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Media Personality Erica 'Comeback' Cobb Schools Us On Ownership & Career Redemption

Here's what to do when thriving is your only option.

BOSS UP

Nobody really needs yet another reminder that the past year or so has been rough. We have more than enough articles, blogs, podcasts, and social media updates to remind us daily that life can throw you some real curve balls, forcing you to either hit or strike out. But even when you strike out, there's always that next throw—that next chance—when you can always turn things around.

Media personality Erica Cobb has remixed the whole concept of a comeback into a revival of determination where you think, "What loss? Failure? Where?" As co-host of TEGNA's Daily Blast Live, host of her own platform, Comeback.TV, and co-host of podcast Who Cares What They Think, she unapologetically sits in her truth, whether tackling conversations about xenophobia and colorism or chatting with women about their biggest moments of redemption.

Cobb, who has more than 15 years of skin the media game, once faced an almost three-year battle with depression, financial hardship, and employment challenges after losing a very high-profile job. She eventually found a way to take her own career lemons and make them garnish for one hell of a comeback margarita, now hosting a nationally syndicated show and giving voice to women of color who have also beat the odds.

She sat down with xoNecole for an exclusive interview to tell us the how, when and why of that journey, and how you can be the comeback star of your own story:

Image by Kymora Jaxson Photography

xoNecole: You're an experienced media professional who, in addition to your day job, started your own platform, Comeback.TV. You've also continued balancing several projects throughout the pandemic. What has that experience been like?

Erica Cobb: I always like to say [that] the comeback is never over because if you're a growing person, there are obviously going to be some setbacks along the way that you're going to have to, you know, come back from. The interesting thing about just how I started this brand, I was really the antithesis of where everybody else in my life or my peers were. I seemingly was failing when everyone else was really thriving and what I noticed, especially in the beginning of the pandemic, I just sat down. I sat down with my husband, and we had a conversation. I'm like, I know that this is going to be a year of loss and a lot of lack, but I know that this is where I thrive. So, I'm anticipating really growing myself, my career, and this brand over the next year. And that's pretty much what happened.

I ramped up who I was having on my podcast. I made a completely separate social media supplement to the podcast so that people could get it where they were. A lot of my people are on Instagram and Facebook, so I wanted to make sure that I was meeting the moment with them. At the same time, I also had to think about growth and what people were asking for, and what they were really asking for was a voice that would be confident in not only representing them, but representing them as just normal people. So when Lindsey Granger, my co-host, and I were like, 'Hey, we have this time, let's create something,' the first thing I said was, 'If we're going to do this, we're going to see this thing out.' That's when we created [the podcast] Who Cares What We Think. We're almost a year into it now, and that has seen a lot of growth as well.

xoNecole: We're always fascinated with processes and the steps to things. Many of us get stuck because we don't really know the how-to of getting unstuck. So, what's your process in terms of motivating yourself to continue creating your own opportunities and pushing past obstacles.

Erica: Well, I want to be cognizant of not being like, "Well, this is what you should do and [what] everybody should do," [because] obviously not all of these things are going to work for everyone. The genesis of me having my studio and producing comeback was that I had gotten into this pattern where I was laid off about every three years—either my contract wasn't renewed or I just was no longer going to stay with a company.

What I promised to myself was that I was going to find a way to become self-sufficient, because you'll notice when things go left, when things are out of your control —like you're working for someone else and they lay you off, or you're in a situation where there may be one person who can do their job and your job, so now your job becomes obsolete—it's always someone else making those decisions. And six years ago, I decided that no one else was going to make those decisions for me.

When you say that, people generally are like, "OK, but you can't just quit? Are you independently wealthy?" And the answer's no. But when you have to [push through], you always do. So when I had to figure out how I was going to make money as a radio personality who didn't have a radio station to work at, that's when I switched the script. So I always say, look at what your gifts are and look at where your talents lie. What makes you a great candidate to a third party? Why do they want you as a part of their team?

And then really look at that gift for yourself. How can I do what I do best for my own brand and company? There is going to be a niche for you that you can be self-sufficient in. Find your gift that everyone seeks you out for, and then invest in yourself. And when I say invest, that does not mean money. Investing mostly in the beginning is going to mean your time.

xoNecole: So, true! Investing in yourself plays a big part in shifting the plan when there's a major career transition, and you've had several successful ones. What was the common factor that helped you ride through them all?

Erica: I used to own a hair extension company, and it was myself and a partner who was actually in the beauty industry for quite some time. I had decided I was going to do that full-time and take a break from media. So I did that for a couple of years, and we built this store and this brand, and it was something that I was really proud of. It was also the first time that I physically saw something be built from my work, you know. There was an aesthetic piece to it. What I learned from that was there are a lot of elements that certain industries, like health and beauty, [where] they will do these, you know, big conferences and continued education, and anything they needed in order to get new clients or to learn new techniques.

Being in that space made me think about the continuing of education. The truth is, if you're in media, there are so many things that the generation that's coming up behind us know. It's second nature to them—social media marketing, etc. All these things are second nature for them, but for me, it's not. So, it's the idea of always thinking about how you can continue your education and what that means.

The other thing is, I think that people do not give themselves grace, and they expect things to happen overnight.

I stepped away from a job where I had 1.8 million listeners every single morning, but when I started doing content, I was lucky if I got 18 views. And a lot of people made fun of me, and they were like, 'Oh, how the mighty has fallen.' But you know, at the end of the day, I have my own brand, and I was able to increase by 65 percent during a pandemic because I was used to doing this thing consistently and not caring how many people watched it or didn't watch.

So I think that's something that's important, too. Give yourself grace. Don't fall into that 'I'm embarrassed by what's not happening.' Be really proud of what you're able to do because eventually it's all gonna come together.

For more of Erica, follow her on Instagram.

Featured image by Kymora Jaxson Photography

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A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

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To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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