They refused to invest in her dreams and spewed out some really harsh criticism. “The chances that this is a business are practically zero. You only have so many minutes on Earth, don’t waste them trying to sell lipstick,” Businessman Kevin O’Leary told 29 year Detroit native Melissa Butler in 2015 on ABC’s “Shark Tank.”

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With his collection of charcoal pencils, acrylic supplies and oil paint, 26-year old Oliver Okolo is making his mark on the world. “I try to pass a message of self awareness and also bring our attention to all that is happening in our society today,” the self-taught artist tells The Spark, an art magazine.

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Like most fashion designers, Toronto based Izzy Camilleri knew she made a name for herself when she started designing clothes for celebrities like David Bowie, Angelina Jolie, Jason Momoa, Daniel Radcliffe and Meryl Streep. What she didn’t know was just how much her career would change after meeting Toronto Star Journalist Barbara Turnbull.

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While standing in line at the grocery store looking at magazines, 27-year old Liberian model, blogger and medical student Deddeh Howard decided she’d had enough. Despite having 10 years worth of modeling experience, agencies consistently rejected her because they already had a ‘black model.’ But that’s not what she saw as she gazed at fashion magazines in the check out line.

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Although he’s one of the world’s finest designers, Valentino Garavani’s original plan was simple. He wanted to design beautiful gowns for wealthy, beautiful women. For more than 50 years, Valentino has made his dream come alive. Simply known as “Valentino,” the Italian courtier’s luxurious designs are a common thread for a vast range of famous women including Elizabeth Taylor, Iman, Adele, Audrey Hepburn, Serena Williams, Princess Diana, Naomi Campbell, Jennifer Lopez, Zoe Saldana and even Jackie Kennedy. Despite their various personalities, backgrounds and careers, Valentino’s designs highlight two things that bind them altogether: they are beautiful, wealthy women serving as living trademarks of Valentino’s A-list designs.

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“Honestly, this is so much bigger than me,” 20-year-old Khalid said as he accepted the 2018 Billboard Music Award for “Best New Artist.” “This is for the youth, the young believers and all the dreamers out there. Do not listen to negativity. The only person in the way of your future is yourself.”

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With more than 65 million views just five days after its release, Donald Glover’s “This is America,” has the internet buzzing. The video, which has been repeatedly called “genius, shows Glover as his alter ego “Childish Gambino” dancing with a group of African children while violent, terroristic and war-like incidents are taking place all around them.

Left open-ended and with little resolve, the video ends with Gambino running from the madness as a mob chases him (which resembles a scene  in Jordan Peele’s Get Out). It’s jarring and disturbing yet intriguing and compelling as well. The lyrics, like the video, tell a story of complicated contrasts. There are parties and guns, guerilla warfare and dancing, high-class consumerism and contraband, all in one video.  “What Gambino put together is a true picture of America where so many of us get to dance and sing and laugh and create,” journalist Isaac Bailey of CNN explained. “All the while others are largely ignored and trapped in the background, struggling and sometimes dying in a sea of ugliness that many of us would rather not acknowledge, knowing it would ruin the pretty pictures we’d rather focus on.” Evoking the transformative power of art and dance,  Glover as Childish Gambino puts America on display and instead of home of the free and the brave, we’ve become home of the ying and the yang.

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Just four months after leaving her dream job, Georgia Dawkins celebrated the release of her first book, Everybody Knows: The Power of Being in Position. Although she’d only been the Producer at Sister Circle Live (a daily talk show on mission to inspire and empower black women) for seven months, she knew it was time to move on. “The entire process was just so spiritual. God had been telling me [to leave] for months, but I was afraid,” she told me as cars zipped past the coffeehouse with the same zeal and purpose she had in her eyes. “Afraid of failing. Afraid of being broke and afraid of what people might think,” she explained. But when I saw her again just two weeks later as she sat in front of an excited audience at The Vault Art Gallery on April 22, 2018, reading excerpts from her memoir, there was no fear, failure or poverty to be found. Instead, there was purpose. The very purpose Dawkins has been chasing her entire life.

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With only seven months of modeling experience, Vivian Eyo-Ephraim has the internet buzzing. As part of a campaign to help promote ASOS 2018 swimwear collection for plus-sized girls, the 20 year old University of East London student posed in a bright yellow bikini for the advertisement

What happened next was nothing short of a dream as social media users from all over the world praised ASOS and Ephraim for positively representing plus-sized women. “I had no idea it would go viral,” she told Refinery29. “But I’m so grateful and excited that so many people all over the world are supporting me.” At 5 feet and 9 inches tall and wearing a size 14 (18 in the UK), Ephraim is living proof that beauty is not determined by size. The outburst of praise she’s received for her brown eyes, black skin, Nigerian accent, 37 inch waist and 49 inch hips is proof that representation matters. Within a matter of months, plus-sized model, actress and everyday woman Vivian Eyo-Ephraim is changing the face of beauty.

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At only 34 years old, comedian, actor, writer and producer Trevor Noah has changed the face of comedy. A native of Johannesburg, South Africa and born to a black Xhosa mother and a German-Swiss white father during 1984, the height of the apartheid, his childhood was no laughing matter. Ironically, that’s exactly what he jokes about. Noah’s biracial identity combined with growing up in an illegal family allows him to cross racial, cultural, political and social lines with real life experience.

“I inherited my sense of humor from my mom,” he told Time Magazine, “the ability to laugh in the face of danger, to mock it.” Nevertheless, his mockery, though funny, leaves his fans with lingering thoughts and questions about why issues like racial division and social equality even exist. Intertwining his comedy with social justice commentary, Noah’s humor keeps the world laughing while exposing their convictions as well.  Whether he’s joking about his own upbringing, colonization, siri or speaking in German, Noah uses humor to talk about some of the world’s most destructive wrongs.

Despite growing up in an environment that valued censorship more than humor, Noah’s observant nature and sarcastic comments helped build the foundation for his career in comedy. “I was in first grade, [and] I remember making a joke about the principal at the time and the manner in which he administered corporal punishment,” he told The San Diego Union Tribune.“There was something funny about the way he did it. I said something and the rest of the class laughed very hard,” he concluded, admitting the situation made him feel like a comic genius. But it wasn’t until his mid to late twenties that his comedy career really took off after his friends dared him to share some of his jokes on stage. In fact, it wasn’t until he met English comedian Eddie Izzard in a comedy club that Noah really began to hone his craft.

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