he Black Retail Action Group, also know in fashion circles as BRAG, is having its 42nd annual scholarship and awards Gala on Friday at Chelsea Piers. The not-for-profit organization whose goal is to be a leader in providing a space for, and services to African Americans in retail and retail-related industries will be honoring five distinguished guests in those sectors. For more than 40 years the organization has been offering services by raising the awareness of the corporate community about the challenges facing people of color in the workplace, as well as by providing scholarships and internships to students. The black-tie gala fundraiser, which includes a silent auction, supports the scholarship program, as well as the BRAG Summer Internship program. It’s always a night of sincere double kisses exchanged amongst fashion veterans and A-listers, celebrities, and top tier retail corporations.
Of the five guests being honored this Friday, three are black women who have made their stamp on the industry in a tremendous way. This year’s theme is BRAG: Breaking Barriers, which all of the honorees have done— opening doors for others to follow while still being committed to paving new roads.
Supermodel, actress, and entrepreneur Beverly Johnson broke barriers more than 40 years ago, when she became the first black model to appear on the cover of Vogue magazine in 1974. Her superstardom propelled her to be the first black supermodel in the world, gracing more than 500 magazine covers in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s. As one of the highest paid models in the industry she also walked the runways of Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein, and Halston. She most recently added business to her resume with the Beverly Johnson Hair Collection and the Beverly Johnson Drawstring Ponytails which sold at select Target stores nationwide. She is being honored with the BRAG Special Recognition Award.
Susan Akkad might not have as public a presence as some of the honorees, but she has surely done her part in paving the way for rising beauty industry stars. As senior Vice President of Local and Cultural Relevancy, Corporate Marketing and Research Development for Estee Lauder companies, Akkad’s work bridges several business sectors. She has worked in a variety of roles with several mega beauty brands including Lancome, Clinique, and MAC. She began her career in 1986, working her way up from public relations to executive roles. After taking a 10-year break from beauty to work in the fashion industry with her husband, Akkad returned in 1999 with Estee Lauder. In 2010 she was named one of Ebony magazine’s Power 100. She will be receiving the BRAG Business Achievement Award.
If you don’t know fashion powerhouse June Ambrose by now then chances are you’ve been living under a stiletto. The style expert has put her footprint on everyone from Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Alicia Keys, to Kelly Ripa and Zoe Saldana. Getting her big start as a stylist for music videos, Ambrose quickly became the go-to expert for all things fashion and style in the hip hop community. In 2006 she released a book Effortless Style, illustrating her full body of work up until that time. Known to many as “The Architect of Style”— a titled dubbed by Jay-Z, she continues to dazzle, appearing as a style expert on X-Factor USA and recreating celebrities’ images with support from her team at her agency The Mode Squad. She hit the small screen earlier this year with her first reality show on VH1, Styled by June. Ambrose is the recipient of the BRAG Business Innovators Award.