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Megan Thomas Went From Working For Free To Reppin' For Women At All Def Digital

How Megan Thomas' spirit of yes led her to the opportunity of her dreams.

BOSS UP

If I were to poll a group of women, I'm sure many of us would agree that we live and work in a male-dominated society. At times, it can be challenging to make our voices heard, but for Megan Thomas - on-air host and producer at All Def, and podcast creator - she's found a way to successfully push through the "no's", pursue her dreams, and represent for the ladies.

For those who may not be familiar, All Def is a black-owned, multi-platform media company that gained its strength and popularity through the cultural power of hip-hop, comedy, and social justice. Since its inception, they have amassed millions of followers as well as partnerships with brands like HBO, MTV, and Spotify. While it's common to hear about some of their other great comedic talent like KevOnStage or Patrick Cloud, Megan has definitely represented for the ladies even when there were no other female hosts on the All Def platform. With shows like The Drop, Great Taste, and Squadd Cast, she continues to hold it down as one of the primary female voices and producers.

We recently had the opportunity to talk with Megan about what it takes to be successful in the industry, as well as what self-care looks like for her as a professional working mom.

xoNecole: Megan, tell me how you first got involved with All Def? 

Megan Thomas: I auditioned for a sports show back in 2015 for KevOnStage. They asked me, "Who are your top linebackers?" And I said, "I don't know." Needless to say, they never moved forward with the sports show. Then, around the end of 2015 they held auditions for the daily show, and instantly, in my heart I was like, "I got this." So, I auditioned again, and a week later they asked me to be the female host. So, I started hosting The Drop around early 2016, and after a month, they were like, "Hey, can you also produce The Drop?" I have a background in radio and producing, so I was like, "Yeah, of course." From there, I started appearing in and producing other types of content as well.

xoNecole: They went from asking you to host and then produce. What helped push you to say "yes" to these new roles and opportunities? 

Megan: I said "yes" because of "the spirit of yes" I have inside of me. Since I was a kid, I've always had it because I didn't want to be bored. I felt like if I had more stuff to do, then I would feel important. Plus, I believe everything you do in your life builds upon the next thing. If I hadn't been a producer in radio or produced all of this free stuff for years that I never got paid [for] while living in LA, I wouldn't have been prepared. Saying "yes", however, can cause issues because I will say "yes" to stuff even when I don't have the time. Now, I'm practicing how to say "no".

Photo courtesy of Megan Thomas

"I believe everything you do in your life builds upon the next thing. If I hadn't been a producer in radio or produced all of this free stuff for years that I never got paid [for] while living in LA, I wouldn't have been prepared."

xoNecole: Many of us as women, regardless of the industry or profession, can relate to being the only or one of few women of color in a male-dominated environment and how challenging it can be. How do you hold it down being one of few, and in some instances the only female, in your field? 

Megan: It's tough, because by nature, men don't always listen to women. So, you have to demand respect as a woman and do everything in your power to make sure they respect you. I know the guys that I work with are really good-natured men. They love women and they're kind to women, but there are times when they talk over me. I'll even say a joke and no one will hear it, but someone else will say the same exact joke and get all the laughs in the room and I'll be like, "Yo, I said the same exact joke verbatim."

They're my brothers for sure, but as a woman it can feel isolating because there are times when I want to talk about certain stuff and they're like, "No, only guy stuff." On the flip side, I bring a perspective that they don't have insight into because none of them are women. They may have daughters, girlfriends, and wives, but they've never been a woman so their perspective may be one-sided.

That's why I'm working on doing something that's more geared to women on the channel. I'm not sure what that looks like just yet, but I know women love funny stuff too. We like shows like Roast Me, and there are good female roasters out there. Our demographic is mainly black, urban males, but a lot of women watch the channel as well.

xoNecole: What’s the most enjoyable thing about working with a team comprised of mostly men? 

Megan: The laughter and the jokes. I've had corporate jobs and there's code-switching you have to do, but not with this group. They're just funny, and I can be myself. I'm so blessed that I get paid to work with people who are funny, and we get to make other people laugh.

xoNecole: I know the ADD followers love a good roast. Has anyone ever said anything that really cut deep, or is it pretty much no holds barred?   

Megan: You have to have tough skin. There have been times when things hit deep, but I also understand that I'm in the public. Growing up as a chubby kid, I had to be smarter, have [a] quicker wit…I just had to be better. So, that helps with rolling stuff off my back.

xoNecole: Besides helping a group of funny, talented men stay on-task, how’s it going with managing life as a mom as well? 

Megan: Honestly, I'm learning as I go through this process. Communication is key – it's absolutely necessary to communicate things especially when it comes to scheduling. Preparation is also very important. If I know I'm going to be out of town, I'm a stickler about what my son eats. I take responsibility for preparing everything so that his dad [Megan's fiancé] knows what to do while I'm gone. If God blesses us with another one, I'm sure I'll be more relaxed about that.

xoNecole: What does self-care look like for you as a working mom? 

Megan: Mommy time – sometimes, it's a playdate and other times it's my fiancé staying at home with our son so that I can have some alone time. As moms, we just need to get away sometimes. I have to have time to just be me.

Asking for help – whether that's from my village, professionals, etc. For instance, I know I had postpartum [depression] the first year after giving birth. I would read the symptoms and knew that I had it, but I didn't seek help because I thought asking for help meant failure. When the truth was, had I asked for the help, a lot of the burdens would've been alleviated.

Grace – I have to give myself grace, and remind myself that everything isn't going to get done. I used to beat myself up if I didn't finish everything on my task list. I used to carry that burden, but Jesus said, "His burden is light." So, I give it to Him. All of it helps with self-care because it helps me be kinder to myself.

Photo courtesy of Megan Thomas

"I have to give myself grace, and remind myself that everything isn't going to get done. I used to beat myself up if I didn't finish everything on my task list. I used to carry that burden, but Jesus said, 'His burden is light.' So, I give it to Him. All of it helps with self-care because it helps me be kinder to myself."

xoNecole: I know you have your podcast, “Mommy Needs A Break”, which I’m sure so many women can relate to. Is that part of your self-care routine as well?

Megan: Yes, I knew the day after my son was born that I needed something. I remember looking at him in awe and praying that he made it to tomorrow…every single day. I immediately gravitated to the idea that I needed an outlet because being a mom consumed my mind, my life, and everything beyond the norm. For example, my baby would be sleeping, but I would be on the internet researching all kinds of stuff. Needless to say, that can drive you crazy. So, I told myself, "I need a break from this." I knew my co-host, Marisa Johnson, was going through the same thing. So, we started the "Mommy Needs a Break" podcast for mommies who just need a break.

xoNecole: I love hearing about your successes as a producer, host, and mom, but tell us about a time when you had to navigate through a season of “no’s.”  

Megan: I've had years and years and years of no's. Only recently did I start to have some yes's. There are a lot more no's than yes's. I've been in this industry since 2006, so it's been 14 years, and just within the last four years I've been able to get a gig to support myself.

Even during all those years of no's, one thing I used to tell myself after all those auditions was: "Megan, you are enough! God gave you what He gave you. Nobody else can be you and you can't be anybody else, so just do what you do and do what you do best." I've learned that when it's your time, it will be your time, and nobody will be able to take that away from you.

xoNecole: What advice would you share with ladies who, like you, are pursuing their goals and dreams, or who aspire to get into the media/entertainment industry? 

Megan: Do it your way. You don't have to wait for somebody to give you the green light. You have a phone with a camera and YouTube. There's no reason why you can't do this within your own capacity.

Be authentic. I am Black and Korean, and when you grow up Black, what you do affects other people. So, I do this for my people. I'm glad that things are changing in this industry, but you have to be yourself. It should be OK to see me on camera with my big, curly hair. That's why I'm OK with not working in old Hollywood if that means I have to look a certain way, because being authentic is important.

Be ready and willing, and let God guide the path. I feel like God gives us nuggets and glimpses. That's why we have certain passions and things in our heart that we feel like we're drawn to. It's God's way of showing you the path that you're going to be on. I didn't necessarily put in my heart that I wanted to be in comedy (even though I saw the vision for it). That was God-given, but I still had to be open and ready for when it happened.

Do it consistently. Set a schedule for yourself. Whatever that schedule is, keep to it and eventually people will notice what you do.

You are enough. While you can admire other people and observe the things they've done as research or inspiration, don't think that it's going to be your story or your journey. God has something specifically for you. You are unique and special, and your story will look different. So, embrace that. Otherwise, you will succumb to the feeling of not being enough.

The road is long, but success is at the end of it. I worked in LA for four years before I could finally afford to support myself with one paying job. I had three jobs at any given moment and worked tirelessly for free just because I wanted to break into this industry. There were a lot of times when I wanted to give up. I was tired and worn out, but I wish someone had told me to keep going and that there is success at the end of it. You can't give up, because tomorrow might be the day that you hit your goals.

For more of Megan, follow her on Instagram.

Featured image courtesy of Megan Thomas

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
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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