Andrea M. O'Neal
Braving freezing temps in strappy sandals, our Spotlight model didn’t let on that she comes from the warmer climate of the South. If you know Andrea from Atlanta, you’re not that surprised. She perseveres for what she’s passionate about - no matter the challenges in her path. In this case, she was committed to championing the ELOQUII line and our shoot’s backdrop: the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), where she sits on the Board of Directors.
Andrea M. O’Neal Pays It Forward
Former woman of global Wall Street unleashes her most authentic self by helping people of color navigate their ways to lasting economic advancement. How? As a career strategist, workplace equity advocate, essayist, champion of black arts and, definitely, as a model of personal style.
Early in her career, Andrea M. O’Neal was living two different lives. During the day, she would impress the ranks at her finance job (albeit in a self-described “very uninspiring” blue suit). At night, she would light up her look and her inner artist as a performance poet and equitable-society activist. What she really wanted was to combine her two worlds and follow her dad’s advice: “Make your work play. Make your play pay. And play all day.” She wanted to find that thread that allowed her to authentically have intellectual and academic conversations about social justice. If she found this professional path, she knew it wouldn’t feel like “work” and she could pour herself into it.
Her answer: Empowering young adults from underrepresented communities.
This path was the result of leaving investment banking, taking an “eat-pray-love year” and seizing an opportunity to speak with students upon her return. Andrea’s no longer on Wall Street. But CNBC is still her go-to wake-up channel. Today, working in the nonprofit space around social-political issues has proven to be a pursuit near to her heart and her experience. When she joined the finance sector out of college, she had to get used to being the only one like her - one of few black women in the bullpen - in certain spaces. Since she left Wall Street ten years ago, she’s taken what she’s learned about success pathing, fashion and equitable workplaces - and shared it with the next generation.
Over 700 students have already benefited from her knowledge directly.
She coaches her fellows on all things Wall Street and general adulting. This includes how to build a network, develop core skills, secure and leverage an internship and land a job. They’re often high-performing individuals who may be marginalized, so Andrea takes her commitment to them seriously. She knows what each one’s advancement can mean. For example: One of her students went from being a security guard at a financial institution to a trader there. Another student went from investment banking to private equity (“the NFL of Wall Street”). She’s seen that when someone achieves their career goal, they pay it forward. For example, her student in private equity helped put his younger siblings through college. This creates an ecosystem of equity. It also makes people reconsider what they thought their career outcomes could be.
Her work is mostly done via video chat. This means being in back-to-back Zoom meetings nine hours a day isn’t uncommon.
She takes them either at her WeWork desk, at city destinations that inspire her (e.g. the Brooklyn Museum), in her apartment or on the train to her corporate headquarters in DC. “Me and Amtrak are BFF,” she laughs. “I’m still waiting to see Joe Biden though.” Dressing for days that vary this much isn’t easy. Let’s just say it’s pretty likely there’s a change of shoes in her bag.
To describe her personal style, she imagines a mix between Miranda Priestly and Tracee Ellis Ross.
It’s a mixture of the fictional editor’s classic silhouettes with famed actress’ surprise twists. Think: a collared dress but in a tribal print. At first look, Andrea’s fashion sense evokes the clean minimalism of the Upper East Side and then layers it with quirky downtown style. She brandishes these looks while event hopping on the NYC scene - zipping from the Nyuorican Poets Cafe on the Lower East Side to corporate art auctions in Midtown and art openings at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, MoCADA (where she sits on the Board of Directors). Her go-to flair includes chunky necklaces, print mixing, or an interesting mix of rings. So it goes without saying that she was a fan of pairing statement earrings with some of her favorite looks on set.
Notice the chandelier earrings with the wide-leg black jumpsuit. She envisions wearing this look to a MoMA opening or DJ bar with the girls. “I got that sexy-but-still-upscale look,” she detailed. This description also goes for the printed-wrap and faux-wrap dresses that she lit up in. Their feminine silhouettes contrasted beautifully with the strong waterfall earring and Earthy bamboo earring, respectively.
This knack for show-stopping accents was born while living abroad in her 20s.
She found a love for such finesse after seeing effortlessly elegant women in Paris and self-assured women in Hong Kong. That’s also how she built up an army of voluminous scarves to amp up her blue and black suits. “Now that I am who I am, I try to affirm that through my clothes and give others permission to be who they are,” she declares. “I remember feeling so constrained on Wall Street - from how I wore my hair to how bright my lipstick was. I had to get used to standing out because I was already standing out anyway. So why not dress the way I wanted to and put my personal style out there?
“Now I use what I wear to inspire girls to be themselves at work.”
She’s talking about her incredibly considered looks. Because Andrea works remotely, when she’s face to face with her students in Mountain View, CA; Dallas, TX; or Minneapolis, MN; she puts tremendous thought into her in-person statements.
“I think about the content of my speech but also what I am going to wear. I outfit-plan down to my jewelry and my makeup colors. It’s a very curatorial process.” She continued on, outlining a major reason she partnered with us: “In seven days of outfits, probably four are Eloquii!” She hasn’t started thinking about what’s going in her suitcase for her big year ahead. However, it needs to include easygoing numbers for her family’s rural Alabama farm; bright, expressive looks for overseas music festivals; and empowered, artsy looks to inspire her work-in-progress essay collection and documentary film about being a person of color at work.
Needless to say, we won’t be the only ones on the lookout for what this high achiever does - and wears - next.
What was your first ELOQUII purchase?
A floral dress and red capelet. I wore it to a kickoff seminar where I spoke on stage to 400 students. I felt like superwoman in that moment. My message was important and I knew I looked fabulous.
Who are your style icons?
The Parisian woman with her voluminous scarves and the woman in Hong Kong with her structured outerwear.
What did you think you’d be when you were growing up?
An engineer. Both of my parents are engineers and I thought I would be, too. I even went to space camp. Then, in college, I switched from chemical engineering to economics.
Where are you excited to travel to this year?
Ghana in December for the Afrochella festival.
What trends are you rocking this season?
Monochromatic nudes. I’m all in. I love that palette. A nude jumpsuit with a trench with a nice pink lip? Like oh my god. I’m all in.
Love Andrea’s story? Check out all her favorites and our new arrivals to inspire your next career move!