MEET JASMINE + JAE | Creative Entrepreneurs, Community leaders, Influencers, and Founders of Black Owned NWA. Jasmine Hudson and J'Aaron Merchant together make up, Jazzy Jae NWA. NWA Girl Gang Q+A Editorial, Photography by Rachel Fox.
Tell us a little about yourselves and what you two do?
Focused on all things, food, art, fun..... we are @jazzyjaenwa , local influencers that share things to do and places to go in Northwest Arkansas. We are best buds who can whoop your pants in Disney Trivia. Jasmine (Jazz ) is a retail professional originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. J’Aaron (Jae) is a freelance animator and illustrator originally from the Virgin Islands.
What did you want to be when you were both children?
Jae : I wanted to be a "baby doctor" until I realized that the babies would have to be sick for me to treat them.
Jasmine : I loved playing with building blocks growing up and I always wanted to be an architect ... until I realized that I couldn't draw and wasn't fond of math.
What encouraged you to follow your passion?
We realized that there was a void of diverse representation in Northwest Arkansas spaces.
Name some influential people in your life who have come along beside you :
(*Looks at each other and shouts in unison ...) "MY BEST BUD!" Also our close circle of friends in the area, they love what we're doing and support us one hundred percent.
What inspires you?
The notion that at any given moment in time you can choose to reinvent yourself entirely.
What is the most difficult thing about being young Black Women in our community?
Being young black woman in Northwest Arkansas is an interesting experience to say the least. On the surface it can be hard. Dealing with finding your tribe, being the sole representation for your race and at times gender in several situations, or simply not knowing which hairstylist you can trust with your natural curls or can slay your silk press to the gods!
What do you both love about living here in NW Arkansas?
Below the surface, the opportunities are endless. There's an opportunity to add to the 2.4 million Black woman owned businesses in this country, to educate those around you about your culture and needs, and the opportunity to blaze a trail for Black women, men, children that will move here in the future. As @jazzyjaenwa we strive to create the environment in which we want to thrive.
What do you hope someone learns from your influence here in the community?
That representation matters, black people are here to stay, take up space and make an impact within the community.
Name some creatives that you really admire?
There are so many creatives within the community that inspire us but here are just a few:
Alison Glenn - Curator for Crystal Bridges @msallisonglenn
Rachel Fox - NWA Girl Gang Founder ( Thank you both!) @0utsidetheboxfox
Joelle Storet - Gallery Manager and Studio Artist of Art Ventures NWA @artventuresnwa
Additional insights from Jasmine + Jae , in honor of Black History Month.
Who has influenced you the most from Black History?
Jae : It would be Bruce W. Smith. He was the first African American supervising animator for Disney. He's know for creating Disney's "The Proud Family", and supervising the animation of the evil villain Dr. Facilier in "The Princess and the Frog" as well as a ton of other projects. He was the first African American animator that I saw drawing on TV. I had already been drawing, but I didn't think that I could do it because I'd only seen white men doing it on the behind the scenes footage. One day I saw him drawing characters for Disney and I realized that I could do this as well. I haven't looked back since!
Jasmine : Mine is Madame CJ Walker . She was the first Black woman millionaire in America, and known best for her successful line of hair care products. She is an inspiration to me as everything she did at the time was not only radical, but unheard of for black people and for a Black women. To develop her own empire and still maintain her unequivocally strong stance against injustice is something I aspire to daily.
P.S- We have several hairstylist and barber recommendations - Jazzy + Jae
FOLLOW JazzyJae NWA HERE!
FOLLOW ALONG with their passion project, BLACK OWNED NWA HERE!
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER | Rachel Fox is the founder and Executive Director of NWA Girl Gang.