May 1, 2019

Hello friends,

Is there a mood boost anything like Lizzo? I've seen her perform live three times and, yes, am also trying to see the Cuz I Love You tour.

This issue's interviewee Shammara Lawrence got to meet the force of joy that is Lizzo for a recent 
cover story in Allure. Shammara has been freelancing since early 2018 for publications including Allure, Teen Vogue, and Refinery29.

She has a monthly column about plus-size fashion at Teen Vogue and has interviewed celebrities including Lizzo, Amber Rose, and Danielle MacDonald, star of Netflix's "Dumplin.’" Amid all this, she's currently working on a novel that she describes as a “body positive Devil Wears Prada." 

In the name of Sasha Flute, 

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Meet Shammara Lawrence, multimedia journalist, copywriter + public speaker

On going full-time freelance:
The primary reason I decided to go freelance was so I could get a little more flexibility to start writing my book. Also, I have chronic migraines and some other health issues, and it became difficult to manage my health with a demanding schedule. Phil [Picardi] was the one who suggested it, and I was a little terrified of going out on my own. At first, it was a bit tough, motivating myself every day to get up and write a pitch. But now I love it so much, I actually don't see myself going back on staff any time soon.

On profiling Lizzo (!!!):
Ah so what had happened was, I planned on pitching it, but they came to me the same day I planned on sending out a pitch. So it worked out very nicely! It’s wild to me, how that entire story panned out. It was the first time they had ever worked with a freelancer on a cover story, and I was so thrilled when I heard that the subject was lizzo. I adore Lizzo, I love her music, it’s so motivational. Whenever I’m feeling sad, I throw on a tune by her, and my mood is instantly changed. It was a dream of mine to interview her, much less do a profile, and I’m so happy it worked out.

On getting personal:
Now that I'm given more time with celebrities or public figures, I like getting more personal. Not in an intrusive way, but I like learning more about their personal journey with self-love and beauty and fashion, because those are topics close to my heart that I love speaking about. I feel like you learn more about someone’s personality and who they are when you delve deep, and you also find out how they became the person they are, and what influences them to create. It’s really interesting, when I was speaking to Lizzo about her own natural hair journey, it just illuminated why she does the things she does now. She wasn’t always the confident person that she is, but learning to love herself and her hair particularly is something she wants to pass on to other people through her music.

I wouldn't have gotten to that place if we didn't start talking about natural hair. There's something about speaking with a to black women that really excites me because we can talk about things like that I normally can't speak about with other celebs, or at least I don't feel comfortable speaking about. That's why I got so personal about my natural hair journey after hearing her speak about how she sort of had to figure out her own complex journey with hers.

On beauty vloggers: 
So I adore
Jackie Aina, and I watch way too much YouTube. I've been watching her videos for probably four years now. In terms of Instagram, it's such a great place for discovery and finding new influencers. At the same time, I do recognize that a lot of the beauty influences that become popular on the platform fit a certain mold. Of course there are outliers, like Jackie, who is a dark-skinned black woman who wasn’t necessarily en vogue, and now she's incredibly successful. And there are other dark-skinned women like her, like Patricia Bright, who you are seeing success in the beauty industry.  But there are so few of them compared to white women influencers who has the same amount of success or even more.
Sometimes I’ll watch Jackie Aina's videos, and in the comments, you often get white people who say, “I don’t look anything like her, I normally wouldn't follow someone like her, but she has a funny personality so i stuck around.” You don't find the opposite happening — you don't see black women or women of color going to white influencers’ pages and saying, “oh you're pale, I can't really follow what you do, but…"
Some white people might not see themselves in people of color, and that's why they don't follow them as much or seek them out. I'm usually confused when I see those comments on Jackie Aina’s Instagram, because if you're a beauty lover and makeup lover, the content still applies to you. Yeah, you'll have to use another shade of foundation, but how to apply it is still the same if you’re following her tips.

On curating her feed:

I feel like social media gets a bad wrap. Not to downplay the negative aspects of it, but it's been so helpful for me personally in finding a community of body positive, plus-sized women living their life unapologetically, being fashionable, being beautiful in their own way, and not necessarily caring about fitting into a mold. I wouldn't have been exposed to that kind of imagery and those people, at least not on a mass scale, if it weren't for social media. Television and movies are getting much better in terms of being more inclusive to different kinds of stories, but we still have such a long way to go. On social media though, there's a plethora of people out there from all walks of life, doing their own thing, and looking incredible while they're at it.

When it comes to my feed, I’m very conscious of who I follow, and I make sure I'm following people who make me feel good about myself and feel like a positive influence. The moment I feel myself comparing my life to theirs is when I either unfollow or mute them [laughs]. Then, I have this internal dialogue with myself about why I’m comparing myself to them. If it's because they look a certain way that's not attainable to me, I will unfollow them, not even mute them, unfollow them period. My insta feed these days is a happy place for me to scroll down. Before, it used to stir up feelings of self-hate or feeling like I’m not good enough, but I like to think social media should be a fun place, so I like to think I’ve created a happy place on my feed.

On beauty experiences, from visiting Korean spa to wearing a custom wig:
Beauty can be a tool for transforming into different personalities and expressing yourself, and I also find skincare or applying skincare to be super relaxing. It's definitely a form of self-care for me. Even Though I'm not the best at makeup,I still like playing with it.

On her radar:
I am considering trying out a colored wig, and I know those are all the rage these days. It’s about to be summer, so that’s the best time to go bright. We’ll see if I make the plunge. That’s an idea I’ve been thinking about — the double standard between black women who wear colored hair, in the form of a wig or their natural hair, or when white women do the same they're called trendsetters and edgy. Whereas black women are labeled ratchet, ghetto, all these other derogatory terms. We’re seeing this resurgence of colored hair in the black community, not that it ever went away. But more people seem to be taking the risk.

On writing about race:

It’s a personal choice, but I also try not to pigeonhole myself into just doing stories about race. But at the same time, I feel a responsibility to amplify black women's voices in general because they are so underrepresented in media. But at the same time, if someone wants to assign me a piece about Matty Healy from 1975, I would be down! It’s so interesting that I have yet to interview a male celebrity. And I want to! I just haven’t been given the opportunity. I’ve been super lucky in that when I was working at Teen Vogue and Allure, everyone was really really supportive and were especially their deputy editor Sam Escobar was a listening ear whenever I had wacky kooky ideas, and most of them got greenlit. I've never felt like stifled at work because I’m black.

On her monthly column, “Reclaiming My Size”:
I talk about all kinds of things, like market stories on trends I see happening in the plus-size industry, indie brands who I love, op-eds about brands that missed the mark on something.  I do find oftentimes brands across the industry that either extend their size range or  just have carried plus from the beginning don’t offer the same kind of designs for all of their customers across the board, which is a little frustrating. It’s not as if plus-size women are less fashionable or less trendy or don't care about wearing bold things, and yet we’re normally given second best to choose from.

Who Shammara is following:
Khalea Underwood at Zoe Report, Teryn Payne Marjon Carlos, and Sarah Wu, wro writes comedic essays a la products reviews at Glamour

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