More Than Monday featuring Shaw Bernard

Boy or girl. Adult or child. We have all pursed our lips together or practiced raising our eyebrows in an effort to ensure that we give good face in any photograph being taken of us. For Shaw Bernard giving good face comes so naturally that she is now image (1)molding the next crop of models and actors at Strut Modeling House, Brooklyn’s Premiere Modeling School. As CEO of Strut Modeling Shaw Bernard demonstrates that at the end of the day it isn’t just about what on the outside that counts. 

This Monday she shares with the Neophyte Author the importance of having a backup plan, self-confidence, and how to stay rooted and grounded when you are successful. 

How did you get your start in the industry?

At the tender age of fourteen (14) people started suggesting that I should consider modeling because I was standing at almost six feet (6’0) at the time. I had no idea how to go about pursuing that and neither did my mom. Eventually, I started getting connected with people in the industry, (makeup artists, hairstylists and photographers) who wanted to work with me. I enjoyed the experience and everything that I have learned has been very beneficial in the operations of my very own modeling school.

With your stunning features and portfolio you could easily just be a model–what led you to step behind the camera to groom future stars?

Being just a model is unrealistic, at least for me. Unless you are a super model, you should always have something to fall back on, especially since longevity in the industry is very few and far.  At this stage in my life I am concerned with building a brand, and not just being seen as a model.  I am extremely passionate about modeling and I also feel compelled to empower young people. So, starting Strut Modeling House was the perfect combination of my two loves.

How do you manage to maintain your sense of self in an industry that is focused on the image or appearance of things rather than reality? 

First things first, I have to give credit to my relationship with God now. Prior to that, I did fall prey to pressure of the industry standards to the point where I did not even feel adequate to model anymore. Now, I understand that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and no one can fit me into their box of what is considered beautiful.  I also have a ton of love and support from my husband, relatives, and close friends.  They keep me grounded and constantly remind me that I am capable of being anything I want to be.

Since you run a specialty business how do you manage to turn a profit during difficult economic times? 

Fortunately because what I do can translate into an academic atmosphere, I receive contracts from schools and non-profit organizations to teach modeling as a way of enhancing self-esteem and building strong characters. When things are not progressing as I would like them to at my studio, I have those other outlets to keep me a float. My studio is 1100 sq feet so I also rent it out for various events and that covers the bases as well. Needless to say, I am able to capitalize on many different levels.

The fashion industry has gotten a bad rap when it comes to embracing the beauty of African-Americans, have you found that to be true? If so, what does it take to make an impact in an industry that isn’t always accepting of African-Americans?

image (2)100% yes. I have personally encountered situations where they blatantly expressed no desire to cast black models, or agencies saying to me “you’re not what we are looking for.”  I believe that doing the work I do at Strut is a step in the right direction of change. I expose my students to the industry and teach them about having self value, the importance of perseverance, and to never let anyone discourage them by projecting their own insecurities on to them.  The industry is the way it is because not enough people are standing up for the injustice. Since the desire of many is so strong to make it as a model, they compromise at all costs.  Personally, I am not interested in doing so, which is why I am making my own path.

What advice would you give to any woman who desires to be “more than”?

Women should know that they are more than, rather than desiring to be so. It is important to have self-worth and surround yourself with others who value you as well.  A woman who is more than lives according to her own rules. She is not confined to the limitations placed on her by others. The first step to knowing that you are more than is embracing who you are, the good, bad, and indifferent. Believing that there is no one else like you. And lastly, a more than woman should not be afraid to stand out from the crowd despite when others are playing it safe.

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If you’d like to learn how to give good face and strut down the sidewalk or catwalk like a pro with Shaw Bernard please visit:

Follow Strut on Instagram @strutmodelinghouse

 If you know a woman whom you believe should be featured in More Than Monday please feel free to nominate a woman by sending her information including where she can be reached at to the Neophyte Author at nigerialockley@hotmail,com with “More Than” in the subject line. 

More Than Monday featuring Nikki Gwinn of Beyond Kids Foundation and Rich Girls Chocolate

This Monday the Neophyte Author is pleased to introduce you a CEO who is using her passion to effect change in the lives of young people through her fashion forward foundation, Beyond Kids Foundation, in Stamford, CT. Beyond Kids helps foster creativity and educate kids who want to get involved with the fashion industry. Besides ensuring that the future of fashion is solidified Nikki works hard at offering up couture chocolates for the woman who not only has a flair for fashion, but would like some flavor to savor as well. And she’s a mom. 

It takes a certain individual to work with children and it takes a certain kind of person assess a need and create the solution for it. Nikki is a blend of both. Take a peek at how Nikki Gwinn of Beyond Kids Foundation and Rich Girls Chocolate makes moves and maintains her home, to get “more than” out of every experience. 

Nikki, what motivated you to open a not-for-profit organization?

photo 2 Fashion has always been a passion of mine since my early childhood days. I’ve always been inspired to advocate for the youth, educate, empower, and instill confidence in the youth pertinent to fashion design and modeling. I look forward to bringing education growth and creative experiences to the youth.

How do you get through the difficult days of managing a foundation and working with at-risk youth? 

photo 3There always going to be obstacles and challenges we face throughout any journey, but positivity and keeping the faith is what encourages me. My program is a fun program so youth in general enjoy the curriculum and are intrigued by it. My belief and model has always been no child should be left behind. Having the ability to bring out the creativity within our youth and being able to teach them the adolescences of life inspires me to keep going.

In addition to running Beyond Kids you also run a specialty chocolate business. What prompted you to open another business in such a different field?

They are two different fields, but they both relate to fashion. Chocolate was something I used to eat in college to comfort me photo 4when I was designing. I had a best friend who specialized in making chocolate lollipops, but nothing pertaining to fashionable three dimensional chocolate. So, I decided why not invest into making fashionable accessorized pure chocolate candy called, Rich Girls Chocolate. Rich Girls Chocolate specializes in handmade premium chocolate. We offer a large variety of award-winning fashionable chocolate candy. We have a a wide selection of gifts whether it’s for a special business client, a loved one, to celebrate a holiday, or an event. We have many years of creativity design experience. If you don’t see exactly what you need, we cater to each of our customers, and provide them with personalized customer service to ensure their satisfaction! 

Do you find it hard to strike a balance between your professional and personal life? What do you do to maintain that balance?

Absolutely, as a single mom of two boys, I have a 19 year old who is currently in college and a 6 year old that I love dearly and wouldn’t trade them in for the world but they are very supportive and understanding. I make sure that I incorporate time in my schedule to ensure that I am being a mommy. My children are aware that they can utilize me as a resource, and I am someone who will always care. I have always managed to be a very active parent, which I think is important. Interacting with your kids is imperative whether it’s over the phone, or in person. I have learned to separate my personal life from my professional life, it truly boils down to how you manage your time.

What advice would you give to any woman reading this who desires to be “more than”?

There are always going to be trials and tribulations you’re going to face. Be strong-minded, never give up, and if you fail, then try again! Motivation, perseverance, and integrity are the keys to success.

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For those of you want to help develop the future of fashion by either enrolling your child donating your time, resources (materials or finacial support) contact Nikki Gwinn of Beyond Kids Foundation at beyondkidsfoundation@gmail.com *Beyond Kids is a not-for-profit foundation

 

 

 

 

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After doing your good deed get decadent with some customized chocolates from Rich Girls Chocolate

If you know a woman whom you believe should be featured in More Than Monday please feel free to nominate a woman by sending her information including where she can be reached at to the Neophyte Author at nigerialockley@hotmail,com with “More Than” in the subject line.