I’ve been wanting to launch this for quite some time. I technically dabbled into it two years ago when I first started blogging and it was always something I knew I wanted to pick up again. Tell Me More will be a monthly series featuring women trailblazers and girl bosses that I admire. I’m naturally inspired by women who have a story to tell and truly believe that when you come across a beautiful soul, our duty is to share it with the world. I hope this series inspires you and motivates you in the areas of your life that you need it to.
It was only fitting that I started this series with one of my girl crushes. I knew about Jess before she had ever met me. Funny story – I randomly first came across her profile when reading a NYC mommy blog ( yes, I am weird, I love reading mommy blogs even though I don’t have kids but it’s only bc I’m obsessed with chic nyc mom’s LOL), a few months later a friend says to me ” I am going to introduce you to this girl who reminds me of you” – and here we are today….she’s now a friend and mentor to me. From working in the fashion industry for over a decade as an Events Director for Vogue and then leaving it all to embark on a journey to Kenya that changed her life and motivated her to start a nonprofit called – Under the Acacia that provides the Eloita and Esoit communities in Kenya with basic human needs through income generating activities. Today, Jess is still running Under the Acacia and is also the Executive Director of We are Family Foundation, a global organization founded by musician Nile Rodgers. Jess is literally one of my favorite humans – super excited for you all to get to know her through this interview.
- What’s an average day like for you?
I kiss child, have an almond latte, set intentions, chill with child, get child ready for school. A mix of meetings and an ever growing do to list. Everyday is so different for me and that is what keeps me on my toes and in the present moment. I operate best when I’m pulled into a million directions – it forces my brain into each moment and task with hyper-focus and urgency.
- Three words that describe you?
Purposeful. Determined. Ninja.
- Do you have a specific cause/philanthropy you advocate for and care about?
The organization I founded in Kenya, Under the Acacia (bringing sustainability and infrastructure to indigenous tribal areas), and We Are Family Foundation where I am the Executive Director (our founder Nile Rodgers amplifies musicians, we amplify youth making impact). Positively impacting humanity is not something I just care about… It’s literally who I am and everything I stand for.
- Can you tell me what challenges you think ambitious and career driven women face today?
If you are a woman and authentically ambitious there is no challenge you can’t crush. I sincerely believe no matter what the circumstances or road blocks you can always find a way around and ahead – it just takes creativity, grace and perseverance. Current case in point – Senator Elizabeth Warren. Silenced last week by her peers when opposing the Sessions vote. They tried to quiet her but ended up giving her a greater platform. There is always a way to prevail. Challenges are only what you believe them to be. No excuses.
- In a different lifetime you would have been a…?
Anthropologist. Explorer. It’s quite possible I was Osa Johnson in a past life. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking.
- Describe your fashion style?
Kenya chic meets city black meets key staple items so I don’t have to waste energy and time on getting dressed. I have a few looks that make me feel comfortable and my best and I rotate them. It doesn’t bother me in the very least if you’ve seen me in something twice. If it feels good, it looks good. Style is a state of mind.
- Most inspiring book you’ve read?
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. This excerpt gets me everytime… “It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was being chained to a wall and being tortured. I realized, somehow, through the screaming of my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn’t sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it’s all you’ve got, that freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you make between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.”
- Best meal you’ve ever had? or fave restaurant?
O Ya in NYC. Omakase menu. Literally life changing. Your taste buds will never be the same again.
- What’s your favorite city? Vacation spot?
Nairobi. It has everything and everyone from different walks of life, different tribes, different cultures, an incredible pulse on food, fashion, tech, art. Though Kenya is still a developing country, and there is a massive gap between wealthy and poor which causes a lot of turbulence – it’s as vibrant and stimulating as you can get.
- Best piece of advice you’ve ever received.
The journey is the destination – I’m a massive Dan Eldon fan. And my favorite advice to give – Only busy people have time.