In honor of Women’s History Month in March I want to take this time to highlight women in media who are breaking barriers. Being a black woman in the media is hard because just like in any career, you have to be the best and look good while doing it all. This is for all the young ladies making their dreams come true and recognition that they deserve.
Social Media: Twitter: @thebobbypen Instagram: @bobbypen
Career: Radio One St. Louis Digital Producer
Quote you live by: “The dream is free, the hustle’s sold separately”
How did you find your passion and when did you know that this is what you wanted to do?
I always loved words— reading and writing have always been a hobby. My aunt was a reporter for the New York Times for 30+ years. She’s always been an inspiration to me. So when I published my first article in the school newsletter in middle school, I knew I wanted to create and tell stories.
How would you say you got your big break into the entertainment industry?
While in undergrad I wrote for the school paper and had two internships. My grades were above average and I graduated on time. I just KNEW I was going to get a job fresh out of school. I didn’t. So I created my own opportunities by starting a blog and interviewing local creatives in DC on my own. I stalked the popping publicists online, watched the artists making noise around me and established relationships with promoters who brought talent to the city often. Eventually I began to find myself rooms networking with people who would later invest in me by keeping me in mind for hosting, interviews, TV appearances, influencer events and movie screenings all around the country.
By the time I sent a desperate tweet to 93.9 WKYS and Majic 102.3 in DC asking them “when do I start?” I had completely branded myself, my website page views were up, I organized my YouTube channel, worked with a colleague to update my LinkedIn. I was a total package for the hiring manager who found that tweet and actually followed up 2 days later with an offer.
What do you feel was the most helpful thing that jumpstarted your career?
Not waiting for anyone to save me and deciding to create the experience necessary to qualify for the positions I was interested in. I’d also say, my life for learning is probably a competitive edge. I read, research and study my field often to stay up on latest trends and teach myself how to do a lot for myself. Being self-sufficient is so necessary.
What does it mean to be a black woman in media to you?
It means winning! Black culture owns social media and much of it is inspired by the black woman. We’re beautiful. We’re smart. We’re funny. We’re enterprising and I’m so proud of the representation we’re experiencing right now. I do, however, recognize that there are still barriers for us to work through and in optimistic that room will be made for more of us in leadership.
What inspires you to keep going in this industry?
My personal drive to succeed honestly. This industry will break you if you let it. Living for the applause of others is a setup for failure. You’ll be disappointed and frustrated doing it that way. You have to truly be passionate about what you create and focus on outperforming your last big success. I’m hungry and I fight hard to never get too comfortable. I’m constantly asking, “What’s next? How can I level up?”
I also try to only follow social media accounts of other professionals thriving in their industry. That reminds me that anything is possible and helps cut down on the distractions. (Only a little though. Sometimes it’s possible to get caught up in the pace of others so be mindful.)
How did you start offering your services to others and what’s some advice would you give to someone who has services to offer but don’t exactly know how to market them or get clients to start?
Well, people asked me for my services and I ran with it! Lol I would go to these events and provide a full recap for publicists, or I’d freelance for the local radio station. Finally, one publicist just booked me as a photographer about a year in to my re-boot and the rest is history.
Share something about your position or the industry that you wish you would’ve known before going into it.
I wish I would’ve known that hard work alone is not enough. One of my mentors gave me a gem I’ll always keep with me, “Make people want to see you win.” Your passion and dedication is your competitive edge, but relationships, attitude and politics play a huge part in what opportunities are available to you. No one wants to work with someone who makes life harder in a high stress environment, so try to make things better wherever you are.
I’d encourage anyone just starting out to be mindful of those things. When people like you, when you’re easy to work with, when you exceed expectations you’ll move ahead— sometimes even if you’re under qualified in other areas.
People are watching even if they don’t say much. Give them one hell of a show! -Bobby Pen Click To Tweet
How did you go about starting your brand and building your own name so that you could go out and do interviews representing yourself and your brand?
I just started. People want to see traction before they invest in you. I also present my small business as a fortune 500 company. Quality is the key. From my email pitches, to the posts that I publish I never look at myself as a little guy. People believe what you tell them. I’m very observant so I would be a fly on the wall at my early events to learn who does what, when, where and why. That helps make research easier— you’ll know what to ask whom.
Who are some women you look up to in the industry?
Man, the list is way too long. A few who instantly come to mind include:
Miss Diddy LA
What has been the most difficult situation you’ve had in your career or with starting your career?
Growing pains are real so there have been several moments I almost threw in the towel. I guess I’d say getting in the door. I learned that those online applications don’t typically mean much to hiring managers. Lol referrals or recommendations are extremely helpful so again get out there and network. Also, make your capabilities ridiculously obvious online. #PutYourselfOn as I say. People are watching even if they don’t say much. Give them one hell of a show!
What made you start your Put Yourself On Podcast and what you would say the key is to “putting yourself on”?
I started my podcast to not lose my momentum with my personal brand. Taking on my current role in corporate media, I’m forced to play the background which is fine but I know I have more to offer. Also, I’m in a much smaller market so the events I was used to covering aren’t available to me in the same way any more. So rather than feeling frustrated or undervalued I created the podcast as a way to still get my rocks off. I was also encouraged to do so by my supporters and actually my boss who understands my big picture goal. I really appreciate him for that. I think my story represents what it means to “Put Yourself On.” Do the work! Get in there and get your hands dirty. Fail. Learn. Improve. Succeed. It’s not easy. Not always pretty but oh so worth it to look back and realize just how far you’ve come.
What’s a piece of advice you would give a girl who wants to do what you do?
I’d say just do it. The fact that you’re even interested is a sign that you should dig a little deeper. Grow tough skin and don’t take things personal. Stand up for yourself and teach people how to test you. Ask for what you want and need and be ready to prove why you deserve it.