Yesterday morning, FB shared with me one of those "4 years ago today" reminders. It was a video of the time I went on The Today Show to talk about my first book, A Belle in Brooklyn.
The interview had been delayed for months. It was supposed to happen in June when the book dropped, then it was pushed indefinitely, and finally happened, well, four years ago yesterday. I only got a couple days notice of the new date.
I didn't (and don't) have a hair stylist, so it was up to me to get my hair right for my big appearance. I washed my hair the night before, against better judgment. My hair had to be dirty to stand up in its swirl, but it was too dirty to look fresh on TV. So my hair was clean and shiny, but wilted on my big day. No amount of hairspray would make it stand up properly.
I was freaking out about that the morning of, but then the car the show sent went to the wrong address. And then after the car came, we got stuck in traffic. And the driver was trying to whip through traffic and I felt car sick. And I got to the studio late, trying to keep from barfing. I forgot about my hair.
My MUA was supposed to do my face at the studios, and she was late, a first. She beat my face in 15 minutes, then we were hustled up to the wings of the studio set to wait.
I was so nervous. They don't give you the questions in advance, so you just have to plan what you want to say and weave it into the responses of whatever question is asked. My PR, Michelle Huff, had sent over talking points prior, but she was in my ear right up until I walked out with reminders: mention the blog, say the book name, don't be nervous, don't fidget, mention the blog, smile, mention the blog, sit up. MENTION THE BLOG.
The graphics in the studio changed to the name of my book in a cursive font similar to that on my book cover. I was called to set. Hoda told me I was adorable. Then we were live.
I didn't remember what I said, exactly. I mentioned being assaulted which wasn't the plan, but a question came up and I gave an honest answer. Hoda fawned over the book. My PR and MUA and my publishing PR said I did great.
After the show, I changed into my flip flops and walked a couple blocks to my job in my cocktail dress to get to work. I sat at my desk in my cube. I'd told everyone at my job that I would be on The Today Show, but I don't think they believed me. No one watched. No one said congrats when I got back. I went in the bathroom and changed into work clothes and put the whole experience aside. *
Later that day, a VERY popular Black author lamented on Twitter that she had sold millions of books, but had never been on The Today Show (or GMA). That same afternoon, I was watching a live stream of a conference I wanted to attend, but couldn't because of work. There was a guy talking about how he had a day job and he created this side business. It was successful enough to land him on The Today Show. He said, "everyone doesn't get to the Today Show. It's a huge opportunity and you have about six weeks to capitalize on it. I couldn't capitalize on it the way I need to because of my job. I was busy building someone else's dream, and didn't have time for my own. The Today Show was was I realized I wasn't dreaming anymore. My dream was my reality. I had to make the most of it, so I quit my job."
I agonized over quitting. I REALLY loved my job. But I had speaking offers for a LOT of money, to me anyway, and no vacation days left. I'd used them all going on a 5 city book tour.. And my new boss had said "no" to taking more time off.
I asked my mentor who worked at my job what to do. She told me to quit. She was in her late 60s and had once quit her job as the EIC of a magazine when she was about my age at the time. Of all questions, I asked her what I was supposed to write on the declaration form (I'd already decided I was going to travel if I quit) when it asked what my job was. It really bothered me that I wouldn't have some corporate affiliation.
She told me, "you write 'A Belle in Brooklyn. It's a brand, as seen on The Today Show."
Less than a month after my Today Show appearance, I quit my job. I've been living my dream ever since.**
*In fairness, most of my co-workers had been on the show to talk about The Magazine, so it may not have been considered a big deal. Also, the website for my then-job did run an article on my appearance.
** "Living the dream" does not mean everyday is glorious. It means I work everyday on building something I own.