SELF TALK w/
co-author of SLAY IN YOUR LANE
In 2012, I started a magazine aimed at ethnic minority teenage girls called Birthday magazine. I got a grant which gave me a bit of money to do print copies that I used to give to hair shops. I got to a point where I wanted to take journalism seriously and had been doing loads of unpaid internships that I couldn’t afford. I’d create my own stuff at the same time to keep me afloat, like my blog and magazine. I got a break when I got an internship at the telegraph for six months, which is a massive conservative paper, I thought how am I going to do this? I was on the education desk, they pushed me to write a lot on different topics which was really surprising, I would be talking about stuff that effects black girls but they would support it. I was the only black girl under 30 in the office and was 21 so it was mad, but was how I started. After The Telegraph, I got my first proper job two years later at a publication called V point, at ITM productions. But they liquidated it after a year and just before I was made redundant, someone came down from Channel 4 news and offered me a job, I said I’ll take it because I always wanted to work there.
At the beginning of 2015, my best friend Elizabeth called me and said ‘I’ve been thinking how someone should write a book aimed at black women but it’s about the workplace and how we navigate it, you should write this book. I had a ‘That’s so Raven’ moment, I don’t think she realised how good it actually was. By Christmas we had an agent and got a book deal in 2016, we wrote the book in four months. The hardest part was the interview process because we were constantly meeting amazing women, loving their stories and then when approaching their agents, they would tell us ‘They’ve got more important things to do.’
Two weeks after we had the idea, Elizabeth texted me a picture of Solange Knowles at Paris Fashion Week, she was like ‘slay in your lane’. I rang her and said this is what we need to call the book. The black girl bible came later, we joined them together, Slay in your lane, the black girl bible.’ We were so excited about it, we thought is it going to make people feel Alienated? But everyones taken to it and reading it regardless. I’ve seen so many white guys with their pink books, raving about the black girl bible, wanting us to sign it, saying ‘it’s for my girlfriend’ but I’m like sure…. A book is very different to a movement, we always tried to spin it. I hoped it would do well, but it’s completely surpassed my expectations. More in terms of what we’ve been able to do since the book, Elizabeth got a column at the financial times and I got the Guardian. If it hadn’t been for that book, I don’t think we would have had the profile to get to those things.
In terms of energy and time, I know I’m not that old. I’m 27 and I feel 59, I’m so tired these days because I’m so tired. I don’t have work life balance at the moment, but what I will say is that I am getting better at being quite comfortable in saying no to stuff. I think what you say no to is as important as what you say yes too. It feels like there is a culture of everyone saying yes to every opportunity, thinking that everything is worth your time or your energy.Does this add value to my soul, my bank account, or my trajectory. I’m looking for it to do all three of those things, if not at least two of them because I can do something for free that’s going to feed my soul.