Photos courtesy of Rizzoli 

Cover photo by Itaysha Jordan

Award-winning journalist and brand consultant, Constance C.R. White’s new book, “How To Slay: Inspiration From The Queens and Kings of Black Style,” offers a lavishly illustrated overview of African-American style through the 20th century, focusing on the last 35 years.

Through striking images of some of the most celebrated icons of black style and taste, from Josephine Baker, Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou and Jay-Z, to Rihanna, Naomi Campbell, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams, the book explores the cultural groundwork of black trends that have become influential in mainstream popular culture. White has helped steer brand and editorial direction for some of the most exciting companies, from magazines like Essence and Elle, to newspapers like The New York Times and websites like eBay. She is also author of “Stylenoir: The First How to Guide to Fashion Written with Black Women in Mind,” a groundbreaking book on black culture and style.
Gazelle: We just celebrated Women’s History Month. What moment in history stands out to you as a woman?White:Women winning the vote and the birth control pill, which allowed women to control their reproduction, and therefore, their health and ability to work, have to be two of the most important developments for society.

Beyonce in “How to Slay”

Gazelle: How did you get into the fashion business?
White: I applied for a job at Women’s Wear Daily, got it, and once I started working there as a trainee, I was hooked. It was a great opportunity to learn and to work with wonderful colleagues and bosses.

Gazelle: What is the biggest challenge you have experienced as a woman in fashion and media?
White: In fashion, you can see how male designers are given more help, support and acknowledgement than women, and that’s frustrating. Even though I am not a designer, I feel for them. In media there is a bit more parity among men and women in fashion, but outside of fashion, there is less equality. Your boss of bosses is much more likely to be male.

Gazelle: You have reinvented yourself several times throughout your career. What keeps you going?
White:I really love fashion. I’m really curious about what’s next and what makes people tick, and that constantly spurs me forward to learn and do more.

Gazelle: What inspired the book?
White: The book was birthed from the idea that the contributions of African-Americans to our style and fashion would make a beautiful coffee table book. I also want to share information.

Diana Ross in “How to Slay”

 Gazelle: What are you hoping people get from it?
White: First, I hope people put “Hot To Slay” on their coffee tables and enjoy it. I believe in the power of beauty in all its forms, and it’s a beautiful book. Secondly, I hope people get a sense of the history and our shared history and culture at a time when there’s so much divisiveness.

Gazelle: How would you describe your personal style?
White: Minimal classic with an avant-garde twist.

Quick-fire questions:

Gazelle: First celebrity you worked with?
White:Rita Marley or LL Cool J

Gazelle: Favorite restaurant anywhere in the world?
White:That’s hard. I have a few, including Asiate, Le Grainne and Paris restaurants are so good.

Gazelle: Favorite City?
White:New York

Gazelle: Must-have style item?
White:A black V-neck T-shirt

Gazelle: Biggest trend this season?
White: Fur

“How to Slay: Inspiration from the Queens and Kings of Black Style” is available at amazon.com.

Constance C.R. White