Expect the Unexpected, Respond, Heal and Act Accordingly

Gabé Ynes (Gigi) Grant, My Favorite Lady, Best Friend, Mother, Heart & Queen

Gabé Ynes (Gigi) Grant, My Favorite Lady, Best Friend, Mother, Heart & Queen

This month, I learned more than ever to be prepared. Prepare for the unexpected, the future, good and bad. I never thought that at the age of 30, I would lose a parent, in particular one who showed no signs of being ill.

I’ve experienced an abrupt stop to my norm, lost my best friend, my parent and daily sounding board. I must deliberately PUSH forward with intention, purpose and keep close to heart our daily epic conversations that would last for hours, random text messages laughing at the PuppyMonkeyBaby, and our fabulous routine discussions of of our favorite shows including Scandal, Power, reality TV and current events.

I lost my Godmother, Gabé Ynes (Gigi) Grant, unexpectedly due to a heart attack at the tender age of 55. I never would have imagined a day without her, at least no time soon. She was my ace, my heart, my everything. My Godmother raised me from the second I was born after she held me in her arms wearing pink Chuck Taylor tennis shoes (sneakers) at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on March 3, 1987, just 7 days before her 25th birthday.

I was not prepared for the news, to never speak to her again, hug or kiss her. However, what will forever live on is what she’s taught me, her intentional love, and lessons which I am happy to share with you.

Here’s lesson number one: Have Fun!

Have fun and then more fun & don’t let a great opportunity pass you by. Since I was a child, my Godmother would tell me to “go to the party,” “take risks and have fun doing it.” She was passionate about me enjoying life. And I look forward to doing that more in this new season.

Two: Remember, “You’re going places!”

It is truly a blessing knowing that there’s always someone who believes in you. There is power and strength in someone constantly reminding you of your greatness. Though I would get told off with love and affection in a nano second as parents do so well, and even with my flaws and areas of growth on display, my Godmommy always reminded me that I was great, and that no matter what, she knew I was going places and reminded me of that. I am going places! I victoriously claim that over my life.

Three: As you grow in wisdom, there’s no excuse to respond with “I don’t know!”

My Godmommy taught me that once you’re an adult, there’s no longer a justification to say, “I don’t know!” She never ever would accept that response from me regardless of the question. Her explanation was that as I grow in age and wisdom, I know why I make specific decisions, as well as why I respond the way I do. And I must admit, most of the instances when I answered, “I don’t know,” I absolutely did know. I was afraid or intimidated by the answer and in an attempt to dodge a bullet or avoid confrontation, I would respond with, ‘I don’t know,’ which is without a doubt unacceptable. Worse case scenario whatever you don’t know, you learn, so figure it out! Change that “I don’t know,” to “I’m currently looking into that now.” We must take advantage of learning opportunities and changes to enhance our personal awareness.

Baby Gab, Pageant Days with Godmommy

Baby Gab, Pageant Days with Godmommy

Four: Have an A Team!

Godmommy taught me to not just a team, but have an ‘A Team.’ An A Team is with you no matter what and furthermore ready for whatever needs to be done. They will stop what they’re doing at the drop of a hat to come to your side and aid. Sometimes, it’s ok go home, get a reminder of where you’re from, where you’ve been and look at your roots that have shaped you. This is always where I find my A Team.

Five: Be empathic and open to compromise for those who are worthy!

One of the last conversations I had with my Godmommy was about me growing in empathy. A impactful parent will pull out your potential and challenge you. Godmommy always did that. We all may need reminders that the world does not revolve around us. We never know what someone’s personally dealing with. Due to that, we should not be quick to judge or act with emotions. Instead we should lead with empathy and be open to compromise.

Godmommy and I were both Pisces, which according to our Zodiac sign, we are emotional in everything that we do. We lead and act based on emotions, but blessed is the person who truly exhibits empathy and is slow to anger and more importantly acts based on love.

Six: LOVE!

Speaking of love, love is how I would end this piece. I love my Godmother and we always communicated how much we loved each other. I am never afraid to tell someone in my life how much I love them. We need to hear, “I love you,” more and more from people who truly mean it, and who is better than your ‘A Team?’ No one!

Godmommy and I spoke about the possibility of her not being around physically. Though the day came far before I could ever imagine, it is love, the love that she always gave me, God’s love, a mother’s love that will get me through. Through her love for me, I will walk in confidence -- because I’m going places, have fun -- because life is truly short, appreciate and be a blessing to my A Team, be cognizant of how I exhibit love, and love others the way God truly loves us.

The Strength of Traveling Knowledge

My summer months are often spent attending enriching conferences and conventions based on personal interests and industries of involvement -- communications, media, marketing, advertising, entertainment and education. Participating in these events enables me to build impactful connections with like-minded individuals and provides significant professional development opportunities. I anticipate learning new concepts and strategies, strengthening my network and developing newengaging relationships. Through these events, I have established strong friendships that have positively impacted my career.

In July, I attended ColorComm’s annual conference #C2Miami with 32 women across IPG, as a new member of the FCB Global family. ColorComm founded by a fellow millennial, Lauren Wesley Wilson, started in the Spring of 2011, with a luncheon of 34 women in Washington, D.C. One successful luncheon has now turned into a powerful nation-wide women-led community of students and professionals in the industries of Public Relations, Corporate Communications, Advertising Print Media, Broadcast, Digital and more.

Here are a few of my takeaways from this year’s ColorComm conference:

  1. Be a blessing and ask others, “How can I help you and what are you looking for?” By asking these questions, you’re opening a door to provide expertise and guidance. Moreover, you're earning respect and building new relationships.
  2. Strengthen your network with not just mentors, but with those whom you can assist and support; you may even meet someone to potentially mentor in the future.
  3. Continue to learn, implement new techniques and strategies and challenge yourself and others to move the diversity and inclusion needle further to create real progress.
  4. Discuss salary expectations and questions with your network to make sure you’re earning industry standard compensation and make sure you know what you truly deserve.

At ColorComm, compensation was a big conversation. In fact one of my sheroes, Carla Harris, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Morgan Stanley, shared #CarlasPearls, some of which were “Performance Currency,” which is generated by you going above and beyond what’s asked of you. Additionally, she discussed “Relationship Currency,” which is generated in the investments you make in the people in your environment. For career growth it's imperative that those of influence in your organization know who you’re. Having strong relationships throughout the company is important because your success will be dependent upon someone else’s

Women should be comfortable discussing salary, which is truly instrumental to career growth. At present, women earn an average of 80 cents for every dollar compared to men, but the wage gap is much deeper for women of color. According to the Women’s Law Center, black women working in full-time roles make only $0.63 cents for every dollar paid to their white male counterparts. Black women are uniquely positioned to be subjected to both a racial pay gap and a gender pay gap.

On the topic of salary in particular, Angelina Darrisaw, CEO and founder of C-Suite Coach, which provides affordable and accessible coaching and career content to diverse young professionals (and focuses on expanding business partnerships and training more C-Suite Coaches,) said: “Remember the value you bring and note that in some states soon it will be illegal to base future salary off of past pay. That is one step states are taking to minimize the pay gap. Finally, the onus shouldn't be on us to ask, but we also have to ask. Force yourself to negotiate something. Anything. Even if it's just a later start time. And encourage the other women of color in your circle to do the same. Too often, we encourage each other to just ‘get our foot in the door’ or ‘consider the exposure.’ But, exposure and access do not close the pay gap. Encourage your girls and yourself to get the pay they deserve.” 

Early this month, I attended my favorite annual conference, the National Associate of Black Journalists (NABJ) Convention, in New Orleans. This year was extremely special, because I presented for the first time at NABJ to a jam-packed room of college students, recent-grads, as well as seasoned professionals in various roles in journalism, sports, media and news.

My overarching takeaways from this year’s NABJ convention:

  1. Pertinent conversations about diversity and inclusion are imperative to drive industry growth, especially in news media.
  2. There are others just like you, striving to excel in the same industry so look to them and work together whenever possible; your network provides invaluable career strength.
  3. Diverse journalists matter, perhaps now more than ever, our voices are imperative -- power through!
  4. I am forever encouraged to be great and produce excellence by the amount of talent gathered in every setting at NABJ.

I love belonging to professional organizations like ColorComm and NABJ because they remind me of how important is to have a growing network to share ideas with, collaborate and most importantly celebrate. I encourage everyone to join organizations that are specific to their area of expertise or career aspiration.


"There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish." —Michelle Obama

June 2017 Reflections

June has truly been a month of personal new beginnings. This month, I learned that patience is key and a virtue indeed. Life has taught me that time produces great rewards and I am proud to announce that I have joined FCB Global, where our company mantra is “Never Finished!” We produce never finished work, because we can always do better, and together as a team we think of what's next in advertising, marketing, storytelling and innovation. At FCB, we collectively are always a work in progress looking both back and forward to determine what's out there and what's there to be discovered. I personally strive to be a work in progress because it's empowering to think about the future and having a stake in crafting a message to impact others, so without a doubt FCB is the place for me!

Looking forward to the next half of the year, I will strive to “become.” The essence of “becoming” should be constant -- because we all can become better at something in our lives knowing that there's more time to be beneficial to others, start new and most importantly grow. People are beautiful creatures that can change. Though it is not easy, we are all able to change if we put our minds to it. Nothing can come between someone who is set on success; they will make a way out of no way.

My grandfather, Walter Simpson, was born in 1917 in segregated Augusta, Georgia and was Founder and designer of “House of Walter Leather and Suede” Couture Clothing. He was also an alumnus of Eastern Michigan University and Howard University and lived well into his 80s. To this day, I clearly remember him telling me new about goals that he made -- it could be as simple as a fitness goal (he was always looking to increase his weights at the gym), or a career goal of designing a custom made garment for an influencer. I was so impressed that regardless of his phenomenal success as a Black man born in a pivotal time in our country, even in his later years he wanted to contribute more. My grandfather wanted every day to count towards being a better version of himself.

In order to enlarge your territory and grow, I believe you must be grateful for what you've been through, what you have and know who you strive to become.

As the first half the 2017 comes to a close, I am so grateful for my journey. Looking back at the first half of this year, I have made time to volunteer as a member of Iona College’s Alumni Board, as well as give additional time to my graduate students whom I have the honor or teaching at NYU and The College of New Rochelle. My graduate students honestly teach me as much as I teach them. It's the most rewarding job I could ever ask for, to sew into the lives of others and have them do the same in return. So far this year has been filled with great moments, challenges and awesome surprises and I'm humbled by it all.

Today, I am reminding myself to create new goals and I am setting time on my calendar to do so. I must admit, if it's not on my cal, it doesn't happen. :)

Women’s History Month Lessons from Seven Sheroes

Women’s History Month plays a tremendous impact on the development of future women leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators rather they be in STEM roles, government affairs, the arts, education, sports or more. The celebration of Women’s History Month affords cross-cultural awareness, an invaluable understanding of our past and hope for our future. Comprehension of the past creates intellectual competence to recognize how to thrive in the present. It also provides rich perspectives allowing us to know that it is great to standout and be different. Women’s History Month is instrumental in fostering our knowledge of adversity, hard work and success and its influence on our world.  

1.  “There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It is why you were born and how you become most truly alive.” – Oprah Winfrey  

Oprah Winfrey teaches us that it is truly a gift to comprehend the reason you were born and I couldn’t agree more. Once you receive your calling and understand why you’re alive – your greatest gift – you’ll then live the life your heart desires, the life you deserve.

2. "I was smart enough to go through any door that opened." - Joan Rivers

Successful women all share the common theme of positively making it happen against all odds and being able to seize an opportunity. Though new doors are intimidating, to prevail you must knock the door down or perhaps build your own door by creating a new gateway. 

3.  “If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.” – Dolly Parton

In the same essence of creating new gateway, women trailblazers do just that. Adversity isn’t a roadblock, it is instead a curve ball to knock out of the park. Women are the best at making a way out of no way! It can be done, because it has been done before, so many times and in so many ways.

4. “When I’m hungry, I eat. When I’m thirsty, I drink. When I feel like saying something, I say it.” - Madonna

“Power’s not given to you. You have to take it.” -- Beyoncé Knowles Carter

Wise women do not need permission to live and to impact their community. Do what makes you happy, while satisfying your urge to be great.

5. “I dream it, I work hard, I grind ‘til I own it, I twirl on them haters.” – Beyoncé Knowles Carter, Formation.

Life is but a dream, but it is hard work that allows your dreams to be fulfilled and your destiny to manifest. There is power in ownership, what belongs to you, no one can take away. Own your purpose and don’t worry about the haters along the way, because there will always be opposition.  

6. “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” – Coco Chanel

Rewrite the rules, be courageous and let the desires of your heart be known. Boldly awaken your passion and live your dreams out loud.

7. “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” — Maya Angelou

Women create a beautifully unique array of thought, culture, background and experiences for all to appreciate. We must teach young women early on the power of their beauty and the undeniable richness that they possess.

Reflections on My 30th Birthday

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

As I celebrate my 30th birthday, the words of Romans 8:28 resonate more loudly than ever. As I reflect on my accomplishments, I can't help but be overwhelmed with gratitude. My entire life, from the beginning to this very moment have been a testament to stepping out on faith. I graduated from high school early - a year before most - not knowing what the future would hold. Holding steadfast to the belief that hard work will get you far, I graduated from college at 20. In fact, it was while working in Iona College's admissions office that I found out you could take 18 credits, which for me spelled - altogether now - ELECTIVES! I was starting to embody a true Renaissance woman. I always find myself telling my students at NYU, "It's not about a lack of want to, it's about a lack of know how."

As a college senior in 2006, I had a radio show, produced television shows, was involved in student government. I wanted to get to a place where, when the time came to intern, no one could tell me "no." To compete in the New York environment, I asked myself "What kind of life do you want to live? And more importantly, what does it take to get there?"

Everyone always asked how I balanced it all - working three jobs while staying involved at school. I come from a hard working family. All along my family tree you'll find exceptional leaves: my grandparents graduates of Eastern Michigan University and Howard University (H U you know); my grandmother, the scholar; my grandfather, a Black man from Augusta, Georgia who held couture fashion shows in Paris well into his sixties. Education and the people who modeled it have been paramount. My father wore a suit everyday to work, so that's exactly what I did at my ABC internship. I handed out my my thick, marbled, pink resume at a job fair, clad in a three-piece pinstripe suit. Was I nervous? Of course. But I made it work and I made lifelong friends in the process.

As I ring in this knew year of life, I'm renewing my commitment to continuing the profession I love. It's storytelling that gets me up in the morning. So my advice to you on this day is this: Know what you're good at and what you enjoy - where that path meets is exactly where you're supposed to be.