GIRL ON TOP: Amoye Henry Discusses Her Passion For Community Growth, Higher Education & Her Next Chapter In Fashion Design

| June 13, 2012 | 3 Comments
Photo credit: Matthew Pompey, Design Your Soul

Photo credit: Matthew Pompey, Design Your Soul

Within the (approx.) 7 years that I’ve known Amoye, I have watched her grow immensely. When I was in my early teens [and believe it or not, tried my hand at modeling] we met on the set of a photo shoot for the clothing line ‘Cathleen Carey.’ I remember distinctively every detail of that day. The hair dresser cancelled and with no professional guidance to tame my wild mane, I was both upset and worried. But just as I was about to walk off set, I met Amoye in the bathroom, she looked me in the eyes and calmly said that everything was going to be fine. With swift poise and a beautiful bright smile, she took a comb and brush from her handbag and went to work! ahah! She went from Creative Director to Hairstylist in zero seconds flat. 7 years later, we are still great friends and I still admire her versatility, bundle of energy and her ability to ‘rise above’ all obstacles. This woman wears so many hats that I can’t even keep up with her. She is a thought leader, role model in her community, businesswoman, activist, graphic artist, fashion designer, and dear friend who inspires me with her words and actions every single day. It is my pleasure to introduce her story to you. Please welcome Amoye Henry as this week’s ‘Girl On Top’!

How old are you? 20s/30s/40s?
I am in my Mid 20s

What is your zodiac sign?
I am an Aquarius.

What is your educational background?
I went to Etobicoke School of the Arts specializing in Music theory and performance. I am a classically trained violist and pianist. I diverted from the artistic realm a bit to go on and complete my first degree in Political Science at McMaster University. I’m currently deliberating on where I’d like to complete my Masters in Communications Management, sometime within the next few years. As you can read, I’ve moved through many fields mentally, lol.

Where were you born? Raised? Live now?
I was born in Kingston Jamaica. I was raised in Rexdale/Brampton. I currently reside in Toronto.

Single or Taken?
I am dating life. This means I am in a relationship with myself. This is the best relationship I�ve ever been in thus far!

First job ever?
Designing menus and doing graphics for small restaurants in my community. I was about 12-13.

First real job?
My first real job was at an Advertising company as a copywriter. I was working full-time hours on a part-time basis, while doing my degree; it was hectic to say the least.

Your 5 must haves of the moment?
My Red Agenda book/calendar/ notebook
My red spike heels.
My Health and Happiness
My blackberry, although I am thinking about must having an Android.
My Bible

How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style varies with the day. One day I can be very style conscious. I can spend at least 1 hour picking out an outfit, synchronizing every detail from my purse, my shoes to my watch and belt. I�ll pay attention to the color combinations in my blazer and pair that with my skinny jeans and long necklace. The next day I will throw on a Pre-loved dress from a Thrift store, spray on some White Musk and head out the door. It�s really about my vibe. I love shoes. I do not complicate my face with a lot of makeup. I am delving into vintage fashion lately. I�ve even started my own vintage swimwear line, but am I a vintage wear expert yet? Certainly not. I have a new found passion for continental African Fabric. In a trip I took to West Africa, earlier this year I got a few dresses made by seamstresses and those have been permanent additions to my wardrobe ? Awesome right!

What is your favorite book?
Can I have four?

Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
All About Love: New Visions – bell hooks
The Autobiography of Malcolm X – Alex Haley
How Europe Underdeveloped Africa – Walter Rodney

What are you currently listening to?
Chante Moore Wey U. Usually during my daily travels on the subway to work and back home, to get me in a relaxed frame of mind (From the Waiting to Exhale Soundtrack)

Freakin my Soul Mishal Moore (such a great song; independent artist check her out)

John Legend Tonight. Usually on Friday nights at 4:57. As soon as I leave that Bay St office building, the lipgloss goes on, the headphones go on, the heels go click clacking and that is my Friday night soundtrack.

I’m sure I have some undiagnosed form of OCD . I tend to play one song repetitively, over and over and over. I do not really purchase CDs anymore, but prefer to listen to ONE song on repeat. lol

So what do you do?
I am doing multiple hustles. I’d consider my career, my 9-5er; I work in Finance, Marketing & Communications in the Corporate/Non-Profit sector at a Hospital Foundation. For my 5-9er, I work passionately on a myriad of community driven projects and programs, namely; AfroChic , Rise Above, I Get Out etc. During my 10pm -530am, I’m dreaming up ways to expand my portfolio as a creative developer/graphic artist/web designer/communicator/community lover/social media applicator/budding video director/up and coming fashion designer etc. I really don’t sleep.

Afro chic 2012 online marketing material

Afro chic 2012 online marketing material

"Rise Above" is an annual girls empowerment conference. The picture shown above is the logo for the organization.

“Rise Above” is an annual girls empowerment conference. The picture shown above is the logo for the organization.

Take us along the path (personal & professional) that took you where you are today.

I grew up in a single parent household but had a great relationship with my father and grandparents. I can say I never needed for anything, but like any other kid I did not know how good I had it at the time. My father pushed me to get into dance, music and the arts. At the age of 9 or so, I was playing piano and taking dance classes all throughout middle school. I used to feel so awkward because not only was I a huge Tomboy, but my parents forced me to do extra-curricular activities while other kids got to do fun stuff. I would be self conscious walking through the hood with my nerdy looking violin in its case or my ballet tights on while the other kids watched and laughed.

That was all up until I met a teacher when I was age 11/12 named Mrs. Pashley, probably my first example of a woman of color in community and the arts. She really encouraged me to continually push myself. She’d call my parents outside of school hours to ensure I was on point. My focus was never fashion or looking good or being cool, in fact I attracted a lot of bullies due to my nonchalant attitude towards these things. Somehow her words and guidance comforted me and propelled me into being strong in who I was and who I was trying to be. I quickly channeled that victimized type of energy I felt from being bullying and witnessing violence in my community, into a more industrious outlook on life.

At age 12, I met my best friend, who would go on to be my current business partner. We were total opposites, but complimented each other in a sense. I auditioned and got into ESA for Music, one of the greatest accomplishments in my life at the time. Knowing me, I was never satisfied, I quickly got bored when tapping into just one artistic discipline. I got my very first computer from my Dad that year for Christmas. I started to get into graphic arts and formed my first business as a graphic designer, creating stylized menus and creative business cards for some Caribbean restaurants in my area at age thirteen. I believe I was using Paint or Microsoft word to conduct my business at the time, lol.

Photo credit: Matthew Pompey, Design Your Soul, Graphic By Amoye on Growth

Photo credit: Matthew Pompey, Design Your Soul, Graphic By Amoye on Growth

I grew confident in my skill level and elevated into using design platforms such as Photoshop and Illustrator, even venturing into the world of Fashion Design and Web Design. I started to do contract design work all throughout my high school and university tenures. No matter how hectic school was, I always maintained a job, my grades and kept trying to build contacts. I met a few amazing people who would go on to shape my world; today I would call some sisters/brothers and some mentors. At age 18, I started an Exposure Network and Design Enterprise which pretty much fueled many of the industry relationships I have standing to this day. It was my first officially registered business, although I had already started a few random things here and there out of boredom. It folded though when I decided to focus on getting into McMaster University.

I graduated from University in 2010 and that was probably my second greatest accomplishment in life, I gained many skills which still to this day work to my advantage. Like many after graduating, I worked a few dead end jobs and felt as though my talents and qualities were not being utilized to their max capacity. At the time, while working at an Engineer firm as an administrative assistant, I felt like I was in the wrong profession, so I was actively exploring ways to leave the corporate world and design a strategy to turn my Craft into my Career. How could I do what I loved? -Create positive Media and still pay bills, eat good, look fly and survive? I realized it would not be that easy, but I was Ms Creative right? I could find a unique and cost-effective way to maintain peace with my work/life challenges.

With my four home girls, and one guy, we started a book club and read books every month before getting together to critically break them down and analyze each piece of literature. We got to the book Precious a Novel by Sapphire. As women, and black women at that, we were really interested in the characterizations of black women in this novel. We questioned the portrayal of black women in both the book and the film, and linked it to our conceptions and thoughts of our own selves. So I could say that book really inspired me to develop a stream of consciousness around objectively creating, projecting and celebrating- powerful, positive, progressive images of Black Women. The book Push was amazing, in my view, but the film Precious pretty much did what every other major Hollywood production does; portray black women in a negative light. In conversations with my girls and even some men in my circle, I realized that it was way deeper than the media and society. Our view of ourselves is a combination of a loaded history, repetitive images, and the deconstruction of our true identities. In order to change the images we constantly see and set precedence for positivity and love to the generations coming up, we have to either shut down the existing representations of us or completely design our own. We have to be in control of our images and our likeness if we want to feel as though real stories about us are being told to the masses.

This is my current stance and direction for my life; existing to live, breath, sustain, inspire, be inspired by, teach, learn, love, listen and create beauty around womanhood and further, blackness. In my current situation, I am blessed to work in artistic female-centric environments. I have the luxury of enjoying positive energy around women in both my work life and in my creative life.

What’s the toughest thing you’ve been faced with thus far?
To be honest, the toughest thing I’ve been faced with thus far is myself. I am my biggest and fiercest critique. I am never satisfied and struggle to find solidarity and completeness because I am constantly challenging myself to be the best I can be and better. I’d love to encounter the balance of acceptance and ambition. It feels good to chill and ride the wave sometimes, unfortunately I am a Go-Go-Now-Now type of girl.

I remember going through so many random and often stressful occurrences. I learned that you have to laugh your way through life. Laughter’s good for the soul. That is how I have learned how to combat my self-critiquing, by laughing at myself.

Photo credit: Matthew Pompey, Design Your Soul

Photo credit: Matthew Pompey, Design Your Soul

What did your parents want you to be?
Happy. My parents are from the Caribbean. They always tell me stories about how they used to carry heavy water pails on their heads, working hard in high temperatures, limited to no h20, walking up mountains and living a life of struggle. Like so many Children of the Diaspora, namely in the Caribbean, they came here to Canada to create better lives and opportunities for their children. I am the embodiment of that sacrifice and vision. As long as I work my hardest, keep my integrity and maintain a level of financial security, they will consider my story, a success. It sounds corny, but it is true. I am learning how to integrate these simple but profound pieces of reality into my day to day experiences.

What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?
No expectations, no disappointments.
Your smile is your best accessory, use it.

What advice do you have for women who want to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t. Create your own world, your own path, your own way on your terms.
When you are focused and confident in what you want to do; surround yourself with positivity, do your research and tell yourself you deserve what you want. Treat yourself well, reward yourself. Do not be down on yourself when things do not go as planned. Speak about yourself the way in which you want people to speak about you. Challenge yourself to take risks. If you are not a risk taker; a career in Marketing and Communications is probably not the route for you. Be prepared to Fail, but be encouraged, because when you’re down, there is nowhere else to go but up.

To this day I am still trying to decide where these footsteps are headed. As firmly as you can plant your foot and decide what you want, God always has a plan. So my best advice would be to pursue absolute happiness relentlessly in all that you do. If you are not happy, then it is not something you should be doing. Do not compromise your dreams/goals for anyone or anything.

Is it possible for a woman to successfully balance both love and career? Why or why not?
Yes. I have seen it done. Some of my closest friends are successful career women; chartered accountants, investment bankers, teachers, professional stylists, doctors, lawyers etc with strong partners of equal success at their side. I have not yet met my match, but I believe it is possible to balance both love and career life. I think there’s a bit of compromise in there. Coupled with acceptance, passion, commitment, support, The Love/Career blend is totally possible�two heads are better than one.

What’s next for you?
One of the organizations I mentioned, AfroChic, just had its 3rd Annual Cultural Arts Exhibit!
It’s an organization that encourages youth leaders and entertainers to engage, showcase and collaborate with their events and programs.

We advertised this aggressively on the TTC, on blogs, youtube, flyering, radio stations etc.
I was the Media and Marketing vehicle behind AfroChic this year, so I felt really great about how far
we have come since starting in 2010. From sharing intimate stories among 10-20 women about black
women�s hair, our politics and our lives to watching people gaze at your ad on the subway and call you
to say they read about you in a magazine or heard you speaking on the radio, in just 24 months it’s
pretty amazing. I love Toronto. I love the support and I look forward to more work to come.
The show had a great turn out and though it may not continue past this years’ it was a great experience overall.

Moving forward, I’m working with creative thinkers in, around and outside of Canada to design festivals and mind blowing movements that will encourage out of the box thinking and living. For now, I am enjoying the vibrations of peace of mind and planning my next big venture… Maybe a Fashion Show centered around my swimsuit line, the feedback at AfroChic was great so maybe it deserves its own stage?…. Stay Tuned.

Media image created by Amoye, found in multiple TTC stations across Toronto

Media image created by Amoye, found in multiple TTC stations across Toronto

Where do you see yourself in 5 years… 10 years?
God spare my life, I will be existing on Earth. I would like to be well traveled, down to earth, health-focused and balanced. In 5 years I would like to complete my Masters in Communications. Ever since finishing high school, I knew I wanted a post-graduate degree, I just could not decide in what specialization. Thankfully to some great mentors, some great alliances formed and some risk taking, I’ve decided.

Wherever I am, career wise I would like to be a valuable, contributing force to that space. Where I work currently, because I love what I do and the people surrounding me so much, I’m blessed to say I don’t have a job. I want to expand on that and continue to operate in environments that reward hard-working individuals. I’d love to watch my baby (AfroChic) grow and expand to the size of Caribana one day. We’ve already had a conversation around taking our arts exhibit and programs international; Ghana, England, Brazil etc. and transforming it from a Non-Profit to a sustaining initiative that is all in the works. There is something about dreaming, writing your dream down and then watching it blossom in all of its manifestations. There is something magical about dreaming then having the courage to wake up and bring it to life, period.

In 10 years ah I try not to look so far ahead.;)

And last but not least, where can readers find you? Facebook, Twitter, Website, etc.
www.about.me/amoye

www.afrochic.ca

www.cosmickiss.ca

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Beauty, Blog, Girl on Top, How To, Mentorship, Networking, Self-Help

About the Author ()

I am the co-founder of New Girl on the Block, a mentorship platform for millennial women who are dealing with major life and career transitions. In addition, my passion includes advocacy for anti-bullying and mental health in which I contribute my free time spreading awareness, providing expertise on media platforms and delivering keynote talks in schools nationwide. When I'm not working with young adults, I am growing my brand as a content strategist. I have successfully crafted a business in storytelling as a Journalist, Author and Ghostwriter.
  • Nij

    She’s absolutely stunning in these pics. Her words are so uplifting, encouraging, and she has shown time and time again that the spotlight was made for her. Very proud of my friend Amoye!

  • Cam

    Amoye , I’m so proud of you . You are an example to many young women and a born leader . All your hard work & sleepless nights have paid off !! Keep up all the amazing work girl!!

  • TashBlove

    This is my wonderful cousin! :) Amoye I am so proud of you, you’ve come a long way, you are truly inspiring we need more role models like you out there. God Bless … Tash xoxo