Before becoming a world renowned fashion editor, Claire Sulmers was a burgeoning journalist, eager to press her finger on the pulse of the beat. Not a local events or top-of-the-hour news beat, but a beat that aligned with the unmistakable ratatat that passion plays. That beat that fuels innovation, ignites creativity, and drowns out the rebel yelling of stale, yet familiar, doubts. After being told, time and again to blend in with the norm, Claire Sulmers followed her own beat to its source, an overrunning wellspring of ideas, bold colors, and moxy: fashion and beauty.
One could say that Sulmers, an enthusiast of aesthetic and lover of the written word, was destined to be the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the wildly successful Fashion Bomb Daily, the leader of multicultural fashion and beauty online publications. Destiny, however seemingly fated, requires action. In her unique, unrelenting way, Sulmers claimed a stake in the media space to empower and uplift multicultural communities around the world and continues to inspire readers every minute of every day.
I asked the lionized editor about what her life, career, and natural hair journey has taught her about offline communication and the power of influence.
“What inspired me to create Fashion Bomb Daily was the drive to shine a light on and highlight women of color and multicultural women, and give them content they might not be able to find in traditional media,” Sulmers said, her authoritative yet charming voice chimed in the Naturally Curly conference room speakerphone, filling the space with an almost tangible energy, “That pursuit, that mission is what continues to inspire me everyday.”
Understanding the isolation women of color experience when searching for publications that mirror their culture, beliefs, style aspirations, and various shades of skin color, Sulmers knew that the best space to share her passion was online. Creating her editorial publication then became imperative, and in the long term, overwhelmingly important.
“I’ve seen that over the past ten years that I’ve been running Fashion Bomb Daily that we’ve made lots of great strides in terms of diversity in media and well-balanced, well-rounded images of black women, but we still have a long way to go,” Sulmers said, “We also need greater representations of diverse groups of women in general, but in the fashion industry in particular.”
“When you’re a beginning journalist you always want to find out what your beat is, and I always gravitated toward fashion and beauty.” -Claire Sulmers
Wanting to further understand how Sulmers became a pillar for an underrepresented segment within the fashion and beauty landscape, I asked her about personal and professional experiences that initially led her to fashion blogging, that singular beat that she willfully shares on a daily basis.
“I’ve been a journalist for years,” she began, explaining the inner workings of her indelible entrepreneurial spirit,”I started off as a fashion and beauty intern at Upscale magazine. It was my first experience with writing about fashion and beauty. Then I went on to work at internships for Newsweek and New York Magazine, and my first job was at Real Simple magazine as a researcher/reporter.”
“While I was at Real Simple, I realized that fashion was more of my focus. I made a request to join the fashion department, and I asked to write more about fashion, and people looked me up and down and they said that I wasn’t cut out for it,” Sulmers reflected, “Or they said that there was somebody else on staff who was my age that they thought was more appropriate for that position.”
Experiencing this determent from her true calling, Sulmers did not let naysaying punctuate her professional growth or her desire to share her fashion expertise with multicultural audiences.
“I started the Fashion Bomb Daily based on the fact that I love to write and that I love fashion. From that frustration of not being able to write about subjects that I wanted to explore in my day-to-day job, my publication was born.” - Claire Sulmers
“For a long time, I was writing for French Vogue and Italian Vogue at the same time as I was writing for the Fashion Bomb Daily. There came a point when I realized I couldn’t spread myself too thin and that I needed to focus 100% on the website. That’s when I transitioned into becoming a professional blogger and the owner of my magazine.”
Sulmers’ vision and execution spurred me to delve a bit further into what foundations she established to get her to make such a remarkable and life changing decision that not only propelled her professionally, but invited women from around the world into her fold.
I wanted to know more: who is the powerhouse of industry? How did she gain such laser-like lines of sight? Who is this woman that wears well crafted clothing and golden locs as radiant as the sun? I simply had to know if her hair had something to do with her genius.
Sulmers cordially replied, “When I was younger, my mom used to always cornrow my hair. There were two seconds where I tried to do a perm and it was just a disaster! My mom didn’t really know how to do my hair so I just looked crazy for a few years.
After that, I got box braids in college, during my freshman and sophomore years. After a while, I was tired of taking them out and putting them back in, or finding somebody to do my hair and I thought, ‘Box braids have the same kind of look and aesthetic that I want as locs!’ So, I went from having longer braids to having to take my braids out.”
From that realization, Sulmers sought the advice and expertise of a hair stylist in Boston, where she attended Harvard for her undergraduate education.
Braids Out, Locs In
“Over the summer, I found somebody to loc my hair and it worked,” she explained, “It was extremely short and it was kind of disconcerting because I was teaching at a summer camp in the inner city where my students were young black girls who said to me, ‘Your hair is ugly!’ and ‘Guys would want to talk to you if you’d leave your weave in.’”
To further add insult to beauty, the girls would say to Sulmers, “You look like an African!”
Yes, it’s true. Kids can be cruel, but Sulmers took their observations and commentary in stride.
“They said it like it’s a bad thing to look like an African. It was just like crazy to deal with that bullying when I first took the plunge to go totally natural. But it shined a light on a lot of misconceptions of natural hair in our community.”
Understanding the lack of visibility of locs and natural hair styles presented by the media to the black community, Sulmers’ graciously analyzed the climate and developed her own conclusion, saying “That was several years ago, so I’m sure that things have changed. People are starting to see more natural hair styles in the media and there’s a lot more acceptance of it in our community in general.”
Sulmers further explained how the young ladies’ comments held her captive to her own standards of beauty.
“It was just an humbling time because, aside from what the students were saying, I wasn’t feeling like my normal, pretty, gorgeous self, you know?,” Sulmers relayed, “Not everybody can rock the short hair cut. I looked better with longer hair. I think anybody would go through that... a phase from when their hair is extremely short when it was once long, and waiting for it to grow out. You deal with feelings of just not having the highest self-esteem, not feeling as confident... but you just deal with it! You grow with your hair over time and you just have to know, deep down inside, that you’re beautiful no matter what.”
“And because that moment was over 10 years ago, I’ve grown into the style and my locs have gotten longer and fuller. My natural hair is now blonde so I’m able to dye it and do different things with it. It’s definitely an investment of time. Yes, it was an humbling moment,” Sulmers restated, “but definitely worth it.”
Humble. Gracious. Beautiful.
“My uncle told me, ‘You can have that hairstyle after you’re established in your career, but when you first start off, you need to have straight hair!’” - Claire Sulmers
This leader of the fashion and beauty industry had not only gone through her hair journey with criticism from members of her own community, but she was given well-meaning, albeit discouraging, life advice from her family members when she loc’ed her natural hair. Able to think positively about herself and embrace the beauty of her locs, Sulmers continued to defy cultural norms that women across all cultures are still confronted with today.
“My dad called my locs ‘pumpernickels’,” Sulmers laughed, recalling formative moments in her natural hair journey.
“My family members would say things like that, and of course I ignored them,” said the proudly loc’ed trailblazer, “I think I have this ability to ignore a lot of negativity in my life, and thankfully I’ve worked in a creative field where I was able to forge out on my own and do my own thing.”
To further amplify her love of natural hair, Sulmers introduced at-home color treatments into her beauty regimen.
“I love trying out a lot of different colors,” Sulmers told me, explaining how she got her goldie locs, “My hair is naturally darker, more black than brown, somewhere in between. I’ve tried lighter brown. I’ve tried red. I’ve done chestnut blonde. Overall, I was looking to reinvent myself.
As my website continued to grow and get really great press, I was trying to figure out how I could make a statement. I thought, ‘Let me just play around with color!’ At first, it was more platinum... It’s not as platinum anymore. It’s still a bright blonde and I think it’s a good look. It’s a distinctive look. Now, when people will see me they say, ‘I knew that was you! I saw your golden locks!’ So it’s just one of those things that’s become my signature.”
Indeed, it has. So much in fact, Dark and Lovely deemed Claire Sulmers as one of its spokeswomen to spearhead their #LoveMyColor campaign, a call to action for women of color to fully embrace the bold lifestyles they lead. Within this campaign, Sulmers and other spokespersons have been given a platform to share their love of colored natural hair and locs with the world. All women are invited to create their own meme by visiting www.lovemycolor.com and filling in the field that dares you to share what your color means to you! You'll also be able to upload your favorite photograph or selfie to show the entire world how proud you are of your beautiful mane.
“I’ve worked in print publication for several years and then became a blogger. Now, I’m Editor-in-Chief for my own online magazine. I think that in the creative field, you have a little bit more freedom to express yourself.” - Claire Sulmers
After listening to and processing stagnated opinions of beauty from family and peers, Sulmers moved forward in time with that inner beat that only she marched to. She put one foot in front of the other and refused to turn back ‘round to see if what she believed to be true resounded in the echoing chambers of onlookers’ minds.
How did she do it?, I wondered, What drove her to continue along a path that was unbeaten, unforged, unseen?
“On my Tumblr, I used to record letters that people would send to me,” Sulmers told me, her voice piquing with awe, “This one young lady wrote me a letter... It always sticks out to me. It said:
“Thank you for writing the Fashion Bomb. I teach French in an all Black high school in rural Mississippi, and your blog is slowly convincing my students that fashion and style are not a White people’s thing or rich people’s thing. You inspire me and you inspire my babies. Thank you.” -Monica M. D.
Needless to say, Sulmers was honored.
“I always think of Fashion Bomb Daily readers as being young women of color, in urban cities, moving and shaking, and they’re on the train to go out for cocktails or a martini,” she said, gratitude lining her words, “That letter showed me that we, at Fashion Bomb Daily, reach as far as rural Mississippi! Not only is it impacting women of color, but it’s also showing young people that fashion is for everyone and fashion is for them, and that they can take part in something that is a seemingly elitist, exclusive industry.
Letters like that touch my heart and make me smile. I receive a lot of letters from people that tell me that after they read Fashion Bomb Daily they feel beautiful or they don’t feel so out of place or they feel at home reading the content. Instances like that encourage me, and let me know that I’m on the right track.”
Can you feel that beat?
Claire Sulmers is more than a writer, more than an editor, more than a fashion influencer... She’s a force.
Wherever she goes, people follow those golden locs and sing her praises. Not due to a demagogue-like prowess, or flexing her entrepreneurial prowess, but because she’s authentic. She’s real. Her fans are loyal and eager to learn more from her expertise.
“A lot of people see me in public and say ‘Hello’ and that’s great,” Sulmers explained, “In Walgreens it happens. In museums it happens. More so, in places like TopShop or Zara, I’ll run into a Fashion Bomb Daily readers working or shopping there.”
What’s truly remarkable about Sulmers is her humility.
“I know that Fashion Bomb Daily’s and my personal successes are a result of fans and readers who’ve been so supportive of me over the years, and I love that. I embrace it.” - Claire Sulmers
To give back to her fan base and longtime readers, Sulmers created Cocktails with Claire. This event spans several metropoli including Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, New York, and Toronto. She’s also touching base with fans in the United Kingdom.
“Cocktails with Claire is a chance for me to meet and greet with readers,” Sulmers said, “It gives them an opportunity to network with each other, to have cocktails and h’orderves and shop. It’s bringing the online community offline to begin fostering a community of fashion enthusiasts and tastemakers.”
Wrapping up our conversation, I asked Claire to share her insights with all women that belong to the natural and curly hair community. She had this to say:
“Be confident! Move boldly in the direction that works for you. Pursue your passion, and reevaluate your steps as you go along. Experience new things, travel, go to new places and continue to be inspired by the world.”
Another parting gift she presented, “Experiment with color! As I said before, I’ve have brown hair. I’ve had red hair. I’ve had black hair. So, experiment and have fun and see what works for you and what sticks. Nurture that great self esteem and be bold! And don’t be afraid of getting it wrong! You’ll get it right the next time.”
Take heed of these wise words spoken by a strong, brilliant woman: go bold or go home!
For many women of color, the strength of their decisions are rooted beyond pigmented surfaces. These womens' depths shine in the form of the jewels of their crowns: locs and curls and waves and kinks. These are the marks of varied experiences and life lessons, and natural, uncompromising beauty.
To live boldly, forging a path that has yet to be seen… that’s the beat! Your heart, your passion, your spirit is the drum. Claire Sulmers is an instructor of not only how undulate with the rhythm, but a living example of what can happen when you're in sync with the flow of your true self.
This color story featuring Fashion Bomb Daily Editor-In-Chief Claire Sulmers is presented to you by Dark and Lovely, and your friends at Naturally Curly. I hope that Claire’s story inspires you to continue to do amazing things and love your color. Learn more about Claire Sulmers, and her fashion collaboration project with Kyna Collection, by visiting www.fashionbombdaily.com today. For at-home color treatments that help you love your color and boldly live your dreams visit Dark and Lovely now.