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
Here’s Kobe pictured with Kenan and Kel
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.”
Before there were bloggers, there was Carrie Bradshaw and her column in the fictitious publication, The New York Star. I like to think that Carrie’s character on Sex and the City paved the way for women to be unapologetically themselves and write about how they see the world.
I sat down with my good friend Gina to discuss Carrie and Sex and the City’s influence on marketing, blogging, and social media. Take a listen to the full episode below or scroll down to see some of the our best takeaways for bloggers!
What Bloggers Can Learn from Carrie Bradshaw and Sex and the City
Have no fear. In her column, Carrie divulges about her sex life — the good, the bad, and the ugly. You don’t necessarily need to spill the deets on your romantic conquests, but the idea is to connect with your audience by being as transparent and authentic as possible. Don’t be afraid to let your real stories shine through!
If you have a computer, you can make a name for yourself. From her trusty Mac laptop, Carrie built her brand word-for-word and shared a piece of her life with the city of New York. She is proof that when you write publicly, you can create a following.
Take advantage of two way-communication. Sex and the City aired from 1998 to 2004, when print media was still alive and well. Today, anyone and everyone is empowered with their own digital channel where you can not only write and share content, but you can engage with your audience and build relationships.
Lean into what makes you, you. Beyond Carrie’s articles about sex and relationships, we saw other aspects of her personality, such as her love of fashion and shoes. You might even define Carrie as a fashion icon. When blogging and building your own brands, have fun and share all the dimensions of who you are.
Write consistently. If you want to get your name out there, you have to write as much as possible and build momentum on your blog. Carrie consistently showed up for her weekly column and churned out content, even when she felt stuck with writer’s block.
Look to your own experiences for inspiration. Carrie built her column based on her own relationships and perspectives. Although she is a fictional character, we felt like we knew her and could relate to what she was going through. Just like Carrie, you can derive insights and lessons from your own experiences and share them with your audience.
If you’ve been thinking about starting a blog, what are you waiting for? You have a channel at your fingertips! I hope you’ll take this inspiration from Carrie Bradshaw and start writing! You’ll learn so much about yourself in the process.
Now that The Bachelorette is over, we need to talk about Dancing With The Stars (DWTS).
I’m sure it’s no surprise that I first started watching DWTS because Nick Carter was a contestant back in 2015. Leave it to anything Backstreet-related to get me hooked. He ended up getting second place behind Bindi Irwin, who was amazing. She really deserved to win.
I feel like younger audiences haven’t yet gotten on board with DWTS yet, but let me tell you, this show is an incredible feat. Even just from production standpoint alone, I’m in awe of it.
Somehow, week to week, they create countless custom costumes for every dancer — all the sequins and glitter you can imagine. They film and edit video package interviews and compile behind-the-scene shots. They also remix songs or orchestrate them to be played and sung live on set. There are custom graphics and lighting setups for every dance, and not to mention, it’s filmed entirely live. They somehow pull this all off before showtime hits on Mondays at 8 p.m.
But all of that is just scratching the surface. All the while, the dancing pros are learning new choreography for the opening number and then choreographing their routines with their partners, and coaching them throughout the entire process.
However, the real heroes of the show are the contestants. And it turns out, there’s so much we can learn from them when it comes to building your personal brand.
These famous actors, athletes, singers, models, whoever, bravely step out of their comfort zone to put on their dancing shoes and perform in front of America on live television. FOR EVERYONE TO JUDGE. Literally, they are judged. Can you imagine anything more terrifying? It’s scary, but it demonstrates ultimate growth and vulnerability.
This week, one of this season’s contestants, James Van Der Beek, shared a clip he shot on his phone of one of the contestants, singer Lauren Alaina, just after she finished her performance. She was emotional, hugging two other contestants: Ally Brooke from Fifth Harmony and model Sailor Brinkley Cook. Lauren was in tears over what she just accomplished.
I just love this moment because I feel like it perfectly articulates the strength that these contestants show.
Some people joke that the show is for washed up celebrities, but that is so wrong. This show is about second chances. Even just looking at this season, you have people like:
Hannah Brown, “The Bachelorette” who got her heart broken on national television.
Or Lamar Odom, who hit rock bottom in 2015 after being discovered unconscious at a brothel in Las Vegas.
And Sean Spicer. I don’t know much about his politics, but I do know he’s faced a ton of scrutiny and now has a chance to show a different side of who he is.
Then you have Ally Brooke, who is trying to find her independence after the breakup of her girl group, Fifth Harmony.
And one contestant that has a special place in my heart is Kel Mitchell. Kel starred on Nickelodeon’s All That as well as Kenan and Kel in the late 90’s. Kenan Thompson’s career took off — he’s been a regular on Saturday Night Live for years. But for some reason, Kel didn’t find the same success after Nickelodeon. And now he’s back in the spotlight.
Dancing With The Stars and Your Personal Brand
DWTS reminds us that everyone has a story. Everyone is fighting their own battle in some way, and the only way to grow from it is to step, or dance, out of your comfort zone.
This is a huge lesson we can apply as you set out to build your personal brand online.
So many people shy away from this vulnerability in fear of what other people will think. So they won’t share their work. They won’t write the book or start the podcast or make the YouTube video. Or they won’t reach out to someone they admire or asking if they’ll mentor them. They won’t take the class or apply for the job. They take no chances. They let life, and opportunity, pass them by.
And what’s worse, is they are withholding their gifts from the world.
Break Through Fear, Build Your Brand
No matter what your passion, strength, or expertise, you can find your audience and build your personal brand from it. You just have to overcome that fear.
“Let me list for you some of the many ways in which you might be afraid to live a more creative life: You’re afraid you have no talent. You’re afraid you’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood or—worst of all—ignored. You’re afraid there’s no market for your creativity, and therefore no point in pursuing it. You’re afraid somebody else already did it better. You’re afraid everybody else already did it better. You’re afraid somebody will steal your ideas, so it’s safer to keep them hidden forever in the dark. You’re afraid you won’t be taken seriously. You’re afraid your work isn’t politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life. You’re afraid your dreams are embarrassing. You’re afraid that someday you’ll look back on your creative endeavors as having been a giant waste of time, effort, and money. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of discipline. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of work space, or financial freedom, or empty hours in which to focus on invention or exploration. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of training or degree. You’re afraid of being exposed as a hack, or a fool, or a dilettante, or a narcissist. You’re afraid of upsetting your family with what you may reveal. You’re afraid of what your peers and coworkers will say if you express your personal truth aloud. You’re afraid of unleashing your innermost demons, and you really don’t want to encounter your innermost demons. You’re afraid your best work is behind you. You’re afraid you never had any best work to begin with. You’re afraid you neglected your creativity for so long that now you can never get it back. You’re afraid you’re too old to start. You’re afraid you’re too young to start. You’re afraid because something went well in your life once, so obviously nothing can ever go well again. You’re afraid because nothing has ever gone well in your life, so why bother trying? You’re afraid of being a one-hit wonder. You’re afraid of being a no-hit wonder.”
It was May of 2013. I was 23, single, and visiting Las Vegas for an annual girls trip. My friends and I threw on our glitziest dresses and most uncomfortable heels before heading to a nightclub at Caesar’s Palace, which had free drinks for ladies until midnight. After dancing our hearts out for about 45 minutes, we flirted our way up to the rooftop bar. It was there, amid the glow of the Las Vegas strip, that I met Sandy — the man who I’d marry five years later.
I know my love story is a bit out of the ordinary. Meeting someone on vacation is one thing, but Las Vegas? Sin City gets a bad rap as a hopeless place for gamblers, partiers, and people trying to relive The Hangover. It isn’t exactly where you typically find your forever.
But even with all of this in consideration, my summer romance is probably most unconventional for one simple reason: I first interacted with my future husband in person.
As a millennial, you just don’t hear about chance, face-to-face meetings anymore. They’ve become the minority statistic in the world of relationships.
Today, there’s a new way to play the dating game. These days, sparks fly by “sliding into the DMs.”
The Direct-Message Phenomenon
When I met Sandy, Tinder was only a few months old, and I don’t think Instagram even had direct messaging capability yet. I never had the chance to make myself a profile and practice swiping right, or to experience courtship via Instagram. But it’s a serious thing.
For those who need a social media history lesson, the textbook (Urban Dictionary) definition of “sliding into the DMs” is as follows:
When you start a direct message chain on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, with the hopes of acquiring the booty.
I recently visited a friend and spent what seemed like an eternity trying to help her find a date on Hinge. Woof, it’s rough out there folks. Godspeed.
Creating Opportunities via DM
I was lucky enough to retire from the game before the downfall of romance, but this old married soul still has a few things to say about the art of direct messaging based on my own experience.
These days, I don’t DM to find a summer fling or future love — I send and receive DMs to network and build genuine, professional relationships. (Jeez, what happened to me? I just grew some gray hairs even writing that sentence.)
Surprisingly, the old rules of courtship still apply, but it seems that this generation, and even the ones before it, never learned them or forgot them all. If I get one more generic LinkedIn message asking for a favor, I’ll scream.
So let me remind you how it’s done.
Here’s how to use direct messages to connect, either romantically or professionally:
Address the recipient by name. Dale Carnegie, the author of the iconic book How to Win Friends and Influence People says “Remember that aperson’s name is to that person, the sweetest and most important soundin any language”. This simple tip shows common courtesy and respect.
Do basic research. If you’re going to DM someone, demonstrate that you haven’t done so blindly as part of a mass messaging frenzy. Such a turn-off! Write something personal and tailored to the recipient.
Flatter. A genuine compliment goes a long way, but don’t be creepy. Tell the recipient why you like their work, why you admire them, or what interested you in the first place.
Give before you get. You might need a favor or have an end goal in mind, but try to start off the relationship in a way that is mutually beneficial. Ask yourself what you can offer, even if it’s just lunch.
Take things slow. Jeez, shouldn’t you at least take me to dinner first? This proverbial rule holds true in the messaging world. Build your relationship little by little.
Don’t ghost. The recipient might help you with what you want or need, but continue to nurture the relationship over time. Show gratitude, tag them in content that you think they’d find helpful, or invite them to an event they like. One day, you’ll be glad you kept in touch.
It’s really not that hard. At the root of it all, just be a good, thoughtful person. With a little respect and finesse, soon your calendar will be filled with meaningful meetings — either with your future spouse, biggest mentor, or potential business partner.