Interview by Chelcee Johns. Photography by Tommy T.
“Blooming isn’t a destination, but a cycle we always, all ways reside in.”- Tracy G., Bloomsville
There are days that the spring cleaning doesn’t feel like enough, that you look at that carefully curated vision board, the calendar with dated goals, the dress you’re saving for that special celebration…but it’s yet to come. Days where our wellness and our impatience have a stare down over where we feel we should be by now. If you’ve felt this, if you’re doing the work and finding yourself staring at the soil waiting for the sprout, Lauren Ash and Tracy G. bloom a revelatory conversation that will make you look at the soil in new light. This May kicks off National Mental Health Awareness month and we’re towering the taboo topics in our lives; the realities of our personal process often being one of them.
These glorious creative women may seem to have it all: the wellness journey, the right affirmations, and the flourishing brand, but BGIO Founder Lauren Ash and cohost of Sway in the Morning and chief positivity pusher at She’s Beauty and the Beast Tracy G. give a behind the scenes look. On Bloomsville, Tracy’s most recent audio vision board, the two remind us to be patient in our process. Today their collective journeys uncover what it’s truly taken to walk out this patience and how you can integrate their lessons into your own journey. It’s a new day, a new month and new opportunity to honor our rooting process just as much as we do the bloom that comes.
The two radiating women send all the high vibrational vibes over the phone waves as they sit, laugh and praise God in a studio together in New York city. As the church would say, “Need a ‘All Things New’ kind of praise?” dive into our talk turned first row in the pew below.
Chelcee: Tracy & Lauren, many see you both as wellness, affirmation, and media gurus. I’d like to start with a peek into the muddy days. The days that have us frustrated with the blooming process. Could each of you recall a moment where you faced real frustration about either building BGIO, or for you Tracy in building She's Beauty and the Beast or even your early radio career days. What were those muddy days like and how did you reaffirm yourself?
Tracy G: The first thing that came to mind right now, is when I was starting at Sway in The Morning. I didn't have any prior formal training in radio and I was insecure. Now, when it comes to an audition, or when Tracy has to prep for a 1-2-day affair then everything is cool, because I already know that those moments have an expiration date. I can just pour up the sweetest sauce I got and make sure that it's going to be tasty. After that though, when you have to keep your scorecard high throughout it becomes a little daunting, at least for me, with the consistency of it. Eventually, it just smacked me in the face that I didn't have any prior experience.
Then you go through that, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’
Chelcee: And how did you reaffirm yourself during this time?
Tracy G: I had to remind myself that just because there aren't all these people in radio saying, ‘Tracy has a deserving spot,’ it doesn't mean that God wasn't the one that was like ‘Yo, I'm going be responsible for this glow-up. Who cares if other humans were around to see it?’
“Also, YouTube also saved my life,” Tracy laughs with all the honesty floating from her lungs.
“I remember a lot of my friends speaking very highly of Joel Osteen. So, I needed some comfort one day and I figured let’s give Joel Osteen a chance and he really helped me and made me understand that I was speaking to myself from a low space. I was talking shit about myself. You know? I just needed to grab a Swiffer and clean up the language of my inner-self and he always talks about affirmations. He has a book on affirmations and I took the writing assignment he proposed of writing an affirmation just to the heart, to the core. I stuck with it, almost daily at that time.
I needed to be re-introduced to my dopeness because I had forgotten about it, it was misplaced. I didn't realize it was as simple as speaking to myself differently.
We have a whole buffet of words that are right before us and for some reason I was picking the words that were clearly smelly and rotten and in need of being tossed out.
So, I filled my plate with something different.”
Chelcee: Yes! I think whether we acknowledge it or not we’re always in some transitional space and needing to learn how to love ourselves better in those moments. Lauren, as far as building BGIO goes, what were your strategies on the hard days?
Lauren: Well, one of the things that I've started to share about more openly because I feel like sometimes social media paints this really bourgie, pretty picture of your life, was as recently as this past November I was still working in the restaurant industry. There were times [during the past few years] when I wasn't working in it, but for the vast majority of the first three years of building BGIO and leading BGIO, I was in it.
I would experience insecurities around what that meant because again, many times social media paints this picture or sometimes when you see someone who's on the glow-up you assume that it just happened overnight.
I was also sometimes putting that on myself, like 'why am I not at a certain point yet?'
On those days when it was particularly hard, I just honestly pulled it from myself, and I had to thank God. A lot of friends and allies would actively remind me, ‘Lauren what you're doing right now is amazing and incredibly important, and it's great now, it's only going to get greater. So, focus right now on what you have to do to get to that next step,’ says Lauren as she peacefully reassures herself in the moment.
“I was dwelling on what was negative or not so great about my hustle at the time, and again the hustle is still real right now, but the hustle on top of the dream hustle is what I’m referring to. It was useless to look at it like ‘Oh my God, why am I here right now?’ I was just dwelling on something that wasn't necessary and useful in order to fuel the ultimate dream.
Tracy G: Can I add something real quick? I think a good way Heather B, who works with me on Sway in The Morning, puts it is that the job people eventually want to leave so they can be full-time in their dream, she calls that job a sponsor. If you have an event you want a sponsor to pay for it, so if you look at your day job that's in the process of expiring as a sponsor, it's not so bad when you enter it anymore because it's an exchange - you put in the hours and get this money to deposit into your goals.
Lauren: I had a mentor who encouraged me to view my then hustles as partners in my alternate vision. When you view something as a partnership or a sponsorship, then you also start to shift the paradigm around what your experience in that space can be.
It allowed me to lessen the shame that was only coming from myself around being in that place and it allowed me to open up to opportunities and still tell people about my passion work and also start to plant seeds for relationships.
Chelcee: Another woman on this, author Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how she’d never ask her writing to support her in the early days. Liz would say, ‘that won't be my ask because I need to be freer, and that freedom and sans pressure allows for more opportunities for creativity.'
I'm wondering, in arriving at a place of, “Alright, I'm finding some freedom here. I'm finding my creative juice, but there's still deadlines.” What is the balance that you've found in striving but not forcing a goal? And have you ladies’ relationship with time and goals evolved since first starting out?
Tracy G: That's a really great question, let me ponder this because it's tricky...It's something that I won't say I'm a professional at right now, but one of the things that I constantly remind myself is to be gentle as I press reset. Another thing I remind myself is more maintenance and less resets too. So, notice that I don't say zero resets or no resets, but try to do less. There are certain things in my control, I can create content on a daily or weekly/monthly basis, that is in my control. I can make sure that it is genuine, authentic, heart-filled content. I can control my consistency. But, I can't control how it's received by the world and when it will be received.
I had to remind myself that my life is a collaboration with God. Collaboration bruh! So, If I'm providing my very best and something doesn't work out to please my human self, there's nothing to be upset with, because someone else is in this group project called my life.
“I'm snapping for real over here. I am snappin’,” says Lauren as we all gather our collective amen.
Chelcee: I think with BGIO, the organization is so amazingly service-based. Lauren, I remember something you recently posted on Instagram that stated how folks who facilitate wellness also need the time to be and heal themselves. How does that work for you in your time and goals? How have you found the balance?
Lauren: I think me three years ago, even a year and a half ago, I was a lot more goal obsessed. I used to be really attached to outcomes and it's something that I'm practicing to not be so attached to. And another thing that I've addressed publicly through my monthly email is establishing a monthly intention for myself. So, establishing an affirmative statement that speaks to an area of self-growth and personal development that I really want to be reminded about daily.
And what I've learned with this, and this resonated with what Tracy is sharing, even on the days where I feel like I'm literally doing the complete opposite of what my mantra or intention is, that that's not really something I should look at as a failure, but that's really revealing something about myself that I need to learn or just reflect on.
This past month’s mantra was all about discipline and viewing discipline as a joyful thing rather than as punishment.
Tracy G: Discipline does sound like punishment and what I've learned is how hard I am on myself. I picked three things that I wanted to either cut back on or add this coming month, and in various ways I've either done them or not done them consistently. I realize just how hard I am on myself about it and that's revealing. I feel like that's something that I needed to learn as opposed to actually being disciplined every single day in these thee areas that I outlined for myself.
And that definitely goes back to goal-setting, how we view it, and how we react to our own selves when we get away from our so-called goals. We're all learning, we're all growing and working and we just need to be more flexible with ourselves and other people. And I think we need to remember that we're very multidimensional.
You're not just put here to create a career and get a check. You understand? The first homo sapiens did not know what the hell a career was. So, in some ways it's hard, but my life isn't all She's Beauty and the Beast.
Chelcee: And that's a great transition, because Tracy I want to talk about how in Bloomsville, you say ‘purpose doesn't wait for a paycheck and baby-steps play paralysis.’ I'd love to close on the thought of success and how it materializes. At times, dollar signs are what we're waiting on to feel like we've arrived at a certain place.
How do you both shift that mindset and focus on purpose over the paycheck?
Tracy G: You have to really enjoy what you are producing, that’s what it comes down to.
Bloomsville’s creation did not start with, ‘let me hop on Twitter and see what all of the Black Girl Magic chicks are having problems with and then I'll create something.’ I do take that into consideration as well, but so far all of my audio vision boards have been needed for self. That is the first requirement. I think that has been what's kept the heartbeat alive in She's Beauty and the Beast through some of the cloudy periods.
I genuinely like this and I see it more as a marriage. I don't know if you're going to be having the best sex of your life throughout a 50-year marriage, you know what I mean? It ebbs and flows, but you remember your why.
Lauren: I feel like the BGIO community makes this really easy for me because I hear on an almost daily basis from folk in the community who are having their lives touched in very powerful and positive ways because of BGIO. And I think when I started BGIO, yes I knew that it could turn into something much bigger, but at the time I was just doing a little experiment. It was a ‘let me just see how this goes’ and at the very beginning, I didn't have any preconceived notions of by this time next year....that was just it.
I'm just surrounded by people who are literally being impacted in enormous ways by BGIO to keep my head on what the real purpose is of doing this work. And also…you might just have to get another job.
Tracy G: “We all have to be realistic with how much our heart and head can handle because every month your landlord don't give a damn about what type of dreams you got, or what God been telling you in your sleep,” she says in subtle laughs and a serious tone.
And I think going back to when we were talking about sponsors or as Lauren was saying, you can look at your job as a partner. All of these things are temporary, all of it.
If having a job is going to keep you on your yellow brick road, then do that. But just depending on your purpose, I would say I would be devaluing myself because I'm only believing that I can do one thing. We can do other things and we can also strengthen our skills in other areas.
With Lauren working in the restaurant industry, do you know how easy it is talking to Lauren? For anyone who hasn't spoken to L, it's so easy speaking to her and yes that might be a natural gift, but she was actually able to take that gift and graduate it to a skill by having to speak to people all the time while serving.
Lauren: It's so true and everything happens for a reason. I learned skills from that work environment and work culture that have informed what I do and what I don't do within BGIO too. So it's like everything, you might be grumbling it, side eyeing it, but take from it what you can!
Chelcee: Indeed! I'd love to close with each of you giving one challenge to the readers on ways they can start to create a better relationship with their goals. What's one place they can start?
Tracy G: Let me see, I think it's good to have an accountability partner, not an accountability sergeant, you know? Sometimes we'll be more honest to others than we are to ourselves so it's good for instance. Melissa Kimble, creator of Blk Creatives, just texted me right now about when we're going to have our accountability talk. And Melissa is perfect because if I happen to hit her up and I’m just crashing, she is like cushion. But at the same time, she does not pander to me, so she fully understands my potential and my areas of weakness; so, it's a really good blend. If you find someone who can be a great cheerleader and coach, that's really what it is. Who has the qualities of a cheerleader, coach, and teammate as well? Just so when you're having a bad day, you don't just fall into the pit of your own bad self-talk.
Lauren Ash: I love that! I would say - and this is a note to myself, this is like me looking at myself in the mirror and being like you must do this - is rewarding yourself and affirming yourself when you do reach those small wins. Sometimes we have the overarching huge goal that will quite honestly take months or years to achieve. But it takes baby steps and you marking off these little to-dos along the way to reach that point, comes down to reflecting along the journey and actually being real with yourself and saying ‘wow, I've grown tremendously in this area, let me reward myself.’
And also, rewarding yourself in a way that also affirms the journey. Sometimes we think that a reward looks like a vacation or going out to eat or a glass of champagne, all those things are great, I enjoy all of those things. But sometimes it looks like ‘okay, I learned about X, let me go buy a book now to reward my small win in that area and I'm going to learn a little bit more about it.’ Or I'm going to invest in this conference that I know will maybe expedite this growth and this goal. Write down a list of rewards that you think might help support that overall goal that you can give yourself along the way.
Chelcee: I think both challenges go hand in hand as our accountability partner often helps us recognize our small victories. Well ladies thank you so much! I think we’ll all be giving ourselves a bit more grace as we honor the blooming process, mud and all.
P.S. If you’ve yet to listen to Tracy G.’s Bloomsville audio vison board featuring Lauren Ash now is the perfect time. ‘Let it settle into your subconscious’ as Tracy would say. It’s a new month and a great time to give you and your goals an internal reset.
Chelcee Johns is a digital nomad, Detroit native, editor/content strategist and word & world-loving soul. She is based between Harlem and Detroit, and recently called Bali home for a year. Her passion for the power of the written word & highlighting often policed narratives has led her to work in publishing for the past 7 years with organizations such as Moguldom Media Group, Serendipity Literary Agency, the New York Times and writing for the likes of Ebony. In a rupturing political climate and blooming social change, BGIO is the place Chelc is able to create a community of safe space in our collective stories as Editor. She is empowered by the (inner)work! With that said, her self-care go to is journaling, prayer and meditation.