Originality sets Ashanti apart from the rest
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of this phenomenal woman is; creative, disciplined and ambitious. Ashanti Gray, Chicago native and fellow Bennett Belle, there's nothing she can't do. Everything she touches turns to gold and she is just scratching the surface. With her unique urban brand, AKIA, she manages several businesses, including being a hair stylist, designer, model and entrepreneur. If you even think of telling her she can't do something, watch her Black Girl Magic shine through!
Originality sets Ashanti apart from the rest. This 21 year old business woman has been working diligently this past year to expand her brand, clientele and audience. Her signature hairstyle #AKIAFREETRESSLOCS has become so popular, it has allowed her to travel throughout the coast and slay hella dos. When I say she's a phenomenal woman, I say that with some umph in my chest. Ashanti makes clothes, reconstructs denim pieces and adds her own 90's flare to make her clothing one of a kind and very AKIA-fied. She doesn't just print logos on tees and she doesn't buy wholesale items from china to resale, her brand is her own hard work that she puts dedication into. She's a woman of precision and grace, humble and a hustler, she's the all around boss lady.
Ashanti does not just brag about, she is about it. In the past year alone, she's collaborated with many other businesses and has done plenty of pop ups and events, to be one of the most in high demand stylist in the college Greensboro, NC scene. She's worked with other local Greensboro brands, including PishPosh. Had a photoshoot with the makeup line, EMBOSSME, plus has held her own hair/fashion show, featuring fellow belles and pieces she handmade from thrifted goods. She's resourceful, colorful and definitely marches to her own beat.
I had the ultimate pleasure of collaborating with Ashanti and the Phantome Brand this summer. We had a photoshoot at one of Washington D.C. most popular landmarks and I was blessed with an #AKIAFREETRESSLOCS hair do. Watching my sister blossom into this beautiful young woman has made me so proud, and thankful she had time in her schedule to work with OpenYourThoughts. Her interview is featured below:
- You're a stylist, hair guru, designer and entrepreneur -- what word would be best to sum up all your titles? Self- Motivation sums up all of my titles, because when it comes to your brand and vision most people don't really understand it. So when you encourage and motivate yourself, it gives you every right to have these titles as well as OWN them.
- How'd you come to be the business woman you are today? I originally started when I was in high school, I was more into the fashion industry. Then a few summers ago I started creating trendy hairstyles. After a few photoshoots my clientele grew and until this day it's constantly growing.
- What is Akia? AKIA is an abbreviation of my name (ASHANTI NIKIA) I took the "A" from my first name and the "KIA" from my middle name to create AKIA it means powerful and complete.
- How have you been handling going to school, managing your business and still have an active social life? Managing all three has been hard for me, because I tend to focus on one thing and forget about the rest but I've learned to become more of an organized business woman, by making sure all of my priorities are taken care of first, and then working on my brand.
After graduation what are your plans for your brand? After graduating college I plan to move to a bigger city, expand my clientele and eventually open up my first salon.
Your hair styling has become your signature thing, how has traveling and gaining a coastal clientele expanding your brand? It has grown my clientele tremendously. My motto has been, "I went from overlooked to overbooked" with my signature style. I have clients in several states and cities such as Miami, NYC, Washington D.C. , Maryland, Virginia, Chicago, Ohio, Houston, Boston, North Carolina, and more. Being consistent has been an all time high for me when growing my business. Communicating and keeping my clients updated, as well, has been one of many ways I've grown my clientele.
- What do you want the be when you grow up? When I grow up I want to be a successful and wealthy business owner. I want to be a mentor and influencer for the youth.
- Name the top 3 things you can't leave your house without? Top 3 things I can't leave the house with out is my phone, lip balm and cash.
- Who is your style icon? I have several fashion icons because my style is versatile. Starting with Aaliyah, TLC, Grace Jones, Janet Jackson, Pharrell and Rihanna.
- Tell us some of your biggest accomplishments so far with your brand? Some of my biggest accomplishments that I've had with my brand was having my first hair show on campus in December. I had some major collaboration photoshoots with Great photographers in the DC area. I was featured in one of the top events in Greensboro NC called the "BLACK 2 HIP HOP FESTIVAL," showcasing my art work with hair and also participating in one of the top designers in Greensboro/Philly "PISH POSH," where I was able to showcase my art work as well with hair. I've been featured in magazines, popular hair pages and flyers.
- I know you're an avid believer that all things are achievable through Christ. How has your faith helped you through some of your struggles? Always trust in the Lord, and as long as you are obedient he would never put you in they way of harm to lose faith in him.
- With so many up and coming artists and stylists, what makes your brand unique? My brand is set apart from others because of it's originality, it's a first time thing you may see, my visions and ideas come from the heart. It's not rushed and the way I execute things is rare. I put a lot of hard work into my brand verses working on pieces and rushing the process.
- How would you describe your personal style? I’d definitely say that my personal style is: versatile. I hate conforming to a specific style because I’m always open to stepping out of my comfort zone and switching up my looks. I have so many different pieces in my wardrobe and I love mixing and matching to create different outfits with some of the same pieces. I can’t say that I chose to adopt a versatile style, because I’m naturally attracted to various looks and concepts.
- I know that you attend the illustrious Bennett College for Women, tell me how has Bennett shaped you into a better woman? Why do you think its important to finish school? Bennett has shaped me to be true to yourself. Believe in yourself, do what you want and do what makes you happy on the inside. It is very important to finish college to have a better understand about what it is you want to do just in case things doesn't work out with your small goals. You'll be able to have options in the field that you have a degree in instead of limiting yourself.