Just like the rest of the world, I’ve been doing some reflection on the people of color who have made an impact on my life.
Aside from the incredible people I’ve come to know personally, there are a number of famous Black people who sparked my interest in music.
I didn’t realize it until now, but some of my earliest memories of music are thanks to Black musicians.
When I was four years old, my parents had a record player. There were two vinyls I had access to: the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas album, and Donna Summer’s Greatest Hits.
You’d think given my age I’d gravitate toward Alvin and the Chipmunks, but they bored me quickly. Nope, as much as I love the’90s, it was’70s disco that stole my heart.
Donna Summer’s“Last Dance” was the first song I ever loved that wasn’t a nursery rhyme. There was something about the way it started off slow and soulful, with the flutter of the flute and jingle of bar chimes. I loved the suspense it built leading up to the disco beat. I’d start spinning in circles as soon as it dropped.
I remember meticulously flipping the record to listen to“MacArthur Park.” The lyrics befuddled me — I didn’t understand why someone would leave a cake out in the rain. It was a visual my childhood imagination would paint every time I heard it.
The queen of disco inspired these moments, but I also have fond memories listening to the king of pop. On car rides with my dad, we’d sing Michael Jackson’s Bad album we had on cassette. As a young girl, I felt so rebellious singing about being bad, when I’d always been told to be good. And with my limited vocabulary at the time, the simple lyrics“I’m bad” resonated with me.
When I was five, I got my hands on my very first CD: Mariah Carey’s Daydream. I don’t recall the details as to how I got it or why, but it quickly became my favorite thing.
I’d flip through the CD’s insert, staring at pictures of Mariah, in awe of her beauty.
I studied the lyrics to songs like“Open Arms” and“Fantasy” while other kids read fairy tales.
Someone brought to my attention that her Boyz II Men duet“One Sweet Day,” was about death — an idea so foreign to me. From then on, I cried when I listened to it, fearful of my parents dying.
Your Story is the Change
As I reflect back on these childhood memories, I think of how they shaped me into who I am today. But beyond that, they remind me how much the world needs change for our Black community.
Yes, it’s great to see all the black squares, the messages of hope, or the links to resources. But we can’t achieve change until we embrace our differences. And to do that, more people need to openly share them.
I talk a lot about differences and sharing your story when it comes to personal branding, but in our fight for racial equality, this message rings true in a bigger way. We are all empowered with platforms to use our voice.
I hope this post inspires you to share more of who you are not just right now, but every time you introduce yourself.
Making Personal Branding *Personal*
In my personal branding course, I teach my students how to present themselves in a competitive world. There are countless people who will have similar qualifications or backgrounds as you. To stand out, you have to articulate what makes you uniquely you.
That’s where personal stories come in.
When we talk about ourselves, most of us mistakenly spit out positions we’ve held, companies we’ve worked for, or certifications we’ve earned. Ever read someone’s“About Page” that just felt like a ramble of their resumé? BLAH.
It’s your story that will make people connect with you.
Stories humanize you. Whether you’re interviewing for a new job, pitching to a client, or networking at a conference, they make a lasting impression more than any title or credential.
How to Tell Your Story
Don’t think you have an interesting story to tell? Let me put your mind at ease.
Traditional storytelling says stories need heroes. In grade school, you probably studied The Hero’s Journey, popularized by Joseph Campbell. We believed every story had to be adventurous, suspenseful, challenging, and triumphant.
But Kindra Hall, author of Stories That Stick, says stories don’t need heroes. They just need characters.
The stories I shared with you are hardly heroic. There was no villain or battle to overcome. No brush with death or groundbreaking revelation.
Instead, I took the simple moments and objects from my childhood — a record player, car ride, and CD — and wove them into a story to illustrate who I am.
As you set out to build relationships and tell your story in the real world or online, start with your own memories. They can be from your childhood, or more recent.
If your memory needs jogging, here are a few questions to help you rediscover some special moments:
When was the first time you became interested in the field or trade you’re in now?
Is there a person in your life who inspired you to pursue your passion? How did you meet this person, and how did they influence you?
What hobbies or interests from your childhood have stuck with you into your career?
What school subject did you excel in the most? Do you remember a certain project that you were most proud of?
What is your most prized possession and why?
Who is the first teacher who noticed your potential?
What did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
What was a pivotal moment when you decided to set a new goal or make a change?
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Who gave it to you, and in what context?
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in both your personal or professional life?
Has anyone ever told you couldn’t do something? Did you prove them wrong?
What is something you failed doing? How did you overcome this?
You’ll notice many of these questions require you to reflect back on your childhood. I believe our calling doesn’t always find us in adulthood. We first experiment with our interests as children, and follow that path. Sometimes we change course, but there’s probably a story there, too.
No matter the medium, portraying your personal brand means getting personal. You can have the flashiest website, most impressive portfolio, or most coveted award, but it’s your story that makes you memorable.
I saw on the news that 6.6 MILLION people have applied for unemployment amid the coronavirus pandemic. This makes my heart hurt.
Aside from social distancing, I wanted to help any way I knew how. So I’ve put together eight essential personal branding moves you should make right now to ready yourself in this unstable job market.
Whether you are still gainfully employed or if you’ve recently been let go, these steps are some of the best things you can do to position yourself for whatever lies ahead.
Personal Branding Moves to Make Right Now
Here are some things you can do right now to help yourself during this time of uncertainty.
1. Update your résumé.
It’s always wise to have your latest and greatest résumé ready to go. Update it with your most recent experience and accomplishments. If you can, include figures and data to illustrate the value you’ve added in all of your roles.
Rather than relying on a plain Word document, consider the gorgeous resume templates you can find on Canva (and they are FREE!). The small design details will make you more memorable (remember Elle Woods and her pink resume?!) Here are a few of Canva’s templates.
2. Organize your portfolio.
I know there are a ton of amazing projects you’ve worked on in your career. Now is your time to compile them all! This way, when you’re in front of a potential employer, you can show vs. tell.
Think about systems you’ve built, posts that you’ve written, videos you’ve edited, photos you’ve taken, or collateral you’ve designed. If the evidence of your work is less tangible (maybe you are a make-up artist or personal trainer) collect testimonials, personal recommendations, or photos to illustrate what you can do.
3. Register a domain.
Social media is great, but if you really want to own your brand, you need to own your domain! This typically costs less than $20 takes just a few minutes.Visit a domain registrar like GoDaddy and search yourname.com. If you have a common name and it’s unavailable, try a domain address that is relevant to your industry. For instance, if you are a realtor, you can secure yournamerealty.com. Or choose a different extension over .com, such as .me.
4. Rewrite your professional bio.
When was the last time you fine-tuned your LinkedIn profile or the bios you have on various social media sites? Your bio is your first chance to make an impression and compel audiences to work with or contact you. It’s also your opportunity to communicate who you are, what you do, and frankly, why you are awesome.
Don’t squander this by writing a canned, boring bio. Let your personality shine, and don’t be afraid to toot your own horn.
5. Take new headshots.
Can you think of a better quarantine activity? You can take decent pictures for your professional profiles right on your phone. Dress yourself up and do a mini photoshoot around your house or in your backyard. Quick tip: you can even use a shower curtain as a backdrop!
If your images need a little extra TLC, you can edit them in a free app like Snapseed. Adjust the brightness, contrast, and color balance until you have the perfect photo.
6. Build a personal website.
Ah yes… all the other tips were leading up to this! Your personal website is your own personal hub online. It’s where you can house your resume, portfolio, and contact information all in one place.
The good news is, you don’t need to know how to code to make a stunning website. You can use a website builder like Wix or Squarespace, which offer dozens of personal branding templates that anyone can easily edit.
If you want to connect your website to your custom domain, there is a small fee but it is well worth it! Otherwise, you can create a free site using Wix or Squarespace’s branded URLs.
7. Design your logo.
Just like building a website, this is another step that may sound intimidating if you have no design experience, but it’s 2020 — there are resources for EVERYTHING!
But first, I want to redefine how you envision a logo. It doesn’t have to be anything flashy! A logo can simply be your name in a consistent font and color(s) of your choice! If you’d like, add a symbol and you are good to go.
Again, Canva has your back! They have dozens, or possibly hundreds, of pre-designed logos that you can customize and make your own. Here are a few samples:
8. Start blogging.
Okay, I know this sounds like another big undertaking, but blogging is when you truly take your career development into your own hands. An 8.5″x11″ PDF resume is not enough to show the world your capabilities. A blog will demonstrate your perspectives, expertise, and skills on a larger scale vs. withholding it within the walls of your current job.
With every blog post, you have the potential to unlock opportunities. If you prefer, you can also make videos or start a podcast. The point is, don’t hide your knowledge.
Most Wix or Squarespace templates have a blogging functionality built right into the platform — score!
If you’ve never blogged before, it’s okay. Your writing does not have to be perfect. Just start.
Finding Your Niche
You may be telling yourself that there are already a ton of bloggers in your field, so what’s the point? This is when I always quote one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert:
It may have been done before, but it hasn’t been done by YOU. ~Elizabeth Gilbert
The biggest thing to remember when building your personal brand is to make it PERSONAL. Don’t fall into the cookie-cutter influencer world. Embrace your personality quirks and share your true colors. Your unique experiences and perspective is what will make you stand out.
If you need help defining your brand’s niche and where to go from here, download my free niche finder workbook. It’s packed with eight exercises to help you hone in on your biggest differentiators and where you should focus your blog.
Keep Your Head Up
I know times are tough right now, but the best thing you can do is invest in yourself through personal branding. I hope you’ll find the courage to share more of what you know with the world. Your future is bright.
When you hear the name Jessica Simpson, many people think of her ditzy moments on the MTV reality show, Newlyweds.
But if you ask me, who cares if it was chicken or fish?
Jessica Simpson is not the dumb blonde that society paints her to be. Her true fans know that she is an incredibly talented singer, business mogul, and now author, who has been through hell and back.
On a recent international flight to Argentina, I decided to purchase her memoir, Open Book, on Audible. Admittedly, I thought it would be something to turn on while I tried to doze off during my red eye.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 22: Jessica Simpson poses with her book during Create & Cultivate Los Angeles at Rolling Greens Los Angeles on February 22, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
Boy, was I wrong. Jessica’s story demanded my attention while everyone around me was in a deep sleep. My respect and admiration for her grew as she narrated every word.
Jessica Simpson: Living Her Truth
When publishers approached Jessica Simpson about a book deal, they wanted her to write self-help on how to achieve the perfect life. I can understand why — this woman has it all.
She’s beautiful, talented, and successful. Her fashion line, the Jessica Simpson collection, is a billion dollar brand. She lives in a sprawling 11,000 square foot mansion outside Los Angeles with her hunky husband, former NFL star, Eric Johnson, and their three beautiful children.
Who wouldn’t want her glamorous life?
But Jessica declined to write a book on these terms. Despite what her image or the media may suggest, she knew her life was far from perfect. She instead chose to write a memoir, which bravely details some of her most personal struggles.
We all know Jessica went through a very public divorce from her ex-husband Nick Lachey, back in 2006. But a failed marriage just scratches the surface on the challenges Jessica has overcome.
As I listened to Jessica read her story to me, I could hear the intense emotion in her voice as she described her experiences with loss, sexual abuse, alcoholism, public scrutiny, body image issues, infertility and so much more.
Since its release, Open Book has already been named a New York Times #1 bestseller.
How Jessica Simpson Represents Authenticity
I gained more than I thought I would when reading Open Book. Jessica transparently shares powerful messages of hope, empowerment, and resilience that I will keep with me. But beyond the lessons from her personal stories, I also learned from her process and approach to writing a book in the first place.
I dug a little deeper and found an interesting intersection. We can apply lessons from Open Book to life in general, but also to our online presence.
In the marketing and social media field, we always hear the term “authenticity.” This speaks to presenting your true self with your audience, rather than portraying a facade.
Jessica Simpson exemplifies authenticity. Like the title, “Open Book,” suggests, she lets herself be vulnerable in her memoir. She bravely puts everything out there, with no topic too personal or humiliating to address.
Whether you simply want to improve your mental health or find the courage to share more of who you are online, there are many takeaways inspired by Jessica Simpson and Open Book:
Keep a journal.
When Jessica was fifteen, her cousin Sarah died tragically in a car accident. To cope with the pain, she started journaling, and has kept up with the habit ever since. Her journal has not only provided mental clarity through life’s obstacles, but serves as a creative outlet. From new music, to the chapters in her memoir, it’s safe to say that Jessica’s ideas begin in her journal.
Start journaling for yourself and you’ll be surprised how often inspiration strikes.
Don’t try to be perfect.
In the world of Photoshop, filters, and lavish lifestyle content on Instagram, it seems like everyone is living their best life without any bumps in the road. This just isn’t the case, not even for Jessica Simpson.
Sharing your true self — the good, the bad, and the ugly — will undoubtedly build a bond with your audience. They’ll see you as someone who is just like them.
Create content fearlessly.
With a net worth of $200 million, Jessica Simpson could live happily ever after without publishing a memoir. She could’ve kept her life lessons and emotions private, but she instead chose to put them out there into the world for other people to hear.
You never know who will resonate with your story. Resist hesitation, overcome imposter syndrome, and just hit post. Someone will read your content and thank you.
Mute the critics.
I can’t imagine having my every move published in the tabloids like Jessica has, or being constantly followed by paparazzi. Even the everyday moments of her marriage were filmed for reality television. Every choice she made, outfit she wore, or song she sang, was met with criticism and harsh opinions from around the world.
But Jessica did not let her critics define her. Despite being labeled as a dumb blonde pop star, Jessica pressed onward and has built a billion dollar fashion empire that is still growing. And now, she gets to add “best-selling author” to her list of career milestones.
It’s easy to let naysayers fill our heads with paralyzing self-doubt. Instead, use their comments or your own fear as motivation to keep building.
Turn setbacks into comebacks.
With all that was going on in her life, Jessica took a hiatus from the spotlight for a few years. Hey, everyone needs a break! But she didn’t retire from music altogether. Despite public breakups, fertility issues, addiction struggles, and other hardships, Jessica bounced back and is thriving in her both her career and family life.
Rather than letting challenges hold you back, learn from them use those lessons as fuel to pursue whatever goals are on your heart.
Channel your emotions to make art.
Like Jessica, you can pour your emotions into your craft. For her it was songwriting, but for you, this may apply to your passion for blogging, photography, cooking, crafting, or even make-up. Not to mention, going all-in on a creative endeavor that you love will help you find peace, master new skills, and build a community.
Open Book will Open Your Mind
It may not always seem this way from the outside looking in, but many times, some of the world’s biggest stars are just like us. None of us are perfect, and we all have our own battles to fight. Even multi-millionaire, Jessica Simpson.
Social media tends to be a highlight reel, and if we let it, a place for toxic comparison. But when you open your heart and share your true stories and experiences with others, the real magic happens. You will connect with your friends and followers on a deeper level, and create lasting relationships that can help you get through anything.
I hope Jessica Simpson, her book, and this post inspires you to throw caution to the wind and feel empowered to share your true self. With every photo you post, blog entry you write, or video you publish, never be afraid to show the world who you really are.
The world is grieving over the loss of an icon… the legendary Kobe Bryant. And even more devastating is the death of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and the other passengers on board that flight.
I was listening to an interview on ESPN with Bob Costas, a sportscaster who covered Kobe’s career, specifically when he played in the Olympics. He said Kobe was not only an incredible athlete — he was a superstar.
This got me thinking about all the times we’ve seen Kobe off the court and as a fixture in popular culture. Whether you were a basketball fan or not, you knew Kobe Bryant. An entire generation grew up idolizing him not only for his game, but also his magnetic personality.
Here are just some of the brands and projects that tapped into Kobe’s undeniable mass appeal:
ESPN’s This is SportsCenter, 1996
ESPN’s This is SportsCenter, I’m not sure what year </3
Guitar Hero, 2008
He ended up taking Brandy to his high school prom!
Sister, Sister – 1996
Hang Time, 1997
All That, 1998
Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside, 1998
NBA Courtside, 2002
Brian McKnight – Hold Me ft. Kobe Bryant, 1997
Kobe raps at 2:38
Kobe makes in appearance in the Destiny’s Child video for Bug-A-Boo at the 2:08 mark, 1999
Here he is shooting hoops with Beyonce’s father, Matthew Knowles
Kobe also rapped on the Say My Name Remix
Kobe Bryant ft. Tyra Branks – K.O.B.E., 2000
Leaving a Legacy
I know Kobe will not be remembered for these random projects, endorsements, and music forays I dug up here.
I’ve learned so much about Kobe’s post-basketball work in the wake of his death. I had no idea about the Mamba Sports Academy, his film projects, books, and all of the incredible work he was putting in to inspire today’s youth.
Yes, Kobe was a brand. He was one of those people who turned anything he touched into gold. But he was also a husband, father, son, mentor, and overall family man. His legacy transcends generations and will be so much bigger than basketball.
Christmas came early! Or should I say, “Swiftmas” came early.
Last night at midnight, Taylor Swift released her first Christmas song entitled “Christmas Tree Farm.” (Fun fact, Taylor grew up on a Christmas tree farm in Pennsylvania.) I can just imagine the mayhem at Spotify as employees scrambled to add this new single to all of their curated holiday playlists. Look out, Mariah!
But it turns out, Swifties almost had to wait until next Christmas for this new holiday jam.
Yesterday, Taylor posted a video on Instagram explaining her predicament: she wrote a Christmas song, but was questioning if it was too late to release it. I mean, apparently the Christmas season begins the day after Halloween these days, so what was the point? The holiday season is already in full swing.
Well, Taylor did what any logical person would do. She asked for her cat’s opinions.
Despite their apathy, Taylor must be feeling extra jolly because she ultimately decided to put out “Christmas Tree Farm.”
Christmas Tree Farm’s Instant Success
The song’s release may not seem that remarkable or out of the ordinary. I mean, come on, she’s Taylor Swift — a mega superstar who puts out new music pretty regularly. But I can’t help but marvel at the impromptu nature of how this all seemingly unfolded. Taylor’s Instagram video implies that the song’s release was not super calculated.
If this were 20 years ago, the logistics would be quite different, and a heck of a lot more challenging. Sure, “Christmas Tree Farm” could be distributed to radio stations for some airplay, but its success would largely rely on brick-and-mortar CD sales. Taylor’s record company would need to produce a physical single, or better yet, an entire Christmas album to cash in. This would require more time, more money, and lots of strategic planning.
Thankfully, streaming services like Spotify expedited “Christmas Tree Farm” and delivered it right in the palm of our hands. And thanks to something called the album-equivalent unit, Taylor doesn’t need traditional album sales to cash in.
According to Wikipedia, “The album-equivalent unit is a measurement unit in music industry to define the consumption of music that equals the purchase of one album copy. This consumption includes streaming and song downloads in addition to traditional album sales. The album-equivalent unit was introduced in the mid-2010s as an answer to the drop of album sales in the 21st century.”
What This All Means For You
Christmas Tree Farm’s quick turnaround time represents something amazing about the world that we live in.
YOU could release a Christmas song. You could do this right now, tomorrow, on Christmas Eve, on Christmas day, or even in the middle of the summer if you’re dreaming of Christmas in July.
From the comfort of your own room, clad in Santa Claus PJs, you could instantly share a Christmas song, or anything you want, because you are empowered with countless channels. From YouTube, to Instagram, SoundCloud, or even your own website, you have tremendous opportunities to put your work out there.
Today, this is how many successful artists, such as Shawn Mendes, are discovered. They fearlessly write, they sing, they produce — but most importantly, they share.
What good is an amazing song if no one gets to hear it? What good is the book idea you have if you never publish it? What good are the videos you make if you never post them?
It’s easier than ever to leave your mark on the world in your own way. So if you’re feeling jolly, write that Christmas song. Host a podcast. Start a YouTube channel. Make all the things!
I promise it will fulfill you in ways no gifts under the tree ever could.
Last month, I returned to my alma mater, the University of Central Florida to talk about marketing and personal branding with a group of students. Of course, I had to teach them what I know the best way I know how — with pop culture references.
I started brainstorming what moments in pop culture would be relevant to a room full of ambitious young students about to head out into the real world. They’ll be sending out resumes and trying to land their first real job out of college. I remember how hectic that was!
Although most of the students in my audience were born in the year 2000 or later (which was pretty eye-opening), I chose to emphasize the ultimate high achiever of the early 2000’s: Miss Elle Woods.
Thankfully, Reese Witherspoon’s performance in 2001’s Legally Blonde was iconic enough that these young students understood the reference. Plus, she’s a fellow sorority girl!
I admit, Elle Woods is probably not the most scholastic example of a successful person. For starters, she’s a fictional character, but it turns out there is a lot we can apply from her story in Legally Blonde.
How to Market Yourself Like Elle Woods
The entire premise of Legally Blonde is rooted in goal setting and proving yourself, despite doubt or lack of experience. If you’re trying to advance in your company, position yourself as a thought leader, start a business, land a new job, or even change careers, here are five things you can learn from Elle Woods:
Control your narrative by using your channels to your fullest potential.
You might recall that Elle Woods took it upon herself to submit a video essay to Harvard. In fact, Kim Kardashian recently recreated it for Halloween. Although VHS tapes are a thing of the past, the takeaway is that Elle Woods used the channels that were available to her to tell her story and illustrate why she deserves to go to Harvard.
You can do the same on your website and social media. If you haven’t already, start a blog or YouTube channel where you share content relevant to your career goals. If you create enough content about a certain subject, you will position yourself as a local expert.
Find a way to stand out.
Remember Elle’s pink and scented resume? It’s a little out there, but the point is, it’s unique.
As one of my favorite authors, Sally Hogshead, always says, “It’s good to be better, but it’s better to be different.”
Elle Woods wasn’t necessarily smarter or more experienced than her colleagues, but these subtleties helped make her memorable. And when recruiters have an influx of job applicants to sift through, being memorable is essential.
You don’t need the most prestigious degree, experience, or qualifications.
Have you ever heard of imposter syndrome? It’s when you feel like a phony— like you’re not credible enough to talk about certain things. The voice in your head tells you that you don’t belong where you are, and you only got there through dumb luck. These doubts and insecurities end up holding you back from achieving your goals.
It’s true that between Elle Woods’ bright blonde hair, loud pink outfits, and bubbly personality, she stuck out amongst the other law students depicted in Legally Blonde.
But she still put in the work just like everyone else. She got her foot in the door, then proved that she deserved to be there regardless of her background.
Be unapologetically yourself.
You may recall in one of my recent posts about Dancing with the Stars, I mentioned my favorite book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. One of the messages Gilbert is that in this competitive world we live in, even if something has been done before, it hasn’t been done by YOU.
Remember, how Elle Woods won her case while representing Brooke Wyndham? Based on her own life experience, Elle knew you couldn’t wash your hair too soon after a perm if you wanted to keep your curls in tact. It’s hard to say if any other lawyer, including a more experienced or knowledgable one, would know that!
Don’t overlook the fact that you have your own stories, experiences, and perspectives to bring to the table.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t, especially yourself.
Elle Woods set her sights on law school initially to win back her unsupportive boyfriend, Warner Huntington III, who told her she wasn’t smart enough. She then kicks him to the curb and becomes successful regardless.
The bottom line is, Elle took matters into her own hands because she knew she could do it. She used the tools at her disposal to stand out and market herself, and then worked her way up.
Achieving Your Goals: What, Like It’s Hard?
If Elle Woods can get into Harvard Law, you can achieve your goals, too. You’ve just got to make moves and build your brand.
Start by making a personal website that showcases your portfolio, illustrates your personality, and shares your expertise. There are really low-cost building platforms like Wix, SquareSpace and Weebly that have beautiful, easy-to-use templates.
With that advice, I’ll also leave you with words of wisdom from Elle’s commencement speech:
“It is with passion, courage of conviction, and strong sense of self that we take our next steps into the world, remembering that first impressions are not always correct. You must always have faith in people. And most importantly, you must always have faith in yourself.”