Let’s BRAG about it

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On Thursday, I was invited to attend the B.R.A.G Annual Scholarship & Awards Gala at the Park Avenue Armory. Now some may not be familiar with the non-profit organization that stands for Black Retail Action Group (BRAG) that prepares and educates professionals, entrepreneurs and students of color for executive leadership in retail, fashion and related industries. The gala was heavily attended by CEOs, VPs and students all under the same roof supporting one another even myself a former BRAG scholar. I joined the organization the summer of 2006 and now nine years later I am covering it. Read below for the past and present experience of an alumni.

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Alicia Quarles of E!News fame hosted the event decked out in Zac Posen (honoree). She was the perfect person for the event and kept the mixed crowd alive with her vibrant personality.

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Here we are striking a fierce pose… she’s killing this dress right?

*Quick Note – you will see my gray dress a lot, sorry not sorry*

After the opening introduction by Alicia it was time to announce the scholarship recipients and celebrate the honorees

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Group shot of the honorees l to r: Donald, Shawn, Zac and Dia

1. Dia Simms (Business Achievement honoree)

1      President of Combs Wines & Spirits

She was charming and very down to earth, have to love that about a powerful woman. She didn’t have any background in the liquor industry but came and dominated it with force. We discussed many things including our love of each others attire and hair of course…we both have natural hair and the temperature in the room was making us nervous.

2. Zac Posen (Business Achievement honoree)

28     Fashion Designer

We had an interesting conversation being my 9-5 is working for a beauty company that designs for Disney and Zac mentioned how Disney wants him to work on the ever popular Cinderella, I may be able to help with that!

3. Shawn Howell (Business Achievement honoree)

2Vice President of men’s luxury collection for Saks Fifth Avenue

I met Shawn back in 2006 when he led one of my brag seminars at Saks and now get to watch him be honored. Blessed! He gave one of the best speeches as he talked about how far one can go when you have someone believe in you, so much so he married her!

4. Donald J. Loftus (Business Achievement honoree)

Executive Vice President of Perfumania (didn’t grab a pic)

The speech Donald gave was short and sweet but full of ambition. He talked about the courage one has to live out their dreams and how hard work always wins.

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Honorees with Co-Presidents of Brag: Shawn Outler (l) and Nicole Cokley (r)

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After the speeches and well wishes it’s time to mingle

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Here I am with actress Tasha Smith (whose twin sister produced the gala) and designer Laquan Smith

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 Zac Posen centered with former Editor of Essence magazine, Constance White and actress Tasha Smith

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This fashionable trio needed to be photographed

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In all I can say this was a great evening with influential people who made for a night of reminiscing and networking… but wait how can I talk about how it ends without how it all began.

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Here I am in the baggy pinstripe suit (rolls eyes) with Larry Haley our advisor at Footlocker and President of BRAG Mr. JJ Thomas.

See nine years ago I entered the program very green and naive. This was my first internship ever and I got into a pretty intense one. I remembered receiving my schedule for the summer and was taken back at the daily activities, from retail math class (ugh), networking courses, and seminars and then on top of that work at a company 40hrs a week. Say what, I was only 19yrs old that wasn’t how my summer was supposed to go but it did and it still applies to my life now.

Sorry about the pic quality it was 2006 the year of disposable cameras and Facebook, bare with me.

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That same year I was fortunate to attend the gala as well. See BRAG gave me a lot of first that summer. First internship, first time learning to network, first time presenting a case study and first gala. I believe I grow up that year, I felt very independent and accomplished so much so went back to Howard University and started a BRAG chapter.

Now years later I am attending the gala that inspired me and got to reconnect with my past.

6 Mr. JJ Thomas and I

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Larry Haley and I

So there you have it, you get to learn a little bit of my now and then! I appreciate this organization and all that it does for rallying for diversity in the workplace especially fashion. It’s not easy but so many should support and if your fortunate to join the program its worth it. BRAG if your brave enough!

AmberMonae

 

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