PHOTOS BY: Fadil Berisha, Julia Rabkin, Carlos Velez, Alicia Shi & Diego Vega Photography
This month’s edition of She Hustles Talks features Mrs New York America 2020, Yasmeen Gumbs gracing our incredible cover. She is clearly hustling, considering she is not only a corporate attorney and legal consultant, but also and international model and even a social media influencer.
We couldn’t have asked for a better queen to help straighten all of our lady boss crowns! Hope you enjoy our Q&A with her and stay tuned because this is just the beginning of her journey and we are excited to see where it all leads.
Tell us about yourself, and your background. What do you do when you are not Mrs. New York America 2020?
I was born on the beautiful island of St. Thomas, United States Virgin Island. I relocated from St. Thomas to New York City with my family at a very young age. I attended college on a Division I Track & Field Scholarship. I have been recognized as a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Leadership recipient and Sunbelt Conference Track & Field finalist in the 100-meter dash, 4×200 and 4×400 meter relays. I furthered my education by attending law school in Virginia. I was recognized as Who’s Who Among Law School Students, Vice President of the Black Law School Association and winner of the Appellate Advocacy Competition.
I am a Corporate Attorney and Legal Consultant, admitted to the New York State Bar, United States District Courts for the Southern, Eastern and Western Districts of New York State. I defend high exposure cases against corporations in court and during mediation. I also volunteer my time as an American Bar Association Law School Division National Appellate Advocacy Competition Judge. I was recently recognized by the American Bar Association for my contribution to the practice of law and being crowned Mrs. New York America 2020.
What makes you hustle?
Living in New York City instilled perseverance and dedication to serve others. I surround myself with positive and professional individuals, which allows me to continue striving to achieve all my goals.
Tell us about what made you decide to run for the Mrs. New York America pageant.
In 2017, I unexpectedly lost my father and best friend, the late Basil Gumbs. My father dedicated his life to serving his community, specifically his military family. Members of the United States Virgin Island Coast Guard spoke about the positive impact that he made. That was the moment I asked myself what kind of legacy I wanted to leave. I have a long-standing partnership with the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club and the Salvation Army of Greater New York. It was a lifelong dream for my father to see me compete in a pageant and I knew that winning the title of Mrs. New York America would afford me a greater audience to advocate for my platform #ConfidenceComesFromWithin.
What did you choose for your platform and why?
My platform #ConfidenceComesFromWithin was formed based on my personal story. My platform focuses on building confidence through mentorship in all children, especially those living in low socioeconomic neighborhoods. With mentorship programs, there’s a greater probability that children living in these neighborhoods will become successful both academically and professionally. I have a longstanding partnership with the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club where I actively serve as Council Member, volunteer, and mentor. I also proudly serve as Board Member, volunteer youth mentor with the Salvation Army of Greater New York (Harlem Temple Corps).
It is important for me to volunteer because I truly believe in the importance of giving back to your community. Sharing my personal story have a direct positive impact on the future of many inner-city youths living in low socioeconomic neighborhoods and experiencing economic hardships.
What does the word empowerment mean to you?
When I think of the word empowerment, I think uplifting others. Uplifting others so that they can see their potential and achieve personal greatness. Achieving greatness both personally and academically.
What was it like hearing your name called as the Mrs. New York America 2020 winner?
Hearing my name called as the Mrs. New York America 2020 winner was one of the best feelings I have ever experienced. I was very excited! I remember waking up the next morning looking around to see if I was dreaming. It took a week before it fully hit me that I had won. The year of 2020 has definitely been a challenge worldwide and wearing the crown during that time is not something that I took lightly.
What do you feel are your greatest strengths? What about some of your weaknesses?
My greatest strengths are the ability to appreciate professional criticism and public speaking. The ability to take professional criticism and turn it into professional growth and success is a great skill to have. I think when you train your mind to think that way, you will become more successful. Some of my weaknesses are being critical of myself and a perfectionist. However, I have learned how to find a balance between them both.
What have you accomplished during your reign?
As a result of Covid-19, my hometown of New York City was tremendously impacted. It was important for me to use my voice and crown to reach a greater audience and spread awareness for those living in low socioeconomic neighborhoods. During my reign, I helped raise thousands of dollars for the Boys & Girls Club members, served as a mentor, volunteer and Council Member. In addition, my daughter and I volunteered with the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club Thomas Murphy Clubhouse Summer Literacy Program.
I served as a special guest speaker during the Camp-in-a-Box counselors and campers meetings hosted by Captain Antonio Rosamilla of the Salvation Army of Greater New York. I volunteered and appeared as a special guest during the Salvation Army of Greater New York (Harlem Temple Corps) Back to School event. I mentored youth members virtually, by providing professional and college development. I also served Thanksgiving meals to New York City residents. As a result of my service, I was recently named a Board Member of the Salvation Army of Greater New York (Harlem Temple Corps).
What did you take away from your pageant experience?
Pageantry can be a wonderful experience if you align yourself with positive women and use your voice to make a difference within your community and beyond. I was fortunate enough to have gained lifelong friends through the Mrs. America and Mrs. New York America organizations. Having a hands-on director, Diane Hardgrove (Mrs. America 2006 & Mrs. World 2007) helped steer me into the path of success. Despite the challenges that were brought in 2020, I am proud to have won the title of Mrs. New York America 2020 and I am forever grateful for all the wonderful experiences I have gained during my reign and beyond.
What was your first job and how old were you?
I was in my senior year of high school when I got my first job at a shoe store in the mall. It was a perfect excuse to buy new shoes at a discount rate
Who are some of the people that empower and inspire you and why?
Growing up, my late grandmother Idalia taught me the importance of giving back to my community and making a long-lasting positive impact in the lives of others. She would always say to me, “Yasmeen it is better to give than to receive.” Those exact words remained in my heart and helped shape me into the successful woman and advocate that I am today. Being able to positively impact the lives of others throughout the state of New York, America and the United States Virgin Islands. In addition to my grandmother, my sister Nailah Gumbs-Fahie is a living testament to putting others first for the greater good. By profession, my sister is a forensic licensed social worker in the state of New York and successfully help those incarcerated land back on their feet after being released from jail and prison.
If you had to start over from scratch, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
My life experiences helped shape me into the woman I am today. I would not necessarily change my past experiences if I could start over from scratch. However, I would change the methods and strategies that I used in the past to achieve my dreams and goals.
“What is your ‘why? ‘”
My road to becoming successful was not an easy journey. This led me to creating a mentorship program (#ConfidenceComesFromWithin) directly after graduating from the University of New Orleans. I have impacted the lives of hundreds of families by raising funds for the clubhouses, creating events and activities for the clubhouse members. As a board member with the Salvation Army of Greater New York, I am a strong effective contributor and leader. I help steer the organization towards a sustainable future by adopting ethical and legal governance as well as making sure the nonprofit has adequate resources to advance its mission.
How did working through the pandemic change you for the better or worse? How did you get creative? How did it effect your reign as Mrs. New York America?
The year 2020 has definitely been a challenge worldwide. But if there is anything that the pandemic has taught me is the importance of family, which is what the Mrs. America pageant system stands for. Despite the challenges that were brought in 2020, I am proud to have won the title of Mrs. New York America 2020. I was fortunate enough to have my long-standing partnerships with the Boys & Girls Club and The Salvation Army of Greater New York prior to winning the title of Mrs. New York America 2020. Therefore, I was able to continue my obligations, just in a virtual manner for the most part.
What role do you think social media plays for you personally and professionally and what is your favorite platform?
Social media plays an instrumental role in my daily life both personally and professionally. As an advocate for my platform #ConfidenceComesFromWithin, I have young children and aspiring attorneys looking up to me. It is important for me to lead by an example. Therefore, I am very cautious about what I post on social media platforms and the partnerships that I commit to.
Name the one special moment during your career that has stood out to you.
Winning my first trial was by far a special moment in my career. There is no greater feeling as a litigator than winning a case where the odds were stacked against your defense.
What’s the biggest factor that has helped you be successful as an attorney?
I am a very focused and goal driven woman. When I set my mind on achieving something, I give it 110% and make it my obligation to see it come to fruition.
What was it like handing off the crown this year the new Mrs. New York America?
My goal during my reign was to leave a legacy that far outlives my reign with a commitment to highlighting all the joys and blessings that were prevalent in 2020. I accomplished that and more as Mrs. New York America 2020 and was excited to hand off the crown to a new queen.
What was your favorite moment of the 2021 Mrs. New York America pageant and why?
My favorite moment of the 2021 Mrs. New York America pageant was spending time with the Mrs. New York America pageant family. Especially my sister queens Miss New York for America Strong, Gabby Wright and Mrs. New York American, Marjorie Vail. We have a special bond that I am grateful for.
What do you have planned for the next year? What about five years from now?
I am in the process of creating my own non-profit organization founded on the beliefs and principals of my platform #ConfidenceComesFromWithin. Five years from now, I project that my non-profit organization will expand throughout America and the United States Virgin Islands. I am also signed to two modeling agencies and have been working on some upcoming national projects.
What was the hardest decision you ever had to make?
One of the hardest decisions I ever had to make was leaving my corporate job as a partner in a national law firm. At the time, it was difficult to feel like you have achieved something most attorneys aspire to become and to just walk away. Looking back, it one of the best decisions that I have made. I am forever grateful for the opportunities that continue to be presented before me.
What motivates you?
Being a mother to my amazing seven-year-old daughter, Saige Olivia motivates me. I know that she watches everything that I do so I make sure that I am setting an example of the woman that I would like her to aspire to become and more.
What’s the most important discovery you’ve made about yourself in the past years during your pageant journey?
I discovered how important it was to become vulnerable in sharing my personal story, which inspired others in the process.
Describe one of your biggest failures. What lessons did you learn, and how did it contribute to a greater success?
One of my biggest failures was not making it to the finals in the 200-meter dash Sunbelt Conference during my collegiate athletic career. I place most of the blame on myself in terms of training on the level that I needed in order to elevate to that level of success which I had tremendous capability to achieve. That experience taught me the importance of preparation, which I transferred to my personal life and legal career.
How do you make sure people see you as more than just a pretty face?
I have been told that when I walk into a room, I command attention. One of the first questions people always ask me is “Who are you? You are somebody.” It’s really funny to me because I don’t see myself that way. Being personable is a character trait that I have been blessed with. For the most part, people that I meet have already read my biography or looked at my social media pages so they are aware that by profession I am an attorney.
Where will we see you next?
Although I passed on my crown this past July, my passion and mission for building confidence through mentorship of children and young adults who live in low socioeconomic neighborhoods has not stopped. I will continue to be a lightening force throughout America and the United States Virgin Islands through my national partnerships and non-profit organization. As mentioned above, I sit on the board of the Salvation Army of Greater New York (Harlem Temple Corps) and will continue the work that I started in addition to branching out internationally. I will also continue branding myself as an international model, social media influencer and attorney.