It’s no secret that the fashion industry is notoriously hard to break into. It’s even harder when your platform of choice is fashion media. And exponentially more difficult when you’re a woman of color.

Indeed, the racist and exclusionary practices in fashion media can make one’s climb to the top look daunting. To that end, at C+C, we want to celebrate and acknowledge the fabulous black women from stylists to online editors to PR pros that populate the industry and call the shots. They are the captains of their own ships. They are groundbreaking; they are inspiring.

And how often do we see them? It’s like looking for a shooting star and then finally, unexpectedly, seeing one graze across the sky.

Here are our shooting stars in fashion media. Five black women that you may or may not know who have made their mark in the world of journalism and are building empires. Take out your ipads and get ready to learn a thing or two.

1. Zandile Blay

Online Fashion Editor for Essence.com and Founder/ Editor – in – Chief of The Blay Report and Africa Style Daily

With a resume that reads like a media index, twenty something fashion editor, Zandile Blay has done it all at such a young age. Blay has written for InStyle, AOL, Seventeen and the Huffington Post and even mans her own sites, UK Vogue-sponsored The Blay Report and Africa Style Daily. She was a market editor for Paper Magazine before being hand-selected by former VIBE EIC Emil Wilbekin of Essence.com to lend her online editorial skills to the fashion section of the site. With her conversational approach to writing, it’s no wonder why Blay is one of the leaders of the new school.

C+C: What words can you give to fashion media industry hopefuls?

Zandile Blay: The same words I’d give to any hopeful in any field. From an aspiring journalist to an aspiring janitor the only thing you really need to know is “Be good at what you do.” I mean be really good. If fashion journalism is what makes your heart race, then go for it! Make sure you understand how to interview. Know how to construct a simple news piece or craft a flowery feature story. Know designers. Know history. Know publications. Know editors. But above all else? Know thyself. Fashion is a big beast with lots of moving parts. Are you interested in styling? Or is it digital journalism that moves you? Do you care more about social media, or being one-on-one with designers? Answering these questions for yourself really means defining your dream. And once that dream is defined – and you match it with stellar work ethic – trust me: everything else will take care of itself.

C+C: In your opinion, what is the best way to break into the industry?

ZB: The straight answer is: internships. There’s no magic or mystery to it. As I said earlier, “define your dream.” What publication or design house do you want to work for? What editor inspires you? Figure that out and then pursue an internship. You will learn the basics of the industry – as well as the hundreds of other things no one ever really tells you about how to break into – and succeed – in fashion.

C+C: What are some challenges, if any, have you experienced as a person of color in fashion media? How did you overcome it?

ZB: Promise not to hate me for saying this? But I simply haven’t. Or if I did, I never noticed. And if I noticed, I didn’t care! The bottom line is I work hard to make sure that what I bring to the table as a journalist is so essential to a publication that it outweighs any “obstacles” real or imagined. And to its credit: the fashion industry is one that respects that. Despite the image of this industry being all about cookie cutter beauty, there are lots of amazing professionals who break that mold (from color, to body size to style). These people- white, black and Asian- succeed simply because they are undeniable talents. So the lesson of the day? Transform yourself into an undeniable talent so that no matter what obstacles may come, denial won’t be one of them. Others might tell you different, but believe when I say it: success is an equal opportunity employer!

C+C: What was a definitive moment in your career?

ZB: From interviewing Donatella Versace to being the first journalist to spot British Designer Mary Katranzou to working under rock star editors like Emil Wilbekin (ESSENCE.com, Vibe, Giant), Mickey Boardman (Paper Magazine) and Atoosa Rubenstein (Seventeen, Cosmo Girl), I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of moments I’m extremely proud of as a journalist. It’s incredibly difficult to narrow it to just one – and even harder to call something definitive when in the grand scheme of things I’m closer to the beginning of my career than I am to the middle. But, one moment that sticks out in my mind happened almost two years ago. At the time, I was women’s fashion editor for Paper Magazine, when I got a call from Dolly Jones, online editor for British Vogue. She was calling in regards to my blog, The Blay Report and wanted to know if it could be added to their network of favored blogs. I was astounded. I’d had my site for about five years at the time and as far as I knew, only my mother and friends read it. Of course I said yes, and after I hung up – I wept for fifteen minutes straight. I’d worked at it for so long, that to finally have it acknowledged in such a way moved me beyond words.

Keep up with Zandile Blay: Essence.comThe Blay ReportAfrica Style Daily@Zandile@blayreport, @africastyledaily

2. Nichelle Pace

Founder / Editor-in-Chief of STYLEMOM.com

After excelling as an advertising and marketing executive with 15 years of experience working with brands such as Nine West and Estee Lauder, Nichelle Pace decided to combine her creativity, advertising and marketing background, role as a mom, passion for fashion, and digital media expertise to launch STYLEMOM. Having heard chatter in the fashion industry, that some feel “moms have given up on fashion”, Nichelle has made it her mission to prove otherwise, and become a voice and evangelist for “fashionista” moms and 30-something women around the globe in the process.

C+C: What words can you give to fashion media industry hopefuls?

Nichelle Pace: Remember that fashion should be fun and about creative self-expression. Always look for the unique and human angle in your fashion stories. Help your readers relate and connect with fashion, and find and identify your niche/your voice early. Act as a “cultural anthropologist” instead of a typical “fashionista”, and have a true respect for the art of fashion and the impact it has on society.

C+C: In your opinion, what is the best way to break into the industry?

NP: Get a good internship, study up on journalistic standards, start blogging/writing for a school/community publication, and attend and network at as many fashion related events, shows, etc. as you can. Don’t be afraid by walls and/or barriers you may encounter as this industry is not for the “thin-skinned”. You must be assertive, believe in your ability, and most importantly believe that your voice has value. Finally, don’t get into fashion media just for the “cool factor” or if you’re trying to win a “popularity contest”, have a genuine interest in the business, the art and creativity, and always do your homework/research.

C+C: What are some challenges, if any, have you experienced as a person of color in fashion media? How did you overcome it?

NP: By the grace of God I haven’t had too many challenges. At times, I have experienced getting “snubbed” initially when meeting people in the industry or reaching out to brands, but shortly after, those SAME people/brands come full circle after becoming familiar with Stylemom.com, and eventually reach out to build a relationship.

C+C: What has been a definitive moment in your career, thus far?

NP: Making the choice to leave the ad agency business for good and launch Stylemom.com as a full time business.

Keep up with Nichelle Pace: StyleMom.com@Stylemom

3. Jessica C. Andrews

Fashion Editor at Clutch Magazine and Coco + Creme, Contributing Fashion Editor at Juicy Magazine, Co-Founder/Fashion Director of GlamazonsBlog.com

Fashion Editor for Clutch Magazine and Coco + Crème and co-founder of the widely popular, Glamazons Blog, our own Jessica C. Andrews is a trailblazer in the fashion media scape. Writing and honing her skills at Essence Magazine and most recently as Editorial Director for Jones Magazine Online, Andrews has leveraged a strong platform as a fashion wordsmith and connoisseur. Having worked with The New York Times, Marie Claire, CNBC, Black Enterprise and Uptown Magazine (to name a few), she has nurtured her passion for all things style – while never straying from her true love: pure journalism.

C+C: What words can you give to fashion media industry hopefuls?

Jessica Andrews: There’s so much! I’d say first, get rid of any notion of the glamorous life. You have to be willing to pay your dues, humble yourself and get your hands dirty. Be ready to work; the parties and fashion shows will come. Second, study. If you don’t know the name of every fashion writer on the masthead of major magazines/sites and the freelance writers they employ, you’re behind. Be knowledgeable about your craft to show you mean business. And finally, don’t be discouraged. It was a long time before your favorite writers/editors reached a degree of success and surely, there were bumps along the way. Be determined and steadfast in your climb.

C+C: In your opinion, what is the best way to break into the industry?

JA: To get your foot in the door, you MUST intern, whether for pay or for free. The experience is priceless. Start a blog and commit to it; it shows that you’re an entrepreneur, have an authentic voice and can build a following. Build your network. Meet people in the business and nurture those relationships with follow-up and constant contact. Many of the job offers I’ve received are from people I connected with and built a relationship with over the years.

C+C: What challenges, if any, have you experienced as a person of color in fashion media? How did you overcome it?

JA: There are challenges like convincing brands and advertisers that African-American women are an audience worth investing in, for example. But the minute you identify racism as an obstacle, it becomes one. In the big scheme of things, those unfortunate scenarios that could be perceived as racially-motivated can only hold you back if you allow them to.

C+C: What was a definitive moment in your career?

JA: It’s hard to identify a definitive moment because I feel my career is just beginning! I have been blessed with great experiences though. I was fortunate to start my career at Essence Magazine working with people like Mikki Taylor, Susan Taylor, Agnes Cammock and Jeanine Amber who are brilliant, accomplished women and who take the time to mentor others. I was also honored to cover celebrity fashion for The New York Times and interview people like Soledad O’Brien on the red carpet; to be around greatness in journalism has inspired me to be greater.

And starting my own blog, The Glamazons Blog alongside Andrea Arterbery in 2008 was a definitive moment. It took courage (the internet was still a new space to me at the time) and so much dedication because when it’s your brand, you have to give 210%. I’m grateful for all the online opportunities that have come as a result of it, and very excited for the future!

Keep up with Jessica Andrews: GlamazonsBlog.com, @Ms_Andrews, @GlamazonsBlog

4. Renae Bluitt

Founder of Crush Media, Beauty and Lifestyle PR firm and In Her Shoes Blog

Renae Bluitt is one of those rare PR mavens who knows and respects the ins and out of the fashion media world. With over a decade in the industry, Renae has successfully executed PR and event programs for household brands such as Axe Body Spray, ESSENCE Magazine, Pantene, CoverGirl, McDonald’s, Kraft Foods, and Coca-Cola. While she gained valuable experience in the corporate and agency settings, Renae knew her professional story wouldn’t end there. Inspired by all of the successful women she’s met on her journey, Renae launched In Her Shoes Blog in 2009. As the one stop blog for women committed to being the captain of their own ship, In Her Shoes shines light on ladies leaving their mark on the world. So when she’s not busy shaping brands, she’s sharing – introducing In Her Shoes readers to other fly female entrepreneurs like herself.

C+C: What words can you give to fashion media industry hopefuls?

Renae Bluitt: Live, eat, and breathe fashion media. Get to know all of the industry players and emerging talent who’ve landed positions and opportunities you’d like to have one day. Keep your finger on the pulse of trends and to the best of your ability, try to define what’s next. Trend forecasters and setters (not followers) rule the world!

C+C: In your opinion, what is the best way to break into the industry?

RB: Whether you’re a student or a graduate, it’s important to study your craft and become a sponge for information. Stay abreast of industry news by subscribing to all of the top trade publications and visiting their website’s regularly. Develop a mentor/mentee relationship with a few women and men who are seasoned and willing to teach you a thing or two. Never underestimate the power of a blog. Collect as many writing samples as possible by contributing to reputable fashion blogs in need of writers. While you’re at it, launch your own blog so that your fashion musings will always have an online home, no matter what. The best way to become a writer is to write, so practice every chance you get. Build and maintain relationships with movers and shakers in the business. As the old saying goes, it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you. Create your own signature style and always maintain a sense of authenticity. There may be plenty of talent in the world but no one can be you better than you. More important, when your journey becomes challenging or overwhelming don’t you DARE give up!

C+C: What are some challenges, if any, have you experienced as a person of color in fashion media? How did you overcome it?

RB: Quite honestly, I haven’t had any challenges as a woman of color. Perceived challenges are opportunities in disguise. I’m quite sure there have been some opportunities that didn’t come my way because of the color of my skin but I’m a firm believer in the fact that what’s meant for me will be.

C+C: What has been a definitive moment in your career, thus far?

RB: It has to be the moment I decided to break away from the safety net of my 9-5 to become the captain of my own ship. While being your own boss may sound “easy” to some, it’s far from it. You’ve got to reinvent yourself frequently, remain passionate, and last but certainly not least, surround yourself with progressive people who truly want to see you succeed.

Keep up with Renae Bluitt: Crush Media OnlineIn Her Shoes Blog@inhershoesblog


5. Kathryn Finney

Founder/ Editor in Chief of The Budget Fashionista and Author of How to Be a Budget Fashionista- The Ultimate Guide to Looking Fabulous For Less

In the summer of 2003, Kathryn Finney did not know by registering The Budget Fashionista, she was starting a “budget fashion” movement. With her witty approach to budget shopping, Kathryn’s small site, The Budget Fashionista quickly became a phenomenon. Averaging over 10 million unique visits a year, Kathryn released her Amazon best-selling book, How to Be a Budget Fashionista- The Ultimate Guide to Looking Fabulous For Less (Random House/Ballantine Books), which made her the first fashion blogger to receive a book deal from a major publishing house. Since then, Kathryn has parlayed her budget fashioning skills into an empire creating a foundation, Simly Good Media and has been a frequent style contributor to television shows such as NBC’s TODAY Show, CNN Headline News, E! News and ABC’s Good Morning America and has served as a spokesperson for top brands including Febreze, Paypal, Rightfit, Marshalls/TJ Maxx and Sears.

C+C: What words can you give to fashion media industry hopefuls?

Kathryn Finney: The secret to longevity is to do you. It is impossible to have any long-term success being something you aren’t.

C+C: In your opinion, what is the best way to break into the industry?

KF: There are many different paths and it really depends on who you are as a person. One way is to get an internship-, which meaning working for free and another way is to start your own thing (ie a blog), either way you must have passion and drive because it is not easy. Also, be careful not to burn bridges- you NEVER know who will be there to help you.

C+C: What are some challenges, if any, have you experienced as a person of color in fashion media? How did you overcome it?

KF: As a black woman who owns and runs a media company that includes, but not focuses, on “urban” communities it’s been hard for some to understand that we, black women, occupy multiply identities. We’re moms, sisters, friends, businesswomen, alumna of our colleges, etc.

C+C: What was a definitive moment in your career?

KF: There’s been so many, but I think it was when I was sitting in a dressing room on TODAY show with Jane Fonda ‘s dressing room on one side and John Mayer’s on the other side. It was one of those, in the words of media god Oprah, “aha” moments.

Keep up with Kathryn Finney: The Budget Fashionista, @KathrynFinney

-Jared Michael Lowe


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