Our GEMS feature showcases women who are tapping into their unique talents and breathing life into their dreams.
GEMS stands for:
The women who are showcased as PLPT GEMS are accessible examples of women who are doing interesting things, overcoming challenges, expressing themselves and making a difference in a unique and beautiful way.
As they share their stories, we hope that you will read something that inspires you to reflect, laugh, cry, dare, question, create, understand, and most importantly - get involved. The world needs your perspective and your contribution. When you focus your energy on a goal that reaches beyond personal gain into a context larger than yourself, there are no limits to what you can create.
PLPT GEMS presents ~ Naturally Leslie
Writer. Counselor. Natural Hair Advocate.
1. What is your passion and what is your outlet for it?
I am passionate about personal growth and development. Part of that I get to express through my work with young people as a school counselor and part of it I get to express through my blog. I love watching young people develop emotionally and socially and I also enjoy helping women along their natural hair journeys.
2. How did you get started? How did you prepare yourself?
Professionally, once I realized what I wanted to do, I decided to go to grad school at UNC Chapel Hill to study school counseling. It was a 14 month program and I finished last June. The blog I decided to start in January of 2009 on a whim! I had never done anything like that and I decided this would be a great way for me to expand myself and get out of my comfort zone. As a result, I have met so many wonderful people and have had the opportunity to work on some amazing projects. It has exceeded any expectations I had going in and I continue to learn from it.
3. What obstacles did you have to overcome?
The biggest obstacle to my professional growth was simply coming to a place where I understood what I wanted to be myself! For so long I felt lost and with no direction. It was such a relief to me to realize that I could really help other kids discover their talents and abilities and how that could be used to point them toward possible career paths or study interests. In terms of my natural hair blog, Naturally Leslie, the biggest obstacle was getting over being vulnerable enough to put my thoughts and ideas out there for all the blogosphere to see and critique! I worried about who would read or what people might think. I have since gotten over that and I really just enjoy the dialogue it creates with other women and men about issues that matter to all of us.
4. Is your passion your full time occupation? If not, how do you balance it with the your other responsibilities?
I feel lucky that I do have a career that I love. Sometimes it is overwhelming to be so busy at work and then have posts to add to my blog. I like to update it daily but since school has started I don't get to devote as much time as I'd like. The blog is a great outlet for me considering my job, while rewarding, is quite stressful!
5. How do you stay motivated and overcome doubt, fear and negative thinking?
Seeing kids realize their potential motivates me. Hearing stories about women coming to accept their natural selves motivates me. I love watching people discover new parts of themselves and growing into that place of self-acceptance and understanding. It all motivates me! When I get negative or down, I remind myself that everything happens for a reason, good or bad. I love not knowing what the future brings and I refuse to have fear about it. I take things one day at a time and try to learn from everything.
6. What advice would you offer to others who are searching for their purpose or are afraid to take the first step towards their dreams?
I would say just do it! Easier said than done, I know, but the reality is that you must take a leap of faith. Know that you are strong and you can handle most anything that comes your way. Rely on those around you for support and ask questions. Always be a learner and continue to work toward positive personal growth.
7. Name someone who has inspired you and why.
Of course my mom. But I don't just say that because it is the obvious thing to say. As a single mother and professional social worker, she showed me first hand how to work hard, sacrifice, be professional, and care about other people, regardless of their backgrounds. I love her!
Want more Naturally Leslie? Of course you do! Click on the links below for her thought-provoking articles featured on The Coil Review and Curly Nikki.
I Confess: I Am My Hair After All
" I love India Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair”. It’s uplifting, clever, and has a nice beat. I think it expresses a powerful sentiment about our culture’s preoccupation with the physical. We do tend to judge people based on looks and we sometimes make unfounded assumptions about what those looks mean in the process. While I agree that the whole of me cannot be summed up by a hairstyle, much of who I am is reflected in how I have chosen to wear my hair."
Curing Curl Envy
"For most of us in the African American community, beginning from the time we are children, we are socialized to believe that having a certain “grade” of hair is better and more desirable. While there is nothing wrong with admiring a fellow natural’s hair, it becomes a much deeper issue once admiration transforms into jealousy."
African American Beauty: Deconstructed
"How do we reconstruct our own beauty within the context of the greater society in which we live? How do we grow to feel comfortable in our skin and celebrate our sexuality without conforming to or perpetuating pre-existing stereotypes about the oversexed Black woman?"
"I think no matter how you choose to label yourself, people will always go on what they see first. Unfortunately, there is still so much negativity surrounding what it means to be Black because of the history of stereotypes and under-representation (in a positive way) in the media. I think it's cool that we are beginning to see more and more people of color being represented in a positive light in our culture."
You can also follow her at www.NaturallyLeslie.blogspot.com.
Thanks so much for sharing, Leslie!