Name: Kalan Laws
Profession: Professor, Media Personality, Stylist
One Word That Describes You: DOPE!
What is your “Extraordinary Impact?”
My Extraordinary Impact is developing leaders through fashion and style. I teach for a living, but I really connect with my students via what I’m wearing. I have recognized as a young faculty member at Texas Southern University that our little brothers and sisters are creatively motivated. One way that they express themselves is through their personal style. We bond over that and the “buy in” has been established. Because they are drawn to me as an individual, I can teach the curricula with great success.
I also teach seminars and lectures on personal branding via imaging, fashion, and style, as well as a course to young men about how to properly tie neckwear. It may seem superficial, but by doing this, my hope is that I am contributing to changing the stereotypical and derogatory narrative that has plagued black teens and young adults for decades.
Lastly, my Extraordinary Impact is seen though diversified efforts to be a successful brand. I include my students in my journey as a man of faith, husband, father, educator, community volunteer, media personality, podcaster, style aficionado, blogger, entrepreneur, and creative. I am an older millennial (born in 1982), so I understand the need to creatively express yourself in all areas of life. In fact, I’ve made a career of it and my students and mentees know they can do it as well!
What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?
Being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction is humbling, and a confirmation that I am on the right path. My journey started with pursuing the route that others thought was best for me; however, along the way, I changed courses and discovered it would best to pursue the things that I was most passionate about despite the desires of immediate family and some friends. With that, being selected as one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction is also an opportunity to show other men (young and old) that passion, coupled with hard work and innovation, will place you among the kings of your industry and peers. The affiliation with the Black Enterprise brand is an honor and I am truly grateful for the recognition.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
In 2000, I moved to Houston from Memphis to begin college on a full-ride track and field scholarship. What seemed to be an easy enough route for me, having been great academically in high school, turned into several challenges in my college career which unfortunately ended in failing out of my program. During this period in 2004, my mother was diagnosed with a heart defect, and in 2005 she was diagnosed with kidney failure.
As a young man, I wanted to make my mom proud and I was too ashamed to tell her about my struggles in school, so I started working full time and transferred to a school that would accept my credits. I made every possible effort to push through it while having no car and renting a room in a stranger’s home. And anyone who knows anything about Houston’s climate and culture knows that riding the bus in the Houston heat is a feat within itself. I started working odd jobs, waiting tables, and taking temp positions just to have enough money to have a place to live and food to eat.
Miraculously, in 2006, my mom was healed from her heart condition and I was able to donate one of my kidneys to her in 2007. However, because of the time commitment required to prepare for the transplant, I was eventually laid off from my job and found myself unemployed again trying to finish school. During the time of my healing and recovery, I met my wife. She was/is a huge support and afforded me the flexibility necessary to reach a goal. And after 10 years of trying, in 2010 I finally graduated.
After this accomplishment, I decided to keep going and my wife and I both enrolled in a master’s program. However, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and we became her caretakers during her treatment. We decided to only work part time so we could provide ample support to my mother-in-law and focus on our studies. Those were very lean years, as the expenses did not stop and life continued to happen.
My father-in-law passed during that same time, while we watched my mother-in-law press forward despite a dark diagnosis. I witnessed my wife push pass the pain of losing her first hero while juggling being her mom’s support while she was in recovery, all while making history by being the first African American to be inducted into her graduate honors society. I took that experience and challenged myself to also adopt a ‘no regrets, no excuses’ attitude and not only did I graduate on time, but with one of the highest GPAs in my program.
These instances of my family looking tragedy in the face, taking it head-on despite fear, and coming out on the other side triumphantly gave me a backdrop to pull on in my own life. They gave me a front-row seat and backstage passes to an understanding of resilience, strength, and love!
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
Integrity is the biggest thing I look for because honesty, humility, hard work, and good character are implied within it. With the career portfolio I have amassed working in several different industries, I know integrity can be easily lost due to fear, desperation, or greed; therefore, the ability to have integrity in the midst of all that life can throw at you is one of the most admirable qualities one can possess as a building block to a solid relationship.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
My wife and I are launching our firm this month. I am also writing a book, and I am designing my first menswear collection.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Let love guide you! My initial understanding of that statement was from a romantic context; however, as I have grown, so has the life of that piece of wisdom. I know now that being guided by love is not meant to be a statement of folly or whimsical emotional decision making, but a statement that requires one to love themselves in a way that reflects honor, intention, and forthrightness, and love others the same.
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
Making a difference is simple. It just requires you to be there; be present. The innate leadership and power that’s inherent in your manhood will push you toward a specific area where your presence will be timely and appreciated. Do not limit how you make a difference or the impact your presence has made because it is not immediately visible to others. The place that you struggled during your development is the area where your expertise lies. Your story of how you overcame will inspire and motivate others who are where you were. Understand that the formula behind it requires commitment plus consistency, which all can begin to manifest when you just show up. #IBelieveInYou
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
• Prayer and quiet time
• Use my wife as my sounding board and thought partner
• Storyboard to map out my projects and make lists to keep me organized
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation? Share a story about your best vacation.
My preferred method of vacation is to hop on a plane and travel internationally. Beaches are great, but I love experiencing the culture in new places. I like to go where the locals go. Touristy spots are … meh, lol! I adore museums, art galleries, the local food spots, etc. I need to feel the organic energy of the country/city that I’m visiting.
I’ve been to several places domestically and internationally, but my favorite vacation to date was Toronto/Niagara Falls. Experiencing the falls from the Canada side and watching the fireworks from a ferry on the Niagara River with my wife was enchanting. Not to mention that the weekend was filled with concerts and outdoor activities with some very close friends.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I would love to live in Madrid, Spain, or somewhere in Costa del Sol (The Sun Coast). We spent 10 days there for our honeymoon and I fell in love with the culture, food, and history.
For a vacation, I would love to do a 30-day British, French, and Italian excursion so I could take my time and enjoy. Additionally, I would love to spend significant time in Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa.
Anything else you’d like to say?
THAAAAAAAANK YOU! I am truly humbled, honored, and hype! Shout out to my wife @themoderndaycindi, my daughter, and Blu Phi!!
It’s our normal to be extraordinary. Follow @BEModernMan and join the conversation using #BEModernMan.
Come celebrate the BE Modern Man 100 Men of Distinction at the first-ever Black Men XCEL Summit, Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.