If you don’t cheer for me the way Miss Nigeria 2019, Funmike Lagoke, cheered for Miss Jamaica, Toni-Ann Singh, at the 2019 Miss World pageant, I don’t want you in my life! Y’all know the clip. That was the best example of how Black women need to cheer each other on every day! The sad thing is, Miss Nigeria’s reaction went viral because that’s NOT what we usually see on television. Please understand, I didn’t say, “that’s not what happens.” I said, “That’s not what we usually see on television.” Far too often we see the backstabbing, yelling, fighting, “I wish a B… would,” of it all. That depiction not only affects how the world perceives us, it affects how we perceive and treat each other.
I recently listened to a clip from Gabrielle Union’s appearance on “Oprah’s Next Chapter.” She appeared with our forever “aunts” Phylicia Rashad, Viola Davis, and Alfre Woodard. If I could have been a fly on that wall, I’m certain I would have flown away as the smartest and happiest fly ever! Aside from the beauty and brilliance that graced those sofas that day, I was struck by one thing that Gabrielle said. Cousin Gabbie, as I affectionately call her in my head, spoke very candidly about her “mean girl” past and, she said it came from a myth of scarcity. She said she was afraid that there wasn’t enough money, opportunity or success to go around. She said she felt like she had to do whatever she had to do to get her piece of the pie. That “whatever” included tearing her sisters down.
I would love to believe that Gabrielle was alone in believing there’s not enough to go around, but we all know that’s not true. I would venture to guess that at some point, all of us have been either the victim or perpetrator of this kind of thinking. The mindset that leads to heated conversations and physical fights that drive ratings for the “Real Housewives” franchise, “Love and Hip Hop,” and many “reality” television shows.
Before we get into why that mindset is problematic, how it adds to the myth of Black women not being able to support each other, and how to overcome it, let me say this: What is for you, is for you! Your ONLY competition is you! There is enough room for everyone to win!
So, if the goal is to go from Gabrielle Union’s past mindset to Funmike Lagoke’s present action, how do we get there? Here are three possible ways to move in that direction:
1. We can learn something from every Black woman.
If we approach every Black woman we meet with the attitude of: “She knows something I don’t, and I can learn from her.”, then we can start to realize the potential of the knowledge network we have at our disposal. This doesn’t mean our goal is to use anyone for what they know, becasue this should be a reciprocal experience. I love that I can post a question about any topic, from medicine, to finance, to wine, and one of my amazing sisters will respond with the information I need, and vice versa.
We are smarter together.
2. What I eat, don’t make you sh*t.
What one person does, does not affect you. Pepsi never said, “Well, Coke is already making soft drinks, guess we can’t do that.” Someone needs your flair on things. There is an audience waiting for your unique approach. Instead of worrying about what the woman next to you is doing, accomplishing, and achieving, focus on you and your expertise. Learn from her and put your spin on things, because I guarantee she is learning from you too. There is a meme going around that shows Michael Phelps swimming with his head looking forward towards the finish line. The person in the lane next to Michael is swimming with his head turned towards Michael. Wanna guess who won that race?
We are collobarators not competitors.
3. The better the world perceives us, the less convincing we have to do.
When Miss Jamaica won Miss World someone said, “Wow, Black women are beautiful.” When Miss Nigeria went to her next audition, she walked in with the judges thinking, “Black women are beautiful.” When Michelle Obama, or Oprah, or your girl Camille (yes, that’s one of my real friends, who like all of my friends is kicking butt daily in her chosen profession), accomplishes something wonderful, other people take notice and start to wonder what the rest of us are capable of, in a good way! I am eternally thankful for the Black women who came before me, to knock down some barriers. Because of those women, I suit up daily to knock down a few barriers of my own, because if I knock down 1 – 10, it puts someone else in position to knock down 11 – 25. Isn’t that the goal?
We stand on the shoulders of the women before us.
We are launching the Our Truths Network (shameless plug - you REALLY want to be a prt of this) and one of the questions you have to answer before becoming a member is, “Will you maintain this as an ‘adjust my sister’s crown in private so when she presents to the world she shows up as her best self’ kind of place?” That’s how we need to treat each other. There is enough success to go around, and we ALL get there sooner when we support and lift each other up. Let’s all be Funmike Lagoke, Miss Nigeria 2019.
Author and Our Truths founder, Christy Pruitt-Haynes combined her 20 years of leadership in organizations including The Memphis Grizzlies, MTV Networks and Infiniti with an education in Human Resources and Organizational Development to create Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting and change the professional landscape for women and people of color while helping organizations achieve excellence. This TEDx talk giving executive, wife, mother, aunt, daughter, sister and friend loves travel, laughing uncontrollably and losing herself in great music.
Theme song: I was here by Beyoncé
Proudest moments: The births of my daughter Christiana, niece Nia and organization Our Truths