..The Devil Wears Prada pun intended.
Looking back I have to ask myself, “If I wasn’t broke and living in New York City, would I have worked at Lane Bryant for $8 an hour and I applied for a non-paying internship for a millionaire fashion mogul on TV?” Daymond John would say I exercised the ‘Power of Broke.’
In The Power of Broke, he shares stories of influential friends, partners, colleagues and industry pacesetters from many different fields to show that success often finds us in desperation mode, when we’ve got no choice but to go for it – hard.” The stories are giving me the motivation every day to “keep swimming” which is one of his 5 Shark Points.
Today, Daymond is a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship, appointed by President Obama. A recent Shark Tank update showed video of him traveling with President Obama to Kenya and his historic trip to Cuba. He is one of the most booked business speakers in the country. As his Speaking Manager, my job feels a bit like the Social Secretary for the President. In many ways my job relates to the position and I approach it with a similar spirit of excellence, ensuring that everything associated with an event is the best it possibly can be and well executed.
I was thrilled to speak on a distinguished panel at a national conference with the Executive Assistants to Madeline Albright, the Chairman of Johnson & Johnson and the US Tennis Association. I had the honor of representing one of the top African American CEOs and celebrity entrepreneur, Daymond John. I told my story before a 1000 people. Afterwards people were lined up to speak to me, some with tears in their eyes, inspired and encouraged to see an African American woman empowered by her CEO to be on the national stage.
I want to express my sincere gratitude to the Head of Speaking Champion Nichols for taking a chance on a different kind of intern and encouraging me to keep the faith every single day. I am thankful to Daymond John our CEO at The Shark Group for inspiring me to change the course of my life forever.
I hope my story inspires you to go for “IT” (whatever IT may be) regardless of your age or bank balance.
VIDEO: New York Times Best Seller! The Power of Broke by Daymond John book launch event (2016).
Daymond and I were interviewed for an episode of lifestyle show What's Eating Harlem.
My journey from the Motor City to the Empire State is a pretty cool story about faith, fashion, and an awesome life changing internship at the age of 46. In my early 40s I took a leap of faith and resigned from a high paying director’s position marketing insurance to pursue a career in the world of fashion and entertainment. Through a sequence of divine connections I became a freelance brand stylist working with entrepreneurs, authors and speakers, which required me to make frequent trips to New York. One day I woke up feeling led to text everyone I knew in New York that I was looking for a place to live.
I once heard that if you obey the urging of the Holy Spirit (or some call it intuition), you set in motion a chain reaction of miracles. Well, I am a believer. The text messages started coming in almost immediately. One friend sent a link to a room for rent in an apartment that I could rent for 30 days, if I moved in the next week. The rent…$750. A client (who I did not text) called to say she felt led to pay me the balance of my consulting fee although I had not finished the project. The balance…$750. Another friend called with a one way ticket to New York for $74. A week later I had moved to New York with my last $1000 in my pocket, one client and a big dream.
Some Pocket Money, A Client and a BIG Dream
At first my life was a little like ‘The Pursuit of Happyness.’ The apartment was in a gorgeous art deco building in Harlem. Inside, the place had charm, parquet floors, a few roaches, and my room…was the living-room. To my delight, the shower felt so good, and if I closed my eyes real tight, I could almost feel like I was at a luxurious spa. It was rumored Ralph Ellison wrote ‘Invisible Man’ in that building. I am inclined to believe it because there is a bronze sculpture erected in his honor outside with the inscription above: “So now that I was there in this glamorous scene, I meant to make the most of its opportunities." It was a good sign.
I took a part-time job at the Lane Bryant store on 34th street which paid $8 an hour. Don’t judge me. I met people who’ve helped me gain my footing in New York City including TV producers, talent agents, and stylists. I worked with curvy models and celebs like Zuzanna Szadkowski, “Dorota” on Gossip Girl, who became my first celebrity client from a hit show. I gained valuable “street cred” in the plus size fashion industry and earned lots of social capital. After a month I moved in with a very generous actress friend and slept on her couch for the next 45 days in a four story walk-up…. I even lost 30 pounds!
The Oldest Intern in the World
“While many internships are geared toward pre-professionals, interning is an excellent way to develop your career at any age.” ~ Black Enterprise, Aisha Taylor
I eventually rented a room in an apartment on Fifth Avenue. I affectionately called it “Heaven on 5th.” (À la Sex & the City). The owner ran a busy boutique public relations firm and generously offered to link me to her network in return for my brand strategies (and knocked a few $100 off my rent. Praise God!!) She recommended me for the National Black MBA Association’s conference team to manage logistics and concierge services for VIP speakers. She thought I could make strategic connections to lead me to my next opportunity and did it ever.
I worked closely with speakers like Daymond John, Founder of FUBU and star of Shark Tank on ABC, actor Laz Alonzo, and journalist Roland Martin. Meeting Daymond was a real game changer for me and I love to tell the story. Daymond was taking pictures with VIPs and the media interviews were going on, when I noticed that his tie was crooked and his driver was still standing in the room with us, apparently star struck. In my best “stylist move” I slid in to straighten his tie. I asked if he didn’t mind speaking with some student entrepreneurs at the request of the Executive Director, while I sent his driver out to the ‘back 40’ to get his SUV. Daymond was out of there without wasting his time, and I had made an impression not only on him, but the Executive Director and those students.
Yet, the greatest impression was made on me. Daymond gave me the best piece of advice that day. There was only a minute to ask one question and it had to be good! “I am a stylist with a MBA and a former head of marketing communications. I have applied for fashion jobs at Vogue, Oprah magazine, Bloomingdales and Saks but nobody seems to get me. Isn’t it all about branding? Any advice?” I asked.
Basically, Daymond advised me not to worry about it, “You are a brand architect.” I responded by searching online for job openings at his Shark Branding company. I was excited to find a Twitter post asking for interns to apply for his New York office. Shortly after, I read an inspiring article tweeted by Alfred Edmond, Jr. (Black Enterprise) titled, “Internships aren’t just for college students anymore. They are for seasoned professionals...” It was a sign. LOL!
In the interview I was asked, “Are you sure you want to work with us?” I said, “Of course, I’m ready. This is why I moved to New York.”
The job a million girls would kill for
“When you’ve got nothing to lose, you’ve got everything to gain, and my thing is, it takes having your back against the wall, it takes leveraging your last dollar, it takes having no place to go but up, up, up if you expect to make something happen. You’ve got to need to succeed.” - Daymond John, Power of Broke
Hallelujah! I landed a gig as the oldest intern in the world. At first it was a little like ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ (2006), except they were really nice to me. I literally had, “the job a million girls would kill for.” I was an intern in the office of the hottest entrepreneur in the country, just like Robert De Niro in the movie 'The Intern'(2015). Daymond John’s speaking career was really beginning to take off and Shark Tank was winning in the ratings. I worked for the hardest working man I know which meant I worked long hours, nights and weekends too. It took every bit of my faith, marketing, communications and event management skills to do it for little or no money. It was hard work, but oh so worth it!
Looking back I have to ask myself, “If I wasn’t broke and living in New York City, would I have worked at Lane Bryant for $8 an hour and I applied for a non-paying internship for a millionaire fashion mogul on TV?” Daymond would say I exercised the ‘Power of Broke.’
Read more about the Power of Broke by clicking here: Download a FREE chapter at DaymondJohn.com.