Athea and her AtMyCity brand is the reason why I got into photography.
My first set of photo taken was at her fashion show called Blaq back in 2015.
I have been privy to seeing her conduct business behind the scenes and she does not play about her company.
And even during this pandemic, she did not sit on her ass because she couldn't put together any fashion shows. She kept pushing and promoting her brand with AtMyCity apparel.
She truly is crushing it!
And so this interview is getting started. Athea, how you doing?
All right, how you doing?
Great. It's been a minutes.
So owner of AtMyCity. You have these fashion shows where you feature other designers in the city. And now you have your own AtMyCity apparel?
You're not staying put during the pandemic.
Um, no, absolutely not like. I'm trying to, you know, stay above water and just continuously build upon what I already have. So I bring together talented up and comers in Toronto, and give them a platform to showcase their talents. So it's not just the designers. So for me, it starts off with the models, because the models are the ones that are, you know, marketing the clothes, wearing the clothes. So like, the model is like the first point, right? The body. And then it's the clothes, and then it's everything else afterwards that brings fashion and entertainment together. So for my brand, like I've been working on it, you know, like I never had like all the avenues before to, you know, properly launch or not even to say launch, but like develop my brand, right? It took learning, listening, understanding, asking questions, and googling. It took all of those things to actually get me where I am right now. And it's exciting. I mean, it's costly. But as an entrepreneur, like you got to take on everything in the business. Right.
All right. So I have a question. I mean, it's a fashion question. You know, I mean, it's a fun question. So let's say you are face to face with your 18 year old self. What would you say about her sense of style? And what would she say about your sense of style?
Well, I think she would say that I haven't changed very much. Because I'm, like, I love clothes, and I love shopping and stuff. But then again, it comes with the money part. Right? So, um, I think she would feel that I'm well developed when I'm putting myself together and stuff. Like when I'm at home and relaxed and stuff, like, you know, just the regular joggers and stuff like that, like nothing too big, you know? So I think she'll be proud of me. She would probably be like gained some weight in the clothes. But for her, like, at that time, I wouldn't be too mean to her because she could, you know, she could still dress and stuff. And at that time, like she was trying to develop her fashion design sense, you know, so as much as she was into her, I want to say a high level brands, but like mid level brands, like Guess, you know, by Marciano and stuff like that. You know, she did a good job, like, you know, she went out, she looked good. And that's just it. So I give her A minus. And she gives me A plus.
Nice. Nice. Um, how would you describe the young woman you were before starting AtMyCity?
The young woman I was before I started AtMyCity... Well, I don't think people change. They definitely develop who they are. I won't lie like I faced my own insecurities and hardships and stuff like that. And I would say like it was very... that had like a tight knit on me to where like, you know, like, I would say my senses were warning me and I always ignored my senses because I wanted to give people the benefit of the doubt. But that person who I was like, she was like a people pleaser. And after, you know, coming through and learning about myself and business and you know, other people, I just found that like, yeah, I could still be nice to people. But I always have to, you know, set boundaries, like in every sector; friends, families, business, romance, all of that. There has to be a boundary because as soon as I start to feel a way, like, just static, like, shut down, block, unfollow, you know what I mean. But I learned that what I might perceive could be wrong. So just giving people that same chance and giving myself that chance as well to be like, Okay, well, you've learned this. You can't hold on to it, let it go and keep growing. Have I answered your question?
What did you want to be when you were younger? What do you want to be professional?
So growing up, I wanted to be a police officer.
Yes. And not just a police officer. I want to be a forensic officer. Because I'm very good at solving things like mysteries and stuff like that, and puzzles. So like me growing up, like being a humanitarian and helping people, it was my thing. So you know, being a police officer, and maybe solving crimes and murders and stuff like that, at that time to me was like, Yes, that was like my number one fulfilling thing. I also wanted to go to the army but I called like, 30 times, left like 30 messages, and the recruiter never called me back.
I mean, you tried at this point, it’s the universe letting you know...
I was surprised, I was getting his voice mail all the time. And he just never picked up. He just never called me back. So I was just like, Hey, I guess I'm not going to the army.
Alright. So now, what were your initial hurdles when you got started?
My initial hurdles? Like with AtMyCity?
It's kind of hard because, like, everything's hard. You have a whole bunch of hurdles. Hardships... Like, I don't know. Are you talking about year one, year two, year three?
I can't lie. Hardships... They don't go away. They don't go away. And if your hardships do go away, that means that your lessons have gone away. And that means that you're in a way too comfortable space.
I like that.
Yeah, right. So like, starting out, like, right off the bat, like I had my baby in September. And the year after, well, not the year after. September, and then January 2011, that's when I came up with Oh, my God! I want to bring the city together, because I only see American stuff, right? And first, it didn't start like that. First it started off because I noticed while I was growing up, there wasn't a lot of black representation of women, you know. And I got that, oh, you're pretty for a dark skinned girl that was like... An older woman told me that. I was just this kid and she's like, oh, you're pretty for a dark skinned girl. And I didn't understand exactly what it meant. And then I just noticed like, you know, black girls would get picked last and stuff like that. And like I said, like, nothing on TV, nothing really in the magazines. And when I was like becoming of age, and I wanted to model and take pictures and stuff like that, I would put myself out there. But I just noticed, there was a certain... I wouldn't say classism. But there's a division of the type of model you are. I had more meat, you know what I mean? So I'm not considered the model type. Like runway, you know what I mean? So things like that, like, hurt my feelings. I won’t lie, yeah, they hurt my feelings, because I noticed everybody else would get picked, except for me. And I wanted to make a change. So it was just bringing all of these things together with like, the fashion and the modeling, and creating and building a space where people within my city could connect with our own content and our own models. And, you know, just giving women the opportunity and the chance where, you know, if there's a click... Usually, there's like a cliq that kind of has control to be like, yeah, we're the best. And then they leave out some gems, because they have a cliq. And there's honestly, I've seen some beautiful women, some just authentic, different breeds, shapes, just everything that are able, capable, photogenic, print worthy, runway worthy, and they don't get the chance because they're not a part of the cliq. So for me, it was just a thing that I wanted to build for the people, you know, AtMyCity.
Did you start off as a model, then?
Yes, I started off modeling, like, trying to take pictures and stuff like that.
And that's where you've had some disappointments because you were not shaped like...
Oh, well, not to say I wasn't shaped because I have a nice shape like...
I'm a Jamaican girl, so I do have a nice shape. But it's, um, it really comes down to like skin deep.
So the dark skin effect.
Right! And the look as well. Like a lot of beautiful women are not photogenic. And some women that are not super beautiful are really photogenic. So, like, it just really depends on how you come across in the camera. Like if it’s for you, right? So for me, it's just like, I'm okay. But I'm, I won't say that I'm not good enough. But I do not reflect in the lens of all creative people. So I'm okay with stepping back, being behind the camera and doing the planning, bringing people together and just offering more opportunities to the people around me.
True. True. True. True. All right. Has your family been supportive with you?
My family? My immediate family? Like I don't know. (laughter)
Well, you know, mother, father...
Okay. Mom and Dad. Yes. Yes. Mom and Dad, they both give me constructive criticism. I appreciate that. But I can't lie, like my last show. Some of the barriers that I had. The venue, the owner, he was like, super mean. And he wanted to close down the show before it even started. Yeah, so I was crying. But like, you know, I got everything under control. And even that show, like it was a pivotal event for me. But my dad came through for me, and I was able to, you know, continue the show. My mom helped me after the show, stack chairs. You know what I mean? She wears my brand. My dad, he put some of my products on his website. So, from that standpoint, I would say like I do have the support of my mom and my dad. Some other people... It's like, it's not like they don't believe it because they see it and they like it. But at the same time, too, it's just like, Okay, well, you got to prove to me that I could co sign this. So it's really about the co-sign, if that makes sense. Does that answer your question?
You did. I feel all of us as we move along, we have our immediate family and then we have our created family, which is what I like to call the core. A core group of people that is present when you need support.
For me, it's very small group. I mean it's super small. It's very tight knit. Growing up, I moved around a lot. So I didn't have a whole solid bunch of friends that I grew up with. Like, it was just like, one year here,one year there. So I know a lot of people across the board but that family, it has decreased. Because now, when you're getting into business, it's not about friendship anymore. And I've always found myself saying, us! Us! Us! Us! us! You know what I mean? But in hindsight, it was me. It was actually me. You helped me promote it, but I paid for it. You helped me get some models here and there, but I organized it. I kept it going. And I executed it. So, there's a difference between, your family, and then your team. And then there's you. And I could really say like one person that I've had with me, that's like my family. Like, that's my, my team is… uh… What she name? (laughter). I know her name, but I’m just not gonna call her that. But Chynee Kay. She was one of my girlfriends that I met in college. And she was doing the makeup. And from my first show.
That's who was supposed to be interviewed afterwards.
That's great. That's great. I'm actually wearing her lashes right now. These are the Jupiter ones. Homegirl has her own line of lashes. She's a sweetheart. Like, you know, we could go away, come back. But I know she loves me. You know, you give people chances. And she's the type of person that I will continue to give chances. So when I mean, my family is small... one.
Um, so we are going to keep on the family and the business side. How is your business affected... You have a daughter?
How do you maintain the relationship with your child?
Um, well, like, I'm a fun mom. Like, I'm not boring. I see my daughter, my child as a person. So I respect her like a person. Of course, I'm a mother. So I'm gonna make sure that you're in line. But usually, we're just like, light hearted. You know, sometimes she gets mad at me. You're not playing with me. And I'm just like, but I'm doing my work. You know, I'm still on the computer. You're sitting right there. Like, let's just enjoy each other's energy. Like, I can look back and see you right? So it's not really it's not really crazy, because like, even though like I'm single, like, she still has her dad. So like, if I'm not there, like he's there. And that's, like, you know, there shouldn't be any problems like that.
Yeah, there's nothing that goes...
No, because like, I keep telling her like you're the next AtMyCity. Like I'm a Athea AtMyCity and she's Athena AtMyCity. I told you she's going to be my supermodel. And I'm building this business for her. So she’ll take over. So we have our normal, you know... But otherwise... It’s just peace and love.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement to date?
My greatest achievement would be my last achievement, which is my entrepreneur management certificate that I got from George Brown, just before we went into COVID. I think it was January, we didn't go back. And I finished in May. And having like my business plan, having like my ideas, having that roadmap of what I want. The square footage, doing the market research and knowing who my clients will be and stuff like that. It was just so... Even though I went through the program, and I completed it, and I'm just like, oh my god, like I have this business plan. Like, it's like gold to me. Like, I've done shows, and I've networked with people, and I've done things, and I have other diplomas and stuff, but... And this is just a certificate, you know, but to finish the business plan, because when I started at my city, that's the first thing I tried to do. I try to jump into the business plan. And when I got the template, it was so daunting. It was so daunting. And then 10 years later, legit. Like, I actually have a completed business plan that is going to be my future.
Yes. So that is my biggest accomplishment right there. That one.
And I see. I mean, I see how proud you are. So my next question was going to be what is next for you, but I feel like you answered that.
That's next for sure. Yeah, um, I don't know what the future holds. But I definitely want to be able to touch certain corners on the planet. And just do something for children besides my fashion, networking and stuff like that. I definitely want to, you know, go back home to Jamaica, and I want to help the women there. So they could have income and stuff like. They could bring income We should be our own fashion capital in Jamaica. Jamaica should have fashion shows. We're the land of heat and coconuts and ackee. Legit we should have something way more. Like these girls should be cutting, sewing, like... If I could sponsor them to just even come to Canada to get that two years of education and then go back home and put them into position in a business that I just had to front my money so they could work, get fabric, cut, sew, teach each other and just help my community like Jamaica... The whole of Jamaica. That's my entire community. So besides my plans now I have bigger plans to continue my humanitarian work.
My last question. What would you advise someone who's following in your footsteps?
(laughter) Robert! I don't know. When you say that, it's so hard because a lot of people are not authentic in the city. And if you're gonna follow in my footsteps, you have to ask yourself the reason why you're following. And if it's for like a copy and paste, I can't respect it. And I won't respect it. Because I've seen... I expect people to enter the market. But I've seen a lot of copy and paste and more than one different names, similar type of names, similar type of brands, similar type of missions. Mission statements like, you know... And just reading it. I could tell they just went to my website and read it. But for a woman who's trying to be an entrepreneur…
Let me switch it. How about you meet a young you? What do you advise her?
If I meet a young black woman like myself, which I have been meeting them?
I mean, with the same drive to seem and the same desires as you, but without the need to copy and paste.
Right. Um, I would just give her lots of advice. Yeah. There's, and there's a lot of advice that I would give to her like, for like a young lady. When I was like, 17-18, I wasn't at home anymore. I left home, and I went to try to go pursue my own things. But it's hard that way. So for me, it's like family economics doesn't matter. Well, I won't say doesn't matter how hard it is, but if it's bearable, stay at home, help your family. Build your economics together, because as soon as you get out there on your own, it's more expensive. You don't have the space to think about anything creative, because you have to, you know, make sure that your rent is paid, you have food, that you're clean. Like, there's lots of advice that I'd give it to her, like, you know, like I had a baby when I was 21. So for me, it's just like, I would tell her like, you need to think about what you really want to do. And for me, I was able to do it, but my position might not be your position. And I would tell her to not get distracted. Get that bag. Don't worry about boys. Like, it's just really about your education. And self love... Have self love. Don't let people use you, abuse you. I have lots of advice. I have lots of advice because I've been through it. Yeah. And I think the number one thing as well it would be to surround yourself with the people that get you. Because there's a lot of people out there that want to misunderstand you on purpose. And it'll just cloud your judgment, cloud your mentality. And what that person needs to do is come out from underneath the cloud, and free yourself from that box.