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Luvvie Ajayi: What You Should Know About The Humor Blogger Turned Best-Selling Author

BOSS UP

Scour Luvvie Ajayi's Twitter feed on any given day and you'll be sure to laugh, suck your teeth, get your life, or maybe all of the above. The founder of popular pop-culture blog, Awesomely Luvvie, has made it her mission to engage or enrage you, and by no means does the self-proclaimed “troublemaker" have plans to slow down any time soon.

Photo Credit: Luvvie Ajayi

Today's comedian isn't just found in your local comedy club or creating six-second Vine videos, they're penning laugh-worthy posts that are both insightful and unapologetic, and in a digital age where everyone's struggling to find their place and to keep up with the ever-changing pace of technology, some of them are even getting paid to be themselves.

Bloggers like Luvvie have managed to create a space uniquely their own by staying true to who they are even when it may mean sacrificing paychecks from big brands, but as the culture critic and digital strategist unashamedly confessed during a #MentorMonday session with matchmaker and tech startup founder, Paul C. Brunson, “I may have talked myself out of rooms, but I believe that those rooms don't matter. The ones that matter are the ones I'm already in and the ones that see me and say, 'She should be in this room.'"

Not only is she in the rooms, but the Nigerian-born techie who also runs Awesomely Techie, is walking red carpets, doing interviews with Oprah, giving TED Talks speeches, and releasing straight-like-that-no-chaser books like, I'm Judging You: The Do Better Manual, that cemented it's place on best sellers lists. This week, it was announced Shonda Rhimes acquired the rights to Luvvie's book and it will be turned into a Shondaland cable comedy series.

Winning!

Let Luvvie tell it, she's a 13-year overnight success. In other words, she started from the bottom and now she's here.

Photo Credit: Luvvie Ajayi

Just twenty-one years ago, a nine-year-old Luvvie left her nine-bedroom home in Nigeria and settled in Chicago. Though she now proudly boasts of her Nigerian roots and culture, as the new girl, she struggled to fit in, and by sophomore year, had ditched her accent in order to adapt to her new environment. “You grow up and realize what makes you different is what makes you stand out in the best way," Luvvie says.

By college, she found that her voice was not one to be diminished. During her freshman year, with the encouragement of friends, she launched a blog dishing on college life and roommates, but after graduating in 2006 with her degree in psychology and stepping into the real world, felt that it was time for a fresh start. So she shut down her old college-girl chronicles and launched Awesomely Luvvie with a humorous spin on pop-culture, politics, and anything else that piqued her interest. Though she had a passion for writing, she never imagined that her hobby would turn into paychecks. “I really didn't approach it as a career because I was not buying into the hype that this was something that I could do as a career."

"What makes you different is what makes you stand out in the best way."

Nonetheless, her fanbase grew as friends and family shared her hilarious posts where she unapologetically spoke her mind on things that others were afraid to voice. Within three years, she had grown a steady following, snagged a Black Weblog Award, and started getting brand-love for being Luvvie, adding ambassador to her bio when GAP reached out to partner with her to rock their new jeans line.

Photo Credit: Luvvie Ajayi

She also started monetizing her blog using website ads. Yet still, the idea of blogging full-time didn't hit her until a year later when she was laid off from her job as marketing coordinator for the Community Media Workshop. “I didn't know many people who were making a comfortable living as writers. It was more exception than the rule, so somebody like me who's logical and needs to have a clear path, it didn't make sense to me. I was still thinking I would go find a full-time job and get a traditional 9 to 5, but it was like the universe was trying to grab my face like pay attention, this is what you're doing."

"The universe was trying to grab my face like pay attention, this is what you're doing."

Instead of going back to working for another company, she took her knowledge of helping non-profits with social media and marketing and became her own boss as a consultant while continuing her tongue-in-cheek approach to writing. The views kept pouring in, and more brands came calling.

“They started seeing that my blog was very different than any other blog out there," Luvvie says. “A lot of bloggers have niche like fashion, style, gossip, but I was the person who was basically intersecting all of these niches and more. My audience loved everything pop culture, they loved everything race, they talked about politics, so my place is where anybody can be who they want to be. I have an incredibly engaged audience so I think brands started paying attention like she's kind of in a lane of her own and it's made me stand out."

Luvvie believes that unlike today's bloggers who often want to throw in the towel before building a real buzz, not stressing over traffic numbers and writing without expectation allowed her to focus on what mattered most—understanding her audience.

“The bad thing about bloggers now is that they're seeing all of the success from blogging and they're like, okay I'm going to replicate that. A lot of us who started eight or nine years ago, we started literally for the love of writing, and we also didn't give ourselves the pressure of success. So, for us, when we started, I just wanted to write, I didn't come out the gate like, I need 100,000 people reading my blog, I just wanted to write, so there was no measure of failure to me in that way."

Photo Credit: Luvvie Ajayi

Her wakeup call came when bigger brands started knocking at her door and notable outlets began recognizing her as one of the best voices in the blogosphere. Even The Academy Awards couldn't turn a blind eye to Luvvie's influence, and in 2012 invited her, along with blogging peer Afrobella, to be the first brown bloggers to do red-carpet coverage for the Oscars. More recently, she sat down to do an interview with Oprah, describing the experience in a recent blog post as “living in the realm of my dreams."

“If it's your purpose, sometimes doors will open for you that you might not have realized were there. And that's the best thing when finally your gift is being affirmed. For me, when I finally committed to doing this as my purpose, really good things started happening."

Photo Credit: Luvvie Ajayi

Being the voice of the people also means keeping it real, even when it's uncomfortable. Last year, she chastised bloggers for not using their influence and their platforms to address racial injustices occurring in the black community in fear of losing out on ad dollars. It's also something she weighs in on in her upcoming release, I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual—a handbook of sorts on how to “act right" in the digital age.

Besides giving back through books and through her HIV/AIDS awareness non-profit, The Red Pump Project, Luvvie also shares advice to wannabe bloggers: “Don't let self-doubt cripple you and render you unable to do work", and stay true to who you are—always.

“If it's your purpose sometimes doors will open for you that you might not have realized were there."

“There's always going to be two blogs that are very similar or writing about the same thing. But what makes people successful is their voice. People need to go back to what's authentic to them. It's really important for people to pay attention to themselves and speak like you speak, write like you write, and stop looking at the person next to you and seeing what they're doing because you're not running your own race because you're too distracted looking at somebody else's race and seeing just how you can be them. Just run yours. Run as fast as you can and the best way you can, as opposed to paying attention to the next person on the right."

And Luvvie is one who certainly puts her money where her mouth is.

Check out I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual here.

Images courtesy of Luvvie Ajayi

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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