“Your gift makes room for you and brings you before great men.”
Mannn, look. If that ain’t been my testimony, I don’t know what is, and last week was the epitome of that. I am still processing it all, but I had to write about it because it was surreal and I need to see it in print so I know it’s real.
The week started off with me traveling to Washington DC, because not only was I invited to attend the United State of Women (USOW), I was asked to speak.
USOW was a day long summit convened by the First Lady Michelle Obama and The White House Council on Women and Girls to rally together advocates of gender equality to highlight what we’ve achieved, identify the challenges that remain, and chart the course for addressing them. 5,000 women were invited to the day of plenaries and panels from top leaders and overall epic folks. It was almost packed with TOO much awesome.
We heard talks from President Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Nancy Pelosi. There was a life-giving talkback with First Lady Shellie and Oprah Winfrey. Other people who spoke included Kerry Washington, Angelique Kidjo, Billie Jean King, Sophia Bush, It was just dollops of awesome throughout the day. And personally, I had more than a couple of magical moments. Like when I met Amy Poehler and she goes “I have your book! I am really looking forward to reading it!” And I coulda died on the spot.
Later that day in the afternoon, I was moderator of a panel called “Reel Change: Advancing Equity and Opportunity in Media”, with Gloria Steinem, Shonda Rhimes, Sana Amanat (Marvel), Glen Mazzara (Writers Guild of America), Judith Williams (DropBox), Amani Al-Khatahtbeh (MuslimGirl.com). When I first learned that I would be a part of this set of dope people, I was like “Wait WHUT!” Seriously one of the coolest panels I’ve ever been on. Before we got started, Shonda tells me “I am almost done reading your book. It’s on my hotel room nightstand right now.” And I wanted to squeal but I kept my cool.
I MEAN!!! Talk about powerhouses. Being chosen to be the driver of that conversation was such an honor. Then I found out a couple of days before that it was the one that would be livestreamed for people to watch. There were such great gems dropped from the conversation so check out the livestream link and watch from hour 9:04-9:54.
It was incredible, and the feedback afterwards blew my mind. That was Tuesday. Early morning on Wednesday, I got on a flight to head to Los Angeles because the screening of OWNTV’s newest show Greenleaf, was happening that evening. And I was set to host interviews with the members of the cast.
The show is about a churchy Black family in the South, and what happens when a death forces them all together. The drama, the secrets, the shenanigans. It’s a drama starring Lynn Whitfield and Keith David as the parents, Bishop and Mae Greenleaf. Eye candy Lamman Rucker plays their son, Jacob, and Oprah plays Aunt Mavis, the family black sheep. The rest of the cast are newcomers who will soon be known entities, like Merle Dandridge who plays Grace Greenleaf.
I got confirmation that I would be interviewing Mother Oprah too, and I was like HOLY SMOKES. The team at OWN were like “Just be you.” So when the show screening ended, I was given a microphone with OWN on it, and Oprah and Merle came and sat by me. And we just started talking like old buddies.
The interview was streamed across 3 Facebook pages (Oprah’s, OWN’s and Greenleaf) and I sat there chatting it up with those 2 women for 10 minutes. I was both paying attention to what was being said AND being present in the moment of how significant it was that I was sitting next to Oprah Winfrey, the best interviewer on Earth, interviewing her.
At one point, I mentioned the hair of the character Oprah plays in Greenleaf. It’s an epic fro and you know how much I enjoy seeing folks rock hair that is big and BADDDD.
And I said “Up until 6 weeks ago, I had locs.”
Oprah: You unloced!
Me: I unloced! I felt like it was time to let them go.
Oprah: Really? How long did you have them?
Me: 6 and a half years.
Oprah: Whoa. What’s going on with you, Luvvie?
Me: I’m stepping into a new phase in my life. I just wrote my first book. I felt like it was time to let them go.
Oprah: Ah, you’re moving on up.
CHILE, I DIE but I LIVE.
After we wrapped the interview, we took some more pics, and Oprah strokes my hair as she did it and I was on the inside like OMG THIS IS HAPPENING. And we hugged and it felt like hugging clouds and I was high off the moment. And the team at OWN gave me high fives and said “you are a natural.” And my texts blew up as my friends freaked out on my behalf from watching the live video.
And then I took a deep breath because I needed to do that, because I was very aware of the fact that I was living in the realm of my dreams. When I checked Facebook, my boy Scott Hanselman had captured a perfect moment during my interview, where Oprah grabbed my head.
CHILE I FELT ANOINTED.
This wasn’t my first time meeting her. We formally met two months ago on the OWN lot too and I blogged about it. This was just the first time we were able to have an extended exchange, and it happened to be for her own channel. I would not have thunk it then, and I was definitely having a couple of moments.
Then I interviewed the rest of the cast, and spent the rest of the evening at the party on OWN’s lot, under the stars surrounded by stars (and delicious food). And Keith David got on the mic and serenaded us. You know, the non-average, non-regular Wednesday that you should never forget.
BTW, Greenleaf is good dinnamug, and it premieres tonight (June 21 at 9pm ET on OWN).
The next morning (Thursday), I hopped on an 8am flight out of Los Angeles to get back to Chicago, because I was scheduled to be the commencement keynote at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy. I had to give the class of 2016 some words of wisdom. I landed in Chicago at 3pm, got home at 4:30pm, was out the door at 5:15pm to get to the graduation at 6pm. I told the kids what I had been up to that week, because where we talk about dreams coming true, it might sound abstract, but they are possible.
But beyond that, I mostly told them these things:
- You are now an adult. All the good and bad is included.
- Do the work you need to do in college so your partying can be justified.
- Do not sign up for those credit cards, just because they promise free pizza and a tshirt.
- Do not snapchat, tweet, Facebook, Instagram your way out of a good future and good Google footprint. Keep your partying OFF social media
They paid attention, y’all. And when the ceremony was over, parents came up to me to thank me.
From moderating a panel with titans on Tuesday, interviewing Oprah on Wednesday and being the keynote at a graduation on Thursday, I had a week of peaks. It truly felt like Harvest season, and all the work I’ve done up until this point was paying off.
It’s interesting too, because just 2 years ago, on April 21, 2014, I had a moment of self-doubt, questioning what I was doing and feeling like I wasn’t getting what I was due. I posted a status on Facebook, and it said:
“Lately, I’ve been beating myself up because there are places I want to be that I haven’t reached yet. Being the class clown of blogosphere doesn’t always get me the respect I deserve and I was feeling mighty low like Miss Sophia. And then 2 people spoke power to me without even knowing that I needed it. Then I got an email from one of my readers that said “Depression unfortunately is real and for me at times crippling. Your blog serves as a distraction and provides me with laughter and a sense of feel good, I usually forget exist. You are appreciated. Thank you.”
My thug packed up an overnight duffle and went to the Sybaris because: OMG. And I felt foolish for even questioning myself. So I stopped beating myself up because I realized that I am supposed to doing what I’m doing right now and I am where I should be at this exact moment.
I am walking in my purpose and I’m doing it on my own terms, which means the road might be longer but the journey is unfolding just as it needs to. The lessons are many but that was one I needed to be reconfirmed.”
And here I am, on the heels of a week that is confirmation of the fact that I have been on the right path all along. I just had to be patient. There are many lessons that this just reconfirms for me.
Keep speaking my truth
My gifts are: writing, teaching, speaking. I now know that. Communicating ideas well are the things I do well in most forms. I call myself the professional troublemaker because I say the things that people think but dared not to, and there are times that it gets me pushback.
This time last year, I was dealing with the fallout of my callout to people with a platform to speak up about issues that affect folks who look like them. I lost friends from it and got subtweeted up a storm for days. Someone whose conference I keynoted and spoke at several times wrote a blog post lambasting me. But would I take it back. HELL NO. I’d say that shit twice. I have to continue to be strong about who I am, because that is what has allowed me to be in rooms with giants. I used to worry about whether I’m talking myself out of rooms, but shiiddd. Some of the places I’ve been invited to be in can’t get no doper.
Honor your gift
I spoke at an elementary school the other week to 100 6th graders, and one of the teachers said she read my tribute on Muhammad Ali to them, and they cheered as she read along. She said they literally applauded. 12 year olds, who are not impressed by much.
This writing thing has opened some amazing doors for me. I’m really glad I started honoring this gift, because I didn’t pay too much attention to it for a long time. I fought it, because I didn’t personally know many people making a comfortable living writing. I KNEW I was gonna be a Psychologist. Then I KNEW I would go to grad school for my MBA. I thought writing and blogging was a cute hobby. Even after I got laid off my last job (2010), I would still check LinkedIn every week, looking for jobs to apply to.
And then the Universe (God) grabbed my face and was like “You’re not listening to me. You’re supposed to WRITE.”
And the whisper turned into yelling. And my stubborn ass finally listened. And here I am. It took 8 years after I started blogging (in 2010), 1 year after I got laid off and 26 years of living before I decided to honor this gift. It made all the difference.
I’ve written for some of the publications I have been reading for years. I’ve spoken in 6 countries, and at the White House twice. I’ve stood in front of Barbara Walters as I received an award for my voice. My goodness, it’s been incredible.
My gifts have certainly made room for me. Hell, they set up camp.
That is my testimony, that is my journey and that is my life. Because the people I’ve been in the presence of have been GREATS. I stopped fighting my gifts, I started owning my purpose and I put trust in the Universe/God to order my steps. Magic has happened.
Speak my dreams
I wasn’t someone who previously believed in the vague power of speaking what you want to become reality, until I got the courage to actually talk about my goals and dreams. And I saw them start to come to fruition one by one. I am a super practical Capricorn, but I believe in the power of speaking your visions and making them plain. Sometimes, the universe (God) will surprise you and make them happen. Some people just think it is the catalyst to executing when you write or say you want something. I wrote a piece on medium about the time I wrote a vision statement and started seeing everything in it start to materialize.
Well, last week was like that. I didn’t say I wanted to interview Oprah, but I surely said I want her to know my name and speak it one day. I found a tweet from January 1, 2011 where I said just this.
Oprah will know my name one day. And that is the day I’ll know I’ve arrived. Arrived where? Not sure. But I’ll have nice luggage.
— Awesomely Luvvie (@Luvvie) January 1, 2011
I read it now, 5 and a half years later, wondering if I knew in my heart of hearts that it would happen so soon.
And I don’t mean that you tell everyone everything you want all the time. Big picture things? Sure. But speaking your dreams can even mean telling the ones closest to you. Or writing them down. Or saying them out loud to yourself. Put it out there somehow.
Dream even bigger
Some of the things that have happened for me in the last 2 years weren’t even dreams of mine, because I didn’t dare to think they were even possible. MY BAD. I know better now. I keep getting confirmation that I don’t have the right to set small goals for myself because they keep getting blown out the water.
And for that, I thank God.
So what’s next? Well, in less than 3 months, my first book comes out. I’M JUDGING YOU: The Do Better Manual will be released on September 13.
That was a mountain I climbed, and my dream is to be a New York Times best-selling author. Let me put that in the “done” category. I WILL BE A BEST-SELLING AUTHOR. Honestly, the book was the biggest thing I had set for myself thus far. It has been something that I wanted to do for a while, and I haven’t even looked past it. I put in the work to produce something I would be very proud of, and I cannot wait everyone to be able to hold it in their hands. This fall will be spent on my tour for it and afterwards? IDK. We shall see what God has planned for me.
I always gotta give credit to my online community because y’all are partly why I can walk in a room and people listen. Because YOU listen to me. Y’all are the reason why I could convince a publishing house that my book will be sellable. So thank you so much for being here for me. And thank you for helping me make my dreams come true. Thank you for making sure I’m present even when I’m miles away. Your support means the world, and my glow up is your glow up, because you are in these rooms with me.
So yes, it’s been an incredible week and I am in perpetual praise dance mode. I feel like I am standing in light, and when this picture was captured on the Greenleaf carpet on Wednesday, I became obsessed with it. I am exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what I need to do. And for that, I thank God.
Added: I just had to come back to add one more lesson that is TRULY important.
Reach Back and Pull Up
Had mentors? GET MENTEES. It is important that you make someone else’s path easier than yours was. I am a product of it. The reason why we get to do certain things is that someone mentioned our names when we weren’t even present. That matters.
What’s the point of being on the mountaintop if there’s no one else there to enjoy the view with you? Pull others up as your climb. I commit myself to that.