The Rise of the Conscious Five
In 2018, it’s hard to believe that it’s only been almost 100 years since women were granted the right to vote, and only a little over 50 years since black women were granted the right to vote in America.
For the majority of us in this generation that is longer than our lifetime, yet in today’s political climate it feels as if the progress that has occurred in regards to women and women of color within this gap of time could be considered obsolete. Although, just as certain flowers tend to grow in specific seasons and flourish through various circumstances, these conscious five seem to have risen for such a time as this.
These five women are Amanda Seales, Shelby Ivey Christie, Alex Wolf, Deun Ivory, and Letitia Wright. Each one of these women stands gracefully, yet different in their own light and reflect various narratives of what it is to be a black woman in today’s America meanwhile influencing to change the future.
One may remember Seales for when she was featured on the Nickelodeon sitcom, My Brother and Me, as Deonne Wilburn, as “VJ Amanda Diva” on MTV2 Sucker Free Countdown or more recently known for her recurring role on the HBO series, Insecure, as Tiffany Dubois. And as much as Seales' presence commands attention onscreen, it appears to have the same effect off-screen, as she is not the type to shy away from controversial topics. She has appeared on CNN, best known for the viral catcalling debate and has appeared on various radio shows talking about what is like to live as a black African-American in today’s America.
Although, as widely known as she may be for being a voice in the forefront of black cultural topics in the media, she holds the most contentious content on her Instagram. Other than posting her thoughts on the importance of and celebrating black history, Seales can be found educating her followers on self-awareness, sexism, colorism, police brutality, male insecurities, white privilege, and social injustice; let’s just say that not everyone agrees with her views. Basically, Seales is that auntie at the family reunion that always speaks her mind and declares her truth out in the open whether you care for it or not and that is exactly what I love about her.
Seales is the bold unapologetic voice we deserve that we didn’t know we needed. She serves a purpose in our future by opening controversial yet necessary discussions, making it known that topics, such as sexism, colorism, racism and white privilege, need to be talked about consistently in order to break the stigma and influence not only political, but also cultural change.
To keep up with our good ol’ Auntie Amanda, be sure to follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Also, you can watch her spread some wisdom on YouTube with her series, “Gem Droppin” or if you’re more of a listener, she also has a podcast called “Small Doses” on iTunes.
Shelby Ivey Christie
Continuing with a family member theme, next up, we have our hard-working and ever so fashionable sister, Shelby Ivey Christie. This iconic mogul hit the media business scene as an editorial writer, writing for brands such as Black Enterprise and XONecole, worked as a digital sales planner for Vogue magazine, and currently works as an Omni Media manager for L’Oreal. Christie’s career demonstrates a personal trodden path to success, as she once dropped out of college at the age of 18 (before returning in 2012) to hone her individuality - not follow the crowd and decide what was next for her. We can obviously see that her journey towards self-awareness led her on the right path towards digital marketing domination; let’s not overlook the fact that she is only 26.
Aside from being a digital media maven, Christie also focuses on highlighting the importance of black history in fashion, she speaks of the cause and overcomings of the Tignon Laws of 1786 that refrained women of African descent to wear tignons (turbans), mentions the overwhelming success of Ghanaian tailor, Oswald Boateng, and his influence in men’s fashion, and the influence of Dapper Dan in urban wear. Alongside her insights of black fashion on her personal social media platforms, Christie also challenges the narrative of women being responsible for partner’s actions, women being held responsible for how men perceive themselves and lack of co-partner support in a relationship.
Overall, our extraordinary big sis, Shelby Ivey Christie can be considered to be a pioneer not only as a woman but also a woman of color and millennial who’s changing the course of our generation to not only being seen (in great fashion), but also being heard in important discussions of black culture and women empowerment.
Our internet cousin, Alex Wolf, is the founder and CEO of Bossbabe Inc. who is a writer based in NYC and reaches 20,000+ readers over her self-proclaimed “controversial newsletter”, social media and speaking engagements. Additionally, to being considered one of Top 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company, Adweek’s Top 20 Influencers and Inc’s Top Creative Entrepreneurs in Marketing and Media, Wolf is the author of “Resonate: For Anyone Who Wants To Build An Audience.”
At the age of 19, Wolf dropped out of college and ventured into turning her love for the internet into a job, launching Bossbabe Academy and providing her entrepreneurial learnings to other women who desired financial independence. Alex Wolf is changing the narrative of the new businesswoman, starting the discussion of us to be more aware of human behavior, and playing a role in reshaping the world of marketing.
Through her social media and her newsletter, Wolf provokes her followers and readers to challenge the status quo, to change the way we think, the way we live and the way we see the world. She provides insight on what it is to be an individual who lives in this enticing digital world, and guidance on how to use this information to your benefit.
In my eyes, I consider Ivory to be a digital mother of black excellence, not because she originated the term, but because she not only embodies her art - she nurtures it. Deun Ivory is a multi-disciplinary artist who asserts presence through her photography and illustration, casting a spell upon all who witness her stunning imagery and visual storytelling portraits. Ivory’s work of art has caught the attention of brand giants such as Apple, Nike, Netflix, VSCO, Refinery29, and Makeup Forever.
Through her art, she focuses on shining a light upon celebrating black womanhood. On her site she expresses that “her life’s work is to serve, empower and celebrate women of color through a series of creative practices,” and that is an expression that I believe she upholds. On her Instagram, you can find notes of self-care, self-love and self-appreciation practices captioned under her pictures. This is because she encourages all women, but specifically women of color, to live fulfilled lives by choosing to live authentically while empowering women to seek inner peace, and to lead their lives with strength, faith and grace.
Ivory is leading a revolution on how the black woman is seen amongst branding content and redefining the future for all, so that all women can unapologetically have a seat at the table. To follow Ivory’s visionary work, you can follow her on Instagram and visit her blog at this link.
Letitia Wright, our Hollywood cousin, is a British actress whose interest in acting was inspired when she saw Akeelah and the Bee and found the lead, Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer), to be a positive role model. In her determination to pursue acting, she sent emails to many agents about her acting experience until she was selected for small parts and then soon after starred in My Brother the Devil, where she was recognized by Screen International as one of their 2012 Stars of Tomorrow. And, man, were they right!
Fast-forwarding now to 2018, Wright co-starred in this year’s international huge blockbuster success Black Panther playing the role of Shuri, King T’Challa’s sister and princess of Wakanda. Wright’s role in Black Panther certainly stood out for being an empowered, strong and educated black woman. She provided young girls around the world an amazing role model, such as the character of Akeelah was once for herself; but her most outstanding role to me is when Letitia chose to talk about her depression.
Throughout her media tour of Black Panther, Wright was very vocal about her struggles with depression. Earlier this year she told Vanity Fair, “I was in the dark going through so many bad things when the world didn’t know about Shuri and Letitia and whatever is happening now.” Wright had taken a break from acting until 2015 after she encountered Christianity at a London actor’s bible study, for she felt that she needed to pause her pursuit of an acting career and focus on her spiritual journey.
Wright is bringing forward a powerful and necessary conversation that brings light to mental health discourse. The importance of mental health and the importance of providing resources on how to combat depression is a conversation that continuously and consistently needs to be sustained, and I’m glad that Letitia Wright is at the forefront. To follow Letitia’s journey follow her on Instagram and Twitter and support our British sister at the box office.
Photo Credit: Naveen Chandra