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This Publicist Quit Her Job And Turned Her Former Employer Into A Client

BOSS UP

Just over a year ago, Chardae Jenkins decided that it was time for a change.

She had a job that she enjoyed as a junior publicist for Allied Moxy, the African-American marketing arm of Allied Integrated Marketing. She worked with a team that she loved—a small group of go-getters committed to bringing entertainment marketing campaigns to life for films such as Straight Outta Compton and Barbershop 3: The Next Cut. Not to mention that the pay wasn't too shabby either, enough for Chardae to stack almost eight grand in her two-and-a-half years at the company.


But as enviable as her job sounds, Chardae knew that she had more to offer than what the position allowed, so she cleaned off her desk and packed away her self-doubts and made the leap into entrepreneurship as the CEO of her own PR and digital marketing company, The Transparency Agency.

“All of our clients at Moxy were film," says Chardae. “I think film is great but it's not the only stuff I'm interested in, so to me it was like now that I get film, let me like try something else. Let me see if I can do music or brands or personalities because if there aren't any films booming, then what am I supposed to do?"

Chardae is just one of many millenials who've said goodbye to the traditional job and jumped head first into the role of b-o-s-s. But unlike those who take the leap because of poor paychecks, bad bosses, and unfulfilling positions, the California State University grad departed due to her discomfort with stagnancy and desire to go to the next level in her career.

Leaving a steady paycheck wasn't easy, though. In fact, it go to a point to where Chardae literally couldn't stomach the thought of making such a huge leap with no safety net to catch her. “I felt sick and I felt like something wasn't right with my spirit. I couldn't sleep. I would be up all night just thinking," she says.

She shared her concerns with a close friend who encouraged her to try out a beach meditation in hopes of coming to a place of clarity. “That was like a push forward because it was a very emotional meditation for me. I was thinking about my family, where I came from and not wanting to disappoint [them], and I had gotten a wave of reassurance like don't worry about it, you're going to be good. Walk by faith and not by sight, and just do it."

"Walk by faith and not by sight, and just do it."

On October 2, Chardae quieted her qualms and with little prior planning or preparation left her job with nothing more than potential leads, a working knowledge of running digital marketing and influencer campaigns, and a few thousand dollars in her bank account to keep her afloat in the costly city of Los Angeles. “I was determined that even if I get down to my last six dollars, I'm not going to quit. I don't have kids. I'm not married. I don't have any commitments and I'm young, so if I want to try something it might not work out, this is probably the time to do it."

It was risky, but rewarding. Thanks to her admirable performance while working with her former employer, deep knowledge of their processes and systems, and strong relationships with the company's clients, the same job that she submitted her two-weeks notice to reached out to become one of her first clients. “A lot of people that work places and leave, their boss is like okay have fun. I didn't leave on bad terms; they were like you know what, Chardae understands how we work."

It's a testament to the power of relationships and speaks to the importance of why it's better to close a door than to burn a bridge. For Chardae, it gave her an opportunity to not only work on her own terms, but to work with a client that she already knew and trusted. “I have love for Moxy because they gave me my first start, so when they came to me I was more appreciative than anything because they didn't have to come to me. And I knew that I was still going to produce the same work, if not better, even though I wasn't there."

Chardae with Clients

In just a few short months the 25-year-old has signed on clients ranging from film partners to radio personalities and lifestyle brands, and thanks to lucrative social influencer budgets, admits that she's far from struggling and was profitable enough this year to hire a digital coordinator. One thing that she wishes she would've don't differently, though, is taken out a business loan as opposed to tapping into her savings. “I think I could've educated myself more on applying for business loans. I could've done more due diligence on that instead of being like I got the money, I just want to do this now. Not that bootstrapping is a bad thing, but if you can use somebody else's money it's like why not?"

Lesson learned. Thankfully pinching her own pennies didn't stop her from pursuing her dream. Chardae credits her father, who suffered from a massive brains stroke that left him paralyzed when Chardae was just 12-years-old, for being the quiet motivation that she needed to keep going even in the moments of uncertainty. “Everyday for the last 13 years that he's been paralyzed my dad has not quit on trying to learn how to walk, talk, or trying to figure out how to learn how to eat. So when I was looking at my dad and the situation that I was going through, I didn't have an excuse. I would go home and tell my dad about stuff and he would just tell me to go get that money. So I'm like alright dad, if you're not going to quit on what you're doing, I definitely can't quit. If something doesn't workout then it doesn't work out, and I'm just going to keep on going and figure it out."

If you had asked Chardae a couple of years ago where she saw herself in her career, she would've proudly shared her goal of climbing the corporate ladder and becoming the Vice President of a company. Now that she touts the title of CEO, she's glad that she can create a life where she can go to the gym or get a massage in the middle of the day if she chooses. “Things change and life changes. You form into a different person, and I think that's kind of the beauty of everything, the growth to say that, you know what, this was cool when I was thinking about it two years ago, but I was a different person and this isn't fitting for the person that I am now. And that's not in a negative way, it's just a development of your experience as a person and as a woman."

For the San Diego native, making her own rules and fearlessly pressing reset has allowed her to define happiness on her own terms, and that's the most priceless reward.

Originally published August 30, 2017

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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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