I'm not going to lie. It's been a hard day. Ironically I opened this encouraging interview by interior designer and red wine lover, Chardae Adams as I got back to work. In her interview Chardae shares with us the struggles of a minority woman fighting her way to the top of an industry dominated by those who don't look, act, or work like herself. Even more, she shares the victory and things to remind yourself while on the road to it. Check out her story below.
Location: Originally from Beaumont, currently living in Houston
Job: Hospitality Interior Designer
For several years I lived and worked in NYC. I am an interior designer of hotels, but I did not start out that way.
The hospitality industry is small and insular. I knew if I wanted to move from being a residential designer to a hospitality designer I would have to work my butt off to get there.
I did not have ANY connections, but I am very resourceful. I remember going to my local bookstore and buying all the design magazines that interested me, looking up each designer, evaluating their work, and making a list of designers to reach out to. This list had to have been several pages long, but the next day I started sending my resume out to everyone on this list.
I remember getting an email back from one of the designers at the top of my list. I called in "sick" a few days later and went to my interview. One thing about me is that I get a feeling before anything big, and I had this feeling that day that the interview was going to go well and it did.
A lot of times in my industry, I am the only black designer. The only minority of any kind in a work place. I remember when I started out years ago, making myself small to "fit in" during an interview. But this interview was different. I came in dressed as myself. It was late fall so fierce boots, tights and a patterned dress. I did not try to dress in a stuffy way, or a way that wasn't true to myself. And I talked candidly about my work, myself and my goals. Needless to say I got the job, worked on an amazing project, and all was great until the owner hired a long time friend of hers. This girl was Regina George, but didn't know it. She shut me down every chance she got, and made me uncomfortable in a way that I now know was micro-aggressions. I worked super hard, 1) because I had to, and 2) twice as hard mantra.
I inevitably was fired. This was my first time being fired and I didn't see it coming. I was let go because my presence as a confident black woman intimidated this blonde chic. She saw me as competition and sought out to have me let go.
After picking myself up, taking the work I worked hard on and lots of red wines later I found myself. That job loss led me down a path that made me reevaluate not only my work life but what I want out of my personal life. I was able to find my design voice too. As a creative, it takes some time to figure out who you are and what your aesthetic interests are. That job was filled with blonde haired clones, and I knew I didn't want to be the "token clone." I started to find myself from this loss. I started to invest in myself and my desires to get to a better place.
It's funny because looking back, it seems so minuscule, but at the time I had lost a job, I had recently moved to an apartment alone in Brooklyn, and it took me months to find something else. I didn't know how I was going to pay rent, but I was never late somehow and I made it through and I think I'm better for it.
Read Chardae's interview here.
What are some struggle you have professionally and how do you keep yourself on track in spite of them?