Sept. 9, 2011: "As Seen on The Today Show"

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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.

The Root: Janay Rice & Mama Candy Are Living In Denial

The Today Show's Matt Lauer interviews Janay Rice and her mother, Candy Palmer.


On the heels of a tell-all interview with ESPN published Friday, in which Janay Rice spoke for the first time about the night her then-fiance, Ray Rice, knocked her unconscious in an elevator, Janay and her mother, Candy Palmer, sat for a two-part interview with the Today show’s Matt Lauer yesterday morning and today. (Ray Rice put in an appearance toward the end.)

The interviews are an attempt to redeem Ray Rice, especially now that he is eligible to play in the NFL again. There’s never been a question about his talent, but in the court of public opinion, he’s persona non grata, a public relations nightmare.

The Rices and Mama Candy are doing their best to revive Ray’s dream. There’s a part of me that appreciates the all-hands-on-deck effort here: the wife pleading for her husband’s redemption, the stern and protective mother-in-law vouching for her daughter’s version of events, and Ray’s near-begging humility. These are people who really care about one another. But they are also people who are in deep denial, and it would take a willful suspension of common sense to buy into their revisionist version of events.

I’ll skip what Janay told Lauer, since most of it was covered in the ESPN interview, and get right to Mama Candy. I get why Mom has been trotted out for the national stage. Mothers get the benefit of the doubt for being sensible and pulled together. And by showing her support for her daughter while in fired-up, protective mode, Mama Candy lets us know that someone seems to have Janay Rice’s back—so, you know, we can all stop being so concerned about Janay because Mom is there and holding things down.

Just as Janay did in her ESPN interview, Mama Candy reiterates that this punch was a one-and-done occurrence. “There is no next time,” she says adamantly. She adds that she didn’t raise “a young woman to be an abused woman.”

Um, OK.

The truth of the matter is, Mom knows only what her daughter tells her. Mom isn’t with the couple every day. So her denial about her daughter having been hit more than once, and her assurance that it won’t happen again, is unreliable. No matter how much Mom and Janay may deny it, I’m unconvinced that the very first time Ray Rice hit Janay just so happened to be a knockout blow caught on camera. You’re trying to tell me that there was no slapping, no spitting, in the seven years they were together before this, but this one time on Valentine’s Day weekend, it just happened, with no buildup whatsoever?

And while Mama Candy gets assertive with Lauer about what type of daughter she raised, I just want to tap her on the shoulder and ask, “But ma’am, did you see the tape?” I’ll never blame the mother’s parenting for what happened to Janay Rice. That responsibility rests solely on Ray, who, when he finally shows up in the interview, completely takes the blame. (“My wife is an angel,” he says. “She can do no wrong.”) But the woman Mama Candy raised is, in fact, an abused woman. There’s video footage of her being knocked out by her then-fiance.


Read more: here