I can remember exactly what I was doing 10 years ago this week. The memories are so vivid. 10 years ago this week, we were living in a townhouse in Kendall, Florida. I worked as assistant calendar editor for the local alt-weekly. I was bursting with ideas of my own, but always on assignments that didn’t tap into my personal interests or expertise. And at this point, I’ll just quote myself: This week started out like any other. I had a regular work day complete with the weekly Monday meeting. Trudged through Monday and Tuesday’s expected tasks. Met my deadline on Wednesday. Back in those days, we had a busy social circle and friends would just stop by the house as evening fell, most often on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights. That particular week, our dear friend Ehren — also our landlord at the time — came over after dinner. We sat around drinking, just my husband, Ehren, and myself. And through the course of conversation, Ehren convinced me that I should have a blog. “What would your blog be about? What would you call it?” We bounced around ideas for maybe an hour or so. Maybe less than that. Pretty much as soon as the question was posed to me…I had an idea that came straight from my heart and soul. My husband came up with the best name ever, we bought the domain on the spot.
I stayed up all night writing my first ever blog post, and learning basic HTML so I could include links and videos to my blog. (Back in those days, WordPress wasn’t as intuitive as it is now). Ehren made me a header. We put up my first post on August 14, 2006.
It’s been a decade (and change), but sometimes it feels more like 110 years ago.
One of the first things I did with Afrobella was make a blog roll (remember those?). I had it divided by category, and the top category featured my inspirations. They included: Beauty Addict, Concrete Loop, Crunk and Disorderly, FourFour and Motown Girl, the only other natural hair blog I knew at the time. I would browse Fokti and Nappturality and Naturally Curly’s message boards for natural hair info. After work, I’d come home and stay up all night and write. I started to go to the Publix supermarket further from my house, just because they had a magazine rack that OCCASIONALLY had a copy of Vibe Vixen in there and I loved browsing it for beauty story inspiration. My first celebrity interview was Lisa Price of Carol’s Daughter – I was SO excited to meet her and SO excited her products were in Sephora at that time.
So much has changed. Now 3 out of the 4 blogs I named as my initial inspiration, no longer exist. The creators have moved into different spaces, different creative ventures, different jobs. “Blogging” is a downward trending term now – this article via The Atlantic explains what happened pretty well. Now there is social media. Now, everyone’s an influencer. Now it’s so much more about being a multi-hyphenate entrepreneur than it is about being a writer or editor who focuses exclusively on that. It’s a trend I first observed in the newsroom – one John Oliver took to task recently on Last Week Tonight – now even journalists are expected to write, edit, work on video or podcasts, meet quotas for clicks or build a database all of a sudden (that last part happened to me at my old job).
Back in 2006, my blog was a passion project, a labor of love that took me away from my daily grind to a space of creative expression. When I quit my job in 2009, Afrobella became a career. I found myself having to rise to all sorts of occasions. And when I was free to take different opportunities, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and found skills I didn’t know I had. This blog has taken me to places beyond my dreams, from New York Fashion Week to the red carpet at the Academy Awards. Because of this blog, I have spoken on stages alongside celebrities, hosted parties and fashion shows and in-store events, I have done work I never was trained for or prepared to do but I learn as I go, always.
This blog has taught me that I am more capable than I ever believed myself to be. It has taught me that the only thing holding myself back from greatness, is myself. And if I can do all of these things, believe me – so can you.
I am a woman who wanted to read about topics that reflected and affirmed my beauty. I saw a void and I tried to fill it. Who could have thought it would turn into this?
In light of a decade of Afrobella, here are 10 things I am grateful for.
Inspiration – On August 13, 2006, my friend Ehren asked me “what will your blog be?” I knew I wanted to reflect beauty and to shine a light on black beauty in particular. One of the first things I thought of when he asked me was this clip of Josephine Baker in Zou Zou. I had seen it when I was 16, late one night on BET. It has lingered with me until then.
I just wanted people to see it and appreciate her beauty, to appreciate the time in which she lived and the irrepressible spirit of black beauty. So I did. I wanted to write about discovering my natural hair’s needs, so I did. Over the past decade, I’ve been able to write about and even interview my family, family friends, personal friends in general, celebrities…there is a full celebration of my life in this blog. It’s basically a diary of my life for the past 10 years, plus products. I have no shortage of personal inspiration, and for that I am beyond grateful.
Perspective – Creating beauty content over a decade has given me so much perspective on trends, on beauty, on being a professional, on LIFE. I’m still learning new things every day.
Discernment – When I first started this blog, I would jump at any opportunity. Now I know the power of no. I have learned that saying no to the wrong thing doesn’t mean the end of all opportunity. Saying no to the wrong thing often makes way for you to say yes to the right thing.
Faith – Faith can be tested, faith can be shaken. But real, true, faith deep in your heart is what can keep you going when times get rough. Stoke the flames of your faith in those times when the wind is howling around you. Faith has helped me through being mired in self-doubt.
Freedom – I am grateful that this brand, this platform, this blog that I have created, has made room for me to share my gifts with the world on my own terms. I am free to accept or seek out the opportunities that call to my spirit and feel right in my heart. That is a blessing I don’t take for granted.
Friends – I have made some incredible friends on this journey. Friends who have my back, who know my heart, who support my wildest dreams. I have a network of goddesses and unicorns who genuinely care about me. The sisterhood blogging has brought me is stronger than words can say. I am so, so grateful for the friends I’ve made along the way.
Community – I know I have readers, I know on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I have followers and fans. But nothing touches me more than being out in public and having a face to face moment with someone who’s been inspired by what I do in some way. It happens all the time and in so many random ways. I get stopped at the supermarket or on the bus. Just yesterday, checking out at the doctor’s office, the receptionist told me I’m on her natural hair vision board and helped inspire her to go natural. Moments like that can almost bring me to tears. I know how important that is, because THAT is why I started this blog in the first place. To see a reflection of beauty like mine in the world. Thank you to every last one of you who reads my blog or follows me anywhere on social media. I couldn’t do any of this without you.
My voice – I’m not the flashiest, I’ve got my own style. I’m not the loudest, I don’t like to talk over people. But when I do choose to speak up, I’m one of the most considered. I take my time and take what I have to say seriously. I know now that my words have weight. That weight has come from doing the work.
The work – I love what I do. I am honored to do what I do. I get to see the difference over time, how products for darker skin and kinky hair have taken flight and become easier to obtain in retail stores, how more and more, you can find images of beautiful women of color in ads and on magazine covers everywhere now. In just 10 years, we really have made major strides. We still have so much further to go. I am here to do the work, I am happy to do the work. Here’s to celebrating and embracing our beauty on our own terms. All shades and textures of beautiful.
The Future – I’ve done so many things that I could never have imagined and I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had. I can’t even imagine what’s around the bend, but I know it’s bright and beautiful.
Things have changed and I have grown. But there have been times – especially recently – where I have considered life beyond Afrobella. This industry has evolved more rapidly than I could have possibly imagined and there are times when I feel out of place. Sometimes now, I feel less sure than I used to be. What do audiences want, anymore? Should I try to do what other people are doing? Am I not doing enough? What do I want?
I choose to keep trying. Keep swimming. To stay true to who I am at my core. At the end of a decade, I’m still standing, Forever Afrobella. Thank you for your support over the past decade, thank you for reading and commenting and lifting me up, thank you for keeping me going. I’m not done yet!
If you’ve read ALL of this (who reads 1700 word blog posts anymore? I hope more people than I think), please leave me a comment, let me know when you discovered my blog, let me know your favorite thing or post or thing you wish I would do. I’m getting back to the swing of this thing!