Agyemang quickly learned that the pages of these magazines mirrored her small Ohio town. “There was a massive lack of diversity in these magazines as well,” says Agyemang. “I’d find maybe one or two Black writers, but that would be about it.”
That’s why, at 14, Agyemang swore she would give “a voice to the voiceless” in the media. Nearly 10 years later, she started a career in fashion media where she was soon disappointed to see the same things she saw as a teenager: “A lack of diversity, publicly facing and behind the scenes,” she says. These publications need to keep doing better, and Agyemang is doing her part to help that effort. “After leaving The Cut in 2020 to focus full time on EveryStylishGirl, I made sure they hired a Black woman to fill my role,” says Agyemang. “Whenever I get an opportunity, I’m going to give others an opportunity.”
It’s that mantra that is the core of EveryStylishGirl. “Prior to EveryStylishGirl, there wasn’t a place for Black women creative professionals to thrive and learn. We’ve created a safe for these women to turn to,” says Agyemang, with genuine joy and passion.
On May 23, EveryStylishGirl hosted its tenth Sip N Slay— a conference that gathers creatives who want to learn more about excelling in media and/or business. This year’s Sip N Slay felt particularly special as its theme touched on something we need to talk more about in the Black community: mental health.
The Sip N Slay conference focused on “breakdowns and breakthroughs,” both of which Agyemang and other Black creatives have experienced this past year. “This was a topic that has really hit the Black community for a while, particularly in the past year,” says Agyemang. “Historically, Black people experience trauma and violence more than their white counterparts, and very few Africans and Blacks turn to therapy. We end up stuck with our sadness, hopelessness, and trauma.”
Pre-pandemic, 16 percent of people who identify as Black reported mental health struggles. Unfortunately, the majority of those people did not receive mental health care, thanks in part to inaccessibility of services and stigma within the Black community. Throughout the pandemic and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, those numbers skyrocketed.
“Who is our community turning to? Who are we speaking to? I was even struggling to find a space to turn to,” says Agyemang. “We have to target trauma, we have to target healthy relationships in the workplace and with our friends and families. It’s those relationships that are vital to our mental health.”
At the same time, Black entrepreneurs and creatives saw incredible growth in their businesses and platforms. The Black Lives Matter movement (2020 edition) called for amplification of Black voices and Black business endeavors. And for a while, people obliged.
“The most beautiful part of this year is that there was a huge growth for Black business owners and entrepreneurs,” Agyemang says. “The first time I met with other Black creatives, we talked about how our followings or clientele had doubled. It was fantastic, but unfortunate that it took violence to lead to our breakthrough.”
The breakdowns and breakthroughs have come hand-in-hand for our community, which is emotionally taxing to say the least. The Sip N Slay conference included a robust panel of speakers who spoke to their experiences this past year. Actor, producer, and undeniable “Millennial Diva” Keke Palmer served as the keynote speaker. She was joined by founder and CEO of Alexandra Winbush Brittney Winbush. The women had a beautiful conversation about friendship, creative pursuits, mental health, and lifting each other up. “It’s Black women in happy healthy friendships for me,” a conference goer expressed.
Agyemang wants people to know that EveryStylishGirl and Sip N Slay aren’t just for Black and Brown women hoping to excel in the business world or creative industries. “We want to encourage people from all backgrounds to come,” she says. “[Sip N Slay] is for anyone who’s interested in self discovery and building a bigger brand.”
Throughout the event, Agyemang said something that has since stuck with me: “It’s all about refilling each other’s cup,” she said repeatedly as she moderated the conference. That is the spirit of Sip N Slay and Agyemang’s work in general. It’s all about paving a way for Black and Brown women to succeed in business, media, or whatever industry they choose. It’s about facilitating and celebrating connections between women of color; it is the key to not only our healing or prosperity but to changing the world.
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