I’m really bad about announcing all of the stuff I’ve got going on. I really should do a better job about sharing with y’all.
But, to be fair, this particular thing was such a secret, that I’d gotten used to keeping it to myself… even after it aired on two or three different networks and went on stands everywhere.
In November, I flew out to Los Angeles to shoot a centerfold/interview with Roni of Roni’s Weigh and Michelle of Diary of an Aspiring Loser Maintainer. We spent a lot of time with both the folks at Ladies Home Journal (LHJ) and the team from The Doctors, which was amazing… but this was bittersweet for me. There were beautiful moments, but there were moments where I definitely had to reflect back on some of the conversations I’d had with you, dear reader, because I needed a pick-me-up.
That being said, there are a few things I want to share with you about the shoot and, for that matter, myself, that’ll help you feel like you were a bit behind the scenes of it all with me and in my head a little bit.
1) The photo shoot day was major. As the clip on The Doctors’ website will show, Dr. Travis – who was totally making the ladies swoon – dropped in on our photo shoot to ask us a few questions. It was a ton of fun, especially since we got all close and snuggly to take pictures, too. Notice how hard I had to turn to get my ‘fro up outta his neck!
Additional note: There is a photo where Julie, one of the editors of LHJ, has whole chunks of her hair caught up in my ‘fro because we hugged too close. It definitely looks like she has static cling!
Second additional note: I cannot tell y’all the lengths I had to go to avoid actually getting on the pole for the show. And, even then, I was still asked on camera – jokingly, of course – whether or not I’d give it a shot. Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat. For all kinds of reasons.
2) Speaking of the ladies at LHJ, I cannot tell you how fantastic it was to be around such awesome women. Julie, Susan, Clare, all three were not only beautiful on both the inside and out, but there’s something about being around women who actually love women, you know? There’s a different aura around the table, a different kind of conversation to be had, a different tone to what we share and how we share it. The ladies shared with me stories of what it was like to travel to Haiti – something of personal interest to me because, as you may know, I’m “honorary Haitian” as I’ve married into a Haitian family and have kreyol spoken in my household – and how it changed them, what it’s like fighting for spots at the top in such a cutthroat city, and just… so much encouragement and support for what we do as bloggers and, really, community leaders much like they are. I already have a LHJ subscription, but that week spent with them made me happy to put my money into the kind of publication that employs women like that.
3) These kinds of situations are always so nerve-wracking for me, giving interviews and taking photos. You never know exactly how the story will make you sound in the end, no matter how much you might believe in the people doing it – they have a job to do, but so do I. My personality – who I am – is genuine, but sound bites are a thing for a reason. You hope that you won’t be chopped and screwed to paint a different narrative. Not only that, but I wasn’t entirely sure how the photo shoot would turn out. My desire is always to represent our community here the best way possible, and to fall short is to disappoint not only you, but myself. And, quite frankly, I don’t handle that as well as I’d like.
4) When it comes to media appearances, no matter how many people you have loving on you and propping you up with praise, you will always see that one hater, that one person who wants to try to “shrink” whatever ego they think you have. The person who wants to demean you, try to devalue you, try to make you feel like less than what you are, or even worse – make you feel like you’ll never get to where you want to go because of who you are. And, as easy as it is to say “that’s a troll doing what trolls do,” it doesn’t change the fact that humans have insecurities and without proper tools for understanding how to cope, it’ll always get to you. Not only that, but what happens when those words are coming from an inner troll who wants to discourage you from doing what you want?
I actually spent an entire evening agonizing over the photos, and what story would be told with them, and how that story would be received by the public. I felt resentful that I’d spent so much time tunnel visioned on my goal of building more muscle, that I hadn’t paid attention to how it had changed my body, and what effect that might have on my appearance when I do have to show up places. I literally spent an entire night thinking about this, and unthinking it. I just so happened to open my e-mail in the midst of preparing to “just shut up and go to sleep,” and that’s when I saw the clip of Brene Brown, of Daring Greatly fame, giving her speech about “showing up” and “letting yourself be seen.”
I have insecurities too, and they used to be paralyzing. But I would’ve missed out on an opportunity to hang out with Roni again; an opportunity to meet Michelle; an amazing photo shoot; the chance to
snuggle up to meet and greet the very handsome Dr. Travis; the chance to snoop around CBS Studios and make friends; the opportunity to be featured and have my praises sung in Ladies Home Journal; the pleasure to meet LHJ’s amazing staff, and so much more. Brown talks a lot about “showing up” and “letting yourself be seen despite your fears,” and that was something I’d done accidentally by agreeing to do the shoot. I said I’d do it, even though I was scared sh-tless. In fact, there was a point in the shoot where the photographer, in an effort to move me around, took my hand only to remark on how cold it was; my anxiety had my blood running cold.
In a world that discourages women from “showing up” and “letting themselves be seen” unless they’re perfect, it’s easy to feel like you don’t deserve the limelight, the attention, or any praise when you’re still a work in progress. You feel like you have to hide until you’re literally flawless – not Beyonce’s “I woke up like dis” version – and then and only then can you receive the fawning that comes with “perfect.” Surely, we realize that this sounds foolish.
There’s a hypocritical element to this, as well – I preach positive body image, literally and metaphorically giving people the finger and going on about your business happily, and I recognized this, but in that moment, it only made me feel worse. Again, Brown’s presentation – and, now, her book – have helped me realize that I will never not be scared sh-tless. In fact, when I spoke in Charlotte last fall, I was scared, then. And, when I spoke in Chicago a few months prior, I was scared sh– well, you get it.
The entire experience has made me more willing to be daring, no pun intended. Fear is natural. In fact, fear is necessary – fear is how I know I’m doing something I’ve never done before, how I know I’m testing – and pushing – my limits and in a way, it’s how I know I’m growing. I just have to prevent it from paralyzing me. I benefit from doing things that scare me – greatly. Some of the best, most meaningful and most popular things I’ve written here were things that made me break down sobbing before I hit “Publish.” That fear resulted in my freedom. I felt like I could fly. The entire experience changed me in more ways than how I put on my foundation. (Although, that sponge is a life changer.)
5) There is a woman who does hair for The Doctors who gave my ‘fro the most loving, adoring treatment it has ever had. I’m serious – no one has ever loved on my ‘fro – not even me – the way this woman lovingly shaped my hair. If you look at that picture and can acknowledge the almost-perfect circle my hair was in, it was because of this woman. She was seriously all of 4’11” and made me slump down in my chair so she could actually reach the top, but it was perfect. Absolutely perfect. And, before I went on, she hugged me, and told me “Be great out there.”
I hope y’all think I was.
You can read the interview here, but seriously. It’s on stands right now. Go get that.