#WHOOPITAUGHTME is the predacessor to SWI, the catalyst behind the formation of this space, through the exploration of expression and storytelling. #WHOOPITAUGHTME came to fruition in year five of working as a wardrobe stylist for E! News.  This job was a financially abundant yet extremely oppressive. I shut myself up in order to survive as a woman of color employed to a media empire that dissected women’s bodies for sport with a penchant for anti blackness.  

One day, in a long standing lull, complete funk as to where my life was heading I caught Whoopi on The View while channel surfing. I had to pause the show when I noticed her look, in awe of what was before my eyes, mouth agape - Black and White Polka Dot Platform Pumps worn with a pair of Black and White Striped Socks, Denim, a Crisp White Button Up Shirt and, to top it all off, a New York Knicks Jersey layered on top. It was “Eddie” meets business meets pleasure. Pure genius.

I screamed joyous expletives, excited to witness this artistry of wear. Once I looked further into Whoopi’s politics and read her book I was excited yet disappointed that this prototype of strength in a womxn existed right under my nose as I watched “Bogus” in my youth. Yet, I was completely unaware of her deep sense. I felt like I was late to class, that God just put me on to greatness. The more I spiraled into her expression through footwear, the more I realized how healing it was to explore her life story. 

Whoopi is an example of a womxn of color who has effortlessly figured out the art of being her true self, even if mainstream media doesn’t find value in influencing more women to follow in her lead. She’s a Hollywood anomaly, seemingly unafraid of hate or ridicule, comfortable in the truth that is being herself.

I am intrigued by the power of expression each of us has from the knee down. Most people don’t realize how much their personality shines through choices in shoes and hosiery. Having always been obsessed with framing feet during my eight years as a wardrobe stylist, I was inspired to paint expressionist footwear.

I painted humanity, friends, musicians, kids, persons enslaved by the industrial prison complex, and friends. I found subject matter in my own vintage collection. We sang karaoke, danced.

We all have feet, we migrate. We are all on this planet figuring out how to survive. We are thrown onto this plane figuring life out on a path specifically designed for each of us. It’s my hope that we can all do so with style and afford the same respect to our peers.

This video was filmed by Jess Calliero at Nous Tous Gallery circa 2016.
End footage of dressing shot by Kayla Reef