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Sierra McClain Talks Music, Acting, and ‘Empire’

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Sierra McClain cherishes the position that she is in. As a former child actor, she relishes the love and support of her family, especially her sisters, with whom she began her career. From a Tyler Perry lead film to Disney and now Empire, McClain has kept busy and done a lot in her 23 years of life. As Nessa on Empire, she is all grown up and making waves on the hit TV show as the character fans love to hate. We can’t wait to see what she does next.


Sierra McClain loves working with her sisters as much as you love watching them together. Her first role was a background role in a movie called The Gospel that her sister China was in, but the role she most remembers having an impact on her life was Tyler Perry’s 2007 film Daddy’s Little Girls, where she co-starred as a character named Sierra with her sisters, China and Lauryn, opposite Idris Elba. For anyone unfamiliar with the film, Sierra was one of the three girls that Elba’s character, Monty, was fighting for sole custody of. The movie was an emotional one, a tear-jerker with a happy ending.

“I think that movie laid the foundation for every other job I did after that because we were so young, but it was actually very complex,” McClain said. “We were telling a very serious story so the content was very real and it was very emotional. It was a role that we could really sink our teeth into. I don’t think we realized how deep it was until we got older.”

Denim jacket & pants: Res Denim, Earrings: Jewelry Bar USA

The sisters didn’t work together again until 2011 in Disney’s A.N.T Farm, which was a less emotional role. McClain considered it a mini McClain sisters reunion as far as acting is concerned. She enjoyed the fact that they were having fun in the role and had the opportunity to sing together. She fondly stated that her sisters are her favorite co-stars. Since Daddy’s Little Girls, McClain said she has learned a lot.

She approaches acting differently now as she tries to learn from the people around her and how to trust herself. Because she started out so young, she was focused on knowing her lines and what the director wanted, thus making her roles about other people. Now, she is learning how to step into the shoes of whoever she is playing and create a real character. She now views acting as a collaboration between the actor, the writer, directors, and anyone else who is involved.

This is one of my favorite jobs because of the marriage between acting and singing.

Currently, McClain is starring on the hit Fox TV show Empire. McClain plays Nessa, the newest confident and bold recording artist signed to Empire Entertainment, the show’s record company founded by Lucious (Terrence Howard) and Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson). For her fans who knew of her first as a child actor, this new role she is in has been a bit of an adjustment for them.

“It has been an adjustment, I will say that. Not just for the fans but even for my friends and family,” McClain said. “I get a lot of phone calls like, ‘What? Who is that I’m watching on screen?’ so it took some getting used to. I don’t think I got any super negative comments as far as the transition. I think everybody sort of embraced it. I feel like people can’t stand Nessa because the stuff she does is very controversial.”

Woven Cardigan: Gudrun & Gudrun, Swimsuit: Tee Ink

McClain and her character share a love of music and that is one of the things McClain respects about her. There are many things Nessa does that McClain does not agree with and she said that sometimes it is difficult co-existing with her, but McClain understands Nessa has been through a lot. So, even though she may not always handle things correctly, McClain believes her decisions are based on her experiences and that even if she doesn’t always agree with the decisions she makes, Nessa stands up for what she believes in. The problem isn’t necessarily the character Tiana (played by Serayah), Mcclain said, but the fact that Nessa has the mentality of having to eliminate or step on whoever in order to get to the top.

“She has done some petty things, but it doesn’t come from a place of pettiness,” McClain explained. “She grew up around people who don’t necessarily play by the rules and they’ve kind of shown her by example that you have to do whatever it takes to get to the top. So, that’s the mindset that she’s adopted in the entertainment industry.”

Despite the actions of her character, McClain said the cast welcomed her to the show with open arms. During her first week on set, she said Jussie Smollett, who plays Jamal Lyon, spoiled her from the moment she arrived at the table read and has been kind to her. She promised that everyone has been taking loving care of her on and off set. This treatment was something she didn’t expect walking into a hit TV show with veteran actors like Taraji P. Henson. She walked on nervous and wanting to make sure she kept up with everyone, but they embraced her and treated her like she was a part of the family.

Music is a universal language so to be able to incorporate that in telling somebody else’s story is beautiful.

What new fans of McClain might not know is she’s a triple threat. She’s a singer, an actor, and she plays various instruments, but don’t expect her to choose, even if music was her first love.

“It’s funny because I used to listen to China doing interviews all the time and she would say, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t choose. I have such a hard time choosing.’ And in the beginning, I would be like, ‘Really, man? It’s easy for me; I would say music.’ But now it’s funny because I’m in her shoes and I don’t know which one I would choose,” McClain said. “Music was my first love. I grew up around it, but I have a newfound respect and love for acting.”

Who doesn’t love the best of both worlds? And because McClain enjoys both, it is fitting that she is on a show like Empire where she gets to do both in almost every single episode. In many ways, the music on the show is a character in and of itself. The music either moves the episode ahead or reflects the plot as a whole or individual character arc. The episodes’ songs are almost always available right after each episode ends, giving the actors and their characters the chance to live outside of the show, as well as in it. Empire, in many ways, has created a platform for the actors to become as big as the characters they play on TV in the realm of music.

Pleated Dress: OTT, @ottdubai, Bra Top/Bottom Set: AMI Clubwear

“It’s a beautiful relationship between music and acting,” McClain said. “It tells somebody else’s story with songs driving everything. Music is a universal language so to be able to incorporate that in telling somebody else’s story is beautiful, especially when you’re so in love with music. This is one of my favorite jobs because of the marriage between acting and singing.”

When she wrapped her shooting for the show in Chicago in early March, she spent a lot of time talking to her family or having her mom come visit. When she wasn’t talking to her biological family, she was spending time with her Empire one. She laughed when retelling the story of how she would bother Ta’Rhonda Jones, who plays the role of Portia on Empire, and the fellow actress would cook for her. An admitted homebody, McClain said she tried to get out a lot and see the city on her days off.

Outside of the show, McClain has kept busy and is keeping hope alive that she and her sisters will work together again, though there are no set plans. They were doing music together for a long time and were signed, but then they began doing music individually. McClain would love to do a movie, a serious project or something “special” with them. Aside from planning new projects with her sisters, McClain was headed to film an unannounced project the day after this interview that she was very excited about. And although it may be awhile until we learn about it, we are very excited, too.

Read more Entertainment Interviews on ClicheMag.com

Sierra McClain Talks Music, Acting, and ‘Empire’: Photographer: Quavondo, Stylist: Melissa Lynn Woodbury, Retouching: Katja de Bruijn, Hair: Lisa Deveaus, Makeup: Jorge Monroy. Necklace and Ring: Kat Ong, Top/Bottom Set: Paradise Ranch Designs

Rita McGhee Interview

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Behind the show-stopping and eclectic looks in FOX’s latest smash hit series Empire is the show’s costume visionary of Season 1, Rita McGhee. Her costume design history stems back to Sunday’s Best, The Martin Show, Let’s Stay Together, and many more. This Emmy-nominated designer reminds us of a fairy godmother with the way she not only brings a character front and center through fashion, but in the way she tells a story through all of the characters. Although she did not work on the second season of Empire, she has established a fashionable foundation for all the characters that no one will never forget.
Cliché: What ignited your passion to become involved in costume design?
Rita McGhee: I was always fascinated with the story that clothes tell and how you can create a story through wardrobe, color, fit, fabric, and style. I was always fascinated with the way it speaks for itself, and that there’s a history behind clothes.

EmpireFashion

Courtesy of ©FOX/Empire


How do you go about representing each character’s unique style in the costumes you prepare for them?
Well, I find out what the actor needs, who the character is, and who is the actor portraying that character. I get notes from the actor and I look at their body type and I look at what works for them. I get their age, what they like, what they don’t like, and then I go from there and pick different colors, shapes, and patterns—for instance, colors that represent strength, or something that could represent sorrow. I’ll do a pattern, usually a very strong pattern, with a great design or a great print on it. I also look at things that are distracting, depending on what the scene is, so I’m very intentional about the background and research what it is. I also get my notes from my actors so we can work together. It’s a collaborative effort of filmmaking, of making it work for the actors, so that it can be seen and heard without saying anything.
Who was your favorite character to dress throughout Season 1 and why?
They were all fun to dress. All of them were interesting and all of them told a story. I liked that I was able to create a story with all of the characters and that it was a different story they were telling in the wardrobe. Everyone was my favorite. Cookie Lyon was my favorite because she wore furs and she was louder. Anika Calhoun was my favorite because she was strong and bold. Rhonda Lyon was my favorite because she was soft and bold, and then she was sexy and carefree. Then Jamal Lyon was my favorite because he was understated. Each person, each character, each actor, was a different personality. I liked dressing all of them.
Is it ever challenging when it comes to brainstorming the right look for a character?
It’s always challenging! My motto is, “Challenges make you a champion.” It’s about being in life: being around people; being in a relationship with my family, my loved ones, and my friends; looking at real life situations. So many different things inspire me: music, weather, colors, other movies, films, and books. I have a good team; I work with my sister. To keep the creative flow going, I listen to my actors and I listen to the notes. I think resting, too, is important.
What are you working on next?
Right now, I’m working on Zoe Ever After starring Brandy. Brandy just came off of Broadway in Chicago, so this project for her is with BET. It’s going to be filled with fashion and love and great stories about family and togetherness and working things through, so I’m very excited about that. In the future, I just want to work on great projects and continue to make a difference in the work that I do, and to work on really good projects that people are affected by.
Read more Fashion Interviews on ClicheMag.com
Rita McGhee Interview: Photographed by Mike Gonzalez

‘Empire’ Season 2 Premiere Recap

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Warning: spoilers from last night’s episode of Empire ahead!
This is how we last left the Lyon family: Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) planned a takeover of the Empire with the help of Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray), Andre (Trai Byers) and Anika (Grace Gealey); Lucious (Terrence Howard) was arrested for Bunkie’s (Antoine McKay) murder (he’s guilty); Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday ) accidentally killed Vernon (Malik Yoba) and was pregnant with Andre’s baby; and Lucious left Jamal (Jussie Smollett) in charge of the empire.
Is that enough of a recap?
So, this second season starts with a #FreeLucious concert three months after Lucious has been arrested for murder, and I have a few thoughts on this opening.
The concert highlights issues with the mass incarceration rates and the unequal proportion of minorities, particularly blacks, in the prison system. And I get the references to political events like Ferguson. I get bringing the awareness of the mass incarceration rates to the show. These are real issues that are important to talk about. Even Al Sharpton makes an appearance to talk with Cookie about the event. (He’s not the only surprise cameo. André Leon Talley is also there.)
Cookie wears a gorilla costume, stands in a cage, and spouts off a really impressive and passionate speech about the problems with the American judicial system. But it’s a sham. I never thought I’d say it, but thank you Hakeem for at least feeling semi-guilty about the front and confronting Cookie about it.
Lucious is guilty of the murder he’s accused of and belongs behind bars for a lot of different things, and he’s still the worst character in this entire show (I’m not saying on all TV shows, because some Game of Thrones characters are kind of worse). But this whole concert with an important theme is just Cookie’s way of impressing an investor, Mimi Whiteman (played by the brilliant Marisa Tomei), and to me, that underscores the actual importance of the concert. But I digress. This is a television drama, and a drama it shall be.
Mimi is a lesbian investor that is supposed to help Cookie, Hakeem, Andre, and Anika with the hostile takeover, so is there a better way to get into her graces than by throwing a lesbian party in Hakeem’s house and getting Anika to sleep with her? The answer is apparently no, because that’s just what they do. These people aren’t subtle.
While this is all happening, Lucious is in prison, but it’s a weird prison, because he watched the concert on a flat screen. Anyway, Frank Gathers, a cannibal drug lord — who happens to be played by Chris Rock attempting to be scary — arrives at the prison. Jermel, Cookie’s cousin, warns Lucious about him, but it appears that the two have a mutually respectful relationship. So no drama there, right?
Wrong. Chris Rock, I mean, Frank, has Cookie’s cousin beaten up in an attempt to find out how he was arrested. Jermal tells Frank that Cookie turned him in.
Carol, Cookie’s sister, tries to warn Cookie that Frank is after them because those pesky roses from the first season have been turning up. Cookie goes to talk to Carol and finds a present waiting for her. They send the kids to a different room and open the present only to find Jermal’s decapitated head in it! Cookie handles it like a boss-ass bitch and Carol sobs uncontrollably. I’m Carol in this situation. Cookie needs some help. But anyway, let’s go back a bit to the Lyon siblings.
Jamal and Hakeem are having some tension as per usual. Hakeem wants to release his album, but Jamal is not agreeing with him. And then you have Becky (Gabourey Sidibe) handling everyone’s shit as per usual. I don’t know Becky’s salary, but I do know that she doesn’t get paid enough for what she does.
Jamal meets with Lucious in the prison, and it turns out that Jamal is actually listening to his homophobic, racist father. WHY, JAMAL, WHY?!  Anyway, Lucious wants to know who the lesbian at the concert was, so I guess Jamal is off to do his father’s bidding.
Michael (Rafael de La Fuente), Jamal’s ex, also makes an appearance because apparently Jamal is supposed to be receiving an award from GLAAD. Just when you think Jamal has a heart again, he cancels on Michael and the event, and you know that the evil Lucious has gotten into his head.
Other things that happen: Andre has a nightmare about buying Vernon’s body with the pregnant Rhonda, but it looks like things are in the clear for now; and a prosecutor goes to visit Lucious to offer him a deal, but instead, he insults her character and her shoes and sends her on her way. Whatever, Lucious. You’re still a dick.
Cookie, Andre, Hakeem and Anika burst into the board room to say that they are taking over Empire thanks to the shares purchased in the morning by Mimi and that they are removing Lucious as CEO. Yay! But wait. In a backstabbing twist, it turns out that Jamal did get to Mimi. She met with Lucious and made an even better deal, so Cookie and team are left out of the loop. Somehow Lucious is able to Skype into the meeting to rub it in their faces. I really hate that man.
So after receiving that decapitated head and failing at the hostile takeover, Cookie calls the family and tells them to gather at Lucious’ house for safety and then goes to the prison to finally visit Lucious. He complains that it took her three months, but the woman was in prison for 17 years without a visit, so he can just shut his mouth. Cookie tells him that their family is in trouble because Frank is after them.
Earlier in the episode, Lucious overheard Frank’s daughter rapping in the visitor’s room, so he approaches Frank about signing her to Empire Records. Frank understands that this is about Cookie and says that any drama is between Frank and Cookie, not Frank and Lucious. Lucious says he understands, but that he loves Cookie and that if Frank has a war with Cookie, he has  a war with him. Cannibal Frank is all high and mighty and tells the other prisoners in the room to kill Lucious quickly and quietly. But manipulative Lucious has won over the men with money and promises, so Lucious tells the guys to kill Frank, but to make it long and loud. It’s kind of a badass moment, but again, Lucious is still an awful human, and I cannot support him, even if he is keeping his family safe.
Cookie arrives at the house to let the kids know everything is okay. This leads to Jamal kicking everyone out. He tells Hakeem that the album is pretty much dead, so Hakeem leaves in a huff. Cookie tries to appeal to the better nature of her son and even slaps him, but Jamal breaks her heart (and ours) when he says, “You done now, lady?”
So in summary, Cookie is still the best, we need more music in the episodes, Jamal needs to stop what he is doing and make us love him again, and Lucious is still the worst.
Also, where’s Tiana (Serayah)? We need her back ASAP.
Read more TV news on ClicheMag.com
‘Empire’ Season 2 Premiere Recap: Photo: Chuck Hodes/Fox
 

Serayah Interview

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For Serayah McNeill, this past year has been remarkable. McNeill was studying theater at a community college when a high school friend reached out to her about a role his casting director stepmom was trying to fill. This audition was for a character named Tiana and the show was Fox’s Empire. McNeill landed the part and began to film her first onscreen role. After its debut, the show was a critical success, breaking records by being the first series in 23 years to grow in viewers for five consecutive weeks. The soundtrack was a Billboard hit, charting at number one. This thrusted McNeill into the spotlight. Since then, she’s starred alongside Taylor Swift—and a number of other influential female artists—in Swift’s “Bad Blood” music video, and she’s also a musician in her own right. With a mixtape of her own set for release later this summer, McNeill is showing the world her own musical voice, and she’s just getting started.
Cliché: When you first heard about Empire, what were your thoughts?
Serayah McNeill: I hadn’t heard about it, but when I got the audition, I was like, “This is so awesome.” It was the perfect role for me, because I already sang and that kind of stuff. This was my first onscreen role, and it was the right kind of breakout role for me.
What drew you to the character Tiana?
I automatically knew that she was so edgy and bold, and I was going to have to bring that out of myself as much as I could.
Were you nervous about having your first onscreen role on the show?
Yes. I was really, really nervous. It was my first role, and especially being on set with everyone and knowing who was already cast, I just hoped that I’d do well. I tried to learn everything I could all at once.
What do you hope for Tiana in the upcoming season?
I really hope to learn more—and for the viewers to see more—of Tiana’s personal struggle and where she comes from, what she deals with, and why she is the way she is.
Do you have a favorite song from the show so far?
Yes! “You’re So Beautiful” is one of my favorites. I heard it in the studio when I recorded my part in the live version. It grew on me, and by the time we did the actual scene in the episode, I absolutely loved it.
Now, you just turned 20, so happy birthday!
Thank you so much!
Of course! So that means you were 19 when the show took off. Were you still in school during the filming then?
At the time, I was going to a community college here in Los Angeles in the valley and had a job at H&M. So that’s what I was doing, but I was always acting and singing as much as I could.
Were you pursuing acting as a major?
I was a theater major.
Did you put school on hold for now?
I did put it on hold, but I really can’t wait to go back and finish my classes. I’m really interested in theater and the director side of it. It’s been one of my passions, aside from acting.
Aside from Empire, you were also in Taylor Swift’s highly-anticipated video for “Bad Blood.” What thoughts ran through your head when you became a part of the project?
My first thought was that it was going to be absolutely epic, not just because of the cast that was in it, but because it was just so fun and just so cinematic. I had been saying that the next role I wanted to have was going to be an action character that got to be badass, so that was just amazing.
To pick your name, “Dilemma,” for the video, I read that you settled on it after seeing the word in a thesaurus. Was that the first place you went to when you heard that you got to pick a name?
Yes. I do that a lot with songwriting, so I had to decide what I wanted to be and then saw what word fit me. There were words that came up that were too long and stuff like that. When I picked Dilemma, it was perfect, and when I told Taylor, she loved it.
How was it filming the video?
It was so cool! It was a smooth process and just so fun seeing everyone do their own “Bad Blood” piece, because everyone had their own character. It was so cool to see that.
Were the costumes put together before you got there, or did you get to choose your look?
Mine was pretty put together when I got there, but I had plenty of options of what kind of bondage look I wanted to have. I love that type of thing, and it flowed nicely with my character.
You’re releasing your own mixtape this summer, so where do you draw inspiration for your own music?
Most of my inspiration for my tone and writing style is going back and listening to music from the past. It’s where I draw inspiration for my music stylistically and rhythmically.
Who do you consider some of your influences?
Definitely the ‘90s, which would include people like Missy Elliot. I love Timbaland [also the executive producer of music on Empire] and people like Aaliyah, Destiny’s Child, Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans—Bad Boy Records in general is amazing. And then people like Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke are some of my very favorites. I can go on and on, but I’m into the blues and soul and pop and R&B. I get so many influences from everyone, even from Paramore and Colbie Caillat. I love music in general and getting to create and evolve it.
Who would you love to collaborate with in the future?
I would love to collaborate with some rappers, like Jeremih. He’s one of my favorites right now.
Everything took off pretty fast after Empire, so what do you like to do when you aren’t working?
I love to come home and chill with my friends and go to Malibu or the canyon. My favorite thing to do now that it’s summer is go shopping and see what I find by rummaging through things.
In terms of what’s next for you, you’ve got the mixtape and show, but do you have anything else going on?
Definitely auditions for film and music. I’m really hoping that within this next season, I can have music come out of my own and complete a film.
Read more Music Interviews on ClicheMag.com
Photo credit: Alex J Hudson
Serayah interview  “Building Her Empire” originally appeared in Cliché Magazine’s Aug/Sept 2015 issue

Grace Gealey Interview

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Way before the record-breaking television drama Empire was even thought of, actress Grace Gealey could have been found in the Cayman Islands, where her family was ingraining something in her that she would carry throughout the rest of her life: a drive for education.

Grace Gealey 030

Jumpsuit: Colton Dane, Earrings: Melinda Maria


“Education was instilled in me at a young age by my grandparents, Harry and Theoline McCoy,” Gealey says. “My grandfather’s aunt, Flora Robinson, was the first female teacher in the Cayman Islands, and my grandmother, Theoline, became a well-renowned educator who made such an impact on the country, people called her ‘Teacher’ until the day she passed.”
To say Gealey had incredible role models is clearly an understatement, and growing up, her family made sure she would be bright. She remembers spending summers with her cousins at her grandparents’ house where they would want to watch cartoons all day, and says, “Gramma would allow us the luxury of a few cartoon shows, but shortly after, we were required to do something that stimulated our minds.”
These stimulating activities included anything from building a clubhouse (and then playing in it) to learning entrepreneurial basics, like selling fruit on the streets to passing cars. “Or Gramma’s favorite: doing mathematical problems or English essays on how to save the coral reefs around the island,” Gealey says. “We held education in a high regard.”
So it was no surprise when Gealey would then move to America years later to pursue higher education and obtain her MFA in acting from University of California, Irvine. Even when growing up, Gealey knew she wanted to create art, and she found herself gravitating towards the performing arts at a very young age. “Whether it was acting, dancing, singing, or playing the piano,” she says, “the desire to continuously express myself in an artistic fashion was overwhelming.”
Grace Gealey 023

Dress: Stello By Stephanie Costello and Michael Costello


At first, Gealey didn’t think she would become an actress. According to her, acting wasn’t a widely pursued profession in the Cayman Islands, so she initially went to college to become a drama professor. It wasn’t until her academic career that she was encouraged by guest director Tamara Harvey to seriously pursue acting full-time. That’s when it all began.
“There are two components to theater that are hard to replicate in other mediums,” says Gealey of her passion for theater in particular. “1) The presence of the unassuming, beautifully vulnerable audience, and 2) the gift of moving all the way through your consecutive crafting.”

Four TV Shows I’m Sticking With

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I have a long list of shows I want to watch and a shorter list of shows I have time to watch. With shows ending for good (I’ll miss you, Parks & Recreation) and shows returning with newer seasons (I love you, Game of Thrones), I have to budget my time when it comes to starting something new. With that said, here are four shows I can’t wait to catch when they return for a second season!
Empire
Though there were only 12 episodes in its first season, Lee Daniels’ Empire has been a wild ride from the beginning. The show continued to grow in viewers each week, and it’s no surprise, what with its familial drama, numerous guest stars—including Jennifer Hudson and Patti LaBelle—its addictive tunes, and its witty one-liners.
The Flash
Another superhero show I’m a fan of is The CW’s The Flash. As a fan of Arrow, when the Flash spinoff was announced, I was looking forward to seeing what would take place in Central City. It quickly introduced the Reverse Flash and time travel, so I can’t even imagine what types of adventures Barry Allen will be heading out on next.
Gotham
Skimming the surface of Batman’s origin story, Gotham follows a young James Gordon before he became commissioner. As viewers learn more about Gordon, the origins of a number of Batman’s villains are also revealed. There are some fascinating backgrounds for these characters, and it’s interesting to look at a young Bruce Wayne.
How To Get Away With Murder
Rounding out ABC’s #TGIT campaign was How to Get Away With Murder. Can’t say I was expecting multiple murders of some prominent characters in just 15 short episodes. Each episode took theories I had in mind and tore them apart. I can’t even begin to imagine the twists that will take place next season.
HONORABLE MENTIONS
And I have a special shoutout to Agent Carter. Peggy Carter is one of the most brilliant characters ever written, and I’d like her to come back. Another special shoutout goes to Fresh Off the Boat. ABC’s comedy is smart, honest, and never fails to make me laugh.
Read more TV articles on ClicheMag.com
Four TV Shows I’m Sticking With: Photograph courtesy of Fox

Enigami Studios: An Empire

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SONY DSC

© Ogechi Ochuba


Enigami Studios: it’s “imagine” spelled backwards. It’s also a company where consumers are encouraged to wear their imagination on their sleeves.
CEO’s Johnathan Shanklin, 20, and Kebba Mbye, 20, do not take this statement lightly. In fact, it is something they have integrated into their new clothing collection, #UniversalConscious, that was revealed on August 4 at Coze in Atlanta.
“We make sure we have a hidden message [in our designs],” Mbye said. “There is something behind every thing we make. We don’t want someone to automatically think, “This is nothing new…’. I love to think. Whenever I find an object that takes me a second to piece together exactly what it is, I feel a much closer bond to it in the end. I want to share that feeling with my consumers.”
Which is exactly what they do. With its bold colors, brash contrast, and stand-out designs, the Enigami brand is truly one of a kind. Each piece is carefully designed to speak to each consumer in a different way.
EnigamiStudiosTee

© Kebba Mbye


“We want people to think about how they are going to wear it like their own,” Mbye said. “We want them to express their imagination—their individuality.”
“It’s fun doing that,” Shanklin added. “It’s like that first day of school, finding something you love to wear and making it your own. We all know how big of a deal that is.”
Balancing their workload along with college, the duo spends their free time at the drawing tables, trying to develop designs that speak to a wider audience.
“I just want everybody to be wearing my clothes,” Shanklin said. “Whether it’s my 80-year-old grandma or a 16-year-old kid.”
Enigami is not just about clothing, though. Mbye and Shanklin have expanded the company to include music, sports, art, and entertainment. By managing several rappers and sponsoring international bands and local skateboarders, the company helps promote artists on the rise while building valuable connections and press for its own name.
“We definitely want to see our artists grow,” Shanklin said. “We really want to give back and just let people know this is all for them.”
Mbye and Shanklin have founded their company with their consumers being the central focus. Whether it’s a press release, an interview, or a personal statement from one of the two, their words are minimally edited, completely down-to-earth, and relatable.
“I love trying to redefine what business is supposed to be in America,” Shanklin said. “Everyone is supposed to be suit and tie. But I want you to think I am a regular person. No amount of money will ever change that.”
So by putting customers first, rapidly expanding their business to include new artists and entertainment platforms, and pushing the brink of abstraction and creativeness within their clothing line, Mbye and Shanklin are en route to transforming Enigami Studios into the vision they have had since the beginning.
“[I want] to build an empire that will change the lives of millions and give opportunities to many,” Shanklin said in a press release.
“The possibilities are endless,” Mbye said.
For more information, visit www.enigamistudios.com!
Featured image © Kebba Mbye