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Style Blogger Mattie 'Mattieologie' James On Going From $49K To Over $150K In 9 Months

BOSS UP

The day started out a little more hectic than usual.


A 19-month-old alarm clock sounded off at four in the morning, just an hour earlier than predicted. Hair had to be done, webinars recorded, and social media posts strategically released to the 25,000 followers anxiously waiting word from their favorite Liberian girl promising them a new lesson on digital domination. But no worries. Mattie James, entrepreneur and founder of the fashion and branding blog Mattieologie.com, is used to wearing a lot of hats. Super mom and influencer are just a couple of head adornments that she wears effortlessly.

“With the baby waking up super early and having to do the webinar, it kind of got just a little bit more hectic than I anticipated," she shares with me from her Atlanta-based home. “You just pull it off and put out fires as you need to."

Photo Credit: Mattieologie.com

James is a part of what could be considered the new class of digital entrepreneurs. Today's movers and shakes aren't just creators, they're their own celebrity. Complete with a strong following, endorsement deals, and six-figure income streams that make you question why you dared to limit your dreams to the traditional nine-to-five job. But James is no overnight success; it took years before she could cash in the coins provided by brands and creative concepts for monetizing her blog.

Back in 2009 when Mattieologie was birthed, blogging was still just a hobby to James. The year prior she was working in retail management, but before she could reach the quarter-life she had a crisis—one that had her questioning whether following in her mother's footsteps (her mom worked in the cosmetic industry since before James was born) was aligned with her own purpose. So a month after her then fiancé got down on bended knee, she put in her two weeks notice. “I was like I don't want to start my life as a wife and as a woman of the house doing retail management. It was something that I settled for just for the sake of money, and now that I was getting into the swing of adulthood, I was just like I don't want to do that," says James.

With a passion for sports and journalism, James went back to square one and started as a promotions intern at a sports radio station. Three month in she was offered a position as the street team manager, but despite being in a male-dominated industry, James still had a love for pretty things, including fashion and beauty. “I learned about everything from Fendi to Ferragamo from my mom. By default since I always had access to beauty and fashion things, I think naturally my likeness towards them was always there."

Photo Credit: Mattieologie.com

That same year she won the Miss Liberia USA pageant. With all eyes on her, she saw it as the perfect opportunity to take Mattieologie to the next level. She bought the domain for her budding style blog, but with little knowledge about branding or how to turn her hobby into a profitable business, she found herself doing what many entrepreneurs do—just figuring it out along the way. “I literally did not know what I was doing," she confesses. “I knew that I wanted to blog and I just made that decision. And the thing about decisions is that they're non-negotiable, so even if you don't know what you're doing, once you've decided to do it you're moving forward.

It took six years of trial and error before James figured out the formula for financial success. Hint: it doesn't include using Google Adsense. “I've been a blogger for six years but I've been an influencer—where people actually listen to me and I listen to them and really started producing content that my audience wanted—since 2013."

What her audience wanted was the real Mattie James. Not the cookie-cutter version that she initially portrayed on Instagram, but the one who occasionally goes bare-faced and sometimes struggles with balancing marriage and mommyhood.

“So many of us are trying to look like the perfect version of ourselves, and that's not what people want."

“In the beginning it takes you so long because you have to come to terms that you have to share your story," she says. “So many of us are trying to look like the perfect version of ourselves, and that's not what people want. People want to know that you went to the Walgreens and spent $30 because you're still trying to find the perfect red lipstick as a brown girl. People don't want to know that you just look perfect on Instagram."

Photo Credit: Mattieologie

It's something that brands have yet to master—creating an authentic connection with consumers. They turn to influencers like James to reach an audience that would normally shoot them the side eye when promoting products, and bloggers are getting up on game as to how deep the corporate pockets go. In a recent blog post James shared that since quitting her full-time job last June where she was making $49,000 a year, she's pulled in over $150,000. Over half of that was thanks to the bread and butter of her balance sheet—her online courses ranging from $97 to $997 teaching fans and followers how they, too, can get paid to be themselves.

“What you have to pay attention to is what the top influencers are doing and the capacity that they're working with brands," she advises. “I think that people are familiar with blogging enough to know that, okay, there's sponsored posts. But when you look at so many different things like what [DJ] Khaled has done for Snapchat, who would think that you could actually monetize and fully influence from Snapchat?"

Arguably, it's her transparency that keeps her fans hanging on to her every word. Not just about how to make passive income, but her personal struggles as well. In one webinar she shared that she wasn't able to post content consistently for the month because she had a miscarriage due to uterine fibroids. In an age where mystery is an anomaly, it begs the question, at what point do you stop fans at the door of your persona life?

“I wanted to share because somebody might have gone through something similar and think that they should just give up, and I don't want her to feel like that," James says. “I'm transparent because it's more important to me for my audience to be helped and fully served than for me to look cool and perceived as perfect. I don't want people to worship me, but my job is to serve you, and if my transparency does that then that's what I'm going to do."

“I had a miscarriage before I had Babyology and one after, and I'm still here, and I'm still going to try to have a second baby," she continues. “I just want whoever is reading this or watching a video of mine to know that life goes and you can push through and that there is life after a tragedy like that."

Photo Credit: Mattieologie.com

There are things that she does keep close to her heart, like her daughter Maizah (whom she's deemed as “Babyology") and her relationship with her husband, Chris, who has been her biggest supporter since before James was raking in the dollars. “He's just such a servant, and he's so willing to serve as my husband or serve my daughter as a father. And he's so consistent at that and he's willing to do that whether it's on a weekend or after a really long day at his 9 to 5. That's really important to me."

While you'll catch flashes of them on her timeline, her family secrets are one thing that aren't for sell.

Though James hopes to inspire others to get paid for their passion, she's also come to terms with the fact that life in the limelight isn't for everyone. It takes a lot to shed insecurities and hit the record button for thousands of followers to have access to your every day life. It's equally as tough to stay committed to the process required to hit the six-figure mark. In one webinar, she bluntly tells her viewers that only two percent are really going to take her lessons and apply them in their own businesses. It's the fear of responsibility, she says, that keeps them from achieving their desired level of success.

“A lot of people do not follow through because of the responsibility of having to do it again. Winning is not accidental. It takes a commitment, and people don't want to be held responsible. The more you succeed, the more responsibility. It's funny because we're so worried about not being perfect that we think that being powerful and being who we always wanted to be is associated with being perfect, and so we're afraid. We underestimate our worth, and overestimate what people think about us."

For James, though, being in the spotlight as a blogger and influencer is a modified version of the dream that she had as a teen leaving her Alabama home and moving to New York as a classically trained dancer in hopes of being a pop star. “No matter what I did in my life I knew I wanted to be a rock star at it, and when I was a teenager, blogging didn't exist. Now I realize with Mattieologie, I can be a rock star. I don't have to sing, social media is a stage. Blogging is a stage. So I kind of let that go and realized that I can be a star in my own right because of content."

Photo Credit: Mattieologie.com

“The next Oprah and the next Beyoncé are not going to be from a traditional music industry process or even television. They're going to be made on the Internet."

James believes that the new generation of celebrities won't be made in studios or even on traditional stages. “The next Oprah and the next Beyoncé are not going to be from a traditional music industry process or even television, they're going to be made on the Internet," she predicts. “That person can be me. I'm not afraid of that possibility and I don't even think saying it out loud is an ego, it's just that I'm willing to put in that work to be that possibility."

Slay on.

Originally published October 17, 2016

Featured image by Mattie James/Instagram

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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