Meet Yasmine Arrington, the 25-year-old non-profit founder, beauty pageant winner, radio show host, model, and pastor. Read on to learn the connection between her many accolades and why you should expect to see her gracing magazine covers one day soon.
I grew up in Washington, DC proper. When I grew up in the ‘90s, DC was affectionately known as the “Chocolate City.” I attended public schools through my grade school years in the city. I loved it so much that I’m still there today.
Personal Style & Fashion Icons
Queen Latifah was one of my fashion icons. And Oprah, then and now. There were two characters on Martin Lawrence’s sitcom, Pam and Gina, and I was inspired by their style. Then also Tyra Banks, Jeannie Mai from the daytime television show “The Real,” gospel singer Tamela Mann, and celebrity makeup artist Kym Lee, just to name a few. My grandmother was also definitely a fashion icon for me. She’s just very classy and very cute, very colorful. She had neon T-shirts. She’s just so elegant and classy, and whether she’s dressing up or down, she’s always got a splash of color. Her clothing always fits her well.
Today, my style is versatile and changes depending on if I am in relaxation mode or working professionally. Overall, my style is girly, city-chic, professional, classy, vibrant, and curve-complementing. When I’m speaking or preaching, I wear stylish suits or dresses and unique high heels. When I’m in New York on modeling jobs, I wear leggings, palazzo pants, jean jackets, tank tops, and cute T-shirts with sparkly slide-ons or sandals. Every day for me has a different flavor and assignments, so it keeps things interesting and allows for flexibility.
The Founding of ScholarCHIPS
My biological father has been in and out of both jail and federal prison most of my life, so I understand a lot of the challenges that youth with incarcerated parents face, and what that does to you. A lot of times, there’s a stigma and taboo. There’s a burden of shame. ScholarCHIPS is a non-profit organization I founded in 2010, as a junior in high school. At the time, I had applied for and was accepted as a fellow in a program called LearnServe international (LSI). LSI challenges high school fellows to identity social issues that matter to us that we want to see change or improve and then come up with a “venture project,” which is a creative solution to a social ill that we can initiate. The social issue, on a macro level, I identified was mass incarceration. Through my grandmother’s suggestion, I came to the idea to start a scholarship and mentorship program for youth with incarcerated parents who are pursuing their college degrees.
ScholarCHIPS provides college scholarships, mentorship, and a support network to youth with incarcerated parents who are pursuing their college degree. ScholarCHIPS has a $2,500 scholarship and a $250 book award. Both of these awards are renewable for all of our scholars who remain enrolled in school and in good academic standing. Our goal is to see our youth to and through college, helping them to overcome any additional challenges they may face. We even started a Student Support Fund to further help our scholars who need to buy new laptops or fly home for the holidays. To date, we’ve had about 51 scholars, and we’ve awarded over $100,000 in college scholarships. So far, we’ve had 13 graduates. It’s really amazing. The vision is that, one day, ScholarCHIPs will grow on a national level—because the need is there. There are over 2.3 million youths in the United States who have an incarcerated parent.
The Common Thread
When I was in college, I got into modeling. I started going to these workshops with models, just to see their confidence levels. Then I started auditioning for runway shows and walking in runway shows. This was the first time outside of growing up that I had ever been surrounded by such beautiful, voluptuous, badass women. It was like this discovery stage of, who am I outside of where I grew up? What’s my purpose? I had already started ScholarCHIPS, but then I started to be a part of this community that was so welcoming and powerful and empowering. I continue to carry that with me through life.
All of my work, in some form or fashion, is ministry. It’s inspiring people to be more and do more—to aspire past your current situation or circumstance. If we become complacent or stagnant, it means we’re not growing, and if we’re not growing, we can’t possibly be maximizing our usefulness in the world and operating in our purpose. For me, operating in my purpose as a Youth Pastor, preacher, businesswoman, and model encourages and uplifts women of all ages to become curious enough to explore their passions, talents, and gifts for the healing and betterment of others.
Everything I do stems from my own personal experiences—parental incarceration, my mother passing away at an early age. My mother had a lot of self-esteem and body-image issues, and I saw that really weigh heavy down on her. My grandmother was a very strong woman. A role model for me of strength, of resilience, of love. When I was growing up, I was very active in the Protestant Church, and I think that it helped a lot—having all of these women who were family women, and strong and intelligent. I think what also made a big difference for me was when I discovered this sector, this aspect of the fashion industry that we call “plus” or “curvy.”
There are a lot of young people, particularly in DC and Virginia, who lack exposure to positive role models. For me, it was just a natural progression. Principals and teachers asked me to come to their schools. University professors have asked me to speak to their students. Pastors have asked me to come to their churches and speak to the youth. With my radio show and podcast, “Millennial Minds,” I intend to break the negative stereotypes of the millennial generation and expose people to the amazing social change-making work and inspiring stories these young people have. I also lead a Life Group through my church called the Woman Code, where this small group of young women meets once a month to discuss books—and draw connections from our reading to our own life struggles and Biblical instruction. I love leading groups like this and mentoring women because I can see and hear their spiritual growth, and a growth in their confidence and well-being. When I preach or speak to a group, I always make sure that there is a positive and uplifting message that people can take with them and apply to their daily lives.
I definitely want to become a mogul of sorts, but an empowerment mogul. So not like, “Wow, look at this young African-American woman who came from an urban community and had the incarcerated parent and now she’s got an empire, blah, blah, blah.” I want to establish myself as a national philanthropist. My number-one dream is to be the host of a national television talk show and to be on Oprah’s “#SuperSoulSunday” to share my story. I would love to be featured on and get spreads on the covers of some high-profile magazines, like Ebony, Essence, Teen Vogue, and TIME, and to speak and preach on national platforms like TEDx, Essence Festival, and Woman Thou Art Loosed. I will be publishing a few books in the next few years and starting a clothing line. One day in the near future, I will start a family with a God-fearing, loving, intelligent, humble, hard-working, well-balanced man. I’ll continue to travel the world, expand my impact through service and philanthropy, and maybe one day be a pastor of a church or bishop of a district. I would love to receive a medal from the White House and a Nobel Peace Prize. That’s a lot—but I take it in baby steps. I tackle my dreams by writing down my goals, objectives, and steps to how I’ll accomplish each one.
What inspires you to accomplish incredible things? Share this post with your own story.
P.S. If you love Yasmine’s “She Are the Champions” tee, buy that style and more at teeupchange.com!