What comes to your mind when you think of a BAUCE woman in the arts? Melissa Mitchell, a self-taught Bahamian artist based in Atlanta, breathes and lives the BAUCE principles every day. Known for her vibrant and bold designs, Melissa turned her personal paintings into popular headwraps that are know worn by top names in the entertainment industry, including Lupita Nyong’o. From her unconditional faith with God to her unwavering determination with her businesses, everything Melissa touches turns to gold. In this interview with BAUCE, the writer, artist and now designer shared how her unwillingness to take no for an answer helped her blossom into her current budding success.
How did you get started as a writer and author? What was that process like?
Melissa: When Facebook first came out, they always asked “what’s on your mind?” and I said, “well, I always have a lot on my mind”. So I started writing profound quotes, whether I was reading the Bible or talking to girlfriends, just with life. I would say all of these really dope quotes and people would tell me I need to write a book! I did that for about ten years. My dad passed away in 2010 and before he passed he told me that he wanted me to write a book. I kept it on the back burner because I didn’t think people were buying books. So I went through a mini-break up and I was like “I’m gonna write my book!” I used all of that energy instead of sulking and decided I could encourage other people. I mixed 60 of my favorite paintings with about 50-60 of my favorite quotes and turned it into a table book. It’s an interactive quote book with some really dope paintings behind it. I became an author on 1/11/18. I’m really big on the number eleven so everything is always in intervals. I said I wanted to write a book and woke up one day and did it! My book was like my passport from depression. I call it “Views from my Kaleidoscope” because, in the darkness, God gave me a lot of colors.
That is so awesome! Tell me a little bit more about your Spanx Illuminate-Her collaboration.
Melissa: Funny story with that, I wasn’t going to apply. I didn’t want to get lost in the shuffle. I like competitions but I like the ones I know I’m going to win and I’m thinking it was going to be a worldwide search. I was kind of hesitant about it but I emailed it to myself the day it came out on February 25. I told myself I’d look into it. Something kept telling me to apply. I went to my mentor’s house and he told me it’s my year. I told him about the Spanx competition but I thought it was over. I literally heard God say “you need to apply”. That Sunday I found out it was the last day to apply. I get home and my computer crashes. I kept trying to apply and called my sister and told her I was trying to apply for Spanx and it wasn’t working. It’s due at 11:59 pm and at this point, it’s like 10:30 pm. So she’s trying to email from her end and I’m trying from my end. We didn’t get any confirmation email so I assumed I didn’t get it in on time. April 30, I get a DM from a lady telling me to check my email. I check my email and it says I’m the top three finalists out of the entire world to design for Spanx! I thought it was too good to be true. On the first day of voting, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring amount of support from my tribe both near and far. I got the call and they told me I was the clear winner and I was exactly what they were looking for. I’m literally about to change the face of Spanx!
Tell me about Abeille Creations and how you got your designs to be on so many big names.
Melissa: I am the “shoot your shot” queen! Amara La Negra came by mistake. I got a call from Sheen Magazine’s art director and she asked for one or two pieces for a photo shoot. So I said okay. She didn’t tell me who it was for. Something told me to grab my head wrap and my kimono that I personally wear. God was like “just be ready, sis”. I grabbed all of my stuff and took it with me. I walked in and I saw Amara! I love her! I ended up coming back to my house and grabbing 25 more paintings and I designed an entire set within 30 minutes of this shoot. Amara sees my head wrap and says “I want one of the things you have on your head”. I told her I had one in my purse for her! I give her the headwrap and she falls in love with it. She put her whole fro inside and said she loved it and loved what I was doing and my energy. When it came to Karen Civil, I actually stalked Beyoncè’s stylist and he loved what I was doing and he had a couple clients coming up. Months later I started sending him stuff and he sent me a DM of Karen in it!
I think I’m just a testament of being fearless with my pursuit. Not being afraid of being told no. I’ve been told no before so I’m good. I just always stay ready, keeping products on me. Being ready to share my story and being ready for the opportunity when it comes.
What made you want to put your artwork on to textiles?
Melissa: When I first started painting, I wasn’t really selling. I thought about what would set me apart. I’ve always been a fashionista, it’s always been my thing. I show up in my own stuff all the time. If everyone was wearing all black, I wanted to wear pink. When I was trying to paint, I’m natural so I always had a fro. When I would paint, I had a twist out and I needed something to put my hair up. So I thought “what if I put my art on my headwrap”? I found a manufacturer and before I knew it I had an 11 piece set for my first collection. My second was also 11. So in total, I had 33 pieces with over 3,000 sold globally. It became a whole movement!
When I came up with the kimonos, I thought about my dad and the story of Joseph and the coat of many colors. His father gave him that coat because he was favored. My dad said people can see your coat even when you don’t have it on. When I designed my first kimono, I knew I wanted it to be a coat of many colors. The dramatic coats that people could be covered in that would represent God’s love for you and being wrapped in excellence.
What can we expect in the future from you?
Melissa: I’m doing a couple magazine covers. I recently participated in Ford Motor Company’s Driving Her Dreams panel and pitch contest during ESSENCE Festival for a chance to win a 2018 Ford Explorer to move my business forward. More details to come if I am a finalist for this competition. I would really love to work with a cancer organization and do headwraps for cancer patients going through chemo. I want them to be wrapped in colors of favor as they go through this transition.
What makes you a Bauce woman?
Melissa: I’m a Bauce woman because I took my garments and made them colorful. I’m a Bauce because I know who I am and I’m not afraid to tell somebody! I’m a Bauce because I have owned my journey and I’m unapologetic about where I want to go with it. I’m very positive about sharing my story whenever the time presents itself. We have to be ready at all times.
Want to say hi to Michelle? You can keep up with her on Instagram.