“Start doing things by yourself. We’re going to be living in our current bodies for a while, so why not get comfortable alone and have some fun?”
This week’s StyleCrush is the incredible Jhanelle Rivera of Bodhi and Lace! Originally a Jersey girl with a background in both fashion and journalism, you may recognize Rivera from our #DropTheTowel and #BeyondBeauty campaigns. This Bay Area babe has helped shape the body-positive community in California with her work in Bodhi and Lace, but its effects reach well beyond the Bay Area.
Wear Your Voice: How do you describe your personal style?
Jhanelle Rivera: Okay! So I recently organized my closet the other day and separated everything by color. I typically wear neutral colors such as black, white, taupe, olive, navy, cream and any pink blush. If I do wear a print or pattern, I find a neutral color to coordinate with it. I let neutral colors be the base and allow my pop pieces to be prints and patterns. I don’t typically wear print on print or mix patterns with prints. If I had to label my style, I would definitely say feminine modern chic.
WYV: How long have you been blogging? What inspired your career in fashion?
JR: I always paid close attention to my passion for journalism and fashion. While reading the Nancy Drew series I fell in love with the idea of interviewing people to gather information. I even had my moms and their friends purposely misplace items so that I could interview them to put the clues together. I remember using weekends to research fashion history, designing mini fashion magazines, and to feed my obsession of researching women entrepreneurs.
Through high school and college, I continued to practice my writing and expanded my thoughts on where I could possibly fit in this particular industry. I worked my way up to becoming editor-in-chief for my campus newspaper and had my own radio show, focusing on life and style. My [journalism] professor consistently challenged me to cover stories other than what’s happening on the runway and I thank him for that.
While interning for fashion companies and publications, I was fortunate to have this experience, but working underneath them did not answer any of my questions. Through my journey, it was very disturbing to see the lack of diversity inside the newsrooms, the stories I had to cover and the people I had to interview. I’ve always wanted to seek for answers: why won’t they cater to women of all sizes? Why does the media misrepresent black women? And the list goes on.
In 2016 Bodhi and Lace was born. I wanted to be part of the solution in my own unique way. Through my personal experiences with interviewing others, I wanted women who are unfortunately less represented in media to see that they have the capability to create the life of their desires.
Bodhi and Lace is my artistic expression to show the world regardless of race, size, weight, sexuality or lifestyle, we as women, have the power to express our creativity and femininity. It wasn’t until the end of last year that I decided to expand Bodhi and Lace by adding a plus-size consignment shop. I’m still working and inventing new ways where the consignment shop can grow to become another one-stop shop.
WYV: Who are the people close to you who have shaped your style?
JR: My grandmother was my fashion icon. She was in control of her own life. At the same time looked like she hopped out the cover of Ebony magazine. If I had to put a label to her style I will definitely describe it as sophisticated chic. I was drawn to my grandmother’s persona. She always empowered herself and those around her. Fashion was literally all around her. She truly designed her own life. When you walked into her living room, down to her silverware it screamed her personality. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2007 from lung cancer.
After her passing, I wanted to honor her while making her proud. In high school, I started a fashion club that eventually turned into a nonprofit. Strike-A-Pose produced fashion events and some proceeds went to a lung cancer organization. It was a great learning experience! We worked as a community and learned about the fashion business. From hosting model casting calls to finding clothing for the shows. We worked with the makeup artist Bobbi Brown and designers such as Tommy Hilfiger. We even had the opportunity to tour around the headquarters. Guest speakers who worked in the fashion field came to speak to us about their experience and gave us personal advice.
WYV: What makes you feel most powerful?
JR: There are a few things that make me feel powerful. Turning nothing into something makes me feel powerful. Being able to write down an idea and then make it come to life is so magical. Whether it’s an article, event or an invention. I enjoy the planning process through everything; it makes me feel as if I have control of my creativity.
Also, realizing that I determine what enters and exits my life also makes me feel powerful. Down to having positive friends, or material things that showcase my personal style. Everything is a reflection of you.
Being in a setting full of women of color who are making a contribution to the world also makes me feel powerful. Being comfortable with one another and not looking at each other as a threat or competition. Not afraid to express themselves, bounce off ideas and help one another. It’s a powerful experience.
WYV: Who are your top three celebrity StyleCrushes? What about each of them draws you to their style?
JR: Okay, so top three! First off, Nadia Aboulhosn. I adore her color palette! To me, her style is pretty minimalistic, chic, yet sexy. She’s not afraid to show skin and flaunt her curves. I personally do not know her, but I appreciate her hustle.
Related: StyleCrush: Nadia Aboulhosn
Second, Danielle Brooks. Not only is she gorgeous! She is super talented as well. She has this, “This is me and all of me” attitude. It definitely shows in her wardrobe.
Finally, Dascha Polanco. I love when she dresses vintage. I saw an image of her rocking a finger-wave hairstyle. She is oh so glamorous. She always looks on point on the red carpet. Oh, and have you seen her in a mermaid dress?
WYV: Which designers or brands are some of your fashion faves? What do you like about them?
JR: Lately, I’ve been thrifting! I get really excited when I find something fabulous for like, more than half off! To me, it’s like a game!
When I do shop, it’s mostly online at ASOS Curve, Gap, Torrid, Forever Plus, Eloquii. I like shopping with brands because you can find a huge range of needs from evening wear, business wear, activewear, and casual wear. It’s a one-stop shop. Also, it’s not hard to find colors that fit my color palette.
WYV: What would you like to see more of in the plus-size industry? Who can they represent better?
JR: I will like to see more black women of all sizes, shapes, color and ethnicities. When I come across a lady on a social media platform who represents this I always reach out to show love.
WYV: What would you say to designers who are questioning whether or not to offer plus sizes?
JR: Honestly, I will say if you decide to, wonderful! If not, your loss! Why are these designers taking a huge loss? There are too many fabulous plus-size women who invest in their wardrobe. I wouldn’t waste mine or their time trying to convince them to expand their target market. Fortunately, there are plus-size designers, brands, and sources where we can shop within our community.
WYV: What would you tell a young person struggling with body issues?
JR: Learning to love your body is a process; it will not happen overnight. However, there are certain actions you can take now that will help you understand and appreciate your body.
First, know that you’re enough! You are capable of filling your life mission in your current body. You do not have to be a certain size or shape to create the life of your desires. You deserve to feel fabulous.
Second, make an appreciation list. For example, you may appreciate the simplicity of how your body allows you to wake up in the morning.
Last, start doing things by yourself. We’re going to be living in our current bodies for a while, so why not get comfortable alone and have some fun? One thing that helps me is dancing alone in lingerie.
Enjoy exploring yourself and celebrate who you are. I honestly believe self-discovery is key. Don’t be afraid to treat yourself, put on a face mask and create your own space where you belong.
WYV: How do you wear your voice?
JR: I wear my voice every day, not just by clothing but through my actions as well. I’m not afraid to tell my story and to be unapologetically me. Standing up and doing so can encourage others to be bold and to claim their identity. One motto I stick with to being unapologetic is, as long as I’m not causing harm than my existence shouldn’t offend anyone.
I wear what I want to wear without allowing societal limitations to interfere with my wardrobe or my personal life. I wear my smile on days where people stare at me funny for rocking a bodysuit or holding my partner’s hand in public. I wear my voice by unashamedly being a proud black woman.