Working at Vogue had major perks, but not the kind you may think I am referring to. When you work at a powerhouse like Vogue, everyone got there somehow, and that was through incredibly hard work. But one colleague in particular fit the mold of the fashionista, but plowed through the stereotypes of working in marketing and media, and transformed her skills in to helping the greater good. My soul sister Jess Teutonico was the fashion director of events at Vogue when she had a mini epiphany. Cubicle life, steaming gowns, and producing events wasn’t cutting it anymore. Jess decided to travel to Kenya on a volunteer trip and she fell in love with Africa and like a lion fixated on its prey. It all started in Kenya when Jess became my modern goddess.
After returning from Kenya she created an organization to help fund and create infrastructure for the Kenyan communities called Under the Acacia. She didn’t just want to throw dollar bills at the situation, she wanted to create a template where the tribes can create an economy off their land. Her goal was to work with remote and indigenous communities in Kenya that do not have their basic human needs and work with the people to put in infrastructure, sustainability and basically, build an economy from the ground up.
One time I saw her lug 100s of 1000s of bottle caps to Kenya. What I saw was breath-taking; the community built an entire learning center out of bottle caps. The women are very proud of their jewelry design and adorning their men so it wasn’t a surprise to see the design of the school was that of their tribe colors and patterns from the caps. Like a Chuck Close painting, Coke and Sprite caps were cemented with pride.
But of course, she couldn’t just stop there; she was hired to become the Executive Director of the We Are Family Foundation founded by legendary producer and Multi-Grammy winner, Nile Rodgers. As Nile amplifies musicians, my goddess amplifies youth. By curating an international network of hundreds of the most game changing young people around the world, Jess helps incubate with the Three Dot Dash program, rev the engines of the TED x Teen program and plugs talent into the most coveted speaking engagements around the world. Jess works with incredible partners such as Adobe and SAP to elevate the kid’s impact.
My modern day goddess is not glitzy. She is also not conspiring or filled with hidden agendas. She’s the girl who will devour a scone and drink over-priced coffee in the Mary’s Marvelous Bakery parking lot with you on a Sunday morning when you both need a break from “mom” life. She sincerely believes in the community in its rawest form and the simple idea that contributing and collaborating, regardless of the amount, will and can change the world.