By 21 years old, Anai and her sister ran their own online clothing shop. In between that and school, this lady-boss finds time to cook, sing and inspire others to be as awesome as her.
When did you become involved in fashion?
“I’ve been involved in fashion for as long as I can remember. I have pictures from when I was four of my sister dressing me up from head to toe. It was absolutely tacky clothing because we didn’t really know what we were doing, but she always styled me. Ever since then, I became more and more interested in it.”
How was the idea of opening St. Neri born?
“It was a year ago, we were in the car one day and I was talking about my favorite show ‘Sex and the City.’ I had just quoted Carrie on something, and it was so funny! My sister Lynn said ‘Imagine that on a shirt.’ We thought how funny it would be it we put some of the stuff that we said, some quirky, smart stuff, on shirts. It was only a five-minute conversation, but it came up again when we were talking with another friend and she told us it was not a stupid idea. We started printing on shirts as samples, but noticing the reaction of people is what pushed us to make it official.”
What does St. Neri mean and why did you chose this name?
“St. Neri is the Patron Saint of Humor. I didn’t come up with it, my sister did. I guess she thought that most of the quotes on our shirts are funny, and so it sounded good. When we first heard it was just like ‘that’s it.’”
What is the message that you want your brand to spread to young women?
“Our message is that women can be just as powerful as men and just as successful in the business field. No idea is a dumb idea, especially if you are driven and open to evolve. To be an educated woman is one of the most beautiful qualities a woman can have. It’s not just about having plastic surgery or dating athletes and this sick image that society portrays today of women we ‘look up to.’
We want to push for ‘normal’ women, that’s why we’re going to have all kinds of different models wearing our clothes. The message is that we want you to wear how you really feel.”
You recently took a stand against stereotyping and shaved your hair off. What is your advice to African-American girls that also struggle with their hair and their identity?
“After I shaved my head, I was very nervous because there is an unspoken standard for women. It’s about hair, make up, what you have on and even how you speak as a woman. I was really nervous to show how it looked and even my father said ‘You’re crazy, you need to put a wig on right now.’ It made me realize that hair is just hair, with or without it, it should be all about who you are on the inside. For girls that are having hair issues, what I have to say is: it’s not the end of the world. You can shave your hair and wear it bald, or you can buy a wig if you want, if it makes you comfortable. You have to have confidence and really know yourself as a person, everyone is so beautiful, and if they don’t take the time to realize that and just try to copy the next upcoming person, they will be lost. Everyone, as a person, has so much more to offer.”
St. Neri is a new brand. Where do you see yourself and your store in five years?
“Obviously it’s a dream to have a physical store, to be able to walk in there and think about the times that we were only online. In five years, I want to be successful, and I want to have St. Neri as a part of my life, forever.”
Aside from fashion, what are your passions?
“I love to listen to good music, to relax. My passions are definitely having a good time and being surrounded by positive energy. I love to keep busy, even if it’s not St. Neri. My sister and I do have other business endeavors. I never told anyone this, but I do like to sing. I never sing in front of anyone, but it’s something I like to do. It’s a stress relief and it’s beautiful. I also love cooking and baking, I will go into the kitchen, bring out my cookbook and play some Frank Sinatra – only Frank Sinatra! It makes me feel complete.”
What is something that would surprise people to know about you?
“Probably the singing. Also, when I first shaved my head – no one wanted to believe me. It was almost like they didn’t believe that I could see past my hair. What would shock people that I used to know is that I actually made it in the business- not based of my exterior but based in my education.”
When have you been the most satisfied about in your life?
“Shaving my hair satisfied me so much, the day that I actually took a razor to my own head. It was 12 in the morning; I was watching TV and my sister just came in. She saw that I was crying as I was touching my hair. I’m really good at concealing it so everyone just saw me as that ‘not African-American’ African-American girl, and that insulted me because it’s like, ‘what is your view on African-American girls?!’ That put pressure on me, I thought, ‘I have to keep up with the clips, I have to hide this thing, this is so ugly,’ and my sister just got fed up with it and cut off my ponytail. After that, I shaved and took a shower, it was the best shower I’ve ever had. The water wasn’t just washing off the hair of my shoulders it was removing all of the negative energy.
I was also satisfied to be accepted to University of Miami. Back in high school, when I was wearing a university t-shirt, this teacher looked at me and said ‘You didn’t get accepted to University of Miami!?’ And I was like what was that supposed to mean, do you think I’m stupid? It’s not just because I take pictures, because I like snapchat, care about my Instagram and do make up, that I don’t have a brain. So coming here every single day is something that satisfies me. I did it by myself, I didn’t ask for help to anyone. My education satisfies me.”