This journey needs the full story.
I’ve hinted that something B-I-G is coming soon for me. To understand the full story, you need to circle back to all the characters (refresher, you met them briefly a few weeks ago - Stephanie, Brooke, and Jenny have known me since before I had a book, a newsletter, or a blog. They knew me before you needed a .edu email address to be able to sign up for Facebook, okay? Day Ones, from way back in the day). While I knew them all individually for a long time, the team as a whole had only spent a handful of days in person before our first real group project - a photoshoot for the upcoming website. Our first photoshoot felt like a really important beginning for us. They weren't just pictures, they represented so much more. It felt real. Something we couldn’t do over zoom or via Marco Polo.
We were committed to working with as many black women as possible, so we each packed our bags and flew to Atlanta for the weekend. Atlanta was so good to us. We kept finding the right people for the job. Carol, the photographer, was amazing and she spent hours with us that she didn't have to. Whitney, the makeup artist, was outstanding. She stayed the whole time and even traveled with us off-site long after she was finished dolling us up. Kelley, Carol’s assistant for the day, helped in every way imaginable; with encouragement, poses, even with our bags, and she drove us off-site to shoot at an impromptu location. And Whitney, our make-up artist was one of the best any of us have encountered.
We had all these incredible black women around us and experienced all these black girl magic moments. Everyone felt free and encouragement and laughter were abundant. It made it all the sweeter since the four of us know each other so well. It can be nerve-wracking getting your pictures taken, so I was only slightly taken aback that Brooke felt completely out of her comfort zone and was concerned she was going to look like a clown that performed sex work (what do you even say to that lol). But when she popped out of the makeup chair and saw herself in the mirror and how it all came together - I’ve known Brooke since I was fourteen and I have never seen her catch herself in the mirror and do anything other than groan. It was an absolute joy to watch her see herself, to come alive in front of the camera. I have always seen her beauty and her ability. The way that she experiences emotion is not a burden it's like a gift, the way she sees the world, and the way her mind works is brilliant. I'd do it all over again for just that.
It was okay that towards the end of the day Stephanie was exhausted and didn’t want to smile anymore. She was probably cussing all of us out in her head. But cussing with love.
I am excited because even though we are small and this is just the beginning, we are already living out what we said matters to us. That night we had exactly enough time for a few slices of pizza and to talk about what that day meant for us. What this team means to us. Stephanie shared first.
"I've worked with a lot of black women but when hearts and intentions aren't in sync, it's just working with a group of black women. However, when everyone is of one heart and the same mind, there's a special connection there that I think you can't duplicate. The creativity at work and the enjoyment of being around each other is real and special. It's very significant. What we have here is a strong bond, and I think the work that we will put out will be so attractive to other people that you know errbody gonna want to be a part of."
Brooke shared next. “My favorite part of today has been the timing. It was a messy start to the weekend, and I don't think that this was accidental. I lost my job just mere hours before my flight. I never would have had the courage to quit my job. But I needed that push. Don't get me wrong, the push hurt like hell but I think I stuck the landing. We all operate out of wounds unbeknownst to us and life has a way of beating us down. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’re hiding. Other times, you know damn well you are and hope no one notices. I definitely couldn't hide at this photoshoot. This company has been a soft place to land for me. A place where I can re-pot myself. Being with you all in this time frame and being with people that see me, doesn't get much better than that.”
Jenny gave all the shoulder action at the shoot. Like a model straight out of a JC Penny catalog. She was excited to see all these pictures and for different partners to see us and take us seriously. For them to know that we are going to be a unique company and that we are going to be doing things differently. And that starts with intention from the beginning.
Jenny is the only white woman on our team. About ten years ago, she started really paying more attention to whose stories were being told and who was telling them. She noticed the main character was almost always someone who looked like her. Jenny expressed why it is important to work with black women, and more specifically this group of black women.
“Like many white people, I know what it is to work in predominately white companies where every day you go to work trying to change the culture. But now I have the honor of shaping a new, healthy, vibrant culture alongside Black women. Here, I don't have to join the diversity team or help my friends with the training they want to lead, or witness their deep distress as they try to make change. It's already been an unimaginable gift to partner with these women, to build something new. I just keep pinching myself."
I’ve been a part of plenty of organizations that host retreats with trust falls and ice breaker activities when kicking off a new year or a new project. But for us, it took a 6-hour photoshoot for us to get to the next level as a team, and to have a deeper vision for the journey we are making together.
When was the last time you were out of your comfort zone and what did it teach you?"
Why is it important to get out of your comfort zone?
How do you create a team with a shared vision?
This photoshoot would not have been possible without some very key individuals. So this weeks spotlight goes to them!
Carol Lee Rose of Colurwork was our fabulous photographer. She was patient, kind, encouraging and went above and beyond for us.
Her assist for the day was Kelley who is an entrepreneur in her own right, co-owner of Two Dough Girls. Kelley was funny, perceptive, and incredibly supportive throughout the shoot. I cant imagine what a mess we would have been without her.
Our make-up artist for the day was Whitney Bond, owner of Beauty By Bondy, and let me tell you... If we ever need a make-up artist on the road, we will be telling Whitney to hop on a plane because this woman had us feeling like we could walk the runway, honey! We each told her what kind of look we wanted (natural, glam, over the top) and Whitney honored each one of us while still making us feel fabulous.
As always, Black women made it happen and the whole team was grateful for their talent and kindness.