Brilliant, Outstanding, Unique, Girls, In Elevation
Everyone knows how important representation can be when it comes to the Black-and-Brown communities. We also know that the youth are impressionable; seeing a lack of what your people can achieve and become usually clouds young people's minds into believing that there is only one path that's feasible. Most times venturing off that path can lead to criticism and self-doubt; usually keeping most Black-and-Brown and communities from exploring all sides of what it means to be Black. We are the most diverse people and should not be held down by what society believes we are or should be.
Trenette Wilson aka Lady T has been opening up the minds of the Black community and making it known that "hood life" is not the only representation of the black community.
In this Q&A with Mrs. Wilson, we learn why she believes that we can empower the urban the community through etiquette classes, and how she takes away the negative connotation from the word "Bougie." Mrs. Wilson is active in the community; mentoring teen moms, helping women learn to create their own personal style, and she also founded an online magazine for girls of color... so much Black Girl Magic!
Q. Can you tell me a little about yourself?
A. I am a former teenage mother who uses the mistakes of my past to empower young women through self development. I began my career over 25 years ago in the field of nonprofit management and youth programming. After successful careers with the YWCA, March of Dimes and United Way, I recognized a pattern began to emerge. Our girls were becoming sexually active at early and inappropriate ages for a myriad of reasons, but a lack of self awareness and confidence was one of the most prominent ones. I stepped out in 2009 and founded UrbanGirlz Magazine, an online magazine for girls of color to be encouraged, inspired and educated, which led to me founding the National Association of Urban Etiquette Professionals. I have been married for 30 years, have four grown and married children and two grandchildren. I am abundantly blessed!
Q. Why was it important for you to start the National Association of Urban Etiquette Professionals? and could you explain what the organization is about?
A. I felt it was important to start NAUEP because there was no space for African American etiquette professionals to get certified, empowered and supported in their etiquette career. Though there were etiquette certification agencies, the cost was prohibitive for many great people who wanted to teach etiquette.
Our mission is to empower the urban communities through etiquette and one way we accomplish this goal is to certify and train individuals to teach etiquette and debutante training in their community, as well as provide materials and events.
Q. Do you think there is a stigma on how young Black girls and boys are supposed to carry themselves?
A. I believe there has been a cultural narrative that has been told by men and women who don’t fully appreciate the honor and dignity on which Black culture was built. Because of the celebration of “hood” life, the truth of what Black culture really is has been quieted. I believe by each of us taking personal responsibility to represent ourselves and culture well, it will encourage peer responsibility to turn the discussion around.
Q. Have you ever been confronted with someone telling you that you are not “acting Black”?
A. Oddly enough, people don’t assert I am not “acting Black,” which is in my opinion is a self-degrading construct that came out of the narrative I mentioned earlier. Because of my darker skin tone, they could never negate my Blackness; but what they do ask is “where are you from.” They believe to be well spoken and dark means I could not be from the Southside of Dallas, TX.
Q. Can you explain the benefits of joining NAUEP and how it helps young people with everyday life?
A. Affiliates who join NAUEP enjoy earning income from teaching classes, ongoing training as well as discounts on materials, events and promotional items. These members then impact their local community by providing workshops, camps and instruction to schools, churches and organizations that give urban youth tools to build self confidence and achievement.
Q. What was the significance behind starting the Bougie Girl Series? (btw, I love the title)
A. Thank you! Again, me and spaces. I wanted to provide a platform where little and tween Black girls could see themselves in a different environment. It was those environments that allowed me to become the confident woman, author, business owner, and bougie girl I am today.
Q. When I was younger a boy from my neighborhood called me "bougie," and of course I had to tell him about hisself. I felt like I was called that because I was not "in the streets." Why do you think being bougie is associated with thinking you're better than someone else?
A. The word "bougie" is derived from the word "bourgeois," meaning middle/upper class. So, by it's very definition it means upwardly mobile. But, it doesn’t have to mean “stuck up;" it just means representing yourself with the dignity and honor.
Q. Was there a reason you named the series "Bougie" (Brilliant, Outstanding, Unique, Girls, In Elevation)?
A. Our words frame our life. I wanted Black girls all over the world to know that bougie is not about the house, car or outside distractions, but it’s about the inner beauty, heritage and responsibility of all Black women have to speak affirming words about their lives.
Q. I feel like young Black girls hardly see themselves in the role of being smart and unique among other positive images. How important is representation?
A. I believe when you expose the different faces of Blackness, it gives a girl a place to belong, to identify with and aspire to. I wanted to provide a representation of Black girls having fun, experiencing tween-drama and building healthy relationships.
Q. In the Bougie Girl Chronicles, I love that the girls are from urban cities. Was that intentional?
A. Absolutely! I want to intentionally shine light on the beauty of being surrounded by Black excellence in stark contrast to the illusion of what is painted in the media.
Q. I have an eight-year old daughter and I love that there are books that will teach her to love herself and that she doesn’t have to be what society thinks a young Black girl should be or how should behave. Do you think it's harder for young Black girls to truly express who they are without being judged on if they are “Black enough”?
A. I believe the one who holds the pen, tells the story. Instead of allowing others to define what Blackness is; I believe by representing oneself well, we can begin to tell the story that truly represents who we are. We come from a heritage of excellence, hard work and culture uplift. I believe by illuminating what blackness really is, the narrative of “Black enough” being equated to how you walk or what you wear to how well you take care of your family, and build your community will shine brighter.
Q. How do we keep our girls and boys motivated? How do we let them know they are the future leaders?
A. After my many years of youth programming, I have learned the greatest motivating factor for any youth is belonging. In a time of life when they are seeking themselves, where they belong and why they matter to the world, any program or movement that lets youth know that their voice, opinion and presence matters excels. How you do this, whether it’s through them being active on social media, or hosting bougie girl discussions, or hosting teen events; when you include their voice as a part of the solution, they are motivated to get and stay involved.
Q. What is next for the Bougie Girl Series, and where can we purchase the books along with your other publications?
A. The second book, Nyah’s Big News is set to be released by the end of this month and book three will be ready just in time for Christmas. Log on to www.nauep.com to pick up your copy, and thank you in advance for supporting black girls!
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