Speak Up with Luvvie Ajayi

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Have you ever been in a situation where someone has said or done something so freakin offensive or rude? Either online or in person. And you just stood there, your lips tightly sealed, thinking mmm...maybe someone else will say something. Well, according to today’s guest, Luvvie Ajayi, there is no someone else. The person you’ve been waiting for to speak up is you. Luvvie is an award-winning writer and 15-year blogging veteran known for her wit, and her take on pop culture, race, media, and technology.

In this episode, Luvvie and I explore her journey as an immigrant from Nigeria,  assimilating into American culture, and reclaiming her roots in college, as well as through her work. We talk about the themes in her hilarious New York Times Best-selling book I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual, about the ways the world and all of us can and must do better. My favorite part of the conversation was talking about what it means to be at truth-teller in today’s world of materialism, social media, culture and fame, and why it’s important that you step into that role now more than ever.

Subscribe and listen to the full episode here (you must subscribe to receive latest episode).

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Highlighted Excerpt:

Majo: I want to shift gears and talk about this idea of truth-telling because it seems to be a core part of your work. From what I gauged from the book and the TED Talk is that you really see yourself as a truth-teller. At one point you say, “How I choose to affect change is by speaking up, by being a domino.” There are a lot of women who are probably listening who may feel shy or reserved or afraid to speak up. Just like, “I don’t know that I can call out this person or I can say this truth or I can share my story.” I’m curious like how you’ve worked with that or you know, how do you work with that edge?

Luvvie: It’s not always easy even for the person who’s always challenging other people to constantly be the main challenger. I think a lot of times, we expect other people to do this thing that we know we should do ourselves but then, we hide under the guise of shy. We’re like, “Oh, somebody else would just speak up about that.” No, a lot of times, the person we’re waiting for is us.

I always challenge people to take themselves out of their own comfort zone. Yeah, speaking up and being a truth-teller is not easy. It’s not comfortable. It’s going to scare you. You’ll be seen in a meeting and know you should speak up against the person who’s saying something that makes no sense or is kind of a slur but then we’ll sit there and think, “Well, I guess somebody else would challenge that person instead.” No, in those times, you have to ask yourself, what is the cost of your silence? What is it going to do if you do nothing?

What usually happens is whatever bad behavior’s been going on continues to go on. So the cost is that you keep things going the way they are and oftentimes, things aren’t going well. What if you spoke up and that actually changes something? I’m not saying every time you speak up, you’re going to change the world, change atmosphere, change minds. But it’s something that you can at least try, you know. And a lot of times, I find that the thing that we’re afraid to say, we’re not the only ones thinking it. There’s a bunch of people thinking of it but everybody’s afraid to say something. So nobody says nothing so it never gets said.

Oftentimes, I find that when I say something that is difficult that I’m like, “Ugh! This is going to be so hard,” and I say it, other people will be like, “Oh my god! I’m so glad somebody else said it. I totally agree!” But it’s like one person had to say it first before the choir could be like, “Yeah, we agree with her!” A lot of times, you have to be that person!

Show Notes:

  • On Luvvie’s childhood in Nigeria, their move to the U.S. when she was nine years old, and how she adjusted to American culture. Her name was different; her accent was different. [2:55]

  • Her choice of psychology as a major in college, why she dropped her lifelong dream of becoming a doctor, but why she also didn’t think she would make a good therapist. [7:29]

  • On her experience after college, going into marketing internships while figuring out what she really wanted to do, including starting her now-famous blog back in college. [8:36]

  • Luvvie’s journey in becoming the marketing coordinator of a non-profit while developing her blog as a hobby; winning an award for “Best Humor Blog” in 2009. [13:20]

  • On writing recaps for the show, Scandal, by Shonda Rhimes which eventually garnered her attention online and grew her fanbase. [15:49]

  • How she came up with the idea for her New York Times Bestseller “I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual.” [19:48]

  • On feminism: why a lot of people – especially women of color – have a hard time calling themselves feminists. [25:58]

  • Reclaiming what it looks like to be a creative: writing, speaking, running a business, and hosting the Rants and Randomness podcast, and why you should let your work evolve with you. [41:45]

Subscribe and listen to the full episode here (you must subscribe to receive latest episode).



by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs

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