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6 Mogul Mavens Give Us The Secret To Overcoming Struggles & Securing A Check

When Black women link, issa celebration, and Renae's latest project, She Did That. gets the party started in the best way.

Workin' Girl

While you're out here laying your edges, securing a bag, and becoming the woman of your dreams, it's easy to feel overworked and undervalued. On your quest to realizing your God-given vision, there will be times where you feel invisible, but digital content creator, PR Vet, and filmmaker Renae Bluitt wants you to know that she sees you, sis; so much so, that she created a whole documentary to put us on display for the world to see.

When Black women link, issa celebration, and Renae's latest project, She Did That., (now available on iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Comcast, Spectrum, and more) gets the party started in the best way. Featuring mogul mavens like bestselling author Luvvie Ajayi, Melissa Butler, creator of The Lip Bar, and founder of Carol's Daughter, Lisa Price, the documentary is the first of its kind and chronicles the struggles, sacrifices, and strength that it took for these women to manifest their best lives and become major breadwinners in their respective industries.

We sat down with some of the women from the film, who gave us the blueprint on how they evolved their business from a startup into a whirlwind success. Here's what they had to say:

Renae Bluitt

Creator & Executive Producer, She Did That.

Can you give us a little bit of background on your career journey and the pathway that led you along the one you are currently on? 

I've always been a storyteller. My career as a PR strategist allows me to tell my client's stories. In 2009, I launched my blog, In Her Shoes, which is where I share the stories of Black women entrepreneurs. Now, as a new filmmaker, I'm diving deeper into the Black woman entrepreneur's story with my first documentary.

If you encountered struggles and uncertainty along that journey, what was the moment where you felt like, 'She Did That.' on your entrepreneurial journey? 

I'm in it right now with the production of She Did That. When I came up with the idea, I never imagined the doors that God would open for this project. For a first time filmmaker, this is a huge feat and I will never take this blessing lightly.

Struggles and uncertainties are part of life's experiences. There's really no way around it. How you respond to those challenging times is what determines your success. It's only natural to let our feelings slow things down a bit when the road gets rocky. I allow myself time to react but then I remind myself that I've been here before and things always work out the way they are supposed to. Even if the outcome isn't what I hoped for, it's always for the best.

"Struggles and uncertainties are part of life's experiences. There's really no way around it. How you respond to those challenging times is what determines your success. It's only natural to let our feelings slow things down a bit when the road gets rocky. I allow myself time to react but then I remind myself that I've been here before and things always work out the way they are supposed to."

How did that moment define how you feel about your purpose and your path as a whole? Did it change your trajectory? 

Seeing how women and girls of all ages are impacted by this film lets me know no matter how challenging it gets, I'm on the right path. When I really look at what I've been able to accomplish so far with She Did That., I am reminded of God's favor and grace.

What would you tell budding entrepreneurs who might be waiting for their 'She Did That.' moment(s) to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel?

I would say stop waiting for your moment. It will come to you when the time is right. Instead of waiting for this magical moment to happen, just do the work. And when the work becomes exhausting and you feel like you're losing fuel, don't be afraid to stop and recharge. We aren't machines, our minds and our bodies need rest. Once you've rested, get back in the game and keep going. Your She Did That. moment is closer than you think.

Courtesy of Yaz Quiles

Can you give us a little bit of background on your career journey and the pathway that led you along the one you are currently on?

I graduated college with a Bachelor's in mass communications. The idea then was to work in television or entertainment. Now, I can proudly say I have 20+ years of experience in event marketing, design, and production. I am an award-winning and published experienced brand and event marketer, who has developed and executed industry-leading integrated events for small- and large-scale brands on both agency and client sides. I have consistently delivered strong results for leading Fortune 500 Brands including Dropbox, Verizon, HBO, Instagram, Pepsi, MillerCoors, Moët Hennessy, and Barnes & Noble.

If you encountered struggles and uncertainty along that journey, what was the moment where you felt like, 'She Did That.' on your entrepreneurial journey?

Oftentimes, it felt as if I were running in quicksand. Exerting an exponential amount of energy, but not feeling like I was yielding a great return. That return was not only financial, but emotional. Finally, after a couple of years, I had clients on my roster who I worked just as hard for, if not more, but the efforts made me feel challenged to be better, more innovative and alive! My clients made me feel appreciated, which boosted my spirit and ultimately made me feel fulfilled.

How did that moment define how you feel about your purpose and your path as a whole? Did it change your trajectory?

It changed my trajectory as I started to focus on projects, which were aligned with who I am, who I wanted to be and made me happy. With each project I sign up for, I always ask, "Am I excited about this opportunity? Will I wake up with excitement to work this client? How will this project help me reach my overall goals?"

What would you tell budding entrepreneurs who might be waiting for their 'She Did That.' moment(s) to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel?

Every step you take, even when it doesn't feel right, is part of the journey. Those moments help you tweak the plan. Knowing what you don't like or want to do is just as important as what you like to do. Take stock of these moments and commit to getting to the other side. It's not easy, but it's definitely worth it.

Anika Jackson

Co-Founder, The TEN Nail Bar

Courtesy of Anika Jackson

Can you give us a little bit of background on your career journey and the pathway that led you along the one you are currently on?

I'm a native Detroiter born into an entrepreneurial family. I first assumed my role at Jackson Asset Management where I am responsible for managing over 500K sq feet of commercial and residential real estate and overseeing the operations of the portfolio of companies including dealerships, golf courses and apartments.

Additionally, I have a passion to create businesses that should exist but did not, namely personal services. I partnered with my long-time friend and savvy businesswoman Kelli Coleman and, in 2016, we opened The TEN Nail Bar. The TEN is a modern self-care destination.

If you encountered struggles and uncertainty along that journey, what was the moment where you felt like, 'She Did That.' on your entrepreneurial journey?

As an entrepreneur and someone who wants to live their purpose and positively impact the lives of those I employ as well as my family, there are tons of moments of uncertainty on this journey. I keep great counsel around me so that I can bounce ideas off those I trust. I also remind myself that pivoting is OK on the journey as long as it's purposeful.

How did that moment define how you feel about your purpose and your path as a whole? Did it change your trajectory?

These moments further confirmed my belief that this business was needed and desired by consumers. It provided validation that we were on the right path. Doubt creeps in regularly and when the universe provided that validation, it helped reaffirm that my idea was viable. These moments helped me know that if I have an idea and I am willing to put hard work behind it, then I can produce a real-life manifestation of that idea. I felt like I was really living in my purpose.

"Doubt creeps in regularly and when the universe provided that validation, it helped reaffirm that my idea was viable. These moments helped me know that if I have an idea and I am willing to put hard work behind it, then I can produce a real-life manifestation of that idea."

There were times where I would share the idea and was met with skepticism or confusion on why I was seeking to open a beauty business when I had an MBA, but I knew this was a good idea and that it could be successful. Regardless of how it might appear to those who felt I should be pursuing other opportunities, it was something I was passionate about.

What would you tell budding entrepreneurs who might be waiting for their 'She Did That.' moment(s) to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel?

I have three things I want to share with budding entrepreneurs. I kind of feel like we are all budding in some way. Businesses evolve over time and while you may have been an expert or performing well one year, in an instant, market factors could shift and you could find yourself reinventing or pivoting. So, remember we are all on the path of continual improvement.

Be patient. While you can put your idea out and receive immediate feedback be patient and ensure you are working on your idea/business purposefully instead of with ego.

Do the real work. You can't fake the hard work of starting a business. You can't get the knowledge through osmosis, networking or asking everyone else their opinions or advice. Get started now!

You are enough! When doubt creeps in, just remember that this idea was planted in you and it's your responsibility to foster its growth.

Courtesy of Chioma Ngwudo

​Can you give us a little bit of background on your career journey and the pathway that led you along the one you are currently on?

My very first job was an internship in the Contracts Management Department of a finance firm; that job was just about as interesting as it sounds. I ended up founding Cee Cee's Closet NYC with my sister right around the time I started my first job as a side hustle. Soon enough, Cee Cee's Closet grew enough that I could leave my six-figure job and pursue my business full-time.

If you encountered struggles and uncertainty along that journey, what was the moment where you felt like, 'She Did That.' on your entrepreneurial journey?

One of the moments when I felt like "she did that!" was when we hired our first full-time employee in Nigeria. Not only were we able to get the help that we needed to continue to grow our business, but we were also able to give her a solid middle-class income. It's still one of my proudest moments.

How did that moment define how you feel about your purpose and your path as a whole? Did it change your trajectory?

That moment was incredibly affirming for me. My purpose has always been to have a positive impact on the lives of black women globally, whether it be through the diverse imagery we produce to represent our brand, the black women that we hire to work for us both on the continent and in the US, or the women who are inspired to chase their dreams when they read our story. As long as my work is improving the lives of black women around me, I know that I am on the right path.

What would you tell budding entrepreneurs who might be waiting for their 'She Did That.' moment(s) to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel?

I would tell them to continue to do the work and drive towards their purpose. Behind every "she did that!" moment is hours of work (not all of it enjoyable) but all of it worthwhile for the lessons you learn, the people you meet, and the lives you impact along the way.

Courtesy of Denequa Williams Clarke

Can you give us a little bit of background on your career journey and the pathway that led you along the one you are currently on?

I've always been an entrepreneur at heart. I just never knew I would become a chandler. When I think about it, I've always loved candles and making people feel good, so I lucked up in choosing a path that merged the two.

If you encountered struggles and uncertainty along that journey, what was the moment where you felt like, 'She Did That.' on your entrepreneurial journey?

Struggles and uncertainty are inevitable in this thing called life. They are important for growth and development and they help to mold and define you. The moment where I felt like "she did that!" was when I was I was featured in a magazine that my mom had been subscribed to for years, ESSENCE. Another "she did that!" moment was being invited to the Roc Nation office by THE Lenny S. Everyone who knows me knows how obsessed I am with the ROC, so to be personally invited was dope.

How did that moment define how you feel about your purpose and your path as a whole? Did it change your trajectory?

Those moments solidified to me that I was on the correct path because I wasn't looking for them, nor was I seeking it. My head was down doing the work, putting in my 10,000 hours. I never started a business to become popular, I started it to fill a void. The void was providing people who look like me with an opportunity to afford luxury items. And in filling a void, I became noticed; the rest is history.

What would you tell budding entrepreneurs who might be waiting for their 'She Did That.' moment(s) to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel?

I'd tell budding entrepreneurs to unfollow everyone on social media and in life that is doing what they are aspiring to do. I say that because there will be moments in your journey where things won't go the way you'd like and you need to be OK with that. We all have seasons and I'm here to tell you, you are setting yourself up for disappointment because you are bound to continuously compare your path to theirs without seeing the behind the scenes, and that becomes very dangerous.

"I'd tell budding entrepreneurs to unfollow everyone on social media and in life that is doing what they are aspiring to do. I say that because there will be moments in your journey where things won't go the way you'd like and you need to be OK with that."

Courtesy of Tonya Rapley


Can you give us a little bit of background on your career journey and the pathway that led you along the one you are currently on?

I've been working in communities since I was in college, first through populations at risk of contracting HIV and then I moved into affordable housing and community planning. Because of my desire to be a catalyst for community change, I pursued and received a BA in Public Administration and an MA in Urban Policy and Affairs. The work in financial education came from my own need as well as seeing how financial insecurity contributed to a lot of the issues communities I was serving were dealing with.

If you encountered struggles and uncertainty along that journey, what was the moment where you felt like, 'She Did That.' on your entrepreneurial journey?

It's happened with each level of my progress and continues to happen. The first time is when someone said the content I created helped them. Then it was when I was on the cover of Black Enterprise. Then when I spoke about financial literacy to women in the Philippines and now on the eve of celebrating my 5th year of being self-employed and generating over half a million in revenue.

How did that moment define how you feel about your purpose and your path as a whole? Did it change your trajectory?

Each moment made me continue to pursue sustainability both as a business owner and change agent. I wouldn't say they changed my trajectory but they reinforced my confidence in myself as an entrepreneur.

What would you tell budding entrepreneurs who might be waiting for their 'She Did That.' moment(s) to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel?

Do the work. You can't get away from that. Eventually, you'll get to a point where you can work smart. A book that's been really helpful for me is The System is the Secret. Surround yourself with people who celebrate you yet encourage you to question what's next.

She Did That. is now available on iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Comcast, Spectrum, Cox, DIRECTV, and Xfinity. Learn more about the film on shedidthatfilm.com and join the movement on Instagram by following @shedidthatfilm!

Featured image courtesy of Renae Bluitt.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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