Jovel Roystan (J) & Kenneth Kyrell (K) are two brand strategists (among other occupations) who bring their individual perspectives in fashion, music, and art to one culminating experience via their blog and brand, THE NO NAMES. These two, along with a couple others, are the sole reason I invested time into the world and the idea of “branding” in the early 2010’s. Thus, you’ll understand why their in-depth responses to their GRAYT PEOPLE Profile were beyond inspiring and reassuring to why they have been an inspiration:
Who are THE NO NAMES? What is the mission of THE NO NAMES? How do you two cohesively integrate your other professional ventures and personal perspectives into one site?
J+K: [the no names] is a lifestyle and branding blog focused on the creative industries—fashion, art, music, and film—and our respective places within that realm. We strive to dig deeper into the trends that exist around us and discuss the [why?], rather than the [what?]. Furthermore, we try to push our readers toward creativity and the embracing of individuality in all areas of life. Together, we just share our perspectives and experiences as genuinely and consistently as we can. In doing that, we find ways to fit the puzzle pieces of our personal lives, from our passions to careers, into the brand in meaningful ways.
What compelled you to operate in the fashion, lifestyle, and branding sectors? How were you able to surpass any of your own doubts or the doubts of others, in making your dreams a reality?
J:I think they’re three separate, but related elements that just naturally grew in importance in each of our lives, both together and individually, over the past six years. I was introduced to these three worlds during my college experience and they’ve changed my outlook on a lot of things. I think I’ve always had a seed of faith within me that told me I’d be great—that I’d accomplish all of my dreams (if God blesses me with enough time on this earth). Every day is a step closer to claiming something I was promised years ago. The people around me and the other voices in my head don’t get in the way of that.
K: I’ve always had an interest in Fashion from a very young age. Every summer I would go stay with Grandparents and my grandmother would always be making things for grandfather and her close friends. I also went to a School of the Arts that exposed me to a lot of things in the creative fields specifically Design and Theater. When I moved to Atlanta to attend Morehouse College my interest intensified and I began to seek more opportunities that would strengthen my knowledge in the respective fields. I am a firm believer in being realistic and having faith that what is for me will happen. It may not happen over night and it may not happen in a year from now but understanding that it WILL happen eventually keeps me going.
What did you start doing to prepare for launching and functioning THE NO NAMES)?
J+K: We both were blogging prior to [tnn] and the joint venture seemed like the right thing to do at the time, so we went for it. Once we decided we wanted to do it, we spent six months planning and preparing. That included several layout designs, content and strategy development, and going back and forth with our web designer. I’d say my original blog completely set the foundation of what I’ve been able to bring to the brand and my style and voice continue to evolve as I move forward.
What caused and/or influenced your perseverance towards fulfilling your personal purpose through THE NO NAMES?
J: I think I’m discovering more and more of my personal purpose each day, but I think a large part of mine is to be a good example—a good example for aspiring bloggers, for black kids, for young men, for my generation. When I was younger, my dad used to tell me that I’m an endangered species: a young, educated, attractive (his words, not mine) black man. It’s one of the most impactful things he’s ever instilled in me and I think there’s a responsibility behind that blessing. Now that I’m older, I can see the truth behind his words day in and day out as people tell us how much they appreciate what we’re doing, so that influence pushes me to keep at it.
K: Its a platform that we created where we are able to highlight things/people that inspire us. We are able to voice our opinion and creatively do the things that we want to do. The No Names have opened up so many doors for us both as the creators behind The No Names and for us individually.
What values have you brought with you from your past to empower and sustain your [graytness] now?
J: Authenticity and my vulnerability. When I was blogging on tumblr, it started off as more of a journal. I just wanted a platform to finally express myself completely, without shame. I’d post pictures of fashion next to pictures of Digimon (the cartoon). I didn’t—and still don’t—care about what other people felt about the posts. It taught me to embrace myself, particularly because all of the followers showed me that I’m pretty cool exactly the way I am. That message is still important to me and I hope people continue seeing that. My folks instilled a lot of things in me as a child that I believe in and carry with me effortlessly.
K: Confidence and uniqueness. When you have a social platform such as a blog you are expressing the way you feel and letting people know how you feel about things. Either they will agree or disagree but its important to remain true to who you are and how you feel regardless of what [they] may think. I always find a way to keep [the big picture] in mind which helps me focus and stay disciplined.
EFFORTS & ETHICS
What do you identify as your differentiating factor among those in the fashion, lifestyle, and branding fields?
J+K: We try to talk about what’s relevant, but in uncommon ways. Rather than focusing on [what] every other blogger in our arena is talking about, we try to discuss [why] those things are so cool. And we embrace trends and fashion pieces that typical [black male] bloggers don’t get into. There’s a sense of audacity or boldness behind the choices we make style-wise that I think our people really appreciate.
What advice can you give to a young entrepreneur about the art of branding yourself and identifying their differentiating factor?
J: Play it like it’s a game but have a perspective and drive as if it’s a business. I’ve had so much fun building my brand over these past 5 years. It’s exciting and I love (and look up to) people who can determine who they want to be and actually be it. I always say be authentically you in the process. I get to build myself into the guy I wanna be, but I carry who I’ve always been with me each step. I think the differentiating factor comes when you not only know who you are, but also what you want to be known for. You should cater to that purpose and emphasize it in all that you do—the key to building relevance and credibility.
K: Stay true to yourself while being flexible, realistic, and strategic. I look at every move and everyday as a game and the goal at the end of the day is to advance to a different level. Its important to understand what you want and the necessary steps it will take in order for you to get there. However, it is just as important to be flexible and understand that things may not always go as planned and that you may have to take a different route in order to achieve your overall goal.
What do you do to nurture your differentiating factor [your grayt]?
J: My faith is a big part of who I am, not just by way of the Bible, but also Christian literature, sermons, and, most importantly, prayer! Praying big and praying often keeps my mind on the vision and goals God’s put my name on. [Second], I also try and share my perspective with people, which is how my Tumblr often comes into play. Third, I pay attention to what stories I’m telling on Instagram, [tnn], and on Twitter. Does it say what I feel in the right way? —almost to the point that it’s like studying…I care about how it translates.
K: First and foremost, I find time to reflect. No matter how busy my day is or what I have to do I find a time to take at least 30 minutes to become [disconnected] from the outside world in an effort to connect with myself and my higher power. Secondly, I make it a point to expose myself to different things. It’s really important to me to get out to see as much as possible and to meet different people with various backgrounds in which I can possibly learn something from. Lastly, I make sure I study those that inspire me as well as various aspects of the industry(ies) I am interested in, in order to stay in the know of what is going on and remain motivated.
What and/or who do you attribute your [graytness] to?
J: I think so many hands have played a part in me transforming into the guy I am today. To put it simply, anything that inspires me. I’m like a vacuum for inspiration, so when I see one of my favorite artists drop an amazing video, when I have a motivating conversation with one of my friends or a mentor, or when I see a collection that really makes me feel something inside, the buzz I get from that pushes me to be [grayt] in my own right.
K: So many people and so many things have attributed to my [graytness]. My parents and family have played such a vital role in my journey of becoming the man I am today. From instilling traits in me at such a young age. My immediate circle inspires me beyond measures. They all have something going for themselves and are unique in their own way. Lastly, fear! Just the thought of me living everyday doing something that I don’t love and not being truly happy makes me keeping moving and aspiring to being as grayt as possible.
What makes you challenge the status quo?
J: To be frank, I think the majority of people in the world—i.e. the makers of what’s status quo—are average (in the literal sense of the word: “of the usual or ordinary standard”), so why would I want to perform to average expectations? I’d much rather define my own rules and be [extra]ordinary. If you have to be one thing in this world, why not be epic?
K: To me the status quo would mean I would accept being average and live in a state of complacent. Knowing that I know what is out there and how things could and should be different (in my personal life, society, etc) me living up to the level of the “status quo” would be me settling. In which I don’t plan on doing anytime soon… or ever for that matter.
What motivates you to do what you do?
J: I love having a voice. It’s crazy how much people want to listen to you when you actually have something substantive to say. I think knowing that, to some extent, I’m pushing people to learn more and check out new things makes it something worth doing.
K: The fact that I am able to inspire someone else by the work that I do that doesn’t even feel like “work” motivates me so much. Also, the feeling of being completely happy and fulfilling my purpose in life is a feeling that I feel everyone should experience.
Three defining philosophies [the no names] aspire to live by:
- Live, learn, and live better. – I think each day we get a chance to be better. We really do, in so many ways. It’s up to us to pay attention to our experiences and grow or just keep running in place
- The impossible can always be broken down into possibilities. – I think this speaks for itself. There’s no goal too big for God and there’s no dream that can’t be attained by taking the right actions. The key: you have to take [one] step at a time
- Accept your mistakes and keep going– Everything we do isn’t going to be perfect and it won’t all make sense. We will make mistakes in life and we should learn from them and use them as inspiration to do better and achieve more.
In three (3) ways, how would you want your personal growth and/or professional growth to motivate others?
- I want people to know that all that I have right now came from me planting a seed, nurturing it, and keeping up with it. No one gave me anything that I didn’t have a hand in birthing. I say that to say, if you have a voice, a perspective, and dream, you have all it takes to make a name for yourself.
- The harder you work, the harder you get to play. All of the amazing elements of my lifestyle, from living and supporting myself in NYC to doing shoots and partnering with brands like NativeDanger and Calvin Klein, have come from the hours I put in AFTER I leave the office, the hours I put in when I’m ready to crash, the time I put in when I just want to go out and have fun. You reap what you sow.
- Be yourself and love that person. We’ve built a pretty cool brand from just being ourselves and not being afraid to share that with people. You’ll be surprised when you find out how many people like the real you.
- I want others to know that anything is possible and with a positive mindset, smart work ethic, and faith they too can accomplish all that they want and much more.
- Understand that sacrifices have to be made in order to advance to the next level. Over the years I have realized that I would have to sacrifice a few things now in order to get where I want to be later. In return, I have personally and professionally grown.
- Understand that we are all human. Embrace your flaws and your strengths.
[GRAYT PEOPLE] Profile Series curates an informational collective of inspirational individuals who have shown what it means to mobilize confidence to challenge [GOOD] and mobilize courage to champion [GRAYT]—highlighting their past, their journey to their [graytness], their efforts and ethics, their motivation, and their aspirations.