Do you want more from your job, your man, your life? Well, in this insightful guide, Amy DuBois Barnett, the former editor in chief of Teen People and Honey magazine, shows you how to GET YOURS…today, this year and forever! With humor and honesty, Amy shares her own story of transformation from awkward, insecure people-pleaser to strong, independent woman. She reveals the personal philosophy that allowed her to look and feel amazing, find love and achieve history-making professional success. Amy also includes intimate interviews with celebrities to get their perspective on topics ranging from career and finance to health and spirituality to style and creativity to friends and family. The list of interviewees includes: Gayle King, Sanaa Lathan, Mo’Nique, India.Arie, Gabrielle Union, Venus Williams, Hill Harper, Kelly Rowland, and Kelis. Clutch magazine caught up with Amy to find out more abut her new project and African American women’s magazines.
Clutch: You are the first African American women to head a national, mainstream publication for Time, Inc. How does it feel to have paved the way for other women of color in media?
Amy DuBois Barnett: It was amazing. Black women are so sorely under represented, pretty much across the board, unless it’s a magazine geared toward women of color. It’s was extremely gratifying and fulfilling. To feel that you’ve kicked down a door and you’re helping others in after you should be the reason why we’re all here in the Universe.
Clutch: In your new book, GET YOURS! The Girlfriend’s Guide to Having Everything You Ever Dreamed of and More, you credit your mother as one of your biggest influences. Who else have you been inspired by throughout your career?
Amy DuBois Barnett: W.E.B. DuBois is my name sake, so I’ve always looked to his example of scholarship and activism and clarity of mission. I’ve admired him since I was a baby. My son is named after Paul Robeson, another person I greatly admired –a renaissance man.
Clutch: What kind of advice would you give to someone just starting out, whether as a recent grad or changing careers and wants to pursue a career in media?
Amy DuBois Barnett: In media, there are two big things to focus on. One is simply writing and observing. Writing as much as you can, even if it’s for free, even it you’re writing for yourself. Perfect your craft as much as possible, because it might take you awhile before somebody actually pays you for your words. It took me years before somebody paid me for anything that I’d ever written. So I think it’s really important to remember it might take a long time as a new writer or in media. You should really get somebody to pay attention to you. And you can not give up, you have to take the rejection like a woman and keep going.
And also, create your relationships before you need them. Don’t wait until you need relationship to establish relationship. I think it’s really important to stay on their mind, in a non aggressive way so when there are openings and there are opportunities, people think of you.
Clutch: I think I can speak for all our readers when I say Honey was one of the best magazines ever to grace newsstands. It was fresh and young, sexy and smart—but ultimately it was short lived. Like Honey, there have been other magazines that shared the same target demographic and also closed prematurely. Why do you think that is, especially when there’s such a large community of supporters?
Amy DuBois Barnett: I think it’s a challenge for any magazine targeting women of color to get support in the business community. And that is a large part of the business world. You not only have to get your readers, you also have to get advertising support and corporations behind your product.
At the time I was at Honey, several years ago, we were very challenged by trying to differentiate who our demographic was versus other more established magazines for women of color. It was odd and a great frustration for me that in the mainstream arena there could be Glamour, Cosmo, Allure, Vogue and Harpers Bazaar, etc. etc. and we couldn’t have anything but Essence. And I love Essence from bottom of my soul. But I think there benefits to the market to have voices.
Clutch: You’ve accomplished so much in your life—successful editor, award-winning journalist, published author—but what would you consider your most significant accomplishment?
Amy DuBois Barnett: My most significant accomplishment, by far is my son. I mean I could certainly talk about professional accomplishment too. But I really feel like my healthy, happy, smart, energetic son is the best thing I ever done in my life. It was telling that I wrote my book when I was pregnant with him, because I am very proud of my book. In terms of what my mission is and why I think I am here in the universe, my book is really the culmination of that. It’s my personal mission to empower women of color. I’ve made it my personal mission to spread this formula of achievement of your goals in every area of your life.
Clutch: We read that you left Teen People after two years to write the book. Can you offer any advice on leaving one career to another (or another goal)?
Amy DuBois Barnett: I believe in taking time to redirect. I believe you’ll be most successful at something that you’re happy doing, so the best thing you can do for your career long-term and making sure you enjoy what you’re doing everyday. For me, I have a long history with taking calculated risks and leaving positions that people thought I was really fortunate to have. They thought I was crazy to walk away from these positions to try my hand at something I thought I’d be better at.
You can also take classes on the side, in the evening or on the weekends. You’ll begin to build relationships, start to figure out if you’ve got a customer base. Then when you’re really ready to take a leap you’ve done your research and your decision is not just because you hate your boss that day, and we’ve all been there.
Clutch: Why did you decide to write GET YOURS!?
Amy DuBois Barnett: I wrote GET YOURS because there are so many women, particularly women of color who seem lost. We spend so much time, as women, hating ourselves. Picking ourselves apart, not liking our hair or body type or whatever it is. We spend so much time damaging our self esteem that often times we lack the confidence and the faith to take a step out and take a risk and move towards what it is that we want. We’re listening to everybody in our ear telling us who we should be, who we should date and how we should live. Meanwhile, we’re damaging our self esteem by picking ourselves apart and just too shaky to even think about what it is that we want and moving toward it.
So this book is for all of those women who want something better and just need to figure out how to take that first step.
Clutch: What’s your favorite chapter or interview in the book?
Amy DuBois Barnett: My favorite interview is in chapter two. The ‘get out there girl’ chapter, where I talk about having adventures and seeing something new, pushing yourself beyond your boundaries and taking risks. So many of us prefer being comfortable where we are, we don’t want to be afraid. I hope readers recognize that the only way you are going realize your full potential is to push yourself. The only way you’re going to grow, is to stretch beyond your comfort zone and experiment with life outside of what you normally do every single day. You’ll never know what’s out there for you, what you can be, you’ll never know what you might like. It can be something simple and small like trying Indian food this weekend, walking a new direction to work, reading a new kind of book. Something that pushes you beyond where you normally are, it’s very important to becoming the woman you want to be.
Clutch: What advice do you have for aspiring writers and editors who do not live in major metropolitan cities?
Amy DuBois Barnett: I’m pleased that the internet has offered all kinds of opportunities for journalist coming up. The best thing to do is take advantage of all the online properties that are springing up everywhere that need content and try to work for those. Also, every city has a local paper and most have a local magazine so they’re avenues to consider too.
Clutch: What general advice would you give to someone who is currently stuck in a ‘corporate’ job, but wants to pursue a career that allows for more freedom and is more in line with their true passions?
Amy DuBois Barnett: I would first figure out what responsibilities you have. So before you take a leap, really think about what it is that you’re doing, what you need to be doing and what kind of changes you might need to make in order to take that risk. I am definitely in favor of moving towards something more creative, if that’s the kind of person you feel that you are. If you feel very stifled in a corporate environment, then maybe you are the type of person that should be doing something creative full time. Or you may not have to leave your job, if you have responsibilities that will not allow you to. You may develop a very serious hobby. Take up painting or dance or writing or photography on the weekend, before or after work. There are different ways of doing it. I don’t everyone to think that the only way to do it is to get up from your job and storm out the door ‘forget it I quit’, because that might not be for everybody.
Clutch: How do you think African Americans should continue to create opportunities for media representation—should we create our own companies or work to integrate existing media?
Amy DuBois Barnett: I think we should do both. We should support the endeavors of African American owned or ran media companies. Anything that comes from our community will hopefully have the best interest of the community at heart and should be something that we can all support as a community. I also think it’s extremely valuable to make sure we are heard in mainstream organizations, that’s our biggest opportunity for a voice right now. There is something very important to helping to bring some understanding and three -dimensionality to otherwise very mainstream magazines. So, I am very in favor of both.
Clutch: What’s one thing you still can’t seem to get the hang of?
Amy DuBois Barnett: I can’t get the hang of running my day like clockwork. I fit so many things into my day I end up overflowing at the end of a huge day. So if I could just figure out how to run my day like clockwork I’d be really excited. (she laughs)
Clutch: If you could sum up your life right now in one word, what would it be?
Amy DuBois Barnett: Right now, it would say hectic. Between the new job, the baby and the book, I’ve got quite a lot going on the moment. But it’s all good, it’s these exciting things are moving my life forward. So I’m not complaining, but it’s hectic.
Clutch: What would you like Clutch readers to know about Amy DuBois Barnett?
Amy DuBois Barnett: It’s important to remember that people you see in the public eye, we all have the same obstacles, drama, insecurities as everybody else. I say it in my book and all the time ‘if I can do it you can to’. There is nothing special about me. I had a really low point in my life early on that made me take stock of everything I was doing and it changed the way I walk in the world, it changed the way I think about everything and that just happened to have occurred in my early twenties. I’ve been living with this philosophy ever since and it’s helped my confidence, help me feel more secure, to take risks and have faith in myself.
I would love people to know that if I can do it, they can too. There is nothing special about me. The energy that I project out into the world is positive and it gets mirrored back at me all the time. My book is all about getting your mind right and preparing yourself for success, because at the end of the day success is as life is.