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Three new African-American cultural vanguards

NADINE MATTHEWS Special to the AmNews | 5/31/2013, 11:54 a.m.

When asked how she feels about being in a position to shape the culture of her generation, she answered, "It isn't so much that my co-founder Jac and I will shape culture for this generation, but rather that this current generation has shaped Jac and I. So many incredible, smart people in our generation identify with the vision of The American Reader, and that's natural because, in a sense, they came up with it; we just said it out loud." When it comes to creating a lifestyle that includes more fine art, she advised, "Try to avoid the bestseller table."

St. Lucian-born Monroque was recently dubbed "the muse of a generation" by New York magazine. Serving as creative director of the iconoclastic Garage magazine, as well as creative consultant of The American Reader, she has also been called "the thinking woman's style icon." Indeed, in her review of the erotic potboiler "Fifty Shades of Grey" for Harper's Bazaar, she tied in the anthropological research of writer Zora Neale Hurston to the escapades of the main characters.

But Monroque is just as widely known for her ties to the world of fine art as she is known as a trendsetter in high fashion. She is the former girlfriend of Larry Gagosian, one of the world's most foremost art dealers, a darling of top designer Miuccia Prada, and is known for starting fashion trends. However, Monroque remains humble, playing down her influence, saying simply that she is just "happy to be part of the dialogue."

For her, making the time to incorporate fine culture in her life comes down to just "putting down the phone sometimes and being present at the museum ... reading a book, cooking a meal for friends."