Pristine Onuoha & Mecca Patterson-Guridy at the 2023 Essence Girls United Disruptor Summit
Pristine Onuoha | Getting to attend the 2023 Essence Girls United Disruptor Summit was an amazing and enriching experience. With the summit being located in Atlanta, I was really excited for the opportunity to travel outside of my hometown, North Carolina to such a big city. Once I landed in Atlanta, I got the chance to meet Mecca, a fellow Seed Sister. Like me, she is also a black student and, a first year college student so we were able to connect over being excited for our futures in college.
As soon as Mecca and I arrived at the conference, we were given our VIP Disruptor goodie bags. Inside was an exciting array of curated beauty and haircare products that we were excited to try. Stepping into the larger event space, I was blown away. I was surrounded by so many Black women and women of color. It was nice having that experience of being in an environment where I felt that aspect of my identity being represented. As we walked around the summit space, Mecca and I had fun interacting with the booths and stations where we could take fun pictures and videos (including on a whole mini-runway!), get our names stenciled on purses, learn about new products being announced by poc-serving companies, and get our makeup done by a professional makeup artist!
A unique highlight of my experience was being able to listen to the “Crack the Career Code” speaker session hosted by Alphonso David and Aaliyah Haqq. During it, the speakers emphasized the significance of putting yourself out there and finding people who can be strong mentors for you. I found this information really valuable because being that I’m still early in my career, there’s a lot that I can learn; people who have been in my shoes and are in inspiring positions really offer a lot of helpful guidance as to how one can progress in their career.
The most exciting part of the summit for me, though, was being able to participate in the summit speed-mentoring session. During the one-hour session, Mecca and I were able to talk face-to-face to several amazingly inspirational Black women and people of color like Caroline Wanga, the CEO of Essence; Michael Barclay II, the Vice President of Essence; McDonald’s Change Leaders Kemia Bridgewater and Aaliya Alicia Thompson; Erica Culpepper, the General Manager at IT Cosmetics; Aubrey Malsen, the head of Communications and DEI at L’Oréal Groupe; fashion designer Aleali May; and Shawna Spears, the marketing Vice President for Venice Music. The following are just a few of the insightful bits of guidance that stood out to me from this opportunity: From Michael Barclay II, I learned that a lot of the time, opportunities can present themselves to you when the people you network with communicate your strengths to those they know; from Kemia Bridgewater, I was able to further strengthen my sense of the importance of young people reaching out to mentors who can guide them towards their aspirations; and from Ms. Wanga, I learned that part of how she got her position was by being herself, which was to say that when you’re your best self, opportunities can make their way to you.
In all, I’m so thankful to Seeds of Fortune for sponsoring me to attend the 2023 Essence Girls United Disruptor Summit. As a young woman of color, I found it so helpful to be able to meet, talk to, and listen to so many successful black women and people of color doing inspirational work. As I pursue my career goals. I know that the insight I gained from this experience will help bolster me.