HOW DID YOU IDENTIFY YOUR PASSION AND THE WORK THAT SATISFIED YOU VERSUS WORK THAT JUST PAID THE BILLS?

This is an ongoing journey for me. I began working in international development to pursue my passion of ending poverty. This goal hits home for me because I grew up in a poor country in the Caribbean. My family and I moved to the United States in search of more opportunities, but we still struggled a lot in the beginning. I know what it’s like to live in poverty and I want to make sure that no one else lives in those conditions. I thought that I could fulfill this dream through my work in international development. But when I started working in the field more than a decade ago, there were so many things that made me uncomfortable. For example, many programs aimed at reducing poverty are paternalistic. I disliked the way that “the poor” were being portrayed as undignified or uneducated with no ability to help themselves. Going back to my experience living in poverty, even though my family and I had little money, were also very happy and knew how best to use the resources we had. We had a strong family bond and supported those in our community in any way possible. So, I started Developing Style to change the narrative I saw in the programming I worked on. In my travels throughout Africa and Asia, most of the women I met had amazing businesses that highlighted their entrepreneurial spirit. Developing Style is a platform to celebrate those women and highlight their work for American audiences. Even though I still maintain my day job doing anti-poverty programming, I’ve managed to reclaim and reshape part of the narrative. I approach ending poverty in a new way that it more consistent with my beliefs and experiences. I still need my day job to pay my bills, but at least I’m able to use it to channel my passion in an entirely new way.

WHO WILL ETERNALLY BE A WOMAN YOU ADMIRE AND RESPECT, AND WHY?

My mother. She is a living example of being the change you want to see in the world. She and my Dad created a better life for our family in a completely new country and worked tirelessly so that we could climb out of poverty. I constantly marvel at their courage. My Mom’s resilience and positivity have shown me how a woman’s inner strength can carry her through anything.

I would also add my mother-in-law to this list. Even though we lost her to breast cancer years ago, her example of overcoming obstacles by embracing them with love is a lesson I will carry with me always. Her quiet grace is something that I always try to emulate.

IN LIGHT OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF OUR HASHTAG #WHYITRIBE, WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO CELEBRATE WHO WE ALREADY ARE TODAY?

Women are often told that we have to “become” someone great. As a woman of color entrepreneur, I bought into this idea before I even started my company. I measured my impact through validation from others. However, in growing my business, I have developed a tribe of supportive women entrepreneurs. They live by the motto “Her success is our success,” and I love it. They’ve helped me realize that I am exactly where I need to be. They also helped me separate my personal identity from that of my work. I’ve learned to accept myself for myself – regardless of where my business is in its growth. Without such an incredible tribe, I don’t know that I would have come to that realization quite in the same way.

NAME A TIME RECENTLY WHEN YOU SAID SOMETHING GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF/HOW DID THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?

One of the first pieces of advice I received before I officially launched my blog was that I shouldn’t actually write blog entries. A fellow blogger told me that no one would read my words and that my followers would only judge me by the quality of photos. Even though I was open to all advice, I pushed back on this recommendation. I responded by saying that writing was one of my strongest skills. My words and stories were some of the most meaningful things I could contribute to the world. Even if I only had one follower, I was committed to having well-written pieces. I find so much beauty in the written word and have spent years cultivating my craft. This is one thing I wasn’t willing to give up. Today, I love it when followers take the time to read my blog entries and comment on the value they’ve found in them. It makes me feel validated and even more committed to refining my craft.

WHY DO YOU THINK WOMEN SHY AWAY FROM CELEBRATING OR PRAISING THEMSELVES SO MUCH?

Society teaches us that we are never “enough.” We are led to believe that we must always look to improve ourselves by having shinier hair, a higher ranking job, more followers, etc. It’s a never-ending cycle. While I’m all for self-improvement, there must be a happy medium. The idea that we should always seek to become some “better” version of ourselves lends itself to never appreciating who are today. That’s why it’s so important for women to remind ourselves and our tribes to stop and appreciate how far we’ve come. We must learn to love who we are now, rather than continuing to be dissatisfied with ourselves. Our future selves will thank us!

HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THE TENDENCY TO DISCREDIT COMPLIMENTS YOU ARE GIVEN?

This is hard for me and is not something I have mastered. My responses to compliments tend to be self-deprecation or deflection. I constantly wonder if someone is truly being genuine in their compliments, or is just saying something nice because he/she thinks it’s the right thing to do. One way that I’ve overcome this is to give genuine compliments to others. For example, if a friend or colleague knocks a presentation out of the park, I follow up to tell her. I also take a step further and share why I believe this is true. This has also allowed me to identify when someone is being genuine with me. Instead of deflecting, I’ve learned to accept their compliments with a simple “thank you.”

HOW DOES SOCIETY REINFORCE THE IDEA THAT WE, AS WOMEN, ARE NOT ENOUGH AND HOW CAN WE
TAKE THAT POWER BACK?

We see this idea being reinforced in so many ways, especially through social media. Social media is a great tool for doing good, but it can also lead us to feel inadequate. We can take that power back by reinforcing positive images, words, and vibes through the messages we choose to communicate on social media. We are our best tools for change. I am a big believer in the idea of karma – what you put out will come back to you. If you put out positivity, I am convinced that it will come back to you in powerful ways.

WHY IS THE TRIBE MOVEMENT IMPORTANT?

Women are naturally strong, but our strength is multiplied when we are in the company of other women. Finding the right tribe can help make us more resilient and effective at achieving our goals – and having fun along the way! I love The Tribe movement because it reinforces the idea of community, supporting one another, celebrating the diversity of who we are, and accepting all women as they come. Thank you so much for your work!

Occupation: International Development Specialist and Social Entrepreneur

Website: www.developingstyleblog.com

Instagram: developingstyleblog