Pardon The Introduction: Zainab

To listen to Zainab Sumu’s story is to be taken on a journey that spans several continents with more dramatic twists and turns than a Spike Lee flick. Growing up the daughter of a diamond scion in Sierra Leone and the niece of the country’s president, her life drastically changed when a military coup took over the government. The African beauty found a home in fashion, first working for Comme des Garçons and recently opening her own boutique on Melrose in Los Angeles that pays homage to her upbringing while attracting major media attention.

VIBE: Tell me about your childhood.
Zainab Sumu: My early years were in Sierra Leone where I went to a Catholic boarding school and then I went to England and started college there. Meanwhile I [spent] my summers in Paris. That was basically it and then once there was a military coup that stopped. Then I had to figure out what to do. After the coup I moved to New York. My first job was working as a hostess at Bambu. Then I got a job at Comme des Garçons.

Was that your first job in fashion?
It wasn’t really my first job in fashion. I did some modeling while I was in London but yeah, that was really my first real job. After my time at Comme des Garçons ended, one of the clients I was working with, H. Lorenzo said, “You should come to LA and check it out” so I said sure and it reminded me of home. [In] New York I feel at home because I have great friends there and I love the vibrancy and the energy. The constant contact with people and the realness of it all—I loved that. But the scenery in LA reminded me of home because of the hills and beaches. I just felt a connection.

How did your upbringing impact your personal style?
Well I was lucky in a lot of ways—my dad wasn’t a typical African dad—he was more open minded. He adored his kids to the point where as long as you were happy and not doing crazy things then he was fine with it. My dad also loved clothes. We had his suits custom made in Saville Row. So he was really into fashion and loved me looking good. My sense [of style] was always different. I didn’t like what typically everyone else wore. If I wore a dress it was because I was made to. I loved things that were different since I was a child. I saw something that was in a magazine, I would take it to a tailor and get my own fabrics and get him to make exactly how I wanted it.

What did your father do in Sierra Leone?
My dad was in the diamond industry and he oversaw the mineral side of it as well for the government. He travelled quite a bit and my uncle at the time was the president, which was when the military coup happened our family was affected big time. That’s just how it is. When you’re linked closely to a certain government and something like that happens, people come after you. Really, our lives changed drastically because most of what my dad had built was taken away from him. We all just had to sort of regroup. They had to leave the country for a while. My mom is still there and things are much better and I can go home but for the longest time they wouldn’t let me.

What brought you to the point of opening your own store on Melrose?
I always knew as a child that I wanted to do my own thing. When I came to LA, I knew my love for fashion was so immense and it came to natural to me. When I stopped working for H. Lorenzo, I asked how I could go about this. I knew there was a place for something new and different in LA. I took the time to find the right location and the ways I could do it. I started working out of my apartment and I had great brands that I was working with. I attracted a really great group of women—personal shoppers and stylists—but then I realized that for me to really be able to crate a brand and make a living, I have to be more accessible. So finally I found a place on Melrose and opened shop.

What’s the style of your Melrose boutique store? What’s the typical customer?
I call it “primitive modern.” Basically, I take my aesthetic—I have a lot of African art. I’m into designers that have a unique creative view, an ideology every season, and at the same time, make women look beautiful. Most of the personal shoppers I work with shop for socialites.

What’s ahead for you in the future? Do you want to expand beyond LA?
I’m definitely taking it global. LA for me was just to build a base and credibility. I want to create other things to go with the store, there’s a household brand I want to create, a jewelry line, a fragrance line.

It’s so inspiring to hear your story. It’s amazing.
My whole thing is to inspire other people. Everyone has a story. Everybody has dreams and goals and there’s so much that I want to do that’s related to where I’m from, that’s related to helping other people. ––Adrien Field

7021 Melrose Avenue (Between Sycamore and La Brea)

From the Web

More on Vibe

Jared Siskin/Getty Images for Warner Music Group

Gucci Mane And Wife Keyshia Ka’oir Expecting First Child Together

Gucci Mane and his wife, Keshia Ka’oir, are expecting their first child together, the rapper tweeted on Friday (Aug. 14).

“My beautiful wife pregnant life is good,” Guwop captioned a photo of a glowing Ka’oir showing off her baby bump in black lace lingerie.

My beautiful wife pregnant life is good @KeyshiaKaoir ❤️🔥🥶🏹 pic.twitter.com/gIKF12A3Pg

— Gucci Mane (@gucci1017) August 14, 2020

The bundle of joy will be the second child for Gucci, and the fourth for Ka’oir, who reportedly has three children.

The protective mom and cosmetics entrepreneur opened up about her supportive husband in a 2018 interview with New York Magazine’s The Cut. “Gucci is an amazing husband because he supports me,” Ka’oir shared. “A lot of men are intimidated by successful women. Not him, though. He wants me to shine. He wants me to be successful. At least, it’ll have him save more of his money if I’ve got money, right? Because I’m an expensive wife.”

The Wopsters tied the knot in an extravagant 2017 wedding ceremony that aired live on BET.

Continue Reading
Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic

T.I. Pens Letter To Lloyd’s Of London Over Company’s Involvement In Transatlantic Slave Trade

Last month, T.I. called out Lloyd’s of London over its role in the Transatlantic slave trade and demanded that the international insurance market fork over reparations to descendants of the enslaved. The company responded with an apology statement published by Forbes on Friday (Aug. 14).

“There are aspects of the market’s past about which we cannot feel pride and this includes the fact that insurers in the Lloyd’s market insured vessels that were involved in the eighteenth and nineteenth century slave trade. As representatives of today’s Lloyd’s market, we are deeply sorry for this.

“We cannot unfortunately undo the past, but we would like to play an active role in trying to level the playing field for Black and Minority Ethnic people in today’s world,” the statement continues. “On [June 10], we announced an initial action plan that focuses on education, research and significant funding for charities and other [organizations] that promote opportunity and inclusion for Black and Minority Ethnic colleagues. There is much more to do and we will work with our Cultural Advisory Group to determine our longer term plans. We will update our website as our plans develop.”

Tip wasn’t so impressed with Lloyd’s of London’s mea culpa. He penned a four-page letter to the company outlining the systematic oppression that has affected Black people for centuries, and reiterated his demands -- which include diversifying the company’s board, and allocating 10% of its earnings, (along with a one million equity line of credit) to descendants of those enslaved.

“We find Lloyd’s actions to rectify the situation to be admirable but insufficient,” he wrote in part.


View this post on Instagram


As promised... Our letter in response to @lloydsoflondon's letter we received 10 days ago. The conversation continues.... This isn't just MY movement...This is for US‼️ All who believe in the message and intention of this call to action sign the petition USorELSE.org #linkinbio

A post shared by TIP (@troubleman31) on Aug 13, 2020 at 10:10pm PDT

It’s been an eventful week for the rapper, activist, and father of seven. On a more personal note, Tip caught his 15-year-old son, King, casually preparing to smoke weed while sitting in a hot tub, and streamed the incident on Instagram Live. Although he was clearly upset, Tip's reaction to King brought on more social media criticism, namely over the double standard between how he raises and reprimands sons versus his daughters.

Continue Reading
Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Pandora

Nas Announces ‘King’s Disease’ Album, Disses Doja Cat On “Ultra Black”

Nas is back with a new single and album in the works. The Queens MC released “Ultra Black” on Friday (Aug. 14), featuring a verbal jab at Doja Cat.

The diss pops up at the end of the first verse where Nas raps, “Sometimes I’m over-Black, even my clothes are black/Cash Money with the white tee and the soldier rag. We goin’ ultra Black, unapologetically Black. The opposite of Doja Cat, Michael Blackson Black.”

The line references allegations that Doja participated in white supremacist chat rooms, claims of which she has denied.

“Ultra Black,” produced by Hit-Boy, is the lead single off Nas’ upcoming 13th studio album, King’s Disease, due out on Aug. 21. He teased the album on social media earlier in the week with a video montage from his time in the studio with Hit-Boy.

“Finally got that time to work, that alignment,” Nas says of wanting to collaborate with the two-time Grammy winner.

8.21 🔊🎥 #HitBoyOnTheBeats pic.twitter.com/qj6APjCwIX

— Nasir Jones (@Nas) August 10, 2020

Rumors of a new Nas album have been swirling since Big Sean seemingly confirmed that the LP was on the way in February. The following month, Nas revealed that he was working on an album with Hit-Boy, plus another secret project.

“It’s some projects going on,” he said in an interview. “One of them is us working with Hit-Boy….it’s another one I’m working on that I don’t want to disclose.”

Listen to “Ultra Black” below.

Continue Reading

Top Stories