Less than 3 weeks left in 2016, and I am fist-pumping for what has been an amazing year for me professionally and personally. Unfortunately, the world started to burn so not everything was great. However, this year has been one that has pushed me forward and upward, and one where so many of my dreams came to be. For that, I am immensely grateful.
So many highlights but I wanted to pick 5 that were especially special.
Top 5 Coolest Things That Happened
Locs be gone
In December 2009, I got my locs started with tiny comb coils that were about an inch long. Why? Because I wanted to see what I’d look like with locs. It wasn’t for any major reason. And for 6 years, I loved my hair so freaking much. It was low-maintenance, really versatile and it looked good! High return for low effort. I’d wash them every couple of weeks and get them retwisted once a month, and they grew fast without me trying much.
And then last year, I shaved the back and got an undercut that I’d switch up with different designs every other week.
But in April of this year, I felt like I was done with them. Again, no major reason but something told me it was time for a change. I only mentioned that I was thinking about it to 2 people. On April 20, I was sitting at my computer when I decided that it was the day my locs needed to go. I made an appointment with a barber whose work I had seen on Instagram and I went in that evening and told him to cut them off. My mid-back length locs got chopped off, and I emerged on social media with “New hair, who dis?”
People LOST THEIR SHIT. 309 comments on Instagram alone.
They say a woman who cuts her hair changes her life. I don’t know what happened but the moment I let those locs go, life went into hyperdrive in the best way.
Spoke at the White House
I had been to the White House for a couple of summits before this year, and even attended the Black History Year reception for the last 2 years. But to speak there was an opportunity I wanted. And it happened twice this year. And if you’re reading this on the morning of December 16, 2016, between 9:20-10:10am, then I’m speaking as you read. I’m on a panel to talk about “Building Inclusive Movements” as part of the last (😭) White House Council on Women and Girls forum. This is a tough pill to swallow because it’ll probably be the last chance I get to do this, seeing as we’re about to have Voldemort taking over.
ANYWHO, my first time speaking was in May, as part of the ROOTS Remake day at the WH. I was on a panel talking about how our names are our shield.
There’s a video of me talking about why I protect my first name, and how Yoruba people make sure our children are blessed from the first utterance of their names.
A month after this, I was chosen to moderate a panel at the inaugural United State of Women summit, hosted by the White House and the First Lady Michelle Obama. I drove the conversation on 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). AMAZING company to be trusted with.
All of these dope people dropped all types of gems. Video of the panel is watchable on my Vimeo channel.
AND related. Another highlight related to the White House is SXSL (South by South Lawn), which was basically a cookout that happened on the South Lawn. Me and some fellow Peak Noir people decided to Swag Surf.
Being in Oprah’s Orbit
Oprah Winfrey decided to handpick 100 people who she considers “awakened leaders who are using their gifts and voices to help elevate humanity.” I was one of them, as a member of the inaugural Supersoul 100 list. Other folks on this list? Ava DuVernay, Iyanla Vanzant, Jesse Williams, Marie Forleo, Glennon Melton Doyle etc. And so are people who I consider friends like Zim Oguchukwu (TravelNoire), Shaka Senghor, Felicia Horowitz, Joshua DuBois and Jessica Matthews. The list is pure BAWSE status. To say I was honored is an understatement.
Mother Winfrey and the OWN staff had a brunch for those of us on the list in April, and it was THE room to be in. Somehow, they managed to get 70 of us to be there, which is no small feat because of all the nutty schedules.
It felt surreal to be there.
And then we did a photoshoot as a big group, with Oprah in the center. After the giant shoot, we did group specific shoots. The SS100 list is split into 5 categories: Creatives, Givers, Teachers, Entrepreneurs and Igniters. I’m in the CREATIVES group, and we were first up to take our pic. We acted a complete fool as they tried to get us to take a decent pic. India.Arie led us in a group body roll as she sang Rihanna’s “Werk werk werk” which then led into a clapping and swaying session to “Lean on Me.” It was like we couldn’t help ourselves.
We were so unruly. I’m pretty sure the photographer wanted to shake his head at us but he was too amused. It was the best. And there’s a reason this group came together. But this beautiful pic came from that.
I’m between India.Arie and Amandla Stenberg. Gina Rodriguez is between us and Jesse Williams is to our left. Zendaya is in front of Sophia Bush and Ava is sitting all regale. This group was off the chain.
And that is when I personally met Oprah, in all her glory. Although we’d been in the room together at least 10 times over the years, I knew that when I met her formally, she’d already know my name. And that happened.
2 months later, her team had me back in LA, on the OWN lot, and this time, it was to interview her. I got to interview the best interviewer on the planet on her own turf. By then, I had shed my locs, and she grabbed my head.
Year made. YEAR. MADE. I could have ended there but let’s keep going.
I’m Judging You Dropped and Showed Out
I have been blogging for 13 years, y’all. Over a decade of churning out words on these interwebs. It was time for me to write a book. But I wasn’t gonna write one just for the sake of it. I wanted to write a GOOD one. Two years ago, on August 4, 2014, I got the idea for my book after I was plagiarized by a “journalist.” When I wondered out loud (on Twitter) whether there was a limited edition handbook that some of us didn’t get on how not to be shitty people, I was like “AH HA! That’s the book I need to write. So I did.
In March 2015, I got my book deal from Henry Holt, an imprint of Macmillan, and on September 13, 2016, my debut book I’M JUDGING YOU: The Do-Better Manual, dropped unto the world. Angels sang, babies laughed and cats found chill. No, but really. This book did some things and changed my life.
This book seriously went nuts. Folks posted themselves holding my book, with its snazzy cover, featuring the sweet but sour lollipop that is now known as JudgeyPop. I went on a 15 city book tour, with my biggest stop being in DC, where 650 people came to show me love. I signed every one of their books.
But truly. My book tour was a LITuation. Every city had me paired with some of the dopest influencers, who also happen to be my friends/mentors/baes. Crissle West, Francheska Medina, Damon Young, Denene Millner, Samantha Irby, Angela Nissel, Lindy West, Richelle Parham, Emile Cambry, Demetria Lucas D’Oyley, Rachel Sklar, Kathryn Finney. I MEAN. Talk about an all-star lineup.
Chicago, DC, NYC, Atlanta, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Detroit, Madison, Boston, Miami, Baltimore. I came, talked, signed books and met you awesome people. More to come in 2017.
I’m burying the lede, doe. I’m Judging You was an instant New York Times best-seller, hitting the list the week after it was released!
This was a major dream come true. It was the biggest goal I’d set for myself thus far, and when I got the call at 5:15pm on September 21, it became real. I debuted at #5 on the list. It is something I earned, and it is an accolade that comes with quantifiable perks. It also means that FOREVER AND EVER, I get to be known as a best-selling author.
I DID THAT. Because y’all supported this book, and bought it and told your friends to buy it and make it your bookclub picks, and made your offices buy it. LUVVNATION helped make my biggest dream come true, and I am so thankful to y’all for it.
Cool ass awards
This was a year of winning some cool ass awards. I gotta say.
- Influencer of the Year – Mom 2.0 Summit
- The Root 100 – TheRoot.com
- Person of the Year – Applause Africa Diaspora Awards
- Most Awesome and Inspiring Women of 2016 – Good Housekeeping Magazine
- America’s 50 Most Influential Women – Marie Claire
One of my favorite awards that I received this year was ADCOLOR’s Rockstar Award. For so many reasons. I was getting ready when I got the phone call that I hit the List. And after celebrating for 45 minutes, I got dressed and headed to the award, already floating on cloud 9. When my friend, Tai Beauchamp, called my name as winner of the Rockstar Award, the room erupted.
I used my time on stage telling the people in power in that room to use their access and money and privilege to fight racism and injustice. I gave the list of 9 Things White People Can Do To Fight Injustice and I got off the stage, still not even sure if I was heard. Later in the evening, a Senior VP of a Fortune 500 company went off script as he presented an award onstage. And said “I am taking Luvvie’s list on and charging myself to do those things.” The entire room looks at me as my jaw drops.
I was heard. I was heard by powerful people who have the access to make real difference with their checkbooks, with one phonecall, and with their day-to-day decisions. People who got keys to the gates. I was reminded that I doubted my gift for far too long. I was affirmed to keep going and to keep saying the things that used to make me think I’d talk myself out of a room. And that being The Challenger is necessary.
For me, these awards aren’t just to collect cute trophies and bragging rights. Each one gives me more access to powerful people, who I hope can take on the work that needs to be done. And many of them are special because my peers saw fit for me to get the recognition.
2016 has been a banner year indeed. I had over 50 speaking engagements, 20 book tour stops, and took 57 trips (and 110 flights). In the last 3 months, I’ve been home for a TOTAL of 3 weeks. I’ve kept an amazing pace to the point where I have now hit a wall and can be of no help to anybody. So, I’m taking a month off doing WORK. It means a month off writing, and answering emails, and conference calls and meeting and being expected to be productive. I’m taking a month to continue to reflect on what’s happened, and to look forward to what’s to come.
Starting today, I am on work hiatus until January 16, 2017. My email autoresponders are on. If you need me, don’t. I am excited to spend days not setting alarms. I plan on watching ALL the NetFlix, eating ALL the jollof rice and being as slothy as I can be. I owe myself some naps and a vacation.
Will I still be on social media? Sure. I’m not declaring a social media sabbatical, but I will also make it a point to detach more often from the news and all things stressful so there will be ample shenanigans from my end. If I have anything to say, they will be in the form of Facebook and Twitter statuses, and Instagram randomness. No blogposts coming. Long story short, I feel like I’ve more than earned the right to be completely selfish with my time. (I’m @Luvvie on every platform).
This year has been really exciting but also exhausting. I need to recharge my batteries, because I will need to have extra energy stored up for what’s to come after January 20. Also, Scandal comes back January 19 AND MY BODY GON BE READY FOR THAT.
God is good ALLATAHM. Talk to y’all in 2017. Catch me elsewhere. Or not.
While you’re here, get my book for holiday gifts!