Living in the Arts in NYC: The New Black?

by Valerie Jean-Charles, High 5 Staff on April 14, 2011

in High 5 Staff Blog


From L-R: Zandile Blay, Emil Wilbekin, Bethann Hardison, Lola Ogaunnaike

On Thursday, April 7th, I attended a panel at our partner organization the MAD Museum titled The New Black: Fashion and Design on Branding Culture. The panel featured three prominent, black figures in the fashion world: Zandile Blay (fashion editor of Essence Magazine and editor of ASD and the Blay Report), Bethann Hardison (legendary model and Editor-At-Large of Vogue Italia), Emil Wilbekin (Managing Editor at, and Lola Ogaunnaike (of CNN and is also a well-known writer and television personality).

So yes, I sat there in the Museum auditorium for two hours and listened to these giants  debate topics such as branding, empires, entrepreneurs, the internet, and bloggers. Although amazing points and quips were made regarding these ideas (i.e “What’s your brand, boo?!” – Emil), they all agreed on one thing: business measures and opinions can truly hinder the growth of a talented designer.

With a shortage of lines by designers of color being sold in stores and mall outlets, the panel members agreed that issues such as little to no investors and illusions of grandeur yield many artists from catapulting to the national/international stage. One obstacle that they discussed in detail was the matter of opinion. In our present day, unless a celebrity places a stamp of approval on a certain look, it may never get noticed or be deemed “hot.”For example, nail art is all the craze these days with celebrities. Nails decorated extensively with illustrations of flowers, fruits, and flags (oh my!) are a regular fixture on the red carpet. Yet, this style has been in existence since possibly the early 80s in the inner-cities. It wasn’t until stars such as Rihanna and Katy Perry started flaunting them that they are regarded as being “in”, and called “art” (and rightfully so).

Like most panel discussions, this one discussed the issues (regarding wearable art and people of color), but offered little to no solutions to these problems. But, this really didn’t bother me much. As I looked around the room, I was proud to see so many brown and black faces discussing, explaining, dissecting, and questioning fashion as it pertains to not only our communities but the world.

This is Nail Art btw, for those of you who may be wondering…

Wack picture taken by my BFF at the event…



Photo sources: WireImage,, and my bestie’s Twitpic account.

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