By Serena Sonoma GLAAD.org | February 9, 2022
Whether in fashion and cosmetics or tech and business Black Queer folks have never lacked a sense of creativity or ingenuity.
Today we celebrate Black Queer entrepreneurs who are taking their futures into their own hands.
The following entrepreneurs utilize their talents and skills to come up with new innovative ideas, build their own brands and demonstrate that Black Queer folks can hold down any position, from founder to creative director to CEO.
Telfar Clemens is an American fashion designer who founded the genderless fashion label TELFAR in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The out queer and rising fashion icon has coveted awards such as the 2017 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award, along with a $400,000 price, in addition to winning the CFDA American Accessories Award twice, consecutively in 2019 and 2020. Clemens signature Telfar Bag was listed as one of Oprah’s ‘favorite things’ in 2020, and the bag has been promoted by many notable figures including Real Housewives of New York City star Sonja Morgan, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Swae Lee, Ashton Sanders, and Dua Lipa.
In 2021 TELFAR designed the official uniforms for the Liberian team for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Brandon Blackwood is the CEO and founder of Brandon Blackwood New York, a fashion company that specializes in handbags and accessories. The fashion designer gained public recognition in 2020 for the creation of a mini-tote embroidered with the words End System Racism engraved on the front in support of the Black Lives Matter protests. Portions of the proceeds were donated to the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an organization focused on helping racial and ethnic minorities find legal representation while fighting civil rights cases.
Blackwood said of the creation, “I was stuck creatively and exhausted by the daily news. I had a pretty solid following and decided I would take this opportunity to make something that could have a direct impact against systemic oppression.
Chris Witherspoon is the founder of the PopViewers app, a platform that helps users “find what to watch next”, allows them to reach the film and television shows they love and encourages them to “share the experience with fellow content lovers.” As an Entertainment Journalist, Witherspoon has regularly appeared on NBC’s TODAY and The Wendy Williams Show. In April 2020, Witherspoon, who is an out Black gay man, gave the keynote at his alma mater Ohio University’s Pride Graduation, in which he spoke on the importance of living authentically.
Chloe Freeman is the founder of the black and trans-led organization, For Them, a community-built, holistic wellness brand that “transforms ordinary moments”. The brand focuses on creating wellness products focused on the queer community with a mission to “redefine what it means to be well – for the person, the collective, and the planet.” For Them has been featured in InStyle, Paper magazine, and Core 77.
McKensie Mack is a Black queer non-binary educator, activist, and researcher, as well as the founder and
McKensie Mack is a Black queer non-binary educator, activist, and researcher, as well as the founder and Managing Director of the McKensie Mack Group, a firm that specializes in helping their clients build anti-racist cultures and relationships and build inclusive spaces for LGBTQ communities and people of color, among other services. Mack’s firm has partnered with communities both nationally and globally to “develop equity-centered communications strategies and cultures that identify and dismantle social inequity while giving people the tools to better their lives and communities.” Mack’s work has appeared in Fast Company, NowThisNews, BlockClubChicago, Refinery29, Teen Vogue, and The Guardian.
Angelica Ross is the CEO of TransTech Social Enterprises, a company she created with the aim of economically empowering the transgender community and providing education, support, and jobs for trans people facing high levels of discrimination. TransTech is “an incubator” for LGBTQ Talent and focuses on developing skills and value within marginalized LGBTQ communities. Ross is also an actress, most well-known for her roles in the FX television series Pose, American Horror Story, and recent film Framing Agnes.
Chef Joya is an out Black lesbian woman and award-winning plant-based chef based in Charlotte, NC who specializes in vegan cuisines that incorporate Soul Food, Afro-Caribbean, French, and African cultural influences. Joya has gained popularity across the U.S. (especially in the Southeast) and has been praised by the likes of celebrities such as Fantasia Barrino. https://www.youtube.com/embed/UOgY6nFZ82Q
Kiyanna Stewart and Jannah Handy are the owner-curators of Blk Mkt Vintage, a New York-based antique shop described as a “Bed-Stuy vintage store that also offers interior design services.” The couple, who recently got engaged, travel, collect, and sell items that represent the richness of Black history. In 2018, the duo supplied the props for the A Different World scene of Iconic Black Sitcoms of the 90s: A Visual Homage to Their Style and Influence. They were also recently recognized for BET’s #29DaysofQueerExcellence, of which they said:
“Acknowledging our wholeness humanizes us, increasing empathy and opportunities for connection and community.”
Kingsley Gbadegesin is a first-generation Nigerian-American and a Fashion designer working to advance liberation for the Black and LGBTQ communities. In September 2020, Gbadegesin launched K.NGSLEY, a genderless fashion line that celebrates Black, femme, queer, and trans bodies, using fashion as a lightning rod to not just reclaim the meaning of their bodies, but also to raise resources to lift up and empower people and groups through community organizing and direct support. Since its launch the line has reportedly garnered six figures in revenue and has gained recognition with celebrities such as Lil Nas X, Issa Rae, and Zaya Wade, in addition to working with the hit ballroom competition show Legendary. https://www.youtube.com/embed/8n-KGH_F3uc
Danielle Gray and Brandé Elise are a Black and queer entrepreneurial couple and co-founders of World of Unoia, an Atlanta-based CBD brand focused on CBD lifestyle products that focus on mental health, mindfulness, and self-care. The company began focusing on combating anxiety associated with COVID-19 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company gained recognition in the city thanks to its CBD honey and CBD agave products. In April 2020, Unoia rebranded to expand its products to include CBD oral drops, CBD Muscle Relief, CBD Soothing Salve, CBD Pet Treats, and Tinctures.