At the I’mPOSSIBLE Conversations event at theL’oreal Soho Academy—the first held in New York—power women in media, entertainment, and philanthropy shared their stories of challenge and triumph in their careers, and tips for advancement of women of color in their respective industries.
“What I wanted to do was connect women of color globally to define the world on their terms,” said Simone Bresi-Ando, far right, founder of I’mPOSSIBLE, whose career and motivation conversations started in the U.K. via Google Hangouts and events. With her social enterprise, Bresi-Ando seeks to educate, connect and empower young women of color by celebrating, highlighting and promoting the achievements of women from all ethnic backgrounds, showcasing their life stories and successes.
“There’s something Lupita N’yong’o said that I just can’t get out of my mind. The phrase she used was ‘the seduction of inadequacy,’ and it struck me—stopped me in tracks,” said Bresi-Ando. “We are so used to being seduced by inadequacy. What I want to ask you today is, could you please stop it? Now, we can be seduced by the possible.”
Estelle, on the early days: “I had my night jobs, my day jobs … all kinds of jobs, but it just didn’t make me happy. I believe in living—not just surviving—doing what you feel as well as paying your bills. After struggling a couple of years with, ‘Do I work, or do I pursue music?’ I said, ‘I’m just going to go and do music. … I was this black girl from the ‘hood, and no one got it. … But I said, ‘I’m just going to go for it,’ and I prayed. I found a press officer and distributor, and we got on the grind.”
On chance meeting with Kanye West and John Legend: I was in LA recording and [decided to take a walk.] I was listening to the “Through the Wire” mixtape, and I [decided to go] to Roscoe’s [Chicken and Waffles]. I saw Yeezy sitting there. I said, ‘Oh God, please Jesus, if you’re there, let him walk out so I can say something to him.’ He walked right out, and I went to him, and said, ‘I’m a fan, but I want to work with John Legend. I love his voice, and I think he’s awesome.’ (Laughs) No fear. … He gave me his phone number, and I ended up going to the studio [where John Legend was working.] I talked with John about Mac things … We kept in touch, and he worked on my first album. As soon as I left my first label, he said, ‘Come over here. I’ll sign you. Let’s go.’
Revolt TV exec, Whitney-Gayle Benta on being a young executive and the power of pacing and patience: There’s a quote from one of my mentors: ‘There’s no need for you to be impatient. If you can achieve something very easily right from the start, you will find no sense of fulfillment or joy. It is making tenacious, all-out efforts for construction that profound happiness lies.’ That’s something I even struggle with. It’s really about being patient and persistent, and your time will come.
Media relations entrepreneur Gilda Squire, second from left, on transitioning into entrepreneurship from full-time employment: I made sure to save and keep money in the bank [to prepare], and I began galvanizing the people around me. I started telling people, confidentially, that I was thinking about [starting my own company.] I also left with confidence. I walked out the door with two projects. I talked to people—my network—constantly. Not only did they reaffirm what I was doing, but they said ‘We got you.’
Angela Jackson, founder, Global Language Project, on rolling with the career punches: Oftentimes we get so busy and caught up in doing and achieving, that we don’t take the time to be still and reflective. [We, as women,] must be clear about what we want out of our lives.
Corynne Corbett, founder of Beauty Biz Camp, far right, on the power of building relationships: My first job was at Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), and one of the responsibilities was to take obituaries over the phone. That was a really interesting experience. … One of my bosses [eventually] got a job at a new magazine at the time called Elle. She said, ‘I really want to take you with me,’ and I told her ‘I don’t want to be a sales secretary. I want to be in editorial.’
She asked for my resume, and a few months later, I started getting calls from the editor-in-chief’s assistant, saying ‘We’re not looking at assistants yet. We’re still staffing up, but we’ll call you back.’ [Eventually], the beauty director offered me a job. When I started, the editor-in-chief’s assistant came to me and said, ‘[Your ex-boss] would come down every day and talk about you,’ … and I realized [getting that job] was due to her really fighting for me.
[Remember,] success is not a fairytale. Do the work.