The Funemployed: Joi-Marie McKenzie

DCF: Who Are You?

My name is Joi-Marie McKenzie and I’m the Entertainment/Lifestyle writer for ABC News. I’m also a brand new author — my debut memoir, “The Engagement Game,” hit bookshelves recently (DCF: WHOOOOO!!). It tells the story of why I ultimately walked away from a relationship after playing tons of games to secure a marriage proposal. People say it’s hilarious and I believe them.

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?

JM:  I’ve always been a writer. I’ve kept a diary since I was eight years old so to say that I love writing would be a severe understatement. My love of writing led me to start my own blog, DC Fab!, which became an instant success in Washington, D.C. We’re actually celebrating our 10 year anniversary, which is crazy to even say. Thankfully, that blog eventually led to my job at ABC News and later my book deal. I’m funemployed because — and I probably shouldn’t say this on the record — but I would do my job for free if I had to (DCF: Shhhhh girl don’t tell em!! But I know exactly what you mean!!). I get to interview celebrities and go to velvet rope events and parties and then write about it! It doesn’t get any better than that.

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?

JM: It sounds cliché to say but it was my mother, Vashti McKenzie (DCF: Mom’s can be the greatest!!). She has said since I was a teenager — when she found a short story I had written — that I had two or three books inside of me. So she encouraged me very early on to pursue writing as a serious career option. When I initially graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park I didn’t go into journalism. I didn’t even want to go into journalism. My mom was a journalist, my grandmother was a journalist. My great-grandfather was a newspaper publisher. I really dreaded being predictable and going into the “family business.” But as my mother likes to say, “Your gifts make room for you.” So eventually, my starting a blog led me to journalism. There was no escaping it (DCF: Sometimes it’s in your blood, as I found out more about my middle namesake, Charlotta Spears Bass, and her passions, including journalism, my journey made so much more sense).

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DCF: What’s your happy place?

JM: Because I live in New York City now, I sort of have to create little happy places all over town. My bedroom is happy place number one (DCF: As it should be, your home should be your sanctuary!); I value sleep a lot and I’m not one of those people who can pull all nighters. I also created a happy place in my neighborhood coffee shop, Lenox Coffee. And my new facial go-to, Heyday Spa. I sound like such a cliché!

DCF:  Where do you get your energy?

JM: As you likely can tell, I place high value on treating myself all of the time whether it’s a facial, ordering that glass of expensive champagne, taking a long walk in the park with my miniature dachshund or splurging on a pricy manicure. Now, I don’t do that all of the time but I think we as women are taught to prioritize everything else in our lives before ourselves. (DCF: I had to hit that with the bold, underline, AND italics! We need to treat ourselves, love ourselves, and put ourselves first because we cannot help others if we don’t have our stuff right!). I reject that idea. Oh! And I read a lot…a whole lot. I probably read two to three books a month (DCF: YASSSSS MORE OF THIS!! People do not read anymore). I love memoirs particularly because you can uncover how people think. This is super important for me since I live in New York, where people rarely have in-depth conversations; they’d rather be polite. So books allow me to drill down deeper.

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DCF:  What does balance mean to you and how do find it?

JM: Balance? Where are you balance? I’m looking for it! Balance is that sweet spot between doing what you have to do and doing what you want to do.  Right now, I’m not doing so well balancing because of my career. I still make time to prioritize my relationships, but it is a daily power struggle.

DCF:  What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?

JM: The biggest sacrifice is quality time with friends and family. I often have to cover an event or a screening in the evenings, and a friend may want to get up for drinks or something and I just can’t. I try to circumvent that by inviting friends to come along, when possible. (DCF: The plus one is such a blessing and a curse, I love being able to take friends along but I have having to pick and choose.)

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DCF:  What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?

JM: The great thing about journalism and publishing is that women are the majority. Even better still, my editor and managing editor are women and so they have a certain perspective that is beneficial to me. Still, there are, sort of, cracked glass ceilings that still exist. I’d love to see more women, especially women of color, on our board and in the higher rungs of management.  If I’m being honest, though, I’m always mistaken for having less experience than I do. I tend to use people’s lowered assumptions about me to my advantage; they never see me coming!

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DCF:  What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?

JM: Learn how to ask for help. Women, we feel we can do it all and because we’re not used to asking for help, it’s super hard to do. This is especially true for black women. We’re sort of taught the trope that black women are strong and if you can’t handle it all you sort of think, “What’s wrong with me?” Everyone else is out here being a strong black woman — Beyonce! Michelle Obama! Oprah — and I can’t deal. But in this process of releasing a book, I’ve had to learn to get over being afraid of asking for help. I need all of the help all of the time! And so I wish I had been smart enough to lean on a few people from the gate.

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DCF:  What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?

JM: I write about what I perceived to be my greatest failure in my memoir, The Engagement Game. At the time, I had been in a five year relationship with a man I just knew I’d marry — and it didn’t happen. And because I saw myself through his lens for so long, without him just didn’t make sense. Thankfully, that break up led me to writing about that break up, which led to this book deal…do you see where I’m going with this? The break up was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Not only did it propel my writing career but it also freed me from a lot of childhood and patriarchal assumptions that I was putting on myself. That break up allowed me to discover who Joi-Marie really is, without trying to shape shift and gain approval from men.

DCF:  What was your proudest moment to date?

JM: My proudest moment was securing my book deal. This was a childhood dream of mine and I before I got my book deal I had been trying to write a book for 10 years; I just didn’t have a story to tell. So when I finally got the call that my publisher wanted to release my book (mind you, this is only after I submitted 50 pages!) I was ecstatic. I’ve never had dreams come true like this. Now I feel that anything is possible…with God’s help.

 

The Engagement Game Book

DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?

JM: My debut memoir, The Engagement Game: Why I Said ‘I Don’t’ to Marriage and ‘I Do’ to Me is out now. Please pick it up for yourself, or your girlfriend, or your bridesmaids!

Join the Fab Empire as they celebrate the debut memoir of The Fab Empire creator Joi-Marie McKenzie on Tuesday, March 28 inside Busboys and Poets (2021 14th Street NW) on U Street. It’s called The Engagement Game! The evening, hosted by famed bookstore Politics and Prose, will be moderated by Emmy Award-winning reporter and anchor of “Good Morning Washington” Jummy Olabanji. – More detail here.

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DCF: Let’s Get Social (Media)!!

Twitter: @DCFab
Facebook: JoiMarieMcKenzie
Instagram: @DCFab
Website: JoiMarie.com

Posted in Bloggers, DC, Founder, GirlBoss, TheFunemployed, Washington, Washington DC, Women, Writer | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Funemployed: Amanda Nelson

DCF: Who Are You?
Amanda Nelson, owner of Whistle & Wild – an online clothing boutique!

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
AN: Multiple reasons, the biggest being the creative process and flow that I can achieve from working for myself. It’s challenging but rewarding and I wouldn’t have it any other way. (DCF: Nothing better than being boss!)

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
AN: My many bosses within retail management, always pushing me to meet goals or hire great people. But most importantly my husband, who pushed me to start Whistle & Wild. If it wasn’t for my support system at home (including my parents and other family) I wouldn’t have quit my job and taken that leap. (DCF: It pays to surround yourself with people that see your vision!)  

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DCF: What’s your happy place?
AN: A bottle of wine, good music, nature, and shared laughs with friends. All accompanied with good food (I’m such a foodie it’s ridiculous) … the more cheese the better 🙂 (DCF: I’m a Whole 30 girl & my only struggle is quitting the cheese… it’s always soooo good!)

DCF:  Where do you get your energy?
AN: A full night of sleep, some restorative yoga, and a strong cup of coffee. (DCF: Yoga keeps me sane!!)

DCF:  What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
AN: Being able to multitask without sacrificing your personal wellness. I’ve worn myself way to thin before and it’s just not healthy. I try to find that hustle and that relaxation everyday. (DCF: Sprint and then rest, it’s a daily struggle.)

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DCF:  What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
AN: Starting a business isn’t easy especially when you’re not made of money. So I had to sacrifice going out a lot, and financially it was tough at the beginning. Saying no to events, when you’re a social butterfly is hard! (DCF: Tell me about it girl!!) But with sacrifice comes great successes I just know that.

DCF:  What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
AN: As a new boutique owner, I have been extremely blessed to have had the support that I have in the local community. Everyone rally’s behind me and it means not having to second guess myself. It means being that much more confident as a women entrepreneur. It means so incredibly much. I haven’t come across any major hard times yet being a female owner, not to say that I won’t one day. But it just makes it easier to have the strong women community here in DC. (DCF: I LOVE the DC creative community, there are so many wonderful people in the area, especially women!!)

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DCF:  What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
AN: Patience. I’m SUCH an impatient person. I try to practice it everyday but it’s easier said than done… if anyone has pointers I’ll gladly take them! (DCF: Ditto…)

DCF:  What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
AN: Not one comes to mind- I’m sure there were multiple occasions were I fell flat on my face. But throughout all of my failures I’ve drawn strength from the strong as hell women in my family. Never stop grinding, hustling and don’t take no for an answer. I live by those quotes.

DCF:  What was your proudest moment to date?
AN: Since the launch in September- we’ve been published in two magazines and we were just on TV in February! I am so proud of my efforts to network and hustle. More to come 😉

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DCF: What are you Currently Conquering:
AN: Growing the line, adding more diversity within our models. Skin colors, sizes, it’s all about personality. I want that to really show through on the brand.

DCF: Let’s Get Social (Media)!!
Insta: @whistle_wild
Facebook: whistle & wild
Website: www.whistleandwild.com
Email: contact@whistleandwild.com

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Posted in GirlBoss, ShopLocal, Shopping, TheFunemployed | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Funemployed: Kelly Ferenc

DCFunemployment: Who Are You?
Kelly Ferenc, Bishop Boutique, Small Business Owner & Mama of Four & Wife & Master of Chaos & Drinker of Straight Up Martinis & Lover of all Things Fun & Eternal Optimist with a Splash of Realism.

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
KF: Every single day, I get to live my dream come true. I get to be the ultimate girls girl. Not everyone gets to help women prepare for their first interview, a magical anniversary or a trip they have planned and saved for for over a year. I hear my customers ups and downs, their struggles and successes — Bishop has become a place of friendship, shopping and fun. I understand the luck plus all the hard work that I have put into my shop to allow myself this life treasure. It is never lost on me — not everyone is this lucky.

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DCF:  Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
KF: My parents, the hubs and my family have been my backbone throughout this adventure. They are just beyond. Also, my bishop girls. They allow me to manage the shop and my children all at once. They are unbelievable. (DCF: Good support is soooo important!! You have some awesome shop girls!)

DCF: What’s your happy place?
KF: Anywhere with my children. (DCF: I could stare at little baby faces for hours so I can only imagine what it’s like when you made them!)

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DCF: Where do you get your energy?
KF: Coffee.

DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
KF: No such thing. (DCF: You must be doing something right cause you seem to juggle all the things!! I’m sure there are many moments we don’t see and we know no one is perfect so keep rocking!) 

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DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
KF:  To own a small business means everything falls on you. I have given up so many fun weekend getaways, family events, and holidays. As disappointing as that can be, to have a successful business is very validating. (DCF: You are a champion!!)

DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
KF: As a mom, it is very difficult to find a balance between work and owning a business.

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DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
KF:  Always trust your gut. Always. (DCF: That is sooo important, I try to listen to my gut on everything!)

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
KF: My greatest failure came from not trusting my gut. Always trust your gut.

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DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
KF: Bishop’s five year anniversary! (DCF: So proud of you for making it to 5 years!)

Currently Conquering:
Bishop Boutique Baby Bet (Times 2) – Enter to win $1000!!! $1 per entry

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What’s Your Social Media!!
www.bishopboutique.com
facebook: bishopboutique
Instagram: bishopboutique
twitter: bishopboutique
snapchat: bishopboutique

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Posted in Business, Entrepreneur, Fashion, FashionShow, Founder, GirlBoss, TheFunemployed, Women | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Funemployed: Angela Luna

DCF: So… Who Are You?
Angela Luna, ADIFF, Founder & CEO
Angela Luna is the Founder and CEO of ADIFF. She is a member of the Forbes 30 Under 30 Class of 2017, winner of Parsons‘ 2016 Designer of the Year Award, and winner of the Eyes on Talents Innovation Award. She is a solution-based designer, committed to creating products and services to better the world.

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
AL: This might sound ridiculous, but I love problem solving (DCF: That’s not ridiculous, that’s awesome!), and that is all I do with ADIFF. Finding ways to use design to help others is incredibly important to me, so I absolutely love what I’m doing.

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
AL: Yvonne Watson, the Associate Dean of Fashion at Parsons. She was my senior thesis professor and actually put me through hell while I was working on my project, but she knew I could take it. From the beginning, she gave me the tough love I needed to succeed and has continued to be a guiding mentor ever since. (DCF: All my favorite teachers were the ones who got me and pushed me).

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DCF: What’s your happy place?
AL: I’ve been doing a lot of headspace lately, so I find that with concentrated meditation, my happy place can be anywhere! Even on a crowded subway. (DCF: Yes, I wish everyone could understand and appreciate the power of meditation).

DCF: Where do you get your energy?
AL: I get my energy from connection with my end users. It doesn’t happen every day, so when I get the opportunity it is always monumental. Before I had visited refugee camps in Greece, I was feeling very disheartened about everything wasn’t sure if I should keep pushing on with the startup. But then I met the people I was designing for, the people I was fighting for, and I knew I had to keep going. These people gave me the strength to keep pushing – because it’s not for me, it’s for them. This whole brand isn’t about me, it’s about them. (DCF: When you have a mission, work shifts to purpose and it makes getting it all done a little easier and a lot more meaningful!)

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DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
AL: I feel like I am still trying to find balance. I’m a very “all or nothing” person, so when I set my heart to my something, I’m all in. Balance is all about proper time management, which I am normally very good at! But I’m horrible about prioritizing my work over my personal life. (DCF: That’s a struggle I think we can all relate to).

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
AL: I gave up most of my nights, weekends, social life, (and surprisingly) physical fitness to get here. It’s hard to fit in hanging out with friends or going to the gym when you’re working 14 hours a day. I definitely need to take my own advice about balance! (DCF: We’re often better about giving advice than taking it).

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
AL: I have had meetings where I felt like my ideas were being undermined because I am not only a woman, but a 22-year-old woman. But that’s how you know that you shouldn’t work with someone. I take these struggles as lessons in character.

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
AL: “Go with your gut.” (DCF: BEST ADVICE). I’ve worked with some people who when I first met them, they seemed aloof or unreliable. My mind said that I would be okay, and the pros outweighed the cons for working with this person. But my gut thought it wasn’t. And it turns out, my gut was right! I ended up wasting so much time and energy on these people. First impressions are usually right, and actions always speak louder than words.

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
AL: I have had a lot of failures or disappointments where I was so upset something didn’t go well or happen. But then in a few days, or months, or years, something even better comes out of it. My overall lesson from all of my failures has just been to keep going, because everything will work out in the end.

DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
AL: It’s definitely a tie between winning the Parsons Designer of the Year Award, and being on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. When I was 10 and first learned about Parsons, I told myself that I wanted to be the designer of the year when I graduated. (DCF: Visualization is a powerful tool. In the back of your mind you have always been working towards this and you did it!!) During my time there, I laughed at my childish idea that I could ever win the award. But I did.

Making the Forbes list was also a fantastic surprise. It was amazing to be recognized as someone who is actually creating worthwhile change within the fashion industry.

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DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?
AL: Right now, we’re working on getting an investment so we can start releasing some new products. We have received close to 1500 online order requests for our tent jacket, which isn’t even available for purchase yet. We’re working on getting things together with an investor so we can produce and start making these sales.

Let’s Get Social (Media)!!

www.adiff.com

FB: @adiffstartup

Insta: @adiffbrand

Twitter: @adiffbrand

Kickstarter: ADiff

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Posted in Fashion, GirlBoss, GirlPower, TheFunemployed | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Funemployed: Karen Bate

DCF: Who Are You? Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?

Karen Bate, Founder and President of KB Concepts P.R.

With more than 25 years experience in nonprofit and corporate communications, Karen Bate, Founder and President of KB Concepts P.R., rebrands companies and nonprofits; positions organizations to achieve their public policy and fundraising objectives; manages the design and use of websites, publications and videos; garners key media placements; and harnesses the variety of social media tools to tell her clients’ stories and inspire others to support them. Karen is also Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer for Awesome Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), a networking group supporting women business owners with more than 100 members in Arlington, VA, and new chapters forming throughout the Washington, DC region. She co-hosts a weekly radio interview show, Awesome Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), at wera.fm.

Karen served on the board of the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) for six years, and continues as a member of the Development Committee. She also serves on the Board of Advisors for Amman Imman: Water is Life. KB Concepts won an Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award in 2012, and Karen is a proud graduate of Leadership Arlington, Class of 2010.

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Posted in AWE, Entrepreneur, Event, GirlBoss, GirlPower, TheFunemployed | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Funemployed: Astra Armstrong

DCF: Who are you?!

Astra Armstrong, Creator of STAND TALL AND RISE, an outreach center for children who have incarcerated parents.

Sophomore Business Management Major. Astra plans to open a performance theater for unaccompanied youth and children who have parents that are incarcerated. In March 2013, Astra had the chance to perform her own work alongside the late Maya Angelou, who was reciting her poem Still I Rise. After the performance, Astra lives by three words: “pride, determination, resilience”. Astra now teaches school aged children, at the YMCA, the importance of performing arts. In her free time she volunteers at the city of Norfolk Juvenile Detention Center. She looks forward to a bright future and hopes to become a motivational speaker so she can encourage other young people with similar circumstances.  She wants others to aspire and achieve more than what surrounds them to overcoming drugs, homelessness, neglect, poverty, and much more. She has won numerous awards for performances throughout the DC area for her phenomenal outreach within her community and her passion for the arts. She plans to study abroad in South Africa this May 2017 where she will teach underprivileged children the history of the arts as well as complete a community service based project. Astra embodies all these and more as a writer, a performer, and a dreamer. (DCF: I knew we all needed some hope so I am so proud to present the future!!)

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?

AA: I love to promote outreach and motivation through the arts by having different events. I enjoy doing these things because I believe that if I can change one life than I know my job as well as my purpose in life has been accomplished.

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?

AA:  My first mentor was my 9th grade high school teacher Davie Yarbrough.  I found her becoming my mentor (DCF: yeah she grows on you and for those that do not know, Davie is my homegirl!!) because I was one of those children who really didn’t believe in myself.  She pushed me to become a better writer and to change the way I carry myself as a young lady.

DCF: What’s your happy place?

AA:  My happy places comes from giving back to my community and seeing smiles on other people’s faces. It brings me to tears when people tell me how much of an inspiration I am.

DCF: Where do you get your energy?

AA:  I get my energy from listening to gospel music. The motivation in gospel keeps me happy. (DCF: Won’t he do it!!) 

 

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DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?

AA:  I use 3 planners one for school , one for work and one for extra activities. (DCF: Way to be ahead of the game, I fought the planner for years, now I can’t live without it!)

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?

AA: A sacrifice that I had to make was when during my freshman year of college, I wanted to transfer schools but I didn’t want my credits and other things to get messed up so I stayed at NSU.  Instead of leaving, I started to have events and things to make the school the way I wanted it and give it more of a performance arts feel. (DCF: Sometimes we have to make our own homes.)

DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?

AA: Learning how to start a successful business and still get paid doing what I love to do. (DCF: Girl I am JUST getting this one!)

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?

AA:  The death of my mom was the hugest failure because she was all I really had. I never aspired to be a mom but sometimes I felt I was more of a mother than she was to me. Once she had passed, I knew that I had to get my life together and go down the right path or else I would become another statistic. (DCF: I’m so proud of you and the path you have chosen but please always remember, You are NEVER just a statistic, not matter what you chose to do in life or what happens next, you are a wonderful person who has a beautiful purpose, don’t ever let anyone put you in a box!!)

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DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?

AA:  My proudest moment is to be producing and directing an original one act play called Super Predator: this play is about the mass incarceration system. How Hillary Clinton once identified us as that. The term means black, broke, fatherless. So the story is centered around 4 inmates who all deal with things that we face in the black community. (DCF: This is such an important issue and conversation that needs to be had, so glad to have your voice in the mix.)

DCF: What are you Currently Conquering??

AA: I am dropping my logo and brand STAR this Thursday at the opening of the play. S-stand Tall And Rise. This is the brand I will use once I open my theater as well as when my entertainment group travels. We are looking for places to tour this play and bring more awareness to the school to pipeline statistics.

Let’s Get Social (Media):

Facebook : Star Armstrong
Instagram : @flymoney_trapstar
email: astraa8@gmail.com

Posted in Art, Artist, TheFunemployed | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Funemployed: Stephanie Kiah

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

Stephanie Kiah, Stephanie Kiah Art, Contemporary Fine Artist
Bio: Stephanie Kiah was born in 1987 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and had advanced training in art from an early age. In 2008, she served as an intern at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia. She also completed her field studies at the Dallas Museum of Art and Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas as well as at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. In 2009, Kiah graduated with honors from Norfolk State University (NSU) with a B.A. in Fine Arts.

Her first solo gallery show entitled “On Earth & Above” exhibited February through April 2015 at ARTs East New York Gallery in Brooklyn, New York. Her current contemporary conceptual exhibit, In Tune, will be up through early March 2017 at NSU’s James Wise Gallery in Norfolk, Virginia. Kiah’s works have been a part of group shows and events in New York, Washington D.C., Virginia, New Jersey, California, Maryland, and Georgia, and are a part of private collections across the United States, as well as within Nigeria. Some of her more notable collectors are actress Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures, Empire) and Charles Allen (son of Eugene Allen, the man whose life inspired the movie The Butler.) Her art has also been exhibited at the Pfizer World Headquarters in New York City, the historic Hampton University Museum in Hampton, VA, and has been a part of the permanent collection of the Singletary Art Gallery & African Art Museum in Portsmouth, VA since 2008.

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
SK: I love what I do because I get to create for a living. I can express my feelings and thoughts freely using any materials I choose. I get to travel and have my works displayed across the country, and best of all I work for myself. That’s my definition of funemployment!

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
SK: My first mentor in the arts was a professional artist out of Richmond, Virginia by the name of Jerome Jones. I met him through my Aunt Pearl who would introduce me to professional artists as a young child to give me direction, as my talent with drawing was noticed early on (DCF: Always good to help children flourish in their talents!). He taught me tips regarding pricing art that I still use to this day and he and his family are, and always have been very encouraging of my career.

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DCF: What’s your happy place?
SK: Happiness is a state of mind, so to me my happy place is less of a physical location and more of a figurative place. My happy place can be listening to a great song or a charming poem, or simply being enraptured in a good book. (DCF: Sooo true!!) It doesn’t stop there; really the arts in general are my happy place. Spending time with family and tending to my plants is another happy place of mine (I have quite the green thumb!)

DCF: Where do you get your energy?
SK: I get my energy from listening to good music! (DCF: Makes sense, a good song will totally move your soul!)

DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
SK: I believe that balance is a hard thing to achieve, particularly for us women. Sometimes it seems as if there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything I set out to do. Balance is something I struggle with just about every day. I have come to learn over time, however, that self-care is key. As a workaholic, I have to be very purposeful at times about setting time aside for myself. When I feel myself getting a bit overwhelmed or burned out, I try to remind myself to take a moment to breathe, and then figure out a hobby of mine to partake in to relax myself a bit. (DCF: It’s so important to listen to that inner voice and take care of yourself!).  Always back to work the next day though.

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DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
SK: Everyone sacrifices and that means something different to each of us.

I have sacrificed a ton of time and sleep, among other things, to get where I am now. Years ago when I was living in Brooklyn and had to scrape up pricey New York rent, there were times I ate sardine meals for days or weeks at a time. I’ve had to sacrifice the glamour of having the newest, fanciest clothes at times, or missing out on social events to in order to complete projects. Over the years I’ve called it paying my dues! Every sacrifice big or small has been worth it. I wouldn’t change a thing because everything I’ve endured (and I have endured a lot) has made me who I am today. I can’t imagine my life being any different! (DCF: Our struggles are what make us, forge us like diamonds!)

DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
SK: I think it is safe to say that when you are young and a woman, people at times will tend to underestimate you. However, overall I have found that when I do business with clients they do take me seriously and respect my craft.

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DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
SK: I can’t think of anything.

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
SK: What I consider to be one of my greatest failures or disappointments, turned out being exactly what I needed in order to achieve my greatest career advancements, like when I wasn’t accepted into grad school straight out of undergrad. I was devastated and I’m sure I cried for days because all my career prospects required a master’s degree in my field (At the time I wanted to be a studio art professor.) I actually was trying my hardest to avoid being what I am now – a professional visual artist. I wanted the stability that came along with having secure and steady employment and not the unpredictable and at times unstable life of a visual artist. God had other plans for me though! After a year or so of trying with all my might to abandon art, I felt life undeniably pushing me back towards my craft. I took the clue and decided that if I were to get back into my art again, I would need to move somewhere new in which I could find inspiration. That was when I decided to move from Richmond, VA to Washington, DC, and boy did I find inspiration. That was the start of my career as I know it today. I often say I didn’t choose art, it chose me and I truly feel that way. (DCF: Glad you listened when God moved you!!)

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DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
SK:  I have a few very proud moments. One was in 2013 when actress Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures, Empire) purchased two of my paintings at an inaugural ball for Obama. It was also great when I had a chance to meet the legendary Dick Gregory, and to display my acrylic portrait of him at an event in his honor. He also signed the back for me which was pretty cool.

My proudest moment, however, is my most recent body of work entitled In Tune. It is a series of contemporary conceptual work which highlights and seeks to open dialogue regarding many of the perils of U.S. society. Each piece, both visually and by title, is also based on popular music. It is a very powerful and timely exhibit(DCF: Sounds like we all need to take a trip to Norfolk!!)

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DCF: What are you Currently Conquering
SK:  Currently I have a collection of my work entitled In Tune on exhibit at James Wise Gallery on the campus of my alma mater, Norfolk State University. There is an artist talk scheduled for February 24th to discuss the collection. The In Tune exhibit will be up through March 3, 2017. Also, I am a part of a group exhibit entitled Women/Color: Women of Color Working with Color, which will be up through March 16, 2017 at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Mosely Gallery.

You can get details for both exhibits on the homepage of my website StephanieKiah.com.

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Social Media!!
Website: www.StephanieKiah.com
Facebook: Stephanie Kiah Art
Instagram/Twitter: @StephanieKiah
YouTube: Stephanie Kiah

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The Funemployed: Kia Weatherspoon

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?
Kia Weatherspoon, President of Determined by Design
Kia Weatherspoon’s path to interior design was unplanned. Shortly after 9-11, while serving in the U.S. Air Force, she was deployed to the Middle East. In a shared space with fifteen other women, Kia needed a sanctuary — but she lacked privacy and a sense of comfort. So when military supply issued troops sheets for their tent city living quarters, Kia didn’t put them on her cot. She took some string and attached it to the top of the tent to create three sheet walls around it. That was the first space Kia created — one not dictated by extravagant finishes and furniture. It evoked an emotional reaction and a lasting memory. When Kia left the military in 2004, she knew she wanted to create spaces.  After 10 years of diverse design experience in hospitality, multi-family and high-end residential markets, Kia founded Determined by Design to create interior spaces that enable the progress of people and their neighborhoods. Driven by a commitment to establish exceptional interior design as a standard for all, rather than a luxury for few — Kia seeks out opportunities to empower those who do not have access to well-designed spaces. She believes in service-based leadership, demonstrated through active involvement with several professional organizations. Kia is known as a fixture in the district’s design community, a nationally recognized speaker and a trailblazer for design equality. (DCF: Love everything about your bio and journey!)
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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
KW: That’s an easy question! I love what I do because everyday I get to impact peoples environments. I get to create interior spaces that not only look good, but they show those who wouldn’t necessarily have access to interior design that they are deserving of a space that can change their lives. What’s funnier then that? (DCF: Great way to take your skill and calling and use it to make people’s lives better.)

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
KW: My first mentor, that’s a tough one. I would have to say my first military superintendent in the U.S. Air Force. While his name escapes me 16 years later the lessons are still prevalent today. One, attitude reflects leadership. Two, attention detail matters on even the smallest task. Third, service before self. It has to be about other first. (DCF: You can definitely see how those lessons shaped your path. You may forget their names but the lessons are what you were meant to carry forward)

DCF: What’s your happy place?
KW: My happy place, hmmmm anywhere that has some of my closest friends and family. Oh wait, and Anacostia Park first thing in the morning. (DCF: Home is where the heart is every time)

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DCF: Where do you get your energy?
KW: You know…I am doing what I love everyday. It doesn’t feel like work, so I don’t need to recharge. I’m just motivated by constant growth and seeing progress so that gives me energy.

DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
KW: When I figure it out I will let you know. LOL! (DCF: The struggle is real girl!! But yes keep working on it as we all are!)

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
KW: I don’t feel like I have sacrificed anything meaningful. I think I know my journey is bigger than me, so everything feels like its a part of the plan or road to success.

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
Man:”Have you ever thought about having a man represent you on initial business meetings?”
Me: “Why?!”
Man: “You’re so young and pretty people probably don’t take you as seriously.”
This is one of many examples. I just choose everyday to not let my femininity be diminished by anyone. My greatest strength is that I am a black woman in business for myself. (DCF: Wow I mean I know it happens, it’s happened to me, but it’s still shocking to me!)

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
KW: I’m a pretty good listener, so there isn’t one thing that I wish I would’ve listened to. I think I know ultimately I need to make decisions for myself. I had a prominent magazine editor tell me I was starting my business too prematurely, and I should go back and work for a firm for five years. If I didn’t know myself I would have listen to her.

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
KW: I don’t know if I believe in great failures. I think failure stops your from making progress. Nothing, has ever stop me from progressing.

DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
KW: My proudest moment, was when a domestic violence survivor told me “When I walked into this room I realized change was possible for me,” in reaction to a space I designed.

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DCF: So what’s next??

KW: On the design table we have a 131 room hotel, 2 affordable housing projects in Baltimore, MD, and 1 new hire! (DCF: That is AMAZING!! Get it girl!!)

Follow Kia here:
Determinedbydesign.com

Twitter.com/detrmineddesign

Instagram.com/dbd_kia/

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The Funemployed: Andrea Weinberg

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

Andrea Weinberg, CEO of The Andi Brand

We make innovative handbags to support awesome humans in their quests to be good to themselves.  I love of adventure, my fellow humans, Earth and beyond.

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DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?

AW:  Funemployed to me is a mindset and understanding that I am the master of my own destiny and my own day to day. My path to funemployment was a corporate sales job, which allowed me to flex my entrepreneurial spirit and let my freak flag fly. And by “freak flag” I mean, the ability to express and share vulnerabilities. I once heard that humans form close bonds by sharing vulnerabilities, because this endears us to each other and also creates trust. After a year trying desperately to be super professional in an effort to close a deal, I gave up and decided to just enjoy as best I could, whatever meeting I was going on. And so I would talk about whatever was on my mind! From boy problems to getting kicked on the subway, I would open up even if (actually especially if) it was my first time meeting someone. I think people found it refreshing and building those strong relationships not only earned me deals and commissions, but the flexibility to make my own schedule, work from home, and eventually to have the confidence and resources to start my own company.

DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

AW:  I was born with cheerleaders. I am extremely lucky to have been raised by overly doting parents who have always believed in me.

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DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?

AW:  My first job out of college was working as a project manager for a company based in the US with operations in India. Essentially, our teams in a few different cities in India were going through scanned paper documents and gathering/indexing information. After 3 months of training and at age 22, the company sent me to India by myself to meet the people that I was and would continue to be working with. I was so scared to travel by myself, but going to a completely new place and working with a really good operation overseas with excellent values and quality assurance practices opened my eyes to the possibilities that accompany a globalized business world and the best ways to make these possibilities reality. Additionally, my background in sales and formal international business education have been extremely helpful as well. (DCF: Sometimes the greatest opportunities are the things we are most afraid of.)

DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?

AW:  From heartbreak and disappointment. I can’t quite explain it but all of the most significant developments in the design of the signature ANDI bag correlate to a time over the past 5 years when I was feeling especially down, but then turned my attention, focus and interest toward building something that I love.

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DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?

AW:  Balance is the ultimate aspiration! I am constantly searching for it and sometimes I catch a glimpse. I make the effort to meditate twice a day (20 mins in the am and 20 mins in the early evening) and also to exercise. The goal is to maintain a grounded perspective so that I don’t take myself too seriously (once I start taking myself too seriously, it all starts going downhill…).

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?

AW:  Blood, sweat and tears! No joke, from wandering through the industrial wasteland of Brooklyn to find a box factory, to carrying 50 pounds on my back to get supplies to our manufacturer en route from Columbus Circle to Jefftown on the L train in freezing rain, crying in the face of the most frustrating circumstances, but always committing to keep moving forward because I am just so curious to see what happens next. Also, side note – crying is the best. (DCF: I totally agree, there is something so wonderful about a good cry!)

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?

AW:  I think the greatest struggle is not being taken seriously, especially on the production side.

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?

AW:  Ask for references – from everyone!!

DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?

AW:  Oh man, I am really struggling with this question – and not because I don’t trip up or get rejected and not to sound like peggy positive pants, but I don’t really believe in failure. There are definitely things that didn’t go my way but that was just because it was a path that wasn’t meant for me. And I guess that is what I have learned from my failures – to believe in my path and to move forward on it, not to look back or dwell on what didn’t happen. (DCF: This answer is exactly why I ask this questions, our failures shape and mold us and I think everything happens for a reason so I love how you look at it!)

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DCF: What is your proudest moment?

AW:  Getting asked to be featured on The Funemployed! (DCF: Awww thanks!! And yes you are living your truth, that takes courage) Wow – I am a role model?! That makes me feel pretty good. Also, last fall, my grandmother came to visit and we went to see my best friend perform in a show at the Duplex. After the show, we walked with friends and family to a restaurant around the corner and ANDI bags were displayed in one of the windows at the Equinox in Greenwich Village. My grandmother (and the rest of my family members) stopped and basically had a photo shoot in front of the window. I was mortified at the time, but my aunt sent me one of the pics of my grandmother and it is my favorite. Getting to see her pride makes me feel really proud. I also really really love when I spot ANDIs being carried by strangers on the streets of NYC and getting emails from customers expressing how much they love their bags.

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DCF: What’s next?

  • We have a very cool collaboration with Equinox coming out this Spring and a very colorful collection hitting this summer, inspired by the Great Barrier Reef (I was there in fall 2016 and it took my breath away – I really hope we can all work together to save the reef! – DCF: Glad you got to see if because we are rapidly losing it so I love that you are bringing attention to it) and partially constructed from recycled plastics. I also have a few new styles coming including a mini bag, city wallet, and mommy accessories.
  • We also are working on a number of social impact initiatives focusing on our message of Be Good To Yourself, Be good to Each Other (we are in this together). We are donating about 500 totes around Valentine’s Day to women in need stuffed with goodness including feminine hygiene products, soaps, Kleenex, makeup etc.
  • Digital Marketing Strategy – we are working on getting our story and our message out there and really building a community focused on GOOD!

Follow Andi’s Adventures Here:

Website: www.theandibrand.com

Facebook: TheAndiBrand

Instagram: @theandibrand

Twitter: @theandibrand

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The Funemployed: Ashlee Tuck

DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?

My name is Ashlee Tuck and I’m the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Will Drink For Travel. Will Drink For Travel is a travel site that combines my love of traveling and seeing new places with my love of unique and native spirits. It’s a view into the wine, beer, and spirits I’ve encountered while traveling. (DCF: For all of us with travel more on the list for 2017 Ashlee is goals so take some notes and get to seeing the world, first through her eyes then hopefully on your own!!)

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DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?

AT: Funemployed means doing whatever you love and makes you happy, whether it’s through a being an entrepreneur, having a full-time job or a part-time side hustle. When looking for a new job about 5 years ago, I evaluated what my interests were (travel) and thought about careers and places I could work that could combine the two. Since I am a travel blogger, I read a lot of pieces from my counterparts that say to quit your job and travel the world, but that is not always possible or realistic for many people. I actually enjoy the work I do and the steady paycheck that accompanies it. While I work full-time, I’ve found a career that incorporates my love of travel, so heading down this path has been a win/win for me. In retrospect, it was a pretty great idea!

DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?

AT:  My first cheerleader in my Funemployed adventure was my friend, Fabian. When I first told him my idea to start the site, he thought it was a great idea and has encouraged me ever since. He often has bigger dreams for the site than I do!

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DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?

AT:  I think having jobs that I’ve hated in the past has given me the awareness to know that what I’m currently working on makes me happy. I’ve learned that once doing something no longer serves you or makes you happy, you need to move on to the next thing. (DCF: So true, it’s very important to know when to let go!)

DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?

AT:  Not wanting to fail keeps me going. I am naturally competitive with myself, so I always take a look at what I’ve accomplished in the past and try to up the ante. I also look to see what other travel bloggers are doing and how they are growing the narratives of their brands. It’s always very inspiring and motivating to watch as their brands expand based on the work they’ve put in. (DCF: That’s a great way to both support and learn! Everyone wins.)

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DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?

AT: To me, balance means listening to the wants and needs of your mind and body. I don’t believe in being strict in any area of my life because I think it will cause me to go too far in the opposite direction. I try my best to balance work, play, food, exercise, and every other aspect of my life. I’ve noticed that when I don’t have a balance in all areas, repercussions show up in other ways, like an expanded waistline, low monthly number for the site or not spending any time with my family and friends. I usually try to find balance by planning and prioritizing my life.

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?

AT:  As a travel blogger, being away from home a lot is a sacrifice that many people don’t see. And while most of the time I am in an amazing destination, I do miss important events for family or friends and it can sometimes weigh on me. But I love what I do and wouldn’t change it for the world. (DCF: I used to travel for work and while it was a lot of fun, people only see the glamour and not the struggle that sometimes goes with it like missing out on important things at home).

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?

AT:  As a black woman travel blogger, we aren’t always taken seriously or have to fight twice as hard to be recognized by the travel industry. If I look to see who are on media trips or have sponsorships with major travel brands, it is most times men or white travel bloggers. Don’t get me wrong, I am not being discouraging of other travel bloggers but I believe it is time for brands to diversify their media partners, which in turn will diversify their audiences. We need to be included in the conversation and have a seat at the table. (cue Solange). (DCF: Girl play all the Solange for that one!)

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?

AT:  At my first job out of college, I expressed to my mentor how I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. I felt like what I was doing didn’t matter in the grand scheme of life and I was just another company employee. She told me that while I needed a job to pay my bills, it didn’t necessarily have to be where I look to for happiness. She told me that many people work full-time jobs but have outside activities that fulfill their other interests. She told me that my happiness comes from me and I couldn’t look to a job to find it. I don’t hate my current career, but I now have a better understanding of what it means to have something other than employment to feed your soul. (DCF: Sounds like she gave you some great advice, glad you learned how to hear it! I needed to hear that too lol).

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?

AT:  I wouldn’t say I’ve had one huge, particular failure. However, I will say that sometimes I lack the discipline I need to accomplish goals I have for Will Drink For Travel. A lot of it comes from not properly planning, so it’s an area I am constantly working on being better in. (DCF: The struggle is real! Keep pushing girl! You are doing great work!)

DCF: What is your proudest moment?

AT:  My proudest moment (so far) has been appearing on Great Day Washington twice discussing my travels to Martinique and Zambia. Additionally, one of my blog posts was found by and republished on Matador Network, which is a major travel website and a huge win for my brand.

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DCF: What’s next?

AT:  I am currently working on making Will Drink For Travel a go-to travel resource for people who really want to experience their destinations in a unique way. This will include travel guides, working with tour companies and providing other useful travel information. I am in the process of finding brands whose goals align with Will Drink For Travel, so if you work for or know someone who may be interested in partnering, please let me know!

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Website

Facebook: willdrinkfortravel
Instagram: @willdrinkfortravel
Twitter: @DrinkForTravel
Snapchat: @DrinkForTravel
YouTube: Will Drink for Travel TV

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Posted in Bloggers, DCTravelBlogger, TheFunemployed, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment