A little over a week ago, I had the opportunity to interview Jeezy before a show at Marquee in New York City. One quick glance at any social media outlet of mine will tell you how big a fan I am of the Snowman. And though he has a trilogy of albums intended to motivate the thugs, I have to confess I find my non-thuggish self motivated by his words, lyrical and otherwise, as well. And so, in the midst of talking to him about his next moves, Trump, and police brutality, I also had a somewhat personal question I wanted answered: How did a man with no experience or aspirations of being a rapper end up becoming a trap rap pioneer with the type of longevity most artists only dream of. He told me:
"I just always live by the motto I can do really anything I put my mind to. I was put in a situation where it was in was in my face; it was on the table at my desk, so it was, you know, are you gonna do it or are you gonna let it pass, and I'm just not the type of person that’s gonna let a good opportunity pass by. That don’t make sense, especially when all it takes is some hard work and some dedication. So when it presented itself I just went at it head on and didn’t look back and I never thought twice about it."
When I came off my interview high a day or two later, I thought about how I almost let the opportunity of becoming deputy editor of MadameNoire (MN) pass me by. When I joined the brand full time in June 2012, I'd been freelancing for the site for eight months after leaving a company where I'd been promoted to the position of Editor-in-Chief (EIC) in name and workload and demoted to intern in treatment. Being the news & operations editor for MN was my dream job at that time, not just because I was an official staffer and also writing about Black women like I'd always wanted, but because I was in a role where I didn't have to be in charge. After the way I was treated at my previous company, all I wanted to do was write, not answer to anyone at the top, and not have anyone answer to me.
And then, three months into my role, my boss announced she was switching departments and her spot was up for grabs. Going for the position didn't even cross my mind until a week or two later when my former boss questioned why no one had thrown their hat in the ring. I remember it was a Friday afternoon when she let us know the opportunity was still on the table and I spent all weekend agonizing over whether being deputy editor was something I was really ready for.
The woman I reported to in my editor-in-chief role prior to MN had pretty much destroyed any confidence I had in my ability to lead a publication. I was regularly berated and belittled by her, despite being the person who kept the monthly publication running when my former editor unexpectedly resigned. And her nitpicking and micromanaging left me feeling like I really wasn't ready to fill the shoes I'd previously stepped in --or any new ones. At the same time, I was the one who spent my entire Christmas vacation that year editing scientific manuscripts so we could go to the printer on time when the former editor-in-chief split. It was me who solicited new manuscripts from audiologists and hearing instrument specialists to keep the professional journal going for months, and who calmed Advisory Board Members' and advertisers' fears about the future of the publication, and learned the hearing industry in and out. I wrote editorials, reports, and news items; I chose artwork, and essentially kept the ship running on a disrespectful $45,000 salary -- half of what the former white male EIC was making just in case you need a reminder the wage gap is really real for Black women. So while I didn't want to get in over my head, mentally or professionally, I also knew I was capable of being a success as deputy editor if I was willing to put in the work.
So the following Monday, like my thug motivator, I went for the deputy editor position head on and didn't look back. Now I can't imagine my life if I hadn't; I still can't believe some of the things I get to experience because I did. And while it hasn't been an easy road by any means, when I think about MN becoming the top site for African Americans in 2015, I realize Jeezy was right: nothing about letting the opportunity to lead the site pass by would've made sense.