Anniversary issue Feb/Mar 2017

Featuring Life After City High with Claudette Ortiz, NYFW and More!

Featuring Life After City High with Claudette Ortiz, NYFW and More!


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| ISSUE no 6

Adele, winner of Album Of The

Year,Best Pop Vocal Album for

'25' and Song Of The Year.

Record Of The Year and Best

Pop Solo Performance for

'Hello,' poses in the press

room during The 59th




Red Carpet


Adele looked to Riccardo

Tisci and Givenchy for this


Claudette Ortiz

Life After City High

Page 29

Photographer: Antoinne Jones

Creative Director: Michael Lopez

Stylist: Jerry Thompson

Designer: Five 13 Studio

Hair: Terrence Davidson

Hair Asst. Sweetstyles by Kai &

Tamora Patrice

Nail Tech: Redd Flythe

Location: ATL GA Weldon Bond

Studios Jewelry: The Vintage Bar





Life After City High


With Latise M. Howie



Anitra Scott- Operations Manager/ Stephanie


Wilkerson~(Journalist/Event Coordinator)~Marage

Blakeney (Journalist)~Shannon

Rawley~(Co-Editor)~Desiree Helm~(Writer)~Monica

Jones~(NYC Contributor) Jerry Thompson~(Executive


Cover Art: Ty Statz

Photographer: Laurence Logan (The.TZ.Studio)

Photographer/Video: Emmanuel Toussaint

(Toussaint Studios)

Writers: Tasha McClarrin~(Writer/Contributor)~Davita

Collins~Writer)~Administrative Assistant: Maranda Moore

Creative Director: Michael Lopez-Bond

Public Relations: Pac PR

Tempestt Harris: CEO

Maresa Scott: COO/Editor Chief




The Anniver sar y


Tempestt Harris


It seems like we were introducing our end of year kids issue just a few

weeks ago, but now spring is at our door! In my family? as I?m sure is

the case in yours? the season is a time for sports, spring break and

beaches. But for me it is all about the FASHION! I enjoy the vibrant

colors, loose sundresses, skin, and bare feet. Whether you fashionistas

enjoy layering your favorite winter/fall trends or are just ready to break

out for spring, this issue will give you the tools you need to step out in


This Issue is our Anniversary issue. This is our official 2 year

anniversary as LEVEL21 MAGAZINE. We are so excited about the growth

and the amazing new partners and associates we have come to meet

and love. I hope that you all continue to challenge us and support us as

we step into new and exciting heights! The Goal is GREATER and we will

get there together!

XOXO, Tempestt Harris

M aresa Scott- NOTE FROM THE

COO/ Editor & Chief

Now that the holidays have come to a slower pace, we can begin to focus and prepare

ourselves for better weather, additional outdoor activities and even more luminous

colors! I am sure that most people will agree with the fact that spring is a time for

transition. Not only is it a transition in the weather, but it is also a time for a transition

in style. I am super excited to be putting away my warm neutral wardrobe colors and

stepping out in bright vibrant colors this Spring! Who cannot be excited about the fresh

air, cherry blossoms, day parties and barbeques?! I know I am fully prepared for this

Spring Fashion Issue, and we hope that through this editorial we help you to transition

in style too.

This issue is a very special edition for the Level21 Team. We have made several

modifications, we have come into contact with various partners, and have vastly grown

as a company. We have been working on this publication for roughly 7 years, but we

are enthusiastic to be celebrating our 2nd Year Anniversary of becoming Level21

Magazine! I hope that our readers have grown to love and appreciate the dedication

and time we put into providing you with current, trendy and accurate communications.

Our hope is that you all continue to grow with us, continue to challenge us and

continue to soar with us to new avenues that we may have never envisioned reaching!

This issue is for you! We hope that you enjoy reading it.

Sincerely,M aresa Scott

Al anl ux st udios


The Fashion

Mobst er

Alan Lux Studios is a creative,

unique and bold studio that

focuses on sports,

commercial and portrait

photography. We take great

pride in delivering a personal

approach to your

photography needs.


Meet The Inventor

Of The Smart Pillow

Shelton McCoy


fter a hard day?s work, you

pull up to your driveway, anxiously

pressing the garage door remote

control so you can dash into the

house to begin the first night of a

long weekend. Once inside, you

have managed to eat, take a hot,

steaming shower and you are ready

to hit your high-thread count cotton

sheets. Because your alert mind

prevents you from immediately

falling asleep, you decide to lay

down to relax with some soothing

music. Imagine if these wonderful

sounds echoing about your room

were actually coming from your

pillow? Is that even possible? Yes it

is, thanks to the brilliant mind of

Shelton McCoy, Founder and

Inventor of The SmartPillo Company


Tell us a bit about yourself.

Where are you from ?

I was born and raised in Brooklyn,

NY. I am the middle child of five. I

am the left handed middle child,

which is why I think that ventured

out into extreme things to get

attention; the middle child is the

?invisible child?.

You have a background as an

art ist . Tell us a bit about t hat ?

I entered the music industry, and

the first time going for it, I became a

platinum recording Hip Hop artist

with a group called Divine Sounds.

?What People Do for Money?, is a

record that is still being played


So you collaborat ed on a song

w it h Not orious BIG, can you

elaborat e on t his? How did t his

affect your m usic career?

I paid and requested reference

vocals from the Notorious B.I.G., on

a song I wrote called ?Macks N?nor

Dons?, which eventually became

part of the soundtrack to his biopic.

But, I never received credit, nor

funds for, even to this day. His

mother insisted that it was his song,

but I have proof that the song

belonged to me. After his untimely

death, I lost my taste for the

industry and left the music scene.

Then, I packed my things, and

moved to L.A. without knowing


Event ually, w hat led t o your

career in celebrit y securit y?

Six months after moving to L.A., I

was hanging out with some guys,

and I just bumped into a really cool

guy, who approached me, handing

me a business card. Because of my

size, he said I should join the

security team for American Idol, and

I worked there for three years. Next,

I toured with Carrie (Underwood) for

two-and-a-half years. The year I

joined American Idol, was the same

year she won, and because she

remembered me during the

competition, she asked me to join

her on tour as head of security. I

traveled all over with Carrie, and

met all kinds of high-end people, so

that is when I began submitting

patents because of my exposure to

the world, and my mind was just

running crazy and I realized I had an


You m ent ioned t hat you had

subm it t ed pat ent s before. Were

t hey prot ot ypes of t he Pillo?

I had a prior invention before the

SmartPillo. It was a dual-screen net

book, which was before there ever

was a tablet, kindle, or an iPad. It

was insane, I still have it. Because I

was ahead of my time, I was told

that people wouldn?t want to give up

their books, because they like the

feel of paper. Now, look at

everybody; they are on their tablets.

I lived in L.A. for eleven years, and

after I had that experience, I moved

to Fargo, North Dakota, just for a

year. I was put into a technology

incubator at NDSU (North Dakota

State University). I met some cool

people in North Dakota who

believed I had more to offer than

working security. I told them that I

do have some great ideas, and that I

am working on this patent, which

was the net book at the time. So, I

took my earnings from working with

Carrie and started The SmartPillo


What concerns did you have t hat

led t o your invent ion? What

personal healt h issues did you

have t hat cont ribut ed t o t he

Sm art Pillo?s creat ion?

As a protector and someone who is

protective by nature, I saw my

daughter, who was fifteen at the

time, stick her iPhone inside of her

head wrap so she would be hands

free. Prior to that, I saw a segment

on CNN about cell phone radiation,

and I even got a tumor on my ear

due to cell phone radiation. This is

why I don?t put a cell phone to my

ear anymore. I knew that it was

dangerous so I told my daughter to

stop putting the phone to her ear.

That night, I went to bed and as

clear as day, had a vision for a

Bluetooth Pillo, through which she

could talk to her friends, and even

listen to music. I put it all on the

line. I took my patent and went to

China alone. I even shared my idea

with my barber, Damian Johnson,

Owner of No Grease Barber Shop.

Barbers are also great therapists, so

I told him, and he is one of the first

people to tell me that it was a great

idea. That gave me the fuel to

pursue my dream. Three months

later, I had a working prototype for

the Pillo. If you ever want to pursue

something, write it down, so you can

see it everyday. So I sketched what I

wanted it to look like on paper, and I

looked at that paper everyday. The

paper now is talking to me. It is

indicating that ?Shelton, you need

speakers, because it is enabled by

Bluetooth technology.? I am now

looking at the paper for further

inspiration, and it says ?it is a Pillo,

now you need foam to hold the

speakers.? So I had to cut the foam

so all the components could fit

perfectly. Now, I needed a

seamstress to put the cover

together. And that is how I

accomplished this by the paper

telling me what to do. And here we

are, five years later, that The

SmartPillo Company has now

turned into Kushion, the world?s first

Bluetooth Pillo.

Did you know it w ould go t his


No I didn?t know my invention

would go this far, but I knew I had

something. Everyone I met and let

test the Pillo were in awe. I would let

them connect their phone to the

Pillo and they would be so

impressed with it. But, I didn't know

I would ever partner up with a

business tycoon! I called it a divine

connection, that I had nothing to do

with. Here I came from a group

called Divine Sound, and now here it

is I am having a divine connection

with a mogul like Michael Fux

(pronounced Fewks), who is the

inventor of the memory foam

pillow. I could have never

orchestrated this myself. I do not

even have an engineering

background. Sealy Corporation also

has a headquarters in Charlotte so

we met there. And, the CEO of Sealy

was even impressed with how I met

Michael Fux, asking ?how did you two

guys meet?? The Pillo is so amazing

and ahead of its time. So, if anyone

asks who the inventor of the Kushion

is, I can say, ?Shelton McCoy is the

inventor if the Kushion Pillo?.

We saw you on Good Morning

Am erica, feat uring som e

celebrit ies t est ing t he pillow s.

What w as t heir feedback on t he

product ? How did you land a

license agreem ent w it h

dist ribut ion com pany Com fort

Revolut ion?

I was on Good Morning America,

during Cyber Monday, where I

received great feedback from many

celebrities, who thought the idea was

dope. The bodyguard for Randy

Jackson (American Idol Judge) wanted

me to show Randy the Pillo, because

he thought Randy may want to

partner with me. So, he sent me to

meet Randy, who was at the race

track at Concord Mills in Concord, NC.

So I had in my mind that I would

partner with Randy Jackson, as I grab

my Pillo and head over to meet with

him. Twenty minutes later, I get a

phone call from Randy, who tells me

that everyone headed back to the Ritz

Carlton! I told him, ?I am twenty

minutes away, I will meet you guys

tomorrow.? And Randy said ?No, no,

no, we want to meet with you now?,

so I decided to head over to the hotel

after all since I haven?t seen him in

awhile. So, once I got there, I walked

up to Randy, who was in the lobby.

and he said ?Dude what are you

doing in Charlotte, Man? What

woman brought you to Charlotte? We

missed you man, everyone would

love to talk to you and meet with you

about the Pillo?. I laughed and said

?No, I am here because I started a

new company, called The SmartPillo

Company?. As he was checking out

my Pillo, I got a tap on the shoulder

from behind. I turned around to see

David, the nephew of Michael Fux,

who asked me about the pillow

because he thought the Pillo was

awesome. So I began pitching the

Pillo to David, who was intrigued by it.

So, now he wanted to show his Uncle

the pillow, and asked me if I had

some time. So, what I thought was

supposed to be a meeting with Randy

Jackson was really God setting up a

meeting with Michael Fux, a

successful owner of a pillow

company! So Michael Fux and his

team came down after receiving a call

from David to meet me. After

pitching to Michael, he said ?This is

the future guys, pay attention. The

betting industry never changes.

Putting this type of technology into

the industry is looking into the future.

This young man is onto something. If

you stick with me, you are going to

make a lot of money?. I told him I

didn?t know who he was, but I told

him I would Google him once I got

home, and I did! Fux is also a

world-famous car collector, which he

purchased with earnings from his

successful pillow empire. If you go on

Instagram, his name is spelled

Michael F-U-X, and you will see his car

collection. It is the sickest car

collection ever. And that is whom I

am partnered with.

What is t he next st ep for t he Pillo?

If someone asked me, ?what else do

you have going on?? I can show them

these other great products I have. I

have a bunch of deals in the works

now. NFL Kushion Pillos are coming

soon, as I have a licensing agreement

with the National Football League to

patent them for its individual teams. I

also am working on another Kushion

called the ?S1 Kushion?, (for now) that

you can speak commands into. There

are some smaller, more lightweight

Kushions that I am also coming out

invent ions and pat ent s? How m ust

one rem ain fait hful w hen it

appears t hat t hings aren?t

m at erializing yet ?

It is going to sound simple. Just do it.

If you envision it, and believe it, you

cannot see it on your own; it is

coming from another place, deep

down inside of you. God is saying,

this is what I have for you. Don?t let

your fear, because God did not give

us the spirit of fear, distract you and

keep you from seeing your next step.

If you let fear dictate, fear will rob you

Bird Man-Hip Hop


piano. Because those two pianos are

connected. God will connect you with

someone who is praying to invest in

your gift. That is how these marriages

work. It has all been vision, and God

has aligned me with the right people

to help me on the journey of fulfilling

my dream. These investors

understand that they are not

investing in my Pillo, they are

investing in Shelton McCoy! This has all

been a vision of people, tapping me

on the shoulder and asking me about

my invention. Also, be open to

receiving those blessings from God

when they come, and they will come

Waka Flocka

-Hiphop Artist

are some smaller, more lightweight

Kushions that I am also coming out

with. What is great is that it only takes

three weeks to produce the Pillows.

What else are you w orking on?

I am putting up an eco-friendly

community with Darryl Williams,

President and CEO of Neighboring

Concepts, called Shelton Beach,

which will be the world?s first

eco-community. It has seven-acres, a

salt-water swimming pool, imported

white sand, and we are building

thirty, 1-2 bedroom, bungalow-like

homes surrounding it. It will give the

appearance of being in a place like

Bora Bora. The First Lady of Congo

also wants me to travel there to

invest in my eco-community, and I am

not sure what will happen next. My

end game is to become an investor. I

have to be a blessing to others

because none of this happened

based on my credentials. I also want

to hit the circuit and talk to our youth,

and share my story.

What advice w ould you give t o

ot her business ow ners regarding

of the gift God gave you. Step out on

faith. God will put those

opportunities in place for you. There

is power in the unseen and

unknown. If this is a pure vision that

comes to you, you know it is from

The Most High. You will have

concerns but keep working at it

everyday, and God is going to put

those people you need in front of

you. You will go see a Randy Jackson,

who you think will be the face of

your business, and you will get a tap

on the back from behind, someone I

did not see, and God will have the

right person in place to assist you on

your journey. Anything coming from

lust, saying ?look at me, see what I

drive?, materialistic thoughts are not

of God. He will introduce you to

someone; I call that person a

crossroad. Everything has a

crossroad. For every left there is a

right; everything has an opposite.

There is someone out there looking

for something you can offer. For

example, if you put two pianos in the

room--- one all the way to the left

and the other to the right--and play a

chord on one, then walk to the other,

that same note will resonate on that

in ways that you won?t expect them.

Where do w e find The Sm art Pillo

or Kushion?

Customers can go on my websites,

www.kushion.com, and


For the readers, I have something for

you; if you use my exclusive

promotional code F1MCCOY, you will

receive a $100 discount off of your


Shelton McCoy?s dreams of having

safe yet convenient technology has

now become our reality. He is a

shining example that faith, along with

hard work and dedication will align us

with divine opportunities to see our

own ideas to fruition. Also, when that

passion involves serving others, it is

a guarantee that success will surely

follow close behind. As technology

advances forward, it is vital that we

have someone like Shelton, who

invents products that keep the health,

safety, and comfort of the human

race in mind. Take that discount code

and ?Get a Pillo that could do both."

The Curvy Girl


Ways to Fierce


Make Sure You

Know The Fit Of

Each Retailer.

Not every plus size brand will fit the

same (just like straight sizes). While

some brands DO have fit issues,

knowing which brands are more

junior cut, missy cut, or true to size

is critical. This will help you

navigate through the designers,

retailers and boutiques!

Pull Tears(Create A Pinterest

Board) Of Your Personal Style

I am currently obsessed with Carine

Roitfeld. Like, I love that she has an

edgy signature style. She slays the midi

pencil skirt paired with daring blouses

and killer heels. While I won?t copy her

look head to toe, I remain inspired by it

and am finding how this rocks out for

me. I even have a Pinterest board of

other?s whose looks have me thinking!



Get Playful InColor


Oooohhh I am sooo here for the

intensity of color for spring. I am

looking forward to rich blues,

blinding yellows, juicy oranges.

AND bold and bright prints of all



AnEye For Detail

One way to add a bit more tude or interest

to your look? The details and finishes of

your look- whether it be the belt, jewels, or

even the buttons on your jacket. Think the

clutch, the shoe, and the glasses you rock.

They are JUST as important to your overall


Tala Raassi grew up in suburban

Washington, D.C. and then in Iran.

She knows both cultures? but

wasn?t ready for what happened to

her one night in 1998.


I met Tala Raassi at a nightclub in

West Hollywood. She was a friend of

a friend. At the same table sat

Marilyn Manson. The alcohol was

seemingly unlimited. The club?s strict

no smoking policy rapidly began to

be ignored as party goers clustered

around the open windows as the

night wore on.

Within moments of meeting this

charming, bubbly woman I learned

that she had served time in an

Iranian prison. Intrigued, I asked

why. Her story is an inspiring

one? and one that many young

Iranians might find to be a common


Tala Raassi was born in Silver Spring,

Maryland. At the age of 2 her family

decided to move back to Tehran.

American culture was always

something she enjoyed. ?I would

watch illegal satellite TV? watching

[shows like] Baywatch and 90210. I

wanted to copy [their style].?

The inevitable conflict of living in a

state-run religious atmosphere and

life within a less than religious family

created an identity complex. ?I grew

up in a post revolution-Iran,? she

told me. ?There were so many

restrictions imposed. We grew up

with families who had [under the

Shah] drunk alcohol and partied.

Then, I also grew up in a society

where I had to cover myself head to


Growing up, Raassi had heard many

stories of arrests. But like all

strong-headed young people before

her she believed herself immune. It

could never happen to me.

In Amer ica, She

Designs Swimwear .

In Ir an, She Got 40

Lashes f or Being at

a Par t y.

One fateful evening this mantra was

challenged. Raassi was attending a

small co-ed party (very illegal in the

Tehran of 1998). There were no

drugs or alcohol, but there was

American music (?illegal music?) and

illegal male-female intermingling. An

ex-boyfriend of the girl who

organized the party called the

notorious Basij? the ruthless

military police? when he discovered

he wasn?t invited. The Basij raided

the party and began to make

arrests. Raassi attempted to outrun

the religious police guards, but she

stopped when they managed to

catch up to her and threatened to

shoot her.

?I never thought we would get

lashes,? she confided to The Daily

Beast. ?Normally, if you apologize,

they will let you go. We were

convinced we would never go to jail.

In the car on our way [to jail], we

weren?t taking it seriously. We were

sort of laughing. I was convinced

there was no way they would keep

us there. Someone would pay for

our release, and then we would


The group was taken to Vozara

Prison, where they were sentenced

to 40 lashes for the girls, 50 lashes

for the boys, and would spend the

next five days. Rats, cockroaches,

shared toilets. Drug dealers, thieves,

prostitutes. Tala?s voice becomes an

octave more emotional when she

describes seeing a woman in her

wedding dress. Her wedding had

been busted for being coed. The

woman spent the remainder of her

wedding night in jail.

Raassi?s group was kept in a small

holding area in a narrow hallway in

between the trash and the

bathrooms. At the end of the

hallway was a locked cell door with a

small window? which they later

discovered to be the torture room.

?We would hear screams coming out

of there all day. During the call to

prayer, which happens five times a

day, the guards would line us up.

They would tell us we were about to

be lashed and then make us sit

down and wait. Then nothing would

happen. It was mental torture. You

had no idea what was going on. At

night time you would hear the

sounds of women getting raped.

Sometimes they were raped with

glass Coca Cola bottles.?

At the end of Raassi?s jail time (five

days), a guard approached her

group. Her name was called. She

was then transported to another

detention center. Raassi was

ushered into a room where items

from previous arrests were on

display? evidence of indecency. A

judge lectured Raassi?s group about

how they had misbehaved, how they

had broken the law.

?I realized my parents were never

strict with me to suppress my

individuality and expression,? she

said. ?They were strict with me to

protect me from being in the

situation I found myself in? arrested

and lashed.? Outside of the

courtroom, Raassi?s family waited.

One by one, her friends were called

forward to receive their punishment.

?You see your friends leave the

room with bloody backs, and you

hear your friends shouting out in

pain. Next thing I know,? she said,

?I?m in the room myself.? Her family

had to wait outside? and listen to

her screams.

?It?s not like getting punched or hit,?

she said. ?It burns. For me, it was

personally, so insulting and

disrespectful. The mental part was

just as bad as the physical agony.? A

woman covered head to toe in a

black chador waited for Raassi in a

room with two beds. Raassi and her

friend were strapped into the two

beds. A leather rod with a braided

whip was dipped into a bucket of

water, which was then inflicted on

their backs. ?There are different

types of lashings,? she said. ?I

learned this in court. And in our case

we were allowed to keep our clothes

on. In some cases, they make you

take off your clothes.?

Fashion was always a solace to

Raassi. Despite the strict laws

regarding chadors, she told me of

how women of Tehran always had

great clothes on underneath, the

care and time women put to their

hair and cosmetics. Despite the

restrictions, women really do what

they can to express themselves

through their own personal style.

And because one could be stopped

and arrested at any moment for

being ?indecent? it takes the young

women?s expression of style to a

completely new level.

?Being a fashion designer is like

being a drug dealer [in Tehran],? she

said, ?Everything is word of mouth.?

But fortunately now, she has

returned to the United States, where

she has her own design label. She

has designed bikinis for the Miss

Universe competition. She has

written a book. The ordeal hasn?t

embittered her. She?s bubbly, she?s

fun and she?s fearless. I asked her

about the restrictive dress laws in

Tehran and if it creates an internal

conflict regarding her own

swimwear line.

Raassi paused thoughtfully, and

then responded, ?Freedom is not

about the amount of clothing you

put on or take off, but about having

the choice to do either. The last time

I went to a beach in France, I saw

women who wore hijabs, covered

from head to toe, walking on the

same beaches as women in their

European-cut bikinis. Their freedom

of choice empowered me. I found a

new respect for women who chose

to cover themselves in accordance

with their religious beliefs. I also

respected those who fearlessly wore

bikinis. All of these women had

made a choice about how they

wanted to present themselves.?

?[I?ve navigated] two different

worlds. From Iran to the fashion

industry in America (as a swimsuit

designer). To overcome the obvious

differences was hard for me. I?ve

fallen before. It was interesting to

put it all in writing and get some

form of closure.? Raassi?s book,

Fashion is Freedom, was published in

September. She said: ?As someone

who came to this country not

speaking a word of English, to have

a book published in English is a big

deal for me.? She laughed proudly.

Source: The Daily Beast


Cipriana (left) wears

suede trench coat, Tod?s.

Gold cosmic earrings,

Coco?s Liberty. Gold hoop

necklace, Pichulik.


sunglasses, Matthew

Williamson for Linda

Farrow. TK wears

patterned coat, Miu Miu.

Gold choker,Etro. Metal

and stone choker,Marni .


sunglasses, House of

Holland. Chain earrings,

Arme de L?Amour.

Make-up, Sophie

Haig. Models,


Quann and TK

Quann. Fashion

coordinator, Vicki

Wright. The Parker

Hotel Palm Springs,



Claudette Ortiz

Behind T he Scene

Atlanta Shoot




Get the look. Specializing in

Celebrity Hair Terrence Davidson

and his team venture to give

Claudette Volume and waves with

this Spring time TOP PONY



T he Anniversary Issue

Get T he Look!!









Get your own

orange lip for a

lower cost with

"Color Pop Ultra

Matte Lip"

Claudette's Nails

Shimmering pink


Make your

nails pop

with shimmer

using the

"Color Club


Editorial Photographer: Antoinne Jones-Atlanta G.A


Creative Director: Michael Lopez, Stylist: Jerry

Thompson,Designer: Five 13 Studio

Jewelry: The Vintage Bar- Based in Charlotte NC




Photography by: The.TZ.Studio






By: Davita Collins

Innovative, Fashionable, & Inspiring




s with most publications, Level 21 Magazine is

forever evolving. While the brand expands, there are

many aspects of the business that shift to accommodate

operations, marketing and merchandising needs. In

addition to Internet, social media, and their upcoming

talk show Level 21 TV, it is vital that our branding

stays consistent throughout each media channel.

Recently, I sat down to talk with Michael Lopez, Level

21 Magazine?s newly minted Creative Director, who

will be the driving force behind the Level 21 vision.

You can?t just say you want to be a

designer, you have to be a designer.



Where are you f rom originally?

I am originally from Brooklyn, NY, but I was

raised in historic Coney Island. People do not

know this, but I was initially born in Denver,

Colorado. I moved from Denver to Brooklyn

when I was two years old, so I do not really

remember much about Denver. I pretty much

stayed in Coney Island up until high school.

What made you decide to get into the

Fashion Industry?

Tell us a bit about your background in


It was a series of events that lead up to my

decision to go into Fashion. Initially in high

school, my friends and I would airbrush, cut,

and sew clothes because we wanted to create

our own style. I really was focused on

branding and marketing, and making sure

that the business was legitimate. I appreciate

how my friends pushed me in that direction;

how they said ?we really need to have our

own logo, our own style, and our own target

audience.?I was more interested in the

business aspect of things, not so much the


I eventually grew a passion for Fashion. But

at the time, my designs were more urban.

Then, I began to hang around some friends

who were into high fashion. I traveled

around, and then moved to Tennessee. There

I met some photographers and models, which

have been on the high fashion scene as seen in

Vogue or W magazines. And it opened my

eyes, and revealed to me that this is attainable,

especially coming from an ethnic background.

So, we began putting together mood boards

to get this collection done.

Initially when I wanted to be a fashion

designer, I was thinking ?cut, sew and

painting?clothing. Until one day I just woke

up and asked myself, what does the

community have? The community did not

have a ?preppy?line, a high-end line that is

not Ralph Lauren, or Polo. Everyone that I

knew locally made custom dresses, or if it

were anything else the focus wasn?t on the

brand. It was about creating whatever ?off the

wall?garment that looked good. I wanted to

create a brand where people recognized my

logo, my editorials, my images and still

associate them with high fashion. I?d still

produce images that could go inside of a

Vogue, WWD, or W type of magazine.

I met with a friend, and he stated, ?you can?t

just say you want to be a designer, you have to

be a designer.?Then, he introduced me to a

room full of amazing fashion people. And he

said, ?When you go into this room, you will

say you are a designer from now on, because

whatever you tell them, they will believe what

you say. Now that they believe you, you have

to back it up.? He went on to say ?you have to

to do your research, and find your features. I

will help you do that?And that is how my

business started.

I was super nervous, but I went in there and

said that ?I am a fashion designer, and I am

launching my first collection soon?. The rest

is history. There are things in my life that

happened that I feel strengthened my

emotional passion for fashion. To make a

long story short, I had a friend who was a

major fashion designer, who motivated me to

launch World of Cashmir. He passed away.

Right after his passing, his sister and I got

together and worked on the collection.

We decided what we were going to do, and

what the collection was going to look like.

And I haven?t slowed down since, and that

has not even been an option to me.

What challenges did you encounter along

your journey, and how did you overcome?

I have encountered insecurity, since I did not

have the educational background, nor the

financial backing that other brands had.

Despite this I felt blessed to have the amount

of support from people from the beginning.

There are people I haven?t spoken to in about

a year or so that I could instantly call and we

can continue where we left off: making

business decisions and closing deals, because

we never lost communication. I traveled a

lot! It was a gift and a curse. It was a gift,

because I was able to reach out and network

with so many cultural people. I was able to go

back and forth to New York, go back to

Tennessee and to Atlanta doing so many

different things. But it hindered me because I

did not have the foundation to say that

someone knew me for an extended period of


Every time I went to a different city, I would

see what I call ?fashion juggernauts?, people

who are in charge or have built their brand up

in a specific area. I feel as though those

platforms are not meant to allow others

succeed past a certain level. They want to see

people succeed, as long as they are not

surpassing them. I have a business to build a

platform for others, and I have ambitions to

grow my following in so many areas and so

many different cities. But I saw this as a

struggle because I did not have the money to

pay people what they wanted to get paid. See,

I was used to getting paid a certain amount as

a designer, but then I moved to the South

where that?s not the norm. It was a huge

struggle dealing with different cultures and

different people, while being true to myself,

my brand and elevating as a designer, before

opening doors to everything else I do in the

Fashion Industry.

How did you come up with the name World

of Cashmir, and tell us what is its

signif icance?

It is so much that goes into that name.

Initially, the name of the brand was Cashmir,

not World of Cashmir. I went into my closet

thinking, what do I want my brand name to

be? What will be my niche? And as I was

going through my father?s closet, whom I was

visiting with at the time, I noticed he had

these vintage cashmere ?Cosby?sweaters. I

thought that they were so cool, and that I had

to borrow some of these sweaters. So, I was

able to wear these sweaters, and my father

was wearing them years before I was born!

The quality was still good, and if you were to

go out and buy cashmere sweaters today, you

would pay hundreds, sometimes-even

thousands of dollars for them!

So I realized that the quality never changed,

and it was an expensive, timeless brand.

Actually, I asked myself what did I want my

brand to represent? And it was everything

that sweater represented. It was timeless, it

would not lose its value over time, and it was

detailed. And so I named my brand Cashmir.

It was first an urban collection, based off the

concept that ?it?s merely cash so go ahead and

spend it?.

As I grew, transitioned, and hung around

different types of people with different

audiences, I changed the brand name to

Cashmir. ?MIR?is derived from the Kashmir

goat reference in the Bible. So, it has a biblical

meaning to the name. As I dug deeper into

the meaning of ?MIR?the Russians were the

first to attempt to land on the moon, and the

name of their rocket ship was The Mir!

Although they never made it, I believe they

were the first to strive to attain greater at that

time. That is what I strive to do as a creative. I

also used MIR, because in Russian it means

?peace?. That is the Cashmir brand. I take

several different elements, and several

different art pieces and put them all together

under one brand. So MIR is a concept that I

am creating with Level 21 Magazine that will

also appear in other publications as well.

Who would you consider a muse f or your


I don?t have one particular muse, because I get

inspiration from so many different places. I

feel as though where ever I travel, I get

inspiration from people interacting in their

own habitat. There is a collection that I am

currently working on, that brings me to Soho,

NY. I just go to Soho and just watch people. I

had an important meeting at the Soho House,

which I was early for, so I literally watched

people my age come out of business meetings

going back and forth. I just imagined them

wearing my own designs, in that setting and

what destination they would be going to.

I may see someone who may say, ?OMG I

Every time I went to a different city, I would see

what I call ?fashion juggernauts?, people who

are in charge or have built their brand up in a

specific area. I feel as though those platforms are

not meant to allow others succeed past a certain

level. They want to see people succeed, as long

as they are not surpassing them.

entrepreneurs. Another project I am working

on is called Emerge, which is a model talent

agency that is developmental. This agency

was put in place to prevent models from

going through the unnecessary challenges

that other models have gone through. Some

don't understand the marketing aspect of the

industry. So, it will be more for consultation

purposes. I have partnered with

The.TZ.Studio , They have a passion for

young models.

love your look.?But I would not do too much

to deviate from their personal style. So if I

work with a model, I will style them based on

what I have seen them wear already. I am the

type of person who may not have consistent

contact with a model for about a year, but

then call them one day and say ?I came up

with a collection that fits you. Let?s work.?

You mentioned that you dressed clients. Can

you tell us more about that?Any celebrity


I have been blessed with the opportunity to

style people, but not as a stylist. People would

approach me as a designer to style or create

pieces for someone, not knowing the

difference between a designer and stylist. For

example, I have been asked to create custom

pieces for different artists and celebrities for

their events. It has been great, because it

shifted me in the direction I wanted to go. I

had the opportunity to design a piece for a

collection for Sevyn Streeter when she signed

her record deal, and promoted her first single

with Chris Brown. I had an amazing piece

that I had the opportunity to design for Bruno

Mars. I love his image, and music so I

designed a Hawaii-inspired piece. I also

designed a piece for Elle Varner. I love her

music. I was asked as Creative Director to

come on set for certain projects and I am

excited to say that those pieces I made were

their brand and style, as well as, mines.

How exciting it is to be the new Creative

Director f or Level21Magazine!?How do you

f eel about that?Can you tell us what you have

accomplished so f ar in your new role?

I am ecstatic. I was really familiar with the

magazine prior to this. I never thought about

the opportunity until it was presented to me. I

met Tempestt, the CEO of Level 21

Magazine, and we just ended up clicking in a

meeting that we were both in for a client that

I had. We really impressed each other with

our talents, and I am really excited to be

onboard. She gives me a lot of freedom and

does not try to put me in a box, which I love

about her. The whole team is amazing, and I

am honored to have a team who supports me

and admires my work. I hope that I have

accomplished putting things in perspective.

One thing I can say is that I am proud of my

brand and everything that I have

accomplished, so I could be a reference point

for the magazine. I will focus on structure

building and I look forward to accomplishing


What do you hope to accomplish with the

Level 21Brand?

I want to take Level 21 to another level, even

taking it to Level 22! I want to be able to

break down barriers in the fashion and

entertainment industry. So, with my

background I would like to streamline that,

on the PR level. Recently we worked with

Claudette Ortiz (formerly of the group City

High and R&B Divas LA). In the future, I

would like to help with choosing the right

photos, but selecting those that the magazine

normally wouldn?t so Level 21 could be

exposed to a different market.

What should we look out f or this year?What

f uture projects are you working on?

Right now, the main thing is getting back to

myself. I think last year, I took an entire year

off my brand to help others, so I want to get

back to my brand. I?d like to help other brands

on a case-by-case basis. I want to create

packages that are reasonable to

We have a booking agent now, who is

amazing and experienced. I am also very

excited to get into more collection pieces. I

am currently working on a collection using

Black Diamond. So the theme is going to be

anniversary pieces that will be black diamond.

I am also working on a purse and wallet

(accessories) collection, as well as, more

Cashmir Designs. Those are the main things

that have my primary attention right now.

How do people contact you?

I have a website, www.worldofcashmir.com.

Also I am very personable. So for any major

affairs, I can be contacted on Instagram

@worldofcashmir FB: World of Cashmir. I

am also a fan of video chatting. If someone

wanted to reach me I would not mind

exchanging numbers and video chatting, or if

I am in the same city meeting with them.

Sometimes when people try to reach me on

the website, they have to go through several

channels of communication with my team. I

have a huge team based out of several

different cities, so they help me to filter out

what needs to be prioritized. Michael Lopez

is quite accomplished! Having the vision and

dedication, he was able to take a mere idea

and catapult it into a successful career in

Fashion. Taking personal tragedy and other

life lessons and utilizing them as tools to

guide him on his journey to

entrepreneurship, Lopez has been able to

launch several other businesses, and therefore

able to penetrate many aspects of the

industry. Lopez is both a style and

entrepreneurial chameleon. With his

extensive background with PR and branding,

we are confident that he can catapult the

Level 21 brand even further into the


Welcome to the Level21 Family!

"NC's 1st Mobile Massage Bus

pr oviding "Relaxation. Simplified"

in NC and SC"

Pamper Us Mobile Massage Service

The Pamper Lounge

Telephone: 704-323-6282

Email: pamperusmms@gmail.com

Photographer: Antoinne Jones

Creative Director: Michael Lopez

Stylist: Jerry Thompson

Designer: Five 13 Studio

Hair: Terrence Davidson

Hair Asst. Sweetstyles by Kai &

Tamora Patrice

Nail Tech: Redd Flythe

Location: ATL GA Weldon Bond

Studios Jewelry: The Vintage Bar


By Desiree Helm


Looking over the reel of Claudette

Ortiz, it?s easy to understand why she is

making her mark on the entertainment

industry. With her bright smile and

incredible talents, she maneuvers the world

between songstress and actress with ease.

Riding the peaks and valleys of the road of

life, to arrive at a destination of joy and

peace with her life and career. From her

early years as a teen pop star with the Hit

Group City High and their Grammy

nominated song ?What Would You Do?, to

her current roles on TV, the road to

becoming the star Claudette Ortiz has

Life After City High


?I was unf ortunate enough to have a f ew

abusive times in my lif e. When I was going

through the abuse I was young and really didn?t

understand at the time the impact it would later

have on my lif e. Looking back now I think

surviving made me stronger. It has helped me

become a better mother, and a better f riend. As a

woman you have to continue on with your lif e.

You have to f ind a way to move on. I could not

have made it without the love and support of my

f amily and f riends, without prayer or without

God. I have put that part of my lif e behind me.

Abuse can break down your spirit, your

conf idence and your worth. You lose your sense of

value. I lost my sense of value. I had to learn to love

myself again. If you know anyone that is dealing

with abuse you have to let them know they don?t

have to accept it. They don?t have to stay in that

situation. Let them know what they are worth. I

realize now just how strong you have to be to

survive and want to let others know they can make

it to.?

Having dealt with the pain of abuse,

Claudette made a crucial decision to put the

past behind her. She has truly healed and is

strutting forward in her life with plans to

embrace the stage.

the screen today. Level21 sat down with

Claudette Ortiz to learn how she turned tragedy

into triumph while redefining her own version

of fame. Looking at photos of Claudette, it?s

hard to imagine that this beautiful and confident

woman was once a victim of domestic violence

and grappled with insecurity. But underneath

the dark black curls and smooth brown skin is

the heart of woman that has learned to love and

experience hope again. In a voice that was as

equally soft as it was resilient, Claudette went

on to describe hard to talk about seasons in her


Your past relationship with a former group

member made headlines steaming from

abuse. How have you dealt with that?



What was it like coming back into

the spotlight?

When I was touring with City High, we

were f amous but I still had a sense of

privacy. I could walk into the grocery store

and shop without people really recognizing

me. We had f ans, but our f aces weren?t

plastered everywhere. We could leave a show

and then go on with our lives. The internet

and reality TV have changed that. People

recognize your f ace and that makes it hard

sometimes. You have to always be on point

where ever you go. I enjoy it, and I am not

complaining, but f ame is just dif f erent now

f or me.

Speaking of Reality TV, do you

regret your decision to do reality TV?

No, I don?t regret it all. Being on R&B

Divas was dif f erent than anything I thought

it would be. I was surprised to f ind it was

very structured. I was worried about

having my lif e and my kids?lives exposed,

but it was all very organized. (smiling she

adds) We actually had a schedule. It was a

blessing over all. It was so amazing to work

with a group of talented women that I had

admired. I didn?t really know the cast bef ore

I joined the show and it was a great

experience to get to know them. The show

opened some great doors f or me.

Since returning to the industry you

have also had the chance to work with

Tyler Perry. What was it like?

I learned a lot while working with him. His

team is very prof essional. He has really

taught me how to be on point. (laughing she

goes on) You can?t be a minute late. He really

cares about his employees and his team does a

great job of casting. They are not just talented

people, but good hearted people. In all the

hundreds of people that work f or him, I

haven?t met one person that I didn?t like. There

are always good people around. I?ve been

f ortunate enough to work with them on plays,

as well as, f ilm. Tyler makes sure his people

are treated well so we can f ocus on the work at


On and off the screen, Claudette is a true

hustler. After her divorce from Ryan

Toby, a member of her former group City

High, Claudette faced rough times as a

single mom. Despite her previous fame,

the divorce caused her to shift into a

season of financial struggles; including

dealing with foreclosure and being unable

to provide for her kids. She ultimately

found herself, like so many single moms,

applying for social services. Down, but

determined not to stay there, she began

taking on new opportunities to get by.

Claudette taught herself to be a chef and

became a certified personal trainer. Taking

care of her family was her top priority. She

has always been willing to do whatever it

took to provide for them. Her family is her

place of peace and joy, and you can hear

the cheer in her voice as the conversation

deflects to her family and personal life.

How did you get into cooking?

I got into cooking because I enjoy cooking

f or those I care about; to see the joy on their

f aces. I have given some thought to having a

cooking show. Maybe one day in the f uture. I

just love to be busy. I could never just sit

around. Being a single mom, you are the one

that your kids depend on to provide f or them. I

guess my f ervor comes f rom wanting to make

sure my children have everything they need.

My oldest is 12, and I also have an 11and

8-year-old. They are my world, and I would do

anything to make sure they have everything

they need. (Happily, she adds) and a f ew

things they want too!




Is it hard to balance being a

single mother in the

entertainment industry?

I couldn?t do it without my

support system. It would be almost

impossible without the help of my

f riends and f amily. You have to

have people you can trust.

Do your kids want to follow

in your footsteps?

I think because they grew up

around it, they know a lot more than

other kids might. They are aware of

what I do and understand how it?s

done. They each have their own

gif ts and talents. They are still so

young. What I really want f or them

is to be what God naturally has f or


With her career reaching new

heights, Claudette is happy

about the journey life has taken

her on. She has grown wiser

and more mature with each new

opportunity. Although her

career is blooming, Claudette

has managed to remain

grounded. She doesn?t take

anything for granted and refuses

to let fame come at the cost of

her family.

Yes, I make all my decisions based

on what?s best f or them. It has to be

that way, they just simply come

f irst.

And what about marriage, do

you see a future Mr. Ortiz in

your family?

Despite what others might say, I

really enjoyed being married. There

is a misconception that my last

relationship was crazy and dif f icult

and it wasn?t. Don?t believe what you

read online. Our relationship ended,

but it was good and we are still good

f riends. I would love to get married

again. What I won?t do is get

divorced again.

Claudette is extremely selective

when it comes to choosing the

next man she will share her life

with. With good reason. The

pain of the past is something she

never plans on repeating.

I would love a hardworking man.

One that is both spiritual and

passionate. He must be also be

compassionate and love kids. Most

importantly he will value f riendship

rather than control. A man should be

a man, but he should also be good

with me pursuing my dreams. He

won?t mind my schedule or my

occasional need to build things. He


will be a balance to me.

The conversation continues,

and soon we find ourselves

talking about Claudette?s first

love, music.

Are you working on an

album now?

I am always working on music.

Music is in my heart. It is natural to

me. I am always creating something.

I was never looking to be a superstar

in music. If that happens, if God

wills it f or me, then I will take it. For

me, it has always been about my love

f or music. I am in a season of lif e

now where I can make music because

I enjoy it, and that?s nice. I will

always release things f or my f ans. I

don?t have a set date on the album,

but it?s coming.

What advice would you give to

young girls dreaming of music


If I was talking to young girls

coming up, I would tell them to

watch their money. Learn to invest

it, or get with people you can trust to

help you manage it. I would also tell

them to build a brand to create

longevity f or themselves. Music

Photographer: Antoinne Jones

Creative Director: Michael Lopez

Stylist: Jerry Thompson

Designer: Moniquea Renee

Hair: Terrence Davidson

Hair Asst. Sweetstyles by Kai &

Tamora Patrice

Nail Tech: Redd Flythe

Location: ATL GA Weldon Bond

Studios Jewelry: The Vintage Bar

Shoes: Blended Bartique

changes, and beauty f ades, but a brand, an

image.. that?s something you can build a lif e

on. I would tell them to have the heart to give

back. It?s key to your success. My mother

instilled in me that everyone deserves respect

and should be treated with love no matter

what their station in lif e. You never know

who or what people will become. You can?t use

your popularity as an excuse to treat others

bad. I know what it?s like to need help. I have

been in seasons when I had to rely on f riends

and f amily to help me get by. I don?t want

anyone else to experience what I f elt. Staying

humble is important to me. In f act, I see any

f ame I have as a tool. I am building a

f oundation. Giving back is what it?s all about.

My goal is to use my f ame as a vehicle to bless

others. I want to leave this world better than I

f ound it.

At only 35, Claudette has ridden many

waves as she has navigated her way

through the seas of the entertainment

industry. Steadfast in her commitment to

never return to her season of lack,

Claudette makes wise decisions with her

finances and her brand. Enthusiastic with

hope, and the new prospects before her,

Claudette is redefining her career. From

fame to surviving abuse, the heartache of

divorce, and the hardships of poverty,

Claudette has overcome all odds and has

risen back to the heights of success. She

has redefined what fame means for her

life and is pushing away the boundaries

that once lay before her. Claudette has

come full circle and is owning every

moment of it.


New Yor k

Fashion Week Runway


Nicholas K - Runway - February 2017 - New York Fashion

Week: The Shows

A model walks the runway at the Nicholas K show during,

New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Gallery 2, Skylight

Clarkson Sq on February 9, 2017 in New York City.


In This Album: Christopher Kunz

Kylie Jenner and Sofia Richie attend the Jeremy Scott

collection during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at

Gallery 1, Skylight Clarkson Sq on February 10, 2017 in New

York City.

Model Gigi

Hadid walks

the runway

for the




during, New




Jeremy Scott

Jeremy Scott has always been a

firecracker? unafraid to flaunt the

most outlandish collections as the

creative director of Moschino and

his own eponymous line. But when

he took his finale walk down the

fur runway after showcasing his

fall 2017 collection, the fire in his

eyes was one ready to fight.


Fashion Week Runway

Recap # YOUTH

Photography by: Miranda Rivers

Date: Feb. 10, 2017

Show Designers

Alora Safari

Angora Boutique

Belle Threads

D?Lora Moda

Elizabeth Cordelia

Jackie Tejada

Jacquie Barbavian

Janay Deann Designs

Janelle Funari

KK Swimwear

Krissy King

Lil Jewel?s Boutique

Little Royals

Mara Skye

Pink Lemonade

Sabrina Marie

Talisha White

The Porcelain Teacup

TWT Design Wear

Young Socialites


?L ove?

I s

Cr eati ve

T ar r i ce L ove


otogr ap h er


By: Anitra Scott

t was a chilly day in New York as

snow added a hint of white to the

limbs of leafless trees, cars, and those

passing by. We sat down with Mr.

Tarrice Love in his New York

apartment to discuss his many works

of art through photography. As I

watched in preparation for his daily

blog, I was able to see many works of

photographed art as his décor. This

Memphis, Tennessee native has so

much talent that we can?t wait to see


In the field of photography, an artist

has a spectacular way of ?freeze

framing? the actuality of a moment in

time. Mr. Love has obtained many

snap shots of images that most dare

to capture. Tarrice Love?s collection

includes: Fashion, Portrait, Still Life,

Black and White; just to name a few. I

enjoyed all of his artistry, which

includes his works of art in nude

photography. Mr. Love has captured

many intriguing photos, in my opinion.

His talent behind the lens attracts


How did you get started in


Initially I was a fashion designer. I

studied fashion at the University of

Memphis in the 90?s. Surrounded by

beautiful African American women in

my hometown as a kid, I wanted to

show the fashion world what they

were missing. I never understood why

the women I saw every day were

missing in the industry. I mean, you

couldn?t tell my mother that she was

not beautiful. My granny and all her

sisters were beautiful, and were not

being represented. I noticed that if you

don?t look like someone who came

from an island or straight from Africa,


then you just weren?t in the industry.

How long have you been a


In 2001 I decided to become a


What challenges do you feel you had

to overcome in the industry to be as

successful as you are?

I came to New York in 2006 and the

challenge I faced was being southern

in New York. I had to overcome the

fact that I was from the south,

Memphis. Most people in the industry

from the New York area had a

preference to work with those from

the northern states.

There is a lot of black and white

photography and nude art. What is it

about this type of photography that

intrigues your eye?

I like to make people see themselves

in a different way. Whether it is in

fashion or as a body photographer, I

capture many types of photography. I

am not limited to black and white or

nude. I still define myself as a fashion

photographer, and a Fine Arts

photographer. I will photograph any


You shoot a lot of Celebrities and

Actors. Who was one of your favorites

to shoot and why?

I like to work with new talent such as

actors and actresses, singers, dancers,

who are starting out in the industry. I

like to see them develop and grow in

the industry. I just recently shot Black

Bird star, Julian Walker who is in this

season of Being Mary Jane. Also, I have

photographed Anthony Barrell, a

choreographer who has

choreographed for Beyonce, Rhianna,

and Kate Perry. I have worked with a

lot of dancers lately.

What new projects do you have

coming up?

I am working on my book right now,

trying to get my collection of images

together and it?s a book of my

creations and my works of art, my


What advice would you give to

upcoming photographers that want to

be in the industry at a higher level?

I would suggest always taking courses

that can help build on to your talent.

Actually taking one class can change

the way your work will look forever.

How do people get in contact with you for


Email: love.photographer@gmail.com

Instagram: @bytarricelove

Blog: www.loveismyrealname.blogspot.com

Remain on the lookout for

photographs captured by Mr. Tarrice

Love. Remember a picture is truly

worth a thousand words.

T ar r i ce L ove Ph otogr ap h y

T ar r i ce L ove Ph otogr ap h y

T ar r i ce L ove Ph otogr ap h y

T ar r i ce L ove Ph otogr ap h y

T ar r i ce L ove Ph otogr ap h y

T ar r i ce L ove Ph otogr ap h y

"You have to

recognize the bigger

picture, the purpose

of your travels is to

build the Kingdom

of God"

Inspiration:With Latise M. Howie

When Your life I s A Novel


istening to Latise speak, it is clear that

she was purposed to be a writer. From the

moment her voice resonated through the

phone line, there was something about its

confidently smooth tone that felt both

familiar and comforting. Her words seemed

to flow with ease, and with each story she

imparted, seemed carefully selected to

engage the mind as they painted a vivid

picture of Latise?s life. Like her books, each

word and phrase is precisely placed to

invite you into a world she is delighted to

share with you.

Born and raised in North Carolina, author

Latisse Howie is a writer to her core.

Penning ink to paper comes as naturally to

her as breathing. It sort of oozes from her

and is apparent in everything she does. At

45, Latise is loving herself, her life and is a

poised and self-assured. It?s hard to

imagine she didn?t always feel that way.

Although her hometown was mostly black,

Latise went to a predominately white high

school. She was into cheerleading and

being on the student council. As a teen, she

struggled with self-identity. Her peers from

home thought she behaved too white, and

her white class members didn?t see her as

?really? black, but still managed to treat her

differently. She didn?t feel as if she had a

place in either world and grappled with

fitting in. Life began to look up for Latise

when she made the decision to attend

North Carolina Central University, a

Historically Black College.

Latise explains:

By: Desiree Helm

?There is nothing like a Central experience, or

really an HBCU experience. North Carolina

Central is always going to be extraordinarily

special to me because that is where I came


into my own. It was the best experience I

could have embarked upon. I learned so

much about Latise Howie, who I really was.

That?s where I fell in love with myself, and

with writing. It became part of who I am?

Latise wrote her first book right out of

college, but she never published it. She

never really felt like it was ready. She didn?t

think that she had lived enough, or had

enough wisdom to put something out.

Over the next few years, Latise endured

two really poor relationships. At the time,

the circumstances appeared unbearable.

However, looking back, Latise is grateful for

the experiences.

Joyfully Latise expounds:

?I thank God for the experiences now. Nothing

is coincidental. Those things were supposed

to happen. I learned a lot through the

process. When I was writing the first book in

the series, Elevator Silence, I realized that I

was meant to write from my experiences.

What I went through was meant to be a

teaching tool for others. I originally began

writing a book on celibacy. I had made a

decision to be celibate and wanted to write a

book to help others deal with the situation. I

began to feel like my book was more

condemning than helpful. When I made the

decision to start writing about my

experiences, I didn?t want it to sound preachy.

I wasn?t sure what to do. One night I went to

bed and was awakened with thoughts of

different characters. I tried to go back to

sleep, but I couldn?t. It was as if the characters

wouldn?t let me sleep. I had to write their

stories out. It was like that all the time. Once I

was at a conference, but instead of paying

attention to the keynote speaker I was writing

the ending to my novel. It didn?t matter where

I was, or what I was doing. I had to write.

Sometimes I would wake up at 1, start writing

and would still be writing when the kids got

up at 5am.

I believe God, or the Holy Spirit, was

helping me write.

I was getting idea after idea. I know my book

was anointed and spirit driven. I could write

about things I had never experienced, like

drug addiction, but from a firsthand point of

view. It was amazing. I have been able to

reach people with my books and impact their


All 3 novels together are called

the Chronicles Trilogy. The books

are: Elevator Silence, The

Chronicles Side Track, and The

Chronicles Highways

I ntersections and Exits.

Giving birth to a vision often comes with

labor pains. Although Latise knew that she

was purposed to write the books, the

process of birthing her novels came with

its?s share of struggle and strife. As a

self-publisher, she was confronted with

many obstacles. Writing the books was

never a burden. It was the easy part. Words

always came easy to her. It was finding the

time to write, financing the books on her

own dime, and finding ways to market her

books that obstructed her process.

However, somehow God always seemed to

provide provisions just when she needed it

most. (She knew he had her back) Other

ordeals, like editing and marketing were

challenging too, but she kept pressing

because she knew there was purpose in

her trial.

The depth of Latise?s voice changes as she

describes how she made it through the

hard times

When God gives you a purpose and vision, he

will also give you the provision to make them

happen. Sometimes the thoughts of others

can also get in your way. The fear of what

others will say and the fear of failure can be

overwhelming if you let it.

Knowingly she admits that when she began

writing the books she was sort of moseying

along. She was working as a property

manager and had saved up close to

$40,000 to buy a house. Then one day, out

of the blue, Latise was unexpectantly let go

from a position she had gotten to

comfortable in. Instead of getting

discouraged and giving up, Latise realized

in that moment that God was releasing her

to finish the books. She pushed on and

used the money she was saving for her

house to instead publish her book and pay

for the marketing campaign.

I didn?t know what was going to happen, but

God knew. My favorite quote is ?Faith removes

all limitations?by Napoleon Hill. Every time I

felt doubt I knew it was fear based. I had to

conquer fear to move forward. My children

became my reason why. My book wasn?t just

for me, it was for them. When I remembered

that, everything else was easy. I could close

my eyes and see the books on my coffee table

even though they weren?t really there yet. I

willed them into being, spoke them into

existence. I would see them in the

supernatural with my spirit eye. I knew that if

I kept at it, they would manifest into reality. If

we speak it we can have it.

Since the release of her books, Latise is

moving full steam ahead with life. She has

been fortunate enough to see her books in

the hands of major celebrities that helped

to spark the initial popularity of the series.

However, it has been the sustenance of the

content in the books, and its?realistic

portrayal of life that has kept people

reading them. Her books have become so

well loved that she is now working on

converting her books to a stage play.

Latise has won the Gospel Image Award for

Best Inspirational Author, and Author of

the Year from the Queen City Awards.

In addition to writing, Latise is also using

her talent for words to speak to other

women. It can be hard to balance working

on your goals with being a mother. It was

something that she herself was challenged

with when she first stepped out on her

own. Latise knows that success would not

have been possible without the help of

family and friends encouraging and

supporting her along the way. She desires

to pay things forward by inspiring and

empowering other women. She is working

with a group to produce a Women?s

Empowerment Forum. She desires to use

this platform to equip other women to be

successful and along the journey of life.

?I named my last book ?Highways,

Intersections and Exits?because life is

journey. Every step, and every person you

meet are part of your highway. Your

interactions with other people are the

intersections along the road. Going through

life you realize that not every situation was

meant to last and not every person was

meant to stay. Those are your exits. Life itself

is the journey. You have to recognize the

bigger picture, the purpose of your travels is

to build the Kingdom of God. Everything I do

is to help others succeed in order to Glorify


"Don?t let anything stop you

from winning. Not your family,

your life, your fear, your age, or

your education. Nothing can stop

you from doing the thing you

were designed to do. "

Latise believes that although writing and

speaking comes naturally for her, it comes

with great responsibility. She has been

gifted the ability to capture an audience.

Whether it?s her warm inviting voice, or her

passionately told stories, people are drawn

to her presence and will listen to her

words. The gift of words is her superpower.

But like any superpower, it can be used for

good or evil. She understands the

importance and power within her words

and is determined to use them to the best

of her ability as a positive force in the lives

of others. She is unfaltering in her decision

to live life to the fullest, and intends to

leave a legacy of change and

transformation to all she encounters.

For more information on Latise Howie, or

an autographed copy of her books you can

visit her website www.latisemhowie.com.

Koko Nanga

Design Label Koko Nanga's most recent collection was entitled

Mwaleni- which is an African term in the "Bakweri" Culture in

Cameroon, Africa. The term means "Warrior".

The shoot model represents the characters in the Art of War. (See


Photographers include Karli Evans @KarliEvansPhoto, Model Leah

Wright @MsLeahWright, MUA Carine Eyoum-Czubba and

@NinaFly23 for this powerful presentation.

Styled by @MagnoliaEmporium (A curated home decor and design

service boutique based in Charlotte, NC.)

Koko Nanga's collections and shop items can be seen on the website

at www.kokonanga.com.

Maryanne Enanga Mokoko ( The designer behind the brand) is

based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She can also be contacted for

custom or ready to wear looks.

Instagram/Twitter @KokoNanga.

If you find this exciting, look forward to greater things from KN in


Lisa Bennett

Charlotte, NC is distinctive for a

plethora of reasons, from the famous

Queen Charlotte,whom the city is named

after, to becoming the mecca of the

NASCAR Dynasty. The jewel that

remains seemingly hidden is the nightlife

here. Like other major cities, Charlotte has

her own bevy of eateries, sports bars and

nightclubs where the locals and visitors

alike tend to frequent. But none have a

presence like those at The Music Factory,

home of upscale nightlife venue Label. I

had the pleasure recently to talk with Lisa

Bennett, Owner and Founder, about what

makes Label cut from a different cloth from

the rest of clubs on the scene, her future

plans, and more.

Tell us w ho you are, w here you are from ,

and w hat inspired you t o st art your


Oh, it is an odd, roundabout story; I am

originally from the New England area,

specifically Connecticut. I attended

University of Connecticut (UCONN), where I

received my degree in Mechanical

Engineering. I was in the industry for 22

years, having owned a design and

manufacturing business, which I dissolved

in 2011. Later, I met my boyfriend and

business partner, Robert, while attending

for Ballroom and Latin dance classes at

which he was the instructor. He had an

appreciation for music and loved being on

the dance scene. So, then we decided to

join forces to open Label, in October 2012,

which has a dual concept: both a club, and

a separate venue where special events are


By Davita Collins

Do you have a specific t arget m arket ?

How do you advert ise?

Label typically attracts people at least

25-years old and older. We advertise via

social media and local radio. We also have

a street team, called Label 4.0 who is also

responsible for marketing.

Do you have any fam ily m em bers or

children involved w it h your business?

Yes, my son, who is involved with the

marketing aspect of the business.

How did you creat e t he nam e Label?

It took us 5 months to create the name,

and prior to the name Label, we had 3

other possible names. But, the concept of

label came from ?designer labels?, as in the

upscale clothing brands people like to

associate themselves with. So when people

think of Label, they think of exclusivity and


What m akes Label different from ot her


We have 32 VIP tables, which is more than

typical clubs. Our customer service is #1,

so we treat all of our guests like VIP. Also,

we have been able to attract A-list

celebrities and entertainers, such as David

Guetta, Future, Drake, Calvin Harris, Tiesto

& Hardwell, Trey Songz, and Young Dolph.

They customarily request our services

whenever they are in town.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

What ?s next for Label? How do you

int end on helping art ist s in t he

neighboring areas w ho are challenged

The WOMANbehind

Charlotte?s LABEL

w it h finding places t o perform ?

I envision Label showcasing more talent,

and expanding laterally to offer more

services, such as ?LABEL PRESENTS?, a

concert series where there would be a

platform for popular, as well as local artists

to perform. So I definitely sympathize with

a need for more places where Charlotte?s

talent can showcase their music. Also, we

plan to open a second club in Dallas, Texas.

Is it t ough being a w om an in a

m ale-dom inat ed indust ry? What advice

w ould you give t o ot her business

ow ners as far as how t o keep doors

open w it h all t he com pet it ion?

Although it is a challenging industry, aside

from being male-dominated, I don?t see it

as being tough because I am a woman.

Many of my employees are women, and

while there is a lot of labor we have fun

along the way. When you are passionate

about something and you are doing what

you love, it does not feel like work. My

advice to other business owners is to put

your customer first. Customer service is

the key to loyal clients, and continued


Cent ral Int ercollegiat e At hlet ic

Associat ion?s (CIAA) t ournam ent is

around t he corner. Do you have anyone

special locked in so far?

Although I cannot disclose which

performers we will feature, I can guarantee

you it will be big!

How do people get in t ouch w it h you?

For inquiries, em ail info@labelcharlot t e.com , or go

t o t he w ebsit e w w w.labelcharlot t e.com and click on

t he ?cont act ? t ab, fill out t he form w it h your

quest ions and cont act inform at ion t hen click

?subm it ?.

Label is undeniably a nightclub here to

stay. We look forward to its long-term

success! The verity of events, celebrities,

and DJs there weekly, we knew all along it

was a woman running the show! Hats off to

you Lisa, and your awesome partner in

greatness, Robert!

Be sure to follow Label on social media!

Twitter: @LABELCharlotte Instagram:



European Wax Center Launches Strut 365? , a New Collection of Skincare,

Bath & Body, and Brow Care Products


avid Coba, CEO and co-founder of European

Wax Center (EWC), the leader in the lifestyle

beauty and waxing services categories, announced

today the launch of Strut 365? , three collections

of products designed to extend the EWC

experience into your home. EWC?s mantra is

Walk In, Strut Out? and now you can feel that

way every day.

While many brands claim they know waxing, and

others claim they know beauty products, only

European Wax Center understands both. Strut

365 gives EWC guests the opportunity to really

get gorgeous, every day, through their new

collections; Strut Smoothly? , Strut Lavishly? ,

and Strut Boldly? . Whether you are searching

for something to maintain gorgeous skin

in-between waxes, something to seduce your

senses while bringing out your skin?s natural

radiance or something to achieve daily

Browfection? with, there is something in it for

everyone, every day, in every collection. We have

got you covered; lavishly, boldly, and smoothly!

?After years of intensive research and

development, I?m beyond excited to see our vision

for a beauty line come to fruition,?says Coba. ?We

have leveraged our team's expertise in

scientifically formulated skincare products with

efficacious ingredients to design a comprehensive

line of products that will enhance the services

offered in our centers and inspire confidence and

gorgeous skin. It will allow our guests to bring

European Wax Center with them wherever they


Each Strut 365 product is formulated with its own

key ingredient complex to produce results that

will leave skin looking renewed and refreshed. 27

luxurious products, all free of harmful parabens

and mineral oil, make up the complete portfolio

of Strut 365. Products are enriched with

ingredients to keep skin nourished, retain

moisture and protect your skin.

The EXCLUSIVE Comfort Blend? , featured in

eight products, is designed to help replenish the

skin's natural moisture barrier. Infused with the

highest grade roman chamomile, aloe vera,

vitamin E, english cucumber and mediterranean

sea kelp, this complex calms, nourishes and

restores to reveal your most beautiful skin. Get

ready to walk in, and strut out of the bathroom as

you enjoy the confidence that luxuriously smooth

skin can provide.

EWC?s hair growth inhibitor (Narcissus Tazetta

Bulb Extract), featured in four products, helps

visibly slow hair regrowth between waxes and

promotes hair to grow finer and softer than

before. The bulb of this flowering plant has been

shown to significantly reduce the length of the

hair shaft while inducing the hair into the catagen

stage of the hair cycle at which time the hair stops

growing and gets ready to shed. In other words,

Strut 365 continues to work for your skin

in-between waxes to ensure visibly smooth and

hair-free skin.


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