We had the good fortune of connecting with Symphony Blue and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Symphony, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I graduated peak pandemic. March 8th was my birthday and by March 12th NYU had shut down and evicted me with two months of my last semester left. I abruptly found myself alone in a state that I had never lived in, fighting scorpions in Nevada. Kind of like Indiana Jones, but it’s a Black girl in the desert with a can of Raid. I imagined my graduation surrounded by grimy New York waters and a smooth transition into a corporate job. Not even a great corporate job, I majored in drama and was most likely going to settle for an overworked, entry-level type of gig that wouldn’t pay enough to get me more than space under an NYC bed. Fortunately for me, this transition forced me into stillness. Depressed and alone in bed for months after graduation, I began to look for the light in isolation. Low and behold, I found myself on Tiktok after profusely boycotting the app not even three months earlier for no real reason other than the fact that it wasn’t Vine. The trending content? Starting a business.
I had never actually believed that I could start a business prior to using the app, but it really forced me to evaluate why I believed that I as a young Black woman with a degree from NYU studying Drama, the Business of Entertainment Media & Technology, AND Social and Cultural Analysis (ya girl took 0 electives) believed I wasn’t competent to enough to start a business. I came to the painful realization that it was because I never saw -me- in business owners. It was always an older non-Black person or a Black man with a shiny bald head talking about business ownership. It wasn’t the girls going to class in Betty Boop sweaters and neon blue pants or the girls rolling on the floor of NYC theatre studios; it wasn’t me.
But then I had to think, well, why not me? I grew up around hustlers. From the kids selling Kool-Aid Sprite gummy worms at school, to the Eloteros, to EBT flippers; there was money to be made and I wanted to make it. I remembered a stat about how 90% of self made millionaires have at least two streams of income and then how owning a mode of production is one of the only ways to financially prosper in late stage capitalism. The fantasy of being able to create a safe work environment that pays its employees a comfortable living wage started to get me hot and bothered. What if I created a workplace that queer POC felt loved and supported in? What if I blended my love of eccentric fashion and theatre together somehow? It was only right that I called my dad to let him know that I was starting a clothing line with zero guidance or advice, and that’s what I did.

I turned stillness into movement because I was ready for that step. By no means did anyone need to force productivity during a pandemic that was causing mass death, but I found myself smiling again for the first time in a long time. I felt satisfaction as I started teaching myself how to sew on a machine I thrifted at Goodwill for ten dollars. Then the shopify went up and my items sold out.
Both a passion project and a fever dream, I initially named the store Coralynn’s House of Beauty. The name is a mixture of my grandmothers’ Cora and Gwendolyn as they have always loved my bright style and made me feel supported in my ‘too short’ and outlandish outfits. Recently, I’ve rebranded the name to CHB to improve the customer experience when searching for my brand, but the essence will always remain the same: energetic, bold, and evolutionary.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As an artist, my primary focus is on Black joy and preservation. As a Black woman with CPTSD, I am fully aware of the many traumas we as a community endure daily. I reached a point in my career where I no longer wanted to focus on Black pain as a way to express or bond with my peers. The expression of Black pain is needed, but it’s also heavily exploited. I was tired of leaving movie theaters in tears and my heart dropping during graphic scenes in class. I needed to create safety. I’m excited to create art about Black utopias. I dream of worlds where Black people live peacefully in abundance; places where we are all able to celebrate and uplift each other while respecting and accommodating all of our differences. I am most proud of the scripts I write that focus on restoring innocence and joy into narratives of Black girlhood. I strongly believe in trying to use my art as a source of healing. When I do feel the need to grieve or express trauma, I tend to keep those pieces more to myself as I have learned that not all of my art needs to be shared. Better said, I have removed the pressure from myself to share my Black trauma. The option is there, but I’d rather use those narratives as my personal safe space to process and heal so that I can curate the art that I actually release with more specific intentions. I cannot wait to dedicate my life to taking art and using it for unconventional purposes like gaining access to community refrigerators and rebuilding infrastructures in Black communities. How did I get here? I wrote the Black History show for my middle school on a whim because a teacher had recommended I do it. I quickly fell in love with the feeling of creating art. I get in this zone where all my senses are fully activated. I’m feeling textures and thinking in images. My blood rushes as I recall the specific sensations I get when sitting next to flowing water. It’s like my hands and brain streamline my unfiltered thoughts and it’s a feedback loop that leaves me feeling completely expressed and satisfied. The best feeling is watching people receive my art exactly how I intended them to. It’s my way of bringing people right here, with me. It honestly has not been easy to get to this point. I love to create and release with intention. My work tends to be very raw and it has been met with pushback from people who are not yet ready to deal with truths and high intimacy. That created a lot of self doubt and fear earlier in my life as I wondered what my own boundaries as an artist should be, if there should be any. I’ve had teachers tell me I could only play slaves or that I should flat out just stop pursuing my dreams and cut my losses. Pardon my vernacular, but they can kiss my Black ass. I’ve mostly been able to overcome these ideas by looking up to the sky and seeing legends like James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Sojourner Truth, and Audre Lorde. These are the roots I come from, and what a powerful blessing that is. Understanding the legacy of my heritage has encouraged me to walk in power. I have no shame in my Blackness. I have no shame in my expression.

On this journey I have learned that everyone has an opinion and that not everyone’s opinion has to matter to me. I’ve become more selective with whose feedback matters because why would I get an ice cream recipe from someone who’s never made ice cream? I feel like the feedback I actually process generally tends to be invite only. If I had to let the world know anything about me it’s that I am free to evolve, grow, and take space as a Black woman regardless of any predetermined subjectification or ideologies that actually have nothing to do with my existence. I am free to wander the world and exist as I please. If there’s anything I would tell the world about my brand CHB, it would be to buckle up and get ready for the ride because it’s not going anywhere. I’m building CHB to be a legendary brand or I’ll die trying.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Me and my bestie are in a long distance friendlationship, so it’s always nice when we’re able to reconnect in person. If I were planning a week-long trip for us, we’d meet up in New York, specifically landing at JFK because commuting back from LaGuardia airport is a dumpster fire. We’d stay at the Sheraton in Tribeca next to that cute little family owned pizza shop because it’s close to all of my favorite subway lines and is walking distance to Washington Square Park with a nice stroll through Soho along the way. Said pizza shop has some fire marinara sauce and I’d make sure to cause a scene over how it ignites my tastebuds. If we don’t run into the Pigeon Man at WSP, I’d spend that extra time teaching her how to fight the now extremely aggressive rats in Central Park over some nice Thai food. We’d spend entirely too much time enjoying the warm humid air at Brooklyn Bridge park with the island of Manhattan backlit by the sunset. We’d briefly roller skate there before getting Ramen at Menkoi Sato. The next day we would ride the NYC ferries all around the islands for less than ten dollars because we love being bougie on a budget. Lastly, we’d hit up all of the museums and art galleries in Chelsea before ending the trip with a Harlem centered exploration.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to dedicate this shoutout to Laura Levine for pushing me to write almost 200 pages about myself in her autobiography class. I’m truly not sure I would’ve ever had the capacity to know myself at such an intimate level if it wasn’t for her refusal to give up on me as a person and writer. This intimacy has lifted many mental blocks, self-generated ceilings, and led me down a vigorous path of healing. I also dedicate this to my friend and mentor JoBeth Williams for her generosity and dedication to helping the entertainment industry become a better place. She has also exposed me to a love of fresh sourdough bread, that I otherwise might have never found as well as encouraging me to write more. Anita Gupta for opening her office and heart to me during my time at NYU, I literally would’ve dropped out without her. My bestie, Siana Fields, for always bringing out the best parts of me despite my Mars being in Aries. My lovely art collective, The Village, who love on me even when I’m in dark places. Last but not least, my little sisters Syenna and Sydney for always being the innermost motivations of my heart and my family for being nothing but cheerleaders as I pursue entrepreneurship and acting.

Website: www.SymphonyBlue.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/symphonytblue/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/symphonyblue/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SymphonyTBlue

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrrqb8DjyNqVSkPhch27cBg

Other: https://coralynnshouseofbeauty.com/

Image Credits
Jennifer Nichole Poser JCPimages

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