When fashion entrepreneur Nana Agyemang started conceptualizing the follow-up to her sold out Sip N’ Slay series, she knew she had to think big. Earlier in May, she hosted the summit in Brooklyn’s Industry City, with a guestlist of over 600. Women in colorful plisse gowns and 5-inch heels lined up for blocks to be some of the first to get in. Video compilations of the event went viral on TikTok, including clips showcasing what guests wore. It’s a place to be seen as much as it is a place to network.
Agyemang is the Founder and CEO of EveryStylishGirl, a company dedicated to providing resources and support for young Black women. While the organization regularly partners with brands on dedicated programming, its bi-annual Sip N’ Slay summit is the company’s flagship event.
In industries where Black women are historically underrepresented, Agyemang’s summits are the arena for them to spark and cultivate those professional and personal relationships in real life. Conferences and summits centered around female entrepreneurship are far from a rarity in places like New York—where they’re rake in big business— but seldom do they touch on the unique challenges and nuances of the intersectionality of womanhood and Blackness. In this way, Agyemang’s Sip N’ Slays are a beacon for women of color interested in joining the professional bubble. Since its inaugural summit in 2017, the scale and guest lists of the event have only grown bigger.
For the next installment, Agyemang decided to head out west for the first time since 2019. “I always knew that there was some sense of community of Black creative professionals in L.A., but I didn’t really see them regularly gathered together,” says Agyemang. “The goal was to cultivate a safe space where Black women could do things like build each other up and teach one another the skills and tools to success without gatekeeping; especially in a place like L.A. where the music and creative industries are so competitive that type of thing is normal.”
Hosted at the glitzy West Hollywood Edition in Los Angeles, and supported by brands like Shea Moisture, Marc Fisher, Ciroc, Amika and Revolve, Saturday’s event focused on ‘Prioritizing Your Passions,’ a topic with significance as Agyemang explains. “So many of us get locked within the 9-5, corporate America grind that sometimes we sleep on our dreams. This aims to remind people that you can do both.”
The day included a series of panels with themes centered around topics like navigating the luxury fashion sphere to figuring out how to translate your interests into a feasible career path, with actress Ryan Destiny, host Kamie Crawford, journalist Kayla Nicole, rapper Dess Dior, and beauty expert Brooke DeVard among the host of panelists. “Being copied can be tiring and hard. As Black women we keep the lights on in the culture—we’ll create a TikTok dance, but the person that’s on Jimmy Fallon showing that TikTok dance is a white woman. How many of us grew up with their mothers lining their lips, and then Hailey Bieber does it once, and it’s the brownie lip trend?” DeVard posited to a crowd of over 300 guests.
Alongside DeVard on the panel, MTV Catfish and Relationsh*t podcast host Kamie Crawford recalled the tumultuous path to getting her first big gig: “I had been working to become a host since I was 19, so it took me 7 years to get my big break, which was Catfish. In that time I was working—I was at every red carpet, junket, event. If they had a mic and a camera, I wanted to be that person.” In addition to sharing her career journey, Crawford also revealed her stance on maintaining integrity to her audience—a fact that she notes sometimes comes at the cost of securing brand deals or gigs. “I turn down money all the time—happily. I know that comes from a place of privilege, but it is way more important to me that the people following me and believing in me see things that align with my values as a person, than it is for me to make money. If it’s a brand or show that isn’t completely 100% me, then I’m completely 100% not doing it.” she said.
During a discussion focused on the booming sector of digital influencing, skinButtr founder and model Tatiana Elizabeth emphasized the importance of remaining linked within your community, a small action she noted help to bring transparency about influencer rates and pay disparities, “You have to create genuine connections with other people in your field and in your industry. That’s how I found out for the first few of my brand trips some of the girls were getting paid, while I was going on them for free, so you have to speak to people around you and not undervalue yourself.”
Tatiana and Kayla Nicole, another panelist of the discussion, have both been able to pivot and transition into becoming well-known content creators. Tatiana first appeared as a contestant on America’s Next Top Model, and Kayla started as a sports journalist covering the NFL. Kayla’s appearance came at a salient time given the influx of publicity following a high-profile breakup. The influx of negative media attention prompted Kayla to write an open letter to Black women, encouraging them to stay strong in themselves in spite of the negative external forces that may come their way.
On the topic of navigating the luxury fashion industry, stylist Ivy Coco Maurice realized that the external and internal go hand in hand: “In an industry where it’s all about how you look, you really have to feel good about yourself. When you walk into these rooms when it’s full of people who don’t look like you, and they’re thinking ‘who is this girl?’, you may not always get those acknowledgements, so it’s so important to feel good about yourself throughout the entire process,” she told ESSENCE. (If you’ve noticed Sheryl Lee Ralph’s great red carpet fashion as of late, you can thank Maurice for that, who also happens to be her daughter).
Aside from the invigorating discussions that took place on stage, the feeling of sisterhood was weaved throughout every aspect of this west coast chapter of Sip N’ Slay. It was also a priority for Agyemang to include Black women in every aspect of the Sip N’ Slay LA’s formation from enlisting event producer Erica Estrada to set the pacing, and D’Ara Nazaryan to create the bold floral arrangements. “They truly believed in EveryStylishGirl and what Sip N’ Slay could accomplish—it took everything to the next level! They’re prime examples of what it means to genuinely support other Black women,” Agyemang says. Next, she plans on taking the summit once again to her homeland of Ghana for more sisterhood, solidarity and community.