I had just come back from a long, adventurous, and life-changing trip to London. I got lost on the subway, on the street, had to carry like my entire life on my back. My ankles were sore, my back demolished, and my arms ached. But I had companies and designers depending on me to make those photoshoots happen, to deliver what I said that I’d deliver. To show up on time and produce bomb photos. With no phone, shoddy internet, and a bad sense of direction, I made it happen. But when I tell you that I was beyond dead, I had turned into a fashionable zombie. Dark circles under my eyes and the works.
Traveling had taken its toll on my mind and body and I needed desperately to regroup. I’d finally made it back to Michigan and passed out, but I knew with my schedule that I’d have maybe a day or two to recoup.
“You need to rest,” my friend messaged me.
“What’s rest?” I replied.
“You play too much.”
“You know how my life is. When opportunity knocks, I gotta jump on it. I’ll stop when I’m dead or when I start my period. Whichever comes first.”
A trillion laughing emojis ensued.
But it was true. I haven’t gotten to where I’m at by sitting down, taking the safe route, watching other people move forward and trying to drive in their lane or hopping in their backseat. I’ve had four failed blogs and YouTube channels over the span of six years. I’ve been used and abused by local (so-called) fashion influencers in the city of Detroit promising glitz and glam. I’ve been side-eyed and at certain points, disrespected by bloggers who thought that I was ‘taking too much of the spotlight’ in a very weak ass fashion/social climate in the city as well as in the suburbs.
I’m not trying to take shots, but unfortunately, Detroit, Michigan isn’t a hub for true fashion creatives. I rarely get paid and certainly others are struggling that freelance model or style or even blog. We have pockets of bomb fashion influencers — but for the most part, people who have “connections” (usually White girls) with very little style, get the play. And that’s cool. But we won’t ever elevate to a New York or a Paris level with that type of mindset.
But, I digress.
In this industry, mostly any industry, you can’t sit still, be comfortable and expect to be an icon. Become national or international.
The process of creation, invention, and reinvention is painful – it’s slow, and it takes time. It takes failures. It takes guts. It takes people behind you, real people to support; to believe in what you’re doing is going to make a difference.
It takes relatability and a certain kind of vulnerability. It takes being able to get ready for a full-fledge shoot in twenty minutes – borrowing clothes and accessories from a friend because you have $2.14 in your checking account.
It takes humbling yourself. Shutting the hell up and just listening. It takes helping others to achieve. It takes changing in the backseat of your car; changing in a greasy bathroom at a Coney Island. It takes working with a stuck-up bitch you may not like.
Self-worth and value.
I wish that someone would have told me in the beginning to find the value in myself and to know my worth. I went in the door of some places with my head down and willing to do anything for some sort of gain in the industry. Ya know, because I was new and I didn’t think what I knew held any weight. I was lesser than this and lesser than that. I hadn’t valued myself so why should I have expected them to?
I got used, a lot, and I’m sure the people who had used me in the past are reading this piece right now. But, I want to thank you because you taught me such a valuable lesson. And the lesson isn’t to burst down the door like Mariah Carey and claim that you are the shit, but to go into situations knowing what you are and aren’t willing to do. You’re not being difficult and you’re not being a bitch: You are being a businesswoman and you are claiming, and or, reclaiming your stakes.
Stop saying what you can’t do or what’s impossible. I’m talking to myself as well. We complain and complain and moan and complain. Which is fine, but when all is said and done, what are you going to do with what you have right now? Not what you could have or should have if blah, blah, blah. But what are you, with your two hands, a camera, and a janky set, going to do with the resources that are available to you? Creativity. The best campaigns I’ve ever done have literally been with the smallest to zilch budgets. So, stop saying what you can’t do or where you can’t go. You can. You just don’t want to.
All of this is to talk about momentum, that thrust forward. Right? It’s a valuable key to achieving stuff. Momentum is hard to get, no lie – but once you get into the groove and start to get it, really get it, then you’ve got to push it.
For example, this shoot with my friend, Remy. When he messaged me, I was dead in the bed and very jetlagged. He says let’s shoot in two days. In my head I’m like, “how can I put together two looks when I can’t even string together a coherent sentence?” I was backlogged on blogging and my wallet had been stolen. People needed answers to questions and emails were in the hundreds.
Here’s where the push came in. Just for Remy to even reach out to me is humbling. I mean, his work is amazing. Who was I to lose an opportunity for a pro-bono shoot with a photographic genius? I sucked it up, placed heavy concealer under the raccoon rings around my eyes, and met him at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Yes, I was tired. My feet burned. And modeling is fun but certainly not as easy as it looks. But I was there, and he was there, and I gave him not 60%, but 110% of my energy and zest. And he did the same for me. Then, he made me look like some sort of Baroque painting. He played with shadows and lighting and mood. I fell in love.
Keep that momentum going. When you’re at the bottom of the barrel and life’s piling on top of you, I need you to dig deep in your gut, your soul and with that last bit of energy left. I need you to push to the end. Jump on those opportunities. Stop doubting yourself. Complain less and do more.