Ermias “Nipsey Hussle” Ashgedom was truly Tha Great in life! And in his death, he is even greater.Read More
The year was 2014. The city was Miami. The location was a private residence of a well-to-do clothing designer. The occasion was to celebrate 2 special birthdays; one of which was DJ Princess Cut’s who was spinning for Oprah’s Life You Want Tour and I was (and still am) her manager. That’s how I fit into the equation. It was the 6th stop on the 8-city tour. I flew in from New York, which is where I was living at the time. I remember it was raining because my blowout was ruined by the time I reached our hotel on South Beach and I was super annoyed because I didn’t want to meet Queen O with frizzy hair.
We had a couple of hours to get dressed for the festivities so don’t ask me how I, Cut and our friend Ashley were all fashionably late to the par-tay. Like, in hindsight, how thee helllll do you roll into an über exclusive event that you know Oprah will be at tardy? Maybe it’s an ATL thing or a creative thing but we tried it – we did it. Thankfully as I’ve heard for many years growing up, God looks out for babies and fools. We, of course, were the latter. Long story short, God did us a solid. We walked in just as Oprah and her BFF Gayle King were leaving and we each got the opportunity to meet and snap a pic with Ms. Winfrey, even after we were warned via an explicit email that no cameras or pictures were allowed. I digress.
Like many of you who were galvanized by her soul shaking words at Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards, I couldn’t help but think of how blessed I was to have been in her presence weekend after weekend for a little over 3 months. It’s simply impossible to be exposed to that much spiritual power, fire and intellect and walk away unscathed. I was eternally affected in the most sacred way to say the least and to echo a fragment of her speech, “This is what I know for sure” about Oprah. Oprah is the real deal. And this is how I know for sure. Coach John Wooden said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching”. I recently told this story to a group of my girlfriends I was having lunch with that I knew Oprah was the real deal when I witnessed countless acts of kindness her team performed after the curtains were drawn, as well as during times when the crowds had dispersed and the stage was being broken down. I saw wheelchair bound attendees being escorted backstage during the outdoor festivities to meet some of the speakers like Iyanla Vanzant, Deepak Chopra, Mark Nepo and Elizabeth Gilbert. I saw the look on one of the producer’s faces when she heard a woman’s testimony about fighting cancer and afterwards went over to comfort her and give her a special gift she’d pulled from one of the tents that housed our fan prizes.
Matthew 7:116 says, “You will know them by their fruits”. Your team is a reflection of you. Your man, your woman, your children are reflections of you. Your friends, business partners; they’re a mirror of you. I recall the story of a man who climbed on top of a car at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan, the second stop on the tour, to help direct traffic. That man was the Co-President of HARPO, Erik Logan. Being in the music business, I’ve seen managers who refused to pass out CDs of the artists they represented, presumably because they felt the task was beneath them as a leader. But, in order to lead, one must be willing to serve first and foremost. I think that clearly defines Oprah’s career, one of continued service and dedication to the people; her platform as a leader has been exalted because she has served first. Something to marinate on as we settle into 2018 to live our best lives yet!
Talking to several friends, as well as pondering my own circumstances, it seems to be a season of uncertainty and change. Both are words, as well as feelings that I’m rather uncomfortable with, but I’ve come to accept them as opportunities for assessment and adjustment. There’s a Bible verse that says, “Though he give you the bread of adversity and water of affliction, yet he will be with you to teach you,” (Isaiah 30:20). In my humble and limited Bible knowledge, I interpret that to mean though we will have challenging seasons, there is a reason and a lesson in the difficulty. Sometimes we have to take a step back in order to make 2 steps forward. In addition to that, it is often during these darker moments that we are forced to figure out not only how to get to the light, but to keep it shining. My good friend, celebrity stylist and designer, Shun Melson often tells the story of being fired from an upscale shoe boutique inside Atlanta’s Phipp’s Plaza. At the time, she felt all those negative emotions such as fear, bitterness and anger. She allowed herself a momentary pity party but quickly got back on her grind and I don’t mean clocking into another 9 to 5; she went to work on herself, which eventually lead to her working for herself. Shun realized that she had the perfect opportunity to start fresh and create the life she always wanted to live. One of the best gifts of being on the bottom is you can’t fall any lower. After analyzing her skillset, interests and desires, as well as utilizing all her resources, her new career in fashion was birthed or "fashun" as she calls it. Trusting the process is really about using the periods of “I don’t see how I’m going to recover from this,” “why do I always find myself in this same situation,” and “what should I really be doing,” to put all your chips on the table to see what you’ve got to work with and then work. The blessing and lesson in trusting the process is that you’re developing new confidence and spiritual stamina that would’ve otherwise not been revealed to you. We learn far more in a crisis than we do when life is going smoothly. Whoever coined the phrase “hindsight is 20/20,” told a big truth. When we reflect back on those dark times, we realize that the light does shine again and usually brighter than we would’ve ever imagined. So trust that what you’re going through has presented itself to make you and not break you. Push through and keep hope.
Growing up a TK (Teacher’s Kid) was probably just as challenging as growing up a PK (Preacher’s Kid). My mother was the grammar, etiquette and fashion police. And Mrs. Hope never took a day off. As I got older, she relaxed on some things but who I hung around was not one of them. She’d be interviewing my friends without them even knowing it, paying close attention to their words, actions and vibe, which included their body language. She’d always point out the ones she felt were trouble. Of course I’d disagree but in time, her character assessment would always be accurate. In my teens and early 20s I thought she was tripping, however as a grown woman I realize she knew that the people I was spending the most time with, I’d eventually become like them. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Be with wise men and become wise. Be with evil men and become evil.” Whoever you associate yourself with long enough, you will begin to emulate them. And it doesn’t happen abruptly but eventually you’ll start to recognize similar habits. When I was in Mexico a few weeks ago, I was talking to my girls, taking pics and chilling with the water just covering my ankles. Without noticing, I found myself in the ocean with the water covering my knees. I’d drifted out and didn’t even notice because the movements were so subtle. That’s how this process works. You don’t recognize it at first, but slowly and surly, you’re becoming just like those in your inner circle. When I’m around folks that are talking about their ideas, executing them and excited about life, I catch that mood. Conversely when I’m around people who complain more than they change, my spirit starts to move into a dark space and I feel drained. Word to the wise, be around the dreamers, the doers, the lovers of life, the givers, the healers, the uplifters, the motivators, the creative; be around that energy that makes you want to be a better human. Take away…constantly ask yourself the following questions:
1. Who/what am I becoming?
2. Who/what am I around?
3. Who/what am I listening to?
After you answer, assess, assess, assess and take action. Hold on to what serves you well, let go of what doesn’t, but always keep your hope my friends.