How to Shine Bright Like A Diamond

Like many grown ups around the country, I was most inspired this week by the thousands of high school activists who walked out of their classrooms to protest against gun violence. But I want to give a shout out to another protest that also inspired me and should have gotten more attention.

This week, artist and businesswoman Rihanna posted a scathing rebuke of Snapchat for allowing an ad making light of domestic violence to appear on its platform. The ad was for a game called "Would You Rather?" and asked users to choose whether they'd rather "slap Rihanna" or "punch Chris Brown." It was a particularly disgusting ad given the fact that in 2009 Chris Brown pleaded guilty to felony assault after he hit, choked, and bit Rihanna while attempting to push her out of a car. The two were dating at the time.

What I respected about her protest was that even though Rihanna is a victim of domestic violence, her message wasn't about her. Rather she chose to be a voice for other individuals who are terrorized by assault and have far less agency than she does. "This isn't about my personal feelings...but all of the women, children, and men who have been victims of DV in the past and especially the ones who haven't made it out yet." Being a celebrity didn't immunize Rihanna from experiencing domestic violence, but she is using her celebrity to shed light on the issue in the most courageous way imaginable and achieving results: Snap Inc's stock fell by 4 percent after Rihanna posted her protest message on Instagram, Snapchat's competitor. When someone leverages their power to give power to others—that's what you call a super star.

The Biggest Lesson from France McDormand's Oscar Speech: Recruit Your First Follower

Happy International Women's Day!


There is one speech everyone in the world of women has been talking about this week: Frances McDormand's acceptance remarks at the 90th Academy Awards. They were rousing and she did not come to play. Literally putting her golden Oscar on the floor, she encouraged anyone who says that they support women in filmmaking to put their money where their mouth is. "We all have stories to tell and projects we need financed," she said.

Most of her speech buzz over the past few days has centered around two words she ended with, inclusion rider, which is a stipulation in an actor's contract that the film cast and/or crew must be diverse. But an overlooked lesson from her speech was her deployment of a strategy that more leaders should adopt if they want to be effective: recruiting your first follower.

At the beginning of her remarks, McDormand asked for all of the female nominees in the room to stand. It was an inspiring move that demonstrated the power of women's solidarity. But McDormand didn't leave the moment up to chance. Knowing that there might be initial hesitation in the crowd, she gave an explicit directive to the most Oscar-awarded actress in the room: "Meryl, if you do it everybody else will."

In Derek Sivers popular TED Talk, How To Start A Movement, he explores our propensity to celebrate the originator of an idea or the person on the stage without fully appreciating that their innovation was often made possible because the first person to follow them gave them legitimacy. Meryl Streep standing gave every other woman permission to do so with far less risk. In this case, they likely would have done so anyway. But so often as leaders we're trying to drive change that can feel like moving mountains. McDormand's Meryl-call-out is a reminder that whether we're trying to launch a political campaign, a business venture, or a project at the office, the most important question we should be asking is, "Who, if I get them to buy in first, will help me engage everyone else?" It's certainly an easier way to achieve award winning results.

Best Books (aka What's on my Nightstand): Enough As She Is

I pre-ordered Enough As She Is for two reasons. First, I wanted to support my friend, Rachel Simmons. Second, because she's an expert on girls' development I figured the book would have advice on how I can effectively parent my 9-year-old daughter. After turning the final page, I have to say that while I did receive insight on my journey with Ekua, my biggest takeaway was how I need to more effectively parent my own self.

So many of the pages reminded me about the importance of self-acceptance. Rachel writes that "isolation is the primary cause of human suffering" and argues that our culture's prioritization of achievement over connection is robbing our girls of happiness. They strive for an unattainable perfection and spend less time cultivating the relationships that will nurture their emotional health. Throughout the book, she offers practical recommendations for combating the pervasive messages that puts pressure on girls. For example, "You must find your life's passion by high school." But you could easily replace high school with college, your first job, motherhood, or retirement.

Whether she's guiding the reader through an exercise on how to help girls find their purpose, take healthy risks, or learn self-compassion, I was constantly reminded that I needed to practice all of these things as well. One of the most helpful chapters was on changing the way girls use social media. Suggestions included encouraging her to pause to ask herself before she posts content, "Why am I doing this? What is my intention?" The next time I went to Twitter I asked myself these same questions. Enough As She Is is an extraordinary book for anyone with a girl in their life, but if I could change the title I'd make it Enough As You Are: How to Help Yourself Move Beyond Impossible Standards of Success to Live A Healthy, Happy and Fulfilling Life. This book is a must read for all of us.

A Peek Inside My Village: Beverly Bond


One of the highlights of my summer is speaking at the Black Girls Lead conference. My aim is always to encourage the girls, but they inevitably inspire me more, as does their dynamic convener, Beverly Bond. Before founding and serving as Executive Director of Black Girls Rock!, Beverly etched herself into our girlhoods as one of the premier DJs in the world. Her celebrity clients include Prince, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jay Z, and Martha Stewart. Music is her game. Versatility is her middle name.

When she became concerned about the impact that negative portrayals of black women were having on girls, she decided to start a summer camp to ensure they learned about and celebrated their beauty and power. Twelve years later she's grown Black Girls Rock! into an unstoppable brand. The annual awards show on BET garners 2.1 million viewers and commands the #1 spot for black households during its time slot. In order to be such a powerhouse, Beverly has learned that she can't do everything.

When I was recently hanging out with her at the Power Rising Summit, one of the things that I was surprised she's had to drop the ball on is makeup. "I once tried to do it myself and it was a disaster." To a former Wilhelmina model and a mainstay in the entertainment industry, this is a legitimate problem. Her solution was less inspired by Alicia Keys (another one of her clients who has stopped wearing makeup altogether) and more inspired by convenience: she now outsources to a professional. But the point is that she knows her limits and has a plan of action. I'm thrilled that Beverly has recently added another title to her impressive lineup, author. Her first book, Black Girls Rock!: Owning Our Magic. Rocking Our Truth was released this week. Rock on, Beverly.

Rise Up

Last week was capped with an incredible experience I wish I could live every day: The Power Rising Summit. For three days 1,000 black women, representing nearly all 50 states, gathered in Atlanta to lift one another and to create an actionable agenda to maximize our economic and political power. I have never been so humbled to be a presenter at any event and was thrilled to share the stage with five powerhouse writers at Saturday's Author Showcase LuncheonLuvvie AjayiBeverly BondVeronica ChambersBrittney Cooper, and our moderator Dawn Davis, VP & Publisher of 37 INK.

But the highlight of the event for me was the opportunity to meet the indelible Cicely Tyson, who shared countless words of wisdom including her response to the question, "When did you know that you had arrived? Ms. Tyson said, "As soon as you think you've arrived, you're in trouble."

The fact that this was a convening for, by, and about black women made it particularly unique. Power Rising was not the brainchild of a corporate marketer. It was birthed by a steering committee of some of the most influential organizers in the nation. I've attended countless women's conferences and events in my lifetime, but there were several aspects of Power Rising I had never experienced before. First, there was the joy. I have never walked into a conference ballroom at 9am to find hundreds of people having an impromptu dance party to Cheryl Lynn's "Got To Be Real."

Then, there was the palpable familiarity. Like when a t-shirt vendor asked myself and the woman next to me if everyone at the summit knew each other. I'd never seen the woman before in my life, but we both smiled at him and simultaneously said, "Yes." Then add the children. Women brought their babies, which makes so much sense given that we have them. Finally, there was the unwavering commitment to action. There were no talking heads—only leaders hell bent on taking care of business for ourselves, our communities, and the nation.

We all left with a doable set of deliverables: register five women to vote, support five black women running for office, do five hours of community service, support five black businesses, and engage in five hours of cross-generational mentoring. I'd also add buy five books by black women and if you need a jumpstart order Cooper's Eloquent Rage and Bond's Black Girls Rock: Owning Our Magic. Rocking Our Truth. If every American took these same actions, we would all be power rising. 

Tiffany's Epiphanies: Diversity Works for Innovation, But Not Taboo

My family loves to play Taboo. And you know what? Our kids KILL us because they can say one phrase they both relate to and will get the answer in a flash. This single-mindedness is great for games, but terrible for business. If we all shared the same thought bubble, there would never be a new perspective on a problem. That's why diversity—of thought, of perspective, of experience, of background, of culture—is the key to innovation.

Why America Needs the Women of Wakanda

This week was a roller coaster. I celebrated the anniversary of #droptheball and had an incredible Valentine's Day dinner with my husband, only to wake up the next day to the news of the tragic school shooting in Parkland. My heart was still aching as I walked into the Magic Johnson movie theater in Harlem to see Black Panther, but I left with a renewed sense of optimism about the kind of leadership required to heal our nation and the role that women will play in forging our future.

The females of Wakanda are not without adversity, but their conviction and fortitude is refreshing in a world that often casts us as vixens or damsels in distress. In one scene the newly crowned king, T'Challa, tells his love interest, Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), "You would make a good queen if you weren't so stubborn." She immediately quips back, "I would make a good queen because I am so stubborn." Her self-assuredness made my own back straighter. As a black woman, it was especially breathtaking to see the diversity of thought, expression, and yes, even fighting techniques, of other black women on screen. But the most powerful moments were those in which the female characters found strength by crossing boundaries and asking for help. It was the women in Black Panther who showed us that: "The wise build bridges. The fools build barriers." I'm wishing for our nation as many bridge builders as possible.