There are so many factors that affect how our lives turn out, but one of the most interesting is how our backgrounds give us unique strengths and perspectives that affect who we are as adults. We asked rising stars from the community to tell us about their background and upbringing and how they feel it’s impacted who they are today.

Tope Adui | Founder, Kilali Cosmetics

My dad passed away when I was 6. So, my mum had to work extra hard to raise my brother and I. Growing up, one of the businesses I saw her run was with Mary Kay. It was so much fun for me to see how she got the products, calculated her profit margin, considered a lot of factors before selecting her distributors and overall, the work she put in to drive awareness and inturn sales for the brand. One thing I noticed was the lack of foundation shades for dark skin tones and the absence of nude lip stains that matched our skin tones. Years later, I picked up a major interest in the continent of Africa and traveled to countries in the western, eastern, and northern parts of Africa. This exposure made me realize a few gaps. In my personal life, I still couldn’t find enough nude lip stain shades or functional matte lip stains. The few products available were not even affordable and on the continent of Africa, I realized the perception about the continent is flawed on several levels. Read more>>

Malik Norris | Lead Designer For Exclusively HBCU

The caveat to that statement is, “how will you use it and transition through life”. I love my parents as both of them instilled a confidence in me that matches no other as well as other principles that have brought me here to where I am today. So, to tell the short story, growing up I was an only child which I can honestly say made me very independent. As a kid in a small-town playing sports was all I really had. Sports taught me patience, hard work, dedication, and all of the other cliches you can think of. But ultimately it has always made me strive to be the best in anything I do. It was almost to a fault as, I hate losing. Crazy thing now is that I don’t even believe in losing but I do believe in learning. Refining my mind to believe in such a concept to some may seem ludicrous, but I challenge you to try it. Now to transition into art and design. I’ve always love to create things and build robots as a kid, so I feel as if I’ve always had a creative mind. Read more>>

Robine Lane | Aspiring Chef, Author, Minister & Father

I am from Houston, Texas from the Northside, Trinity Garden area, a poverty stricken low-income community. Seeing all the ups and downs that festered from my mom being a single mother doing the best she could to raise three kids on her own with little to no help at all, gave me the push and tenacity to become something great with a promising career and future so I won’t struggle as an adult. Read more>>

Diseree “Dez” Clay | Transformational Coach, Speaker, & Author

I am a girl from the South Side of Chicago, IL.- Englewood to be exact. I grew up with my three older siblings, my grandmother and biological mom. The community in which I was raised was filled with hard-working individuals. Most of my peers were in single-mother homes or being raised by their grandmother. However, with a closer look, you couldn’t help but to see drug dealers on the corners and the addicted consumers not too far away. You saw teens with babies and people who had lost sight of their hopes and dreams. You saw people who thought that what was in front of them was the best that could be experienced in life. However, for me the less than best environment proved to be the darkness that I needed to grow as a seed. It proved to be the breeding ground for my success today. Who I am today, I’ve always been. I was and am a hard-working, persistent, survivor who transformed my life to thriving. What I learned on the South Side of Chicago as a little girl with braids in my hair was there was always a way to get what you needed and what you wanted. Read more>>

Travis Gordon | DJ Travisty

I’m originally from a small town in Southeast Kentucky called Middlesboro. The impact of growing up in small town blue collar coal mining town set the tone for me for life. Nothing is accompliseh with. Read more>>