Janine James’ career has taken her from retail to fashion to education and beauty—here’s how.
By Manna Zel
Welcome to Follow These Women! the latest series to join To The People’s lineup. In this series, we’ll get quality one-on-one time with the women of Youth To The People and sit down with them to discover their career paths—some are unusual, all are inspiring—their goals, dreams, and values. No matter the stage of your own career, taking a peek into someone else’s path can be a breath of fresh air—it can offer a new perspective, or even help you double down on the things that are important to you. If you’re looking for groundbreaking women, look no further. Follow these women!
Next up in Follow These Women! is Janine James, Youth To The People’s Regional Sales + Education Executive in New York and Boston—who also leads YTTP’s internal diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) committee. She likes to think of herself as a traveling brand rep, educating large teams on YTTP’s family of products.
“I discuss the features and benefits of each product, educate on how to build a customized skincare routine, and give helpful tips on how to sell,” she says. “I also host killer YTTP in-store events, which are always a lot of fun and high energy!”
But the path to where she is now wasn’t linear. Janine grew up making clothes since she first learned how to thread a needle at 13, and has since spent many years as a fashion designer, showrunner, and public school teacher. Whether she’s engaging with her students, making the perfect prom dress for a first dance, or helping someone improve their skincare routine, Janine finds pleasure in knowing she played a part in making someone’s day.
“What I learned most from each of these roles is that tenacity [and] sheer drive will get you where you need to go! I worked very hard to get each of those roles,” Janine says. “‘No’ wasn’t in my vocabulary! I told myself that I will and I did.”
When Janine had her daughter, Milan, in the early 90s, her career shifted. At the time, she’d been trying to make a name for herself as a designer and showrunner in the fashion industry, but Milan’s arrival meant Janine would need to change course.
“Knowing that she was on the way meant that I had to get a ‘real job.’ I’ve learned not to look at life as being off track or not being on the right path,” she says.
As for how she wound up at YTTP, Janine says, “I’ve always enjoyed working in a retail environment with bustling energy. Each day is different, each customer is different [and] it’s a great place to engage with community.” She was intrigued to learn the industry from a vendor standpoint, so she started researching companies—which is when Youth To The People piqued her interest.
“YTTP checked all of my must-haves and then some. And here we are today,” says Janine. “Life ebbs and flows and I’m riding the waves. Wherever I am is where I’m supposed to be. I’m creating my destiny!”
Part of that destiny includes not settling on an ultimate career goal. “I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! I’m a creative. I have interests in many, many things. My passion for learning something new runs deep,” she says. At YTTP, those interests include getting more involved with the brand’s social impact, like being more hands-on with humanitarian and social justice causes and expanding our in-house DEI committee.
Of all the work experiences Janine’s explored—including working for herself—the most surprising has been at Youth To The People.
She says, “Greg and Joe are the real deal. They are passionate and caring employers who show up for their team. They speak with us, not at us. They include us. They let us have a voice. We know we’re being heard. I’ve never experienced anything like this in all my years in the industry and, honey, I’ve been around the block!”
As the DEI committee co-lead, Janine leads many conversations with the team that can get uncomfortable, but as she puts it, “The willingness to learn and unlearn is real.” She’s learned that she has a talent for listening and the team has learned they can confide in her. And the support she gives the team is the support she receives in return.
“I feel very supported as a woman at YTTP, even more so as a Black woman. We sit at the table. We’re a part of the conversation. I know that I have a voice, that I count, that my opinion matters,” Janine says. “For me, it’s not about getting my own way all the time, but rather being invited in the first place. I’m seen. I’m grateful. YTTP asks the right questions and wants to hear the answers.”
When it comes to groundbreaking women, Janine admires Mother Teresa’s unconditional love, humility, and devotion; Oprah’s drive, tenacity, and ambition against all odds; Michelle Obama’s wisdom, grace, and power; and her mother, Nola Mayers’ love of family, dedication to education, strength, and generosity, and “not to mention, her wicked fashion sense!”
“Groundbreaking for me is overcoming your fears! Standing up for yourself. Going against the odds. Being authentically you. Showing kindness to your fellow human beings. Being humble and gracious,” Janine says. “I’m getting goosebumps thinking about it!”
Follow Janine at @j9foxey on Instagram.