The Experts Explain

#WCW: Monica Watkins

Monica Watkins, successful Ford model, artist and philanthropist, combined her passion for helping others and an understanding of the power of art and created Art in Motion (AIM) in 2008. AIM serves as a platform to seek out and nurture young, disadvantaged youth, allowing them to reach their potential and enhance the world around them by setting an example of giving, hope and achievement. AIM emphasizes charity, social consciousness, artistic freedom and global harmony. Through AIM, Monica has created art, music, fashion, and photography workshops to more than 1,500 children in Europe, Haiti, SE Asia, Asia and America working with incredible organizations and programs.

Over the past several years Monica has managed artists and created and hosted the Art in Motion TV/Radio Show at Urban Latino Radio. Additionally, Monica has shot and directed two documentary films, shot and art directed fashion and photography campaigns and organized/produced numerous charity events.

Monica is also the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Beauty for Freedom (BFF), a New York City based anti-trafficking non-profit. Through BFF’s travel abroad teaching programming and advocacy, over 1000 survivors of sex trafficking and at-risk youth have been cultivated globally through the arts, music and fashion projects. These empowerment initiatives are meant to promote self-esteem and self-worth.

Introduce yourself! 
I’m Monica Watkins. I am a Ford Model, Founder of anti-trafficking non-profit Beauty for Freedom, filmmaker/producer/director and Co-owner of a production company CTM Sisters Productions (I founded this with my sisters in 2012) and I’m a visual artist.


You seem like a Jack-of-all-trades. Have there been any obstacles you’ve faced in this industry and if so, what are they?
There have been many obstacles in the industries I’ve chosen for myself! Where do I begin?! In fashion when I first started out over 25 years ago, it was about being an African-American. Each agency only had a certain amount of slots on their board for women and men of color. There was a constant struggle with castings as well. Most clients would only book one African-American on shoots and one or two in shows. I believe many strong women in fashion like Bethann Hardison and models like Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Veronica Webb and Beverly Peele have paved the way for all of us women of color in this industry.


As a founder of a non-profit battling human trafficking, the struggles are always associated with people being open to the messaging that slavery still exists in this world and that we must all take our part in abolishing this incredible and horrific issue globally. It’s also a constant struggle to find funding for our global and local projects, but we press on and I feel honored to work with such amazing people on our platform, our ambassadors have been incredible champions of this cause from day one!


With my work in the film industry, It’s really been about fighting to have a voice as a woman and a woman of color in the industry. To truly be taken seriously and to gain respect as a producer/director has been a bit difficult, but I will never give up! The projects we choose are the ones that have a strong narrative and a really impressive heart and soul to them. It’s never been about making tons of money here. My sisters and I will only take on projects that speak to our souls and can make a positive impact.


What advice would you give other women who wanted to get into your industries?
Winston Churchill stated it best when he said, “Never never never give up!” In fashion, film production and philanthropy, stand firm on the vision and mission you have in life and never give up! Believe in yourself. You are the surest bet you can ever make! Bet on yourself.


Where do you gain inspiration from?
I gain inspiration from my mentors and my mother. I have some very strong female role models. My mothers and two older sisters have always shown me that struggle, difficult times and (ultimately) perseverance are a natural part of life. We must strive for our goals and work very hard to reach them. My mother is a Civil Rights Activist. This was something I saw first-hand each day with the work she and my father embarked on everyday! My older sister was my mentor and little league basketball coach when I was a kid. She was a ranked player in our state and so driven. She was tougher on me than any other players on our team and I am so grateful for that. It taught me so much about life!


What does it mean to you to be a strong woman?
That is a great question! I am still figuring this out each day. I think being strong means being vulnerable, compassionate, gracious, grateful, steadfast and joining hands with other women and men to fight for what is right in this world. I also believe the, we as women, need to support one another. We need to stand firm on the fact that, together, we can move mountains!


What has been your greatest accomplishment thus far?
I don’t believe I have one. Each day is trial and error, growing, learning, accepting and bettering oneself…and repeat. I want the positive legacy I leave in this world to be my greatest accomplishment. I will work towards that each day for the rest of my life.


Since we’re a beauty company, we have to ask: what are 3 things you never leave home without?
I never leave home without sandalwood essential oil. I rub this on the bottoms of my feet after showering and use it on my pressure points all day long to stay calm, centered and grounded. I also love lip balm and always have this in my bag. I never leave home without a notebook. I love writing down ideas as they come to me on the train, walking down the street or just going about my day.


What is your go-to beauty product?
My go-to beauty product is my Amazing Base Loose Mineral Powder by Jane Iredale. This is a magical product that  is so soothing to skin and has an additional spf. I’ve been using Jane Iredale products for the last 8 years. They are a bit pricey but soooooo worth it!

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