When I first met Kirsten Daniel, the founder, and creator of Ateaelle, there were very distinct similarities between her and myself. One being the obvious affiliation to our sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated. The second being Kirsten’s undeniable passion and love for the city of Atlanta. Don’t get me wrong, it’s usually innate for people to love the city that they’re from, however being from Atlanta is far different from being born anywhere else and Kirsten was a fellow ATLien who understood and appreciated the value of Atlanta just as much as I did.
From her portraits of Gucci Mane, Goodie Mob, and Outkast along the wall to her magazine covers of multiple Atlanta artists, I felt like I had seen my inner self, and felt at home as my eyes wandered.
Kirsten is from the West side of Atlanta. Known as an area that is to be rougher and more poverty-stricken, Kirsten’s mother sent her to schools out of her district for hopes of a better education. Learning how to balance the two worlds is what gives a competitive advantage, as she possesses both street knowledge as well as book sense.
Kirsten’s commitment to Atlanta has resulted in her working in the entertainment industry alongside one of Atlanta’s most renowned record labels, Grand Hustle. This opportunity lead to her designing the infamous Hustlegang logo, to eventually managing rap artist Nick Grant. However throughout all of these business endeavors, in 2015 Kirsten embarked on her entrepreneurial journey and created a brand dedicated to the city, Ateaelle.
Ateaelle (pronounced A-T-L) is an urban lifestyle and fashion company creating apparel and brand experiences that blend messages rooted in black excellence, pop culture, hip-hop, and the entrepreneurial reverence of Atlanta, GA.
Brittany Michelle: So Kirsten tell me about the moment you think inspired your whole movement to want to take over Atlanta like you have and make an imprint in our culture.
Kirsten Daniel: One moment? There is no one moment. I think really traveling back forth to New York and Los Angeles made me realize how valuable Atlanta is when it comes to culture. For one, every room that I am in, I’m the only native. To me, that is a problem. If everybody is looking to Atlanta to dictate what the trends are, what this rapper is saying this, what the fashion is here. Everybody is looking to Atlanta to capitalize off of it, however, they don’t want to make this their home and move their offices to Atlanta. It just made me realize our value. Me being a true native here, my perspective of Atlanta is different.
Brittany Mi’Chelle: What is your perspective of Atlanta?
Kirsten laughs and looks at her watch,“ Girl how much time do we have.”
Kirsten Daniel : My perspective of Atlanta is most different. The soundtrack in my mind that plays when I think of Old Atlanta specifically is Outkast’s Aquemini because to me it was a place where everybody felt like family, where black people were thriving. I mean w have always had a struggle, but our people have always been strong in a sense of whatever your economic status was, you still did whatever it was you could do to exude excellence. Back to your original question, what made me start this movement was simply being in the only native in the room.
Growing up just blocks away from what some people may consider the slums. Kirsten never allowed herself to fall victim to the limits that society tried to place on her community. Never allowing excuses to be a deterrence from her goal. She embraced the Westside for its strength and sense of courage.
Kirsten Daniel: I love the west side because there was so much grit and grind over there. The people over there just struggled, and that was much like my journey. My mom did not want me to go to schools in my neighborhood because she was like maybe I can’t give you what other parents are giving their kids, but I’m going to put you in the environment to be around those people because I want you to pick up on certain things. That shirt that’s has “Somewhere between Bankhead and Buckhead” that’s my life. My mom did not want me to be educated in the neighborhood that I lived in.
Since beginning Ateaelle back in 2015, Kirsten has watched her brand flourish into something much more than simply a clothing line. Ateaelle has become a movement. Having achieved so much success at such young age, I was curious to know how well prepared Kirsten was prior to starting her own T-Shirt business.
Kirsten Daniel: The first shirt that I had, I printed for Grammy weekend and wore it to a popular brunch in L.A. and people were immediately asking what I was wearing. My branding mindset came with working with HustleGang. Hustle Gang is a brand that was created by Jason Geter and rapper T.I. about five years ago. Jason and Tip came up with the concept for BET awards weekend and just put it out there for people to wear in support of Hustle Gang. I remember being apart of those initial conversations and reserving those domain names, and sitting down with the printer and learning exactly how they needed to be printed. Then to see it just one year later to gross over $7 million. Understanding that process from start to finish is what really allowed me to have insight into how to go about branding myself when it came to apparel.
The Ateaelle brand was created to fulfill the lack of representation in the city of Atlanta. Being a native and seeing the city develop into this new Atlanta is more than empowering. If I were to tell you all the endeavors that Kirsten is associated with, you probably wouldn’t even believe me, but what’s undeniable about Kirsten is her loyalty and support of other black women and businesses.
Kirsten Daniel: One of the things about Ateaelle that I try to make understood is that we represent Black excellence, hood decadence, and geographic reverence. I want to be able to promote black excellence in everything that I do. I want to always be able to pay tribute to people who have done something very prominent within the black community. Because we need unity, and we need to support one another.
In the Spring of 2016, I began hosting a trivia night entitled, Are You an ATLien which focused on some of Atlanta’s most profound history and fun facts. One of my goals when creating Are you an ATLien was to gather a variety of minds and ideologies under one roof to help connect like-minded individuals and share the love of Atlanta. When I invited Kirsten to one of my events, not only did she show up, she also provided me with an Atealle’s original Old Atlanta shirt for my promotional photoshoot. Expecting nothing in return other than mutual support and encouragement throughout our entrepreneurial careers.
Being friends with Kirsten has made me realize that not all women are jealous of each other and that black women actually do support other black women! An ideology that the world sometimes deems as mythical.
Overcoming the obstacles of being a statistic, starts with more than just an idea. Time and time again, Kirsten has proven that with passion, drive, and persistence your able to recreate your reality.
Brittany Mi’chelle: What do you think those children that are in those areas that have “lower education” and whose parents may not be able to send them to schools outside of their community might need to hear. I don’t want to ever make kids feel like their community is limited because knowledge is where you seek it, what would be your advice to them?
Kirsten Daniel: My advice to those who may not be able to see beyond their geographical territory is “don’t lose sight of what you see on TV or what other people have.” To be honest the reason I have so many steps in my house is that when I was younger what I thought was a status level was to have steps. I thought a house that had steps meant that you were of a higher class. So when I started looking for a house I wanted levels, and now I have those levels in my house. My point is “ don’t ever think that just because you grew up in the one bedroom house with six people which is what I did. Don’t ever think that is the end of your story. You just have to work hard and keep your mind fixated on whatever it is you want. You can get it you just have to work for it. The standards that society sets for the people in those areas, don’t apply to you. You can have whatever you want but you can’t go about life thinking that you don’t have a chance. We all have the same opportunities it’s all about how you choose to use those opportunities.
Fast forward to present day, my girl Kirsten is still breaking down barriers and growing her business and her passions every day by simply being true to her hustle and love for her city. For this Women’s history month I would like to highlight and uplift the Ateaelle brand and to continue to spread the love, swag, cultural influence of Atlanta with the rest of the world.
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