It’s common for us to wish that any journey that we take in our lives will be smooth, straight forward and easy.
But it’s never like that.
Self-doubt, negative self-talk and fears that are within our own minds often hold us back from taking chances on the new beginnings we deserve to have.
That’s why many people complain about the state that their life is in without making any moves to drive themselves towards the life they deserve to have.
Just a few years ago after graduating from university, I found myself in that same position.
I had dreams of becoming a lawyer, but knew I would be burnt out in that career by 29, so I decided to land a ‘good job’ in finance for two years to figure out how to navigate in the world.
As much I as loved the people around me at work, I knew there was something bigger and better out there for me to pursue, despite everyone around me telling me that I should be comfortable with ‘security’ that wasn’t even secure.
So one night, after tossing and turning in my sleep after having a day from hell at work, I decided to choose faith.
At that point in my life I knew I was too young and gifted not to follow a path that God had destined for me when I had conversations with Him crying and pleading about leaving everything in the midst of figuring out why He wants me here.
With no immediate plan, I typed up my resignation letter, put it in an envelope and gave it to my boss the next day.
Was I scared out of my mind? Of course I was an emotional wreck knowing that my family would tell me how disappointed they would be knowing I left an opportunity that only they saw as being life changing for me.
But leaving the job I had gave me the opportunity to discover not only who I am, but why faith is so important in my journey – no matter the ups and downs, bad days and good ones!
My journey to develop my own personal brand, which is to inspire other millennials like myself who want to take the leap of faith but are afraid to do so, helped me understand that having a mentor will help to make sense of things when it feels like it doesn’t.
Taking on a new journey requires someone who’s been through the journey before. They can tell you how to avoid the some of the mistakes they made so you can learn and grow from them too, while providing the opportunity to build a relationship, gain confidence and learn how important your progress is to someone else.
So when you choose faith over your fears, have someone who will hold you accountable, guide you through the process and show you the way to get to where you need to be on your journey in life.
– Laura Opoku
Always remember, how you let a man into your space will determine how he behaves once he gets there. Years ago when I worked as a stylist in the music and entertainment industry, I constantly stood at a crossroads between right and wrong. My moral compass was always being tested. Working in a male-dominated industry definitely teaches you some things. Not only did it test my patience but it also helped me get a backbone. I was young, curious and exposed to sex, drugs and (business) politics on a regular basis.
Not actual sex. But what I mean is that I was in an environment where women are seen as objects and not heard. Just to give you some context, I’ll tell you a quick story.
I was working on the set of a music video (girl, 24hr video. Ugh. Set life) and getting a girl dressed for her scene. It was a bed scene. Bikini shot by a sunlit window and her only job was to roll all over the sheets and look sexy. While tying her strings together, she started crying. Of course I panicked because this had never happened before. For the most part, the talent keeps it pretty profesh. So I asked her what’s the matter and she replied that she didn’t even know how she ended up here in the first place. She continued to tell me how she got the role and all the things she had to do to be the lead vixen. It was the first time in 6 years that I was so disappointed with myself. I felt like shit and I hated that my part contributed to the downward spiral of girls I met on a regular basis. It was the first time I questioned the work I was doing. Moral of this story is that I’ve heard and seen many things .
But anyway, my point is that every woman should have standards or what I like to call non-negotiables. I don’t need to tell you this, you know it. However, a simple reminder never hurt anyone. I want to replay some scenarios I’ve experienced and explain how I practice what I’m teaching.
- Set strict boundaries
Funny enough, I was in an uber with a girlfriend yesterday evening (around 8pm) and she was on her phone replying via email to a male colleague. She was scheduling their first meeting and looked over and asked, “Should I tell him I’m available now?” I said hell nawl. He can wait till sunrise. Don’t give him any leads to assume it’s anything more than what you intend this call to be. There were two other gentlemen in the car who laughed so hard. Then my girl and I joined. I wasn’t surprised when the two gentlemen agreed with me. They knew exactly what I was talking about. Unless absolutely necessary, I really try to keep all meetings during the day – coffee or lunch at best. In my personal opinion, dinner is suggestive. Give him an inch and he just might stretch it. Nawl. I’m not here for it. I’ve had instances when it all went left. In addition, whether man or woman, I also mention that I have another appointment afterwards (which is sometimes a lie – oh welp) so they understand that I don’t have time to waste. It creates a sense of urgency and tightens the agenda.
- You don’t have to bend
On another set of a music video I was working on, one of the rappers started rolling a blunt. I thought three things. Number one. Smoking is lame (personal opinion). Number two. I have thousands of dollars worth of clothes here and I can’t return them to designers smelling like smoke. I wish he’d try it. Try me. Number three. Do I say something or play it cool?
Girl, nawl. I definitely said something and the crew and artists definitely did not like it. I came across as the goody-two-shoes but this was something I wasn’t going to compromise on. I told him to take it outside. He looked at me like I stuttered or something. I told him that if he didn’t I’d walk and he wouldn’t have anything to wear in his video.
He took it outside.
But don’t get it twisted. Not every story will have a happy ending. Taking a stand for things I believe in is hard bruh. I’ve been called all kinds of names and have been mistreated because of it, but stand tall and stand strong. If it’s important to you – do not bend.
- Pick a location wisely
I can’t even tell you this story without laughing because this guy really tried it. A very well-respected businessman in Toronto requested a meeting with me. I know (of) him pretty well because we have many mutual friends. So I suggested a cafe that was mutually beneficial from a distance standpoint and his response was as follows:
“My accountant has me on a budget. I’d much prefer to meet at my home office.”
I’m sorry. Wait. What.
Oh Sir. Hell nawl.
He could really be telling the truth, but honestly, I don’t care. I don’t like how it came across and declined the invitation immediately. I lost money. I lost a potential client. But don’t care – I kept it pushing.
- Charge what you’re worth and don’t feel bad about it.
Girlfriend. I be chargin’ a bag of money PLUS tax. I do not play. This is what I do for a living. I’m confident in my abilities and I make every effort to deliver quality so I really don’t like when anyone, be it man or woman, requests a discount or doesn’t come correct. I’ll give you another scenario that recently happened. Someone reached out to me via Facebook to do a radio interview. I am always flattered whenever someone wants to feature me on their platform. If the initial touch base is on Facebook, I’m cool but I typically like to keep all business correspondence via email. So I asked him to email me. He #swerved and continued speaking to me on Facebook.
So he proceeded to send me details on the interview such as the theme, time, date, etc. however, before I could confirm the interview, I responded with a few questions of my own: Number one. May I see your website? Number two. Can you tell me more details about your audience? Number three. Who else has been featured on your show? Number four. Tell me more about your daily/monthly views.
Simple questions. It’s business, not personal.
His reply *Crickets*
Ok sir. We’ll leave it there. My assumption is that he felt some-type-of-way by my questions and that I should’ve already assumed ‘he’s poppin’ and should’ve agreed.
No sir. Keep it pushin’
Listen, you get what you expect. People need to know where you stand. I’m more than happy to contribute to your platform but I have a protocol that I follow. Sir, it’s called being professional.
Below is a video clip of Nicki Minaj that I really love. She speaks a lot of truth in this interview. Take it in.
“When I am assertive, I’m a bitch. When a man is assertive, he’s a boss.”
These are only very few instances that shed light on how I navigate my business relationships with male counterparts. But don’t get it twisted. All men are not dogs. All men are not assholes. Some are really awesome and have your best interest. Either way, keep an open mind and heart always. Just don’t lose your head. BOSS UP. Don’t get weak. Boss up!
Peace & Love
MEET: Chantaé Candize
CAREER: Founder and Content Director
I am Ingrid’s Daughter. My hero hails from the immaculately beautiful, rich and lively island of Jamaica. At the age of 24, my mother moved to Canada to pursue a new life and 4 years later, I was blessed with the opportunity to be introduced to the world as Ingrid’s daughter.
As her first, last and only born, my mom and I shared every moment of my upbringing together. A single mother with the best and most pure intentions for me, my mom shined nothing but bright as she did and continues to do everything and more for me. I participated in every activity possible such as dance, swimming, ukulele lessons, karate, gymnastics and Girl Guides. My mom aspired for me to be an educated, well versed, experienced, and open young black woman. A young, single mom, doing this all for me.
Always trying to provide beneficial opportunities and a better life for me, my mom always made a house a home wherever we were and was always determined for us to reside in the best neighbourhood and enrol me in the best schools as I was growing up . Two homes and a condo later, my mom purchased and owned all properties on her own..
My mom would surprise me with trips so I could explore beyond Toronto with her and break down the protected mentality of my surroundings. She forced me to challenge societal norms and know my grounds. She always taught me to know my worth, protect my heart and always give back–three concepts you can never do enough.
Through the challenging times of our lives when things were tight, my mom never let a sense of fear or hopelessness crack or dampen into my dreams. Every step, my mom encouraged me to do what I love in hopes to find my greater purpose for being on this earth. My mom always supports me with my education endeavours and thriving career, however, most of all, my mom is with me for every step as I evolve into my best self.
My mom is outstanding to say the least. To see a woman have so much love, compassion, strength, ambition and wit never fails to amaze me as I aspire to have such a desirable character as she does.
As I have grown to see my mom give it all for me, even now as I am a nearly 21 year old full time university student, leaves me at a loss of words. I know there are times when I can challenge my mom, but my undeniable and purest love for my her is endless and goes beyond words. I owe my mom the world and more.
Here’s a toast to the one and only queen in my life; My hero- My Mom. I love you.
MEET: Chenelle Lewis
To Others She Is Connie But I Am Blessed To Call Her Mom
My mother is the brightest shining light in my life. As I sit here writing this I can hear her laughing in the other room and it is like music to my ears. Her happiness brings me joy; it is the driving force behind my desire to be successful and for this reason I consider her my hero.
She is the most loving, tolerant and supportive person I know and I admire her for these traits. When I was a child I was very mischievous, like the time I burned my right forearm with her curling iron or the time I stood on a chair trying to sneak crackers from the top shelf in the kitchen, fell off and fractured my skull. During these two episodes and many others like them, my mom remained patient and never lashed out at me. As I grew older these childhood antics turned into teenage angst as a result of puberty, I went from being the bravest little girl in the world to timid and quiet. It was during these years that I really appreciated my mom for her words of encouragement to pursue my passions despite my fears. If it weren’t for her I would not have applied to my dream university or even attended for that matter because I didn’t think I was capable of doing so.
She believes in me possibly even more than I believe in myself and because of this I do not want to let her down. In my adult life, I have made some poor decisions. One situation involved a young man, and while I didn’t tell my mother about it right when it happened she wasn’t as angry as I thought she would be when she found out and she supported me through it. This was the moment when I knew my mom is my hero because she is always there when I need her to hold my hand, wipe away my tears or tell me exactly when I need to hear right when I need to hear it.
I can only hope I adopt her level of patience and understanding when I am ready to have children of my own.
MEET: Katie-Ann Wallace
New Girl on the Block Mentee since January 2017
CAREER/PASSION PROJECT: Public Relations
SHE SAYS: This might be a bit of a cliché, but I would have to say that I don’t have just one woman I would consider my hero. I idolize all the strong-hearted, knowledge -lending women I’ve encountered to date. No matter what age, creed or colour, I can honestly say every woman currently in my life has impacted my growth tremendously. From my mother, aunts, and grandmothers, to my younger sister whom I look up to in ways she will never understand. Then you have my best friends, my girlfriends; the ladies I hold dear to my heart. My mentors and teachers, the women who have helped guide me without ask. All these women would be considered my heroes for many reasons. I am inspired by the way they love and take on life full force every day without hesitance. I am grateful for the way they have sacrificed for those they love. No matter what I am going through there is always an ear to listen and someone to embrace.
Of these women if I had to shed light on just one, it would be my younger sister. She has a heart of gold. She is one of the most emotional people I’ve ever met and I love her for it. She wears her heart on her sleeve in every aspect of her life. Whether it be her family or her work as a student and interior designer, she, takes it on with her heart as her shield. She has taught me so much about having patience and taking the time to find the passion in the things I do. At least once a week, she gets quite emotional and expresses how much she looks up to me as her older sister, which is expected as a younger sibling. But at 20 years old she is still yet to understand why I look up her though she is the younger one. While she tells the world she wants to be just like me, I always say I want be just like her when I get older. I want to love like her, and see the world the way she does.