Beverly Bond – is a successful businesswoman, mentor, a former model turned DJ, even an executive producer, writer, and founder of non-profit foundation Black Girls Rock. The organisation embraces youth empowerment, thrives on mentoring and inspiring inner-city girls through various art forms and is also a prestigious Awards ceremony which honours some of the most amazing female black figures of our time. She is a modern day example of how dreams can become a reality if you believe, and how ambition and drive can lead to greatness. We caught up with her live from the United States – to learn more about the influential Black Girls Rock organisation, and where the idea derived from.
For the past five years the Black Girls Rock Award ceremonies have been held to celebrate and congratulate black women of power. ‘It started in 2006,’ she say reminiscently as she continues: ‘And we’ve snowballed since then, grown and grown and then this year finally BET gave us a platform to be able to take the award show as a message and a mission around the world.’
Its first exclusive television debut launched on BET early this month and can now be seen sporadically on repeat. ‘I started it as a t-shirt, and as I was creating my t-shirt line, [this is all in the same day by the way!] The idea I had was to name every black girl that rocked and of course that would not all fit on 8 t-shirts! So as I’m writing out names of these wonderful women I’m thinking God! These girls don’t even know who these people are because there’s a lack of representation of us in media and a lack of representation of us in history. Unless you take a black history class, you don’t see all of these incredible women, we are being portrayed as very one sided. This is such an unfair representation of who we are – I felt that the mentoring program was necessary especially for young girls between the ages of 12 and 17 because that’s the time when girls are starting to become who they are, and make decisions that can change their lives.’
This year’s televised episode of the show is hosted by gorgeous actress Nia Long and features a number of star-studded appearances by Estelle, Ciara, Keri Hilson, VV Brown, Monica, Keyshia Cole, Fantasia, Jill Scott, and Kelly Price – a collection of truly wonderful artists and inspirational black girls that truly do rock!
‘The shows amazing,’ she states. We’ve honoured younger girls to living legends and bridged the gap from generation to generation; you can expect some great performances, great presenters, testimonials, and integrity – people are truly inspired. It crosses colour, generational, and gender lines – we have worked hard for this message across the board. It’s a women, people, and humanitarian movement, our kids are suffering, and there is a crisis especially in America with black kids, we cannot ignore it and say that there are no solutions.’
It is clear that Beverly’s message is suppose to be a positive one but what does she say to the naysayers that would accuse the ceremony as racist as it concentrates on black women? ‘It’s funny because we’ve encountered that mainly from black people which is interesting to me! It is clear from media images that women of colour in particularly black women are not portrayed equally. There are all kinds of messages that tell me that white girls rock, I can open up magazines, I can look at movies, TV shows, and the news, there are not a lot of messages that tell me that about our girls. Sexual statistics say that our girls are the fastest growing group of girls between the ages of say 10, 11 and 17 that are the fastest new cases of HIV and Aids – there’s a reason, they’re not just popping up with it out of the blue.’
‘There’s a behaviour that’s associated with it, the high teen pregnancy rate for example, and a lot of it is girls emulating what they’re seeing. So this message is important because we have to do something to counter the dangerous messages that our girls are receiving – and not being able to turn the channel and see something else. Our women are also not being recognised in the way that they should be, or given the props that they necessarily should get. If you look at Hollywood a lot of our women are sidelined, or marginalised in movies.’
‘It’s absolutely important that this message be out there – it does not mean that others don’t rock. White girls rock, I know a lot of white girls that rock. Uma Thurman rocks, Nichole Kidman rocks – I know plenty! We’re not given the same opportunities to shine in the way that others do. I love the roles that Angelina Jolie gets to play! Pam Grier used to play those kind of roles – now we don’t have that.’
On asking Beverly what the greatest achievement of the foundation is so far, we can only say we are immensely proud of her and the effect she is having on the lives of the next generation. ‘I’d say its mentoring the girls and touching them and seeing how their confidence is growing and how they feel empowered just listening and being around positive women, and watching them as they grow up, for me personally that’s the greatest accomplishment, and obviously now being able to spread the message globally through BET is the best thing for us right now.’
Not only is Beverley a humanitarian, she has been recognized and noted as one of the most influential premier DJ’s in the world. Not only is she able to fuse various genres of music together such as hip-hop, rock, soul, funk and pop creating that pleasing-to-the-ear experience for her listeners and partygoers, but she is also a highly important figure within the music industry.
She is often referred to as the ‘DJ’s favourite DJ’ amongst her friends, by creating crowd-pleasing party vibes with such ease – which says it all. Musically, she more than catered to an array of events such as the VH1 Fashion Awards, The U.S Open, The NBA All-Star Game, and The ESPN X-Games. She has also appeared on the popular MTV’s total Request Live, BET’s 106 7 Park, and Rap City. But that’s not all, the stunning DJ has, toured with The Roots, Erykah Badu, Music Soulchild and Amerie, produced material for Alicia Keys, and remixed tracks for Hip-hop icons Nas and 50 Cent and DJing for clientele such as Michael Jordan, Prince, P Diddy, Jay Z, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Britney Spears, her catalogue of achievements and musical knowledge is tremendously impressive.
‘I love the challenge of having to provide music for many different people, opening for M.O.P one day, to spinning for Martha Stewart the next. I have a wide variety of music knowledge and because of that I stay in demand.’
She is also a prolific voice of hip-hop, having won the prestigious Justo Mix Tap Award for Best Female DJ. When it comes to girl power Beverly is really laying it down for the ladies, by becoming the only female member of the Heavy Hitter DJ Collectives – which includes rapper Kanye West. This achievement gives her amazing street credibility. ‘As a DJ my confidence levels have shot through the roof and I’ve been empowered even more so than when I was a model through DJing, so I thought what a cool way to mentor girls through DJ classes – that was one of the first things we did for our girls.’
When it comes to the media, Beverly is also a regular commentator on ABC and has featured in fashion, beauty, and lifestyle editorial pieces for top glossy publications Vogue and Glamour. Similarly she contributes to Essence and One World magazine.
We asked Beverly Bond about five key female figures and asked, in her opinion why these women rock.
Rihanna: Her style.
Oprah Winfrey: Her power and heart.
Keri Washington: Her spirit and beauty.
Michelle Obama: She’s every woman.
Beyonce: Her work ethic and because she’s a game changer. She raises the bar.
To mothers, daughters, sisters, and aunts Beverly advise is precious and relevant to today’s trending society of youngsters and culture that every teenager tries to fit into, ‘Tap into being your best. Find out who you really are stop following lead yourself. Listen to your inner voice and lead.’
With a busy daily schedule and general lifestyle, Beverly shows no sign of struggle to address her every increasing vocational responsibilities. ‘I do it constantly, people say I did it in a short time, but it was 5 years of concentrated work, I love what I do, and don’t see it as work, I see it as what I’m supposed to do.’
‘Having gained official executive television producer credits, I’ve been working for the last 5 years on a scripted show which I’m hoping to be able to get produced. I’ve been DJing for 10 years so, I’m going to put this on the back burner but not necessarily off the burner.’
For more info on Beverly Bond visit her personal website www.djbeverlybond.net
Words by Kemi Giwa
Pictures courtesy of PictureGroup.