• UO Interviews: Christina Coleman

    This month, we’re excited to team up with Passerbuys — a website made to showcase the raw, un-curated and effortless beauty of women — on a co-hosted panel discussion on forging a creative life after college. Leading up to the event on January 11 at Brooklyn's Space Ninety 8, we visited each of the panel speakers to learn a little bit more about them.

    NYC writer Christina Coleman is carving her own path: currently a Senior Editor at Essence magazine, her resume includes everything from NASA to Solange Knowles. Find out how she’s made a career out of following her passions.
    Photos by Anna Ottum

    Can you introduce yourself please: tell us more about who you are, where you’re from, and what you do? 
    Christina Coleman. Writer. Feminist. Cook. Activist. Worrier. Working on the latter in the New Year.

    I’m currently the Sr. News and Culture Editor for ESSENCE.com. Before that, I was the managing editor for NewsOne.com and the News and Politics Editor for GlobalGrind.com. I was also one of the founding editors for Solange’s SaintHeron.com. Digital first girl. Always.

    But interestingly enough, I have a science background. Before I quit my job and moved to NYC on a dream, I was an Earth Science writer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. There, I helped create copy that supported earth science projects, specifically satellites, and ran a program on Sunday’s that introduced STEM to elementary-aged children. Favorite part – being a part of the NASA family during the last manned space mission. 

    I was born in Pittsburgh, PA and grew up in PG County, Maryland (right outside of Washington DC). Always an activist at heart, I attended Howard University. Dreamed of becoming an advocacy journalist, and as our volatile racial, social and political climate would have it, I had no other choice but to use my voice and my words to raise awareness for marginalized communities and those living at marginalized intersections. 

    What are you working on right now: what projects are holding the most focus?
    Normalizing and uplifting all womanhood. That means going behind the veil and telling the complex stories of women in this nation. The mother. The sister. The banker. The sex worker. The victim of sexual violence and domestic violence. The woman that society has often failed to acknowledge or accept due to dangerous social norms or toxic masculinity or even heteronormativity. 

    What do you love most about what you do? 
    Getting paid to be unapologetically and authentically me. That means being a woman, being a Black woman, being a millennial, being an American…

    What are you looking forward to in 2017? What are some of your goals for yourself and your work?
    Continue to punch patriarchy in the gut and marrying the love of my life. Can those two things exist together?

    Actually using the boxing gloves I got for Christmas.

    Replying to emails in a timely manner.

    Quieting my mind. Taking time for myself. Eating lunch away from my desk. Loving the areas of my body that are feeling a little fluffier than usual. 

    What’s some advice or tips you’d suggest for young women looking to start their own creative project or branch out on their own work wise? What do you wish you’d known when you were first starting out? 
    They can only say no. No isn’t going to ruin your life.

    Ask for what you’re worth. And know you’re worth a lot.

    As a college graduate, I wish I would have known how to say yes to the things that scared me and no to the things I didn’t want to do, but did because I didn’t want to disappoint. It’s ok to say no. I’m still working on that.

    Describe a setback you’ve overcome.
    Moving to NYC, by myself, no job and no leads…I think there’s quite a story in leaving a cushy government position to live alone in a new city with no job. And surviving. It’s a classic NYC story. We’ve all heard it. But that doesn’t make mine any less special. Whenever I feel weak, tired or worthless I think of that time, of not having anything to eat and not having enough money to get on the subway home after an interview. And then I think of where I am now. Of how strong all artists and dreamers have to be to survive in NYC.

    What does success mean to you?
    I’m 29 and I’m still not sure what that means, but I guess some part of that, for me in this moment, would be a better work/life balance and creating a life where I’m not forgetting to return calls to loved ones and eating dinner at a reasonable time. The little things. 

    What artists, ideas, places, or books are most exciting/inspiring to you right now?
    Resistance movements to curb hate and misogyny in the wake of Election 2016
    Yaa Gyasi
    Elise Peterson’s take on Jacob Holdt

    What’s your mantra?
    This is embarrassing. But right now, “It’s OK.” I find myself saying it multiple times a day.

    New York friends: come out for a conversation hosted by Passerbuys, and featuring Christina and a group of other inspiring women next Wednesday, Jan 11 at Space Ninety 8 in Brooklyn.