WilesMag.com to promote women who possess poise, purpose and power.

‘Who are some of your colourful inspirations?’
Special thanks to my Mom for helping me become a colourful women. She raised me to know that before I would ever be defined as a woman, Black or race ambiguous, that I am God’s child and that I could become anything that I set my mind to. Every week she would take my brother and I to a different ethnic restaurant and cultural excursion. I appreciate her for exposure and encouraging me to be myself.

‘What message would you like to share with our readers today?’
Be yourself, love yourself, be sexy, savvy and do something to help someone. Make the world a better place.

Corporate dreadlocs and other stories

This post first appeared at the Liming House

Back in 2008, I wrote a piece that argued thus, on the subject of my preferred “hairstyle”:

I am my hair. I am challenging, I am defiant, I do not apologize.

And the next time some Wall Street multimillionaire or Oxbridge-educated middle-aged perpetually entitled white British editor encounters a twenty-something <insertracehere> woman from the Caribbean, or someone with locs, he will pause.

He will pause because he will remember someone else who was more than the stereotype.

Continue reading

Colourful Woman Wednesday: Sapna Lal

This is the third post in our “Colourful Woman Wednesday” series, which features stories of colourful women surviving and thriving. If you’d like to share your story, or nominate a colourful woman for this feature, email us or get in touch via Tumblr,Twitter or Facebook.

Sapna Lal is the president and founder of The Lal Firm, and specializes in entertainment law.

Here she talks to The Coloured Collective about what makes her a colourful woman, some of her inspirations, and her message for all of our readers:

What makes me a colourful woman?

My Universal Spirit and ability to love all people, cultures and religions beyond color, race or gender. I work on improving myself each day spiritually, mentally and professionally by meditating to instill balance and peace within. I look at the world – especially those who have hurt and disappointed me, with compassion and I practice non-judgment daily.

Most importantly, I am a woman of my word…having integrity is key to achieving true greatness.

Some of my colourful inspirations are Oprah, Deepak Chopra, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Maya Angelou, His Holiness The Dalai Lama, Marianne Williamson, Ghandi, Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley and President Obama.

Have patience. Be persistent. Always persevere (the three P’s). If you truly want something, believe in it. Have faith. Let go of fear and doubt. All things happen in due time. Look at the lessons all around you. Be humble and acknowledge that there is always room to grow and be better. Give without expecting anything in return. Remember your greatness. You were born to shine and excel. And when God (Jesus, Laxshmi, Buddha, Allah, whomever is your higher spirit) says no…say THANK YOU.

Thank YOU Sapna!

Mind if I play my music?

This is a question that I have never asked at the office.

(Context: I work in an amazing, open-plan space with tremendous colleagues who have excellent and varied musical tastes. I know this because said office is equipped with an AirPlay setup that allows us to pipe our Spotify, iTunes, Pandora and turntable.fm playlists to a speaker system for shared rocking out)

But my music? I’ve never asked to stream my (incredibly extensive) Damian Marley playlist, or my (even more extensive) collection of non-soca music made by Caribbean artists.

If my fear is that Damian and Mangoseed are somehow not “office appropriate” (what does that even mean? And what about the recent all-day Wailers-fest we enjoyed, courtesy a colleague who’d watched the Marley documentary over the weekend?), why then don’t I even cue up the Mumford & Sons or the Florence and The Machine playlists?

There are a few things going on here.

One, I have an uneasy relationship with “Caribbean” me, at least and especially when I am in decidedly non-Caribbean contexts. I’ve already got the hair, the head wraps, the WTF accent and that whole being-brown thing. Do I also need to highlight my predilection for soca, dub, dancehall and related musical forms? For one of the reasons why this is even a thing: see reactions to Rihanna in Carnival costume, and add a hefty dose of my must-bust-stereotypes syndrome.

Two, my relationship with music is intensely personal, and I am averse to (indeed, tending toward incapable of) intermingling the personal and the professional.

I regularly listen to Damian at work – safe, secure and inviolate in the castle of my headphones.

And that’s ok.

Colourful Woman Wednesday: Brianne Garcia

This is the first in a series of “Colourful Woman Wednesday” posts, which will feature stories of colourful women surviving and thriving. If you’d like to share your story, or nominate a colourful woman for this feature, email us or get in touch via Tumblr, Twitter or Facebook.

Introducing: Brianne Garcia, colourful woman.

Brianne Garcia, founder of Parceld


Brianne is the founder of PARCELD, a fashion startup that aims to take the hassle out of the hunt. Brianne is also a 2012 fellow at the CUNY/Tow Knight Entrpreneurial Journalism Program, and one of two winners of the inaugural J. Douglas Creighton scholarship.

Here’s what makes Brianne a colourful woman, in her own words:

Being half-Mexican, one quarter Lebanese and another quarter Chzech/Irish mix, people always assume I’m white. I was always confused when filling in those bubbles on tests because next to White it always specifies: “Non-Hispanic.”

I know what my IDENTITY and WHO I am, but I always feel odd specifying the “what.”

I have roots in Mexico, Lebanon and Europe, and appreciate each little fraction equally and wholeheartedly.

I am colorful (oh! forgot the u! ;)) because I have an agenda, but no uniform. I used to care about “proving myself” to people, and while the need to do so is probably still there, I’ve found that being myself and being authentic proves more than trying to act better, smarter, or more suited for any given situation I’m in. I have accepted that I will always be learning, and that brings a lot of humility and sometimes humiliation, but it’s better to be curious than to think you know too much.