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Latrice Phoenix and Melanin Theory Apparel

Last week I got the chance to meet up with Latrice Phoenix, a business minded mommy from Pittsburgh who owns not one, not two, but three businesses BY HERSELF. In addition to her photography business, Latrice Phoenix Photography, and her non-profit, Melanin Mommies Pgh, Latrice’s newest endeavor is called Melanin Theory Apparel, which happens to be a pro-black fashion line designed to uplift and empower black folk through our biggest and brightest superpower, melanin. Naturally, when I found out about this dope brand, I had to learn more. I was able to catch up with Latrice and get the inside scoop on Melanin Theory Apparel and the direction she plans to take it.


Latrice in Got Melanin? Tee and Ari in Melanin Queen Tee

Ari: So, for those that don’t know, yes, you founded and own Melanin Theory but this endeavor is not second, but third to your photography business, Latrice Phoenix Photography, and your non-profit, Melanin Mommies Pgh. What inspired you to not only launch a third business, but also to create and supply pro-black fashion in Pittsburgh? 

Latrice: Melanin Theory has always been an idea of mine. I first designed the shirts a few years ago and went to my graphic designer with the idea. Unfortunately, I just had too much going on at the time to really launch the line, and it’s still not perfect. I eventually would like to add more apparel and accessories.

Ari: As a rising entrepreneur, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced with not only running multiple business, but also with being a double minority business owner?

Latrice: Financial support is always a struggle. I am juggling so many endeavors and I am a one woman show. Melanin Theory is fairly new, so it’s not perfect; I’m not perfect, but every day I strive to get better and put more into the brand.


Latrice in Melanin Theory Apparel


Ari: What motivates you to keep going every day? What is your “why?”

Latrice: My daughter is my why. I want her to always see her mom working and striving to accomplish her dreams. I want her to see me building towards wealth and financial freedom. Being an entrepreneur is hard, but I show her that it’s an option. When I was growing up I didn’t have anyone showing me other options. I knew going to school and going to college– even with that I’m the first in my family to graduate high school and college.

Latrice and her “why” in Melanin Theory Apparel


Ari: What can customers expect to see from Melanin Theory in the coming months?

Latrice: Great question. Customers can expect to see more apparel for kids. I’ll also be scouting for brand ambassadors and doing local photo shoots.

Ari: How would you explain your personal style?

Latrice: Honestly, at 29 I’m just coming into my “personal style”. I’ve done a lot of trial and error over the years trying to find my “style.” I’ve even hired a stylist a few times. I mostly wear what I’m comfortable with, I dress by my mood. If I’m feeling flirty and sexy I’ll look that way, if I’m feeling afro-centric I’ll look that way as well. Then sometimes, I want to look completely different and cater to my alter egos.


Ari in Melanin Theory Apparel


Ari: What is your overall goal with Melanin Theory Apparel? What is MTA’s legacy?

Latrice: My goal with Melanin Theory is to create apparel centered around the actual theory of the power in Melanin skin. Melanin Theory is an Afrocentric claim that the higher level of melanin in the skin the higher intellectual and physical ability ultimately creating supernatural powers. That is such a powerful theory and I want young black people to wear something that represents that–our magic.

Ari: What advice would you share with young WOC starting their own small business?

Latrice: Take the leap. Do it whatever it is. Just do it. Fight for your dreams and keep fighting. Yes, it’s hard, but no one said it would be easy so why not now?

Latrice and Ari for Melanin Theory Apparel

Special Thanks to Latrice Phoenix and Melanin Theory Apparel. Be sure to check out the Melanin Theory Apparel website here and keep up on social media through Facebook and Instagram as well.

Loving Your Reflection: Loving the Skin You’re in Fashion Show

Loving Your Reflection is a performance agency that hosts several body positive shows and events throughout Pittsburgh. This year, founder of Loving Your Reflection, Danielle Jackson Thorn, hosted an impeccable fashion show and performance called Loving the Skin You’re In, and it was filled with body love, shameless sexual expression, and the triumph that comes with finally loving and accepting the skin you’re in.

Facebook: Loving Your Reflection
Instagram: @loving_your_reflection

“The mission of Loving Your Reflection is to create a safe space for individuals to explore the relationships they have with their bodies and encourage them to change their inner narrative and learn to love the skin they’re in,” said Danielle. The show consisted of several different acts including performance art, belly dancing, spoken word, and of course, a fashion show. Danielle went on to say, “This event was necessary to bring together communities that may not have the chance to work together otherwise and highlight body diversity.” I had the privilege of taking part in this beautiful experience and not only got to meet some of the models and performers, but also got to observe backstage life, and walk in the show for one of my favorite brands, Fat Mermaids.

Above photos: Ari and Danielle rocking Fat Mermaids Tees during the show. Ari’s photo was taken by PJ Sage and Danielle’s was taken by Sarah Rose


Backstage

The air of a backstage right before and during the show is unlike any other. Yes, there are several performance people frantically running around and trying to contour the shit out of their faces, but more than that it is a community; a likeminded group of individuals, working collectively, and enhancing  the experience of the show and ultimately the perspective of the community. It’s similar to the magic you feel while dancing and singing to your favorite song in the mirror, but this time there’s a bunch of people dancing and singing with you and hyping you up! Honestly, it’s just one of those invigorating environments that will have you feeling anxious, fearless, nervous, brave, and empowered. Of course now I’m obsessed with recreating that atmosphere everywhere I go because it was such a good vibe.

Photo on the right was taken by Sarah Rose

What I wore and who I rocked on the runway

Ok, let’s talk outfit details. For the VIP meet and greet reception, we were required to wear black and change into runway attire once we were backstage before and during the show. I wore a fun and flirty off the shoulder LDB from Forever 21+. I paired it with yellow ruffle 2-inch heels and minimal jewelry.

As mentioned before, I rocked Fat Mermaids on the runway which was literally perfect because if you don’t know, Fat Mermaids is a body positive brand that mixes fashion with magic and it’s owned by a Black woman!  I was so hype to rock their “IDGAF About Your Diet, Susan” shirt. We styled the shirt tied up in the back with black swim bottoms, and a donut (yes, I literally ate a donut on the runway). It worked out beautifully.

Above pictures were taken by PJ Sage

Takeaways

One of the main takeaways from this experience was always keep growing. I know I say that a lot, but that’s because it is an ever evolving process and to be honest, I’m really reminding myself more so than preaching at y’all. Another takeaway I gained is to trust your creativity, and find people that believe in it just as much as you do. As mentioned before, the energy backstage was off the charts, but that’s because everyone was spawning positive vibes due to believing in each other’s individuality (now, imagine if America operated like this!). Finally, I was reminded to stop taking myself so seriously. So many times we get caught up in making sure our ideal image is the one we portray, and we literally miss the moment we are living through. Being in the company of so many beautifully different people encouraged me to harness my me and let her be great; hence, the donut on the runway.

Photo by Sarah Rose

I had such an amazing time at the show. I would like to send a special thank you to Danielle Jackson Thorn and her team for inviting me to take part in this epic experience and believing in my mission enough to showcase it in this production. I’m so grateful for this space, and look forward to seeing what Loving Your Reflection has in store for the future. I’d also like to thank Fat Mermaids for trusting me to rock their brand and helping facilitate body diversity.

Introducing The Queenpin PGH

Since the beginning of time as original people, Black women have been the refuge the world needs. We have given life to the nations, only to have ours taken away. We have held it down, only to be let go of once we are no longer needed. We have been the backbone of nearly every social justice movement in this country, only to stand alone, without support, and fight (and win) on our own. There is no stronger being than that of a Black woman, because even in the best of situations, the world still sees you as just that, a Black woman. Read More

Why I am STILL Boycotting the NFL

2b00f405-b1d9-4662-a0e1-de788cb41c0bIt’s been a full two seasons since I’ve watched my beloved Steelers play. Ben is nearing retirement, Antonio Brown was apparently uninvited to the Pro Bowl, and I guess now the Kardashians have something to do with it? As much as it breaks my heart to miss them Burgh boys barely miss the playoffs and listen to Coach Tomlin’s answer as to why without mever really giving an answer, I can’t help but feel good about my continued boycott of the racist as ever National Football League.

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Fashion Highlight: Farath Rap, Danielle Luckett and Let Me Live, LLC

Y’all know I’m always on the lookout for fashion brands owned by black women and women of color. Well, last month I had the opportunity to sit and chat with Farath Raphael and Danielle Luckett, the founders and owners of Let Me Live, LLC. LML is an appropriately named sports fashion brand with a strong call to freedom and individuality, which its founders describe as informative fashion. I am thrilled to share what I’ve learned about this powerful brand and its phenomenal owners. Check it out.

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What Christmas Means to Me

I must admit that although it has been increasingly hard to celebrate the holidays in recent years, I love Christmas. I love Christmas because my mom loves Christmas and always makes the home and environment so warm and loving. Most of my love for this holiday comes from childhood traditions like helping my mom make cookies from scratch while The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole played in the background, or watching A Muppet Christmas Carol on Christmas eve while my mom reminisced on the first time she took me to the movies to see that exact film. But lately it’s different.

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