We Followed Up With Six Powerhouse Women Who Started From The Bottom
By: Faith Riggs
Maya Allen, Digital Beauty Editor at Marie Claire Magazine, @mayaalenaa
What have you been up to since ESG last featured you?
Two and a half years ago, I was a baby beauty assistant at Cosmopolitan Magazine. That was my first big girl job in the industry and it was incredibly rewarding and taught me a wealth of knowledge. I gained so much experience working for the biggest women’s magazine in the world. Since then, I went on to Byrdie Beauty to work as the assistant beauty editor to cover beauty, health and wellness with an amazing team of women. I really delved into the science of beauty, learned editorial, learned how to write faster, and work even harder. Now I’m back at Hearst which feels very full circle to me. Hearst housed my first magazine internship, my first beauty job and now I am the digital beauty director at Marie Claire. I am able to talk about beauty for an audience who loves to empower themselves and use beauty as a force to live their best lives. It’s been an incredible dream job. I’m able to stretch myself in ways I never would have imagined and I’m still pinching myself.
How has your transition been through your different editorial positions?
It’s always such an exciting and stimulating transition. I really look beyond the surface. What excites me the most about beauty is how it fits into our world culturally and universally. As I transition, I always keep my mission at the forefront of my mind. Every feature I write, every celebrity I interview, and every image I use on the site speaks to that truth, purpose and mission. I always hold on to the core and remember my “why.” My “why” is bigger than myself, my day to day stressful nonstop schedule, and thousands of emails I get. It’s for the women that I do it for.
How has your storytelling evolved over the last couple of years?
Storytelling is the root of being an editor. When I was a little girl reading stories in the glossy pages of magazines, it truly inspired me to work in magazines, and it truly shaped my progression into young womanhood. I take that path very seriously to tell stories about other women who look like me. At times, you tend to overthink stories and features because I want to be able to tell the stories the right way. But there is no right way. If I’m serving the reader, then she’ll appreciate it. To serve the reader, you have to understand the reader and be the reader. That has been something I’ve been fortunate to be in, in every position that I’ve had. I identify with the reader and I am that woman.
What do you think is next for you?
My goal is to continue to learn from my exquisite team of editors I get to work with and to learn innovative ways to be the most popping digital editor there is. I’d say balance is really important for me this year and being intentional. It’s understanding that I have to prioritize myself. I can’t get lost in all of my to-do list and put my happiness, purpose, and my needs last. I’ve been very intentional about excelling professionally, personally, and internally and when I do that I feel like the 360-woman I’m always aiming to be. 'What’s next to me is really prioritizing a holistic approach to life and to be my best self and to discover the highest and truest expression of myself.
Claire Ateku, Television Assistant, @therealateku
How has your journey evolved since you were last featured on ESG in 2016?
I was still a student just trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I was in D.C. then for school and now I’m in L.A. for work. I knew I wanted to work in entertainment and media, but I think I had to make that decision of where I was and what offered the best opportunity. I just think I’m in a good headspace here in L.A. Another way I’ve transformed is my level of self-awareness and my understanding of my potential and how powerful every decision is. I’m just being more conscious of everything and how everything plays in my big picture.
What has been your greatest motivation?
My friends and the people I surround myself with for sure. I was reading one of my friends’ books, who went to Howard with me, and he ended up being kicked out of school, got depressed and went to the Army. He had this realization and wrote this powerful book called “Winning Your Race.” It talks about how your journey is very specific to you only and you can’t compare yourself to everyone. One of the chapters was about the people you surround yourself with and the people you call your friends. I’m a social butterfly who knows a lot of people so reading that book, I kind of had to audit my circle.
Would you change anything on your journey? If so, what would you change?
The answer is no. I’ve always been a very positive person and I’ve gotten through trials and tribulations. I’m also a very spiritual person and there is a Bible verse that talks about how everything that you go through gives you a better story. My positive outlook and my comfort within my journey through the ups and the downs is what helps me encourage other people.
What is the best advice you would give to someone who aspires to be in the industry?
Network, network, be so nice and network more. I think it really comes down to being nice to people whether it’s being nice to the janitor or your professor because at the end of the day, you are going to 100 percent need those people even if it’s something minor. Getting to know people genuinely instead of coming from a point where you want something from them makes all the difference.
What do you think is next for you?
I don’t know. That’s honestly something I’m trying to figure out myself. I’ve been in my job for a year now; I work as an assistant at a talent agency. I could see myself being here for another year. As far as my next role job wise, I don’t think it can be defined yet. The beauty of where we are in this time is about building these positions that are more tailored to us and what we want. I just want to find my purpose and work for people of color in events that are media, fashion and entertainment. Just something that’s me.
Tacha J, Digital beauty, wellness and lifestyle content creator, @tach.j
How has your life changed since you were last featured on ESG?
When I was featured, I had just kind of started. I had literally started in January of that same year, and things are completely different. I was walking into a whole new world — a whole new industry. Since then I’ve grown, and I recently went full-time as a content creator. It’s literally a 360, and I still have those moments where I feel like I’m kind of out of my comfort zone. I get a little bit intimidated about how big some opportunities are and I’m asking myself, “Is this really for you?” I definitely have those moments, but I’ve really learned to trust myself and not count myself out.
How do you think your platform has grown since we’ve last featured you?
It’s grown quite a bit. It’s grown in the literal sense of the numbers, and my audience itself has grown. I feel like whenever you’re starting a new project, especially on social media, it can take a while to find your voice and find your groove, and kind of figure out the things that you are most interested in. Since that feature, I think I have kind of fallen into my groove. I know there are certain things I love sharing with my audience. Beauty, fashion, and all of that is always part of what I’m sharing, but I also really love sharing tidbits about my journey. I’ve found things that my audience really connects with me on. We’ve just kind of found things that we love talking about together, and I think we’ve built a relationship.
How has the content creating industry changed since you first started?
Everyone says this, but it’s getting more and more saturated. It’s true; there are more and more content creators everyday, and I don’t think there will be any shortage. I truly feel like you don’t need to try to stand out because I feel like there is space for everyone. I feel like the value that you bring is being yourself. As the industry starts to grow, and there are new people joining every single day. One of the most important things that I’ve found is always operating from a place of authenticity.
What keeps you inspired lately?
I am truly inspired by women. I think we’re phenomenal. Our stories. Our complexities. All of it. I’m always inspired by amazing women. I love listening to podcasts and audiobooks based on women’s lives and just their stories. They always move me.
What is something you hope you’ll accomplish soon?
I want to start a project. I have this feature on my blog that’s kind of dead now because I haven’t updated it in so long, and it’s called “The Slash Gen.” I basically brought in women that I loved and basically asked them about the “slashes” that they have. For example, I had my friend, Candace, featured who is a Redskins cheerleader, brand ambassador and a software engineer. I want to find a way to revive that in a fresh way. I don’t know exactly what that is yet, I’m thinking video format. I definitely want to make sure that I am finding a way to put out that content that inspires me and telling women’s stories in a fun, engaging and interesting way.
Safiyah Mac, Mother, @safiyahmac
How has your life changed since ESG featured you in October 2016?
Well, I had a baby. I had a daughter and I became a single mom and it’s like the best life ever. I ended up moving to Florida. Once you have kid, you like lose sense of yourself a little bit. I lost myself completely, so I’m just getting back into the swing of things now which is good.
How has becoming a mother impacted your journey?
It makes things 10 times harder for sure. Nothing is impossible when you have a kid when you are young. I had my daughter when I was 21 so it doesn’t make things impossible, it just makes them a little harder. I am a single mom, so things are 10 times harder because I don’t have that extra person helping me. I’ve been coming into my own again, so I am able to do things that I used to do. I got back on social media, and I’m very vocal about my life.
Where do you see your journey heading next?
Since we moved to Florida, I wanted to get more domestic. I want a house. I want a backyard. I want a car versus me living in the city in like a shoebox with no car. I just wanted to give my daughter the domestic life. Eventually, I do want to go school to be an esthetician.
What’s your biggest goal?
I just want to be a super mom. I just want to be able to provide everything that my daughter wants, no matter what I’m doing. At the end of the day, whatever I’m doing, I just want to be able to give my kid the world.
What has been the best moment so far in 2019?
The best moment is probably moving to Florida because this is what I ultimately wanted as a person and as a mother. I wanted my kid to grow up the way I grew up. I grew up in Florida and I wanted her to grow up in Florida. I always went to Disney and I had a backyard with a pool, so me moving here was me being able to give her everything I had and more.
Alicia “Ace” West, Hip Hop Radio Host, @aliciaacewest
How has your life changed since being featured on ESG in 2016?
When that post happened, I was unemployed and had just moved to New York to be a part of the media academy. I think I just graduated too. I was just kind of figuring everything out. I knew what I wanted to do, but it was just making it happen and getting a Visa. Since then, I did get a Visa and I moved to Detroit from New York, and I was the online editor for Radio One. I did work in radio, but I wasn’t on air like I wanted to. More recently, in the last nine months, I ended up moving back to Toronto because they started a new urban radio station. I ended up getting a job, so now I’m the midday girl at Flow935. A lot has changed. Everything that I was looking for when the original ESG post went out has pretty much come true.
When we last featured you, you mentioned your biggest struggle was not having an urban radio station in Toronto; how has your life changed since now working at Toronto’s hip hop station?
I’m blessed that when they brought the radio station back, that they thought of me. They were able to reach out to me, and bring me back home. It’s not like I chose to come here. I was working in the states doing what I wanted to do; and working in the states was always something I wanted to do. I’m so blessed that I was able to do it, but I’m also blessed to be able to be in the space that I thought we never had here. As a city, Toronto has definitely grown within the last couple of years and evolved in the urban Hip-Hop space.
What has been your biggest accomplishment as of recent?
My biggest accomplishment is being on the radio. I’ve never had on on-air job; this is my first one. For me to have gone from not being on-air, to being on-air in the number one market in Canada is a blessing for sure, and having my own show six days a week. I definitely have had other accomplishments that I wouldn’t have been able to get if I hadn’t gotten this position. Like, hosting Wild n Out when it came here, having my first “Just Ace It” brunch in January, doing my “Paint, Sip and Manifest,” and being able to give back to my community. All those things have trickled down to this one accomplishment of getting on the radio.
What is something you wish you were doing more of?
This is hard, because I am doing a lot right now, and I feel like I’m in a really good place doing everything that I want to do. I guess one thing I wish I had more experience in is traveling and seeing the world. I haven’t been able to explore much outside of North America, so that’s one thing that I wish I was able to do more of.
What advice would you give to other women who aspire for a career in radio?
The advice I would give is for them to never give up. No matter how many no’s they get, there’s always going to be someone who’s willing to give them a yes. You got to find that person. It took me six years to find my first on-air job. It took a lot of no’s, but I had a vision and I tried to do whatever I could to follow that vision and to make me be in the best position. For anyone also in that position, you never know. That opportunity can come, but if you give up, and doubt yourself you’ll never be able to find it. Just don’t give up.
Yari Blanco, Sr. Manager, Culture + Diversity at The Wing and founder and CEO of theGirlMob, @theyariblanco
How has your journey evolved since ESG last talked to you?
It feels like ESG just featured me, but I realize it's almost 2 years ago! I am now the Senior Manager of Culture and Diversity at The Wing, which is a co-working and community space focused on women. My brand, theGIRLMOB, will turn three years old this August. I'm really proud of the work we've been able to do and the community we're building.
How has theGIRLMOB evolved in its three years?
So much. I think the first year we were just trying to figure out how to make something happen. Now, we are more in a groove. We are re-launching our podcast and our merchandise line this summer. Our content has gotten better and the brands that support us have gotten bigger. Baby steps towards the bigger vision.
What’s the best advice you can give to someone navigating their personal journey?
I'm still learning myself. I would say to be patient with yourself. That is the hardest thing to do, but that is the only thing you can really do. Remind yourself to let go a little, to listen to your intuition, and to always remember that you're doing the best you can no matter what the outside world might be telling you.
What do you think is next for you and theGIRLMOB?
I think short-term, we want to do more things in other cities where women of color really need to see themselves celebrated. As for me, I'm working on my spirituality and self-love, and will see how the rest goes.