One evening last summer, a friend and I made our way downtown in search of a patio to grab cocktails. We ended up stumbling into the Taste of Italy street festival. The air was filled with the sound of Latin music and the sweet aroma of Italian foods. The street was busy with people. Toronto women, well known for their beauty, were out in force, stunning in their best summer fashion. My friend and I pointed out cute outfits, fabulous shoes and flawlessly made-up faces.
As the night wound down, a girl in a killer outfit strutted by us. We stopped her to tell her how amazing she looked. Her response was saddening. Not only did she look surprised, she actually asked, “Are you messing with me? Are you making a joke?” Somehow she mistook our compliments for meanness. It made me wonder if she’d gotten the Regina George Mean Girls treatment in the past. Had someone told her outfit was “totally fetch” only to call it “fugly” as she walked away? I wouldn’t be surprised. Girls can be mean. Unbelievably mean.
Surprisingly, some of the meanest girls are the prettiest ones. They’re the ones with the bodies to die for and the perfect hair. If Regina George and crew taught us anything, it’s that pretty girls can often be the most insecure and it makes them cruel. They behave as if being kind to another woman would somehow steal their own beauty away. But they aren’t all like that.
My circle of friends is filled with beautiful women. Every time I go out, no matter which of my girls are with me, I’m surrounded by pretty faces. Melanin popping, hair laid to the gods, makeup on point, and dressed to the nines, all of my queens come out to slay and they know it. It’s something I’m proud of. I enjoy being in the company of women who are striking and aren’t afraid to own it.
Over the years, I’ve learned to be careful to discern which pretty faces have attitudes to match. I’m drawn to women who radiate confidence and positivity. I seek out the women whose hearts are as lovely as their faces. Amongst women like that, there’s no sense of competition. They’re not interested in outshining anybody or putting anyone down to boost their own self-esteem. Instead, they’re quick to acknowledge the beauty of other women because they know it doesn’t threaten their own.
I’d love for more women to be like this: confident, genuine and kind. I want for more of our exchanges to be like the sweet and friendly conversations that happen in nightclub bathrooms when alcohol makes girls friendlier to each other. I’d like us to be so intoxicated on our self-assurance that nothing inhibits our ability to be nice to each other.
That’s not say that we can’t have insecurities. We all have them. Every woman I know criticizes herself for one “flaw” or another from time to time, but they love themselves more than they dislike their flaws. They understand that they are too beautiful to get lost in hating someone else for their beauty and they sprinkle compliments like confetti.
If you’re still holding on to your inner mean girl, lay her to rest. Bury her with the insecurity and self-doubt that makes compliments and kindness seem impossible. Learn to love yourself enough to know that another woman’s beauty isn’t a threat. Stop giving other girls a reason to feel that a stranger’s compliments could only ever be thorns instead of roses.
Before we walked away from that girl that evening, my friend and I reassured her, “No honey, you really are beautiful.” We watched the doubt in her eyes turn to surprise and her face crack into a smile. And I swear, in that moment, I felt more beautiful.
I love seeing Samantha Callender pop up on my social media. It’s not just her amazing journalism career. And believe me, it is fantastic. She’s interviewed Kevin Hart, Keke Palmer and Morris Chestnut, just to name a few. She’s been published in Cosmo, Seventeen, Vibe and USA Today. When it comes to journalism, Samantha Callender is most definitely a boss. But along with a resume stacked with impressive bylines, including a position as a Digital Hair and Beauty Writer with Essence, she’s got a presence you just can’t ignore. In a sea of overly-curated copycat branding, Samantha stands out from the crowd. Whether it’s a fabulous selfie with a killer caption on Instagram, a Facebook post with a witty opinion or a tweet to her latest article, everything she does radiates authenticity. She’s built and maintained a personal brand that is genuine and consistent right across the board. I recently got a chance to ask Samantha the secrets to her flourishing freelance journalism career and her winning social media presence. Read below to find out why this game changer should be on your calendar.
Your writing can be found all across the web and in the pages of top publications. Tell us a little about what motivated you to pursue entertainment journalism and what the journey has been like for you.
I started in entertainment journalism the year after graduation from college. I didn’t have a journalism job lined up, and the only opportunity I could find was an internship with a music magazine. I took it and ended up doing pretty well with it. I was able to make great relationships with the publicists of artists and even after that internship was over, I was able to take the connections I made there and use them to freelance. I ended up being able to secure my own interviews, and from there I just freelanced and sold them to different blogs and websites.
How competitive is your field, and how do you make sure you stand out from the crowd on- and offline?
Journalism is a super competitive field. It always has been, but is even more so in the digital age. Journalists have to be more than great writers- they have to be great brands also. I try to brand myself on social media a lot, sharing articles and engaging with other journos and music outlets. That’s lent a lot to my success and digital networking. I make sure I set money aside to travel to different conferences, festivals, and events so I can network in person too. I try to stand out by actually delivering- a lot of journos can regurgitate news articles from blogs or whatever, but not very few can deliver original content.
You work with tons of amazing celebrities, but when you mention them, it never comes off as bragging or name-dropping. How do you make sure your achievements speak for themselves?
I try to just let the work speak for itself. I don’t try to focus too much on the celebrity name, but rather what we talked about. When I post links on social media, I try to caption it with something like “Check out my interview with Kevin Hart, where we talked his new movie and 2017 goals.” Very general. Wording and rhetoric is everything. Then when people click on my content, they can see that yes I get to talk to some pretty cool people, but I also have some pretty amazing conversations with them as well.
Entrepreneurship is rife with challenges. How do you overcome your obstacles and deal with failure/rejection?
I don’t’ take rejection personally. You never know why you may get a no- while it could be you, it could easily just not be the right time. I’ve had people tell me no, then later we’d revisit the opportunity and it’d be a yes. If I get no, I just take it and move on. I don’t burn bridges because I’ve been rejected. That’s never a smart entrepreneurial move.
Have you found particular challenges to being a female entrepreneur? How do you handle them?
So far, I’ve come to find that people get a little surprised when I want to negotiate the terms of a contract, or I decline a contract because they’re not willing to negotiate or meet my terms. I once had a blog offer me a pretty low amount for a pretty high profile celebrity interview. I think they thought I’d agree to the low payment just because they were a big name site and a byline on their site would be a good look for me. When I said I’d have to decline the opportunity, they were pretty shocked. But I know what I’m worth and won’t settle for less.
What is the most valuable advice you’ve ever been given about building your own brand and attaining success?
Be authentic and consistent. Post stuff that is truly you, and post it consistently. Some people are only on social media once and awhile and wonder why they can’t grow a following. You have to tend to it everyday- posting and engaging. As far as branding in reality, making sure you’re present. Again, it’s a matter of making sure you show your face at events and conferences. Your presence has to be felt.
Social media is definitely a great marketing and networking tool for personal brands. How have you used it to make great connections and draw new business?
I engage a lot with people in my industry. I reply to tweets of others, I like and comment on people’s Instagram, I share the Facebook content of others. I tweet my favorite brands, people I find interesting, and stuff like that. You can post content on your page all day, but make sure you’re engaging with the content other people post. People try and be exclusive with their likes or comments or retweets, but often that backfires. I use it to draw new business by making sure I post fliers or status’ about the services I can provide. That’s helped A LOT.
You’ve developed a distinctive and seriously authentic social media presence because you share your personal thoughts and opinions. How do you strike the balance between promoting your services and getting personal; do you ever feel reluctant to discuss certain topics because you fear it will affect your business?
For me, I make it very clear to my audience that I have an open mind. While I may have opinions that are strong (like about politics, religion, sexuality, or whatever), I make it clear I don’t hate people who have the opposite. I think people can sense when you’re being authentic, and when you’re not coming from a malicious place. I don’t think it’s affected my business. Luckily in the journalism world, you’re given the agency and space to be your authentic self. You don’t have to hide things about yourself on social media. I’m a pretty transparent person.
The aesthetic of all your social media accounts is really consistent. What pointers would you offer other personal brands who want to achieve this?
Give your brand a theme! For me, I tend to go with simple aesthetic, both in content and down to the nitty gritty like colour and fonts. I think your aesthetic should reflect your personality. If you’re bold and daring, go for colourful and bold and daring aesthetics. If you’re on the softer side, have your aesthetics reflect that.
What advice do you have for people who are shy about using social media for self-promotion?
Unless you want to be just locally known, you HAVE to utilize social media and the digital space. From photos to content to how you engage, you have to move strategically on social media if you want results. Whether you’re selling a product or hoping to catch the attention of someone you want to work with, you have to be strategic in it. When I want to get a publications attention, I tweet them and like their stuff on Instagram, while posting my best work on my pages so they can see it. There are so many resources online where you can find tips from the best marketers and social media influences. Take a day, Google the advice and strategy of others (even if that means paying a few dollars), and then see how you can implement their tips into your personal brand strategy.
Are there any tools and resources you use (e.g. Hootsuite) to improve your social media and the online presence of your brand?
I work full time in addition to being a journalist, so I use Hootsuite and other social media schedulers to plan my content and to make sure I’m posting consistently, even when I’m swamped at my 9-5. While in reality, I can go days without hopping on social media, I make sure I plug content into a social media calendar and social media scheduler so I’m at least posting a few times a day across my channels.
Are you really cautious about who you follow/friend? How does that affect your branding?
I’m not really. I follow people and brands I find interesting. I’m not the kind of person who exclusively gives a follow back, at least not on Twitter and Instagram. My Facebook is more for personal use so I’m exclusive there, but on Twitter and Insta I follow back if your feed looks interesting. But at the same time, I’m not afraid to unfollow someone if later I find their posts annoying or uninteresting.
Ok, fly girl, tell us more:
- Proudest accomplishment: Getting to work with my favourite magazine, ESSENCE
- Favourite celebrity interview: Sanaa Lathan because I’m such a fan, but also Gugu Mbatha Raw because I wanted to interview her so badly after ‘Beyond the Lights’, and her people actually reached out to me, so that was cool.
- Biggest goal (currently):Do a celebrity interview for a print publication.
- Biggest business no-no: Not sticking to deadlines and schedules!
- Favourite productivity hack: I make daily To-Do lists. Things I need/would like to get done, and just try to go down the list daily. It helps me remember what I need to do, and I can actually see how I should manage my time to just power through the list.
- Must-have business tool: Any app really, like Evernote, utilizing Google calendar or Google docs. Any app or site that helps you stay organized to me is a must have.
- Favourite social media platform: Twitter has really helped me business wise, but personally I love Instagram and Snapchat.
- Social media pet peeve: People who post uninspired images or messages.
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