In 2011, Myleik Teele transitioned out of her public relations background to launch “CurlBOX”, the first monthly subscription service for naturally curly hair. She soon created the podcast, “MyTaughtYou”, a space where women from all walks of life could gain encouragement about their careers, their wardrobe, and their lives in general.
As an avid listener of this podcast, I beamed with excitement when I heard the guest of the hour: InStyle Fashion & Beauty Editor-At-Large, Kahlana Barfield. Though I am far from a beauty or fashion guru, the way Kahlana has paved the way for women of color in the beauty industry is something to be admired.
During the podcast, Kahlana gives the listener many glimpses into her post college-grad life and how she began climbing the ranks at InStyle by filling in for the Beauty Director’s assistant while she was on vacation, (including coming in at 7am to clean the director’s office when her shift started at 10am).
Here are four lessons from this interview I truly took to heart:
1. Stick with your plan A. When things aren’t going as fast as we want them to in our careers, we tend to look for other options to assist in paying bills or even just to satisfy insecurities. However, when we go against our passions for something we’re also 'good' at, we sell ourselves short and could possibly end up resenting ourselves for it later.
2. Be flexible. Kahlana mentioned starting at InStyle as a 'General Intern', but credits it as a blessing in disguise stating, “I so desperately wanted to be in fashion, but being a floater, I was able to work with different editors and make different relationships and make an impact on different people and you know, I feel like it helped me really learn various departments at the magazine and the way the magazine really works.” Wherever we’re placed in our careers or in life, it’s an opportunity for growth. The skills that are learned and used in that moment (that we never think we’ll need again) will always work out for our good because we never know when they’ll advance us to the next level or help someone else who needs what we have.
3. Effort creates excellence. Anything worth having is not given to us easily and in order to reach our highest potential we have to first believe the job is worth the effort. Secondly, we have to believe that we have what it takes to exceed the standard. Kahlana reminisced on the work she put in and encouraged the listeners of the podcast saying, “I was passionate about everything that I was doing so I wanted to put in that work...All I wanted to do was show this world I can be a force. I can do this...Every day, I was like, what can I do? How can I make a better impression? What more can I absorb and soak up like a sponge to make me a better editor? How can I improve my writing? Who can I send this text to, to get feedback?...Everyday it was like a check off list. How can I hustle harder?”
4. Speak up. Your voice matters. Like all of us, Kahlana admits that early on in her career, she didn’t feel confident speaking up about things that rubbed her the wrong way such as, the absence of darker shades in foundations. She expressed “I remember someone who was a mentor of mine saying to me 'you need to know when to speak up and you need to know when to shut up'".She later proclaims, “there were many times where things were just about inclusion. I beat myself up for not speaking up and I had to get to the point where I had to be confident enough to do it because I have a responsibility and a role at place like this, where my voice matters.” No matter where you come from or what you identify with, your opinions are always valid.
5. Let your style speak for you. Of course in any job, dressing to appropriately represent the company is a must however, don’t allow "looking the part” to make you lose sight of yourself. Even if you have to wear a uniform, challenge yourself to look for ways to incorporate your personality into your outfits and allow your style to attract people to you and to the company. Kahlana attests to this statement and discloses “your sense of style says so much about you without you having to open your mouth, it's often a first impression.” She also urges listeners to think about what colors make you happy and to dress according to your mood. Dropping a final gem, she declares, “whatever it is about you that makes you uniquely you, play that up. I have really big full lips and I wear bright red lipstick almost every single day. That has become my signature because to me, what I can offer the world is my individuality and my uniqueness and so I don’t play that down in any way.”
This podcast not only motivated me, it caused me to check my motives as well. I am guilty of settling for my plan B because I wanted to be comfortable. I am also guilty of not putting my best foot forward because I wasn’t sure it would be appreciated. But truthfully, we are not entitled to anything. Yes, it is nice to be acknowledged and appreciated, but we shouldn’t excel just for recognition. We should excel in our careers and in our lives because we are worthy of our best selves, everyday. This week, move closer toward your passion. Don’t be afraid to reach out and develop connections. You never know where it might lead.
Check out the 'Kahlana Barfield: Stick With Your Plan A!' podcast episode here!