Let’s set the scene: a father reminds his daughter and only child about the complications of racial bias as she navigates through life as a successful woman in politics and business, and the President’s secret girlfriend. “Did I not raise you better?” Papa Pope asks his pride and joy and only child, Olivia Pope. “How many times have I told you, you have to be what? You have to be what?” “Twice as good,” she responds meekly. She knows this off by heart. Shondaland TV show fans will know this is one of the most pivotal moments in Scandal history. The self-assured Washington elite, Olivia Pope, is conflicted; she knows her worth in both her professional and personal life, but demanding others acknowledge it too is a different story.
I met someone earlier this week that told me black women frequently burn out by going overboard to prove themselves in the workplace. I didn’t think of myself as one of these women until only a day or two later. Suddenly, floods of memories of me working all hours of the day (largely overworked and underpaid) came rushing back to me, along with the lack of credit and recognition. Is there any relevance in contemplating one’s worth when the compensation is not at the standard due?
When I think of athlete and wonder-woman, Serena Williams, I don’t think of her posing for a Sports Illustrated magazine cover, beating her so-called competitor, Maria Sharapova, over and over again or even her pre-game ritual of getting in the zone clad in P. Diddy White Party gear and Beats headphones. It’s the toothy grin of an 11-year-old at tennis camp, in 1992, responding to a question about which tennis player she wants to be like when she’s older by saying, “me.” She knew who she was, what she wanted to strive for, and what she would not settle for.
This year I was lucky enough to be mentored by Nikesh Shukla and Vanessa Bellaar Spruijt at online youth platform, Rife magazine. Every single day I was told that my voice is valuable, my time is valuable – I am valuable. I quite like to think of it as a training ground in understanding my own importance. After learning about quality content creation and how to juggle different projects alongside world domination, I have just started a new position elsewhere with a significant wage increase * thanks guys *.
I am not reminded of how fabulous I am by looking in the mirror every morning but, whenever I feel low, I remember how my friends and family are in awe of my work ethic. I remember how I took matters in to my own hands at 16 and created a fashion label with nine other teenagers, which culminated in debuting our collection to hundreds of people at London Fashion Week. So, whenever I tune in to a Shondaland production, I’ll raise my cuppa to all of the Olivia Pope’s out there.