As the woman who’s coached five of the top 10 ladies of Miss USA 2016, including the two finalists Miss Hawaii,Chelsea Hardin, and winner of the pageant, Miss District of Columbia, Deshauna Barber, Lu Sierra knows more than a thing or two about what it takes to enter any room like you own it. Blending the worlds of modeling and coaching, the former runway model successfully built a company that helps pre-teens, teens, and women around the world bring effortless confidence to whatever they set their mind to.
Below, Black Enterprise caught up with Sierra for a candid conversation about how women can win in the workplace with confidence.
Black Enterprise: Having worked with many young women around the world, what’s the one thing you see them doing that block their success?
Sierra: One of the common issues that block success in young women and people, in general, today is not having an empowered voice. I’m not speaking about volume; I’m talking about being able to formulate and voice an opinion. Many of our teens and young adults have not realized that their opinion counts, therefore they don’t know how to voice it.
This is the reason we see the difficulty with formulating an answer during the question section of the pageants. If a person was not raised in a family or experienced an environment where their voice mattered, then they’ve not been able to practice and become confident in expressing themselves. This is one of the biggest things that I work on with my ladies, because to be able to formulate and voice your opinion is so important in LIFE. I was so proud of the ladies during Miss USA; they all did very well.
From your experience, what’s the hardest lesson you think young women have to learn?
Ironically, the hardest lesson my ladies have to learn is not to second guess themselves. Young ladies come to me having never made their own decisions for whatever reason; be it because they were not encouraged or not allowed to. But the reality is that, in this world, you have to know and own your own feelings, thoughts, and opinions. That is what Miss USA 2016, Deshauna Barber, did in answering her questions and what Miss Hawaii, Chelsea Hardin, understood in giving her answer. They both stood in their own truth.
So yes, they leave me knowing how to walk better, do turns, stand in high heels, make a dress look fantastic, and present themselves in an interview, but the most important thing to me is that they are able to identify and own what they want and think. This is confidence. And whether in a pageant or in business, the confidence of self is attractive. Whether someone agrees or disagrees, is open for debate.
Can you share three to four tips on how to present your best self?
- Poise. Good posture can speak for you without you saying a word.
- Presence. Looking into the eyes of whom you speak to, so that you can command their attention. This is my main advice when I consult on public speaking.
- Intelligence. Be sure you understand the question, the circumstance, or what is required of you. If you don’t, it’s never a bad thing to get clarification. I have young ladies say, “But I thought I’d look stupid if I asked them to repeat the question.” I have to remind them, “What would you look like if you answered the question incorrectly, because you did not understand?”
Sierra, recently launched Modelversity, an app featuring advice, techniques, and tips necessary to succeed.