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Editor’s Note: I stumbled upon Revolutionary In Pink Pumps by happenstance one day on Twitter, but the concept immediately struck me as something unique, bold, brave and beautiful. Ariel, the woman at the helm of Revolutionary In Pink Pumps, is the kind of person who strikes you as wise beyond her years. She tackles issues such as race, body image and culture with poise, guts and deftness. After starting the blog as a hybrid of fashion and social issues, the space has evolved in conjunction with Ariel. Read more about her journey as a writer, goals for the blog and why she calls herself an “accidental feminist.” Meet Ariel.
Location: NJ/ NYC Metro Area
How did you come up with the name Revolutionary in Pink Pumps? What does that name represent for you?
When I started the blog I had two big passions, fashion/style and culture/society. I wanted the blog to stand out from all the fashion blogs so I thought that the title would show that I encompassed both fashion and social commentary. As the blog developed I lost the fashion aspect of it, because I cared so much more about the lifestyle and social commentary aspect. Revolutionary in Pink Pumps has grown to showcase that wanting to be involved in societal discussion doesn’t mean you burn bras and picket MAC counters. The blog tag line is “Glitter, Heels, & Social Revolution” because I can’t imagine my life without all three and I want people to know that they do not have to exist separately. I’ve presented academic papers on Black women in media in gold-heeled DVF pumps.
You tackle topics such as race, body image and culture on your blog. What empowers you to write about these topics in such a powerful way?
The most important thing to when I tackle a topic is that I know what I am talking about. Anything I write is typically based off of experience, or the opinion that I give on a topic is based off of my experience. If something doesn’t move me or relate to me I typically won’t write about it, not because it isn’t important but because I recognize that someone else can probably give it a better voice than I can. I grew up in the midst of an ongoing conversation about race and culture, because I was consistently the only Black face in a lot of my settings so I feel comfortable discussing race and culture. As someone who has battled and overcome an eating disorder, I feel like body image is so important and should be discussed more. People don’t realize that race and body image even cross over into each other. I remember reading teen magazines and wishing that my voice was represented, that my issues were talked about, and they never were; so I write for all the brown girls like me who didn’t have a space growing up. Knowing that what I write relates to someone reading it reminds me that I should keep writing.
What are your upcoming goals for Revolutionary in Pink Pumps?
Right now I think visibility is my biggest goal. I want to increase people’s interest in topics and find my niche, since I hang in the balance of a few niches. Once I’ve got a concrete audience I want to start developing a few series for the blog and maybe expand, I want to know what else people want to know.
Who are some of the bloggers and writers you follow and consider revolutionary?
There are a ton, honestly can’t even keep a list, I typically just add articles I like to my news app and let it do the work for me. I also read a lot of news Black news outlets. I also love to use Instagram to discover new content, it’s like a blog all its own.
You’ve mentioned before that you do not consider yourself a feminist. In what ways has society made it difficult to assert the “feminist” label?
I like to consider myself an “accidental feminist”, I’m in the midst of defining that myself at the moment, via a blog post, but I think that because feminism has always been somewhat of a counterculture, society has made those who align with it very much the ‘other’. Feminism has so many definitions from so many different outlets and lately it’s gone from the “othering” to an everyday word. It’s kind of like love, I don’t think it should be tossed around as loosely as it has been. All of the sudden because someone claimed that Beyonce is a feminist, every girl wants to slap on a t-shirt that says ‘”This is what a feminist looks like.” And while I think it’s great that feminism is gaining a viable visibility, I think it’s really important for people to be educated about what they’re claiming to be. If you can’t tell me anything about bell hooks I feel as if maybe you should tuck your feminist shirt away until you can find the nearest library.
On your blog, you’ve said, “The goal of this blog is not to tell you you’re wrong or change your belief, it is in fact to give you a different perspective.” How do you deal with Internet trolls or people who approach you with comments that are not constructive?
I don’t think that you can be a writer without having tough skin. When you put your opinion out there you’re open to some hurtful stuff and I’ve had a few trolls who really tried to come for my neck. Trolls love confrontation; I don’t. Everything is case-by-case for me but more often than not I’ll respond with facts. I don’t like to drag anything personal into a battle with trolls, because then it becomes a back and forth of “yo mama” proportion. If they’re nasty about my writing or the context of the blog, I simply thank them for taking their time to sit and read it, let them know they’re entitled to their opinion, and if it fits, then I throw in some facts from the piece or the blog to kind of shut down their snark.
What are some of the Revolutionary in Pink Pumps posts that most reflect your brand as a blogger?
What keeps you inspired?
Sometimes I’m convinced that the only ones reading my blog are my friends and relatives and while I love them, I know they already understand a lot of what I’m trying to put out in the air. Sometimes I think it won’t matter if I blog this week or not, but honestly I can’t keep my mouth shut. There are too many things I see happening that I can’t chime in on and bring light to. We miss a lot, because mainstream ignores a lot and even if my post only reaches 10 people, I recognize that it may be 10 people who never would have known about something before the post. When I don’t feel like writing I remember what it felt like to cruise media and not see myself in anything as a young brown girl and remember that I write to try to contribute to the space for faces like mine.
Ariel is a college graduate with a bachelors degree in English/Journalism and Professional Writing and a concentration in African American studies. Her writing experience spans past editorial work in publications and encompasses PR work, administrative writing and social media use. She has experience writing lifestyle, events, food, fashion, beauty, and social/racial commentary, but is most often found on her personal blog Revolutionary In Pink Pumps. Follow Ariel at @RevInPinkPumps.
What I wrote on Friday, May 2 “Getting Published In Thought Catalog: Don’t Read The Comments” is one of my most-read posts in 2014. But, it was May 1, the day I got published in Thought Catalog that is much more important. I won’t recount how it felt to have my submission picked up or the adrenaline rush of seeing the byline. Instead, this is about the knot my stomach coiled into once the nasty comments started pouring in, once I realized that not everyone would be a fan of my work nor is kindness highly valued in the Internet abyss. This is about that evening when I could barely eat, when every moment my mind had a free minute, it bounced back to being called a “naive fuck.” This is about a lesson in growing thick skin.
Last week Nik of A Tale of Two Biddies and We Are Womanhood proposed a simple but loaded question to a few bloggers: “How do you deal with shade/haters?” I noticed the common thread in most of the responses to her question was about ignoring negativity, letting it roll off your back and not devoting much attention to it. I responded by saying I learned how to stop “fighting air,” a phrase my sister and I coined to describe all of the fruitless energy I exerted this year on situations and quibbles that just weren’t that serious.
But, a few hours later I considered Nik’s question more and tweeted that “I want us to stop pretending that we’ve known how to shrug off negativity since we came out the womb. Being able to do that takes time…you grow thick skin. It takes time. It takes some breakdowns. Few of us are just born with it.”
I don’t think it’s enough to tell anyone to just ignore anything. I certainly don’t think it’s enough to tell writers, artists and creators to just ignore negativity because what we do is so intimate. It’s vulnerable. It takes guts and heart and a rare form of courage. So, no, you can’t just ignore it when people attempt to dismantle your craft, the thing you have built with your very own hands and heart. “Just ignore it” is a very reductive and unrealistic way to deal with antagonism. Because this writing shit, it’s personal.
Instead, I say give yourself the room and space to get mad as all hell. Let the trolls piss you off. Let the negative comments eat away at the pit in the middle of your stomach. Get mad. Skip dinner because you’re too angry to eat. Gchat ad nauseum about how much you hate the Internet. Get upset. Let the rage burgeon into red hot pools of lava.
And, then let the room get smaller. Let the space shrink. Don’t give yourself as much permission to be livid with total strangers who don’t understand your craft and probably never will. Focus on the task at hand—creating dope shit that moves the world in ways it has yet to see, feel or experience. When someone compliments your work or says you’ve inspired them, read those messages two, three, four times over. Let those messages leave a mark on you. Don’t give misery the company it covets. Do not pull up a chair next to it and sit down for a drink. There are too many other people in this place who will love you if you let them.
Then, close the door to the room entirely. Abandon that space that says you aren’t shit because of what a bottom feeder trolling the comments section said. Walk away. Vacate the room completely. Let your skin grow thick enough that you are still authentic, but also immune to the stew of hatred, jealousy and disdain others want to project onto you. Don’t try to be so impenetrable that you lose your humanity. But, don’t let anyone else strip you of that same humanity because of their own fuckedupness.
We are not born with thick skin. We have to earn our stripes. We have to pay our dues. We only have the thick skin after we’ve had our backs broken, our spirits cracked, our words misconstrued, our intellect questioned, our craft tampered with. We let it suck. We let it hurt. We feel it deep in the roots of everything we know. And, we let our skin grow thicker with each dagger aimed at us until ignoring it no longer seems reductive. Until ignoring it no longer seems unrealistic. Until ignoring it is a means of survival, a mechanism for self-preservation.
A few weeks ago, in response to a guest post I published on Twenties Unscripted (not even my own post, a guest post), someone left a comment calling me a “dumb nigger.” I joked about it with the guest writer. Then I trashed the comment and continued on with the day. Now, I know better than to exert any energy on someone without enough decency to leave his or her real name and email address on a comment. Now, I have the thick skin.
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Editor’s Note: I don’t remember exactly when I stumbled upon Alisha Nicole of TheAlishaNicole.com, but I know I was immediately drawn to her brand. Her work has a distinct look and feel, and it’s obvious she knows a thing or two about branding and entrepreneurship. In today’s feature, Alisha discusses her path to being self-employed, her mantra as a business owner and what advice she would offer to budding entrepreneurs. Meet Alisha.
Location: High Point, NC
Tell us a little more about you and your business.
Almost two years ago I took a major leap of faith and quit my comfortable job to pursue my online shop full-time. Not knowing what in the world I was getting my self into, I started my blog as a way for me to vent and sort of share my journey as a new full-time entrepreneur. I never knew that me ranting on my blog a couple days a week would turn into another business where I share business/blogging tips and coach other creative women on how they can turn their passion into a profitable business.
What mantra do you live by as an entrepreneur?
“I will have a productive, prosperous and profitable day.”
How did you transition from a 9-to-5 life to being an entrepreneur? What are the biggest challenges? What are the biggest rewards?
I really just wen’t for it! Now that I look back I realize it was probably a little irresponsible but I was in a position where I felt like my sanity was on the line, so I walked in one day and just put in my two weeks notice. Thankfully I had some extra money in savings to back me up.
The biggest challenge for me at first was to definitely get out of that mindset of knowing that I was going to have a paycheck coming in every two weeks. It took me being dead broke a few times for me to really realize that I had to make this thing work. Another challenge was getting used to being on my own. You don’t have anyone looking over your shoulder telling you what to do or when to do it. It’s really all on you. Sink or swim.
Thankfully being out on my own was also my biggest reward. I value my time and freedom. Nothing is better than being able to get up and go when you please, being able to work from wherever there is an Internet connection and not having someone constantly telling you when you can go eat or go to the brathroom.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently revisiting “You Are A Badass” by Jen Sincero for maybe the 12th time this year. Seriously one of the best books I’ve ever read.
What advice would you offer to someone during the following stages of launching their business?
First 30 days – Don’t lose that drive and momentum that you currently have post launch. Create a solid plan for the future and continue to work your ass off.
First six months – Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. New businesses pop up everyday. Make it your business to stay relevant and in front of your customers face. Also don’t get discouraged if your plan has slightly changed. Readjust, keep it moving and never stop learning.
First Year – This is the time to start thinking about growth (what areas of your business would you like to expand into?) Also think about what worked in your first year and what didn’t. If you don’t have a clear understanding, don’t be afraid to ask your clients what they liked and disliked. Base your next year goals off of the feedback you receive. Most importantly, go celebrate! Many business don’t make it to see one year and you did it!
You recently took a blogging break. What did you learn from your time off and what tips and tricks would you offer to other bloggers looking to step back from their blogs for awhile?
I learned that no matter how long you have been doing something or how passionate you are about it, EVERYONE needs a break every once in awhile. I would tell them to first off actually take a real break! Like give yourself a few days to do absolutely nothing blog-related. The first couple of days of my break I literally had to stop getting on the computer because I couldn’t help but to work. If you are afraid of losing readers while you’re are away, see if you can get some of your blogging buddies to step in and post for you while you are gone. I had some amazing ladies take over the blog for the full two weeks I was away and it was like I never left!
After a couple days of rest I suggest really sitting down and thinking about what you want out of your blog and the direction you want it to go in. Think about the areas of your blog where you feel a disconnect and think of a few ways you can resolve it and what will make you fall in love with it all over again. Even if it takes you going through a mini rebrand. If you still need a little help relighting that fire, try writing out your ultimate goal for your blog as if anything were possible (because it really is). There is nothing like allowing yourself to dream BIG to get you motivated again.
Where do you see yourself and your work headed in the next five years?
I definitely see myself being invited to speak at a few major blogging and business conferences within the next few years. I also wan’t to begin offering workshops in my surrounding area for creative women to come learn and network. As for my shop I want to expand that into selling small home decor items and have my brand featured in a few major magazines. Overall for myself, I just want to continue to be happy and genuinely enjoying every moment of this ride!
What is the best entrepreneurial advice you’ve ever received? Best writing advice?
The best entrepreneurial advice would definitely have to be to stop comparing my part one to someone else’s part six. I would get so frustrated that I wasnt growing at the speed that I wanted to and I would constantly wonder why it felt like other businesses were speeding past me. I had to be taught that it’s a journey and not a race. My best writing advice was to “Write from the heart and the rest will come.” When I first started blogging it was so easy to start writing about what I “thought” my readers wanted instead of writing about topics that I truly had a passion for.
Round of mad libs:
Can’t leave home without: my iphone and planner.
Must have __________ in order to get into my creative space: silence
Love __________ and _____________ to start the day: prayer and gospel music.
What are some of your favorite posts you’ve written on TheAlishaNicole? http://www.thealishanicole.com/blog/2014/05/06/my-journey-i-quit-vlog
What keeps you inspired?
Knowing that I am inspiring other women to take control over their life and do something that they truly love. And knowing that one day I will be able to give to my mom like she has ALWAYS given to me.
Alisha is an online shop owner, blogger and business coach to creative women. Always knowing that she wanted more out of life than she felt like the average 9 to 5 could offer her, she decided to take the giant leap of faith into full-time entrepreneurship. A little of a free spirit and always with her head in a book or blog post, Alisha spends the majority of her days helping creative women like herself turn their passion into a full-time profitable business.