‘Let’s Check The Board’: Louisville Fashionista  Becomes TikTok Star

Apr 25, 2023 at 4:34 pm
"Let's check the board" with RaeShanda Lias-Lockhart.
"Let's check the board" with RaeShanda Lias-Lockhart.

RaeShanda Lias-Lockhart has built a huge following for her tough love — and approachable style

A lot of you have said, ‘RaeShanda, you’re not Mrs. Garrett, but you stay giving us the facts of life.’” 

click to enlarge Chances are, if you use TikTok, you've "been to the board." (screenshot)
Chances are, if you use TikTok, you've "been to the board." (screenshot)

If you’re a fan of TikTok, chances are you’ve “been to the board” with RaeShanda Lias-Lockhart of All is Fair in Love and Fashion (or @shopaif), a women’s clothing and accessories boutique. Even as Lias-Lockhart preps her store (online and by appointment only) for the coming Kentucky Derby season, her viral videos offer common sense advice, which she delivers at her dry-erase board. Lias-Lockhart also meets her followers — some of whom are also patrons of her business — online during live events where she talks about new products and shares insight into how she approaches TikTok.

Meeting Lias-Lockhart “at the board” or at a live event offers just a taste of the content and hard work that has made her famous. Lias-Lockhart has over two million followers on TikTok and comes close to 100,000 on Instagram. Opening up with LEO, she shares her journey to TikTok stardom, making clear that despite this recent bit of fame, she’s already had quite a journey from homelessness to business owner and now much-sought-after online personality. 

Initially, Lias-Lockhart used Facebook for her clothing business but resisted TikTok. “I was like, ‘I don’t know what to do on TikTok. I’m not getting on TikTok, it’s another app that I have to be active on,’” Lias-Lockhart said. 

Lias-Lockhart started using the app so that she could watch other creators’ videos. In March of 2021, she posted a few videos of her own. After one went viral, she began to find a rhythm. 

“I just started posting, like, my rules for life, and, like, three or four months in of posting, something went viral and it just went from there.”

Lias-Lockhart began introducing her family — her wife LaShondra and their five children (four of RaeShanda’s and one of LaShondra’s). Within a year, her following had grown to one million. 

Lias-Lockhart doesn’t do a lot of planning for her videos. Much of what she shares comes to her in a moment. She also doesn’t necessarily spend entire days on social media. 

click to enlarge Lias-Lockhart in her boutique, All is Fair in Love and Fashion.
Lias-Lockhart in her boutique, All is Fair in Love and Fashion.

“I used to post, like, once, maybe twice, a day. Now, I just post whenever, because everything I post and everything I do is off the cuff anyway. It’s not written down anywhere. So if I think about something, I post it, especially at the chalkboard,” she said.

The chalkboard is where Lias-Lockhart explains simple life lessons and points out obvious truths like the importance of having the right outfit for a Beyoncé concert — a nonnegotiable must — or how to protect one’s peace from those who don’t have the best intentions. Lias-Lockhart’s intuitive responses to simple dilemmas provide almost mini-therapy sessions in the span of a TikTok minute. 

“No, it’s not wrong to feel the way you feel, and it’s not okay for you to be around people that you kinda like, or you don’t wanna be with,” said Lias-Lockhart.  “Especially coming from someone that has no problem with saying no. I love a good ‘no.’  I keep one in my holster daily to dish out to anybody. And I feel like a lot of my friends … They have anxiety and they suffer because they don’t know how to say no to people.

“So, that was very freeing for me to start just letting people know, ‘You don’t have to deal with fake friends,’ or, ‘It’s not even really that you’re dealing with fake friends, it’s that you’re putting people in categories that they don’t belong and you’re getting hurt.’”

Lias-Lockhart learned these life lessons early — before she began her boutique selling women’s clothing and accessories and before becoming a TikTok sensation. 

Born in Chicago, Lias-Lockhart grew up in Mississippi after moving there with her mother when she was about six years old. 

At 13, Lias-Lockhart gave birth to her first child, but when the father of her son — and then later a different boyfriend after him — each died tragically in a car accident, her mother suggested that perhaps men were not for her. To Lias-Lockhart, the joke made perfect sense and she followed her heart, meeting her first girlfriend just before leaving for the military at 19. 

Even so, during her service in Frankfurt, Germany, Lias-Lockhart married a man and became the mother of three more children. After the military, she moved back home to Mississippi.

Lias-Lockhart’s story could make quite a movie. The usual life highs and lows are there, but throw in a natural disaster and a family betrayal to the tune of $30,000 and it becomes the stuff of Hollywood. 

It was Hurricane Katrina — which hit the Gulf Coast in 2005 — that brought her for the first time to the Bluegrass State in 2006.

“I had a college friend here in Kentucky. And when Hurricane Katrina came through, she suggested Kentucky. And I was like, ‘Kentucky? People don’t wear shoes in Kentucky,’” Lias-Lockhart laughed. 

The friend reminded Lias-Lockhart that she was also from a state ridiculed as an impoverished backwater.

“She said, ‘Girl, you are from Mississippi,’” Lias-Lockhart recalled. “I was like, ‘Touche.’” 

Lias-Lockhart moved herself and her children to Frankfort, Kentucky, where she began working as a financial aid officer for Kentucky State University. At KSU, Lias-Lockhart finished her degree. 

Lias-Lockhart went back to Mississippi to start a nonprofit, but after losing a large sum of money to a family member, she packed up her family and left Mississippi in a fit of anger in the middle of the night. 

That’s when she found her way to Louisville. She was broke, hurt, and homeless — living with her kids in a pay-by-the-week motel off Preston Highway.

“I didn’t know anybody here. I found a temp job through Kelly Services. Started working at Republic Bank,” said Lias-Lockhart.

“I remember looking through the newspaper, and nobody at work knew I was homeless, but this one lady next to me was like, ‘If you’re looking for a place to stay, don’t stay in West Louisville.’ And I was like, ‘Why not?’ She didn’t know that I didn’t have a place to stay and I didn’t know there were different sides to Louisville or whatever. And she was like, ‘Just don’t stay in West Louisville.’ So of course I found a home and it was in West Louisville on Greenwood and Cecil Ave.”

In that home, Lias-Lockhart’s life changed forever. One night, in October 2012, she started a Facebook page: “All Is Fair in Love and Fashion.” 

“I was just putting together style ideas for women,” she said. “So if you’ve ever seen those collages with the shirt, pants, and shoes with nobody in them, I started posting those, and something I posted went viral,” she said.

“I went from 200 followers to 2,000 followers to 200,000. Somebody suggested, ‘Why don’t you start selling these clothes that you were posting?’ I was like, ‘I don’t wanna do retail.’”

Lias-Lockhart was still working another job. However, the encouragement from a follower in Atlanta helped Lias-Lockhart decide to start selling the fashions she’d been styling for free. The follower asked Lias-Lockhart to be a buyer for a boutique in Georgia. Lias-Lockhart agreed and did the job for a few months. Then the follower told Lias-Lockhart that she was going to teach her how to run her own boutique. That follower, Shelly, remains a friend today. 

Connecting with her wasn’t Lias-Lockhart’s only moment of serendipity.

“One of the amazing things is there was a grant coming up, a revitalization grant, and it was only for people that lived in West Louisville. And I said, ‘Had I listened to that lady at my job, I would not have gotten the $15,000.’”

Lias-Lockhart, then shipping worldwide from her home in West Louisville, was the only online store to get the grant.

But her story certainly doesn’t end there. She began her business, first finding a location in the Heyburn building in downtown Louisville, and then opening a short-lived retail space in Oxmoor Mall in East Louisville. But the regular retail life didn’t suit Lias-Lockhart’s tastes. She preferred the online, appointment-only approach. 

While growing her business, she hired herself as her own public relations manager. She used the internet to find contacts for local news outlets, sending releases titled, “From Homeless Vet to a Six-Figure Business.” 

Local news outlets loved her story, and that press found its way to producers at “The Steve Harvey Show.” After an appearance there, Lias-Lockhart’s business continued to expand, and — amid everything else — she found love with her now-wife.

That also happened online.

“I don’t even know how we became Facebook friends,” Lias-Lockhart explained.  “She just posted like two, three days ago that we’ve been Facebook friends for 10 years. I made a post that I was sitting at the gas station waiting for someone to pump my gas ’cuz I don’t pump gas. And she commented, ‘Bless your heart.’ And she’s from Texas. I know what that means. She’s judging me. She inboxed me and was like, ‘I would like to take you for coffee.’”

Lias-Lockhart gave her response in the same blunt fashion that has made her famous, “And I was like, ‘Coffee? I’m not 70 years old.’”

“She was like, ‘Well, I would like to get to know you.’ I said, ‘I eat and you can take me to dinner.’”

Their dinner at Mesh lasted four hours, and maybe a week later, LaShondra surprised Lias-Lockhart at her boutique. 

“She came to the boutique and brought me — ‘cuz I don’t like flowers —  she brought me a bowl, a spoon, some Fruity Pebbles, and some milk.”

The couple ended up on “Say Yes To The Dress,” tying the knot in 2019.

“She clowns me all the time,” said Lias-Lockhart. “She is the one that will humble me at any moment. But we kind of… we just mesh. We are both Leos.”

LaShondra — whose last name is also Lias-Lockhart — is a property manager in Louisville and a minister. She features prominently in RaeShanda’s videos. The couple laughs together, sometimes works together, and openly supports each other. 

“We’re extra and over the top and there’s nobody to calm us down. There needs to be a balance. But it’s not, you know, there’s no balance in this house. It’s just extraness everywhere,” said Lias-Lockhart.

Just after the couple married, COVID-19 shut down the world, and Lias-Lockhart had to figure out how to maintain her business, which was also closed due to Governor Andy Beshear’s order. 

“I was in bed for seven days. When I say, throwing up, sliding down the wall sick, I was like, ‘I’m gonna be back homeless, eating beans out of a can.’ ‘What do you mean with all businesses?’ I was freaking out. In bed seven days, and every day, my wife, cuz she’s an essential worker, so she still had to go to work, and she’d come in there and be like, “Babe, it’s gonna be okay.’ And I’m like, ‘Shut up.’”

Lias-Lockhart said that on the eighth day of her panic, she got out of bed and had a conversation with God, asking what she should do. Realizing the need for masks would grow, she found a way to get masks and other personal protective equipment from her manufacturers in China. Within days, she’d sold $50,000 worth even while donating to essential health workers, the National Guard, and other frontline workers. 

By December 2020, she’d paid off her debt and continued to tuck money away in savings. And today, as the world emerges from isolation and needs something fabulous to wear, business is better than ever.

This April, Lias-Lockhart held her eighth Derby fashion show at Fourth Street Live!, the sold-out event previews Derby-appropriate looks because the right outfit is a Derby obligation. Some proceeds from the Fashion show are donated to the Louisville TAPP school for teen mothers. 

For those of us in the Louisville area, a trip to the board or to visit Lias-Lockhart’s boutique is closer than TikTok: Lias-Lockhart and her wife LaShondra live in Jeffersonville, and Lias-Lockhart’s boutique is in Clarksville just minutes from downtown Louisville. She is open by appointment only (connect with her through social media or at shopaif.com).

For Lias-Lockhart, the journey through fashion and social media has been life-changing.

“It’s just been an amazing ride. And that’s what I mean when I’m talking about the power of social media. It changed my life and my children’s life before I even met my wife. And now it has changed our lives. I always hold onto that good part of it. I don’t venture off into anything else and we’re fun and upbeat. I’m a really light person.”

Lias-Lockhart wants folks to know what social media can do in a positive way. She also reminds people that even while she maintains a positive page, she still faces adversity as a plus-sized, Black, gay woman and that sometimes being on social media has its drawbacks — particularly when followers push past her boundaries, forgetting that what you see on social media isn’t the whole story of her life. 

“Our page is fun and light,” said Lias-Lockhart. When folks forget the tone of her content and make inappropriate comments, she steps in: “‘Now I gotta check you,’ which I enjoy doing. But I think that people are… they get too familiar with the parasocial relationships, that they forget that because you love somebody or love watching their content, you forget that they are human.

@shopaif Even on Sunday I am teaching! #winning #prizes #games #lifelessons #teaching #lessons #lifehacks #hilarious #funny ? original sound - RaeShanda Lias-Lockhart

 Lias-Lockhart sees “the board” as the perfect chance to correct, in a fun way, those who breach her boundaries.

“I am cute and we can kiki and haha, all day, but we’ve got real issues that we deal with as Black people and as women,” she said. “So, I love the social media part of getting to tell people that.”

These days, Lias-Lockhart is in full Derby mode, adding new items to her boutique and online shop. She’s also still making content at “the board” for those who need a reminder — and sometimes, that’s even herself.

Update: Raeshanda Lias-Lockhart•filed for divorce from LaShondra in the Fall of 2023. 

See RaeShanda Lias-Lockhart with LEO Photographer Tyler Lizenby:

@shopaif Issue comes out next week Leo Weekly #louisville #derby #photoshoot #magazineshoot #bts #fyp #plussizefashion ? Da Girls - Ciara