BrooklynButtah: I first came across you and your brand at a BK Girl’s Night Out event last year. Tell me a little bit about your journey in the different areas of fashion you’ve been apart of.
Deniece C.: Well, I’ve always loved fashion. I grew up as an only child and I used to play dress up by myself. My mom was always into clothes and fashion and all those things so I kind of grew up loving it. And speaking of pageants, I won Miss Grenada/USA when I was 16-17 years old.
I went to school for business marketing at Hofstra University. After I graduated, I went right into the fashion industry working in showrooms, doing merchandising for them. Most recently, I’ve done some dressing for the fashion shows in New York Fashion Week, doing some key costuming and fashion styling for web series, different video shoots, and things of that sort. So, I’ve always had a love for fashion.
BrooklynButtah: How did this love for passion find its way to your creating Slay Cancer?
Deniece C.: First it started off as something where I can distract myself when I was going through my chemo. But it kind of blew up into something bigger than I expected it to fortunately. So, that’s where my love for fashion came in, in regards to the brand and how I bridged it together and made it a way that it could be cool to say that you’re someone who’s going through cancer or you’re a supporter and just make it fun and fashionable – especially for younger women and men who are going through what I’m still going through.
BrooklynButtah: Wow, that’s powerful. Especially, we have all these walks and we look at different ways to combat it to lift spirits. In the midst of going through your battle with cancer, what was the initial push to say ‘alright let me get up and do something’ rather than focusing on this hardship?
Deniece C.: I would have to say my friends and family. My mom is a breast cancer survivor, so having her there was definitely a motivation for me in letting me know that I can go through this and get through it; my boyfriend as well. He’s a graphic/web designer so we’re both creative and we bounce a lot of ideas off each other. I think he was the one who was like it would be really cool if we made the ideas we were bouncing off each other happen. I gave him my ideas and he brought it to life in regards to the graphic end of things.
BrooklynButtah: I love the dad hats and the shirts because it’s nothing busy, it’s to the point. It’s a very simple design. What are your favorite pieces? Is it the army fatigue hat? Is it the shirt?
Deniece C.: Well, I have a couple different things coming out now. I have the Beyoncé EFF Cancer because that was really popular when I was going through chemo. We’re going to have some Tupac designs coming out, just getting a couple celebrities and pop culture figures who are using their middle finger and we’re going to put EFF cancer on those shirts. My favorite tee would have to be the Slay Cancer tees. Very simple, straight to the point, and it says a lot. It says, “F Cancer,” we’re fighting it but we’re also slaying it in regards to fashion and still being fly, fashionable, cool, trendy all while going through the treatments. So, I would have to say the Slay Cancer. Anything that has Slay Cancer on it, I love.
BrooklynButtah: So, lets talk Cuts W/ Deniece. I rock my hair short and I watched that video of your haircut – that was an incredibly powerful video especially because taking ownership of your hair, detaching from this idea that your hair is your beauty. What brought that idea to mind?
Deniece C.: Yeah definitely. I’m actually working with a young lady is in my neighborhood who was diagnosed with cancer. She’s like 21-years-old. So, I’m going to help her and put together a cuts event. My personality was so outgoing that I couldn’t picture myself just like cutting my hair or shaving my hair off and just going about my day or my life I should say. I had the idea I wanted to do something where all my friends and family can come through and we can listen to some music, have some drinks, and make it fun. A friend of mine offered to help me with it so she basically found the place for me. I invited my friends and we made it into an event, made it fun and celebratory.
Instead of having chemo take my hair from me, I’m going to rock my style the way I want it. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize at the time that chemo takes all of your hair from the follicles so after I cut it into that style it ended up falling out even more. I ended up losing that style. So it was definitely a traumatic experience because again that was celebratory, it was fun but your lashes, your eyebrows, hair, every single hair follicle on your body falls out. So, that was a really major experience for me. But, then I ended up embracing it.
I embraced my baldy because it was like a battle scar, battle wound. I was going through something. My hair is actually growing back right now. That was definitely a milestone experience for me.
BrooklynButtah: Wow. As it’s Mental Health Awareness month, what are some things besides the support from your family and your friends that you do for yourself to stay mentally strong as you continue to fight cancer?
Deniece C.: My faith is definitely number one and just reading different articles from other women going through the same process as me definitely helps me because it makes me feel like I’m not alone. I would also have to say, honestly, the creative outlet and writing my blog about different experiences that I’ve gone through and seeing how much it helps people helps me along. Sometimes the devil gets in your head and makes you feel like your stories are worthless or no one cares but, I think really sharing my testimony and experiences I’ve gone through is really pushing me to be mentally strong and just stay on the path of being positive – knowing I can get through anything.
BrooklynButtah: What are some other things that you have coming up aside from the other pop culture tees you’ll be adding to your collection?
Deniece C.: The dad hats will have some spring colors coming out literally in the next two weeks, so that’s what I’ve been working on. In September, I’m putting together a Slay Cancer program and it’s going to be an interactive fun way to teach people about the effects of cancer. I’m going to have the different side effects of breast cancer treatment in terms of joint pain and obviously, our hair falls out, eyelashes and all those things, dry skin, and dry follicles. So, in regards to the dry skin, I have someone from the natural hair care and natural skin products coming in and vending for me. In regards to the hair falling off, I have someone coming in selling hats, different dope hats, wigs, hair pieces, and headwraps.
Then, I have a fashion show presenting the fall line for Slay Cancer. It’s going to be a dope event. I want it to be young and fresh so that, especially young black women, more aware of their health, proactive with their healthcare, and know that we can and do get through breast cancer. I’ve also been doing some presentations and motivational speaking so I have some events coming up as well. I’m also looking to start a Slay Cancer docuseries basically highlighting some cancer slayers – people who are going through cancer and slaying it.
BrooklynButtah: You have a full plate. Are you working fulltime at all?
Deniece C.: Yeah, I just started a new job last week doing visual merchandising for Zara. Now, I’m getting back in the swing of things, getting back to work and listening to my body. I’m still posttreatment so I have a lot of pain but I’m really positive and I’m really excited about that.
BrooklynButtah: How are you balancing time in terms of planning these upcoming events in September, the docuseries, and now working fulltime?
Deniece C.: Honestly, having cancer made me feel like I’m a superwoman and I can really do anything I want. I’m just making it happen and again balancing, taking care of my body with all these things that I want to do. But, I’m making it happen. Like I said, I’m a superwoman now.