Zerin Scales


Photography: Blacklenz Location: DTL art district

A ceiling has a purpose, it protects against the unexpected, insulates its occupants, and forgoes reconstruction when worn. What happens when that ceiling is taken away? We Reach. Limitless expectations, amendments beyond press, expression, or speech, we find our most desirable being and we reach. Soil bears the fruit of our labor, the construct to our personality, behavior and visibility. I say uproot and reach. Find meaning in your life, beyond what the eyes can see. To float amongst the stars and settle on the moon one must be the hidden figure that can calculate their life trajectory. Clouds are just barriers, the sky is formality, only space is unknown, leaving room to reproach ourselves and reteach. One must go out and reach. Existence is not defined by the medium which we live but where we are not. Find it in yourself to settle in the unknown and to be partial to normality. Because if sky is the limit and you have landed on the moon, you have beat all expectation, you have overreached. So Reach. 

A series called “A Word”

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Queen B, MBA: A Hive in Writing

Brittany Sha’Vonne is a guru of creative writing. An HBCU graduate in Public Relations from Hampton University with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, Brittany is the founding CEO of Inscribe By Brittany. Since 2013, her company offers creative consulting, web design, academic, and professional writing help. A diamond shaped by her own rough patches, Brittany has surpassed the brutal reality of growing up in South Central LA, while being the first in her family to achieve higher education. She embraces her upbringing and makes it her mission to overcome negative expectations, claim her rightful position, and prove deeper truths- no matter where you are from, all queens belong on a throne. An avid coffee connoisseur and fashionista, it is no wonder her style of work has been critically acclaimed as “phenomenal” and called “an artist in her writing.” Brittany strives to bring fresh ideas to her clients so that the hustle mentality does not stop with her talent but helps to manifest new hustlers. A natural gifting is easily recognizable in her body of work. Brittany Sha’Vonne does not present the hustle, she inscribed it.

Brittany, how do you define hustle and how has it changed over time?

Doing what you have to do to make things happen; giving it all you can; going against the grain; following your dreams and stepping outside of your comfort zone to do so. Back in the day, I believe our culture had a way of classifying hustle as anything related to the streets and “getting money.” That may be true but over time we’ve learned that there are various types of hustles and in fact, anyone can be a hustler. It’s not something that’s directly tied to “the streets” alone. We’ve now learned to perceive hustle beyond the surface level. Now, we focus more on the process and the mentality of the hustle; the character development; the transitions; the blood, sweat, and tears tied to reaching that desired level of success. I say all of this to say that I think over time the definition of hustle has definitely changed. While it was once about what people do, now it’s more so about who they’re becoming in the process of getting to where they want to be.

Where do you find the passion to help others succeed in their business?

You know what? I just love to see people win so I’ll say the passion is definitely fueled by my clients. Majority of them work in service- oriented fields and they are some of the most compassionate and selfless people I’ve ever met. When I sit down and talk to them about their passion, their goals and their “why,” I am blown away by the amazing things they share. I love a good story that’s raw, real and relatable and my clients have all brought that to the table. I believe that God gave me the gift of storytelling through writing and consulting; but it’s a gift He gave me to use as a tool for helping others advance. I feel like it’s such a special gift, which is why I say my business was the product of “divine inspiration.” I don’t take it lightly at all and I’d be doing Him a disservice if I didn’t use it to the fullest when assisting my clients. The world needs to see more authenticity; we need to hear from those who are changing the world in positive and selfless ways. If I, through my gifts, can be the gateway to that, then I’m here for it.

How important is it for people to have creative direction from a consultant in their entrepreneurial pursuits?

I think having a creative consultant is very important. As a creative consultant myself, I also have one. It’s always good to have fresh eyes from an outside perspective. Creative consultants are great accountability partners that bring encouragement and new energy (which is especially needed on rainy days). They can give clear direction and they can also bring to life new themes and ideas that may be hidden beneath the surface. They can speak directly to the heart of the entrepreneur and influence him or her to broaden horizons and aim even higher than before.

Is there such a thing as a bad writer?

Absolutely not! Whenever I come across content that is either directionally, grammatically or verbally challenging, I like to call it “colorful.” That’s my way of saying it’s different and that is okay. Everyone has a unique voice, and everyone has something special to share with the world. The tweaking just comes in the way their story is being told. Some people have a way with words and some people do not but that does not necessarily mean that he or she is a bad writer; they just need someone to show them how to present their content in the best way that works for them.

In order of importance: Hair, Coffee, Fashion, Writing?

Oooo this is hard!!!! Ok. Coffee is definitely first because I need it to function. It fuels my brain power. I’d put hair and fashion together and put them second because I do take pride in feeling/looking my best…that’s a form of self-care for me and when I feel good, I perform at my best. And then writing because without inspiration from the first three, I wouldn’t be as inspired to work on my creativity as a writer.

What novelist influenced your writing?

Toni Morrison! I first read her books in my AP English class in high school and I was like “Wowww who is this woman?” (Of course, that was my favorite class, so I actually paid attention and did the reading when assigned haha!) I think she’s an incredibly gifted and thought- provoking writer. Her themes, verbiage, and writing structure are unmatched. She makes her readers think and I love the way she traces bits of history in her books. She inspires me to stay true to myself while still evoking elements of relevance in my content.

How do you define your success?

Accomplishing things, I once perceived to be impossible or unachievable. For me this especially relates to being a black millennial woman…who was raised in south central. With a not so privileged financial status….and with my father not always being present in my life. Unfortunately, in our world, all of those things scream “statistic” and not going very far in life. My definition of success is being able (through personal milestones, etc.) to prove that all of those stereotypes are wrong.

What is one resource our viewers can tap into today toget them started in your field of writing and consulting?

I’d definitely have to give major props to YouTube on this one. There are so many good resources out there, but I’ve found (especially during quarantine) that YouTube has been at the top of my list. On YouTube, there is literally a knowledgeable and life-changing professional who has amazing content for ANYTHING you need, and everything is quickly accessible. Also, if you’re not able to invest in a consultant or coach, YouTube is a good place to start as the majority of the content is free. I’ve been able to perfect my craft and creativity through constantly feeding my spirit with coaching and inspirational content for entrepreneurs, and I’ve also gained financial insight pertinent to contracts, pricing, and owning a business in general. One channel I really want to highlight in particular is Tony Gaskins. He is a great life coach with amazing resources and he also gives free nuggets on a weekly basis in his “Small Business Saturday” videos. I also want to add in a bonus resource that has provided me with so many gems as an entrepreneur: Teachable.com. I’ve attended a few online webinars there that were led by a variety of insightful experts, and some of them were free! I’d highly recommend.

Brittany Sha’Vonne’s consulting & professional writing services can be found at www.inscribedbybrittany.com. Holiday discounts when you “Connect” via her website. Blogs by Queen B, MBA can be found on her IG @Brittany.Shavonne.

The Hustle don’t stop, it’s just beginning.

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A Word – Greatness

I just want to be great. Recognized for my simplicity and appreciated for my achievements. I want others to underestimate my ambitions and be dumbfounded by my results; influenced by my charisma and inspired by my story. My greatest achievements won’t be measured monetarily or tangibly. No, I’m reaching higher for satisfaction. I want smiles, laughter, a hug, or even that natural glow of thanks which someone gives when they have truly been acknowledged. To stimulate an inner change and break down walls of faults is my desire. Affecting one is to affect many. I want my greatness to be your biggest day of solace and the beginning to your own success. I want to be great but want YOU to be even greater.

A series called “A Word”:
In the Baptist church when a pastor goes off in ministry, you might hear the congregation say, “He/She preached a Word tuh-day!” Or maybe among deep conversation with your homegirl or boy and they say something thought provoking. That too, was most likely, “a Word”. Well, my Words are actual words, but their meaning dives deeper than the individual letters. Coupled with my photography, Words are powerful, and I want you to be enlightened and inspired by them.

Leathered Hands

Donovan Jackson is the gifted hands of handcrafted leather goods. His Atlanta-based company, Smith and Lee Handmade, has posh leathers prized from exotic species including, the Mississippiensis alligator, the South African ostrich, Southeast Asian python, and shagreen from the great depths of the sea. He has made luxury more affordable by creating a business that takes purchased tanned leather, recycled major fashion designer bags such as Prada and Hermes, and transforms them into newly designed, authentic and original high fashion item. Established in 2015, Donovan’s product line has grown to consist of wallets, passport holders, watch straps, luggage tags, leather bracelets, key chains and fobs, lighter sleeves, and phone cases customizable by color, threading, engraving and most importantly, quality leather. A master tanner, product authenticator and leatherworker, he is not new to the game – Donovan has made hustle into a luxury (or is it luxury into a hustle).

Don, how do you define hustle and how has it changed over time?

I define hustle as a particular set of initiatives that generate financial rewards tailored to the goals of the individual who initiated the hustle.

Who is Smith and Lee Handmade?

Smith and Lee is named after my parents. Smith is my mother’s maiden name and Lee is my father’s middle name. I wasn’t the easiest person to raise, so naming the business after them is my way of thanking them for their amazing efforts.

How did you discover that you wanted to make handmade luxury goods?

It was a hobby. I started off simply making leather wallets for myself in 2015. The wallets were horrible, but because they were for personal use only, I was happy as long as it could hold my cards and cash. In terms of luxury goods, the hobby simply snowballed into what it is today.

In a world that sees luxury goods as expensive and highclass, you’ve made it affordable and personable, what is your motivation?

The funny thing is, only the items on my website and Instagram are “affordable”. I have clients who are purchasing $1,000 alligator wallets. However, I know most people cannot comfortably afford those items, so I do not post them or promote them. Honestly, most people have a skewed understanding of a luxury good. For example, if you consider something handmade a luxury good, then a Louis Vuitton wallet is NOT a luxury good by definition. If you consider something expensive a luxury good, then anything out of your tax bracket is technically a luxury good and a “normal” good for anyone who can afford it with ease. People really forget this part.

Do you feel as if you are competing against established major fashion designer companies such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton- or starting your own market?

No, I’m not competing with them at all. There are over 300 million people in America, to date, I’ve had over 2,000 clients and over $200K in sales. That’s nothing in comparison to them. I’m literally a small fry. However, my method of creating my items is exactly modeled after Hermes. The ENTIRE process is done by hand.

NOT ONE MACHINE is used in the production of my work. Not many can appreciate that and those are typically the people that I do not want as clients. Lastly, with so many distractions, staying focused is tough, but I left my corporate job in 2019 as a Content Specialist. It paid quite well, however, I wanted to focus all of my efforts on my business. I truly believe in the fact that you only live once, and you should do all that you can for the best life you can live. Side note, if people knew how much plastic was used by these brands, they wouldn’t buy anything. The monogram canvas is plastic. I wish people knew this.

How do you define your success?

I don’t have a definition for success. I measure my life by happiness. If I’m not happy, then I’m not successful. For example, I’m now extremely financially well off and I can PROMISE YOU, the money makes living more comfortable, but it does not bring happiness. I felt more successful when I had less, but that’s an entirely different conversation, but it needs to be stated.

Do you have any influencers to your work?

Dapper Dan and Hermes.

What is one resource our viewers can tap into today to get them started in your field of hand crafting and building a business?

YouTube would be the best place for people to start if they’re interested in leather crafting. There are way more resources there than when I first started in 2015. However, it is a very difficult process. I can’t sugarcoat that. It’s extremely time consuming and took me two years to master the stitching alone.

Donovan Jackson is soon to release “Ready-to-Ship” items. These will be premade items in his store that will ship next business day, hand stitched with initials personable to the customer. Be on the lookout for his 25% off Black Friday sale and 10% off until Christmas. You can connect with Smith & Lee Handmade for purchase and inquires on his IG account at @SmithLeeHandmade and website www.smithandleehandmade.com

The Hustle don’t stop, it’s just beginning.

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Builder Of The Hill

Fact: Businesses are like ant hills. A Queen owns the hill while the worker ants build the hill. The Queen’s job is to make sure the hill keeps growing and the worker ants keep building. If anything is to happen to that hill, the Queen must answer and make the proper arrangements to fix or correct. Queens do what is in the best interest of the hill. 

Now, a worker ant can build but they do not critique. They follow orders. If what they do is out of line with the best interest of the hill, then proper arrangements will be made. 

The Queen is the word and the hill is the product. Worker ants make sure the product is a success. 

Now what the worker ants fail to realize is that work was not simply learned. It came with vigor, determination, creativity, compassion, resilience, intuitive thinking, teamwork, communication skills, goal orientation and more. The hill was only dirt, mud, and debris until do-able claws became artists, architects, and planners. The worker ant was given the framework from the Queen, but the worker ant must be the scaffold and mold to the hill. Now, if a worker ant was to realize their worth, they would understand they are not a worker ant; they are an ANT THAT WORKS. And once they attain this knowledge, then can they build their own hill.

Most will stop reading, not realizing their worth, but if you are one of those ants that work, build your own hill. Learn to build others so you can build yourself: Self-worth. #RealityCheck

Bound By The Hustle, Not The Streets

Nate Henry has perfected the art form of hustling life, instead of letting life hustle him. At 22 years old, spitting a mainstream flow, Nate renewed himself after serving time in jail. Leaving behind years in the mainstream music industry, he now serves his life’s purpose to “inspire people spiritually and musically to live a life full of abundance.” Formerly known as Mehlek Pfisha in the rap game, he rebranded himself in 2018 as Kenny Knoxville when he decided to develop his hustle from Christian rapper to producer. To date, he has put out 2 albums, 1 EP, 3 singles, and interviewed on WNSB Hot 91.1 radio station. Although the studio is home to his creative space, Nate’s hustle carries on. Husband, father of 3 beautiful girls, military vet, engineer apprentice at the VA shipyard, degree candidate for electrical engineering, fitness guru, public speaker, civil rights activist and former leader of a jail youth ministry- Nate has transformed the concept of hustle into a lifestyle.

Nate, how do you define hustle, and how has it changed over time?

I used to think hustling was runnin’ the streets, movin’ packs, nickelin’ and dimin’, trying to go from a nick to a brick. But my definition changed after I went to jail for the third time. At its core, hustling, is all about leveling up. It’s that hunger for success and the determination to pile over any obstacle that stands in your way. I don’t care whether you’re hustling on the basketball court, in school, your job, or in the gym; hustling is never giving up till you achieve victory.

The levels of Kenny Knoxville can be appreciated from his first original Christian rap in 2007 “Christaholic”

What were some of your biggest roadblocks, and how did you overcome them?

Between being raised by a military father, and enlisting in the military myself, I don’t spend a lot of time being scared of roadblocks. I just do the best I can to pile over it. For example, when I started in the shipbuilding industry, I was recommended by my foreman to apply for a program called ASchool that allowed me to work part-time, and go to school part-time, but get paid full-time. I applied the same day he told me about it, only to get rejected. I proceeded to get my technology degree but still wanted a full engineering degree, so I applied again for Aschool. Four applications later, I was finally accepted as an apprentice. So, by sheer determination, I was granted access to arguably the most prestigious apprentice school in the country and I am an engineer in the shipbuilding industry.

How did you know you wanted to be a Christian rapper versus a Christian who raps?

I’ve actually worn both hats in my career. I wanted to be a Christian rapper to oppose the world that I grew up in. Over time and with a lot of studying, I wanted to call myself a Christian who raps to oppose the church that I would later learn in. At the end of the day, it’s not about the order of the two titles. To me they’re inseparable, and together they ultimately define what I do: inspire people spiritually and musically to live a life full of abundance.

What allows you to stay grounded in your career path?

Prayer, exercise, and music.

How do you define your success?

Success to me is two-fold. The bigger picture of success is building an empire and giving your kids everything they need to explore their hobbies, their talents and gifts. Of course, being your own boss and taking vacations whenever you want, are great elements of the bigger definition.

I think there are also, smaller successes, and without them, there would be no way to truly appreciate the bigger success. The smaller success is enjoying the journey and the fight to the top and having peace along the way. That doesn’t mean false bliss, or never getting frustrated with failure, because no true success can come without failure. The smaller success is every time you level up. Every time you achieve something you pushed for.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

If I knew I could marry the same woman, and have the same children, it would be- stop skipping school and sleeping in class and perfect the art of studying. Also, to stop smoking weed, chasing women, and save yourself for marriage.

What is one resource our viewers can tap into today to get them started in your field?

Each person should find it in their own self to exploit their own gift and talents to achieve the success that they want. I am an open book and will give whatever knowledge I have literally, but we live in a great country.

In America, you can get a business license and turn your hobbies into a tax write-off. You don’t even have to make any money, but every dollar you spend doing what you love is tax deductible, and that means anyone can get paid to do what they love.

However, if I had to reduce it to one source, I would say the only source a person needs is God.

New Single “Phenomenon” Available August 21st. Pre-Order your copy today on your favorite streaming platform.

His music is on all streaming platforms and he can be connected with on IG or FB: @KennyKnoxville, Twitter: @KnoxvilleKenny and personal website: KennyKnoxville.com

The Hustle don’t stop, it’s just beginning.

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Top 5

False accusations made towards black and brown are far more commonplace than you realize. I hear people throwing around the idea that this is all social media and far left conspiracy. So let’s shine some UV light on true cases from the people you do know and call colleagues and friends.

Call this my Top 5.
*Some are a little rough so tread lightly.*

1. Middle school year I had a serious asthma attack that had me hospitalized for 3 days. Until that time my asthma had been pretty well controlled, so this was an anomaly. Upon my return home Sunday, I was eager to go back to school. My mom sat me down and informed me that I would not be going to school that week. Perplexed, she then proceeded to explain to me that there was a rumor being spread from a girl on my block- a white girl. This girl who I had only waved and smiled at at the bus stop was telling people at school that while I was in the hospital critically ill- I had stolen my parents’ car, picked her up, and committed the heinous crime of raping her in an unmarked building downtown. Until that point in my life, I don’t think I’d ever even received a demerit in school. So when the principal found out, she automatically denounced the accusations and called my parents to apologize. All I can remember is going to the principal later for them to tell me what happened and as an 11 year old kid, not really understanding how I could even get to this point. If I were not in the hospital or a “good kid”- I could still be doing time today. My first time I realized  my skin color was recognized. I learned that day I was an asthmatic with a record.

2. My brother’s story but relatable: We lived in a suburban neighborhood that luckily had many ethnicities. One day, my brother proceeds to try to get into our parents’ car- in our driveway, in front of our house- when a police car pulls up to our home and asks for ID. Luckily, my dad overheard the confrontation and ran outside to put the officer in his place. Another case of your own property can’t be yours even in your own home. I learned that day I was a trespassing property owner.

3. My siblings and I drove cross country from LA to Texas to get my brother’s car registered. It was our first road trip together and a lot of fun. Once again, very young, I was taking pictures of every structure and person. I felt free. On an open road, I believe in Mexico City, my brother was going the speed limit and switched lanes after passing a semi truck. Out of nowhere, a police car rides from the opposite lane, crosses over dirt and other lanes to pull my brother over. He takes my brother out behind our car to discuss why he pulled him over. When I saw the officer’s brim hat, shades, and tall boots through the rearview mirror, I became excited. The officer’s style reminded me of all the Western TV shows I used to watch with my mom. All I wanted to do was take a picture of him with my Polaroid. Without thinking, I opened the door to ask if I could take a picture of him with me. All I remember, like a Western draw, hand to holster, the officer proceeds to yell at me to get that “boy” back into the car. I learned that day I was a criminal with a polaroid camera.

4. I did a year at Boston University as a college senior because I thought my journey to medicine was going to have me in medical school. On the school’s campus, there is a convenient store where all the students go at any time of the night to get their snacks. During my late night study, I decided to go down to get some chips. As I walked up to the cash register and placed my chips on the counter, I reached into my black coat to get my wallet. Before I could pull my hand out, the cashier threw his hands up high, scared. I looked at him and then glanced at the 5 people standing around him in the store looking at me wondering what I was going to do. Once he saw my wallet, he proceeded to laugh. I bought my dollar chips and left. I learned that day I was a robber with an education.

5. Someone that goes unnamed recently apologized for calling me a racial slur in high school during these trying times we are currently in. I honestly do not remember what was said or when it was said; but it made me realize there are probably a lot of traumatic moments I have blown off because in America we are forced too. I learned just recently I am a traumatized amnesiac. 

Suburban black kid raised in Austin, Texas who went to an HBCU and a PWI, these are just the handful. Imagine all the other hands of black and brown individuals with similar stories.  

So before we denounce and overlook these stories in the media, just know your neighbors, co-workers, family, and friends are the untold ones. Just listen.  

What are your Top 5?