Project Style Board Member Spotlight: Monica-Kaye (MK) Gamble
As a year-old nonprofit organization with big plans and even bigger goals, Project Style relies on the drive, dedication and diversity of its volunteers. We are pleased to introduce you to (and, yes, brag about!) our Board Members during our ongoing Spotlight series. If you’re interested in joining our rock-star team of game changers, find out how you can join us here!
First up is Monica-Kaye Gamble (but you can call her MK!), Project Style’s highly skilled and even higher energy Secretary!
What is your current profession and what led you to this career?
I am an attorney, and I currently run my own Chicago-based practice. I am originally from Cleveland, Ohio. As a child, I grew up with my grandmother, Hafeeza E. Omar, Vice President of East Cleveland City Council. One of her colleagues and close friends was Judge Una Keenon. My grandmother and Judge Keenon advocated for me to pursue a legal career, having me observe court cases, discuss my legal opinions, and even touring the local jail at a young age. The idea of advocating on behalf of individuals and our community as well as shaping policy truly resonated with me. My grandmother even gave me a legal dictionary and a book of legal theories, which I read from throughout elementary school. While I didn’t understand the vast majority of what I read until I was much older, I found it fascinating.
What are some challenges you’ve faced at work and how did you overcome them?
My greatest challenge was navigating a male-dominated field. I often felt that my voice was neither acknowledged nor heard by my male counterparts, and I found this incredibly frustrating.
In one role that I held, I was interested in focusing on Chicago's gun violence. I wanted to be more involved in the policy issues around this crucial issue. However, I was repeatedly encouraged to focus on juvenile or domestic violence issues. I voiced this frustration to my mother, who told me that I must fight to be heard and never settle professionally. She inspired and encouraged me to speak up, be heard, and do what I thought was right.
All of my professional successes are the direct result of my mother’s unyielding support and advocacy. She never let me settle for less and never allowed me to give up. She, Dr. Valerie Smith-Gamble, is my role model and rock.
When choosing work/professional attire, how do you add your own pop of style?
For years, I was required to wear black, dark grey or blue suits. Now that I have my own practice, I definitely do not wear black, dark grey or blue suits. My favorite colors for suit jackets are now purple, pink, mauve, green, yellow, silver and white. If I do wear a darker neutral suit color, then the dress I wear is bright or has interesting patterns. I also always carry a purple shoulder backpack.
If you could give one piece of career advice to your childhood self, what would it be?
Find mentors before attending law school and search out other women mentors. To date, almost all of my mentors are male. I also met them well after law school. This made entering a new field where I knew no one more challenging than it needed to be.
What item in your closet gives you a confidence boost?
My white suit coat with black stripes and gold buttons. I refer to any suit items with pinstripes as the “pinstripes of power.” I find the traditional-yet-snazzy look to be uplifting and inspiring.
What does girl power mean to you?
It means females of all ages uniting to uplift, empower, support and motivate each other. I believe my idea of girl power was shaped in the early '80s by my role models and cartoons of my time. I loved She Ra Princess of Power and Jem and the Misfits. She Ra was equally as powerful as He-Man and had a mostly female team of superheroes chosen to protect.
Girl power is an embodiment of those same ideas and principles. My love of Jem and the Misfits helped shaped my idea of supportive individuality among girls. One of the lyrics of Jem's theme song is "Jem is my name no one else is the same," My first name is "Monica-Kaye." It is unique. And like Jem's theme song states, I was always taught we each are unique, and no one is the same. More importantly, no one should be the same. The world would be less interesting and amazing if we were all cookie cutters.
What piece of advice would you give young women trying to develop their own personal style?
Find something such as an accent piece that makes you feel unique. Your style is yours. It should make you feel comfortable, strong and happy. Your style should make you shine inside and out. It should convey inner strength and beauty.
Who is your biggest style influence and why?
My grandmother. She was a model as a child. She also loved fashion and style. Her classic looks and accent pieces from broaches, to hats, to scarves, to shoes, all demonstrated a uniqueness and sophistication. While I am not really into makeup, I do love accent pieces and accessories.