Mathematical genius Katherine Johnson. Literary icon Maya Angelou. Hollywood pioneer Cicely Tyson. Activist Angela Davis. Inventor Patricia Bath.

These are the names of just some of the giants we (rightfully) celebrate during Women’s History Month. At the same time while we uphold our past, it’s just as important to embrace the future and make space for the newest wave of boundary-bucking, glass ceiling-shattering, history-making ladies.

That’s why we are proud to unveil this month’s new series: theGrio’s 20 Millennial Women Making Moves. It’s a countdown of change agents who are currently getting their shine on in entertainment, politics, technology, social justice, business, sports and other industries. The ladies we’ve handpicked for this inaugural honor are not only outsized talents, but they are leveraging their influence to uplift The Culture.

All month long, we’ll be highlighting female forces of nature who made an impact over the last year, sharing why they’re so definitively dope and how their accomplishments will shape the future.

Surgeon General’s Warning: Reading these profiles could cause side effects of an obsession with greatness, an overwhelming sense of to share their #BlackGirlPower stories and the urgent need to shout “alright sis” at random.


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Model Slick Woods attends the Christian Cowan runway show during New York Fashion Week. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

Slick Woods

Model, Brand Builder, Boundary Breaker 

The 22-year old, bald baddie known as Slick Woods has conquered Instagram glam, magazine covers, partnerships with fashion brands, the runway and coming up, her own shoe line.

Distinctive because of her shaved head, eye-popping body art and that nonconformist, noticeable front tooth gap, this (literal) model citizen was born Simone Thompson in Minneapolis and lived in Venice Beach with her grandmother following her mother’s incarceration.

Woods, dubbed part of the “Insta Girls” movement, broke into the big time after a chance encounter at an L.A. bus stop with English model Ash Stymest. She referred Woods to an agent and the rest is as they say, model history.

Her striking look piqued the interest of celebs, such as Kanye West, who featured Woods among his Yeezy muses/models. Then there is Rihanna, who eventually made Woods the face of Fenty Beauty and Fenty X Puma. A trooper until the end, she notoriously went into labor last September while strutting her stuff in New York Fashion Week’s Savage x Fenty lingerie show.

Woods has since accumulated close to a million social media followers as well as a number of magazine covers including Elle UK, I-D, and LOVE. She has worked for brands Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, Mercedes-Benz and Yeezy and in 2018, she stunned the world as a featured model in the always hotly anticipated Pirelli calendar.

Earlier this month, Woods was honored by the Fashion Los Angeles Awards as “Model of the Year.” Still, there’s no bigger accolade than to be the mom of  her adorable son, Saphir whom she shares with fellow model, Adonis Bosso.

She’s powerful because… after taking over the fashion world, Slick Woods is now poised to have her way with Hollywood. She stars in the titular role of “Goldie,” a buzzy film by Sam de Jong that debuted at the Berlin International Film Festival. Woods also recently collaborated with The Kooples to unleash strap-on sneakers with a “marine biologist vibe,” according to Fashion Daily.

In addition to all the work that went into her much-deserved rise, Woods remains a grounded and devoted daughter. The model revealed how she has remained close to her mother, who sat behind prison bars for nearly two decades, by talking to her three times a day.

“She’s proud because she knows that everybody expected me to be exactly what she was,” Woods told Elle of her doppelganger mother who inspired her to embrace her uniqueness look. “She went to prison when she was 19. I became a model at 19. And I can take care of my mother when she gets out.”

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Antoinette “Toni” Harris hopes to make history as the first female player in the NFL. (Toni Harris/Instagram)

Toni Harris

Football Disruptor 

Meet the young woman who is hut, hut, hiking her way into history.  Antoinette “Toni” Harris grabbed headlines in March when she became the first female football player to nab a non-kicker scholarship. The impressive 22-year old athlete, who starred in an inspirational Super Bowl 2019 commercial for Toyota, received half a dozen offers from other schools, vying for her to play for them. She made her choice and recently signed a letter of intent to play football for Missouri’s Central Methodist University.

Harris is unapologetic in her ultimate goal and that is to join the NFL as its first-ever female player. Though some naysayers suggest a career in the male-centric league is mission impossible, try convincing this ovarian cancer survivor who told NBC News that she is fired up from hearing so many no’s.

“My biggest pet peeve is telling people that I can’t, so I have to prove them wrong.”

Her #BlackGirlPower is… that she’s already a history maker, but, in all she does, Harris follows this sage advice: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

“[I’m] just praying and hoping my hard work pays off. This is my destiny,” she told theGrio.

We’re definitely cheering her on from the sidelines.

Watch more #BlackGirlPower

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Karen Civil believes that “what really drives success is not being a “genius,” but a combination of passion and long-term perseverance.” (Photo courtesy of Kenneth Wynn)

Karen Civil

Marketer, Writer, OG Influencer 

Long before “influencer” was considered a career, Karen Civil was firmly on the scene, pioneering the digital way forward for her sisters in social media.

Civil, a New Jersey native, launched what has become a meteoric career handling the marketing needs of some of hip-hop’s greatest artists including Nicki Minaj and Drake. She started her love of marketing by creating a fan site for then top-of-the-pops Backstreet Boys, which was so impressive, it placed third in a national competition.

Later in life, she proved her mettle as a marketer of limitless bounds when in 2008, her eponymous website, karencivil.com covering the world of hip-hop, garnered the attention of Beats By Dre. They quickly hired her as digital marketing manager to drive buzz around the now ubiquitous audio accessory.

Despite all of those eye-popping achievements, the 32-year old might be most known for her intuitive move to create weezythanxyou.com, a site she designed for Lil Wayne when he started his prison sentence in 2010. The portal allowed the rapper to send letters to his fans during the pre-Black Twitter era and blossomed into an MTV-award winning site. Civil could have coasted off that clout alone, but if her journey teaches us anything, it’s reign, then reinvent.

“Everyday people are finding new ways curate and monetize new content and ideas from the comfort of their own rooms and are creating sustainable lifestyles from it,” said Civil in an interview with theGrio. “I wake up better than the person I was the day before because I reflect on the lessons and tribulations from the previous day and see how I can apply them going forward.”

There’s more to Civil than just her social and marketing knowhow and countless industry accolades. She’s also takes on bold, diverse projects creating marketing campaigns and collecting cool points for former Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton in 2016 and hosting two seasons of the Complex show, “Good Looking Out,” which fittingly enough, highlights and encourages Black business owners.

Powerful because… Civil wields enormous online influence with over 400,000 Twitter followers and close to 6000,000 on IG, but it’s not all just about exposure and entrepreneurism. She also applies her energies and dollars to philanthropical efforts, such as a collaboration with L’union Suite. Donations from her famous friends, including Lil Wayne, Charlamagne the God, Baller Alert Foundation and others aided in the completion of a playground and provided tech access to children in her family’s homeland of Haiti.

“Humble beginnings can create the perfect foundation for success,” says Civil. “Starting at the bottom creates almost endless opportunities to enjoy every small victory you have along the way.”
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Juliana Huxtable tells theGrio that she’s driven by “a love for the aesthetic, the literary, the critically engaged and the sublime-reaching.” (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Juliana Huxtable

Artist, Poet, Deejay Envelope-pusher 

This artist, poet, deejay and model draws inspiration for her aesthetic in part from her experiences growing up in a restrictive Southern Baptist home.

Juliana Huxtable, born intersex and initially raised as a boy, explores the fluidity of identity itself as well as topics of racism and violence in society in some of her (preferred pronoun) artwork. Refusing to be labeled or shoved into boxes of Blackness or gender, the 31-year old, Bryan-College Station, Texas native made a name for herself through a number of cross-platform projects.

That list includes Shock Value, a party series she hosted to create a nightlife space in New York City that’s welcoming to, and inclusive of, all within the LGBTQIA spectrum versus spaces comfortable for just gay, White males.

Huxtable has also created stirring work as a member of the House of Ladosha, which the Brooklyn Rail once described as a “relentlessly multi-tasking, reinventing, genre-blending” art collective.

Though her work in the visual and aural arts is about expression, not accolades, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention she has been celebrated by outlets including Vogue, which dubbed her an “Insta-sation.” They adored her exhibition at New Museum’s 2015 Triennial featuring her poems accompanied by life-size 3D prints of her body created by Brooklyn photographer and sculptor, Frank Benson.

Powerful because… in January, Huxtable was one of the 45 artists and collectives who were awarded United States Artists fellowships and in February, she was recognized by The Guardian for work featured in “Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem.”

Huxtable is an expert at communicating her aesthetic across platforms whether it’s from behind the deejay table or through art installations. She has a knack for reaching and resonating with diverse audiences, from gallery-goers to partygoers.

She told theGrio: “What drives me is a love for the aesthetic, the literary, the critically engaged and the sublime-reaching.”

Next up on Huxtable’s crowded to-do list, a hotly anticipated September show at Reena Spaulings Fine Art gallery in New York City.

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Lauren Simmons is both the youngest and only female stock broker currently working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange making her the lone female wolf of Wall Street. (Photo courtesy of Facebook.)

Lauren Simmons

Speaker, Wall Street Wunderkind  

When you think of Wall Street, you might still think of the slick-haired, spray tanned “Gordon Gekko” doppelgangers from the 80s. Aside from the slightly orange complexion, the industry still reflects that image, but thanks to millennial money move maker Lauren Simmons, you can now envision a 24-year old, Black woman ruling the financial realm.

The Marietta, Georgia native earned her place in history when at just 22, she became the youngest full-time, female trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and only the second Black woman to bear what NBC News dubbed, “the coveted badge.”

This lone female wolf of Wall Street did not reach this zenith without struggle. In interviews, Simmons describes her unorthodox introduction to the stock exchange. Initially, she had studied to be in the genetics field, and when that career path wasn’t yielding the types of opportunities she desired, she moved to New York and launched a job search that garnered over 100 no’s just to get to the one “yes” that changed her life.

Her #BlackGirlPower is… her life story has become the inspiration to an upcoming film produced by, and starring, Kiersey Clemons of “Dope” fame. Simmons, who due to that accolade adds “executive producer” to her resume, is also a sought-after speaker. You’ll know why if you listen to some of the sage advice she offered during a now viral CNBC “Made It” episode about her rise.

“Be uncomfortable and go after what you want,” she challenged the viewing audience. “Apply for the job — you have no idea what lies behind the door. And if you don’t get the job, it’s OK. Apply for the next job and move forward. Don’t let that be a stop in your career, your life or whatever you want to do. I think it’s important to just keep going.”

Well said Lauren… well said.

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YouTuber Jackie Aina is holding it down for women of color who want to see equal representation in the beauty industry. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Impressions Vanity Company )

Jackie Aina

Make-up Mogul, YouTube Goddess

Talk about beauty both inside and out. Jackie Aina stands apart from the seemingly infinite list of influencers because her sharp insights on makeup and glamor go light years beyond the perfect brow. Aina is a staunch advocate for representation, demanding that the cosmetics companies that love to take our money create products that match our skin.

Oddly enough, the 31-year old didn’t start out as a makeup mogul. Aina, who initially launched her empire while serving in the Army reserves, had to be convinced by a friend to start her own YouTube channel. She credits her military training and experience for the persistence, consistency and discipline it has taken to attract nearly 3 million fans on YouTube and a dedicated following on Twitter.

In addition to turning her MUA mastery into deals with e.l.f Cosmetics, Too Faced and Sigma beauty, she told BUSTLE in 2018 that she is angling to launch her own line.

Powerful because… she is a woman who is already winning major accolades. Last year Aina was honored with the NAACP Image Award for “YouTuber of the Year,” Refinery29’s Beauty Innovator of the Year,” and was named “Influencer of the Year” by Women’s Wear Daily.  Though she has recently expressed some hesitation about being the “go-to” source for any issue of inclusivity in the beauty industry, the digital diva remains a soldier in breaking down barriers and using her platform to discuss controversial, but necessary issues.

She also looks out for fellow members of the #BlackGirlMagic brigade. “On my personal platforms, I support up-and-coming, new creators who look like me,” Aina told WWD. “Sometimes I’ll randomly message people who I’ve been following for a while, ‘Great videos, great potential, but your camera’s really crappy. Can I get you a new lens?’ I’ve helped smaller creators negotiate contracts. I just want to see people win and not get taken advantage of because, unfortunately, it happens.”

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She Leads Africa co-founders Afua Osei and Yasmin Belo-Osagie (l-r) have made history as the first African startup to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock exchange. (Photos courtesy of She Leads Africa)

She Leads Africa Co-founders Afua Osei and Yasmin Belo-Osagie

Entrepreneurs, Connectors, Divas of the Diaspora

 

In order to succeed in business, you need connections. Enter Afua Osei, 32  and Yasmin Belo-Osagie, 30, who met at their shared workplace of McKinsey and Partners in Nigeria and bonded over a desire to want  to help African women boss up in significant ways.

The pair conceived and launched She Leads Africa, a powerful platform that provides millennial female entrepreneurs with networking opportunities, business insights, conferences and training to help women across the continent emerge as global leaders.

This effort grew from a germ of an idea to a juggernaut with some 500,000 members and events in more than 10 countries.

“The ultimate goal is to build a business that provides opportunities for other young African women to succeed, ”Belo-Osagie told theGrio. “This means the women on our team who are able to learn new skills in a positive work environment that doesn’t force them to conform. It also means our community members who are able to learn, grow and find new opportunities due to our work. If our community is thriving, then we are succeeding.”

The She Leads ladies are successful individually and as a duo. Osei, who was a Fulbright Scholar in Malaysia and worked for our (forever) First Lady Michelle Obama, was named one of the top 42 African Innovators to Watch (2016), one of the 30 Quartz Africa Innovators in 2017, and was tapped to host the inaugural Airbnb Africa Travel Summit in Cape Town.

Business partner, Belo-Osagie, a Princeton grad who is now pursuing a joint MBA/law degree from Stanford University and Harvard University, was a trained sous chef before transitioning to consulting where she met Osei.  Belo-Osagie, has been named one of the Quartz Africa Innovators, and along with Osei, one of the 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa by Forbes in 2014. Fast Company placed her on its “Most Creative People” list in 2016.

Powerful because… Osei and Belo-Osagie are working with big name brands like Samsung, Google, L’Oréal, and Estée Lauder through She Leads Africa. They made history as the first African startup to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock exchange.

When asked about how She Leads Africa hopes to wield its huge, and ever-growing influence, Osei told theGrio:

“When I think about influence, I think about a responsibility to help teach and inform others and hopefully help direct them to live their life in a more positive and productive way. I want my influence, whether it’s on my team or my community, to inspire people to think beyond their borders and live life according to their own standards.”

We stand in awe of these amazing sisters doing it for themselves and creating a pathway for others.

 

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Meagan Ward invested in her dreams after she quit her job to start her women-centric marketing company. Now, the international inspiration is helping other women to do the same. (Photo courtesy of Evan Davies Photography)

Meagan Ward

Innovator, Serial Entrepreneur and International Inspiration 

Meagan Ward does not take space for granted. When Ward was just a college student, her mother lost her job, resulting in the duo having to move out of their home and in with a family friend. When the financial setback threatened Ward’s education, the Detroit native launched a business to help supplement her mom’s lost income. The successful marketing company not only helped during their time of need, it established Ward as an industry asset.

After being employed by a company that didn’t reward her hard work with a well- deserved raise, Ward began working for herself again in 2015. She started her branding company, Creatively Flawless, which focuses on women. It was a decision that ultimately changed the trajectory of her life.

Most recently, the 28-year old launched her latest business, Femology, which can be described as a modern WeWork for the melanated with a special focus on women entrepreneurs. The co-working space in her Motor City hometown is attracting major community support and international attention. Her unique model netted her opportunities to participate in a U.S. Embassy campaign and a separate invitation to take the international stage addressing the United Nations.

Her #BlackGirlPower is… she’s not only a “boss” attracting revenue and recognition, she’s also a change agent who is dedicated to uplifting her fellow women business owners. Ward is also unique having found a way to meld her two biggest passions: entrepreneurism with ambassadorship.

“I use my influence to economically empower women through entrepreneurship by showcasing the opportunities we can create for ourselves when we use our innate skillsets to find our life’s purpose,” Ward told theGrio. “At every woman’s core is excellence, we just have to do the daily work of finding what that is and how it can impact others.”

We couldn’t have said it any better.

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VC shot caller, Arlan Hamilton, attends 2018 Girlboss Rally at Magic Box on April 28, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Getty Images)

Arlan Hamilton

Entrepreneur, Investor and Silicon Valley Disruptor  

Arlan Hamilton has secured a place in the history books as the only Black, queer woman to have started a venture capital firm from scratch. And by scratch, we mean she started from the bottom, now she’s here.

Hamilton, who was once homeless, had “no college degree, no network, no money and a singular focus: to invest in underrepresented founders by becoming a venture capitalist,” reports to Fast Company. It was that eagle-eyed focus and, according to CNBC, a curriculum for herself that included watching hundreds of hours of YouTube videos, reading books and digital articles that powered her meteoric rise in the world of investing.

The 38-year old, Pearland, Texas native has now launched her very own LA-based, venture capital business. As the founder and Managing Partner of Backstage Studio, Inc., Hamilton offers underrepresented entrepreneurs the mentorship, investment capital and access to resources and networks that will take them to the next level.

Her #BlackGirlPower is… her impact and wielding influence in #SiliconValleySoWhite where Black women founders receive only 0.2% of VC funding and lets face it, white men still rule. According to Forbes, Hamilton has invested more than $40 million in over 80 companies. She’s also a source of inspiration, telling CNN Business about how she broke down considerable barriers to become a VC shot caller.

“It wasn’t about them letting me in, it was I was there, I was going to do it.”

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Kimberly Drew has been called the “art whisperer” because she is able to connect art to the human experience in ways you couldn’t ever imagine. (Photo courtesy of Getty.)

Kimberly Drew

Curator of Black Art and Activist/Soldier for the Culture 

Kimberly Drew emerged as a formidable voice for Black artists across the Diaspora while still an undergrad. Drew launched a Tumblr account called Black Contemporary Art to awaken the world to deserving, yet too often overlooked, artists, as well as the social movements that provide an undercurrent to their messages.

Her astute curation was undeniable, and it wasn’t long before Drew was tapped by the famed Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art where she served as the institution’s social media steward, injecting youth, vitality and undeniable layers of cool into its online presence. That approach opened wide several art doors for the 28-year old and she in turn has made the art world more accessible to diverse audiences, something Drew said she didn’t even recognize as a need until later in life.

“I didn’t realize how overwhelmingly white art history was because I never equated art with whiteness,” Drew told Lenny Letter in 2015.

“I come from a family of people who are very creative, and creativity was this thing that was totally open-access. Art was always around, and whenever the family would gather, we went to museums. I never felt uncomfortable in a gallery space, but it’s great to hear from people who do feel that way so I can try to figure out how to create better spaces for those people, though it’s not my personal experience.”

Drew also brings an impressive pen game to her quest. Recently, she drew acclaim for a profile she wrote for Vanity Fair about Tina Knowles’ art collection as well as another piece focusing on Virgil Abloh.

Drew began feeling herself pulled toward her next mission and after a spectacular, transformative run, she left the Met last November. She is currently collaborating with New York Times Magazine’s writer, Jenna Wortham, on an anthology book for the Random House One World imprint. “The Black Futures Project” coffee table book will combine short-form written content and commissioned artworks spanning across online communities and historic institutions to weave a tale about creativity and the contemporary African American experience.

Powerful because…Drew refuses to remain confined to just one lane. Whether she’s influencing her approximately half a million Twitter and IG followers or starring in a GAP ad about positivity and inclusion, she undeniably shines as a woman of many talents and passions.

Watch more #BlackGirlPower

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H.E.R. performs onstage at the 61st annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

H.E.R.

Musical Artist Extraordinaire, Grammy Getter 

The 21-year old, West Coast-born artist also known as Gabriella Wilson demonstrates maturity beyond her years. This vocalist, pianist, drummer and guitarist was signed to a deal by the time she was 14, but it’s her most recent work that earned her two Grammy awards this year for Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Album.

Though her name stands for “Having Everything Revealed,” that is not H.E.R.’s approach to her personal life. She wears oversized shades, styles her bouffant curls to cover her face and typically shuns press interviews to keep the focus on her undeniable artistry.

As she told Entertainment Weekly, “Artists like Prince and Janet Jackson maintained their mystique because they weren’t going to the clubs. You’d see Prince with a guitar in his hands if you saw him out. That’s me. I’m out to play music. Ain’t no turning back now.”

Powerful because… she tends to shun the spotlight, but H.E.R. wields considerable industry influence by breathing life back into the importance of musicality. Let’s face it, there’s been more of a surge of Soundcloud artists who can only celebrate their lack of skills than artists like H.E.R.

The Grammy goddess was also recently named as part of Coachella’s 2019 line-up where she’ll be rocking alongside the likes of Childish Gambino, Janelle Monae, and Solange.

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These Queens clearly reign in the land of pop culture, which is why we’re biting our nails, waiting to find out if Phoebe Williams and Jessica Williams (l-r) otherwise known as 2 Dope Queens are planning Season 3 of their popular HBO comedy specials. (GETTY)

Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson 

2 Dope Queens and All-around Royalty

Comic, actress and diversity advocate Jessica Williams, 29 broke onto the scene while she was still in college, scoring a plum position as a correspondent on “The Daily Show” at the tender age of 22. Best-selling author, “Broad City” consultant, and comic, Phoebe Robinson, 34, has made waves with her contributions to projects ranging from MTV’s “Girl Code,” her blog and live show, “Blaria” to two books, including her New York Times best seller, “You Can’t Touch My Hair and Other Things I Still Have to Explain” and the recently released, “Everything is Trash & It’s Okay.”

Each of these ladies is dyn-o-mite individually, so it is no surprise that their collaborative effort “2 Dope Queens” evolved from a hilarious podcast to two seasons of live HBO specials with guests including Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Radcliff, Janet Mock and Uzo Auba.

Their #BlackGirlPower is…… providing lessons of self-care and a humorous, for us/by us voice for Black women Williams and Robinson also rack up points for also creating a space to uplift and further amplify LGBQTIA and POC voices. Though their popular podcast is no more, the ladies went out with a big bang, talking in-depth to the only First Lady we recognize, Michelle “Bestseller” Obama.

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Kiki Layne had no agent and little money when she moved to Los Angeles to fulfill her dreams of becoming a Hollywood star. Now, she’s the breakout actress of the year. (Photo courtesy of Getty.)

Kiki Layne

Actress and Award-Gette

If Beale Street Could Talk” it would tell Hollywood to give a lot more roles to the talented and beautiful Kiki Layne. The actress stood out in a major way during her starring role in Barry Jenkin’s cinematic re-telling of the James Baldwin classic.

In addition to critical acclaim, the 27-year old, Cincinnati native also earned the “Breakout Star” award from ESSENCE’s annual Black Women in Hollywood Awards and was presented with the honor, by no less than her co-star (and recent Oscar winner), Regina King.

Layne’s story is made even more amazing as the actress told Fox 28 that prior to landing the starring role in “Beale Street,” she had started to regret moving to L.A. to pursue her dreams.

“I felt so discouraged being in LA that I was wondering whether to go home,” Layne confided.  “I felt like an idiot moving without money or representation.”

READ ONLY: ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ makes its debut at the historic Apollo Theatre

We are so glad she did proving time, talent, and a tenacious spirit is a winning formula for success.

Powerful because… Even though Hollywood has historically been problematic for Black actresses, Layne has some serious buzz around her. She recently nabbed a role alongside Charlize Theron in the upcoming Netflix film, “The Old Guard,” a female-centric action film directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. She is co-starring with “Moonlight” alum Ashton Sanders, as the “Bessie” to his “Bigger Thomas” in an HBO adaptation of Richard Wright’s seminal work.

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Angie Thomas is the brilliance behind the novel, “The Hate U Give” and “On the Come Up.”

Angie Thomas

Author and #BlackGirlMagic Maker 

Angie Thomas breathed new life into the Young Adult fiction category with her debut work of brilliance, “The Hate U Give,” a compelling story of a young girl named “Starr,” who struggled with the necessary code-switching between her home community and that of her privilege-laden White high school. Living a double life like this becomes utterly impossible after she witnesses her childhood friend gunned down by a police officer during what should have been an uneventful traffic stop.

The Hate U Give” brought #BlackLiveMatters to the “Divergent” and “Twilight” series set, and then that clear vision was translated to the big screen by the 2018 film adaptation starring Amandla Stenberg.

As if that wasn’t eye-popping enough for the 31-year old, Mississippian author, Thomas is following up her New York Times bestseller with another hotly anticipated novel, “On the Come Up,” about an upcoming female rapper named Brianna “Bri” Jackson dodging the pitfalls of fast fame. Fox already has scooped up the film rights, and we cannot wait to see who is cast as the central fem-cee.

READ MORE: Check out Angie Thomas on theGrio’s BLK Genius list

Her #BlackGirlPower is… having her novel, “The Hate U Give” still going strong after all this time. It recently celebrated a whopping 100 consecutive weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list.

Thomas continues to place topics such as sexism and systemic racism front and center for impressionable readers.  In a still very homogenous world of YA, Thomas stands up, and out, for what matters.

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Stephanie Lampkin discovered her passion for tech at an early. As the creator of Blendoor, an inclusive recruiting and people analytics software that mitigates unconscious bias, she is able to combine what she loves most with moving her community forward. (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Lampkin.)

Stephanie Lampkin

Techpreneur and Hiring Bias Annihilator 

Stephanie Lampkin has been breaking barriers in the tech field since she was in her early teens. By the age of 15, she was a full-stack Web developer, meaning she had mastered both front-and back-end programming.

Still, despite an impressive scholastic achievement as an MIT and Stanford grad, the 34-year old suspected that systemic bias blocked her from a job working for a very famous tech giant. In response, she launched an entire business built around eliminating bias from the hiring process to help others like herself.

Blendoor, removes both a candidate’s name and photo from job applications so that individuals can be judged on merits and avoid the micro-and macro-aggressions that have led to the current #SiliconValleySoWhite situation.

As a result of her innovation, Lampkin has been recognized as a force to be reckoned with by organizations including Fortune, MIT, and Forbes. She also recently presented at a MAKERS conference on the topic of blind hiring by leveraging artificial intelligence and neuroscience.

When asked what drives her toward not only entrepreneurial success, but making an indelible social impact, Lampkin had this to say: “Legacy drives me to succeed. I’ve always believed that human evolution happens when we all strive to build upon the legacy of the most admirable people who came before us.”

Her #BlackGirlPower is… creating work that has the potential to transform hiring in the tech world and beyond. With Blendoor, this creator not only enters a tech arena that hasn’t been as welcoming to women, especially Black ones, Lampkin is holding space for her fellow POCs. She also is a sought-after speaker who shares the gospel of unbiased hiring worldwide.

Watch more #BlackGirlPower


 

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A former substitute teacher, Jasmine Edwards launched i-Subz, a matchmaking service for substitute teachers, who are placed at schools in under-resourced areas.

Jasmine Arielle Edwards

Tech Entrepreneur and Glass Ceiling Shatterer 

Jasmine Arielle Edwards knows what it feels like to be written off. At the age of 15, the Cleveland native became pregnant and immediately faced doubts whether or not she would ever be able to complete her education.  Instead, this bearer of #BlackGirlPower graduated with honors, earned substantial college scholarships and to date, has earned three degrees.

We know that tech investment for Black women is abysmally low (less than 1 percent of VCs fund Black women led companies), but Edwards was undeterred when she launched i-Subz, a matchmaking service for substitute teachers, who are placed at schools in under-resourced areas. To get the information she needed to start her company, the 31-year old traveled between Tampa and Atlanta to attend digitalundivided‘s BIG Incubator Atlanta, a 9-month program for Black and Latinx women.

“As a Black female founder, I know I have to work 10 times harder to prove myself before heads will turn for interest. It hasn’t stopped me from seeking funding for my startup,” said Edwards in an interview with theGrio.

“My first outside funding came from winning Black Girl Ventures Atlanta Pitch Competition nine months after I founded i-Subz. It was a rewarding experience and validated that I was on the right track.”

No one would dare write Edwards off these days. Her business is progressing at a brisk pace. According to Edwards, i-Subz launched with 20 substitute teachers and now has 52 “subz” who have signed up.

Her #BlackGirlPower is.. overseeing the growth of an organization with a huge potential impact on the education of Black youth. To date, the start-up has impacted 250 students and sees so much potential among the more than 50,000 schools she is targeting for potential participation.

“As a former substitute teacher who worked with low-income students, day in and day out, I personally saw how my dedication to their success and well-being positively changed their academic and social trajectory.”

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Dena Simmons is the poster child of success, transferring her skills learned while growing up in the Bronx to the ivory towers of Yale. (Photo courtesy of Dena Simmons)

Dena Simmons

Academic, Author and Voice for the Voiceless 

This Bronx-born scholar is no stranger to adversity, but she’s adamant about creating an easier path for those who follow her.

Dena Simmons, Ed.D. recounts going “to sleep to the sounds of gunshots” in the one-bedroom apartment she shared with her two sisters and immigrant mother. She never allowed her circumstances, however, to stop her from dreaming beyond her scope and eventually becoming the assistant director of Yale University’s Center for Emotional Intelligence. It’s a journey that unfortunately has come at a tremendous cost.

“I realized that my own journey to where I am now did not come without its trauma—the erasure of self to fit into a box that was never created for me, the trauma of the White rules I had to follow in order to have doors, otherwise closed, opened for me,” Simmons told theGrio.

Because of this, Simmons combines her passions for activism and education and serves as a strong, unwavering voice for causes including school reform, racial equity, diversity, LGBTQIA rights, and anti-bullying. A prolific speaker who has addressed the United Nations, at just 35-years old, her TED Talk on how impostor syndrome affects students of color went viral.

 

As a result of her work, she has been profiled on numerous platforms including the AOL/PBS collaboration “MAKERS: Women Who Make America,” and she has lent her pen to outlets such as Teaching Tolerance, Feministing and Feminist Teacher.

Now, Simmons is writing her first book, “White Rules for Black People,” which is due out in 2021 from St. Martin’s Press. According to Simmons, she has a clear mandate as an author.

“What gets me writing is my desire to fight injustice, to create spaces where Black people are liberated and not obsessively worried about their belonging, their safety.”

Powerful because… Simmons, who reached over 1M with her TED Talk, wields key influence not only through her academic superstardom, but through her service on a number of boards of directors, including Trans Selves and Trans Bodies. And with her forthcoming book, she’s like a modern-day, Harriet Tubman, helping us to navigate these often tricky environments where people have tried to exclude us for years.

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Zendaya shows off her #BlackGirlPower at the TommyXZendaya fashion show at The Galeries Lafayette on March 02, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Dominique Charriau/Getty Images For Tommy Hilfiger )

Zendaya

Actress, Singer and Beauty/Fashion Mogul in the Making 

Truth be told, we wouldn’t blame Zendaya if she went into early retirement.  At 22, the former Disney star-turned has done well to elevate her career to star in such films as “Greatest Showman” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” Even more, she fully demonstrates her mettle as a multi-talent who can act, sing, dance and now design via her eponymous clothing line.

Zendaya made history on March 2 dropping her new collection with Tommy Hilfiger at Paris Fashion Week and understanding the importance of celebrating Black women by including 59 Black models to walk her runway representing ages 18 to 70—including legendary icons such as Beverly JohnsonVeronica Webb, Pat Cleveland, and OMG, Grace Jones.

Now, this one-named icon in progress is stunting on us with her latest assignment as the youngest ever ambassador for the Lancôme brand. The Oakland-born beauty never stops thinking about what’s next. You can see her next in the new HBO series “Euphoria” and she is reportedly in talks for a role in a megastar-studded reboot of “Dune.”

Oh, and did we mention that she is producing and starring in a psychological thriller, period film about racial passing called “White Lie”? She is doing the damn thing.

via GIPHY

Powerful because… With a jaw-dropping 54 million social media followers, Zendaya is an uber-influential role model for her generation who uses her voice to educate others about social justice issues and to promote positivity and representation for women of color.

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Author Eve Ewing (photo courtesy of Nolis Anderson)

Eve Ewing

Sociologist, Marvel Scribe, Broadcaster, Author 

This Chicago talent may just possess the superhero skills of RiRi Williams, the #BlackGirlMagic comic character she’s bringing to life for Marvel’s “Ironheart” series.

Not only is Ewing contributing to the comic canon, this 32-year old accomplished poet and assistant professor at the University of Chicago recently explored the complicated topic of school segregation and public policy via her critically acclaimed non-fiction book, “Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side.” Ewing creates a poignant, fact-filled journey that dives into her own past as a school teacher and expertly sheds light on the systemic barriers that too often plague Black communities. The book is so enthralling Ewing was invited to discuss it on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.”

 

Her #BlackGirlPower is..With close to 200,000 Twitter followers, Ewing (aka Wikipedia Brown) declines to have a bully pulpit. Instead, she uses her power to amplify the voices of the disenfranchised, most pointedly women of color. Now, as she writes a hotly anticipated Marvel comic centered on a Black girl who’s deemed a genius from Chicago, Ewing also has even more potential to fight stereotypes and stoke inspiration among teens.

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Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (Photo by R. Dione Foto- rdionefoto.com)

Lauren Underwood

Politician, History Maker and Democratic Dynamo 

You could say that this freshly elected U.S. Representative from Illinois is concerned with the health of our nation. A nurse by trade, Lauren Underwood, 32, is also a newly minted politician who made history on two fronts during the fall mid-terms.

First off: She is the youngest Black woman ever elected to Congress, period. Secondly, her election win represents the second time in over 70 years that a Democrat has been chosen to lead that district. And best believe, she is there to work on behalf of her constituents.

Shortly after her swearing in, Underwood shared the following source of inspiration with The Cut: “I’m motivated by the people at home who really need to feel an impact for having elected me. Where I’m from, it’s half-suburban, half-rural, and there are a lot of moms who are busy taking care of their families and are not sitting around watching the cable shows all day. They’re not caught in the minutia, but they know that D.C. is a chaotic place with a lot of dysfunction, and they are looking for someone to break through that noise and get something done.”

Her #BlackGirlPower is..She’s on the Hill and in the history books, but isn’t satisfied with being a Black History Month headline. Underwood is already gunning for gun control reform and is leaning into her impressive health industry experience to propose laws that stop discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Watch more #BlackGirlPower