I’m Brande Victorian from Toledo, Ohio and I’m 31 years old. I’ve been in New York City for 9 years now. Toledo is a small city, and a lot of people don’t leave. It’s very much the get married, get a good job type of place. I remember telling people I wanted to move to New York, and people were looking at me like, “Huh?” [Laughs]
I went to school in Cincinnati at the University of Cincinnati, where I studied Journalism and came here right after I graduated.
The day I moved out of my apartment in Cincinnati, I got a call for an interview for a job here. I broke down crying. You know how when you graduate everyone is asking you what are you doing after school and you don’t know so you feel like a loser? Yeah.
My sister took the bus with me for 16 hours to do that interview in New York City because I had no money. They asked me if I could come back the next week and I was like, “Um…no, actually I’m here for two days”. So they had me come back the next day to do the edit test, and they hired me. A couple of weeks later they gave me the offer and I moved here in September of 2007.
Eventually, Madame Noire had a position for a freelance News Writer to do 5 stories a day. I remember praying, “Lord, if you give me this job I will quit my other job.” I started to hate my other position. So, I did both jobs for a month. I would get up in the morning and get my news stories in and go to my regular job. After about a month, I was talking to my mom about how I didn’t like my job and she told me I could move back to Ohio. So I moved back and I freelanced for Madame Noire from there. I also wrote for Clutch, Vibe, and a lot of other Black publications. Then Madame Noire hired me full time, so I came back to New York City in 2012.
It’s hard in some ways to create content for Black women. It’s hard to touch on everything. The good thing is that we have a diverse amount of Black women on staff. Some of us are from the Midwest, some are from NYC, and some are from the West coast. Each of us has a different story. We try to filter that in. But there have been times when we just needed to make a concerted effort on certain things. Like how we use stock images. For example, we could posting a negative story and women may get mad if we use a dark skin woman’s image. Of course, we wouldn’t be thinking about that, but it’s the perception that is out there. So we do try to make sure we’re being as diverse as we need to be with Black women.
Ironically enough, it’s been kind of hard to reach out and get women to be honest and tell their own stories. We always talk about how much we like XO Jane and how raw and honest they are. That would be my ideal, to get Madame Noire to. But, to get Black women to talk about certain things is hard. I’ve been saying that we don’t always allow ourselves to be human. That to me is a problem, you know? I can see why there’s hesitancy because we can sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes judge each other so strongly. Maybe it’s because we’re not at that level of comfort with ourselves yet.
I just started going really hard with my skincare regimen. I never had skin issues before, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to have breakouts. I started using Peter Thomas Roth’s Irish Moor Cleansing Gel and I really love it. I also just started using the Foreo, and the difference it makes in my skin is crazy. I can see how much brighter my face is.
At night, I cleanse, use essence and add a serum and then my moisturizer. Oh, and eye cream! I also love Glam Glow’s masques. It’s so expensive but the brightening and hydrating ones really work.
I can’t stop buying nude lipsticks. I love Honeywheat by Bite, MAC’s Naturally Transformed, and In the Buff by Surratt beauty. I think now I’m also realizing how much I really do like lashes. I normally put on lashes when we tape. They don’t have to look dramatic; I do natural ones for a little pop. I did try lash extensions, and I loved them during the time. But I can tell they broke off some of my own. Like I was missing lashes!
My mom or dad never made a big deal about my skin tone and hair. It was always friends and other people that would point out things. “Oh you got that good hair” was always something I heard from other people.
I do remember a friend of mine in high school was having some issues with a girl and I remember saying, “You know, I don’t have any issues with anyone in school.” And she responded with, “You’re light skin and you have a nice texture of hair. You have enemies.” That just blew my mind. I had never heard anything so obnoxious.
But people will say, here and there, oh you can’t relate [to Black girl issues]. I do get it, and I try to relate as much as possible. But that’s all I can do.
I know sometimes with Madame Noire, I’ll try to review hair products and people won’t always be here for it. On one hand it’s like, yes we need more variety of hair types trying products. But on the other hand, I’m the only one with natural hair that can test the products! Two girls on staff have locs and the other two had perms. But for natural hair I was the only person. Those comments irritated me and I ended up writing about it. I still have hair issues too, you know?
I just started wearing my hair natural about a year ago and I even noticed that when I wear my hair straight, people react differently. I’d get a lot of “Oh you look so pretty” when my hair is straight and long more often than when I wear it natural. I think the conversation is different now, about natural hair. But there definitely was a difference in reactions that I saw when I first started wearing my hair natural.
I’ve had my own ignorant moments. I remember talking about doing a wash and go and my team was like “No girl, everyone can’t do that”. And I was like, “Yeah you can, you just have to try it”, and they were like, “No”. [Laughs]
I really want to make sure I’m always bringing authenticity through my work with Madame Noire. My whole thing is just transparency. I love that when I was doing my weight loss stories, people felt that I was being very open about the struggle. That’s what I always want to convey. When I wanted to be a writer and move to New York, I thought it was going to be like Sex and the City. And then I had mice in my apartment! There’s no shame in me sharing that, or really what it took to get to where I am.
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