It’s hard to believe that this Friday I turn 30 years old. It’s funny because I’ve been telling myself for like two years now that I’m 30 so there won’t be such a sticker shock, but now that it’s actually here I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me feel some type of way. And not because there’s anything wrong with 30– in fact it’s such a blessing to see another year let alone another decade– but I just remember a time when 30 felt so…old!
I remember when the idea of that decade just felt so grown up. Like everything in life would be in place and I’d have “it all” figured out. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Thirty signifies some artificial finish line that society has put on us. But now that I’m here I realize I’m nowhere near the finish line. And while I certainly have figured a ton out, I have more questions about life than I’ve ever had before. Yet, at the same time, I feel more like myself today than I did ten years ago. I know that’s simply because of the journey I’ve been on and all of the experiences that have led me to where I am.
Instead of celebrating this birthday with a big blow out, like I normally do, I’m more focused on recapping the past ten years and thinking of how blessed I am for all that I’ve seen and done. It’s a great reminder that life really is about the journey and not where you end up. So in honor of closing out this decade and starting a new one, I’ve created a list of the 20 most memorable moments of my 20s (in no particular order)!!
- Met Drake (19, 21, 22) So the first time I met Drake was at CIAA weekend in Charlotte. I was technically 19, but it was less than 3 months until I turned 20, so it counts. That meeting led to me getting to hang out with him two times afterwards: his 24th birthday in Atlanta, and then VIP tickets to his Nothing Was The Same tour in Charlotte where we sat near the sound booth with his OVO crew. I’d been a Drake fan since high school, and an Aubrey Graham fan since his Degrassi days (before most people even knew he existed). So being able to connect with him in real life felt earth-shattering at the time. He’s the exact guy you’d expect him to be and each time we met I just fell even more in love with him!
- Studied Abroad (20) My senior year in college, I took a fashion course in Italy that allowed me to travel all over the country. That was the first time I’d left the States, aside from the Caribbean. Being able to explore another part of the world not only expanded my horizon, it was the first time I was bitten by the travel bug. And I haven’t slowed down ever since!
- Top 5 at Miss USA (22) I competed in my very first pageant when I was 16 years old. Never in a million years did I believe that I’d walk across the Miss USA stage as a contestant. But when I was crowned Miss South Carolina USA, I put in everything I had to prepare for Miss USA. I didn’t walk away with the title, but I did place in the Top 5 that night. My pageant journey was long, and it wasn’t always pretty, so in that moment I honestly felt like I had won. I had never been more proud of myself for what I had accomplished.
- Got Married (29) I feel so blessed to have found someone I not only love, but admire, and who loves and respects me right back. He’s the greatest man I’ve ever known and after several years of dating we made it official and became husband + wife at the ripe old age of 29 in the middle of a pandemic. Because of that it was a very intimate ceremony of just 20 people, but it was truly the greatest day of my life. I’ve truly never felt so much joy from a single event!
- Featured in VOGUE (29) A month after that joyous celebration, a lifelong dream came true– our nuptials were featured in VOGUE magazine. I started reading VOGUE in 7th grade and started collecting them soon after. I’d always dreamed of being a part of the magazine in some way, shape, or form. In fact, I started college in the Print Journalism program because my goal was to write for the magazine. While I never accomplished that, I did see my dream unfold in an even better way…as a subject! I’ll never forget the moment I saw my face with those words over my head.
- Launched Clothing Line Collab (29) I’ve been a lover of fashion for longer than I can remember. Growing up, I’d spend hours sifting through fashion magazines, watching fashion documentaries, and studying the industry and everyone who was a part of it. I even graduated with a Fashion Merchandising degree from the University of South Carolina. I love expanding my knowledge on things I’m soo passionate about. So when I had the opportunity to collaborate with Show Me Your Mumu (one of my favorite brands) to create a line of clothing it was definitely a “pinch me” moment. Being part of every little detail of the process from start to finish was so exhilarating. I still can’t believe people are wearing the pieces I created for very special events in their life.
- Visited Paris (24) Visiting the City of Lights was another one of those lifelong dreams that I had hoped would happen, but wasn’t quite sure it ever would. On those days that I was sifting through fashion magazines, I also dreamed of the fashion capital of the world. When I finally made it there, it took my breath away. Literally! In fact, I remember watching the light show at Eiffel Tower and my eyes watering up. I couldn’t believe I had made it there so early in life.
- Went on Safari in South Africa (26) I think every African American dreams of visiting our homeland of Africa at some point during their lifetime. And though I’ve had the opportunity to visit more than once, it never gets old or complete. We’ve visited a handful of countries on the continent, however, the most epic exploration was in South Africa when Todd + I went on safari in Kruger National Park. Every moment of that trip was pure magic: waking up before dawn for game drives, seeing furious animals in their native habitat, lounging by the pool at a 5-star resort, and even venturing into the village to meet locals. There wasn’t a moment of that entire trip that I wasn’t in awe of my surroundings. And instead of scratching the itch that I’ve always had, it’s made me want to return again and again.
- Found Out I Was Pregnant (29) I hadn’t spent much time thinking, or prepping for, children of my own. Between traveling, my career and my step-sons, it was easy for me to put off the idea of having my own children. My husband + I hadn’t been trying when we found out I was expecting, but when you learn that you’re carrying life inside of you, something changes. It’s an indescribable feeling and one that I am so blessed to have had. I am beyond excited to bring a child into this new decade with me.
- Became a Girl Boss (28) I’ve only ever had an unconventional career. I modeled and freelanced when I graduated college. But in 2018 I grew weary of the choices I had made and really yearned for something more traditional. I took me months to land a job, and when I finally did, it was at a marketing agency in Charleston. I absolutely loved it. After working with them for a few months, though, I realized that I was totally capable of what I had started back in 2014. So I decided to take another leap of faith and quit that job. I turned Shades of Pinck into a full-time endeavor. Soon after I became a real girl boss. I hired my first employee, signed with a management team and then began seeing legacy companies use my work in their promotional materials. It really was the greatest feeling, and something I’m still so proud of. If you would have told me 5 years ago me + my brand would be where we are, I wouldn’t have believed you… and yet here we are!
- Front Row at NYFW (22) One of my first fashion week experiences ever happened a few months after Miss USA. I made friends with Vinny from Jersey Shore (lol) and one night while out with him + his friends, my friend Stacie and I were invited to the Alon Livne show at Lincoln Center. We enthusiastically accepted the invite, but it wasn’t until we were being escorted to our seats that we realized we’d be seated in the front row. To say we were over the moon would be an understatement. It was truly one of those “I’ve made it” moments.
- Met The Weeknd (22) My bestie Jas had introduced me to The Weeknd’s music at the start of college and I immediately became a fan. At that time he was just a Canadian artist whose music we listened to on Youtube. But when he announced he’d be making his debut in the US in a multi-city tour, we purchased tickets for the Charlotte show immediately. We were still riding high on our VIP backstage experience with Drake (see memory number 1), so we figured we’d try our chances with The Weeknd… and it worked! We couldn’t believe how easy it was to end up backstage after the show. We got to know his crew and, unlike Drake, meeting him + his friends did not make like him more. The complete opposite in fact!
- Bought My Very First Chanel (24) I’d been saving my modeling checks for a few years at this point, so when I had the opportunity to visit Turkey, I planned to splurge. I’d wanted a black classic flap Chanel bag ever since I started watching The OC in middle school and Marissa Cooper had one. While in Turkey I decided to “just look” in the Chanel store, but when they gave the price for the bag it was nearly $2k cheaper thanks to the conversion and the return of VAT at the end of the trip, so I couldn’t resist. I went for it and still to this day don’t regret it one bit. What made me proud was that I could buy it for myself… and that six months later the bag increased in price so it really was an investment!
- Saw My Name in Print, Regularly (25) I told you earlier how I started off in college as a Print Journalism major because all I wanted was to write for VOGUE. Though that didn’t happen, in my mid-20s I landed a freelance position at the travel writer for the historic New York Amsterdam Newspaper. Seeing my name in an iconic newspaper every single week felt like such a huge accomplishment and it never got old. I held that position for two years and each time I received an issue at my front door, I felt a profound sense of accomplishment.
- Attended Obama White House Christmas party (25) During President Obama’s final Christmas at the White House, Todd took me to one of his Christmas parties as his date. During my reign as Miss South Carolina, my mom + I had toured the White House during the holidays and admired all of the decor. Fast forward a few years and I was admiring the decor from an entirely different angle– as an invited guest to one of their parties. Attending that event will forever be such a special moment as my small connection to such a historic presidency.
- Dinner with the Mayor of NYC (27) As the Democratic Leader of the South Carolina House of Representatives, Todd gets invited to countless events and has the opportunity to meet many different people. Lucky for me, I usually get to tag along as his date. One of the most memorable meetings was when Bill de Blasio, the mayor of America’s city, came to Columbia to ask for Todd’s support with his bid for the democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential election. We had an intimate dinner (there were just four of us) at one of my favorite restaurants in town. We chatted the entire night sharing stories, explaining our views and what action steps could be taken. At the end of the meal he shared that he felt like I was so passionate + educated on politics that I should run for public office. Of course, I have no plans to do such a thing. Still, gaining the seal of approval from someone who has not only experienced so much, but has met soo many people in this industry, really did mean a lot. It’s something I took great pride in, and something I’ll never forget.
- Met Supermodel Liya Kebede (24) During all of those years of flipping through fashion magazines, I hardly ever saw women of color. The world has changed a lot in such a short period of time, but in the early to mid-00s it wasn’t unusual to only see one Black woman on those pages. At that time one of the most prevalent was Liya Kebede, an Ethopian supermodel. After researching more about her, I realized her heart was just as beautiful as her face, as she gave so much back to her hometown and advocated for numerous causes that hit close to home. She quickly became one of my idols. If you would have entered my bedroom around that time, you would have seen tons of magazine clippings of her face. So imagine my surprise when, while having dinner in NYC one night during fashion week, she was seated right next to me. I honestly couldn’t believe it. I’d see her face for years, but to be seated next to her was next level. As we concluded our meal, I couldn’t help but fan girl. I told her how much I’ve looked up to her and even got a quick picture with her. As I mentioned, it was the middle of Fashion Week, and I assume she had been walking in shows all day because the picture I got was definitely not the greatest image of her and out of respect I’d never share it. But how often do you get the chance to meet one of your idols? I’ll treasure that moment forever!
- Joined Board of Directors (25) I was so proud once I started landing spots on the Board of Directors for organizations that I not only supported, but believed in. Having the ability to make real change by sharing my opinions, experiences, and contacts gave me a real sense of belonging and allowed me to feel even more connected to my community. The very first organization I served on the Board of Directors for was the Township Auditorium. Since then (and all before 30), I’ve served for Columbia City Ballet, the Gibbes Museum’s Society 1858, Spoleto’s Steering Committee, and, most recently Historic Columbia’s Palladium Society.
- Attended Coachella, Twice (26, 27) Had I had been alive in 1969, I’m sure I would have attended Woodstock. I even had a Woodstock-inspired 25th birthday party, so of course attending the shows at Coachella Music + Art Festival was very high on my bucket list. When my old college roommate told me she was going, I invited myself to Palm Springs too and had the best weekend of my life. It was everything I dreamed it would be: great music, no judgement and all the festival fashions my heart desired. I loved it so much I went back the next year for Beyonce’s big Homecoming blow-out! Hoping to make it back at least one more time.
- Sunset in Santorini (28) One of the greatest travel moments I’ve ever experienced was at a restaurant in Santorini, Greece that overlooked the sea and the most incredible sunset I have ever experienced in my life. In all honesty it was probably so amazing because the restaurant had timed a dramatic classical recording perfectly with the sunset, and I was still riding high on my engagement that had just happened less than 24 hours prior. Either way, sitting there watching that next to my fiancé, with a glass of champagne in my newly-bedazzled hand, was a full sensory experience and a feeling that will forever live in my heart.
What are some of your most memorable moments over the last decade? Let me know in the comments below!