To be a black woman.
There’s a fortitudinous nature to our collective. A brilliance that cannot be explained, replicated or diminished… no matter how hard they try. A je ne sais quoi that is only heightened by our deep connection to all things unseen, a true inner knowing of all that we come from and all that lies beneath the surface.
We are… magnificent. Multi-talented. Ambitious. Resilient. And don’t even get me started on our physical appearance. Our looks! Oh baby, the looks are giving on time, every time.
These thoughts and more continue to come to me as I get cozy in my front row seat to all the love Sheryl Lee Ralph is experiencing in real-time after snagging her first Emmy award for best supporting actress in a comedy series at the tenderoni young age of 65. When the Abbott Elementary actress took the stage giving us beauty, vocals, and a word to meditate on, she reminded us that no matter how long or arduous the journey may seem, believing in yourself and trusting your dope IS the only option.
Having replayed the acceptance speech no less than 20+ times, it got me thinking about how Black women are just it. When we show up, we show out. Seeing successful people is one thing. Seeing successful people that look like you? Whole different ball game.
It’s why I started my podcast, She Looks Like Me, and it’s why today I’m sharing the major keys I’ve gleaned from women in entertainment like Sheryl Lee Ralph who continue to shine as examples that these mountains can and will be moved.
This is my (first) ode to Black women in entertainment.
The idea for this blog has been stirring in my head for a couple of years but thanks to Mrs. Ralph I was inspired to take action so let’s kick this off with the classic but very relevant lesson that delayed is not denied.
While some people are just learning who Sheryl Lee Ralph is — think, non-Black people and all of Gen Z — she has been in our hearts and on our screens since the 70s. A quick IMDb profile scroll will let you know that Mrs. Ralph has been that chick long before many of us were even a thought. Good Times, The Jeffersons, Designing Women, Sister Act 2, The Parkers, and Moesha only scratch the surface of her career, and yet it took 45 years to receive her well-deserved accolades from the highest award platform for American and international television.
I’ll let thee Sheryl Lee Ralph lead the way on this one because she said it best: “To anyone who has ever, ever had a dream and thought your dream wasn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t come true, I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like; this is what striving looks like, and don’t you ever, ever give up on you.”
If ever there were a testimonial played out before our eyes, it’s the evolution of Oprah Winfrey or “Mama O” as I Iike to call her in my head. From the most humble beginnings of Kosciusko, MS to an undeniable multi-decade career to the top of an industry that would otherwise love to keep us out of the C-suite, meanwhile, our beloved maternal figure owns the building. THAT is what you call making something out of nothing.
Oprah’s life and career – at least the parts we are fortunate to get a sneak peek at – is a play-by-play of what it looks like to live out loud, stretch yourself, do the scary things, and keep striving until your wildest dreams materialize. Y’all… she launched her own network! It’s giving peak audacity and I live for it.
When I attended the Life You Want Tour in 2014, I finally got a chance to breathe the same venue air as the media mogul, and now I patiently await my invitation to a ‘Super Soul’ Sunday brunch (or anything that she and her team want to invite me to, TBH). My glitter and glam are ready!
For the sake of keeping it short, here’s the biggest gem I’ve collected from the life of Ms. Winfrey…
A quote that lives on my bathroom mirror (originally shared in 1997): “Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life because you become what you believe.”
After attending the DC stop of Mary’s Good Morning Gorgeous tour last weekend, I’m now of the belief that we truly do not deserve the beauty that came from her pain. I’m forever grateful for it, don’t get me wrong, but what a wonder to watch a woman experience so much in her life and use her gifts to work through it and help others do the same. That’s the blueprint, in my opinion.
Reclaiming your power from everything that tried to break you and allowing it to be the fuel that sets your path on fire.
Mary J. Blige has given us nearly 30 years of hits on top of hits and created the soundtrack to life for many of us. Her vocals are found everywhere from commercials to our favorite movies. After all, she is the Queen of Hip-Hop and R&B… or as she said the other night on stage, “The MVP.” I know many of her fans show up to concerts dressed like younger Mary in her “What’s the 411?” days to hear her endless songs of navigating sorrow and celebrating life, but everyone knows what the icing on the cake at any live Mary performance is… the dancing.
What I love so much about Mary J. Blige and the peak enjoyment that is her dance breaks during live performances is that it is clear that Mary will NOT be giving you a Beyonce 8-count, ok? But what you will get are several very specific moves that we only want to see from Mary because, well, it’s Mary.
Embrace you! Even in instances where you’re not “the best” at something you still get to be the best YOU. Those who vibe with it will love you immensely for it and anyone else simply doesn’t matter.
Anytime I get an idea that I think has been done before and start trying to venture down the dark road that is talking myself out of something amazing, I think of Rihanna. Why? Two words: Fenty Beauty.
In a world that already had tens of thousands of beauty brands to choose from, Ms. Robyn said, “You know what? Something’s missing.” And she was right. Since Fenty Beauty’s launch in 2017, staple beauty brands that have been around forever have been scrambling to expand their color palettes – both with their products and their models. It’s been amusing to say the least, although mildly frustrating that it took a Black woman’s billion-dollar wins for general market brands to give a damn about Black women not looking ashy with their limited shades of product offerings. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.
Whenever you think there’s “too many” or “someone else is already doing that”… so what! No one is going to do it like you, boo. In a world full of others, there’s only one YOU!
Pop your -ish anyway. It just might lead to the next billion-dollar Black woman-owned business (if that’s what you want, of course).
I’ve been following Luvvie for several years now and to watch her flourish in her authenticity is a daily motivation to choose what calls you.
The reason Luvvie inspires me clicked in my head when I watched Season 1, Episode 7 of HBO’s Lovecraft Country titled, “I Am.” 10/10 highly recommended. In the episode, the character Hippolyta (played by Aunjanue Ellis) is taken on a multi-dimensional journey through time and space in search of clarity about her place in the world that she can’t escape from until she names herself.
If you listen closely to Luvvie’s various podcasts over the years, you’ll hear her share how it took her years to look at herself as a writer and how, once she finally owned who she was, the floodgates of favor met her with opportunities galore. I keep this gem in my back pocket anytime I or someone I know is afraid to step into a new title. As a graphic designer and web designer, it took me years to feel comfortable putting either title anywhere publicly because I wasn’t formally trained and felt insecure in my skillset because of it. Luvvie’s journey reminds me that I have the final say on who and what I am in this world, so name myself accordingly.
Name yourself first. Before anyone else can. And watch the world show up to meet you with opportunities to be that person in real life.
Honorable mention: All of these titles we put on ourselves are fake anyway. They’re not who we are, they’re merely what we do. So if you want to knit baby’s bonnets today and become an influencer tomorrow, that’s your prerogative. Don’t let anyone, least of all yourself, talk you out of what you want.
If you’re not familiar with Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis, this is your official welcome into the club… we’re so glad you’re here! Dr. Thema is a licensed Psychologist, Minister, Sacred Artist, and the Host of the Homecoming Podcast, a mental health podcast to facilitate your journey home to your authentic self. My connection to Dr. Thema hits closer to home as I became aware of her existence when she delivered a sermon at my pre-COVID place of worship, Impact DCD. I couldn’t tell you what the sermon was about today but to see a black women leading church that day did something to me, in the best way.
When I started my podcast in 2020, my heart was set on having Dr. Thema as a guest on my first season. It was a lofty goal but if we’re not swinging big sticks, what’s the point, right? I sent the request via email and didn’t get an immediate response but after following up she responded: “Thank you! Unfortunately my plate is full.”
It was what she did next though that I will remember and be forever grateful for. She recommended one of her students, Dr. Gimel Rogers, to join me as a guest instead. A few weeks later, Dr. Gimel and I connected, recorded our show, and to this day it’s one of my favorite episodes to replay. Check it out on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, ICYMI.
In a world of everyone being booked and busy, Dr. Thema made time… for me. Even though things didn’t unfold as I envisioned it, she still took the two minutes to acknowledge my invitation, communicate where she was at with her schedule, and provide a resource to help fulfill the request in the best way she was able to support. Talk about women helping women.
No matter how busy you get along the way or how brightly your star shines, be mindful of how you’re showing up for the those who are inspired by you. You never know how your words, actions, or lackthereof will impact the next of us. It takes little to no time to say, “I see you, sis.”
Calling all Virgos and members of the BeyHive… triple points if you check both boxes!
Do I need to say anything here, really? It’s Beyonce.
Beyonce’s career, life, and the way in which she has carried herself through it all is #Goals. Bey is the elephant that does not swat flies, – namely, every person who tries to come for her in the name of trying it – who makes lemonade out of lemons, and has fans still listening to the first of the 3-part act that is Renaissance on a daily basis while patiently waiting for the follow-up.
Beyonce, along with the other women I’ve mentioned, deserves a deep dive all on her own but the biggest lesson I’ve taken away from her 20+ year career comes from her unforgettable performance at Coachella as the first Black woman to headline the festival. While most people watched the Homecoming documentary on Netflix for the trip down memory lane, or because they missed the late-night live stream, I sat in awe as I watched a woman who didn’t have the chance to attend college create her collegiate, HBCU experience on one of the world’s biggest stages.
Take a moment to let that sink in.
In the documentary, Beyonce mentions how she grew up in the culture of historically Black colleges and had always wanted to attend one. Fortunately for us but unfortunately for her, that dream was put aside as her career as an artist and entertainer grew, and the stardom of Destiny’s Child took off. Fast forward nearly 20 years later and here we are. Still dancing and bopping to music we may have never heard if she chose the other route. Again, lemonade out of lemons. Chick-fil-A grade lemonade at that.
Whenever I have a moment of feeling down because I didn’t get an opportunity or things didn’t work out as I planned, I’m reminded to choose me. I can be the change I want to see and create the opportunities I want to hold space in. I’m no longer waiting for permission, approval, or acceptance from someone else – in dating, in professional settings, with friends or family – because I’m at peace with who I am. That is my version of a true homecoming.
Stop waiting for the invite. Stop waiting for the acceptance letter. Stop waiting to be chosen. Some opportunities may seem to pass you by, but nothing with your name on it can pass you by.
Choose your damn self. Create your own tables. Invite who YOU want while everyone else watches.
This list is by no means meant to be all-inclusive of my takeaways from the women who’ve dreamed big and most inspired me on my journey. My hope is that you’ll bookmark this and revisit it on the days where things aren’t making sense or you need a gentle reminder of who you are.
Solange said it best, “Can’t nobody steal your magic.” ✨