Just a few days ago, the Fashion Bomb Daily team headed to Harlem to shoot one of Uptown’s finest, Yandy Smith.

While most of us are familiar with the mother, entrepreneur, and reality star from her nine seasons on Love and Hip Hop New York, Smith actually began her career as an intern for Mona Scott Young at Violator Records. Yandy remembers, “I studied everything about how Mona ran her business and interacted with multiple business owners. She had Violator Records, Violator Management, she had a restaurant, and Mona was producing her first show on UPN 9 called the Road to Stardom with Missy Elliott. That was my first experience seeing a woman having multiple streams of income and juggling it all–and at the time she had two babies. Mona really helped shape my view on women bosses. I had never been around a woman who owned a company, was bossy, proud, and who earned her stripes on her own. She really helped me to see: If you want to make money in your sleep, you [have] to have several streams of income so that you can live the life you’ve worked hard for. That is definitely what I strive to do. “

Yandy does just that. In between posing for photos on stoops in her old stomping ground, she took calls arranging pick ups for her kids Omere and Skylar, answered emails for her various business ventures including website and mentorship program Everything Girls Love and her new all natural plant based line Yelle Skincare, and checked in on her foster child, Infinity.

Her relationship with Infinity began with mentorship, which is extremely important to her. She said, “There was a time when both of my parents were addicted to drugs. A lot of my development and growth came from people in my life who decided to help me out. One person in particular who helped change the trajectory of my life was Mickey Drexler, the former CEO of the GAP. He came to my high school one day, and I started a conversation. I was the first high school intern the GAP had at their corporate office. Then I got offered an internship in California in the summertime. Then I got a scholarship to Howard from the GAP. I would have never been able to afford Howard University. My mom and my dad, they didn’t really make any money. That was the first big change in my life. Everyone Mickey personally handpicked for me to work with had a huge influence on how I wanted to conduct myself in business. By the time I graduated school, I decided I didn’t want to work at the GAP in California. I came to New York and started interning for Mona Scott Young.” And the rest is history.

Her tips for those just starting in the industry: “Find the need of the company. And it might be miniscule. When I started working with Mona, I started cleaning her office. I had graduated from Howard University with honors. But I saw that her office was a mess. I [called and] said, “Hi I’m Yandy, I need an internship.” They told me they weren’t looking for any interns at the time. I pretty much became a pest. I called and called, then showed up at the office and begged. And even though they said they weren’t looking for interns, I noticed that Mona’s office was a mess. I said, “You guys aren’t looking for interns, but she needs somebody to clean her office.” I came in, and I organized her CD’s and the papers on her desk, better than any other person probably organized her office in her life. And that is what became my career in the music business. Even though they didn’t need me, I was going to make them want me and need me. I was the first one to come into the office and a lot of times, I was the last one to leave. My job didn’t stop when the office hours were over at 7. I then would drop Mona home. If Mona needed me to cook dinner, I would cook dinner, if she needed me to help her with the kids, I would help her with the kids. I looked at my internship as a stepping stone to my next level in life. I told myself it was my grad school. I was making $100 a week doing all that, but from there, I went on tour with Missy, Beyonce, Tamia, Aaliyah, and Alicia Keys. That’s what got my foot on the ground and stabilized in the industry.”

If you are entry level at a company, Yandy advises, “Come in ready to work. Be the best at whatever task large or small. Dress for the job you want, and not the job you have. Be professional. When you come in as an intern, it’s easy to think it’s not a real job or you can play around. [Take it seriously]. Don’t make friends with the artists. I came to work and I was about my business. I didn’t fraternize too much and I didn’t play. For women, especially in the music industry, there’s a magnifying glass on us because people want to think we are using our physical attributes to further ourselves. So I was very conscious of how I behaved with male artists and male counterparts. It’s sad that you have to think like that or do that. But for me, I was very conscious of that because I didn’t want anyone to think I got to where I was because of a romantic relationship I had with anyone. That was something that separated me from the women I worked with.”

For our shoot, we aimed to reflect the multifaceted nature of a modern day business woman, with a throwback, retro vibe. This was a bit of a departure for Yandy, who says she’s never considered herself a fashionista. She says, “This is a dream for me. When I worked with Missy, I was constantly running around or sleeping on tour buses. I was a sweatpant and t-shirt kind of girl. I never wore makeup. I used to wrap my hair at night and comb it down. Now, I do a little more with my hair, I do a little bit more with my face, and I wear sparkles! It has been a transition. Now I love fashion. I love following your page, I love looking at magazines seeing what the latest styles are. I’m so in love with how [clothes] can set my mood. They can tell you how I’m feeling and they can even change my mood. I can put on a different outfit and I can feel so sexy. I can put on a bossy outfit, and I’m walking down the street, like I’m a STRAIGHT BOSS, you better act like it. But I never knew this. When I was running around on tour or even in college, [I wore] sweats, t-shirts, jeans, and sneakers. I feel so liberated when I can put on an outfit and become [a Glamazon].”

Now that Yandy is a certified glamazon and a public figure, she has decided to take an unconventional turn: use her platform to effect change. She offers, “I never set out to be famous. I never thought I had the look or the attitude to be a celebrity. What I knew was that I had something to say. I knew that I wanted to create a platform where people would care about the things I had to say. Love and Hip Hop created that avenue for me, and I’m thankful for that. Now that I have all these followers, it is time for me to say something important for the children out there, for my children out there, for the people that don’t have voices. For the people that want to say things but have never been given the opportunity to speak their truth or they live in fear. I feel that I’ve been put in this position to speak for those people. There are so many things that I’m concerned about. I’m concerned abut the school to prison pipeline, I’m concerned about prison reform, I’m concerned about the disparity in education depending on the neighborhoods you live in, I’m concerned about women’s rights, I’m concerned about how we are treated when we walk into these boardrooms. So instead of just being concerned about it, I’ve made a decision to add action to my concern. And I guess they call that activism. But it’s just a very concerned woman, a very concerned mother, and a very concerned neighborhood chick, that wants what’s right. Because I deserve it, my babies deserve it, you deserve it, and the voiceless deserve it.”

Giving a voice to the voiceless and prison reform are also subjects that hit close to home for Yandy– her husband Mendeeces is currently incarcerated. For women dealing with similar situations, she offers, “You are not alone. The rate of incarceration especially for black men is higher than it’s ever been. When the situation happened, I was very ashamed and embarrassed. I went into an extreme depression because I felt like I was going to be judged by something that happened in his past, just for loving him. A lot of the depression was because he was going to be gone. Also the thought of public opinion and judgement. If you have children, find a village that supports you that loves you and will protect your mental space. There will be some people who will judge you or will have stuff to say or think you conspired or were involved. Build a village that will protect your mental space, build you up, and [hold you down].”

Seeing the true effects of community and mentorship, she has decided to commit her life to doing the same. From her experience, she says, “I’ve learned that one man or woman can change the world. I’ve realized that with mentorship and guidance, we can absolutely change the face of a generation.”

Stay tuned for our video with Yandy on Youtube.com/FashionbombTV! And for those Memphis Bombshells, Yandy will be joining us for Convos with Claire Memphis on April 20th! RSVP today at CWCMemphis.eventbrite.com.

Photography: Sydney Claire & Fritz Metayer
Styling: Vladimyr Pierre-Louis
Hair: Bryant Jamison
Makeup: Prissy Khrissy
Editor in Chief: Claire Sulmers
Special Thanks to Louis Johnson, Jr. of Harlem Haberdashery!

Clothing Credits:
Black Panther Look:
Shirt: LTD Creations from Fashion Bomb Daily Shop
Jeans: Mavi @mavijean
Skirt: Juicy Couture @juicycouture
Shoes: ShoeDazzle @@shoedazzle
Earrings: Erickson Beamon @ericksonbeamon

Orange Ensemble:
Dress: Son Jung Wan @sonjungwan
Dress: Chiara Boni La Petite Robe @chiarabonilapetiterobe
Earrings:: LC Studios @lcstudios63

Crop sweater Look:
Top: SNIDEL @snidel_usa
Skirt: Wan Hung @wanhung_official
Hat: Galpon @galpon.co
Shoes: Daniel Silverstain @danielsilverstain
Bangles: Erickson Beamon @ericksonbeamon and Designer Designs @dinosaurdesigns_international
Sunglasses: Nroda Eyewear from Fashion Bomb Daily Shop

She’s the Boss Look:
Cape: These Pink Lips from Fashion Bomb Daily Shop
Bodysuit: These Pink Lips from Fashion Bomb Daily Shop
Jeans: Rayar Jeans from Fashion Bomb Daily Shop
Shoes: Jessica Rich Collection So Bossy Slides From Fashion Bomb Daily Shop

Plaid Look:
Top and skirt: Son Jung Wan @sonjungwan
Shoes: Daniel Silverstain @danielsilverstain

Diamond Look:
Gown: Son Jung Wan @sonjungwan
Shoes: Jessica Rich Collection So Bossy Slides From Fashion Bomb Daily Shop