For the second addition of the Blogger Spotlight series, I am highlighting one of my favorite bloggers on a very important day: her blog anniversary! One year ago today, Emerald Shaw, a 25-year-old Detroit-based blogger and aspiring model, founded HowToBeDope. I found Emerald through Instagram when she named me as someone whose page she checks daily for inspiration. And as soon as I looked at her page, I was inspired right back!
Emerald isn't afraid to dress however the hell she wants and in the process of admiring her outfits, she's probably gonna teach you something. Reading her posts is reminiscent of my time in my upper level gender studies classes in college. The girl knows her shit.
Emerald is the kind of blogger who is not afraid to say what's on her mind. A few months back I wrote a post "My Body is Made for Me" inspired by something that Emerald had posted in response to one of the objectifying comments made about a photo of her. I had always respected Emerald but when she wrote that post, I realized that a woman like Emerald is a treasure! Not only is this someone who inspires me fashion-wise, but she actually inspired me to stop working for a night and move into action to speak on something important to me.
The mission of Ready to Stare is really two-fold: make them stare and make them think. A lot of bloggers accomplish the make them stare part but Emerald accomplishes both parts EFFORTLESSLY. She's an advocate. She's an artist. And she's a Beyoncé stan.
Below you can read my interview with Emerald and see how she styled a few Ready to Stare favorites!
Ready to Stare: You've been blogging since 13 -- why did you decide to start your current blog, How To Be Dope and what makes it different than your previous endeavors?
Emerald Shaw: I started my current blog because I was in dire need of a new way to express myself. I was feeling extremely stifled and unfulfilled and I needed to create a space for myself to move in a different direction. I've always wanted to work in fashion and I'd already had blogging experience, so I married the two ideas and hoped for the best.
The primary difference between this blog and my old blogs is that HTBD has an actual mission/purpose. In the past my blogs were very much, for the most part, "hey, look at me! I'm a kid and I understand html. Look what I can do!"
RTS: For someone who has never read your blog, how would you describe it?
ES: I'd describe my blog as being the written documentation of a young woman discovering herself, using personal style as a vehicle.
RTS: In your opinion, how does one be dope?
ES: I think truly dope people are people who can be honest about themselves and their experiences. Dopeness is more that just dressing a certain way or showing off tangible things. It's being able to connect with other people and with yourself. It's giving yourself permission to hone and explore who you really are.
RTS: As I've followed you and seen you rocking Ready to Stare (see posts in RTS here, here ,here, and here), I've seen so many sides to your personal style. And I LOVE it all. What is your process for putting together an outfit?
ES: There is no process. I actually kind of wish there was a process. Haha! I just kind of let looks happen, if that makes sense. I almost never try things on before I shoot them. I more or less construct things in my head and just go for it. Most of my creative ventures happen that way. I just try to "do".
RTS: I hate this question but yet, I gotta ask -- who are your style inspirations?
ES: Not sure if this is weird, but I don't know if I have any. To some degree I try to stay on trend, but I don't know if anyone necessarily inspires my style. I do have style admirations though! I love Solange's style as well as Beyoncé's. I love checking out Jill Scott's looks when she's on the red carpet. I never get bored of what Rihanna's wearing or Lupita Nyong'o. As far as social media, I've always admired Franceta Johnson. She just makes everything about life, including getting dressed, seem so...awesome. Her style is just so her own and I love that. I also love Essie Golden and Nadia Aboulhosn's styles, as well as a woman on Instagram who calls herself Androgynous Douby. Oh! Also, someone you probably haven't heard of, Alysse Dalessandro. I'm always here for her bold and fearless looks. (editorial note: **BLUSHING**)
RTS: You've spoke a lot about removing the stigma behind the word "fat" and you even did an outfit post focusing on it. What is your advice for someone struggling to erase the negative connotation of the word?
ES: My advice would be to start by considering your own personal relationship with your body and with the word. You have to be real about your own feelings before you attempt to change someone else's mind. In order to teach you must first learn the lesson. If you're struggling, you're not done working on you.
RTS: I'm constantly impressed by how you address ignorant comments with Beyonce-level grace. One of your responses even inspired me to address sexual assault on my own blog. I know it's tempting to quickly delete hateful comments and pretend you didn't see them -- why is it important to you to address them?
ES: First of all "Beyoncé-level grace" is probably the best compliment I've ever gotten in my whole life, lol!
But it's important to me to address those comments because I want to be an example of what I stand for. I can't suggest that women stop allowing certain behaviors if I'm willing to turn the other cheek. And I do let a lot of them go, but every now and then, especially when one strikes a nerve, I act on it. I also think that I can't expect men to understand what is and is not appropriate if everyone is afraid to speak up. In the past I've been a person who was too shy and leery of confrontation to defend herself, but now I take pride in and feel liberated by my ability to express my discomfort and disapproval.
RTS: I love that you are someone who is not afraid to combat any issue from the hypersexualization of black women to rape culture, you're clearly educated on a lot of issues. You seem to have a real passion for justice. How did you become interested in being an agent of change?
ES: I don't know that I can say that I became interested in it. I think I realized that it was my responsibility. I've always been good at putting things into perspective and I feel like speaking up and working to increase other people's consciousness is a requirement, especially now that I have a budding platform. I've always been aware of inequalities and socially constructed mistreatment, even thinking back to my childhood. Now I'm in position to say something.
RTS: Ready to Stare is all about loving yourself and being confident in who you are both mentally and physically. In your eyes, what makes you Ready to Stare?
ES: Someone really important to me once told me that he enjoys my ability to see myself in real life. I think that's what makes me Ready to Stare. I try to see myself and the world around me for what it is right now in this moment, not picking it apart but enjoying it at this stage. I try to be genuine and honest about who I am, what I'm capable of, and what I stand for. I think, well...hope, that is my personal gravity.
RTS: I know you are a big Bey fan like me so what is your favorite Beyoncé song and why? And while we're at it, what's your favorite video?
ES: I'll start with video because that's easier, lol. For the longest time my favorite Beyoncé video was Me, Myself & I, but then Superpower came along and threw me off. I'm also pretty obsessed with 7/11, but ultimately I think I'd have to go with Superpower.
My favorite Beyoncé song? I actually don't think I can narrow it down to one. I've been following her career since Destiny's Child was on Smart Guy (I was a 3rd grader then) so there's a lot of history there. I've kind of grown up right along with her and so my tastes have changed as she continues to expand. Too many of her songs have been a shoulder to lean on.
This post was originally published on December 4, 2014.