I’m originally from Queens, so I’m a born and raised New Yorker.
I’ve never left, not even for college. During the pandemic, my fiancé and I had this fever dream of relocating to LA, but that didn’t work out, and now I’m like, “I’m glad we stayed here. I love New York.”
That’s what New York does to you: You hate it, but you just stay because there’s no place like it. Especially at the start of the pandemic. It was really, really bad here. But now it’s back alive, and I have this weird pride. I see a bunch of people coming back and I’m like, “You didn’t stay here. Don’t come back.” I get really annoyed when people are like, “New York is back.” You all left. I’m going to be here forever, I think. However, I do feel like I need to live in LA at some point in my life.
My day job is partnerships manager in the news lab at Google. I work with newsrooms and news associations to come up with different programs. A lot of what I do is focus on diversity. I was a journalist in my previous career, so newsroom diversity is really, really important to me. And not just who is telling the stories, but who they’re telling the stories about.
As a journalist, I did a lot of work around women’s issues. I covered topics like abortion, gun violence, domestic violence, and politics as they relate to women. But I wouldn’t consider myself a political reporter. I just fell into it. I worked at Refinery29, and before that Mic, the New York Daily News, and other local news outlets. So, I’ve been all over the map.
I still freelance. I like to write more lifestyle things now, or things I’m really passionate about like the intersection of culture and beauty. For instance, I recently wrote about hair discrimination for Glamour. I love all that stuff. And I’m glad I’m out of politics right now. I just felt like I needed to do something that’s not my day job, something fun and creative for myself on the side.
Working in news for years—it’s just unhealthy for your soul and your body. Especially breaking news.
I think my friends would describe me as the one who’s really into wellness and self-care. I care about the things I eat. I’m always trying to optimize and be a healthier person. Working in news for years—it’s just unhealthy for your soul and your body. Especially breaking news. It really weighs on you. I also found myself becoming really desensitized to disasters, because I was covering them all the time. It’s like, Oh another shooting. I didn’t like that it was making me desensitized to those things.
My fiancé says I’ve become a really big hippie, but I don’t think that. My parents are from Antigua, and in Caribbean and West Indian culture, we are into a lot of the stuff that’s becoming cool now, like the herbs and the different teas and things like that. These are things that I grew up with, so it’s very normal. I’m definitely not a person who’s anti-science, but I’m always looking for a holistic thing, within reason, to treat whatever’s going on with me. It’s just how I was raised. And now that stuff is trendy. A lot of cultural things that were made fun of or seen as weird are fashionable now. Like Shea butter—smelling like Shea butter was a racist thing people would say. And now Shea butter and coconut oil is in every beauty product and everything. So I don’t think I’ve just become a hippie. I think I’ve just grown into more of what I was before.
Weed is having that renaissance as well. CBD kind of started it, and now people are starting to see you don’t have to be a “stoner” to enjoy weed. As a woman of color, if we’re into weed, I think we’re sometimes viewed as deviant. Or like we don’t have our lives together. But I credit weed with helping me be productive in a lot of ways, helping with my anxiety, and helping with my creativity.
It’s really weird how drinking is so glamorized and normalized, especially with women. There’s t-shirts that say, like, “Wine O’Clock” and wine this and wine that. I’m not judging, but alcohol has very known negative effects, and yet it’s seen as a normal thing. But if you wear a shirt with a pot leaf on it, people will just automatically think certain things about you.
I personally don’t smoke. I’m an edibles person, which is a little weird because people think edibles are really scary, and they 100% can be. I didn’t smoke weed in high school. Didn’t really smoke weed in college, either. It wasn’t really my thing. That makes me sound like I was straight edge, but I wasn’t. I just didn’t do it. I think it came more in my 20s when I tried edibles. It really started with 1906. They sent me a sample of their Go Beans, which have caffeine, and I was like, “Oh, so I can do edibles and not freak out.” I have pretty bad anxiety sometimes, and after a long day of work I just want to chill out. So I tried their Chill drops, and those were really good. When I was writing the cover story for Glamour, it was a lot of work and research, but I had their Genius drops, and they helped me focus and be able to sit down and write and think creatively. They’re not paying me!
People often have the misconception that you can’t take edibles and work or get anything done, but that’s not true. On a regular day, I’m definitely not doing weed during work. But if I’m writing my newsletter and I’m trying to be creative, it definitely, definitely helps me. The misconception is that weed is only a recreational thing.
Weed helps me relax and actually think things through.
Anxiety is such a hard thing to describe sometimes. I feel like my brain is always going, and I always feel like I have to be doing something. I don’t necessarily think things are going to go wrong, but I’m always in my head and in my thoughts. That works in your favor sometimes. You’re able to do a lot of work. But then I get burned out. Weed helps me relax and actually think things through. The quality of weed you have is really important, because I’ve had instances where I felt like I’ve had sketchy edibles or something—those made me feel worse and give me that weird weed hangover.
I’m a Black woman, but I definitely have a lot of privilege—the neighborhood I live in, the job I have. So me saying, “Oh I take edibles,” if I were a different person in a different neighborhood, different job, or if I looked different, people would code it differently. They would obviously have some different assumptions. So I think we need to have these open conversations about weed so we stop stigmatizing it. When it’s stigmatized, look who it hurts. It doesn’t necessarily hurt you or me—it’s other people. And talking about it more definitely helps.
When people don’t want to talk about it, they make it into this big, scary, secretive thing. And it’s like, me doing weed, does that make you think of me differently? What does it change? It doesn’t change anything. So I think being secretive about it just makes things worse. Why is it weird to say I’ll take an edible after work or on a Saturday? What’s wrong with that? I don’t think anything.
I always say my dream job would be to work in the weed industry in some capacity. I see the potential it has to change people’s lives. It’s a huge industry that could transform the economy. Right now, my newsletter is the main thing I’m working on, besides my day job. I also signed with a small modeling agency, and I just got pictures done, so we’re trying to see what we can do with that.
It’s weird to be getting into modeling at 30, but I actually used to do pageants. So modeling was always around, but when I was grinding and working all the time, I couldn’t really pursue those opportunities. Influencers have really democratized what modeling is now. You can be a normal looking person who’s not six feet tall and super thin and be a model now. That’s what brands want. They want people who are relatable.
People are really surprised when I tell them that I did pageants. I did my first one when I was 14, and I did my last one when I was 26. I started out doing these preteen pageants. You couldn’t wear makeup, so it wasn’t those Toddlers & Tiaras-type pageants. Then I started to do Miss New York, Miss Teen USA, and Miss New York USA. I was Miss Long Island. The highest I got was third runner-up at Miss New York USA. After that, I lost interest and stopped doing them. But it was a lot of fun.
People think pageant girls are stupid or whatever, but you have to work so hard to do all that.
People think pageant girls are stupid or whatever, but you have to work so hard to do all that. All these women who I would compete against are in med school or they’re lawyers or business owners and also training for the pageant. You have to be really focused and dedicated and on your game to do all that. When I think about it, I’m like, I can’t even believe I ever walked on stage in heels. To have that bravery. Honestly, I don’t know if I could do it now.
But I think it was really good for me when I was younger. It helped me with public speaking skills, how to write speeches, and how to do interviews. When you think about it, those are really great skills for young girls to learn: how to be confident and assertive and how to work a room. When you have that confidence about yourself, it’s really important. Especially when you’re in a male-dominated industry.
They did have their downsides, though. I think it’s better now, but you always had to wear your hair straight, and you always had to be really thin. That has definitely changed in the past five years. You’re seeing pageant winners with their natural, curly hair, and who aren’t a size two. When I was competing, even in 2017, you would’ve never seen that. So the industry has evolved a lot. And they need to, because people think pageants are irrelevant. They kind of are right now. So I do think they need to change for people to care about them again.
For so long, it’s been like having a bunch of Barbies, but in different shades. I think that’s why it became irrelevant—people don’t want to see that anymore. It’s like what happened to the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. No one wants to just see all the same looking people. So I do think that was a negative aspect of it. My hair was so damaged because I had been straightening it and doing weaves all the time, and now I see girls competing in their natural hair and I’m like, Wow, I love that. I wish I had the guts to do that when I was competing.
It’s crazy, but in a lot of states, it’s perfectly legal to fire someone based on their hair. It really is something that happens, and cases have gone all the way up to the Supreme Court. They were like, “Oh no, they’re within their right” or whatever. So that’s why the CROWN Act is really important in order to get a federal law on the books that hair discrimination is tied to racial discrimination. Just like how it would be illegal to fire someone because they have a disability, or because of their sexual orientation—it should be the same for firing somebody because they have natural hair or they’re wearing braids. This is very common within private schools, as well. You can’t have dreadlocks, you can’t have colors in your hair or whatever it may be. It’s a really important issue, and I’m hoping with this Congress maybe something will happen. We’ll see.
Honestly, I had never really worn my hair natural until like three years ago. Even when I was doing my hair for pageants, I would have these moments where I was like, I just really wish I didn’t have to do this. I wish I didn’t have to straighten my hair and burn my hair, or wear a tight weave. Because you just want to be yourself. I always thought about it, but I knew that I had to wear my hair straight or I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. I’m glad for the girls who are like, “No, I’m just going to do this.” Because that’s how things change.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Ashley Alese Edwards photographed by Meghan Marin at her home in New York. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.