Michaela Angela Davis might not be exactly who you think she is. Born in Germany and raised in Washington D.C, this army brat has worn many hats (and shoes for that matter, and we mean this literally because we have seen her collection.) As we sat down in her beautiful Brooklyn loft, it felt more like a meeting between friends. Having the pleasure of getting to know this dynamic woman who says, “a woman can be fly no matter what her age”, is something everyone should take the time to do and remember, what you see is not always what you get.
Clutch: How did you get your name?
Michaela Angela Davis : My mom was in Italy when she was pregnant with me and she was in the Sistine chapel staring at the ceiling. She had already had two girls and a boy and was so convinced I would be her second boy, so she planned to name him Michael Angelo, but when I was born she gave me the female version of it “Michaela Angela”.
Clutch: Do people compare you to, or think you’re named for Black Panther/activist Angela Davis?
Michaela Angela Davis : Yes! And the good thing about that is, it would make me slightly younger because Angela Davis wasn’t anyone to be named after until the 70’s…and I was already born. Also now, my look and her look, you know, she has an Afro, I have one, so people do link us together. A little secret, when I was working at Essence and people wouldn’t call me back, I would sorta mumble my first name like “could you tell them (she quietly says Michaela) ANGELA DAVIS called?” So I pimped it a little bit! When I finally met her, it was a moment, it was really a moment.
Clutch: How was it growing up in DC?
Michaela Angela Davis : I was raised with artistic and intellectual privilege and I was encouraged to be free, there were a lot of books, music and art in my house, I wasn’t raised financially rich but that sort of came later, I ended up living in a beautiful house in DC with grass all the way around it in a beautiful black community. But I didn’t start like that, I started with my crib in the same room as my three sisters and brothers and their bunk beds. So sometimes there’s an assumption that I didn’t work or that my parents didn’t work for what we had. I do consider myself privileged, because I had access and was encouraged to be who I was going to be.
Clutch: What college did you attend?
Michaela Angela Davis : NYU. I studied acting and went mostly to their acting conservatory, so I didn’t really have a university-type life.
Clutch: If people were talking about you behind your back, what would you love for them to be saying?
Michaela Angela Davis : Well, first of all, my mother said to me once “what people say about you behind your back is none of your business” so I lived by that. I haven’t really gotten that much negative press; I haven’t done that much stuff. When I read the blogs where people were talking about me after some of the commentary I did, there was this idea, and this is where racism comes in, that somehow being light-skinned makes me not black, and I just wish that whole light-skinned privilege thing could be done away with. I was never that “Halle Berry” beautiful anyway, I was extremely light with really blonde hair, I looked weird!
Clutch: So you feel that there are still issues with colorism?
Michaela Angela Davis : There’s no privilege to me to walk into a room full of sisters and I automatically get set apart. There’s no privilege in knowing that a man is checking you just because your light-skinned, I’ve had that experience before and it’s wack. Anything that tears us apart as sisters, there’s no privilege in, we have equal pain, it’s just different and has been processed and presented to us in different ways.
Clutch: You may not remember this, but a few months ago I approached you in Harlem in creepy-stalker-mode at the Schomburg and told you that I had admired you and had been admiring you since you were at Essence. Please tell me that this happens to you all the time so I can feel better about myself!
Michaela Angela Davis : Yes! Oh my gosh, I just got teary eyed, I do remember! Here’s the thing, it does happen often, and never…ever…ever do I take it for granted. When I was at Vanity Fair and did things like Full Frontal Fashion, nobody really said anything except some of the young black girls who were really into fashion. The love that I get is so extraordinary and so important, it’s like every time I get it it’s like a direct gift from God, there are times when I’m tired, when I’m tired of being broke, at this point in my career and with my resume, the fact that I’m not ballin’ or chillin’ in the Hamptons (laughs) there are times when I question myself and say “why am I doing this?” I don’t take it for granted, because 50% of the time when someone says that to me, I’m questioning myself and what I’m doing at the moment. Thank you again.
Clutch: Have you ever watched a show that you were a commentator on and thought, “Why did I say that? Or what was I thinking?”
Michaela Angela Davis : Ummmmmm (she pauses for a few moments), you know what, no. I was thinking about it and by the time I started showing up on television, I had already plugged into a purpose. There was one time I was asked to audition for “What Not To Wear” and we were doing a test on camera and they wanted me to sort of tear people down and then build them up and I was just like, I can’t do it, I can’t be this bitchy thing and make another woman feel bad and then make her feel good, and they were like “well, don’t you want the gig?”, but I couldn’t do it. So by the time I started doing television, I was pretty clear about who I was again and what I was going to stand for. I just try to tell the truth, and if I can’t tell the truth I wont really answer, or will move the question around. When I did Bill O’ Reilly there was a lot of that. I’ve certainly done styling jobs where I was like “what was I thinking when I put her in that? Oh my God!”
Clutch: Who do you admire and look up to?
Michaela Angela Davis : The person that I admire most is my daughter because I’ve had the privilege of watching her spirit match her character and it’s beautiful, I don’t feel that there are parts of her that are broken that she will have to put together later, there are certainly challenges and discoveries she will have to face, but she’s not broken and I’ve never met a black female that was not broken first. After that is my mother, and she shattered and put herself back together in an amazing, amazing way. There are three women in the “business” that have been instrumental to me, first and foremost is Susan Taylor, Susan was the kind of editor that loved her audience, Susan is the truth, she loves black people, she really loves black people and it’s real, it is not a shtick it’s not fake, she will miss a plane to talk to you. Then there’s Bethann Hardison who had a modeling agency and defied all gravity within the fashion industry, and my aunt Joann who is a stylist that is amazing. They became these shining examples of these fierce, dope, stylish, amazing, opinionated women.
Clutch: What was your most memorable trip?
Michaela Angela Davis : Morocco was the place that moved me the most, visually and aesthetically, I loved it the most. The people were so beautiful and I just felt so good there. There are so many places I have to go, traveling is so important. If I had a choice I would go to Ethiopia next and then maybe Kenya. I would love to go to Vietnam and Haiti, I heard they are really beautiful.
Clutch: I feel as though people only see you as this political figure and don’t really know about your fashion background.
Michaela Angela Davis : My first job at Essence, I was the associate fashion editor and I did a lot of styling and writing. My first job was to style Anita Hill and I was like “oh my gosh, I can’t believe it!” That was the amazing thing about Essence, it was the only place where you could style women like Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni. Later I styled Oprah, but that was for her Shape cover, which was a wonderful experience. Before Essence, I was on really big, high-end fashion shoots with my aunt Joann when I was her assistant and she was working with Richard Avedon and Hiro, and shooting huge ad campaigns and Vogue fashion shoots, so I started off in high fashion and had really great training. When I resigned from Essence, I went to help start Vibe. Fashion is definitely my first love. But my interests were going other places as were my needs and services, but I still dabble. At least once a year I do commentary for Full Frontal and people still ask me about fashion. I’m just so happy because there are so many more women and women of color in fashion.
Clutch: What’s your definition of style?
Michaela Angela Davis : When you are an accurate outer reflection of who you say you are inside, that is your perfect style. Like Miles Davis, he looked the way he sounded. If you look on the outside the way you believe you are on the inside, then you have undeniable style.
Clutch: Are men intimidated by you?
Michaela Angela Davis : If they are I don’t really know it. I had really good experiences with men, I expect good men in my life, I expect them to show up. I don’t have a sense of lack when it comes to men, I’ve had very interesting, beautiful, creative, smart, talented, genius men in my life. I like being around men and talking to them, I have a variety of interests so I go places where men are, museums, sports events; a lot of men go to see live music. I think the men that are intimidated by me don’t step to me, so I don’t know who they are!
Clutch: What are you working on right now?
Michaela Angela Davis : Urbanista, which is a multi-media platform destination for 18-34 year-old, urban influenced women. One might happen before the other, but the first is a website and I also see a magazine format television show as well as radio spots. I really see Urbanista existing on all levels of media. I’m working on creating media for the audience that I am in service of, I’m also hoping to work on some television specials that are surrounding our issues. I’m very slowly working on my book; it’s about beauty and identity. I am always working, but I am not employed by anyone at the moment. I discovered that I had to create my next job as there was no media that spoke to Urbanistas.
Clutch: Any beauty tips?
Michaela Angela Davis : Once a week I do a serious deep condition and let my hair rest for at least 24 hours. Also, when you get to the age when you’re clear about who you are, start investing in good shoes, in your twenties you should still experiment, but when you have identified your brand for yourself, start investing in it. Invest in a good haircut, you can’t skimp on your hair or your shoes, it’s like a power suit, it gives you confidence. And natural hair doesn’t mean no maintenance, sometimes it takes more maintenance. Healthy equals pretty, if you have healthy skin and hair, you’re good!
Clutch: What makes Michaela happy?
Michaela Angela Davis : I’m happy a lot, I’m happy most of the time, not all the time because that’s weird! I have three things that I have to check and make sure they are in balance: prayer/meditation, exercise and sex. Whenever I’m feeling off balance, I ask, “where am I in my prayer/meditation game?” Am I eating right and drinking enough water? Am I getting enough sex and or attention? But those are my three pillars of happiness (laughs). Simple things make me happy, I need to go out and dance, I don’t need big grand things. If you expect things to go bad, they do, if I put in an order for happiness, I get it! I thank God a lot, I am so thankful and grateful, I probably thank God in my head so many times a day, I’m in a constant state of gratitude.