It was once said, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.’ When your eyes have witnessed the hardships of life that include; not knowing your mom, giving your afflicted father insulin shots on a daily basis until he died when you were 12 years old, being on your own since 15 years old, and being a female in a male dominated industry, you would probably tend to close your eyes on a regular basis and hope that your imagination could take you away from your daily existence. With an extremely awe-inspiring level of courage, perseverance, strength, ability, and imagination, Stephanie “Ivy Shades” Johnson overcame and continues to overcome what could have been a typical urban tragedy. “God gave me the strength to deal with what I went through and because of him, I’m able to laugh about it now and just keep moving forward.”
Moving forward became Ivy’s specialty. What most would consider a tragedy waiting to happen, a young Stephanie looked at her situation as opportunity. After moving from gang-ridden streets of Los Angeles to Houston at the age of 12 when her dad had grown to ill to care for her, she stayed with an aunt until that situation ended itself due to family complications. At the age of 15 years old, Stephanie found herself alone, but with the financial backing of her deceased father’s pension money, she was able to acquire an apartment and car by the age of 16 years old even though she didn’t even possess a driver’s license. It was that type of fortitude and hustle that led Ms. Johnson to the University of Houston where she finished with a degree in accounting. After finding that the corporate world was not for her, Stephanie hit the music and modeling industries by storm under the moniker, “Poison Ivy.” Working with some of music’s heavyweights such as Master P and Slim Thug, the young rapper honed her skills and pressed forward making a name for herself. Not satisfied with the accolades of the music world, she once again closed her eyes to the situation around her and let her vivid imagination lead her to designing Ivy Shades Eyewear.
Cited as one of Black Enterprise Magazine’s 13 innovators in the business of design, fashion, and style, the very vibrant and aware Stephanie Johnson is a different person than the 15-year-old little girl who was forced to fend for herself. When speaking to her, you get the sense that she is still quite guarded. She wore sunglasses throughout our conversation and had the beautifully intelligent, “VP,” who serves as Ivy’s right-hand woman of the enterprise, monitoring our conversation to ensure she delivered as a CEO should. As long as she was comfortable, I was comfortable as we chopped it up in the illustrious lobby of the Hollywood’s W Hotel. The Houston rapper admits to being guarded but she also admits she is not the person she once was. “I definitely have trust issues but I no longer live in the pain of my childhood. I just put God first and believe I’m blessed because I was able to let my past go for the most part. I even dropped the “Poison” from my name because I didn’t want to have any negative energy in my life.” Sitting across from Ivy, her energy definitely resonates throughout the room. She is quite exuberant and full of life even though she admittedly only gets about 2 to 3 hours of sleep each night. In a very rare moment, she actually revealed her eyes to me by lifting up her self-designed bedazzled shades and showing a rare glimpse of how sleep-deprived she really is.
That lack of sleep comes from an unmatched drive and passion to make money to support her family, become the very best at what she does, and show young girls the proper route to success and significance. The very outspoken and upfront female CEO had this to say, “I’m here to make money just like the men. You don’t have to sleep around to be successful in this industry. Yes, it may be harder to get where you are trying to go but it is worth it in the end and people will respect you for your talents in the boardroom and not in the bedroom. I think is so important for young girls to know and I’m glad that I was never promiscuous.” It is that same mentality that makes Ivy proud and not ashamed to promote herself as a “Super Bitch” just as the title of her new song suggest. Not only that, she roles with a clique of lovely ladies that she likes to call BBO, which stands for Bad Bitches Only. As she suggest, “Please don’t get it twisted, when I say Bitch, I own that because I know I work hard and I’m good at what I do and my team is really good at what they do. I’m a strong woman but I have feelings just like everyone else. I laugh, I cry, I watch movies, I like to drink, and have a good time but I’m always watching and I’m always about my business first.”
Although Ivy is all about her business, she is very down-to-earth, extremely gracious, obviously spiritual, and her positive energy is inspiring and infectious. She is the type of sister that could comfortably exist in a corporate office, the cipher, the church, the club, or just hanging out on the block. Her path may not have been the easiest to walk but it has definitely been that one that only a “Super Bitch” could endure. The amazing thing about Stephanie Johnson is that she has only began to scratch the surface of her ultimate potential and I see no obstacle or barrier that would be able to impede her progress. She said it best, “God’s path for you may not be an easy or quick route but it is definitely the right route that will get you where you need to be and it’s because of him that I am still walking my path.” Again, it was once said, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” Stephanie “Ivy Shades” Johnson may hide her sleepless eyes behind the dark shades she designs, but her imagination, drive, intellect, and spirit is in full focus.