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Fashion, Glamourtunist, On the Carpet, WERK!

Black Women STAY Saving the Met Gala Red Carpet

May 2, 2017

by Eric Darnell Pritchard

To remix the first line of Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison’s novel “Paradise,” they SLAYED the white girls first, with the others they took their time.

When people say “it’s no shade,” they usually mean it’s shade, but what follows is not shade it’s just a fact. Black women stay saving the Met Gala red carpet. And before you come for me please know, to quote another verbal genius Ms. Nene Leakes, “I said what I said.”

Come on ya’ll, if Rihanna, Solange, and Beyonce all collectively decide not to attend there is probably not a reason to hold this thing.

Everyone should phone it in, ring up Mother Anna Wintour of the House of Vogue, and call in sick that day. This red carpet is the Oscars of fashion, it should not be anything like any other red carpet, and yet the only people who dress to make it feel that way are pretty much Black women. And this year, with Tracee Ellis Ross, Helen Lasichanh, and Zendaya all deciding they to have come to collect our edges, it is ever more undeniable and this year, just like every year, there are receipts.

For those who do not know, every year since 1971 the Met Gala is always built around a theme. It is usual that the theme intersects with the theme of an exhibit that has been curated for the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute. Themes in recent years include 2013’s “Punk: Chaos to Couture,” 2014’s “Charles James: Beyond Fashion,” 2015’s “China: Through the Looking Glass,” and 2016’s “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.”

The theme of this year’s gala was “Rei Kawakubo/Commes des Garçons,” a retrospective of the work of the legendary fashion designer and her fashion label which has been at the forefront of fashion for 44 years. Kawakubo, who the New York Times calls the “oracle of fashion,” has always sat atop her perch pushing fashion beyond the boundaries of how they think about the shape, texture, color of a garment, but also beyond the limits of the industry and its preconceived notions of the body itself.

With such an imaginative, courageous, and exciting sartorial visionary as the theme everybody was ready for this Met Gala to take us to and over the edge, just like Kawakubo. WEEEEELL, I am not sure where everybody else’s memo about the theme of the show went, but apparently only Black women got it. 

As I watched the red carpet unfold, one person after the next took to the carpet in pretty gowns, wonderful make-up, hair done for the Gods (or in the case of Jaden Smith, hair cut off and fashioned into a bouquet of locs), and I was completely and utterly surprised and also bored, bored, bored. Only a sprinkling of people seemed to dress with Kawakubo and Commes des Garçons in mind.

There were only a sprinkling of folks who rose to the occasion, which is great, but they are the same people that ALWAYS rise to the occasion.  Rihanna, who is basically a couture wonder woman at the Met Gala EVERY. DAMN. YEAR.

Rihanna at the Met Gala 2015-2011 (left of screen to right)

Riri read her mail and was like, I don’t know what the rest of these people are wearing to the Commes des Garçons-themed Met Gala, but I think I’ll wear…wait for it…Commes des Garçons!

No, I am not saying all you have to do is wear the designer that best fits the theme in order to slay. That could go basic and wrong too. There are tons of examples of that in previous years actually. But, it would be a great start, especially with an aesthetic so well defined, known, and celebrated throughout the industry for over four decades.

I don’t know who these stylists who sent people to the Met Gala in junior prom dresses are. Whoever told them that if their client wore the same basic thing one could (and they do!) wear to the twenty thousand awards shows before and after the Met Gala that they would win them the “Gag Award” LIED, lied big time. Why they put their clients in looks that are violently opposed to Kawakubo’s own aesthetic or the idea of avant grade is a mystery only Jessica Fletcher can solve, but either way they are definitely doing their clients a disservice.

But maybe that’s the point. Maybe they take a medicalized “first do no harm” approach to fashion, and are more content to be on the safe list and not the standout list, but in the economy of celebrity isn’t standing out actually the point? You can’t stand out with no risk. As my grandmama taught me, you gotta bring some to get some.

Next to Rihanna was also Tracee Ellis Ross, who must have heard that Zendaya was gonna come dressed like her mama circa the 1970s (and that’s no shade, Zendaya looked amazing and was, aesthetically, still in the wheelhouse of Comme des Garçon serving us volume, volume, volume head to toe in Dolce and Gabbana!) …

Zendaya

 

… and so Tracee decided she, like Rihanna would work with the fashion challenge for the evening and wear Commes des Garçons too. And thank God she did!

Tracee Ellis Ross

And there were others. Helen Lasicanh, the partner of Pharrell Williams clearly read her mail:

Solange, another person we can count on every single year. I present the receipts:

2016

2015

And this year she continued to bring it, gave us something to talk about, and was gorgeous as always.

Solange wearing Thom Browne at the Met Gala, 2017

 

Do note that this is NOT Kawakubo/Commes des Garçons. This look Solange is wearing is by the always exciting Thom Browne. When I saw it I thought for sure it was Rei Kawakubo’s work, and I was wrong. But the fact that I even thought it was Kawakubo is a good look on Browne and Solange, they get it. This look is totally in the Browne wheelhouse and plays with some of the house codes of Kawakubo’s aesthetic. Thom Browne, someone who like Kawakubo pushes the envelope in menswear and womenswear season after season, gets why you can’t be basic on tonight and gave us something memorable. Sure, Buzz feed joked that Solange’s look was reminiscent of a sleeping bag for a camping trip, BUT they also said she still looked better than everybody else throwing her shade for her REI fashionS. She wins. I rest my case.

To be fair, there were some Black women who came on this beautiful but predictable red carpet too. Kerry Washington, Naomi Campbell, Halle Berry. All wore fabulous gowns and on any other night would be on a best dressed list for me, but on THIS NIGHT they faded into the background. They know better and needed to do better. Also, let me acknowledge that not all white women came to be safe and sad, but I just think Beyonce called them and was like “hey Katy Perry, hey Julianne Moore: I’m not going to make it this year, I am too busy posing in a couture toilet paper hat and bikini for my baby shower pictures. Can ya’ll come to slay and help my sister and Rihanna out?” And they was like, “yeah, we got you.” So we gonna log that too under Black women saving things, even if this conversation only occurred in my head (paints nails). Shout out to Katy Perry and Julianne Moore who came with it too. I was intrigued for sure, I mean it.  And Pryiyanka Chopra, I see you in that Ralph Lauren trench coat dress. You too came to slay!

Anyway, Beyonce, we’ll be waiting for your return. We would have loved to see what you would have done with the theme, and we missed all of this last night:

 

Here’s hoping at Met Gala 2018 you, Rihanna, Solange, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Helen Lasicanh will have even more company.

Beauty, Fashion, On the Carpet, Pop Culture, WERK!

Dominique’s Oscars 2017 Recap

February 27, 2017

by Dominique Michelle Davis

Jimmy Kimmel’s witty and clever one-liners infusing political commentary with Hollywood elite was right on time and made this Oscars much more fun and funny to watch than in recent years. Though many were understandably not happy with his handling of the cast and crew of “Moonlight ” almost leaving the evening without the award that was rightfully theirs, Kimmel did shine with comic moments like his tweeting President Trump live and referencing the “overrated” Meryl Streep tweet from the petty President. One of my favorite moments of laughter.

The other highlight of the evening was Moonlight receiving awards for Best Supporting Actor and Best Picture. The 2017 Oscar Awards brought a refreshing and much needed perspective in presenting inclusivity. I was in awe and admiration of Mr. Farhadi’s refusal to attend the awards because of the ridiculous and outrageous ban that President Trump has enacted against immigrants – documented and undocumented. It was inspiring to see Hollywood Celebs using this platform as a means to promote human rights and speak in opposition of laws that go against the very nature of the founding principals of the United States of America.

On the fashion front, here are my Best Dressed Looks for Oscar Night 2017:

Tony, Emmy, and now Oscar winner Viola Davis wearing Armani Privé.

 

Janelle Monae wearing Elie Saab Couture.

 

Last year’s Best Actress winner Brie Larson, wearing an Oscar de la Renta gown.

 

Nominee for Best Actress, Ruth Negga of the film “Loving,” in a glorious custom Valentino in the signature “valentino red.”

 

We always love Chrissy Teigen, and we also always love her in Zuhair Murad. A perfect match.

 

The “around the way girl” herself, Taraji P. Hensen, stealing the show as always in a sexy, sophisticated, Alberta Ferretti gown.

Fashion, Film, On the Carpet, WERK!

Oscar ’16 Glamourtunists of the Night

February 29, 2016

In general we found this year’s Academy Awards red carpet to be quite uninspiring. No one really blew us totally away, and in general many of the people you look forward to seeing on the red carpet weren’t even at the show this year. Also, the lack of diversity in the Oscar nominations itself were repeated on the red carpet, as reflected in the fact that there were almost no people of color on the red carpet this year, and certainly none of our fashion faves. No Lupita. No Viola. No Salma Hayek. No J. Lo. It was very sad. We did manage to find some favorite looks from the men and women on the red carpet, and present you our Glamourtunists of the night:

Glamourtunists of the Night – Men

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The always handsome Michael Strahan stunned in a tourqoise tuxedo. He wore a similar such tuxedo in bourdeaux at the 2014 Oscars.

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Eddie Redmayne went for a classic black tuxedo, this one from Alexander McQueen. The texture of the jacket juxtaposed to the lapel and pants looked great, as did the tailoring.

Glamourtunists of the Night – Women

Olivia Munn - Oscars 16

Olivia Munn’s coral stella McCartney gown had us at hello!

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Saorise Ronan’s custom emerald Calvin Klein was a serious show stopper. The color of the garment matched her hair color perfectly, and the plunging neckline and shimmer was definite sexy, hollywood glamour.

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This pleated, ivory dream gown by Valentino made Olivia Wilde a bell of the ball. The high-wasit line and peek-a-boo sides and cleavage baring top of the gown blended sexy and sophistication perfectly. The clutch was a bit too clunky for our taste, but everything else was perfect. Wilde’s hairstyle was also one of our favorite beauty looks of the night.

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Chile’ we are NEVER surprised when mother Charlize Theron comes to shut down the entire red carpet situation, and yet we are always left with our mouth hanging open by how glorious she looks. Her look last night had the same effect. Flawless! Our favorite thing about this look was the beautiful diamond necklace she wore that create the illusion of a cutout panel given where it draped between her skin and the gown.

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And last but not least, Brie Larson, the evening’s Best Actress winner in this cerulean, ruffle Gucci gown. The opulence of her very ornate belt is what elevated this look to such a big night without overwhelming the look itself. Well done, and congratulations Brie.

Editor's Aesthetics, Fashion, Glamourtunist, WERK!

Capes, Clutches and Consignment: The Editor’s Closet

January 25, 2016

Almost two years ago, rapper and Harlemite Cam’ron walked the runway of a Mark McNairy fashion show wearing a gray suit, a camo fitted cap, and a fur lined tweed cape, and folks thought he had lost his mind. But he looked so damn fly anyway. This past September, actor turned Central St. Martin’s fashion design student Antonio Banderas, announced his intention to start a menswear line and to experiment with making the cape a steady thing in menswear. For many men the cape as accessory has already been a thing, but this Fall capes seem to be everywhere on runways and of course on the streets. And I am all the way here for it!

As a stylist, I am so much more daring in what I put in other people’s closets than what I am willing to risk putting in my own. These are my confessions. Forgive me Diana Vreeland, for I have sinned! And I totally just wrote that line just to show you a high-fashion, Yves Saint Laurent nun.

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From Stefano Pilati’s Fall 2010 YSL Collection.

You’re welcome. Seriously though, I think what is true for me is true for many stylists and some fashion designers too: we are so busy pushing fashion for everyone else, we run out of gas and so we find our fierce thing we do and just keep doing it. And that’s ok, we still kill it. Michael Kors, for example, has said he started wearing his all Black jacket, shirt, pant, shoe, and aviator ensembles because he was so focused on thinking about what everyone else should be wearing he wanted to deliver himself from the pressure of having to always go through his closet to make a fierce look for himself Every. Damn Day. And what could be more instant chic and elegant than all Black everything? Uh, nothing. Here are the receipts:

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Michael Kors in his signature all Black ensemble.

You better WERK, Michael Kors! I totally feel the same way, and so people for whom I have shopped with/for or styled have reaped the benefits of my creativity in style way more than I have at times. One of the things I had been putting people onto for EVER were capes, on capes, on capes. I had been obsessed with capes in womenswear first, but didn’t really lose my mind about it until I saw it in evening wear when Gwyneth Paltrow and then Lupita Nyong’o slayed our entire Universe wearing a Tom Ford and Ralph Lauren gown with capes on awards season red carpets in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

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Lupita and Gwyneth: The Cape Has Arisen

I never really saw wearing capes as being a thing for myself. Then this Christmas my bae bought me a gorgeous, black and white geometric print cape. And as someone who has a very defined sense of what I do and do not wear, I freaked the hell out. I loved it at first sight, but was like “ummm, not happening” and figured it would look gorgeous in my closet or to loan to someone else. But in her new book (which I am now reading) Shonda Rhimes says it’s our “Year of Yes” or as I call 2016, my “Year of Yaaassszzz” so I questioned why my fear was on autopilot with my fashion at the moment, and decided to at least try it on. And I did. And then I twirled, and twirled some more. And then I was born again.

dog twirl

 

And now all I do is go online in search of capes. The last time this happened I began buying all the caftans, not even to wear outside, but just to sit at my desk and wear when I write. Ya’ll pray for my finances, because the devil is all in my pocketbook!

Further making capes a thing for me has been I love them with clutches, which now means I spend my weekends also buying up all the clutches. My favorite place to do this is consignment stores. On one recent shopping trip I purchased these three clutches for about $40:

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My consignment clutches. Which one do you like the most? Mine is the green.

I paired the green clutch with the cape I got for Christmas and wore it just last week. I have upcoming fashion plans for the other two, both with a cape of course.I also found this lovely clutch at a boutique in my neighborhood, and am thinking of how to rock it. Something tells me it’ll be worn with a cape too. This is becoming a problem, folks.

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Is there an item in your closet or something you considered too out your fashion wheelhouse to give it a shot? Tweet me, Facebook me, or leave a comment and let me know what that item is and let’s chat about how you can make it work in 2016. I mean, if I am twirling around town wearing a cape and a clutch bag, anything can happen.

– edp

Fashion, Pop Culture, WERK!

Happy Thanksgiving, Dear Hearts!

November 26, 2015

This is probably Anna Wintour’s turkey, right? This bird is serving the children fashion on her big day, and I live. Happy Thanksgiving, dear hearts! May your souls be filled with gratitude for blessings known and unknown. Love, Team Glamourtunist

Beauty, Fashion, WERK!

Sistas That Slay Together, Stay Together: A Quann Sisters Photo Essay

November 10, 2015

by Eric Darnell Pritchard (photo credit (above): Hannah Thomson via vogue.com)

From Venus and Serena Williams and Gigi and Bella Hadid, to Solange Knowles and big sister Beyonce, and Jessica and Ashley Simpson, we have learned time and time again that sisters who slay together, stay together. This a photo essay dedicated to another dynamic duo: The Quann Sisters.

At the recent 2015 CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund Awards, a number of fashion luminaries took to the red carpet serving opulence, fierceness, elegance, and of course, luxury. A standout among the crowd at the awards, and in fashion, style and music generally, are Cipriana Quann and TK Wonder/Takenyah “TK” Quann, known affectionately to many as “The Quann Sisters.” The pair, as a result of their red carpet looks, made it onto yet another best dressed list wearing gorgeous ravishing purple (TK) and green (Cirpriana) Ohne Titel dresses to the awards event. The sisters have long been among my personal favorites in the style world, and thus their fierceness on that night was no surprise to me (or anybody else, really). As I said of Grace Jones in a recent post, The Quann Sisters too epitomize the fierceness, beauty, brilliance, and courage that is a  “black girl arrogance” that deserves praise, as they are defining genius, sophistication, and style against the grain and on their own terms in a world that has not and does not always celebrate Black women and girls.

Cipriana is founder and editor-in-chief of the lifestyle website Urban Bush Babes. TK is a musician (check out her music video “Van Gogh”) and a contributing writer for her sister’s website. The sisters, Baltimore natives, reside in NYC and in recent years have been featured in a number of print and online publications including the venerable fashion institutions Vogue  and W Magazine, respectively. Both have done much to educate people about the importance and beauty of natural hair care via their writings and visual archive as they also model as well, and are represented by IMG.

Here the Quann sisters had the following to say about their view of fashion:

“Fashion to us tells your personality, it speaks to who you are inside. I mean, some people may say style is superficial, but I think there is so much more to fashion than just appearance. Women find confidence in the clothes that they wear, so we find there is something very empowering knowing what works for you. ” – TK Wonder

“My twin and I have always been into fashion. We always joke and say in the womb we were best friends.”
– Cipriana Quann

What follows is a photo essay of the slay-age known as The Quann Sisters, who are amassing a virtual archive of photographs that will sure to be favorites in the fashion and style histories written by the future:

photo credit: Adrian Morales - snappylifestyle.com

photo credit: Adrian Morales

 

Inez & Vinoodh for Vogue Magazine February 2015

Inez & Vinoodh for Vogue Magazine February 2015

 

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photo credit: Diego Villarreal

 

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photo credit: Hannan Saleh

 

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via coveuteur.com

 

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photo credit: Diego Villarreal

 

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photo credit: Diego Villarreal

 

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photo credit: Diego Villarreal

 

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via islandboiphotography-Instagram/Joey Rosado

 

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photo credit: Tyler Joe via Elle.com

 

quann-patterns

photo credit: Charlotte Wales via urbanbushbabes.com

 

 

And now that your edges are all snatched and collected into little dime bags, do know that your hair will only be redistributed back to you in said bags with receipts that you have read and shared this photo essay. Also, as I am sure this photo essay will leave you wanting to see more of the Quann Sisters putting in that WERK!, you can follow them on Instagram: @ciprianaquann and @tk_wonder.

 

Beauty, Fashion, History, Pop Culture, WERK!

Rewind, 2008: Plus-Size Model Toccara Jones and Vogue Italia’s ‘All-Black Issue’

November 5, 2015

by Eric Darnell Pritchard

“I wanted to say something about weight, and I’m never allowed to do that,” said legendary fashion photographer Steven Meisel, as quoted in a June 2008 story by New York Times by fashion critic Cathy Horyn. “I met Toccara and thought, she’s beautiful. What’s the deal with her? She’s great and she’s sexy.”

Meisel was speaking on photographing plus-size model Toccara Jones, for what is now remembers as an epic moment in recent fashion history. In August of 2008, Vogue Italia published a special issue of the magazine in which they only used Black models in its editorial pages. The magazine cover featured model Liya Kebede on a fold-out cover, with models Sessilee Lopez, Jourdan Dunn and iconic supermodel Naomi Campbell on three additional covers unfurling like an accordion from Kebede’s. In addition to Campbell, many other legendary Black models including Iman, Tyra Banks, and Veronica Webb were featured, alongside a number of emerging model talents of the time.

The issue, conceived by Vogue Italia’s editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani, featured over 100 pages of editorial content shot by Meisel. In press reports Sozzani stated that the inspiration for the issue was then Senator Barack Obama, with the internationally adored Michelle Obama with him, winning the Democratic Party nomination for President, but also, and Meisel conquered, the lack of diversity in fashion on the runway, in advertisements, editorial spreads and throughout the fashion industry.

While the focus of most press coverage on the issue was initially about the fact that the magazine would be using all Black models, and lots of speculation on what models would be featured in such an iconic issue, once information on what  much of the contents of the issue was previewed the clear stunner to shut down the entire issue was model Toccara Jones. Jones, a former contestant and fan-favorite on Tyra Banks’ popular reality competition show “America’s Next Top Model,” was photographed by Meisel in a sexy, luxurious, fantasy ride of an editorial in a fashion story in which the model is depicted wearing almost nothing but a variety of fur coats. The representational and historical significance of featuring Jones is that she was a plus-sized model, so while the media frenzy that the issue was featuring Black models was fully on, here comes Jones in the issue killin’ it for Black girls and curry girls everywhere. But don’t take my word for it, here is your trip down memory lane below, but first, a shout-out to Toccara Jones! YOU DID THAT!

 

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Beauty, Music, News, Pop Culture, WERK!

On No Make-Up Adele

November 4, 2015

by Eric Darnell Pritchard

Adele Adkins insists upon coming to collect the very few edges we have left. Last week she did an old school, Harry Potter “avradacadavra” curse on our ENTIRE life, first with an open letter apologizing for being away from us so long:

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Around the same time she appeared as the latest cover model for i-D Magazine which I posted about here, serving us the cat eye of life, and I was ALREADY ready for her to leave me alone, leave her album at my doorstep, and just go away.  She’s too damn amazing. I can’t take it anymore. But of course, whereas normal people know to go have a seat when they slay the entire Universe in just a matter of days, Adele is like NAH! let me revive them JUST so I can kill them again. And so within days of saying I am sorry I won that Oscar and disappeared on ya’ll, she shows up on our iTunes like “Hello”  ?

 

adele-hello-twitter

So, yesterday when I heard she was on the cover of Rolling Stone I was like, nope not looking. She will not do this to me again. Why is she in my mind this much and it hasn’t even been a full two weeks since that damn open letter? Do I need to charge her rent for living up in my head and my heart in this way? Not looking. Not ON TODAY. Welp, I looked anyway and while I do not regret it, my soul does. Because no make-up Adele is just as (if not even more) gorgeous than make-up Adele. Here are the receipts:

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Now can we all go back to our business. Of course not. We have a magazine cover to obsess over the rest of the week? Thanks, Adele. Ugh. *Wall slides*

 

Beauty, Beauty, Fashion, Film, History, Music, Pop Culture, WERK!

A Moment of Grace: In Praise of Black Girl Arrogance

November 2, 2015

by Eric Darnell Pritchard

This Grace is sufficient. Maybe she inspired you to become more flexible so you, too, could bend and contort yourself into a scene of “Island Life.” Or, perhaps she hula-hooped you into a trance, moving the cylindrical toy around her waist as she, mic in hand, belted out one of her popular songs. It could very well be her legendary beauty – her fierceness piercing the still life of every photo she has taken, or her masterful, delicious storytelling in her recently released memoirs. In whatever incarnation you encountered Grace Jones, you, like me, are likely to have gotten your life, or multiple lives because Grace slays you and you are reborn. Grace is reincarnation.

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Grace Jones represents the very best of so many aesthetically sublime and delicious possibilities and realizations for global fashion and popular culture. In addition to her album covers, music videos, and fashion editorials, she is etched into our minds through so many other moments: her role of eccentric fashion model Strangé in the 1992 film “Boomerang”; any one of the many photos of her live performances in her decades long career, such as a 1987 performance where she collaborated with artist Keith Haring for her stage costume; and her memorable runway walks such as at the Summer 1988/89 Patrick Kelly show in Paris, where she walked the runway dressed in a black bathing suit and cape adorned with an applique of neon stars and planets, red tights, a bustle of individual scarves of various colors hanging from her waste, and a hat with a long white ponytail hanging out of the top. In each of these moments and so many more, the camera shutter opens and closes on her to fulfill the promise, play, and pulchritude of every single image she has created. Her visual and performance archive is always embodying and emboldening the radical potential of fashion, music, dance, performance art and photography for exploding the neat boundaries built around race, gender, sexuality, time, and space from one moment to the next. Grace is divine.

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The icon and iconography of Grace Jones emerges as a clear archive of Black girl arrogance in all its fashionable fierceness and intervention. Black girl arrogance refers to both a spirit and embodiment of intelligent, beautiful, desirable, fierce daring that Black girls and women represent – whether on the runway or in the streets, in the classroom or the boardroom, at the piano or behind the podium – that makes their presence known in a social, political, cultural context or milieu that would rather render them unknown. It is thus at times an organic way of being, and in other moments a chosen tactic, that is always and already for one’s self. Sometimes that arrogance is refusing the gaze and living one’s life, and still other times it demands of you, “see me.” The fact that anyone else gets to witness this divinity is, well, grace. And I return to Grace Jones here to give her the respect she so deserves, but also because it is through returning to Grace that I believe Black girl arrogance, in all of its complexities and genius, is re-membered for now and for what is to come.

For instance, Black girl arrogance has once again been made legible at the intersections of fashion and style with television, film, and music. We saw it just recently in Emmy-nominated actress and transgender activist Laverne Cox’s stunning photos in Allure Magazine, and in her many other moments including her picture on a 2014 cover of Time Magazine. We see it in Academy Award-winner Lupita Nyong’o’s boundary breaking and trendsetting beauty and glamour, which has completely raised the bar for red carpets all over the globe. We see it in Solange Knowles’ epic wedding photo, which flooded our Facebook newsfeeds, Twitter timelines, and Instagram pages with panoramic shots of gorgeous Black women adorned in radiant ivory gowns, and effecting the etherealness of any dream we wish would come true. And where Solange leaves us dreaming, big sister Beyoncé made “I woke up like this” the mantra of every bold and brilliant person ready to declare that who I am and how I am is already “Flawless.” The 2015 “Black Girls Rock” award show that aired on BET and Centric offered numerous examples of Black girl arrogance as intervention in many of the speeches including those by singer Erykah Badu, educator Nadia Lopez, FLOTUS Michelle Obama, Dr. Helene Gayle, and actress Jada Pinkett Smith. What about Rihanna’s recent performance of “Bitch Better Have My Money” at the #iHeartRadio Awards? The performance included many elements of power moments from the archive of Black women international pop star performances, from Lil’ Kim’s green wig and furs in the video for her 90s hit “Crush On You” to Diana Ross’s epic exiting of the superbowl halftime show in a helicopter that descended on the stage to whisk her away (also reminiscent of Grace Jones’ Strangé’s epic arrival in “Boomerang” via helicopter, and then a chariot driven by men). Here Rihanna’s daring is part of a continuum in her performances of Black girl arrogance, including her homage to Josephine Baker on the occasion of the legendary performer’s birthday at the red carpet of the 2014 CFDA Awards, where Rihanna was clad in a transparent bosom bearing silver beaded gown and bejeweled headdress. For Black women performers and Black girl arrogance, the archive and the ancestry matters. Grace matters.

It is imperative to note the historical antecedents for Grace Jones – the eccentric freedom of Eartha Kitt, the elegance and sophistication of Lena Horne and Ruby Dee, and the beauty folk ways of Maya Angelou and Cicely Tyson most come to mind. Another historical antecedent that demonstrates Black girl arrogance, and laid important roots for Grace Jones to later help define and then defy boundaries around Blackness and femininity, appears in the wonderful documentary Versailles ’73: An American Revolution. The documentary examines the legendary battle at Versailles fashion face-off between five American and five Parisian design houses, a tale examined in greater depth in the new book The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan. Among the points made by several of the interviewees that appear in Versaille ‘73, including legendary fashion model and editor China Machado, fashion historian Barbara Summers, and fashion and beauty editor Mikki Taylor, was that the success of the American presentation at that show was the presence of Black models Norma Jean Darden, Pat Cleveland, Bethann Hardison, and so many others, whose walk of “affirmation” to quote Taylor, was what set the American show apart from the Parisian set.

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While Taylor’s observation about the impact of the Black models affirmative stance is in itself a rich one to engage, I look at that moment, at Grace, and the intersections of fashion and identity and submit that amongst the gems that Black models brought (and still bring) to the runway was something that is actually in excess of “affirmation”: Black girl arrogance. This Black girl arrogance, though embedded in the very movement and being-ness of the Black models at the ’73 show at Versailles is so missing from the runways of today’s fashion shows in the lack of racial ethnic diversity, as rightfully noted in the 2014 open letter of protest authored by Hardison, and models Iman and Naomi Campbell. A black girl arrogance that haunts us when we remember the days of fashion past, and are reminded of the disappeared characteristic of personality that was once an essential ingredient to the development of a signature walk and presence on the runways for any model, Black or otherwise.

I am convinced that whether or not uniqueness and personality were ever embraced, Grace Jones would still be who she was and is. What other way was there for her to be? Still, in the way that she pushes us beyond our comfort zones, and shows us what it means to create a path for one’s self through an ethos of having no fucks to give, the existence of Grace Jones and all she has meant is priceless. Here’s hoping the next era of fashion and popular culture will applaud and embrace these moments of productive defiance like the Black girl arrogance revival of which I write, on the runways, in ad campaigns, and at the head of design houses and fashion magazines. Clearly television has received the memo, as evident in shows headed by defiant, brilliant, Black women are at the top of the ratings and lording over the zeitgeist of popular culture, from Kerry Washington’s portrayal of Olivia Pope on “Scandal” and Gabrielle Union’s Mary Jane Paul on BET’s “Being Mary Jane,” to Viola Davis’s multilayered Professor Annalise Keating on ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder,” and most recently, leading the pack is Taraji P. Henson’s critically acclaimed and popularly adored Cookie Lyon on Fox’s juggernaut “Empire.” It is the very thing that seems to revive the very lifeblood of this global industry and persists in fashioning a future. No matter what, Grace Jones, her predecessors and descendants will carry on being their fierce self. They woke up like this.

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