Why I Took The Job As A 30-Year-Old Intern At BuzzFeed

Workin' Girl

One of the biggest life lessons I've learned is it's never too late to try something new.

In June of 2017, I was in a funk. My seven-year work anniversary at the High Museum of Art had just passed, I was losing steam running my stationery company, Mae B, and I wasn't being called in for auditions. As you can see, I am a jack of all trades, and while that can be fun, when nothing feels like it's working, life seems like one big merry-go-round. I knew that my hometown of Atlanta was stifling my creative ambitions, but the thought of packing up and moving to a new city scared me. But when God is ready for you to move, you move.

I heard Him loud and clear when I received an email from BuzzFeed.

The subject line read: Would Like To Schedule In-Person Interview for Style Resident Position.

At the start of 2017, I spent all of my spare time applying for jobs. Any job. After over six interviews, no one wanted to hire me. I thought to myself, "What's wrong with me?" I realized that walking into corporate companies as a creative entrepreneurial running a business devoted to women of color didn't excite the hiring managers. I was running a niche business, that to be frank, many of the interviewers didn't see as relevant experience. Maybe the naysayers in my life were right —I needed to get a "real" job.

As I sat in a Chick-fil-a parking lot, I received an email. I stared at the subject line, and couldn't believe that nearly six months after applying BuzzFeed was reaching out to me. The girl that was rejected from every job she'd applied for over a six-month period. When I opened the email, it read, "After our phone interview, we'd like to invite you in for an interview for our Style Resident position."

Before I knew it, I had a confirmed interview date, but I had one pretty big dilemma: I didn't have the money to book the $275 one-way ticket to fly to Los Angeles for the interview. The first person I called was my little sister, Morgan. She squealed with excitement and told me I no choice but to see this opportunity through. "Look up the flights and tell me how much they are, you're going to this interview."

A couple of days later, I packed my bag and took a trip to Los Angeles for the interview. As I sat on the four-hour flight, there was a part of me that felt like an imposter. I knew that I was creative, but I was also carrying the rejection from all of the interview before this one. On top of that, I knew that I didn't have the technical skills the position called for, so, I started counting myself out before I'd even landed in Los Angeles.

Now, you're probably wondering what a "Style Resident" is. To put it simply, it is a three-month crash course internship that could lead to a full-time producer position with the company.

I was flying across the country to interview to be a thirty-year-old intern.

That still makes me laugh, but it always felt like an opportunity I couldn't pass up. After my interview, I was asked to complete an edit test. An edit test gives the hiring manager a chance to evaluate your writing skills and see what type of content you'd like to create. A week later, I got the call. I was offered the three-month residency, and they wanted me to start in two weeks. Without thinking, I accepted the internship. It came with no relocation help, health insurance, or guarantee of a job but I knew it was worth the risk.

On July 31, 2017, I stepped off of a plane and walked into my first day at BuzzFeed. It felt surreal. I was living in a new city, starting a new job at a prominent digital media company, and was there because they saw the value in my experience building a brand for women of color.

If you'd looked at my Instagram, you would have thought every day was bunnies and rainbows, but that was far from the truth. I was jet-lagged, homesick, and struggling to produce content. Walking into my residency with zero behind the camera experience proved to be harder than I'd imagined. I wondered, "Am I in over my head?" The answer to that was yes, but this was no different than starting a company from scratch.

So like I'd done many times before, I became my own advocate, teacher, and motivator. I didn't wait for anyone to tell me how to start a company, run it, and grow it. I googled, I listened to podcasts, and made a lot of mistakes. I wasn't going to let my lack of technical experience be the thing that took me out of the race then and I wasn't going to let it take me out of the race now. My success was up to me. So, I got busy.

I stayed late. Got to work early. I spent my weekends watching Premiere Pro YouTube tutorials to learn how to edit. I struggled. I wanted to quit, but as black women do, I persevered. It was pretty clear by month two of my residency, I wasn't going to be offered a full-time position, but I did walk away with a win. In the last week of my residency— a video I cast, shot, and edited Black Women React to 90s' Hair Products went viral, racking up 2.3 million views in three days. I came, I struggled, and I won.

When God moves you, don't ask questions.

If you truly believe your steps are ordered, you will be able to walk by faith and not by sight (which is always easier said than done). Had I let fear of stability, my lack of skill, or even my age play a role in my decision, I might still be in Atlanta looking back on this opportunity with regret. I recognize that packing up and moving cross country is a privilege. Without the support of my sister, my parents, my aunt, and my friends — my move would have been impossible.

There is great value in having people around you that genuinely support you. I'm not talking those that like your posts on social media or show up when you're winning. I'm talking about those that will help you buy a plane ticket, make sure you have your first months rent, let you crash on their couch, or listen to you cry because you're homesick. Those people will push you off the ledge when you're too scared to jump and will be waiting at the bottom to catch you.

I realize now that the goal isn't always to get or keep the opportunity you leaped for initially. God didn't move me just to get a job.

My experience gave me the opportunity to learn new skills but reminded me of what my real gift has been this entire time — advocating and creating a space for women of color, specifically, black women. As I've gotten older, I have become less of a risk taker, but even as we age, we owe it to ourselves to take calculated risks that guide us to the next steps of our purpose.

Now, that my residency is over, I am back to building Mae B, writing, and keeping my heart open for the next chance that I get to jump. I'm still working to find my purpose. The one thing I know for sure is that risks always reveal a reward.

Jamie Foxx and his daughter Corinne Foxx are one of Hollywood’s best father-daughter duos. They’ve teamed up together on several projects including Foxx’s game show Beat Shazam where they both serve as executive producers and often frequent red carpets together. Corinne even followed in her father’s footsteps by taking his professional last name and venturing into acting starring in 47 Meters Down: Uncaged and Live in Front of a Studio Audience: All in the Family and Good Times as Thelma.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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Featured image by Getty Images

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