Even though I’m not a big fan of Halloween, I do find the dress-up, costuming aspect very interesting. It was kind of telling to go out on Sunday night and see the majority of little girls dressed as witches, Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz and princesses and then to see grown women as sexy nurses, sexy teachers and of course very sexy Dorothys. As little girls, our fantasy is to be really evil, really naïve or really good. As adults, women are obsessed with re-imagining themselves as overtly sexual, promiscuous quasi-hookers. Hmmph! Well it’s Halloween and there’s always November 1st– the day we all put back on our “real-life” masks and assume our usual image. And image is everything, right?
As a former publicist, I’m always thinking about image, branding and the ability to define myself as honestly as possible. But no matter the range of content on my blog, the comments I post on my Facebook page or how downright cool I am on Twitter, I always feel like the media is one step ahead of me trying to box me in and depict me as a crazy, angry, unhappy gold-digging Black woman. Shid I hate to even ask a brother what he does for a living cause thanks to Kanye we all know how that will be perceived. Now this week I have to really brace myself for Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls” because being a real life, heart pumping colored girl I just know “the world” is going to think I’m a manic, miserable victim of a misogynistic Black man cuz all Black men are misogynistic! It’s a murky ish-filled swamp to tread when talking about media, music and movies and how it frames Black lives. Just took my waders off after the release of Precious last year and now I’m preparing to put them back on for en even deeper odyssey with Perry’s retelling of Ntozake Shange’s brilliant classic. No matter how hard I work to go against the grain and to be nonstereotypical, I am stereotyped. Yeah, nobody can make me feel inferior, but dangit there are a lotta folks out there trying to make me LOOK inferior.
My favorite article on branding– “The Brand Called You” is a must read if you are the least bit interested in marketing yourself in a way that is valuable and has weight. I read it again and again every year. About creating a your personal brand the writer, Tom Peters, states: “The important thing to remember about your personal visibility campaign is: it ALL matters.” You may not wanna believe it, but Black girls, Latina girls and all grrrls of color really get airbrushed by the actions of more visible brown girls. Naomi Campbell’s Blackberry temper tantrums, Rosie Perez’s Fly Girl mannerisms, First Lady Michelle Obama’s graceful yet unapologetic stance, MIA’s rebel rabble all, in one way or another, impact how our personal brand is defined whether we like it or not.
Peters then hits it home in a way that matters most to me when he says:
“If you want to grow your brand, you’ve got to come to terms with power — your own. I’m talking about a different kind of power than we usually refer to. It’s not ladder power, as in who’s best at climbing over the adjacent bods. It’s not who’s-got-the-biggest-office-by-six-square-inches power or who’s-got-the-fanciest-title power. It’s influence power.”
This always calms me and helps to watch movies like Precious, Diary of Mad Black Women, How Stella Lost Her Groove & Boomerang with ease and objectivity. At the end of the day I still have some say. Box me and I will turn that box into a dream house. Pigeonhole me and I’ll create a tunnel to the other side. This is why I write and blog and shoot pics. This is why I support indie filmmakers and musicians. As long as I have breath and body, I still have some influence on who I am and how you see me. What do you do to defy the odds and break the flow of assumption and stereotype? Please leave a comment and let us know how about your personal brand.