*Describe your a-ha moment.
My "a-ha" moment is a reoccurring one; it's the reminder that there is no set path; I am free to try new things and do them my way! This "a-ha" revelation first came when I decided to go natural at 15. Getting a relaxer had been like a rite-of-passage for me as a black teenage girl -- it never occurred to me that I didn't have to have a perm. But once I went natural, I was like, "Oh wow, I don't have to do things the way everyone else is doing them. I can define the rules for myself!"
That same revelation returned to visit me in college after attending a campus event where Lisa Price, owner of Carol's Daughter, came and spoke about starting her company. Up until that point, I had been groomed by my family to go to college and make lots of money as an engineer; entrepreneurship never really occurred to me. Right then and there, I was like "A ha! So you don't have to work for someone else, you can build a life and business around what you love doing!" I've been chasing my dreams ever since.
*Tell us something about your personality that used to bother you, but you've now learned to love and use to your advantage?
It used to bother me that I am simply a nice girl and prefer to resolve conflict in a reasonable, respectful way. Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, many of the black girls I went to school with wore it as a badge of honor that they "didn't take any mess" and could "get with you" in a heartbeat if you did or said something that offended them. Even my own mother, a Detroit native, at times had a penchant for snapping at people for various offenses with an aggression I couldn't quite muster. If someone did something wrong to me, I didn't see why I couldn't just have a conversation with them if it was a big offense, or (gasp!) let it roll off my back if it was small. I was and have always been pretty even-tempered and laid back, but for the longest I wondered if I was being a pushover because I wasn't quick to go off on telemarketers or curse out the cashier who rolled her eyes at me while ringing my stuff up at Macy's.
A few years ago, on a whim, I had an experience where I decided to give bravado a try. My then-boyfriend and I were pulling up to his apartment complex when the security guard at the gate began to hassle us because we didn't have the correct resident parking sticker on the windshield. As I watched my boyfriend try to reason with the man, I became agitated and figured then was as good a time as ever to channel my inner Evelyn Lozada. I began yelling. Started insulting. I rolled my eyes. Smacked my lips. I went off. (Thank goodness I didn't have a wine bottle in hand!) And you know what? It totally didn't feel right. Once the fiasco was over and the security guard reluctantly let us in, even my boyfriend commented that I had acted out of character. Instead of feeling confident and empowered, I felt silly and majorly embarrassed. A strong black woman, I had not been.
Since then, I've learned to embrace and even cherish my diplomatic demeanor. I see it as a skill instead of a weakness.
*What’s your best piece of woman-to-woman advice?
The beauty you see in other women? See that in yourself. So often, women get caught up in admiring and even envying other women because we think everyone has something we don't have. Whether its looks, a certain talent, a job, a husband, clothes, cars, whatever, we think every other woman in the world is this beautiful person, living this beautiful life, and we aren't. It's ridiculous! Whatever value you see in another woman, recognize that that same value exists within yourself. You just have to learn to appreciate what makes you and your life uniquely you.
*What has been your favorite mistake?
Ah, I have made so many mistakes! This is going to sound weird, but my favorite mistake was messing up in school. I talk about it in detail on my blog, but basically my arrogance and careless decisions caused me to lose my scholarship, take on a bunch of debt, eventually withdraw from my prestigious university, and attend a lesser known, public university just to finish my education. When it first happened, I was SO ashamed, but looking back, I know God used that experience to reveal a lot of the ugliness I had in my heart and show me what was important in life.
So much of my identity was tied up in how great and smart and fabulous I thought I was, but once the external accolades were removed, I had to come to grips with who I really was. I was arrogant, undisciplined, and ungrateful really. By clawing my way out of the mess I made, God worked with me to transform me into a more humble, diligent, and appreciative person. I began to see the good in others and legitimately cared about helping them reach their dreams as much as I wanted to reach my own. I'm so happy I went through that experience; it shaped so much of what I'm proud of in my life today.
*What is your favorite way to express yourself creatively?
My absolute favorite way to express myself creatively is to get dressed up in my most "me" outfit -- big gold hoop earrings, big hair, bracelets, a funky dress, pretty much whatever speaks to me that day -- and spend the day thrift shopping. I adore thrift and vintage shopping; every excursion is both a challenge and an adventure. It's the #1 thing I do to blow off steam and do something creative just for me. I consider thrift shopping creative because you really have to have an "eye" to find cool things and to pair them well together. Plus, when I find something really old an unique, I always feel kind of connected to the item's history as I imagine where it came from and who had it last. Just thinking along those lines gets my creative juices going.
*Are you currently working on any projects?
Yes! I'm working on producing my first in-person event for my blog and I'm working on a memoir-ish e-book where I share some of my best life lessons. I've always wanted to produce a published work, even a small one so this is me putting my toe in the water. :-)
*How does having a creative outlet promote emotional health and well-being?
By allowing a channel to express yourself without all the internal (and external!) criticism we are usually subjected to. A creative outlet is a place to just be, to get to know yourself and explore the unique way you see the world. We are all deeply creative at our core and when we don't express that, eventually something will feel "off". Having a creative outlet is as much about life balance as eating healthy food or spending time with loved ones.
*Have you ever experienced depression or anxiety and how have you gotten through it?
I had anxiety really bad a few years ago because I put way too much on my plate. I was unintentionally overwhelming myself with misguided goals and to-do lists, then when I wasn't measuring up, I became overwhelmed about being overwhelmed! I got through this by learning to pray immediately when something started getting to me, even small things ("Cast your cares on the Lord for He cares for you"), talking it out with my family (my mom is excellent at showing me where I'm being unreasonable and reminding me that it'll be okay), and committing to less. A lot of what I committed to wasn't even important. Once I cut that stuff out, I felt a lot better.
*What do you not want us to know?
That I'm terrible with knowing the difference between my right and my left! It's awful! I think I have some wires crossed in my brain or something! I'm always nervous when driving somewhere with someone who is giving me directions and they're like, "Oh, make a right here..." I have to really concentrate to know which way to turn. I even stick out both hands to see which one makes a "L" with the thumb and forefinger. I have tried every tactic under the sun to try to remember which is which but it's no use. I'm hopelessly challenged. :-)
*When do you feel most creative? What inspires you?
I feel most creative when I'm following my own intuition. Intuition is something I've been trying to cultivate more lately because, in our age of Google and infinite knowledge, it's so easy to try to find the way something is "supposed" to be done versus doing it yourself. I've noticed that my most creative times are when I've ignored best practices and just done something the way I thought it should be done. More often than not, following my own line of thinking open doors to more and more creative ideas.
I'm really inspired by other people (especially women) who have found their zone in life and are rocking it. I just love it when people find their thing, their little nook in the world, and they make the most of it. I call it being plugged in. Once you find your unique socket, the socket God has uniquely designed you for, and you plug into it, the electricity that flows is amazing. It's hard not to be inspired by someone who has electricity flowing through their life, you know? It just encourages me to keep going because I know my life will be electric too once I find my unique socket.
*How do you soothe yourself when you are upset, disappointed, angry, jealous?
Whew! I hate when I'm feeling like that but, especially when I'm jealous, I remind myself that whatever God has for me is just for me -- whatever is for another person is just for that person. Why be jealous over what you weren't meant to have? If I am generally in a funk or upset about something, the biggest thing I do to soothe myself it let myself cry. Even if its silly, even if I'm being ridiculous and I know it, it doesn't matter, I still give myself permission to cry. Then, when I've cried for a good 10 minutes and I'm tired of being hurt, upset, angry, and disappointed, I pray about it and let it go. Sometimes, letting it go means moving on to something else completely, sometimes it just means deciding what I'm going to do about it. But once I've had my episode and allowed myself to feel the full weight of those emotions, I move on with my life.
*What does it mean to you to be a soulful beauty?
A woman with passion, who knows that beauty goes way beyond physical appearance. A soulful beauty is beautiful down to her spirit and it's that spirit that radiates out.
*What is your favorite quote, scripture or affirmation?
This comes from the Book of Esther in the Bible. Esther has been made queen and her uncle is pleading with her to ask the king to save their people (the Jews) from an evil servant of the King who is hell bent on destroying everyone. Esther is scared to ask the king so her uncle tells her:
"If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for a time such as this?" (Esther 4:14, NLT)
I love this verse because it serves as a reminder that (1) God is going to do what He's going to do, but I can choose to be used as a vessel by doing the right thing, (2) the blessings and positions of prominence I receive are not only for my benefit, but for the benefit of others as well, and (3) I have been chosen for a time such as this! No need to fear or feel inadequate, this is my time!