Late last week, an attorney for Kanye West, who now goes by Ye, told The Associated Press that a letter was sent to Gap on Thursday (Sept. 15) to terminate the contract between the clothing chain and West’s company, Yeezy
Less than 48 hours since the announcement, rumors began to swirl about the mega mogul reportedly reaching out to smaller, black-owned footwear companies for potential partnerships to merge his clothing and shoe lines. This bold business move would bring more awareness to independent clothing brands while creating a bigger stake in the fashion industry for West.
“I think he came at us because we are vanguards of the culture,” says an anonymous business owner. “With all of his power, influence and wide reach, it’s the last thing that major corporations want. This is huge.”
In 2021, Bloomberg ranked him as the wealthiest Black American, pegging his net worth at $6 billion. Between $3.2 billion and $4.7 billion of that net worth comes from West’s partnerships with Gap and Adidas, according to investment bank UBS. A potential partnership between West and smaller, Black-owned businesses would create a larger share of the fashion market for underrepresented corporations.
“If a deal of this proportion goes through and my company goes into partnership with Ye, there will be a tectonic shift,” says the unnamed source. “This shift takes the power away from our oppressors and puts it back into hands of the people who are the gatekeepers of popular culture.”
According to industry insiders, West is seeking mergers with all Black-owned footwear companies. Sources also say celebrities such as Dave Chappelle, Magic Johnson and former track and field athlete/ professional football player John Carlos (archived for his rebellious Black Power salute on the podium at the 1968 Summer Olympics) are among dignitaries who will reportedly bring their influence to this project.
Companies vying for impending ventures with West include Atlanta-based Nagast Footwear. Launched in 2015, Nagast became the first company to create an internationally successful sneaker line to commemorate the legacy of powerful Black leaders, such as Nat Turner and Marcus Garvey, among others.
Other black-owned businesses that could be included in possible ventures include the nation’s only Black woman-owned fulfillment center Everlasting Love Fulfillment, among many others.
“Kanye is 10, 20 years ahead of everybody,” says the source, “and he’s looking towards us.”
As The Woman King rolls into theaters today, both the film’s cast and its director, Gina Prince-Bythewood, are excitedly anticipating wide audience response to the action, drama, and majesty of the story centered on Dahomey’s Agojie warriors.
It’s a real-life legacy that most audiences frankly aren’t familiar with. The director says telling this hidden history, lost to most American audiences, peels back the curtain of mystery about where we came from and serves as a counter to the lessons we’ve been given on where our story began.
“It really started with this story I wanted to tell, which is about these incredible women that history knows nothing about. So much of what we learned about our history in America is that it began with enslavement, and that’s just not the truth,” Prince-Bythewood tells ESSENCE. “There’s an incredible continent – not that far away – that has incredible cultures. It’s where we came from. It’s where our ancestors came from. So I wanted to tell that story.”
The story of the Agojie’s fierce sisterhood and strong bond comes alive on screen, a translation of the close bond Prince-Bythewood and the cast formed with each other during preparation and filming this project.
“I feel that as the director, it’s my job to foster relationships that are then going to show up on screen,” she says. “So many of us have never had an opportunity to tell a story like this. The responsibility we felt, the connection that so many of these actors felt directly to our ancestors, the desire to get it right, we all shared that, and the work ethic.”
That work ethic saw the cast – and Prince-Bythewood, who joined in out of solidarity – completing intense physical training to get in shape to complete their own stunts and fight choreography for the film.
“That bonded everyone because it was so hard,” the director recalls. “They fed each other, pushed each other, they were competitive in the best way and pulled each other through, and it’s beautiful that that could show up onscreen. ”
“It really all started with Viola [Davis]. All of them wanted to tell this story, they wanted to play these incredible characters, but they wanted to play with Viola.”
Davis, the film’s lead who also co-produced the film through her production company JuVee, mentioned during ESSENCE’s roundtable discussion with the cast, she wasn’t entirely convinced that The Woman King would actually come to pass when the prospect of the film came along. For Prince-Bythewood, the fact that the film is actually hitting theaters today is nothing short of miraculous.
“Every time I watch the movie, the word ‘miracle’ pops into my head,” she says. “It is a miracle that this film is in existence, that it’s about to be put into the world. I’m just excited for others to see it because I know how it makes me feel.”
“I know if I had nothing to do with it how I would feel to finally be able to go into the theater and see a story like this and see myself reflected like this. It’s everything, and I’m just excited.”
Viewers on their way to the theaters this evening should also know to stick around after the initial set of credits. There is a brief, yet impactful mid-credit stinger that speaks calls back to the film’s end, yet also encompasses its message in a poignant manner. For Prince-Bythewood, it was an important addition that tied our past and our present together in a subtle way.
“As a filmmaker, you have a vision. I knew what this film was, but I also knew what it meant for me, as a Black woman. And that is about ‘Say Her Name,'” she reveals. “It’s about honoring the Black women who have been in the struggle, who have died nameless, and it ends with a specific name that embodies our struggle of being invisible, of being unprotected. So, it was a callout in honor of us.”
The Woman King is now in theaters.
The action film based on the lives of Agojie warriors starring Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis is the top-grossing film at the weekend box office. According to Forbes, The Woman King brought in at least $19 million domestically over the weekend following the premiere on Sept. 16. The film has a nearly all-Black cast and was directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood.
The Woman King also earned an A-plus CinemaScore from audiences and smashed Sony Pictures’ early predictions of $12 million for the opening weekend, earning $6.85 million on Friday (including $1.7 million from Thursday) and $7.15 million on Saturday. The film is expected to top $20 million after Sunday’s sales are tallied.
The Woman King recounts the tale of the Agojie, warriors who fought European colonizers for the Kingdom of Dahomey during the 19th century in West Africa, and Davis called the film, which is also being called “The Black Braveheart,” her “magnum opus.”
“This is my magnum opus,” said Davis on Twitter. “I’ve never had a role like this before, it’s been one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I can’t wait for you to experience #TheWomanKing, now playing exclusively in movie theaters.”
The film also seems to be resonating with audiences and received a 94 percent rating from Rotton Tomatoes with a 99 percent audience score. The film also received an A-plus rating from a CinemaScore poll.
CinemaScore shared the poll on Twitter with a caption congratulating Davis, the cast of The Woman King and Sony Pictures.
The script was written by Dana Stevens and based on a story by actress Maria Bello. The Woman King reportedly cost $50 million to produce and also stars Sheila Atim, Lashana Lynch, John Boyega and Thuso Mbedu.
Natural Hair Stylist Honors Her Late Mom With Product Line That Helps Women With Dry Hair and Scalp Issues
Meet Kenyatta Nicole, a specialist in natural hair care and styling, who has launched Nora's Haircare Collection, a unique product line designed to help women who struggle with various issues from dry scalp, split ends, dry hair, and even hair growth. She is also known and respected as an avid educator who shares valuable tips with her salon clients about at-home hair maintenance and aftercare.
As a child, Kenyatta always showed a passion for the beauty industry. She went on to earn a Master Cosmetology degree from Empire Beauty School in Kennesaw, Georgia, and decided to name her product line after her late mother, Nora, who herself was also an entrepreneur but sadly died in 2010. During the pandemic, she was inspired to launch the company as a supplementary idea to the salon that she already owns in the Atlanta area.
Her best-selling products include the Healthy Hair Growth Bundle Kit, Nora’s Extra Strength Hair Serum, Yes Moisture Shampoo, Conditioner, Leave-in Spray, Nora’s Restoring Shampoo, and more. All of the products were designed for women of all ages.
“My products mean so much to me because they are my way of helping women help themselves,” says Kenyatta. “I didn’t know what to name my product line at first, I prayed about it and suddenly came to me. This was the chance to honor my mother – the woman who created me. It was my way of sharing her with the world.”
So, what makes Nora different from the myriad of companies and products promising quick fixes and solutions to women’s crowns? The products are all made of natural ingredients that encourage hair growth help customers to achieve healthy hair at home and between salon visits. It is true that the hair care industry is saturated with products that promise to turn hair from drab too fab. Sadly, many of these products fail to deliver on those promises. Indeed, sorting through the hair care market can be frustrating and time-consuming.
The Kenyatta Nicole Store & Salon, located at 1810 Spring Road in Smyrna, Georgia, saves women the hassle of searching for professional products to help women with dry, flaky, itchy scalp, hair moisture, and hair growth. The Nora line features shampoo, conditioner, and a hair growth serum among other products, all of which have received rave reviews from customers and clients.
Inspiration for the store and Nora products came while Kenyatta was working in a salon before the pandemic. As she listened to her clients talk of their hair issues, she thought about how she could help them add moisture and grow their natural curls and tresses. When the pandemic hit and salons, like other businesses around the world shut down, Kenyatta turned her attention to creating her all-natural product line. It was the perfect way to merge her two loves – helping women achieve and maintain healthy hair and honoring her mother.
Additionally, she offers a hair quiz to help women discern their hair challenges. Upon completing the quiz, Kenyatta reaches out to each woman to suggest solutions to their hair challenges. Take the quiz here.
For more details and/or to purchase her products online, visit TheKNStore.com
Donta Rose, a 28-year-old engineer and entrepreneur, has opened his own Grocery Outlet supermarket worth $5 million within a new development in his former neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Rose, who studied at Morgan State University, an HBCU, was originally one of the engineers working to design stores for Grocery Outlet, a California-based retailer that has over 400 stores nationwide. Upon seeing that his old neighborhood in the Sharswood section of North Philadelphia is on the list of future store locations, he thought it would be a great opportunity to own it.That's when Rose used his savings and secured a loan to buy a franchise of the store, he told The Philadelphia Inquirer. Being conveniently located in the neighborhood where he mostly grew up, he is very familiar with it. He was aware that before he opened the store, there has been no major supermarkets since the 1960s and the closest one was nearly a mile away.
Grocery Outlet offers name-brand and private-label products as well as dairy, bread, and fresh produce at low prices. Aside from making necessities more accessible to people in the community, the store also created new jobs.
Moreover, Rose, who started helping in his grandparents' business when he was just 9 years old, is grateful to his family of entrepreneurs for supporting him in his endeavor.
"My name is on the loan and my face might be on there [in-store signage], but my mom is going to be with me," he said. "My dad is actually out running right now to go pick up a safe for me and helping to grab stuff for the opening. My sisters are with me. So it's definitely going to be a family business, for sure."