Going Out On A Whim: An Intimate Conversation with Buzzfeed’s Style and Beauty Writer, Jamé Jackson
Have you ever had that sudden feeling to do something impulsive, that you’ve never considered before, but you knew you just had to? Yeah, that feeling is called a “whim”. If you didn’t know what a whim was prior to this, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “going out on a whim.” The new phrase is used to describe when an individual decides to take a chance without thinking about it too seriously – it’s neither good nor bad.
When you move out of your parents’ house, you’ll hear something along the lines of, “you’ve got a long road ahead of you”. However, according to recent statistics, it’s a short road with a U-turn. By the age of 27, 90% of millennials move out of their parents’ house, but a whopping 50% end up moving right back in. Social activist, motivational speaker, and beauty & style writer for Buzzfeed and As/Is, Jamé Jackson was able to dish it all out about her experience moving away from home and chasing her dream of being in the beauty industry.
SB: Prior to living in New York City, what was your living situation and how was your community?
JJ: Before I moved to New York, I was still back home in the Washington, D.C. area and living with my parents. Although I definitely could have had my own place, I ultimately knew that I would want to move one day, so I moved back home so I could save money. However, I didn’t use living rent-free as an excuse to relax. I admit I worked VERY hard right out of college. I was working full-time for a print publication in the city (making minimum wage), as well as freelancing full-time as a style and beauty writer for a well-known digital publication. At one point, I picked back up waitressing and hosting on nights and weekends for extra cash. And I was doing this all while I was building up my own site, Theblondemisfit.com, so you could say my situation was a bit hectic. I definitely didn’t sleep a lot, but I was on a mission to succeed and I was tenacious.
SB: I know that during your panel conversation with Bombshell by Bleu, you mentioned your decision to move to The Big Apple was pretty sporadic. Tell us your story.
JJ: Yeah, I didn’t have one of those, “Oh, I’m finally secure and in a place in my life where I can safely move to New York” moments. I really just lept and decided I would either sink or swim. I was saving up my money and coming to New York for various events, panels, and of course, New York Fashion Week. I realized that I wanted to move there, but the real question was when. After working multiple jobs for over a year, I felt the itch to push and expand my horizons, and I really wanted to get into publishing. I started using the money I saved to attend conferences, panels, and events around the country so I could begin networking. I went to Essence Fest and then I went to ColorComm’s annual conference, and being in this huge room filled with beautiful Black women really made me feel uplifted in who I was and who I wanted to be.
One day, I was on a call with Kahlana Barfield-Brown, Style & Beauty Editor-at-large at Instyle, doing a feature on her for a site. I remember somewhere in the interview, she asked me why I wasn’t in New York, and I gave her every excuse in the book. Money, time, opportunity, etc. And then she asked why was I REALLY not in New York, and in that moment I realized I was stifled in fear of the unknown. A few weeks later, I came home and told my mom I was moving to New York the following week. When I told her, I didn’t have a formal place to stay nor a job lined up, but I was tired of living on one side of fear.
SB: If you could go back, would you do the entire experience all over again? Do you wish you would’ve been more prepared?
JJ: If I could go back, I would definitely do it all over again. Picking up and moving to New York was one of the hardest, yet most rewarding, decisions of my life. However, I honestly can’t say I wish I had been more prepared, because had I known then what I know now about the difficulties of moving to New York and starting anew, I probably would have talked myself out of it, haha. While I was by no means fully stocked with resources, I had to learn to be scrappy, resilient, and methodical to survive. And those are skills I am grateful for.
I genuinely thought that the move would be the hardest part and that a strong work ethic would get me places. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, could have prepared me for the battles that came with a new place, a new schedule, and a new industry to navigate in. New York ain’t no joke, but it really taught me that the saying is true that if you can make it here, you really can make it anywhere.
SB: What made New York City your bullseye? What about it made you want to come here?
JJ: Growing up, I would hear about New York, which was like this land of opportunity for so many people. New York was the pinnacle of success; honestly, nobody could tell me anything bad about the city or the ambiance of the culture. Realistically, as I began honing in on my desire to pursue journalism, and more specifically, fashion journalism, I knew that I had to be in New York to make it happen. You have to be where the action is, that’s almost a non-negotiable.
SB: How did moving to NYC help your career in the beauty industry? Did it hurt you at all?
JJ: It’s one thing to see people in your industry on Twitter or Instagram, but it’s another thing to be in the same room and spaces as them. Moving to New York helped my career substantially because even when I was failing, I was failing forward. I was around the people who I needed to be around, and eventually, people remember your face, your name, and hopefully, the work you do. This industry really is predicated on who you know, and who can vouch for you and your work, so I had to be where the opportunities were. The first opportunity I had to do full-length beauty features came from Dana Oliver, the Beauty Director at Yahoo Lifestyle, and I would have never met her and been able to forge a relationship for me to learn had I not been here.
Moving to New York didn’t hurt me, per se, but it did take me a long time to get adjusted because I came here knowing very few people and having no family. It definitely was lonely starting out, which probably explains why I just plunged so heavily into my work. Thankfully I have come out of my shell and made great friendships and work relationships that make it all worthwhile.
SB: What were some of the key strategies you implemented to go from couch surfing to having a place of your own?
JJ: I’ve always been a person who gets laser focused when I want something, so the only strategy I had was to make it happen. I guess that’s been the method to my madness for all these years, the fact that I just figure out how to make things work. I don’t believe that problems exist without a solution, so it’s all about finding them instead of focusing on the problem.
But for actual resources, I joined GroupMes, Facebook housing groups, and joined alumnae networks to see who was offering a place to stay or knew someone. I will say that New York apartments are hard to come by, but at the same time, people are always moving in and out, so it’s really about keeping your ear to the streets.
SB: What would you say to Millennials and Generation Z who want to chase their dreams and move away from home?
JJ: I would say just do it. You honestly have one life to live, and I really think you should take all the chances you can while you’re young and you can bounce back a bit easier. You should trust your intuition, but also don’t be blindly led into making decisions just for the heck of it. I did make some wild decisions when deciding to pick up my life and move, but there was still some strategy behind everything. You’ll never get to see if your dreams can become a reality if you don’t try, and then once you try, give yourself time to adjust. But always chase your dreams, those “I wonder what would have happened if…” thoughts are the worst.
Lastly, put your work where your mouth is. Our generation is seriously riddled with a lot of people who love to flex for Instagram likes, but when you look on the backend, they have no receipts to show for the work. I’m still young and could be wrong, but I think longevity in any field will be determined by the actual work you do, and of course, how you treat people.
To this day, Jamé has come into New York City shaking up the tables in every room she enters. Just to name a few, she has been recognized by The Huffington Post, Ed2010, Colorcomm Network, Gritstyle, EliteDaily, and Google’s 2016 “Women to Watch” list. Additionally, this blonde of all trades has writing credits that include – but are not limited to – Yahoo Style & Beauty, Elite Daily, 21Ninety, Ed2010, FashionBombDaily, InStyle, and Teen Vogue. To find Jamé Jackson, follow her on Instagram at theblondemisfit.