“Back to Black” with 12 Influential & Empowering African American Women of the Twin Cities. Celebrating Black Month History.


Black History Month ’14: “Back to Black”

Celebrating the diverse talents and triumphs  of 12 influential and empowering African American women or known as movers and shakers of the Twin Cities, MN.

Featured women (L-R):
Anna Jones
Shatona Kilgore Groves
Coryn Woitel
Sherita Moss
Ashley DuBose
Sonya Goins
Robyn Robinson
Faatemah Ampey
Jasmine Stringer
Ada Johnson
Felica Wright- Palmer
Judy Justin

Get to know each woman, from their life experiences of being women of color, personal obstacles, the impacts they have made on someone else/community and leaving some wisdom with their 3 inspiring words. Their stories from talents to triumphs concealed in one captivating image, is the essence and core of developing an empowering message.

*Stay tune for the extended editorial in the next upcoming days!*

As also aired on Kare 11 news, with inside scoop with our Creative Director Parker XL, and featured influential/empowering women Sonya Goins, Anna Jones and Faatemah Ampey:


Ashley DuBose

Who are you? Ashley DuBose is a singer/songwriter based in the Twin Cities. This past fall, Ashley was a contestant on NBC’s reality singing competition show, The Voice. Her rendition of Rihanna’s “Diamonds” got all four celebrity judges to turn their chairs. Ashley chose Adam Levine as her coach and advanced to the Top 32 round in the competition. Before her national debut, Ashley released an independent album, titled “Somethin’ More”, which is available online at www.ashleydubose.bandcamp.com as well as at The Electric Fetus in Minneapolis and Urban Lights Music in St. Paul. She has graced the stages of some of the most well known music venues in the Twin Cities area, including First Avenue, Fine Line Music Cafe, Myth Night Club, and the Minnesota Music Cafe, to name a few. Whether performing solo or with her live band, Ashley rocks a mic and the crowd with an ease that is reminiscent of a seasoned Grammy-award-winning act, which she hopes to be one day. Ashley wishes to change lives through her music, connecting to listeners through songs written from her heart and inspired by her life experiences.

What obstacles have you overcame as a woman of color? I overcame the obstacle of completing college and creating and album, simultaneously, while parenting my then 2 year old daughter.

How have you made change? I hope to create a change in the lives of many by inspiring them to reach for their goals and being a reason that they believe that they can overcome the obstacles in their own lives, too, and be successful.

 Your 3 inspiring words:

  1. Hope (Keep the faith. Hope makes life worth living.
  2. Happiness (Happiness is the goal)
  3. Love (Quoting Aloe Blacc in the song “Wake Me Up”: Life’s a game made for everyone, and LOVE is the prize.)

 Sonya Goins

Who are you?  A 50-year-old Mom of three teens, News Reporter, Advocate for the Crohn’s Colitis Foundation of American-MN-Dakota Chapter, Runner.

What obstacles have you overcame as a woman of color? I overcame racism in workplace, college, and community. I refuse to let ignorance or intolerance prevent me from accomplishing my goals.

 How have you made a change? I’ve mentored other women and men of color in the field of journalism. I’ve also helped to raise awareness about Crohn’s and colitis diseases. I’ve also raised thousands of dollars for the Crohn’s Colitis Foundation of America. So far I’ve ran three half marathons to raise money for CCFA. I’m currently training for my fourth–Dublin Ireland on August 4th.

Your 3 inspiring words:   Love, Compassion, and Hope.

Judy Justin

Who are You? I am married to a wonderful husband and together we have three children. Together we own the Eldercare Consultant, a business providing mental health, social work, and nursing services for the adults and geriatric population- www.eldercc.us. My children and I also do fashion modeling. Please check their work at www.janeljustin.net and www.avajustin.net .

What obstacles have you overcome as a woman of color? As a woman of color you have a lot to prove especially raising a family. But thank God for a wonderful and supportive husband. Were a team and that is what makes all go well in our household.

How have you made a change? There’s a quotation by the amazing Oprah Winfrey that says, “Surround yourself with people who lift you higher.” That’s exactly what I did. Surrounding myself with God and supportive people and that only made me want t become better to reach my highest potential!

Your 3 inspiring words: Believe. Hope. Faith.

Coryn Woitel

Who are you? I am a 27 year black female. I have been modeling for ten years. I work with different companies around Minnesota as well as around the world. I was also on America’s Next Top Model Cycle 5. For my life has been an incredible journey, I am looking for what else it will bring.

What obstacles have you overcame as a woman of color?

  • Living in poverty.
  • Growing up not knowing my color side.
  • Struggling of not fitting in a majority school of white.

How have you made a change? To be a role model to girls and young women—I volunteer at shelters to show them they can be anything they want to be.

Your 3 inspiring words: Faith. Strength. Love.

 Robyne Robinson

 Who are you? A MN broadcasting pioneer; political trailblazer; arts and media icon; international jewelry designer; and an individualist.

What obstacles have you overcame as a woman of color?

  • Sexism
  • Racism
  • Ageism

How have you made a change? By being myself; standing up for others; encouraging visionaries; staying true to my beliefs; caring about my community.

Your 3 inspiring words:  Never give up.

 Ada Johnson

Who are you?  A 29 year old, first generation American born into a strong Nigerian house-hold. I am a Minnesota native, currently residing in the north Loop, Downtown Minneapolis with my lovely husband Nicholas. I love to travel, restaurants, yoga and all things fashion. I currently work at Target Corporation as a Product Manager in global sourcing supporting Ready to Wear Women’s Fast Fashion line, Mossimo Black.

What obstacles have you overcame as a woman of color?  I learned that a young age to be open to having friends of many races and backgrounds. This has better helped me to adapt to today’s society. Growing up in MN, women of color are really taught up to adapt to their surroundings. What I would say is never lose you are in the inside to fit in. “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Your 3 inspiring words: Transformation. Individualism. Independence.

Jasmine Brett Stringer

Who are you? Jasmine Brett Stringer, Master Connector, is a marketing and business development consultant. A southern belle currently residing in the Midwest, Jasmine is an avid traveler, golfer and foodie. She lives her life by the mantra “carpe diem” and pens a blog entitled “Carpe Diem with Jasmine.” Jasmine also is lifestyle contributor to several media outlets including the Huffington Post.

What obstacles have you overcame as a woman of color? The biggest obstacle I think I’ve had to overcome as a woman of color is the “perception” that many people have of women of colors. The challenge is people prejudge and often place us in a box before getting to know us. We are all unique beings.

How have you made a change? I’m on a journey to live life whole heatedly and authentically.

Your 3 inspiring words: Carpe Diem + Dream Big.

 Sherita Moss

Who are you? Model, dancer and actress; living in both Minneapolis, MN and Brooklyn, New York.

What obstacles have you overcame as a woman of color? Managing my career and household independently is hard work. I’ve been blessed with much success over these years.

How have you made a change?  Motivated other women of especially of color to live their dreams by showing examples, regardless of your situations, dreams can come true.

Your 3 inspiring words: Powerful. Unstoppable. Passionate.

 Jonesy (Anna Jones)

Who are you? A thankful 22 year old, who was adopted into a loving family as a baby. I grew up on the stage of dancing and acting. I am also with two modeling agencies as a model, actress, host and emcee for three years. I also work at Mayo clinic part time.

What obstacles have you overcame as a woman of color? Being woman of color has not affected me because I grew up with white parents, two Indian siblings, two white siblings and a Haitian brother. But I have noticed seeing my family as more diverse than others, but it was never looked at as an “obstacle” but a proud experience.

How have you made a change? On May 2013, I got a call that a lump I previously found was stages 2-3 breast cancer with 75% aggressive rate. For 18 weeks I had three chemos and spend much time in hospital. I found out I had BRCA2 and this unknown cell as well. By December 5th I had a double mastectomy and went straight to implants. I later found out on January 3rd that I was not on full remission, and have to have infusions for 12 more months because I was HER2 positive as well. My positive HER2 slipped under the radar when I was tested for it in June; this was a second blow to my face and family because we all thought I was done.

Your 3 inspiring words: Laugh. Live. Love.

Felicia Palmer

Who are you? I am a wife and mother of two boys. I model for Webb Models and Talent Agency. I am employed with Xcel Energy center for 15 years, working in the outdoor lighting department. I am also the president of the Deaconess Ministry at Shiloh Baptist Church.

What obstacles have you overcame as a woman of color? The fear of doubt and I know that I can do all tings through Christ who believes in me.

How have you made a change? By believing and knowing that God will direct my path.

Your 3 inspiring words: Faith. Trust. Believe.

Shatona Kilgore Groves

 Who are you? Shatona teaches about fulfilling dreams in the classroom and assists models, actors, and entertainers in doing just that. Shatona is a college professor and the owner of Webb Models and Talent. Shatona is ambitious, but not only wants success for herself, she is overjoyed when she sees her students or talent reaching their potential. In her personal life, she has had the support of her loving husband for 18 years,  she is raising 2 wonderful children, and still reaching for the stars and taking many along for the ride. She believes one doesn’t become successful just for themselves alone, but for all those around them as well.

What obstacles have you overcame as a woman of color? The biggest obstacle was believing that I was beautiful as a dark young girl of color. Once I overcame that I was ready to take on the world. Now any challenge is a blessing because through each challenge, I grow, I change, I represent true strength. Now, the biggest challenge is helping others to trust me, to believe in me as a professional, people of all races in the  industry of modeling have made it difficult because of scams. However, I believe people after the initial mistrust, people learn to use discernment and they can eventually see that I have a genuine spirit.

How have you made a change? I had a wonderful idea for a business and I didn’t act on it. I then saw this same idea become someone else’s reality. I was crushed. It only took that one time to let a dream pass me by. When I was given the idea of a Model and Talent Agency, an agency that specializes in ethnic models. I filed the business name immediately from my home computer. I don’t wait any longer, I act with urgency on my ideas. I use all my creative gifts that I have been blessed with.

Your 3 inspiring words. Live.Life.Now

Faatemah Ampey

Who are you? Faatemah is an award-winning hair trendsetter with 20+ years of attention-commanding experience of putting her fabulous touch on cuts, color, extensions and styling for the runway, editorial photo shoots and everyday life.

Her strong background from learning and traveling with Aveda founder Horst M. Rechelbacher and Graham Webb has led to a plethora of opportunities styling hair for national print magazines, television, branding campaigns and runway shows. Faatemah and her work have been featured in such publications as Allure, Beauty Launchpad, Ebony and Modern Salon, Sophisticate’s Black Hair and Hype Hair magazines and on national television, including FOX, ABC, NBC and WCCO. Her partial clientele list includes such celebrities as Chrisette Michele, Yigal Azrouel, Henry Duarte, Holly Robinson Peete, Nicole Miller and Claudia Jordan.

Now considered to be one the best stylists in the world, Faatemah’s passion for fashion dazzles with styles that range from the outrageous and over-the-top to simple classic beauty cuts combined with beautiful color. She has earned international recognition as a North American Hairstyling Award (NAHA) three-time nominee and award winner for the 2009 Fashion Forward category. She has also hosted and/or emceed International Salon & Spa Expo (ISSE), the largest beauty event on the west coast, for four consecutive years and is a former contestant on Bravo’s Shear Genius.

Faatemah currently serves as a founding member of the elite Intercoiffure America/Canada’s Artistic Council and partner at Edina-based Bella Salon & Spa.

What obstacles have you overcame as a woman of color?
The biggest obstacle I have had to face as an entrepreneur is the never-ending job of proving my worth, intelligence and value — especially as a woman in a man’s world. Fortunately, I have developed a thick skin, an unbreakable spirit and an arsenal of talent and dedication. I am happy with the skin I’m in and wouldn’t have it any other way!

Have you made a change, and what was it?
I grew up feeling “unpretty.” There was no imagery in magazines or television that supported Black as beautiful. Being introduced to magazines like Essence and Jet helped forever change my perception and worth. At that point, I decided that every person should feel beautiful.I am grateful that my editorial work has given me an opportunity to celebrate all women and inspire beauty – no matter the race or hair texture! Every person should feel beautiful!

Your 3 inspiring words.
My formula for success: Desire, Determination, Dedication

 About “Back to Black”:

On February 12, 2014, Fashion-Odds Mpls partnered up with Chris McDuffie Photography & the MPLS Beauty Lounge to capture 12 influential and empowering African American women of the Twin Cities in one movement, in the concept of “Back to Black”, to honor Black History month. This empowering movement celebrates the diversity of each one’s lives , talents, success, triumphs and obstacles from family, love, success, business, fashion, education and modeling related to their life as African American women in one captivating photoshoot. Together these ladies with their talents and triumphs become some of the Twin Cities’ movers and shakers, creating a historical image to inspire our readers and community.

“Back to Black” is in references to reminiscing the  history or past momentum that have had impacted the present experiences of the 12 influential and empowering African American women in this iconic image.

  • Photography: Chris Mcduffie
  • Production/publication: Fashion Odds
  • Makeup and Hair: MPLS Beauty Lounge + Tawneesh McGahee
  • Wardrobe/concept: Parker XL
  • Fashion: K&G Fashion Superstore,  A’gaci, fashion designer Tony Eliason, N by Lauren Payton and Samantha Rei.
  • Project manager: Joua Yang
  •  Assistants: Dane Johnson + Bianca Rhodes
  • Video production/video setup: Bianca Rhodes

Article | Joua Yang

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