Alechia Reese considers herself equal parts warm tea and Hennesy, but you’re going to need more than a sip to understand the fullness of this Bomb bae. The speaker strategist, creative explorer and author is casually Eating Elephants as she conquers everyday situations and life’s biggest obstacles. She has contributed to branding projects with big names from UPS to Hollywood fave, Zendaya. As chief brand architect of 360 Gateway Brands, Reese knows a lot about strategically promoting various identities. But regardless of how many companies her resume boasts, the one identity Reese knows best is her own. Reese’s growing pains were marked with abuse, homelessness and severe depression, but her survival techniques became the stepping stones to a respected career in media today. On any given day, you can catch Reese in front of the camera, behind the camera or creating a new lens through which the consumer will see a product… either way, she makes sure to always have a seat at the table. But trust that Reese’s seat is not the only one she’s concerned about. The media personality is constantly lifting as she climbs and believes the most important thing is not just sitting and contributing to the current conversation, but instead creating more seats and expanding the conversation to other future leaders.
Bombshell: Your bio describes you as “equal parts warm tea and Hennessy.” What does that mean to you?
Alechia Reese: I feel like it isn’t wise to be one thing all the time. Warm tea is me when people need comfort. Warm tea is for when things may be tough now, but you can get through it. But other times, people need something a little stronger, like Hennessy, to let them know they’ve moped long enough and now you need to get up and do something. So I can be both at any given time.
BS: Bombshell is a magazine about dope women doing dope things. What makes you dope?
AR: What makes me dope is my ability to strategically create and develop. Whether it’s for myself or for my clients, I am a strategic brand builder and a phenomenal storyteller. I have a unique way of getting to know my client or my subject so well that I am able to articulate their story in such a way that it doesn’t dilute their experience but also captivates their end user. Because it’s not enough to tell someone you love them if you’re saying it in Latin and they don’t speak Latin.
BS: You’ve worked as a brand strategist for years; what’s the difference between branding a corporation or company versus branding an individual?
AR: The difference is the company doesn’t usually have a face or a singular person that you can go back to so you have to give that company feelings, emotions, values for what’s most important to that company. Once you create all of that around a brand, then you set goals around those things. Companies have to do more for the community than just take the community’s money. So you have to ensure the values of the company align with the values of their core customer.
BS: Social media is a means of escape, whether retweeting hilarious memes or posting videos of wild drunken nights. But in your world, social media is a means of marketing and financial gain. How can millennials today maintain the fun of social media usage without jeopardizing future job opportunities or their own career value?
AR: I always say that “you want to be able to bring your whole self to work”, but in order to do that most effectively, you also have to deliver. There’s a way to be yourself and still get the job done and get exactly what you want. The person who I like to highlight is Bozoma Saint John (CMO of Uber). She is as authentically black as you can possibly get. She wears her braids, nails long, bright yellow to the board room. But what she also does is delivers unlike anyone else. In the same way, I am fully committed to being myself at all times – even if that means wearing jeans to work – but I am also fully committed to doing what I say I’m going to do. And I don’t always hit the mark, but when I don’t, I am the first one to own it.
BS: You often reference your childhood of surviving poverty and domestic abuse as a way to communicate your experience and vision of empowerment. Why do you find it important to place on a platform the things that most hurt you in life?
AR: Too many people try to hide what they’ve been through in life. They take a pretty picture want things to be perfect, but why play pretend when you’re life is exploding? I don’t have time for that type of fakery. I want people to know what I’ve been through so A, they cannot use it against me because I’ve already told you what it was and I’ve dealt with it. I’ve went to counseling. I’ve acknowledged my part in choosing my partners – not my part in ever being hit – but my part in how I chose certain partners. And B, so people see that if I survived it, you can too.
I am what the other side of domestic violence looks like. I am what the other side of poverty looks like. I am what the other side of bad choices looks like. And now, I flaunt my scars like a badge of honor. This is what it looks like when you forgive yourself and forgive others.
BS: You experienced domestic abuse as both a child and in your marriage. How do you recover from pain caused by the people who were supposed to love you the most?
AR: Counseling was the first step. I know in the African-American community, “we don’t do counseling” and we think it’s for weak people, but that is the biggest crop of bullshit I’ve ever heard. The issue for me was that I didn’t like myself. I didn’t like my skin complexion, I thought my breasts were too small, my butt was too tiny. But I started working on myself to create better relationships for myself because I can’t expect others to love me if I don’t love me. I can’t expect others to treat me kindly if I don’t treat me kindly. You are the first line of defense. I had an Eat, Pray, Love moment and I realized I love traveling. I started cooking. I realized that I adore fashion. It was discovering who I was and that allowed to love me.
BS: You started The Rethought Project (formerly known as The Girl Rethought Project) in 2013 as a way to impact young females to empower them into tomorrow’s leaders. How has the project impacted you or stretched you as a leader yourself?
AR: When you build for those who cannot build for themselves or give to those who literally cannot pay you back, you develop a level of compassion and an understanding that when people are given better, they do better.
I often hear people say “It’s lonely at the top” but I say that “it’s only lonely if you take no one with you.” The whole point of leadership is to take others with you. Now, not everyone can go, but those who can go, and for those who can go, you take them with you.
BS: Where did the inspiration for The Girl Rethought Project come from?
AR: It all started with one girl and that project ended up saving my life because I had planned my suicide for January 13, 2013. At that point, I felt that people on the outside didn’t need to know how you felt on the inside if you were going through a tough time. You’re supposed to hide it with words like “good”, “fine”, or “blessed.” In December 2012, I saw a girl at church who didn’t get that memo and she looked on the outside how I felt on the inside. At some point, I asked the girl “can I help you?” and she said, “yes.” Helping her planted a seed in me that showed me that I was purposed. I never knew that I needed purpose. Within 6 months of working with her, I helped her receive her high school diploma, secure stable housing, map out her life goals and helped move her life from where it was to where she wanted it to be.
BS: How has being in front of the camera helped you brand your clients and work behind the scenes?
AR: Surprisingly, the first time I was in front of the camera, I was 12 years old at church and I was giving a mini sermon. Previously, I worked the church production, so I worked behind the camera. But that day, I stepped in front of the camera and there was something so powerful knowing that I do not have to be linear. I don’t have to stay in one spot, I can do both and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Today, I’ve gone in the front and the back simply because I want to have a skill set so diverse that there is always a seat at the table for me.
BS: Why is now the perfect time for your book, Eating Elephants, Winning Life One Bite at a Time?
AR: I feel like you have to meet yourself where you are. Everyone says meet others where they are, but you still have to meet yourself where you are. 10 years ago, I was 21 and I was still in the depth of self-hatred. I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t know my worth and I thought I was talent-less. I feel like Eating Elephants is important now because so many people have these grand dreams and visions that they want to come to pass, but they have no idea how to get started. So I wanted to write something to show them how to make success on your terms. And it isn’t cookie-cutter. It isn’t success on Alecia’s terms, it’s what is success on your terms.
BS: What part spoke to you the most?
AR: It’s a part that I added in at the last minute. It’s the part about consistency. Consistency has been an issue for me and I’m sure a lot of people because it’s hard to be consistent because you get exhausted. But the piece I put in Elephants says, “Consistency is to success as oxygen is to life… a necessity.” If you want to be successful, you have to learn to be consistent. And if you haven’t learned how to be consistent, then you won’t be able to achieve what it is that you want.
Alechia’s book is now available to order on her website, alongside some other incredible life planners and career-changing blueprints.