What images first come to your mind when you think of young people in your own community? Do you think of positivity & success? Let me help you here. Is your community recognising the successes & contributions of young people & individuals? Still unsure? Read on………

The achievements of young people are often overlooked by society, community groups and those who play a vital part in shaping and developing young people who have skills, talent and potential. The media often encapsulate the issues that young people may present, rather than focus on, what value young people are bringing to their community. The emphasis of recognition, hard work, achievement, credibility and ambition is very easily lost in our discussions and social awareness on what is going on around us.

Celebrating Youth Excellence is an annual event, aimed at recognising the talent, hard work, perseverance, contribution and achievements of young people, individuals and organisations in the West Midlands. The charity was set up in 2008 to honour and celebrate the successes that exist in our local community.

The annual event is organised and directed by Poet, Author and Young Entrepreneur – Talisha Johnson. Talisha is young lady, with impeccable talent and self-drive. She is very active in the local community & has formed and established several community initiatives. Talisha strives to deliver excellence as part of her personal drive and business acumen and has worked hard to establish community presence and build awareness of ‘Youth Excellence’ within the community. Talisha has been heavily involved with this initiative for 5 years now.

The charity was originally founded Councillor, Author & Poet – Esha Johnson (Talisha’s mother) in 2008, as part of Esha’s vision for promoting the growth and development of young people. Esha ‘passed on the baton’ to Talisha in 2010, equipping her with on-going support and plenty of encouragement. Talisha continues to work hard locally to establish the charity ethos further, in turn working with a team of young people to deliver positive outcomes.

This year’s Youth Excellence Annual Award Event took place on Saturday 14th September at the Holiday Inn in Birmingham. It was a spectacular evening, honouring the outstanding achievements of individuals who are not only exceeding, but are making positive changes to the lives of others.

Elegance, panache combined with a remarkable & beautiful refined ambience is what Saturday night was about. This was a black tie event, attended by an array of professionals, organisations, dignitaries, community groups & individuals all coming together to acknowledge & applaud individual accomplishments. What was lovely to see was the high level of professionalism from the beginning of the event, right until the end. It was amazing to see so many young people enjoying themselves, showcasing their talent and being honoured throughout the night.

Key highlights of the night included entertainment from some of Birmingham’s very talented young people. Local singing artists – Nadine Daniel & Vibs Bhatia entertained the crowd with beautiful singing. An original composition of Poetry was performed by Poet – Jade Richards. The event was hosted by the one & only ‘Smash’

Smash Entertainer  -Host

Smash Entertainer -Host

Community speeches were given by Justice Williams – Multi award winning social entrepreneur & MBE & Wassem Zaffer –Labour Councillor & MBE. Other speeches were given by Youth Excellence Award Winner 2012 – Alisha Harris, Chanel Lee Smile Award Winner 2012 – Ellison Porter, & Joel Blake – Award winning entrepreneur. All speeches were inspiring, uplifting and motivational.

Ellison Porter  -  The Chanel Lee Smile Award Winner 2012

Ellison Porter –
The Chanel Lee Smile Award Winner 2012

Paulette Hamilton - Councillor for Birmingham

Paulette Hamilton – Councillor for Birmingham


Organisation of Excellence – The Challenge Network
Youth Award Art – Aaliyah J Allen
Academic Award – Daniel Stone
The Good Samaritan Award – Amy Kirkham
Endurance Award – Jewel Henry
Sportsmanship Award – Joel Stevenson
Entrepreneurial Award – Alexandria Robinson-Sutherland
Parent of Excellence Award – Minto & Neera Kohli

Aliyah J Allen Arts Award Winner 2013

Aliyah J Allen
Arts Award Winner 2013

The Chanel Lee Smile Foundation would like to take the time to acknowledge both winners and nominees for 2013. Congratulations to nominee’s for Endurance Award and Good Samaritan Award – Tia Perkins. Tia has worked tirelessly supporting people in her local community.

Tia Perkins Good Samaritan Award Nominee Endurance Award Nominee

Tia Perkins
Good Samaritan Award Nominee
Endurance Award Nominee

Taylor & Tia

Taylor & Tia

Other nominee’s included Girls UK, a group of girls from High Clare School who have assisted the Chanel Lee Smile Foundation & have also assisted with fundraising initiatives etc. – Special thanks to Gavir, Antonia and Danielle, who have recently raised £575.36 for the Chanel Lee Smile Foundation. Further congratulations to Marcel Rodney -Arts Award nominee. Marcel has made numerous contributions in artistic form in his community and continues to work hard to build his portfolio of art designs.

Marcel Rodney Arts Award Nominee

Marcel Rodney
Arts Award Nominee

The Chanel Lee Smile foundation would like to especially acknowledge, ‘The Chanel Lee Smile Award winner for 2013’ -Rhys McCollin; Reece has made outstanding contribution to assist with work in his community and his local church. We congratulate Rhys on this special achievement.

Chanel Lee Smile Award Winner 2013 Rhys McCollin

Chanel Lee Smile Award Winner 2013 Rhys McCollin

Finally, The Chanel Lee Smile Foundation would like to take this special opportunity to thank Talisha and her team for a wonderful evening & for the hard work and dedication in recognising the talent of young people in the city of Birmingham. We look forward to next year’s event with joy & anticipation.

For further information on Celebrating Youth Excellence visit

Deborah Lee

A personal ‘Thank You’ from Deborah Lee – Director of The Chanel Lee Smile Foundation

Zeina and Dom final

I would like to say a personal ‘Thank you’ to all contributors of Yellow Smile Day 2013, members of the community, family, close friends of Chanel and Birmingham City Council for honouring our request to hold this special event in the city of Birmingham.

Yellow Smile Day was a big success this year. To see Chanel’s vision slowly unfolding has been an amazing experience in my journey of grief. I have to express my heartfelt thanks to the community for all the personal support and commitment given and for embracing the beautiful memories of Chanel and her vision for change in the world through The Chanel Lee Smile Foundation.

A number of Yellow Smile Day celebrations took place across the city of Birmingham and the UK this year, it is lovely to see so many people supporting the vision that Chanel spoke about on the 1st October 2011. We want Yellow Smile Day to be a national day of celebrating the arts across the world and we are still working on plans to put plans in place around this.

This year’s main celebrations took place in the heart of Birmingham. Yellow Smile Day celebrations included celebrations of various artistic expressions from some of Birmingham’s finest and extremely talented artiste’s: Natty Josiah, Naomi Parchment, Smash Entertainz, and Belinda Kae. We were joined by young entrepreneurs & motivational speakers Joel Blake, Talisha Johnson and Chanel Lee Smile Foundation Award Winner 2012 – Ellison Porter. The event was hosted by Chanel’s two cousins – Zeina Russell,Dominee Easy and Smash Entertainz.

Other contributors this year included the very talented young artist Marcel Rodney who was inspired to do a featured drawing of Chanel for Yellow Smile Day and fashion mogul, Shara Johnson highlighting her exclusive fashion Design and sharing her journey of achievement. As part of the Yellow Smile Day celebrations this year we interviewed Birmingham’s very own Errol Lawson who has been actively involved in mentoring young people and leaders across the West Midlands.

I am blown away with the talent in the city of Birmingham and wish to thank all the above contributors for sharing your journey’s, talent and heart to pursue your own dreams. What we sometimes will never know are the lives that are impacted through the experiences, talents and dreams that we share along the way. Thank you all for making collective changes to the lives and hearts of our community.

Other celebrations took place via the social media platforms. I have received countless communications from individuals, schools, colleges and community organisations who were also involved in Yellow Smile Day celebrations. It is meaningful to see such uniformity and love shown for Chanel, her dreams and vision on this special day. Please send your pictures or blog to us at

The CLSF foundation continues to grow and we are excited to move forward. We have been actively looking at ways to develop the foundation this year and we now have in place an operational plan, guiding us one step closer towards the principles for the Chanel Lee Smile Foundation. We want to take this time to thank all those who have made personal and professional contributions throughout 2012/2013 to the development of the Chanel Lee Smile Foundation. Our plans for growth are steady, but we move forward proactively at each stage.


The Chanel Lee Smile Foundation was founded on 27th October 2011

The CLSF Web site was launched in Jan 2012

The very first ‘Yellow Smile Day’ was held on 22nd May 2012

The Chanel Lee Smile Foundation was officially registered as a charity on 21 May 2012

The Chanel Lee Smile Foundation has established Social media presence ensuring the message and vision of the Chanel Lee Smile Foundation is extended across various platforms. Over 9,000 followers have visited the website nearly 200 Tweeter followers and 562 Facebook followers are receiving updates on the work of the CLSF. We are determined and absolute in our mission to bring about change in the world.

The Chanel Lee Smile Foundation has been reached in over 8 different countries and 15 demographical UK locations

In summary
 The CLSF aims to build positive working partnerships with public, organisations in promoting the work and vision of the foundation.
 The CLSF has listened to the views of young people as part of The Chanel Lee Smile Foundation launch and will use this to inform our practice in moving forward
 The CLSF now has a clear mission statement which will inform our direction in moving forward positivity and proactively.
 The CLSF has established links with organisations with the aim of developing positive partnerships.
• The CLSF has received positive feedback about the foundation from customer feedback testimonials and tweeter update.
• The CLSF is keen to grow the foundation organically ensuring we are sound in our principles. This may take time, but we intend to do our best.
• The Chanel Lee Smile Foundation is 100% committed to meeting its aims and honours the dreams of Chanel Lee.

We ask for your continual support in helping us to change the world that we live in.

Deborah Lee xx

Interview with Errol Lawson @errollawson

Errol Lawson is Birmingham born prolific, motivational speaker, world leader, author, life coach, business consultant and business owner. He is currently offering a number of services to a number of organisations and various secondary schools across the West Midlands offering ‘Bespoke Leadership’ training to young people. Errol is making greater strides to promote leadership locally nationally and globally.

Errol has recently been recognised as one of the 25 Top Ten Leaders in Birmingham and fonts the Young Leaders Academy and The Transatlantic Leadership Network 2020. In addition to his resume of achievements, Errol has recently launched his new book.From the postcode to the Globe

Thank you for agreeing to do this Interview Errol. The Chanel-Lee Smile Foundation recognises the work that you currently doing in the community to promote future leaders of tomorrow. Do you consider that you own personal vision has been fulfilled?

No, I believe I am still on the way to fulfilling it. I am blessed to have been involved in some of the projects that I have done, but I still have some way to go to fulfil my dreams. I am happy with the opportunities which I have been presented with. I still have a long way to go with God’s grace.

We congratulate you on the publication of your book ‘From The Postcode To The Globe.’ Tell me how do you overcome limitations to release your potential?

The first thing is to understand what your purpose in life is, get some clarity. I appreciate this may be difficult. Sometimes, people may not understand what their purpose is and sometimes people may float as they may not understand. Pray and ask for direction, read stories of other individuals who have achieved success, go out and try different things. Overtime, we will discover that our unique purpose begins to unfold and become clearer and clearer. As we begin to prepare ourselves, we get a sense of vision. Someone may be in a situation where they are stuck in a dark place or may feel surrounded by their own limitations and obstacles. Others may lack motivation and drive and has a result find it difficult to move forward. For me, my faith and being able to steward others and help them realise their purpose is what has helped me. Others lives may be connected to my success. I have a duty to God and recognise that we have a responsibility to fulfil.

In your experience of working with young people what do you consider to the main obstacles for young people in reaching their dreams?

Young people growing up today lack confidence, self-image, self-concept, self-belief. Many may not believe they are capable of achieving. From my experiences and feedback from young people whenever parents are not involved in young person’s academic success this presents to be a hugh barrier. The children that are doing well in school usually are the ones that have parents involved in their lives

Yellow Smile Day will be held on the 22nd May 2013. We are using this day to look at the life, dreams and vision of Chanel Lee and pay attention to the arts across the West Midlands. Do you think there is a relationship between the arts and self esteem? 

Definitely, when I am delivering my workshops, I touch a lot on positive mental attitude. I often ask students about their talents and gifts and a lot of young people will raise their hands, although I have found that the older they get the less and less their hands raise.
Some of the feedback suggests that the arts allow young people to understand who they are. Being an artist is about recognizing who you are, some people sometimes struggle with stating about their personal journey. Through the arts comes self-confidence, self-belief and talent.

How important do you regard the arts and do you consider there is a need to recognise the arts nationally and as part of the education curriculum?

I think creative arts have a very important role, drama and performing arts can impact on self-confidence. Very often young people benefit in the arts as their social skills and soft skills are being developed, however there needs to be a balance between the performing arts and having an academic pathway. There is a need to have ‘Book smarts’.

What has been you greatest barrier to success and how did you overcome this?

Me. My mind-set, attitude, thinking. I overcame it by educating myself, reading, finding mentors, coaches and travelling.

You have spoken in your book about the ‘post code mentality’ and the need to develop leadership and potential. What are your three top tips for success?

  1. Develop habits, positive daily habits and routine – success is hidden in our daily routine.
  2. Surrounding one’s self with like-minded people
  3. Being committed to personal development

What would you say are the biggest barriers facing young people currently?

The lack of parental involvement can affect young people on a number of levels. Also a young person not having a stable home. I have found these to be the issues sometimes which make the most difference from speaking to young people and being around them.

What are the practical steps young people can take in order to pursue leadership?

You have previously spoken about core values being your faith, religion and personal responsibility, when did you realise the importance of having these values?

Around three years ago I began to identify them. To live from my core values is to live from a place of authencity, truth and clarity and not to compromise my values them.

How do you balance success with the need to maintain your core values?

I live from my core values. They act as a measuring stick, a thermometer. You have to take ownership of your personal core values

Have you heard of the Chanel Lee Smile Foundation? How would you encourage people in the community to support the Chanel Lee Smile foundation?

Yes, the whole ethos of the foundation is about encouraging others; we can all learn from that and inspire others. You can be an inspiration to others like Chanel Lee was by encouraging someone and lifting someone up.

What advice would you give to young people who wish to fulfil their potential?
If you want to fulfil your potential you have to get clarity, have a plan and allow yourself to get constant feedback. The road to pursuing your potential is never a straight road; you have to maintain perseverance, stay committed, write vision down and never give up. Everything is possible.

If you would like to hear more from Errol, you can purchase his book ‘From the Postcode to the globe on his website

Interview with Ellison Porter @ellisonporter

As part of our Yellow Smile Day activities and going forward we are profiling some amazing young people and celebrating their achievements. So without further ado, meet Ellison Porter.


At 19-years-old Ellison Porter  is a talented music artist, the founder of EVP Talent Management and a professional model who has worked with some of the industry’s most internationally renowned brands such as Calvin Klein.


In October 2012, Ellison was awarded the ‘Chanel-Lee Smile Award’ at the 4th annual Celebrating Youth Excellence Awards . Mr Porter has shown a sense of compassion and empathy for others in in his community as well as making a positive impact and being a good influence in people’s lives. Let’s take a look at where his talents have taken him so far…

What does EVP Talent Management comprise of?

Well as of recent, I’m just in the middle of a total rebuild and looking for smaller groups of talent I can work closer with. It’s all about building a start to someone’s career and helping them progress in stages I’ve already been through to make them progress, as a friend, teacher and manager.

You record as well as produce your own music, how does it feel to be the creative director of your own work?

It’s very difficult because you’re always thinking you can do better. You spend a lot of time recording audios that you got right the first, second and even third time! It feels great when you hear your hard work in a night club though!

How did it feel to be presented with the ‘Chanel-Lee Smile Award’ and what did the overall experience mean to you?

I didn’t personally know Chanel, but I know a few close friends of hers and hearing about her characteristics and her morals – she’s an inspiration. To me an award in her legacy is the best type of award to win and I am very proud.

How important do you believe it is to show compassion for others in the community?

Your community is what defines you no matter what you think. It is what sculpts your personality and aura. So I think it’s great to give back to the community.

Do you think Birmingham is a city that caters well to the creative arts of the music scene?

Well London is massive in terms of music but Birmingham has its talents as well, to me there just as strong as each other.

What are three pieces of advice that you would offer to aspiring music artists?

Just three words – dedication, work-rate and perseverance

Yellow smile day will be held on the 22nd may 2013. The Chanel lee smile foundation will be using this day to look at the life, dreams, and vision of Chanel lee and pay attention to ‘the arts’ across the west midlands. What do you consider to be value of participation in the arts?

It’s a great to be involved in the arts and its perfect to be a part of something that you love and that you think about every day of your life.

For more information about Ellison Porter, visit

Interview with Shara Johnson

As part of our Yellow Smile Day activities and going forward we are profiling some amazing young people and celebrating their achievements, meet the second in our series of interviews – Shara Johnson.

Shara Saf for Websitef

final - Copy

Birmingham fashion designer Shara Johnson, is currently studying at London College of Fashion (LCF), 

Where did you discover your passion for fashion and design?one of the leading Universities of fashion education in the world. Ms. Johnson has showcased at many popular events such as Clothes Show Live, Midlands Young Fashion Designer Awards and The Touch of London Show, which she headlined. 

Now at 22 years old, Shara has designed for celebrities such as Lady Leshurr as well as interning for the likes of Victoria Beckham and Richard Nicholl. Take a look at what she had to say about her journey so far.

I always loved drawing and making things when I was little whether it was watching Art Attack, making a mother’s day card with stickers, glue and glitter, cutting a pair of jeans into shorts or doodling – I just loved being creative. My real love for fashion kicked in when I was about ten, my Godmother made couture wedding gowns and the most beautiful dresses; I used to go to her studio space and was just in awe of her drawings and what she’d made. I knew that I wanted to do the same one day.

You currently attend London College Of Fashion (LCF), one of the leading Universities of fashion education in the world. How have you capitalised on this opportunity?

Getting into London College of Fashion is one of the greatest achievements of my life, I remember when I received the letter telling me that I had got in and I jumped up and down screaming my head off. Attending LCF was a new experience that completely took me out of my comfort zone as I moved away from home, made new friends and my perspectives on fashion and design completely opened up.

The university has given me countless opportunities such as the experience of attending talk sessions with world renowned designers such as Ozwald Boateng. Another opportunity I had was being an extra on Sky Living Fashion Reality Tv show ‘Styled to Rock’, in April 2012.

To date you have had the privilege of interning for world renowned brands including Victoria Beckham and Richard Nicoll. How have these experiences enabled you to develop your skills?

The experience of interning at both Richard Nicoll and Victoria Beckham was enjoyable, challenging, intense, a constant lesson and amazing all at the same time.  I was always asking questions and I never stopped learning. You really don’t know what you’re made of until you are actually placed in the industry and you have to prove and show your skill set in such a fast paced environment.

But I rose to the occasion with confidence!  Even at times when I got things wrong, it didn’t deter me, I just did it again until I got things right. I learned a lot about myself and how much goes into making a fashion business successful.

How would you compare the fashion scene and creativity between Birmingham and London?

I think that there is just as much creativity in Birmingham as there is in London however in London everything just seems to be more out there and put on a platform for everyone to see.However the throng of talent in Birmingham is amazing and because I’ve been proactive in looking for things and events to go to, I now don’t think it’s a matter of comparing, I think it’s a matter of knowing how to exercise whatever environment you’re in. I do however think that the fashion scene in London is broader, many people in London dress as they please and are not afraid of being expressive!

Many of your designs have a sophisticated yet classy edge. Where or who do you draw inspiration from?

My inspiration for a design could come from anything but most of my inspiration for designs come from bright colours and I like my designs to celebrate a woman’s beauty from the inside out. I love looking at sunsets, tropical plants, flowers, tropical birds such as parrots, fish, pretty much anything with bright colour, I just think the world can be a very gloomy place, why not brighten up the place a bit?.

My favourite designers include Matthew Williamson, Nkensani Nkosi, Basso and Brooke and my favourite designer ever is Elie Saab, his designs are just breath taking.

You often hear the saying ‘fashion is a lifestyle’. Why do you believe it is important for people to take more consideration of how they present themselves?

First impressions are lasting; many people argue that fashion and clothes don’t define who you are, and they are right – they don’t, but what they do is they enhance a huge part and are reflective of you are and how you choose to represent yourself – you are essentially communicating to people without even having to speak.

Whether people like it or not fashion and garments and the message portrayed through them can be powerful, and society rely on certain elements of fashion to formulate an opinion of someone for example would you go to a job interview at a corporate company dressed in jeans and t –shirt? – no – you would go in smart attire to represent someone who means business.

What are your top three tips for aspiring fashion designers?

  1. Practice! I really would say practice, study and learn about your craft the more you practice the better you get. I think that a lot of people think that fashion is easy, wrong!, it can be hard work! But it won’t feel like work if you are doing what you love.
  2. Be true to who you are as a designer, but listen to constructive criticism. Not everyone will understand your vision but they don’t have to – that is why it is your vision. Although there are many designers we are all unique and that’s what makes us great – our differences.
  3. Believe in yourself and have patience, I don’t care how cliché it sounds Self-belief is paramount. Not everyone will believe in you which it’s why it is so important to believe in yourself. If you are good and you know you are when you put your mind to it you can achieve anything.

Yellow smile day will be held on the 22nd may 2013. The Chanel lee smile foundation will be using this day to look at the life, dreams, and vision of Chanel lee and pay attention to ‘the arts’ across the west midlands. What do you consider to be value of participation in the arts?

I think that the Yellow smile day is an amazing movement and the concept of encouraging young people within the arts to go after their dreams is great. Not everybody has parents or people around them who will understand, encourage and support them in what they are doing and therefore movements like this are needed for young people so that they can feel inspired towards success.

The arts in particular is important because the they are all based on creativity, passion, and most of the time people pour their feelings and who they are into it. The Chanel Lee ‘smile’ foundation reminds people that achieving your dreams are important and no matter how bad things get, there is always something to be thankful for so we should ‘smile’.