Co-workers and now creative collaborators, Betie Dessie, April Brown, Asia JaLissa and Lauren Hopkins make up the girl gang, the LAAB. On a rooftop in Dallas for one of their pop-up events, we talked about how they’ve built a support system for each other.
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What you do each of you do?
Betie: I’m a creative director.
April: I’m the CEO of B Mode.
Asia: I am the CEO of Nick and Newton Clothing Company.
Lauren: I am a writer/model/image.
How did you meet each other?
Lauren: We met at the Apple Store. We all met there, we all worked there at different portions of the store. It always taught us to be ourselves and be creatives while helping others and showing them that you can always do better for yourself. It starts with you. You have to be the change.
April: We met at work, but I met a lot of people at work. These women I really gravitated towards because we have such like-creative minds. We were just looking for something different and we all had something to do so we wanted to put those together. Really Asia she was the one who was like, we really need to do something together to help us push forward.
Do you remember the first time you met together to talk about working together?
Betie: Yes, actually I wrote it down in my journal. I wrote in my little journal, Asia came up with this idea to work together and I think we should do it. It was September 2016.
So what inspired you to get everyone together, Asia?
Asia: I just saw talent in everyone. I wanted to see everyone come up. It kind of dawned on me one day to ask if they felt comfortable enough to join with me and make this power, melanin situation happen. I’m just glad they were open to the concept. We’ve came hell of a far way in this last year.
What are some projects that you guys have done together?
April: So the first 6 months were really about building ourselves individually. And then, this last half the first time we collaborated was Asia’s photo shoot for her clothing line, Nick & Newton. That was really when we all figured out what we were good at, and put those together.
You were talking about how you work to build each other up individually, can you tell us what that’s like?
Betie: We use each other as leverage. So Lauren, she’s a fashion blogger, so it gives me an opportunity to take pictures of her, and work on myself as well, and on my portfolio. April is a really great stylist, so if we need a concept or a styling shoot, we can put Lauren in the clothes. We are like a one-stop shop. Everything you need, all four of us can do it.
Yeah, it’s so cool you can pull together your talents.
Betie: Yeah, everyone brings something to the table. Something that no one else can bring. If we need something, we don’t have to step far outside of this circle.
April: We can use each other as accountability. That’s the main thing. I don’t have anyone who’s pushing me or telling me what I need to do, but when I have them there, they’re like, have you done the check list? What have you done on the check list? What have you gotten accomplished? Initially it started as just, what have you been doing this week to be productive? It’s really helped us to gain perspective on our own projects.
How did the idea for this pop-up event come about?
Betie: It started with April’s company B-Mode. She’s a fashion consultant so she’s been collecting clothes for the past years, just fashionable stuff that’d she be able to resell. It gave us an opportunity to be like, hey let me sell some clothes to let people know like hey, I have the fashion sense to be able to consult you. And on the backend we can all contribute, like Asia has her own clothing line so she’s selling her clothes at the pop up. And this gives Lauren the opportunity to talk about a fashion event that she can blog about and take pictures of. It just made sense.
April: It was also one of those things where we needed something to keep our momentum going as well. It gave us an opportunity to invite all our coworkers and other friends who are really talented as well, so it gave us an opportunity to collab with them.
Who are some people who inspire you guys?
April: Well my definite inspirations are my grandparents and my parents. My dad changes himself always, he’s an engineer, but now he’s doing photography and he’s making movies. My parents are very driven and my grandparents are always pushing me to do stuff. I have a really big family, so that’s what I’m always going to be doing as far as what drives me.
Lauren: I’m also doing it for my family. Especially my grandma. She makes this amazing pumpkin bread. She’s always encouraged me to do my best in whatever I wanted to do. She’s always told me if it doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it. Talking to these ladies every day has inspired me to stay focused and know that everything always come with time. Definitely my grandmother is my inspiration.
Asia: Definitely family is my inspiration, but also community. People tend to go with the system because that’s all they know that’s all their taught. At some point I’d like to be a bigger influence in the community so people know that there are other options and they have the capability to do more and push themselves out of their natural comfort zone.
Betie: I would definitely also say my family.
What are your dream goals?
Asia: I would say a multi-level clothing boutique, so sneakers, clothes, maybe even jewelry but my main thing is a music and arts studio. Because like I said the community before, I’d like have to have kids come in and have different work shops and stuff.
April: Well my ultimate dream, I feel like everybody has their own sense of style and I want to be a part of that-like what inspired you to do that? But in addition I want to help style to the next level, especially men. Men are left out when they don’t have the means or a fashionable person in their life. They’re in a transition phase in their life and need someone to help them get there. People are most confident when they look their best and it shows inside and out. I want to help not only the outside, but also your visions for yourself.
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Photos by Fey Sandoval.