This past weekend Houston had a chance to experience a bit of awesomeness from none other than Awesomely Luvvie!
The Houston Museum of African American Culture brought New York Times best selling author, speaker, and digital strategist Luvvie Ajayi in for their Spring Lecture Series. Before the event I had a chance to sit down with her for a quick interview.
Michelle: Brand consultant, digital strategist, keynote speaker, activist, all of these things describe you but how do you describe yourself in one word?
Luvvie: I just call myself a writer. When people ask me who are you, what do you do? I'm like "I'm a writer."
Michelle: Okay. What are your core values?
Luvvie: My core values? Honesty, justice and I always say Shea butter is important too.
Michelle: You've been blogging for about 13 years. Do you think blogging is dead?
Luvvie: I don't think blogging is dead. I think it's shifting. I think blogging is no longer just starting a WordPress website and writing about your thoughts. Blogging now goes down to like Twitter and Facebook and it just looks different than it used to look but it's not dead. I think video is the future of content. It's really cool to see people take that on a little bit more. For me, I'm a writer so I always fight video. I fight video because I'm more comfortable writing but I can be on video. I see the value in it, a bunch of my friends are YouTubers and people who give content on Facebook live so yeah no, I think video definitely is the next frontier.
Michelle: When did you realize you became bold and truly understood your voice as a writer?
Luvvie: It's a process. Being a person who tells her truth is not always the easiest thing but being able to push past it is important and being able to stand in that voice in however way it comes. I've been this person for a long time basically since I was young. I've been the person who said what she wanted to say and just like said it with love hopefully and then you know, saw how the chips fell and sometimes you have to be bold and take some risk for big rewards come. For me, my whole careers basically been a risk because I haven't strategized anything, I've honestly stayed true to myself and yeah cool things happen because of it.
Michelle: What is your advice for those that are struggling to be true to themselves? Or they feel like they gotta chase that career path with the money and not necessarily 100% interest?
Luvvie: It's hard. I can't even tell you it's not hard. My many years of struggle of like my blog not making any money and of me being like why am I doing this writing? Why am I still doing this stuff after all this time and I'm still on the struggle bus? It was kind of when I started taking more risk that really cools things started happening. I started writing more about substantive topics. I started just having more fun with my content and I kinda put my trust in the Lord to take the rest of it 'cause I was like "I don't know where this is going." There was no manual, there was no path for blogging, there was no like this is exactly how you make money, this is exactly how you grow your following, there's none of that. So having been blogging for 14 years, I was one of the guinea pigs who was just like, let's see what happens.
Michelle: Was there a moment that even though it's risk and let's see what's happened, there's gotta be some momentum that you were like okay, okay this is another opportunity, keep going.
Luvvie: I would say my Scandal recaps gave my blog momentum. I started in 2012 and I started writing recaps and noticing people were making my blog the place to come to on Friday mornings after they watched Scandal Thursday nights. I kinda rode that 'cause people would come to my blog and discover me through my Scandal recaps and stay because the piece after that might be one on the groundhog day or police brutality. The one after that might be like a piece on the stages of what happens when celebrities die on social media. I pull people in one way and I keep them for other ways.
Michelle: I love it. I love it. How have you been able to measure the balance between your activities and your goals?
Luvvie: Man there's no balance yo. To be really honest especially since September when my book dropped, my activities have spurred my goal along. It allowed me to hit the New York Times bestseller list, being able to travel and do all these things but then I spent like three months on the road. I think I spent a total of 14 days at home between September and December of 2016. The why is important for me. The why I'm doing it is important to always keep in mind so when I'm really tired I can always go back to the why. Why am I writing? Why am I putting myself out there? For me it goes back to my core values. I always have to just be authentic to myself.
Michelle: How important is it for a community, whether it's a blogger, an entrepreneur to just kinda keep going in the movement that we kinda put ourselves in these bubbles when we go off a different path?
Luvvie: I think it's important for people to give themselves time and space to grow out of whatever they started with. Like a lot of bloggers are like "My blog started in this way, I don't want to change it but I do want to, I just don't want my audience to be mad." Giving yourself the space to grow as a person will change your blog also. My blog used to be strictly a humor blog where I would just talk about shenanigans. As I plugged in and started paying more attention to the world, I started writing more about other things that mattered to me so then it evolved because of that. That's because I was evolving as a human. I was able to reflect it in my blog and I think a lot of bloggers are very stuck in the brand that they don't also think about the person and knowing that the people behind who are reading it are also evolving with you. So giving yourself space.
Michelle: Do you think your audience allowed you to evolve?
Luvvie: Yeah. My audience has seen my journey. They've been with me. They're really important in it because they've seen when my blog used to be on Blogspot and then I moved to WordPress. And then they saw when I started Scandal recaps and they saw when all these cool things started happening so they've been along with me on that journey. People are not as rigid as we always think right? So like just because you write about fashion all the time doesn't mean you can't talk about anything else. So yeah my audience has allowed me to grow, they've grown with me, we've grown together.
Michelle: How did the collaboration of Tees in the Trap come about?
Luvvie: The owner of Tees in the Trap is Arsha Jones. I met Arsha man five or six years ago at a conference she spoke and she hadn't even started Tees in the Trap at that point. I just thought she was a brilliant person so we kept in touch. And then when she started Tees in the Trap and was doing these t-shirts I was like "I'm always doing t-shirts, we should just collaborate and you produce my t-shirts." So it was the perfect partnership because every time somebody buys one of my t-shirts, they're supporting two black women in business. Arsha is just a consummate professional. I think it's really important to support people who are doing really good things and she's doing really good things.
Michelle: The Red Pump Project, I don't think you talk about that enough so please talk about that.
Luvvie: I don't. You are right, I don't talk about the Red Pump Project enough. Red Pump is a national non profit that I co-founded eight years ago with a friend of mine and we raise awareness about the impact of HIV and AIDS on women and girls. My friend Karen and I both know people who are affected by the epidemic. I have a friend who has 20 cousins who live in Malawi with her grandmother because their parents died of AIDS related complications. And finding that out was like a wake up call for me because I was like "Oh I thought AIDS was handled, No, No, it's still a problem? All right" when I found the stats I was like "Oh wow, this is still really out here and nobody's talking about it" like people aren't talking about it and the people who are talking about it are talking about it in very clinical ways. We started red pump to be basically the safe space and the outlet where put on a pair of red shoes, let's talk about HIV and AIDS on Twitter. Let's talk about it on Facebook 'cause if we can talk about it here, we can talk about it to our partners, to our kids. So yeah it's national and we have teams in four different cities and we do workshops to empower and educate women and girls of color specifically about the truth, the myths, how to basically protect themselves and make sure they're staying safe and not ending up as a statistic as another number in the system to count.
Fast forward to the event, Luvvie spoke for an hour to a full house of 500 people. She shared her journey starting with the days of writing for her college newspaper. Like many of us she always did the right thing. In 2006, Luvvie graduated from college, worked a 9-5, and was writing for her blog at night. While struggling with the ideas to work or not to work, Luvvie wildly admits that it took her eight years to take her writing seriously.
2009: Won the Black Weblog Award for Best Humorous Blog. Started the Red Pump Project.
2010: Participated in New Leaders Council. Laid off and launched All Love LLC.
2011: Worked with her first brand, Gap.
2012: Press coverage for the Academy Awards. Started writing Scandal recaps.
2014: Shonda tweets Luvvie recap. Received an email from book agent.
2015: Landed book deal.
2016: Meets and interviews Oprah. Wins AdColor Rockstar Award and hits NY Times list.
2017: Developing tv show with Shonda Rhimes.
I guess it’s true what they say; “an overnight success is ten years in the making.”
For more Luvvie visit her website AwesomelyLuvvie.com.