9 years ago, I changed my life. I didn’t realize it at the time, I didn’t go into it with intent. I noticed a void, I felt a lack of inclusion. 2006. Natural hair hadn’t yet become a movement. Plus size fashion was in some dark days. I wanted to read consistent information for me about women who looked like me and cared about the things I cared about. There were a few blogs I was into, and I was inspired by them. On a very whimsical night, a friend made the right suggestion at the right time. We bought a domain name. I took a chance, and decided to put my voice into the ether. I figured if I felt this way about natural hair and multicultural beauty, then maybe others did too.
Flash forward 9 years, to the day. Today, yours truly was named one of WWD’s 50 Most Influential People in The Multicultural Market. It all feels very symbolic and serendipitous and auspicious and validating. It feels like 9 years of consistent work has been recognized, and I appreciate the recognition more than I can say. I’m still pinching myself. Me. In WWD! As one of very few bloggers on such a prestigious list! I’m still absorbing it and considering what it means.
So many things have changed and improved in the multicultural beauty world since 2006. From where I sit, we’ve come a long way but we still have so much further to go. I still yearn to see real change and holistic diversity in terms of product development and brand ownership, in terms of behind-the-scenes bigwigs and decision makers in fashion, cosmetics and media, in terms of true diversity beyond lip service and occasional symbolic gestures. I’m excited to see the evolution.
So many of us are rising up to be the change we want to see, and that’s been one of the coolest, most beautiful, most inspiring things to witness in this natural hair and multicultural beauty space – the rise of the entrepreneur. Think of how many small businesses in that vertical launched since 2006. Think of how much things have changed since 2006, in terms of the diversity present in the kind of products that are available on store shelves across America. Think of how many small businesses focusing on natural hair or makeup for women of color; how many bloggers, makeup artists, and media personalities have taken the reins and risen to prominence since 2006. The internet did that. The online natural hair and beauty movement did that. We shifted the balance of power.
In 2006, right around this time, I went live on my first ever blog post. Here it is, in case you’ve never read it before. All these years later, and my manifesto is the same: “Afrobella is dedicated to all of the women who have made a similar decision, to embrace and enhance their natural beauty.” Still. Doing this work for 9 years has taught me a few things I’d like to pass on. A few life lessons, if you will. Here we go:
1 – You are stronger, more creative and more capable than you realize. Smarter, too.
2 – Hard work will never go out of style and ultimately, never let you down.
3 – Love who loves you. Surround yourself with people who support you, believe in you, and encourage you to be great.
4 – Content will always be king, and consistence is crucial.
5 – Be genuine. Know yourself. Life is too short to pretend to be anything you’re not.
6 – Self care is essential and should be intentional. You have to take care of yourself before you can truly, effectively take care of business.
7 – Recognize the value of your work, but operate from a center of integrity. Your values and your moral compass are priceless.
8 – Develop your own voice, find pride in originality. Comparing and copying will only hold you back from actualizing your true greatness.
9 – Love learning. Never stop learning. Don’t be afraid to learn new things. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know everything.
10 – You have the power to change your own life. The first step? Get out of your own way.
Within the past year alone, I’ve learned so much about myself and my capabilities. I always say that my career is a never ending exercise in rising to the occasion, and truly that’s been the case for the first half of 2015. I’ve found myself in the midst of opportunities that are far beyond what I could have imagined for myself. I’ve had to make some tough decisions. I’ve tried my best to under promise and over deliver, and I’ve had some experiences that have taught me so much about what I am willing and able to do. And the year isn’t even over yet!
I couldn’t have predicted much of the past 9 years, so all I can say in conclusion is, I can’t wait to see what’s next. I keep saying “the best is yet to come,” and it keeps getting better. So I’ll say it again. Thank you for supporting me through 9 wonderful, exciting, fulfilling years. I’m going to keep doing what I do as best as I can do it. I’m going to keep trying to be better and braver. The best is yet to come!