Kyemah McEntyre (@mindofkye) is a 24-year-old clothing and jewelry designer, artist, and self-proclaimed “disruptor” whose bold and bright work transcends the fashion industry. More than just visually pleasing works, McEntyre uses her art to create dialogues around social justice and bring visibility to multicultural perspectives, including her own as an African American woman.
McEntyre grew up in East Orange, New Jersey, “which is heavily populated with multiple people from the African diaspora,” the artist tells In The Know. “We have a tendency to separate ourselves. ‘Well, this person’s Jamaican. This person is from Nigeria. This person is African American.’ And I felt we had some remembering to do.”
Understanding the power that visuals have, McEntyre harnessed her artistry to help facilitate cultural connections in her community. She seized the opportunity of her high school prom to show East Orange “a different version of beautiful” with a homemade dress that she felt truly represented who she was.
Not only did McEntyre’s dress resonate in her hometown, but images of it went viral online. “I had no idea the world felt the same way,” she admitted. “The only reason why my prom dress, and the words that came along with that dress went viral is because people needed it. It created a wave that lasted and was much bigger than I had expected.”
McEntyre’s dress caught the attention of singer, songwriter, and actress, Naturi Naughton who reached out to the then 17-year-old asking if she could create a custom dress for a red carpet appearance. “I had immediate pressure and immediate opportunity,” said McEntyre of the big moment. Since then, the young designer has made custom pieces for celebrities like Janet Jackson and Tyra Banks.
In an industry as saturated as the fashion world, McEntyre feels she brings something new to the table: transformation. “I’m telling real stories, and that is making change in a world where there’s a lot of diluted and muted perspectives,” McEntyre tells In The Know. “I insert new things into old spaces, and I turn old things into new things.”
Despite seeing her clothes on runways, red carpets, and the big screen, McEntyre admits that her favorite place to see her clothes is just out in the world. “I know that a lot of people think that messages go further when a celebrity wears it or a celebrity says something about it, but let’s not forget about the power of community,” says the designer. “When I see average people wearing [my clothes], it really hits home in a very literal and physical way. That means that the discussion is happening on the ground and in real time.”
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