I’ve always struggled with my self confidence. One of the reasons I have loved maintaining LoveBrownSugar over the years is because it gave me a platform to connect with you guys, my audience, to share my personal style evolution. From posting outfit posts that reflected my complicated relationship with my curves, to writing about embracing my brown skin and my natural hair as beautiful. Much of my journey to overcome confidence issues has started with addressing them here, and hearing from all of you that I’m not alone. That’s one of the many reasons I’m so passionate about storytelling in the media. It is so healing and inspiring to see other people who are pushing past their fears and thriving.
So in March when Dove announced that it would be partnering with Shonda Rhimes for its #RealBeauty Productionsinitiative, I thought it was absolutely game-changing. Their specially commissioned production team would accept stories from real women across the country and find riveting ways to tell these stories through film. There’s something so special about seeing a reflection of yourself in the media, so I knew this would be empowering for women. A few friends and I got together for a Twitter party on Thursday, March 30th during Shonda’s big TV night to tweet all about the partnership and it was awesome.
Now, about a month later, the Real Beauty Productions team has produced their first film – telling the story of Cathleen Meredith, founder of Fat Girls Dance. Check it out here:
So Cathleen’s story resonated with me for a few reasons. One, because of her curves. As someone who has always been curvy and on the heavier side, I totally identified with her stark realization that society simply does not appreciate, embrace or encourage plus size women. I still remember my first time being teased in elementary school for being big. It was a startling realization and it can have a lasting impact on you into adulthood.
The second reason I identified with Cathleen is because she loves to dance and so do I. I’ve always had a sincere passion for dance. I was in my school cheerleading teams from Junior High into High School and then joined a dance troupe in college (which happened to be one of the highlights of my time in college). Dance has always been so close to my heart, but I do recall times I felt out of place doing it because of my size. Like when I first found out that my dance troupe, who specializes in West African and Afro-Cuban dance, dances mainly in a bra & cloth around the waist. I was terrified of dancing in front of the audience with so much skin showing.
(Above: Pictured with a friend & fellow dancer in college before a performance)
But eventually I had to overcome that fear if I wanted to perform. It was tough for me, and I always wonder if I would’ve felt as uncomfortable if my size didn’t play a role.
I applaud Dove for taking the charge to help boost self-esteem for women everywhere by sharing our stories. I can’t wait to see which stories they product next. Think you have a story worth telling? Enter to have your story produced over at DoveRealBeauty.com.
What are your thoughts on this first production? Did it inspire or empower you?
This post is sponsored by Dove. All opinions expressed above are my own and not those of the company.
We’re back with another Mompreneur Diaries (Working Mom Edition) series sponsored by Capital One. Today’s working mom is Yvette Butler, the President of Capital One Investing. Before joining Capital One, Yvette served in leadership positions at Wells Fargo Advisors, E*TRADE and Merrill Lynch to name a few. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Finance & Management Information Systems from the University of Virginia and her MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Among her many accolades, she’s a proud wife and mother who talked with us to shed light on how she navigates her life as a career woman and how she brings those learnings home to her own family and community.
The BrownGirlsLove Power 25 is a list of young women to watch. They inspire us daily to dream big, move with confidence and pursue passionately. Each of these beauties are powerhouses and we’re honored to acknowledge their accomplishments during Women’s History Month.
Name: Yara Shahidi
Her Power Moves: Being a champion for diversity in Hollywood, and being a bold political voice for her generation.
Photo Credit: Adrienne Raquel
As one of Young Hollywood’s finest, we’re incredibly proud of Yara Shahidi for being determined and unapologetic about her political views. There’s a certain special dynamic among young women who are powerful forces like Yara. They command attention, they have undeniable beauty, and they use their platforms to empower and inspire with words and deeds.
As an Iranian-American actress, Yara’s mixed heritage plays a significant role in her views and her will to champion diversity in Hollywood. She’s a mentor, an activist, and all-around badass all before turning 18. She also has a fierce, envy-worthy head of kinky curls that we can’t get enough of.
Watch Black-Ish. It’s hilarious and she’s amazing. (Wednesdays on ABC: 9:30/8:30c – check local listings. There’s a spinoff show with just Yara’s character, on the horizon as well!) We can’t wait to see Yara continue to shine.
Keep up with the BrownGirlsLove Power 25 using the hashtag #BrownGirlsLovePOWER
How does that title make you feel? I Cry Myself To Sleep Sometimes. Does it make you uncomfortable? Are you shocked or surprised? Does it make you feel sorry? Or sad? However it makes you feel, hold onto that. Welcome to a day in my life.
6:00am I open my eyes and say a brief prayer, thanking God for waking me up but simultaneously asking Him why I’m here. “What do I have left to accomplish on this earth? What do You have for me to do?” I take a mental inventory of my day. Get up, pray, set out Cadence’s clothes, pack Cady’s bag for her weekend at Daddy’s, make sure her homework is in her backpack, make sure her toothbrush is in a Ziploc, and don’t forget her leave-in conditioner and hair butter because God forbid Daddy has to brush those curls tomorrow morning without it.
6:30am I’m in the bathroom, staring in the mirror. My eyes are huge and one looks slightly bigger than the other. I squint to exaggerate the difference. I have dark circles. I need to lose 20 more pounds, maybe 25. I want my teeth whitened. I like my boobs but I wish I could wear strapless tops. I walk over to the closet. A sweatshirt and leggings will do today. And a red lip so people take me seriously. It’s a travel day. Again.
6:45am Time to get Cady up for school. I run my finger down the side of her chubby cheek. She still has a little baby fat, even though she’s growing like a weed. I feel mommy guilt creeping in. Today, I’ll be gone for an entire 4 days on a work trip. I can’t cancel the trip. It’s being sponsored. It’s work. I need all these coins to pay for this expensive private pre-K she’s in. I am a bad mother for going. But I am an even worse mother if I don’t go. Cady has to go to school. I have to go on work trips. Still, I wish I could lay here with her a little longer.
7:30am We’re off to school. Cady wanted pancakes but we don’t have time for Aunt Jemima. So yogurt, fruit and a cereal bar on the way to the car, it is. Mommy guilt is hovering again. Brush it off, girl. You have 20 minutes to spread 4 days worth of love, kisses and hugs on baby girl before you drop her off at school. Pull yourself together. Be stronger.
8:00am Back at our apartment and feeling overwhelmed. I have 3.5 hours to catch a flight. I have 2 projects overdue with a client. I have nothing to wear on this business trip. My curls are dry and badly in need of a deep condition. The dishes are piled up like Mount Everest.
Suddenly, I get a text from an old friend. It’s a screenshot accompanied by “I saw your commercial on Bravo last night during Housewives! Way to go!!”
For 5 seconds I’m excited. Maybe I’m not a failure. Then, my eyes fixate on the dirty dishes. I sure wish that friend was here to help me clean and pack. I wish for her help more than I wish for her “congratulations” text right now. I’m being ungrateful. I muster up a “Thank you SO much!!” I’m sure she’ll tell her coworkers we were once good friends. I’m happier for her than I am for myself.
9:30am One project down and one load of laundry left. I pause to clear my inbox. Mom texts me “Safe travels!” and I realize I haven’t called her all week. I’m a bad daughter, too. She’s probably packing Dad’s lunch and waiting for him to come home from dialysis. What a failure I was for being too fat and unhealthy to give my Dad a kidney last year. I hope he gets one. I pray everyday that he gets one and he can get off dialysis. I shed a tear, thinking about it, and then I realize I have 2 hours until my car arrives to bring me to the airport. I don’t have time to be emotional. I text mom back “Thanks! Love you.” and I go on clearing my inbox. If I can just get to a clear inbox, life will be a little better. I’ll be less of a mess, if I don’t owe anyone an email response.
11:30am I’m on board my flight. I text Cadence’s Dad to remind him where her leotard and tap shoes are for dance class this weekend. I dread this 3 hour flight and at the same time I feel guilty for resenting an opportunity to fly. “You and your first world problems,” I say to myself. “Some people don’t even have clean water.” I close my eyes and whisper a prayer to God. “God, please don’t let me die on this flight,” I say to Him. Most of me means it, some of me doesn’t. And then I ask Him for peace. I ask Him to cover my family while I’m gone. I ask Him to remember that I’m now 30 years old and by this time I really wanted to own a home with a white picket fence, I really wanted to be married, I really wanted TWO kids and I really wanted to be 30 pounds lighter. I also really wanted to be best friends with Oprah, sipping tequila in her backyard in my spare time. I hope He still hears me. “But thanks also, God, that to the outside world I’m a success. Please help me to be better at this gratitude thing. I love you. Amen.”
3:00pm My phone is ringing off the hook. I’m getting a flood of texts. A huge celebrity told all of her cult followers to follow me and now I have another reason to be super excited for these blessings on blessings, but I’m also overwhelmed by the pressure. Should I repost it? I’m really not that interesting. Why are people following me again? They shouldn’t.
My horrible memory can’t currently recall what hotel I’m staying at tonight, so I look at my driver in bewilderment when he asks me where we’re going. “It should be in the app,” I respond, annoyed. I mean what’s the point of entering the address into the app, if the driver actually expects you to know where you’re going? I’ll repost it. I mean, I can’t NOT say anything. Right? But now all these new people are watching me. I’m really not that cool. Am I? “God, this is not what I asked for,” said in my most ungrateful voice. “Ok, sorry God I take it back.” I post. I get likes. I apologize to the driver for being absent-minded. It’s a great day.
4:30pm My assistant managed to find a photographer to capture my first day in this city. Back at the hotel, I change up my makeup and put on a new outfit. I meet the photographer outside my hotel to catch the last few hours of sunlight. These will help me “do it for the ‘gram”. I can’t go somewhere and not document it. That’s unheard of. It’s like a betrayal, to go somewhere beautiful and not share it with social media. So I pose and smile and act like there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be but here. Even though I’d much rather be on a beach somewhere with no internet, Cady sleeping in my arms and not a care in the world.
The lighting is perfect. I post the best pic. I get likes. It’s still a good day.
7:00pm The last email is answered. I’m rummaging the mini bar, hoping there’s a bottle of Pinot in the back to go with my room service. Need wine. Must have wine.
Jackpot! I spot the Pinot. I pour a glass. I close my laptop and I hear that familiar tune on my phone. Cady is Facetiming me from her grandma’s phone. I hide the wine. “Hi mommy!” I see those adorable chubby cheeks and I wave. She tells me about her day. That her classmate Emily at school played blocks with her. That she learned about the letter “S” today. And that she misses me. “I miss you too baby! I love you so much.” I wish I could be there with her. *Sips more wine*
9:30pm Here I am again – incredibly aware of my loneliness. In a hotel room, on a business trip on the verge of “taking over the world”, so everyone thinks. But why, then, do I constantly feel like I’m not enough? I’ve finished off the mini bottle of Pinot and now I’m contemplating the Cabernet, too. I check Instagram. The likes and follows are still stacking up. A few tears start to fall. I’ll just cry and close my eyes and when I wake up in the morning this will all be over. Maybe I’m putting too much pressure on myself. “God will you help me? I need your help.” My last plea before I call it a night. I look at an old photo of me and Cadence. For her, I just can’t give up.
11:00pm I can’t sleep. I open my laptop back up. I start to write. I write about myself. I write stories about others who inspire me. I start to plan out an event series that I can produce that shows other people that they don’t have to be perfect to be successful. I respond to that email from that girl in Missouri who told me she was starting a new business and needed a little advice and encouragement. I write my hopes and dreams down on a small hotel pad of paper. Suddenly I feel hopeful, instead of hopeless. If I just keep empowering others, I’ll figure this thing out. I’ll continue to be blessed. I say a brief “Thank you” to God for giving me an outlet for my frustration and pain tonight. One that will hopefully inspire others and give them hope. I close my eyes and brace for another day.
In honor of International Women’s Day, I wanted to give you all a peek into my life, as a woman, as a mom, as a human just trying to make it day to day. A transparent look at my thoughts, my actions and why it’s so important for us women to admit that we’re not perfect so we can get over the stigma of “perfection is necessary” and step into our power as flawed, but beautiful beings.
Here are 4 ways you can make a shift and embrace your power:
1. You’re a super woman, but you are not Superwoman. Be honest with yourself and with others when you need HELP. Don’t think you have to do everything yourself.
2. Do not feel bad about crying yourself to sleep. We all do it, sometimes. Including me. It doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human. The key is to go to sleep happy more times than not. If it’s the other way around, seek counsel and don’t feel bad about it.
3. Get up each day and use your talents and gifts to pour into others – that alone is a sign of your super power and strength. Your unique gifts are to be shared with the world. Don’t hide or hoard them because you don’t think you’re good enough. You are enough.
4. Find your purpose and cling to The Source. My source is God. He gives me strength, peace, joy and everything I need to make it through the day. Whatever your source is, hold onto it firmly and understand that you’re here on Earth to serve a purpose.
I really hope this helps someone. Even just one person. Feel free to leave a comment if this helped you, and please share words of encouragement with another woman today. We need it.
I’ve partnered up with Capital One for another “Working Mom” edition of LBS Mompreneur Diaries, featuring women of color who are killing it at work and at home. Capital One is consistently recognized for its exceptional workplace culture and for supporting diversity and inclusion initiatives across the entire organization. That’s why I’m excited to present this series, because Capital One gets it. They’ve been ranked on Fortune’s “100 Best Places to Work” and Working Mother Magazine’s “100 Best Companies” to name a few.
Hopefully you read and loved our last interview with Alicia Thompson. This week’s featured mom is Asmau Ahmed. As a mother of two and an engineer turned entrepreneur, Asmau Ahmed is the founder of tech startup Plum Perfect and now a leader in Digital Project Management at Capital One. Asmau founded a venture-funded tech start up whose groundbreaking visual search and recommendation engine she nurtured from an idea to a product embraced by top retailers, major brands, and consumers in over 150 countries. Asmau is one of only 12 black women to have raised more than $1million in VC funding. We talked about her transition from entrepreneur to intrapreneur at Capital One, how she achieves work/life balance, the importance of STEM education, and how she’s helping to close the tech gap for women of color.
Why did you want to become an engineer?
I’ve loved the sciences for as long as I can remember. My dad was an aeronautical engineer so I’m sure that was part of my influence. My mom nurtured my love for science at an early age and supported me. She actually turned our laundry room into a chemistry lab for me.
As someone who has been an entrepreneur, what insights are you bringing to your role at Capital One?
Most entrepreneurs thrive on the concept of having an idea and being able to see that idea turn into a product or service that people eventually engage with. With Plum Perfect, I started out with an idea to build a visual search engine that would utilize social media to build commerce and advertising. It was just a concept. Part of why I joined Capital One is that I’m able to do that same thing here. I get to have an idea or concept, build it out, and then see it go to market. I didn’t want to be at an organization where that concept got lost. At Capital One, there really is a culture of innovation.
Can you share how you bring balance to your life, managing family and work?
That was huge for me when I was contemplating this role. It was critical for me to be able to maintain balance. Most people say you’re never able to create true balance but I wanted to feel like there was an end to “work” and a start to “home”. I wouldn’t have joined the Capital One team if I didn’t feel that balance was supported. That’s the culture we have here. There were times that I wasn’t able to achieve that as a full-time entrepreneur. I remember there was an entire week that went by and I would leave for work before my son woke up and get home after he went to bed. That’s when I realized that lifestyle was not sustainable long term.
With that said, it is a busy home and work schedule and I have obligations outside of those areas as well, like Plum Perfect. Capital One encourages me to maintain my ideas and experiences outside of my role here. I have worked at many organizations before, and I don’t think I would have the same level of balance that I do now if it wasn’t for Capital One.
Why is STEM education important, particularly for little girls of color?
When people say STEM careers, most people think of engineering. But it really affects everything we do today. Whether you’re a writer, or a doctor or a driver, STEM careers affect and touch everyone. Having a STEM foundation will be important in participating in this new technology wave. Tech is defining an evolution in so many areas, even medicine.
Particularly with girls of color, there is a tech gap today. The tech industry can be biased. We build technologies based on our personal experiences. So when you have mostly white men building these technologies, you’re going to find a huge gap between what applies to us (as women of color) and what applies to them. And that gap is widening daily. I spoke recently at digitalundivided’s 2017 BIG Demo Day sponsored by Capital One. And there were so many brilliant ideas presented, by women of color, that might have gone unheard if it weren’t for organizations like that. So, it is important for us to have people in the driver seat who can build and cater to our experiences.
[Capital One is also proud to continue to support Black Girls Code. If you aren’t already involved, visit http://www.blackgirlscode.com/ to volunteer, donate, and learn more.]
What advice would you give to an up & comer who wants a STEM career?
Just get started. If you don’t have an engineering background, it’s ok. You don’t have to know how to code. If you know how to logically think through the execution of your idea, start there. That’s what coding is. Refine your idea and hire talent to help you. Get educated and stop second guessing yourself.
As someone who has filled both roles, do you have any advice for entrepreneurs turned intrapreneurs and vice versa?
Build a team around you that understands how to build your business. As women of color, we face unique challenges that are hard to navigate if you don’t have the right partners in place. Surround yourself with the right people. You need the right investors, clients, and colleagues. One of the reasons I joined Capital One is because there is a culture of diversity and inclusion here. They were looking for people like me. For entrepreneurs that are looking to exit, look for workplaces that have the right cultural fit and figure out how you can cater to their market and help them increase enterprise value.
Is she inspiring or what? Be sure to keep up with our LBS Mompreneur Diaries series to keep up with other inspiring mommies. Leave a comment below if you enjoyed this!
This post is sponsored by Capital One. All opinions expressed above are my own and not those of the company.
We are only one week away from our 2nd annual Power Day! We’ve asked some of our amazing speakers to provide you guys with a few tips to kick off 2017 with POWER! First up is Tonya Rapley of My Fab Finance with 3 Tips for Fab Finances in 2017! Check them out below:
1. Take Regular Financial Assessments
Start with your first assessment during the first week of the year. That’s a given! But then regularly check on your expenses, and your progress. It’s better to realize that you’re behind on your goals in June, than to let the entire year pass you by leading to disappointment in December. Things you should assess include: your credit score, your purchase categories, your savings, and retirement savings progress.
2. Question Your Spending
All too often we buy out of habit and not out of understanding. I’m not saying don’t buy things. But you should ask yourself questions before you buy. Questions you should ask: “Do I really need this?”, “What purpose will it serve?”, and “Am I buying this to appeal to others or is it a legitimate investment in my goals?”. These questions are helpful in combating unnecessary purchases.
3. Join a Community
Accountability is powerful. It binds you to the relentless pursuit of your goals. When you align yourself with others who are committed to achieving the same goals, a healthy competition and camaraderie evolves that can super-charge your focus. In my Triumph Club, members celebrate each others’ financial successes and learn from one another. While your immediate circle might not be on the same financial page as you, it’s helpful to a be a part of a community that understands your journey.
Want more awesome tips like these? Join us for the “Girls Just Wanna Have Funds” Panel on this Saturday, January 7th at Power Day 2017 in NYC! Click below to purchase tickets:
Many stories have been shared of the psychological effects of facing one’s mortality. A woman is diagnosed with lupus and reevaluates her commitment to work-life balance. A man survives prostate cancer and is inspired to become a better father. Less is told of those left behind – the children, cousins, siblings, and friends who are left face to face with their greatest fears and inadequacies when someone they loves is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Gorgeous in Grey’s Ty Alexander recounts her experiences worrying about, caring for, and ultimately mourning her late mother with beautiful honesty in “Things I Wish I Knew Before My Mother Died”. Part memoir, part self-help book, this first effort from Alexander is the perfect gift for yourself or a loved one dealing with grief this holiday season.
This post about the Color Full Lives podcast is sponsored by State Farm®. All opinions expressed here are my own.
As you all know, I am incredibly passionate about women of color looking good AND feeling good. I’ve also made it one of my personal missions to help positively change the perceptions of women of color in the media, so I am really happy to team up with State Farm to talk about the Color Full Lives podcast series.
I’ve dedicated much of my career as a digital influencer to smashing stereotypes and showing the world that women of color are powerful, productive and pretty while doing it. I’ve created platforms that inspire women of color to be great, allow them to know that they’re not alone and that challenge stereotypes. My most dedicated “follower” of all the thousands of you who follow me daily is actually my little princess Cadence. She’s not only seeing what I do online but she seems me in action each day as I work hard to provide for her and balance the responsibilities of motherhood and entrepreneurship.
It is SO important for me to set an example for her but also to encourage her to live out her dreams, defy stereotypes, set new records and excel in everything she loves. So I am really honored to have partnered with Tide Pods on their #SmallButPowerful campaign featuring record-breaking powerhouse Simone Biles. As the most decorated American gymnast of all time and being a young black female, she has truly inspired so many young women who may have never thought they could do the impossible. Her dedication, hard work and perseverance are just the characteristics I hope to instill in Cadence. Check out Simone’s commercial with Tide here.
On the same evening that Simone Biles and the Final Five took gold at the Olympics, Cadence and I had the opportunity to meet and take a class with Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes. Dominique partnered with Tide Pods in support of Simone Biles, to showcase the evolution of power. They were featured in the Tide Pods’ Evolution of Power commercial, showcasing the amazing transformations of history-making gymnasts over the years and comparing that to Tide’s progression from a powder detergent to now being available in its small but powerful liquid pod form.
Dominique is the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics! I remember growing up and watching Dominique on TV and being so proud that she looked like me. So it was a really proud moment getting to introduce her to Cadence and getting to chat with her, as she’s also a new mom. Her daughter is just a month younger than Cady! I’m excited for Cadence because she had the opportunity to watch another young, black woman make history in gymnastics, the way I did with Dominique. After seeing gymnasts like Simone Biles excel at the Olympics, I decided to enroll Cadence in a toddler gymnastics class just to see if she would enjoy it. Turns out, she loves it! Check it out here:
Pretty much everything I have accomplished, I can attribute to the support, love and guidance of my parents. Both my parents have been integral in my success but my Mom has undoubtedly always been my biggest cheerleader. She was at every recital, every science competition, every spelling bee, and as an adult she was even there to see my biggest accomplishment – the birth of my baby girl Cadence.