I am confidently vulnerable, emboldened by love and on a mission to get you to live purposefully and to believe bigger. Call me your cheerleader; I look forward to encouraging you into victory! With love, Tarah-Lynn
I was blessed to be born to Chyler and Magalie Saint-Elien, the best parents in the world! They immigrated to New Jersey from Haiti in the late ’80s and have lovingly sacrificed so much for my siblings and me. I have the honor of being the big sister to one brother, Mitchielsen, and two sisters, Medgina and Shermine. Together, we’re boisterous, jubilant, and protective. They’re my best friends. My family are my biggest supporters and I’m so grateful to have them. My extended family, too! We’re a large bunch – you’ll find me flying out to spend quality time with them no matter where they are in the world.
As a kid, I reserved my truest self for my family – I wasn’t really a people person. In fact, it may be hard for you to believe now, but I was rather shy!
While I made friends in elementary school, I never made the first move. I’d rather hang with my church family, write poetry or spend all-nighters reading the thickest fiction books and pretend to sleep if my parents stopped by my room in the wee hours of the night. They didn't like it when they caught me then but they loved it when I won awards for being an “accelerated reader!”
In middle school, my style began to speak for me. Fashion and presenting yourself well was and still is huge in my house! It’s a conversation starter and a tool that brought a growing inner confidence out to light.
While I was in high school, the boldness I had at home began to also appear in public. My peers saw a fashion sense and spirit of excellence that led me to win the senior superlative: “Most Likely to be on the Cover of Vogue.” I’m believing in God for that moment!
During graduation season, my favorite English teacher signed my yearbook saying something along the lines of “find your voice and share it with the world.”
Funny story – I thought I was going to be a fashion designer. What’s so funny about that? Well, I know absolutely nada about sewing and as supportive as my parents are, they were hesitant in backing me in that pursuit! I don’t blame ‘em – they wanted something stable.
I majored in Communication Studies with a minor in English at Rider University. Being a part of the media department was exhilarating and a huge bonus was being encouraged to direct my assignments on topics I was interested in. Can you guess what I based most of my work on?
One of my first major projects was to create a blog; it was assigned to me in one of the darkest times of my life – a time I really began to become aware of my feelings. As an unashamed believer and fierce fashionista, I knew my space on the internet would merge my personal style, my struggles, and my faith. I didn’t have the name of my blog then and I was inspired in one of the most unexpected ways.
My mother has been ill for the majority of my life; she’s had 7 unsuccessful surgeries, lives in severe pain, and cannot walk. But that year, 2013, she suffered from an unrelatable and avoidable stroke. I never cried about the illness or having to go back and forth to my aunt's house as my mom was in the hospital. But that day, when my mother couldn’t remember the names of me or my siblings, I burst into tears. Angry, I retorted, “really God?”
I can vividly see myself sitting in my college dorm and the weight of sadness hanging on my shoulders. I used to be the girl who would count on my fingers how little I cried. But it was then that I realized no matter how “normal” life may seem, the illnesses my mom suffers did affect me.
When I got back to school, I came across a message by Charles Stanley about spiritual warfare. God put “Adorned in Armor” on my heart to remind me that though we must get dressed for battle, He has already won the war.
I bought the domain, secured the handle on social media, and went forth in posting on my platforms. Throughout the semester, I was assigned to create blog posts here and there but I loved it so much, I began posting on my own terms! Within a year, my readers voted Adorned in Armor the Best International Fashion Blog in the 2014 Cosmopolitan UK Blog Awards. Since I was a finalist (the only American finalist, at that!), my school flew me out to London for the award show!
I didn’t win but through that, God showed me and my family that He can use His children to shine in unconventional ways in any industry and in every corner of the world.
To this day, God sends me brand collaborations I never even pitched and products I needed but never even asked for. He adds my name to New York Fashion Week show guest lists and escorts me to dream activations and events. My platforms grew from hundreds to thousands – I became a fashion and faith influencer before I even knew what the term was.
Back at school, I met an angel I have the honor of calling my best friend: Malissa. I thought high school was awesome but college was even better. I grew deep connections in choir practice and my faith strengthened immensely at a fun and relevant neighboring church.
Towards the end of college, I left Jersey for a little bit to live on my own in Washington, D.C. I was accepted into a semester-long program where I learned from leading media outlets like the Washington Post, Buzzfeed, and PBS. My time in DC was special for so many reasons – this is the place where I learned that I don’t have to be in politics for my work to be substantial.
When I got back to Jersey, I landed a fashion internship in New York City with elle.com, and soon after, I had to travel back to DC for my first major speaking engagement!
I graduated at the top of my class – summa cum laude with numerous honors, a handful of media connections, and no job.
Well, I did have a job at ALDO and I loved the team (plus the employee discounts). However, I didn’t have the career I worked so hard for. It was rough and I felt like God failed me. I share most of that story in my first book, Claim Your Crown.
Not one to sit idle, I took that time to build my brand and venture into things I've always wanted to do. This included pageantry (say heyyy to your Miss Black NJ 2018), as well as, grad school (any Syracuse Newhouse family here?!)
I also realized God kept me home because I am not a morning person and so that I would have the freedom to take care of my best friend/mama.
I was the girl that thought I would be working at a fashion publication just a quick train ride away in NYC. Instead, God had me work for myself! In a way, I was catapulted into entrepreneurship but I wouldn't change a thing.
However, everything wasn’t all daffodils, roses, and pansies (or whatever they say). In this time, I also experienced betrayal and heartbreak. One after the other, the most bewildering things would happen and I would often find that I pictured God was pleased with the fact that I was hurting. I saw Him as distant. I knew He cared but I thought maybe…not that much. He wasn’t being close to the brokenhearted as He said (Psalm 34:18).
Traveling is how God healed me time and time again.
I’ll never forget the first moment I got the opportunity to go on an all-expense-paid mission trip to the Dominican Republic with my church family. (That testimony of how it happens is nuts!) While dealing with my own broken heart, I discovered I had a heart for people. Children certainly, but also anyone who goes overlooked.
I came home and had different eyes. I came home and had a softened heart. I came home and went from being a Teen Vogue It Girl to a Teen Vogue fashion writer. I was blessed with numerous opportunities to travel the world and interview leading figures in fashion and entertainment. Being in the room at such a young age was mind-blowing but the fact God led me into each one settled me.
I’m reflecting as I write this, and all I can think is,
The biggest blessing my job with Teen Vogue afforded me is the opportunity to travel to my parent's homeland of Haiti.
Man is it beautiful.
My parents always beamed with pride telling me of the fun they had there, how grandeur their homes were and how dazzling the island truly is.
I believed them.
However, there was an inner battle going on in my mind for most of my life. Why did the memories of my parents have a conflict with what mainstream media show? Why were my parents’ words at war with what the kids said at school?
It always confused me and as a shy child, it further silenced me...until I began searching for the truth. I grew up and desired to show the world what I discovered.
I knew that the Teen Vogue press trip was my moment to showcase the most beautiful places there. As a little girl, that’s exactly what I wanted to see.
And when I arrived, I felt it in my heart, thinking “this is where I belong.” I may not have worn the flag on my chest all of my life, but I’ve discovered the beauty of becoming and it all began when I went back home.
The first thing I did when I touched down in Haiti was meet up with my aunt Yolette and my friend, Stephanie, who’s a teacher there. Stephanie put together an assembly of sorts and I went from classroom to classroom with my crown on my head and sash across my neck.
My heart burst to see how the kids of all ages were enthralled with the crown. And that gave me the idea for my first book, “Claim Your Crown.” It is my duty to show the world that all of our crowns have always existed and it's due to our status as children of the King.
As soon as I returned to the States, I told my mom, “I can’t wait to go back!” She couldn’t believe how connected I felt to the island and how strong my love was for our people. She smiled as she confessed, I’ve always wanted to help the girls in Haiti, now you can.
I’m not too sure what that’ll look like but I’m on my way to finding out.
Shortly after returning home, I signed a three-book deal with Baker Publishing. My first one, Claim Your Crown, was released in February of 2020 and the second, Love Letters from the King, will be released this August. I have something in the works in the meantime and I’m so excited to share it!
That is an entry that I wrote in my life journal on the journey to my digital rebrand. I realized it wasn’t just an outer work; it was something God had been doing in me all along. Since 2013, you’ve seen my brand, Adorned in Armor, at the forefront. But now it’s time for you to see me.
I am walking in my womanhood. I am emboldened by love. I am sharing vulnerability with confidence. I am Tarah-Lynn. A bold and expectant woman, sweet and mighty. A woman who is certain with much to anticipate, so she smiles.
"Adorned in Armor” was only an extension of me. Here’s to exploring everything else. This marks a new beginning; there is immeasurably more to come.
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