Here Ann-Marie tells in her own words more about the personal life events that prompted her to create the highly regarded Black Fashion & Beauty Gala and how her event is structured.
About past encounters that led to your idea::
“I met a young woman in downtown Toronto a few years ago in the middle of winter. She was a homeless black girl with no winter coat and stopped me. Often we just walk past beggars, but whatever it was, something drew me to her and I decided to go back and talk to her. I ran to a meeting and there was a coffee shop near our location, so I said to her, “If you want to sit in the coffee shop until I finish, I’ll come back and find you. ‘When I got back she was waiting there and we had the longest conversation ever in her life and history. Her story was one that I found very tragic and my heart was bleeding just for her. I also asked her what she wanted to do in life. She told me that she loved fashion and always wanted to be a fashion designer, but that no one ever believed in her. Nobody ever gave her a chance. Wherever she goes, there is always a door in her face. As I sat there and heard her story, I saw a part of me in her: the younger me in her. That hit me. It was at this point that I told myself I was going to take a risk for her because I also thought that as a black woman, if I was in these shoes, I would like someone to help me. In the end I found her a place to stay and took her to school. She now lives in New York and studies fashion design. I remember her saying to me that day, “I promise, I’ll make you proud. You will not regret it. ‘And I have to say, I’m very proud of her because she has come a long way and is still going through the process.
As I was going through all of this, I also heard stories from other young people about how passionate they are for the fashion industry and that they want to break in, but it’s very difficult. ”
About the lack of a black representation to keep their idea wheels going:
“I also realized that there is nothing here in Canada that black creatives recognize and acknowledge – period – and black people in the industry tell me the same thing. One day I just sat down and thought about what was missing and came up with the idea [for an awards gala] A few years ago, but it just wasn’t the right timing for me: I’ve been super busy with work and travel all the time, so I’ve never been in one place long enough. But now, with Covid, everything is on hold. Then the whole Black Lives Matter movement came about and one night I was lying in my bed and the idea came back to me – that this was the time to revive her. I started talking on the phone and before I knew it a team was formed and we started planning and putting the whole concept together. ”
Why mentoring is important for the Black Fashion & Beauty Gala:
“One of the very important aspects of the awards for me is the mentoring and the scholarships, as I believe it is so important that we help, build and nurture the younger generation by creating a platform for them. [Previous generations] Have already done it – and still do – so how can we create something in the industry that gives emerging talent a blueprint or a path. Something that makes it a little easier for them to get into the industry and follow their dreams. The mentoring program would be an ongoing monthly affair where we would hold workshops with industry professionals. They came in to support and guide the participants. Right now I’m working on the outline and with the city of Toronto providing assistance. Cloré Beauty Supply is one of our official sponsors for the award ceremony and they have indicated that they would like to participate in the mentoring program as well. ”
How the BFBG scholarship program will work:
“The scholarships are aimed at young professionals who go to school at a recognized college and have something to do with the industry. It can be any program as long as it is fashion or beauty centered and involves business. I put the business course element there because I think that’s essential: you have to know how to balance the books and run a business. How we have structured our scholarship program is open to the public to apply, and we have a team working to set the scholarship criteria that applicants must follow. We will then award the scholarship holder with US $ 5,000 on the evening of the award ceremony. There will be a winner in our first year and we have chosen not to give the funds directly to individuals. Instead, we would like to arrange that the funds go directly to the institution being credited to ensure that we are responsible for every dollar spent by our sponsors. We structured it to be in control and to ensure funds are flowing straight in the direction they were intended for. That no dollar goes anywhere else. We also felt that the scholarship could go to someone starting their own business in the industry, or an existing company looking to rename, increase inventory, etc. [education and entrepreneurship] will fall under the scholarship program.
We plan to check back year-round to see how the recipient is doing and at the next awards gala the goal is for the previous recipient to come and talk about their scholarship and how [the experience] was for her. ”
To the BFBG nomination process:
“The public can say who they think is the best in which category. When the nominations are complete, we will collect all of this data and four people per category will be selected as finalists. We will notify them and pictures of these people will be posted on the website. The voting process will then open and the public can go back and vote for their favorite. We really emphasize that nominations are taking place across Canada, not just Toronto. On the night of the ceremony, each winner will receive a tailor-made statuette in the form of the BFBG logo. ”
Regarding the answer she received so far before the award ceremony:
“I have to say the reactions so far have been really wonderful. We have received many direct messages and many phone calls from people in the industry. People are very excited about the whole concept of feeling recognized. Almost every message or call that comes in to the states reads, “It will take a long time.” That this platform is a way for black people [within the industry] to finally get their shine. That’s really and really about: recognizing and showcasing the many talents in the Canadian black community. This is also to show Canadian companies and agencies that we are here – that you don’t have to hire and bring in black talent from the US. We have this here in Canada. Yes, the states have a lot of great talent, but we would like some of the opportunities to stay here. Open the door and leave [the opportunities] I am very passionate. ”