Marissa Kendrick

"I first discovered Marissa, sometime last year while working on a personal project with one of my favorite photographer's, Felton Kizer. Marissa had just finished shooting some product shots for her jewelry line with Felton and I was his following appointment. While waiting for Felton to set up our backdrop I got a chance to talk with Marissa about her brand and what she's all about. Although our time was limited, Marissa began to show me her pieces and I was immediately obsessed with her work. The first thing that caught my eye about Marissa's pieces was how intricately designed each piece was. They were works of art! At that point all I knew was that she created something special that I admired. Later on, after following Marissa on social media for a while, I started to see the heart behind Deleay Lashay and that is when I fell in love. Her design technique is exquisite, but what makes her pieces so breathtaking is the fact that every piece was handcrafted to symbolize our personal journey's and the process that it takes to get there; piece by piece." -Maureé 

I like to be different and work strictly off of purpose. I'm not really into trends, but I love to put things together based on how it makes me feel and the visuals. I'm a storyteller. I like painting pictures of what inspires me in hopes that it will touch others in a positive way. I look at my work as empowerment pieces. Every piece is created to remind you of your own worth.

I started designing wearable art jewelry when I was a Junior in High School. But before I was a designer, I was a painter. I started oil painting when I was eleven years old. Painting was always a hobby for me. I could paint for hours.

I feel that everyone is a working progress. Sometimes I try to plan out my ideas for a new jewelry piece and it doesn't turn out as I planned, but it turns out better. "Piece by Piece" Is a reminder that only God has the ability to solve the missing pieces of our own personal puzzles and to take it one day at a time. Have patience and stay focused and the rest will fall into place.

Life is busy, yet very exciting for me right now. I have been faced with so many new decisions concerning my work. I'm learning as I go, but I'm enjoying the process and looking forward to what's to come.

One of the biggest lessons I've learned has been to take criticisms, but always follow my heart because at the end of the day this is my work. God reminds me that anything is possible. I know that I can't fail at this unless I truly give-up. 

Dear Sisters,

A part of life is about working to become the women you are destined to be. I believe that every woman has the power to create her own life. I know at times you may feel like its impossible to have it all, but it's possible. And for those of you who are waiting on love to bring you joy, don't wait. Enjoy life right now where you are. Enjoy being single and learning who you are. Love yourself and love will find you when least expect it.

But if we hope for what we see not, then we with patience wait for it. -Romans 8:25

To find out more about Marissa's brand Deleay Lashay, follow here on Instagram or visit her website

Mauree SullivanComment
The Morning Collective
 Photography by  Felton Kizer

Photography by Felton Kizer

Sloane Crawford

9:45am: "I hope that the Lord gives me the strength that I need to get through today. Although there are struggles in my life I know that with God I can do anything. 

Now it's time for me to get emotionally ready for the day. First I grab my laptop and open it up to my video maker. Each day I vlog my thoughts starting off by talking about the previous days events. Depending on how the day went I may rant about a situation or just talk. The reason I do this is because when I am looking at myself in the camera I can tell if I'm being honest or if my pride is getting in the way. I think it's important for me to be honest with myself so that I can fix the issues and just better my life in general. After I talk about any issues, I then talk about goals I want to accomplish for that day, week, and month.

The reason I do these things is because my mind gets so cluttered with emotions and priorities. Vlogging helps me to get organized. Then I start getting physically ready for the day. During that time I may watch the previous days video to see if I've made any progress. "

 Photography by  Felton Kizer  

Photography by Felton Kizer 

Dominique Jackson

6:15 a.m.: "When did fear become a factor? I never use to be afraid to meet and connect with new people. Growing up I was always eager to embrace new smiles. 

But somewhere along the line I started to think that being Dominique wasn't enough anymore. The thought of begin Dominique the reporter, producer, writer, event planner who wants to travel, share the love God, and fight for justice started to make me feel like I was being measured and like I didn't deserve that life. 

Fear told me that it was all about the gifts. Some of which I’m still refining and growing into. 

So fear came in and clicked a button in my head that told me that being Dominique wasn’t okay anymore. That I had to prove myself worthy of people’s time and attention. That the seat didn't belong to me. 

I shut down. I lost my voice and I was afraid to speak. I was afraid to be fully the weight of who I am and who God created me to be. 

Who defines my worth? Who gave me a voice to speak? A voice thats purpose is to glorify his name and to spread his love. 

So I’m this season, and I’m learning that my spot at the table is not reserved by man, but is predestined by God; who pulls out my chair and says- “Take a seat, and share your heart. Share your worries, wisdoms, truths and your troubles because you have a lot to offer this table. You belong at this table solely because I put you at this table. Sit down, think about the cross, and speak. 

Psalm 56:3- When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?".

  Photography by   Felton Kizer   

Photography by Felton Kizer 

Bethany Roesler

5:30am: "My train leaves in an hour. Today, I go from one home to the other. What a blessing to have two places to call home".

  Photography by   Felton Kizer   

Photography by Felton Kizer 

Raven Stevenson

6:30am: "My muscles are sore from the day before. I don’t stretch enough. I have to load and unload our gear truck all over again next week.

So annoying. My sheets are coming off the corner of my bed.

Did I prepare enough for the test shoot? I need to get better about writing what I want for it down.

I am frustrated by an email sent to me by my camera operator. I hired him a couple of weeks ago for the independent project I am Director of Photography on. We are less than a week from the shoot. He emailed me to ask if I had a first and second assistant camera. Of course I do. It’s a film shoot. I am a competent DP. Why would he ask me that less than a week before? I felt like my competency was put into question. It felt disrespectful. I hate that I have to think about how our work relationship going into set. That it may start off with low expectations of me. I know that I have even shot more than he has. You don’t know me.
Will we work together well? Will he take my direction? I can’t be late.

I have to put together notes and lighting overheads for my Gaffer tonight.
They can’t know my doubts or concerns. That I might be nervous. Will someone be able to tell?

I am still excited to be able to shoot over Spring Break on this project. But, I can’t remember the last Spring Break where I wasn’t shooting. I never really get a break. I like working though." 

  Photography by   Felton Kizer   

Photography by Felton Kizer 

Emily Wong Loi Sing

9:45am: "Did I miss my alarm? It's Saturday and I didn't make morning plans... So no! Rest. Replenish. There are no expectations today. Nothing you must finish. 

I woke up again at 9, thinking: I MUST PEE. But when I went back into the guest room, I wondered if my tulips were freezing outside. Then I thought about how happy I am that my brother lives 3 minutes away from Jeremy's family now. He bought his first place, and my mom and dad are celebrating that they launched their children out into the world. Now he's my neighbor. 

Today's To Do List:

1. Get Zac houswarming gift

2. Check Clark Street for dress for this wedding today

3. Make fruit-filled breakfast"

  Photography by   Felton Kizer   

Photography by Felton Kizer 

Paris Fresh

8:00am: "I have so many things to do today. I want more sleep, but I have to get my day started. I don't have to go to every event. Which one can I cancel to get some homework done? Aye!!! Charlene followed me on Instagram! I really hope people come to the info session. I can't wait to kick it with the squad tonight. Low key this is a squad day all day, I hope they don't get on my nerve and vice versa.

I need to write Mariame a note for her going away party. She and I aren't that close but she means a lot to me. I need to clean my house so bad, but I don't have time to do it. I feel better today than I did yesterday. I need to go change my tampon. I probably should do some crunches or sit-ups, but nah.

High key the fish and chicken at this info session is about to be sooo good. I need to respond to the media and panel request emails and send them out to my squad. 

I spent so much money last night on my nails. This self care thing is getting expensive. I need to start on my mommy's Mother's Day gift. Also I need to check in on Grandma Marcia, Jojo and Ta. I need to create a homework to do list. I want to be done with it all them by the end of spring break. Speaking of spring break I need to plan for some fun stuff to do. I also need to start my total system cleanse. Okay, for real, let me get out of this bed and change my tampon and pick out a cute outfit for my long day."

  Photography by   Felton Kizer   

Photography by Felton Kizer 

Serenity Martin

9:15am: "My first thought this morning was simply thanking the Lord for waking me up again. I decided that before my feet hit the ground, pick up my cell phone, or give thought to anything else I would set my spiritual intentions for the day. Like most days I pray for strength and clarity throughout my day. My greatest need in this moment of life is for me to walk as close to Him and in His purpose for my life as possible. And my morning thoughts reflect that need. I put Him first and myself.

Particularly this morning, I feel the need to conserve as much of my personal energy as possible. If I could stay home all day and just be in my space, I would. However I have responsibilities to attend to so the challenge becomes balance; maintaining this intimate energy with God and myself and being available to others.

I believe as women, we're not afforded the luxury sometimes to simply BE. Even other women will look at you funny, because they themselves aren't familiar with such a practice. Everyday whether male or female, I feel like it's imperative to self love first because if you don't you can truly lose yourself. Be good to yourself so that you can be good to others".

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Director's Note:

Something that has always intrigued me is the intricate thoughts of women and how some people have yet to realize the depths of what lie within them. The reason why I wanted to capture morning thoughts is because I believe that they are some of the purest and rawest reflections of our inward states of being.

My goal was to make these woman stop and reflect. Instead of reaching for their phones first thing in the morning and focusing on the busyness around them, I felt like challenging their inward conversation. Exchanging their daily dose of social chaos for self evaluation and inner awareness.  Each woman was given the task of writing down her thoughts before getting out of bed. I loved the diversity shown between each woman's mind process and I believe that it goes to show that women are bountiful. Full of to-do lists, projects, faith, concerns for equality in our work places, and self preservation methods. Ladies, we are more than our extensive make-up routines and hair care regimens. Let us not forget that all of our mornings are numbered and each one should be unwrapped as though it were a precious gift. Bask in those five to ten minutes of solitude before your feet hit the ground and ready your heart and soul for the journey.

The Morning Collective is the beginning of a series of creative projects that will be released on the behalf of ByMauree.com.  For this project, I partnered with the super talented photographer Felton Kizer who did a phenomenal job in capturing the real emotion behind each woman's words. Check out his work, here

Monica Burgess

Photographer/ Floral Designer

Say hello to my beautiful friend, Monica! I met Monica during my time living in Tulsa, Oklahoma around four years ago. I knew that we were kindred souls from the beginning of our friendship because of her ginormous love for creativity and beauty. This woman exudes beauty and joy wherever she goes and the tenderness of her heart reflects the love of God in such a genuine way. Now, whenever I see Monica, months and sometimes even years in between meetings, I always know that our time together will always leave me feeling like a more invigorated creative. Her energy and curiosity regarding all things makes it a blessing to not only have her as a friend, but as a sister. - Maureé

I am a photographer captivated by natural beautiful light and clean imagery. I want every image to show the beauty of whatever my subject may be in the simplest of ways.  The truth is, I am terrible at trying to describe myself or even talk about myself. Talking about myself seems to give me this weird anxiety!  The most real and appropriate words for me would be "I have been so blessed". I absolutely love what I do and I can not describe the feeling I get being able to bring that same love to others! I find it a huge blessing that I could even be considered and given a talent that bring so much joy to people everywhere! I would of never believed that my life would or could be something people find inspiring...seriously. I never want to take that for granted. It has been nothing but The Lord!

My career...

It all started with one of those disposable camera's taking selfies haha! The ridiculous flash never went off and all my pictures were terrible! I knew I wanted to become a photographer at the age of 15. My dad was a well known event photographer in town and I still remember the first wedding I helped him photograph, ever since then I have had the desire to shoot. This wasn't an easy process getting to where I am now, much patience and tears have been invested but it has been well worth it. Photography feels like it comes so naturally to me. I don't have to think about it. I just take pictures of everything and it can be a problem sometimes (giggles). 

 Flower design was definitely a talent I was totally unaware of until a good friend of mine who was starting a floral business believed I had the capability to arrange flowers! She told me that anyone who has a creative eye she believe's can naturally be good at arranging flowers and it has proved to be right! The first arrangement I made I was in a lot of fear thinking it would be terrible, but the more I practiced the better I became. I fell so in love with flower design that I was ready to abandon photography for a while, but of course I couldn't do that, so why not do both?!!  

I trust that we all know and understand that life will never be perfect, but lately life has been wonderful! Life is a blessing and each day continues to surprise me and teach me just how valuable and important each life is!

I am currently doing my best to stay caught up on emails from clients, perfecting my skills in floral & planning my wedding...wait ahhhh ?!?!?! Yes I literally just got engaged and I still can't believe how real and unreal it feels all at once. I also struggle constantly with daydreaming about traveling all over the world. The more I travel I find that my daydreaming tends to get a little deeper. I have been blessed to travel and work towards becoming a traveling photographer starting this year. I am learning to ENDURE without giving up or caving. Love endures every circumstance and it never gives up or loses faith. 

My Inspiration...

I'm sure that most people would think that referring to Jesus as my biggest inspiration seems a bit cliché, but He really is. Also, nature, people I interact with daily, and freedom that has all come from the Lord inspires me as well! I know for a fact that it is nothing but the Lord that gives all good and perfect gifts. { James 1:17 } 

   I have learned that it is okay to ask for help and that we are not meant to know it all! There is room for others in your learning and growing. It is important to cultivate relationships with other creatives and just people in general to help serve them and not compete. Always be willing to learn. I do not want to stop at a certain capacity saying this is it... I have mastered it all. You will realize that getting to your destination doesn't end once the plane lands, you still have luggage to pick up, security to go through and a home to get to. Just arriving seems wonderful, but it is the journey and adventuring that is always much more important and exciting. 

You know that feeling or moment whether your visiting a new city or sitting with a friend and there is always something you see or feel that you wish you could of captured on a camera it was so beautiful but so sudden... yeah thats me (giggles). Ever since I was young I was totally convinced that glasses with camera's should be made for photographers because it would make life so much easier, being able to capture what I see right at the moment it happened. There is also something beautiful in seeing light move on a subject and that is what motivates me most of the time to capture light and beauty in a way I couldn't describe with my words.

To My Sisters...

Sisters, never forget that you are lovely and so loved. You have a reason to live and that is why you're here. We need you to be you and nobody else! The talent's and purpose that you hold may not look like everyone else's, but please don't believe that lie! You are important and needed just as much as anyone else. Stay encouraged and don't seek to be anything your not. Be yourself. There is so much beauty that lies deep within that truth. 

I also encourage you to write your desires down, pray over them, giving them to the Lord. 

I remember at fifteen, I wrote down a list of the dreams that I wanted to see come true in my life. Graciously, I have been blessed to see those dreams come to life! (PS I still have the list). I think a huge key to this was listening to what was on my heart and not picking the coolest things out there . My heart spoke loudly about the things I wrote down.

Scriptures to walk by...

 Wait on The Lord and be of good courage! - Psalms 27: 14 

This was a scripture I was reminded of one morning before I was about to cave and give into my thoughts of giving up to get a job. After writing and speaking that scripture down I decided not to apply for a job and that same day I was called to start working on a project that would catch me up on bills and cover a whole month of living! The Lord is faithful. 

Interrupt anxiety with gratitude - Miscellaneous Quote

This has been my current reminder to shift my mind to being more thankful instead of complaining and worrying. 

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalms 27:1 

When Jesus is the center and the focus of our life we should have nothing to fear because He has already gone before us leading and guiding each step. When fear begins to creep in make sure your focus hasn't wavered making sure Jesus always remains the center and you have nothing to fear. 

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To connect with Monica check out her website, here.

Mauree SullivanComment
Rahkii

Singer/Songwriter

This 23-year-old songbird has been blessing Chicago with her magnanimous voice and bubbly personality for years now. I thank God for women like Rahkii who stand true to what they believe and make it look DOPE to love Jesus. A fun fact about this beauty is that she has a major obsession with superheroes. But get this; the reason why she's obsessed with them is because she compares the life of a superhero with that of a child of God. Simply put, by Jesus dying on the cross for our sins we are now made whole and have been commissioned to do even greater works than He did during His time here on earth. Through Jesus we have found our true identity and we know that we are not of this world, but instead we are called to minister to it. In other words, we can now put on our capes and take over the world. I'm quite convinced that she could preach an entire sermon on the topic of superheroes.

Back Story: It was not until recently that Rahkii and I officially met. We have been going to the same college for years, but never crossed paths. About a month ago I felt led to reach out to Rahkii and just let her know I was in her corner. I know that might sound kind of off the wall especially because we had never met before, but it honestly wasn’t. I have always admired Rahkii from a far, but because we were never in the same circles I never pursued the relationship. However, lately the Lord has been pushing me to start actively engaging in building community with women around me. In my heart it is no longer acceptable to watch other women run after their dreams without passionately supporting them in their pursuit. I don’t want to sit quietly and watch from the sidelines as they either succeed or fail. As women, our instinct should always be to cover one another in prayer and love each other into our next levels of influence. I hope you enjoy this letter! - Maureé 

 Styled by  T&T Styling

Styled by T&T Styling

 My friends like to think of me as the “quirky schoolgirl that tells great stories” which is a bit hilarious to me, but I honestly am a storyteller. I am very visual as well. I like to cater visually to my audience as well as give them something great to listen to. As an artist, I would not say that I am just a singer/songwriter; I am an all around entertainer who wants to inspire others through performance.

I'm a recent graduate of Columbia College  Chicago and am now working as the youth leader at New Faith Baptist Church. I am also working on my first EP, which is very exciting! Through this journey as a new artist, I am facing a great amount of fear. It’s a bit nerve-wracking to think of how people will receive my “urban” music, being known in Chicago for doing gospel. I grew up in a traditional Baptist church. I was always surrounded by gospel music and to come out with an EP that isn’t so heavily grounded in the typical gospel sound is a bit terrifying for me. Although my music wouldn’t be categorized as the standard “Church” or gospel genre, it without a doubt obtains a Christian foundation. I want people to accept my sound.

Though I am confronting fear through this journey, I am realizing that fear is only an option. I don’t have to be scared of it or allow it to consume me. I know that God will have my back throughout this entirely. If God is for me there is no one or nothing that can be against me.

 It was definitely an interesting adventure to find my individual voice and identity in music, and it wasn’t exactly the easiest thing. I was exposed to so many different genres and styles of music growing up, so I was open and eager to dabble around many different forms of music. It was hard for me to latch onto one particular genre due to the fact that I am truly in love with just about all of them. I knew I wanted to make music that felt good. I also wanted the overall message to be the same, no matter what style of music I wanted to take on. I knew that Jesus had to be the center of it and furthermore whatever I created had to uplift and empower people. My friends and I like to call it “Hybrid Music.”

 Photography by  Imaginat  / Styled by Juiix

Photography by Imaginat / Styled by Juiix

         I am honestly inspired by everyone and everything but as far as artistry goes and my individual identity, it sounds a bit cliché but Jesus is truly my biggest inspiration.

In the bible it was prophesied that the Messiah would come to earth and save His people. Everyone expected Him to arrive as this grand and royal God flying in like superman to come save the day when instead, He appeared common and identified to us. He didn’t even have some huge royal birth of any sort; he was born in a manger with animals. And though He didn’t have a luxurious lifestyle, He was still the greatest of all time, and is still the greatest superhero. He came to save our lives so we would take after Him and save others. I aspire to be a superhero just like Him.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned in womanhood is that females are equipped with just as much power as men are. We are so strong and we have authority. A lot of times (especially in media) we are depicted as being weak and needy instead of the strong and powerful heroes we truly are. We’re always shown as the ones that need to be saved and portrayed as the “damsel in distress”, but we are so much greater than that. I’ve learned that as a woman, I don’t need affirmation from a man to feel or do something superior. As a Christian woman I have everything I need inside of me to take on any problem and fulfill any dream!

I want women to know how valuable they are. Never underestimate who God has created you to be and never ever sell yourself short. Don’t be afraid to raise your voice and chase what you believe in, no matter how outrageous and risky it may seem. We all have a divine purpose in this world.

The bible says in Matthew 10:31, “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

We are so valuable and precious to God, so we shouldn’t walk in fear because we are fearfully and WONDERFULLY made.

Romans 8:37 also says , “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” We already have the victory so there is no need to fear, God has our back and he loves us.

 Remember to remain true to who you are and never change your morals. 

 

 Rahkii's  single "Beautiful" will be debuting this spring! Check back for more info.

Mauree SullivanComment
Jill Grandison

Singer/Songwriter

This 27 year old powerhouse is shaking up the metro Detroit area with her incredible vocals and soulful lyrics. I have know Jillian since I was a little girl and through the years I have watched her metamorphosis from afar. We were some years apart in age and we never hung out in the same circles, but as a young girl I would always pay attention to the ones who went before me. I think that's true of any young person, but it was definitely true for me. I always admired Jill's heart for the Lord and how instead of falling away from her faith once she got older, she stayed true to it. If you grew up in the church you might understand what I mean when I say that around the time that people start high school and/or college there is "The Great Falling Away". This is the time when young adults usually start trying things out for the first time and seeing if they truly want to be the person that they were taught to be. It's a big deal and a lot of people don't make it, but some do! Now I'm not saying that Jill is perfect by any means, but I thank God for her stamina! Sometimes I don't think that we as women know that we are constantly being watched by the ones coming up behind us. We forget that we are examples and that our lives are not just for our own pleasure, but they are inevitably used as blueprints for our sisters, daughters, nieces, etc. With that being said it has been lovely taking notes from this blueprint of mine. Her music is breathtaking and I am so excited for what the Lord is doing in her life! Her story full of trust and utter dependance on God is exactly what I needed to hear. I hope you enjoy!  - Maureé

I'm an acoustic soul singer with folk elements in my sound. I'm also a songwriter. I like to sing about what I've learned or whatever I'm sorting through at the time. Often times my lyrics center around God and my relationship with Him because it frames my view of life and experiences. I'd like to think that I make music that encourages the spirit and fills the soul.  

I'm currently in Bible school studying in a 2-year program in the Pistis School of Ministry and also coaching high school girls basketball at night -- all while pursuing my dream to be a traveling singer/songwriter. (That's a lot. I know) I'm learning that it's not so much about the destination, but the journey and what you become along the way. With any dream there are seasons of preparation, and I believe that's where I am. Some days it is frustrating to see others doing the things you're dreaming of and knowing that it's just not your time yet. In those times, I'm reminded to trust God with my dreams. I know He has it all planned out, and if I can just remain faithful in this season, He will open the right doors for me at the right time.   

 I think I'm my truest self when I'm sharing my music. I'm honest, bold and vulnerable especially in the songs I'm working on currently. In regular life I can be a more reserved or a private person, but music affords me the opportunity to be honest with others and myself and allows me to share on a personal level in a way I wouldn't normally.

I've always wanted to sing. Since I was a kid I dreamed of it, but did not see how it could happen because I was terrified of singing in front of crowds. But although I was scared, my heart kept leading me back to music. It wouldn't go away. When I was 19, I picked up the acoustic guitar and began writing songs. From then I knew this was something I was supposed to do, and ultimately a part of my purpose.

After finishing up at Wayne State with a Journalism degree, it was time for me to find a job. I was thinking I might write for a magazine or work in a communications department somewhere, but God had other plans for me. That summer, as I was praying about next steps, I heard the Lord say that now was the time for me to pursue music, and He gave me some specific things to do. I had this peace from God that kept reassuring me that this was the right thing for me.

I think the most difficult part about stepping out was that people did not understand my path. Constantly being asked "Where are you working now?" or "What's next for you?" and being okay with the expressions on their faces when I told them I was pursuing music. I had fears of letting people down. I didn't want to disappoint my professors and my mentors who poured so much into me. But inside I had this conviction that this was the path that God was leading me on. I had to follow that. I had to redefine success for myself and recognize that at the end of the day, pleasing God was most important. You can't always explain to others what God has spoken to you. You just have to be okay with being misunderstood. They'll get it later.

There are lots of people who I admire and who inspire me, but one person who comes to mind is the jazz singer Esperanza Spalding. I'm inspired by how skillfully she has mastered her instrument and by the fact that she has basically created her own lane. She's original, carries herself with class and has a unique style fashion-wise, rocking her natural hair. I dig.

To me, womanhood is class, beauty and strength. It is knowing who you are and being comfortable with that person. It is fearlessly rejecting the boxes and stereotypes we are often placed in. It's respecting yourself, being brave and dreaming big. It is wearing multiple hats and making it look easy.

Think about the things in your life that come natural to you. Look back at your childhood at the things you did in your free time without anyone telling you to. What talents or abilities do you have that can help others? Usually that is where your passion lies. Once you find it, pursue it and don't let fear stop you.

A scripture that I've been studying: 1 Peter 5:6 NLT "So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor." God is constantly reminding me to enjoy the moment and cherish every season of life. Don't be in a hurry to get "there." There is beauty in the process. Be faithful in completing the assignment God has given you and know that at the right time He will promote you."

Check out Jill's newest music video "The Person I Am": 

 

To connect with Jill and hear more of her music, click here.

Mauree SullivanComment
Arielle Estoria

Say hello to Arielle! The multi-talented, 24 year old creative from the Bay Area who's articulation's about life are nothing short of brilliant realness.  She is most well known for being a poet, author, speaker, blogger and creative curator, but if that wasn't enough, you will also feel like Arielle is the best friend you've always wanted after reading her work. The first time that I came across Arielle was on Instagram and from that day on I have been glued to her reflections. I have always admired Arielle's authenticity in talking about her experiences and this interview was no different. I hope that you enjoy her insights just as much as I do.  - Maureé

How long have you been writing?

Oh goodness, since i could hold a pen? English was always my favorite subject and every time I had to do a “creative” project for school I would write a poem or a story. It’s sort of been ingrained in me for as long as I can remember. I didn’t start doing specifically Spoken Word poetry till my sophomore year of college!

When did you first realize that you had a gift with words?

I think I have to sift through insecurity and self doubt almost every day and re-realizing or more so grasping is a constant and daily battle. It might of been when I started my blog and began sharing it and received so much feedback about how much it touched people or how my thoughts were thoughts they haven’t been able to express or understand and now they do. It was that moment I think, where I realized--- oh shoot, this could be the way I love people, through words. 

Was there every any fear involved with taking on a career in the arts? If so, how did you overcome?

Hmmm.. I don’t know if I would use overcome in the past sense. As I said before it is a daily battle to be able to wake up and create. Yes, it’s very much so who I am and not just something I do but at the same time bills demand to be paid and the “practical” is forever fighting to win over what “reality” looks like for you. 

Needless to say, there’s a ton of fear, everyday. Somedays your certainty that you have stepped into your calling trumps fear, but fear is a sneaky little sucker that comes back in when you least expect it and floods over what you thought to be true.The fear that you won’t make enough, that you won’t be enough, that you’ll never be “there” wherever the heck “there” is these are thoughts you will battle all the time but that’s the beautiful part about calling and ordained purpose. Once you’ve stepped into it not even fear or hell itself could take it from you. 

Being a poet/public speaker can be pretty intimidating. What helped you gain confidence being in front of crowds?

Fun fact: I am nervous 95% of the time. Before getting on stage my stomach is pretty much always in knots, my hands sweat and I get lightheaded. Also, you know I'm nervous by either two ways 1. I ramble the moment I get on stage 2. I’m too nervous to even ramble and dive right into a poem without any prior introduction. I think the most humbling part of it all is being nervous. I never want to get used to it. Eventually once I'm up there I’m fine. I won’t pass out or anything. I am home once my feet are grounded and I’m able to share my heart with the audience, BUT you better believe once I step on stage internally I am crawling into a fetal position ball.

Before I step on stage, I whisper a little prayer that has just become constant for me, “This is not about me". I remind myself that in all honestly, these are not my words and that I am simply a megaphone for the most important voice worth hearing in this moment. I think that’s where the “confidence” comes from: the reminder that it isn’t about me, but I get to be used in that moment or those moments and it’s super neat!

Many of your poems focus on empowering women to be their best selves. Was there ever a time when you struggled with self-confidence? If so, what was that experience like and what helped you discover your beauty

Like I said before, this is something I definitely struggle with daily. Some days I’m like HECK YEAH!! I am gorgeous, I love my curvaceous body and I feel so good! Then there are days where it is difficult to even look at myself in the mirror without cringing. Comparison likes to make me believe that I am less than all my friends or the people I follow on Instagram --it’s a never ending battle. 

I will say however that I have had a MUCH healthier mindset for the past three or so years. I have always struggled with accepting and loving my body. I’ve always been taller, thicker, carried a little extra than most my friends and I’ve always felt less or inadequate because of it. And then one day someone asked me, “When are you going to see yourself the way your creator sees you?” and that has wrecked my mindset ever since. I am valued, precious, beautiful, more than enough and wonderful in the eyes of the very one who formed every quirk and aspect of who I am. When you think about that you start to extend yourself a little more grace and have a more loving mentality towards yourself. 

What is life like for you right now? 

NUTS. Life is absolutely crazy for me right now. I am working about 5 different jobs in all sorts of different categories and they stretch me very thin. I am currently creeping out of the “I can’t do this, I’m not cut out to be a creative” phase. I am trying to find balance between craving stability and thriving as a creative and on top of that not letting fear win. In the midst of all that, I am also learning that God is SO constant and all this stability that I’m craving is already who God is! Also, with creativity timing is everything. It is a slow and growing process ---that’s also how God works and though extremely annoying sometimes, always worth it. 

Being a recent college graduate, what would you say to young women who find themselves afraid of the future? And are there any scriptures or quotes that helped you get through that time in life?

I would say--- baby girl, the fear is good, just don’t let it consume you. Do what makes you come alive, if there is a fire within you don’t let fear, expectations or doubts extinguish it but instead fuel it. God works in mysterious and beautiful ways --- let him work on your behalf okay? It will be above and beyond what you could dream of.

Scriptures to live by...

When questioning your calling…

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. “ Ephesians 4:1

I was able to memorize/ recite the entire book of Ephesians with three other gifted individuals at my church for four different services. During the first service I stumbled on the first part of Ephesians 4 and broke down on stage. This was during a time when the enemy was really challenging me and trying to get me to shy away or hide from my calling to speak, write and perform.  When I got to the back of the stage and calmed down a bit, I sat on the floor and recited my section word for word. This has always been my life verse but honestly in this moment God was challenging me, but is it really? Then it hit me --- it doesn’t say WHEN you get your calling or IF you get it ---it says live it regardless of the title. Regardless of what your profession will be, your calling is to be a light, love well and be a reflection of Jesus Christ here on earth, you don’t need a resume or degree to do that.

For when I felt anxious…

“I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” - Lamentations 3:24

For when I doubted…

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” -Hebrews 10:223

“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” -Shauna Niequist 

“You cannot limit the work of God because it doesn’t sound realistic.” - My mom 

“God is not a God of uncertainty.” -My dad + probably scripture

Are there any projects of yours that we can look forward to seeing in the future?

 I’m working on a EP which is a short album of 5 poems to music, composed by my friend Aaron who is very gifted! That will hopefully be out in February and i’m also working on a book collaboration with my Sarah, titled Write Bloody, Spill Prettywhich will be out --when we finish it haha. Also I’m really wanting to work with my friends who are singers and musicians and do poem covers to songs with them, that will be after the EP 

To connect with Arielle and find out more about her recent projects, click here.

Mauree SullivanComment
Deun Ivory

I first discovered Deun on Instagram. I actually remember squealing in excitement as I looked through her page (not kidding). Her aesthetic was so dead on! I loved her eye for simplicity and depth. Her use of clean lines and vibrant colors are captivating. She always seems to bring out the raw beauty in all of her subjects. Most of all, I loved that she has a heart for God. Whenever I find dope people who are passionate about life and love Jesus it stirs me up inside. In my opinion, the creative industry is always in need of more people of faith; especially those who are not afraid to stand for what they believe. Deun's work speaks for itself and it gives me no greater joy than to introduce her to you all. -Maureé

  "I'm glad he decided to colour me brown."

"I'm glad he decided to colour me brown."

I am 24 years old and I'm from Dallas, Texas. 

As an artist, I would describe myself as undeniably original. I am obsessed with exploring the various facets of minimalism and I enjoy creating visuals that I don't see. 

My life, at the moment, is filled with so much art. so many projects and things to look forward to. It's really exciting. I've grown comfortable with my style of expression. It's comparable to being comfortable in my own skin. I am able to express myself the way I desire and I've come to realize that being care-free of other peoples opinion is extremely empowering and liberating. God has allowed me to be in a position of influence, which is awesome because I get to inspire other people to do what they love. 

 "I love good grain. there is something mysteriously charming about it." 

"I love good grain. there is something mysteriously charming about it." 

Relevancy is strongly connected to your growth as an artist and your consistency. If you continuously create content that is invaluable, relevancy will never be an issue. 

  " lady with child"

 " lady with child"

 " Black Girl Yoga" 

" Black Girl Yoga" 

I am always inspired by my boyfriend, Eric Michael Ward. He oozes a fragrance of confidence that attracts almost everyone he meets and I admire that. He encourages me to live a life that doesn't seek validation from other people and that's when I'm able to give my best and genuinely create my interpretation of art.

  "I pray that you grow up love your brown skin. so rich. so smooth. incomparable. a shade of delight - God painted you so beautiful."

 "I pray that you grow up love your brown skin. so rich. so smooth. incomparable. a shade of delight - God painted you so beautiful."

When I think of sisterhood, I think of a healthy and loving relationship between people who are genuinely rooting for the other person. I think of a support system that never fails because of the mutualistic bond that grows and strengthens over time. 

A message that I have for other women: Believe that God is who he says he is. 

Mauree SullivanComment