Life was once described to me as a series of right turns — people in cars going round and round in the same deeply dug path. Every once in a while, though, someone takes a left turn. They veer from the cars in front of them and forge their own road. Nicole Young is a left turner, and she’s creating a path aimed at giving others some solid footing.
Now, we know that a left turn in New Orleans isn’t like a left turn anywhere else, just as living and existing in New Orleans isn’t like living and existing anywhere else. New Orleans is a place where when you ask someone what they do, you don’t get a single answer. Having side hustles is a way of survival in New Orleans, and Young exemplifies how these side hustles can lead to a creatively interesting life that has an impact.
Q: You did what many people talk about, but not many people have the courage to do, which is that you left a traditional job in order to fulfill this creative life that you wanted to have. Tell us about that transition and what the spark of change was for you.
NY: First of all, the transition was terrifying. I was raised by a black mother whose parents are Caribbean, so she
has no concept of this idea that creative things are going to be your regular life. She instantly thinks, ‘you’re going to go poor.’
But for me, one of the catalysts, which sounds really crazy, is Black Panther that came out in 2018. I saw everyone, especially black millennials, people my age, reacting to this movie and having this experience with this movie. It was really emotional for me when I went to see it because it’s a superhero movie, but I had never seen
anything like it on the big screen ever in my life. Never ever. Everyone is a fully imagined person, and there’s villains who are black and beautiful; people who are black; and women warriors who are black.
I had been sitting on this writing thing that I had been doing for awhile as a side project. Then I saw the movie, and I
thought, ‘You can have this kind of impact if you do storytelling.’ A storyteller can do this.
I loved my work at Bard. I was excited about what we were doing every day, but it wasn’t having the impact at the scale that I wanted to have it. And having a nine-to-five job was a constant for me. I had only ever done nine-to-five jobs before then. I was going back and forth between federal policy-making, state policy-making, local, federal. I was trying to figure out a level of impact that mattered. And I really thought that storytelling and narrative and creativity actually could possibly work as one of the ways to do that.
Q: You have all these new endeavors, and I know you have the new project with the podcast. Can you
tell us about this latest venture with the podcast, why you went into it, what your hope is with it?
NY: I am starting a podcast with two amazing hosts, Ivey and Ka’Shaundra, and it’s called Black Women Blooming. And the whole podcast is focused on: How do we get black women the resources and information that they need in order to go into their doctor’s offices and into their health professionals offices and feel equipped with what they need?
It came out of a really personal place for all three of us. Black women’s health is not researched enough. It’s not talked about enough. And we have issues that are specific to us in this country that we are receiving disproportionate treatment or care on because that is the current environment that we’re living in.
We wanted to create a podcast that gives you bite size slices of the information that you need right away, so that you can access the information.
Q: What impact would you like to see from this podcast?
NY: Podcasts are very segmented. The people who listen to them are usually millennials-ish. Listeners tend to be a little bit more middle-class. People who are like my mom, who need this information, but are not podcast listeners is who we are aiming to reach.
My, my hope is that we create something that could expand past the usual podcast listener, and that we have partnerships with faith communities, churches, barber shops, and beauty salons where black people are because we want to reach the right people and not have it be an echo chamber of young millennials, who also need the information. We want this to reach my mom, my aunts, my cousins, who wouldn’t necessarily be your typical podcast listener.
Black Women Blooming is one of Young’s many endeavors. She also co-hosts the podcast, KidLit These Days, and she is the founder of Honey Gifts Co., which focuses on delivering carefully curated, homemade, and unique gifts. Honey Gifts Co began because Young had a question: Where can I find wrapping paper with black and brown people on it? She wanted to see young boys and girls of color reflected back to themselves, and when she didn’t see that paper on the market, she started making it herself. Young is a singer in a band, and she’s also working on her young adult novel.
And, anyone who has met her knows that her craft and baking game are unmatched.
That’s the thing about making a left turn in life. It is frightening because there are no instructions to follow, but if we take Young as an example, the direction that allows one to tap into their own creative and inimitable qualities while giving back to a larger population sounds like a road we’d like to travel down.