BOSS 101: Interview with Alicia West

In honor of Women's History Month,  we're continuing #BOSS101 interviews. Life happened and I didn't post last Wednesday but wanted to make sure I ended off the month on a strong note! I'm honored to finish off this powerful month with Alicia West #JustAceIt, who I first came into contact with at a conference in 2016. However, while we only briefly connected at the conference, her candid IG stories, her ability to speak things into existence and land bomb influencer deals (hey Jordan!) is what made me realize she's def a BOSS in her own right and has an amazing story that I wanted to be sure and highlight. My goal of these #BOSS101 interviews is to give more visibility to everyday women, just like you who are making their dreams come true. It's not luck or by chance, these women work hard!  I'm so honored that Alicia took the time to catch up wand share some boss tips and behind the scenes info on how she's making a name for herself in the entertainment industry, one day at a time.

Tell us a little about yourself…

I am the digital editor for the Detroit market at Radio One. I write, produce, and shoot content for three different radio stations websites and social media. I am also an on-air talent. I host different segments for the websites as well as for my own and interview artists and other celebrities. Pretty much if it’s digital, I do it!

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What inspired you to work in Entertainment?

Ever since I can remember I wanted to work in entertainment. I was always into pop culture, pretended like I was on TV, wrote songs, sang (although I can’t hit a note if my life depended on it) and a bunch of crazy stuff I’ll refrain from mentioning. When it came time in high school to pick your potential careers, I wrote down that I wanted to be a video jock for Much Music, which is pretty much the Canadian version of MTV. I saw talent like Tyra Banks hosting ANTM, LaLa Anthony on TRL, Angie Martinez on HOT 97, Ryan Seacrest hosting American Idol and his syndicated radio shows and wanted to be just like them!

You moved from to Toronto to the U.S., tell us about that journey.

The journey has been hectic and is still crazy to this day! Since I was in middle school, I’ve been researching and planning on how I can move to the U.S. Originally the plan was to go to high school/university on a basketball scholarship but that didn’t work out as planned. After graduating in 2012 from my Radio post-grad program in Toronto, I decided to move to D.C. for an internship at WPGC. I stayed out there for 4 months before I realized I had to go back to Toronto. I didn’t have enough experience to get the work visa I needed to stay in the U.S. Then again, in 2016, after losing my job the previous year, I decided to chase after my dreams and auditioned for a program called the WEEN Academy which was held in New York City. I ended up getting into the program which meant I had to move to NYC for 4 weeks..I decided to stay until I got a job in America (which I totally did!). From there I moved to Detroit, where I have been for just over a year.

What is the craziest thing you've ever done to get a lunch/calendar meeting with someone?

I haven’t done anything crazy to secure a meeting but I do remember the first time I reached out to someone for coffee. Her name is Pauleanna Reid, a super dope writer, motivational speaker, mentor, business owner, etc. Anyways, I ended up being 15 minutes late. She wasn’t pleased and was straight up with me on why it wasn’t a good look especially as a first impression. I don’t think I was ever late for a meeting again.

How important is networking and relationships when it comes to your career?

Networking is EVERYTHING! I needed to build my network particularly in the U.S. in order to get the work permit I needed. A lot of people are scared to take chances on just anyone especially when it comes to industries like this. I feel as if you are able to really hone in on your industry relationships, they will be able to help open the doors. That doesn’t mean you will be automatically get the job, you still have to do the WORK to get those opportunities, but it makes the process of finding jobs and securing the interviews a little bit easier when you have great relationships. Now that I think of it, I’ve gotten all my jobs through references. Most hiring managers look within a company, and ask their network before hiring from external job boards.

What’s one piece of advice you have for women out there that are looking to start a career in radio/entertainment?

Be willing to work! It’s true when they say women have to work 2x hard than a man and black women have to work 2x harder than that. This is such a male dominant industry, so the respect isn’t always there. If you do your work, show your passion and don’t put up with anything, you will be able to gain the respect you need to flourish.

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What challenges do you face as a woman in your field? Specifically, what challenges do you face as a woman of color?

I have seen men be hired over women. I have seen people go to the men for answers before the females (who are actually in charge of the men). Luckily I have yet to face a challenge that was blatantly because I am a biracial female. I work for an African-American company that is owned by a woman. That is pretty empowering and allows me to feel as if I can’t be stopped.

I do feel as if the opportunities aren’t always present but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it. Over the past year we have seen plenty of women of color taking charge, and owning the space. And I believe every female needs to be unapologetic and have faith that they can do whatever they want.

You also have a brand of your own, tell us more about that.

I started justaceit.co because I needed to motivate myself to chase after my dreams. I was stuck working a regular job at an advertising agency. It was okay but it wasn't what I wanted. I knew that I wanted to work in media, so I started the blog to remind myself that whatever goals I have (whether fitness, travel, career) to always go out and just ace it. Since then it has become more than just a blog, it’s a lifestyle, a mantra. I focus on spreading positivity to women of color who are unapologetically badass through different digital mediums. On YouTube, I do videos of my experiences, and tips on how to get into the industry. Interview WOC who work in entertainment/media for my #justaceit podcast (available on iTunes), and I just started this thing called ACE-ism, where I share 30 seconds (ish) of inspiration on Instagram. I have a lot more in the works for 2018. It’s been a learning lessons trying to manage a full-time job and working on my own brand.

When trying to build your brand and expand your outreach, what components do you find most valuable?

Authenticity. If it’s fake it won’t stick. Do something you are truly passionate about. When you do, people will be more drawn to you. And, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You really can’t become successful without stepping out of your comfort zone. Go meet people, explore your interests, put yourself in uncomfortable situations….that’s when you’ll figure out what your brand truly is.

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What inspires you?

When I see other people living their life to their fullest potential and doing great things. It honestly inspires me to step up my game. I love a person that knows how to hustle.

What Quote do you live by?

I love quotes...so much that I have my own quote book. Every time I find a quote that resonates with me, I write it down in it. One quote that’s really been on my mind lately is “Make yourself at home but don’t get comfortable.” It’s from the TV show Being Mary Jane when she moved from Atlanta to NYC. It resonated with me because I just moved to Detroit at the time of the episode airing. I now have it on a sticky note by my bedroom door so I can read it every morning. I use it as a reminder that it is okay to make a city my home, but to not let it make me complacent. It’s easy to settle when things are going okay….I don’t ever want to settle again.

How do you redefine the B Word/What’s your Boss Word?

#justaceit…..whatever you want to do is possible. Often we give ourselves a grocery list of reasons why we can’t achieve our wildest dreams. In reality, all we have to do is go out and #justaceit.

Do you have any parting words, advice, or tips, to help a millennial woman aspiring to build her brand, her career, and/or a side hustle?

I lost my job in Nov. 2015 and didn’t work for a full year. I didn’t do it because I wasn’t employable. I did it because I was tired of settling and being average. I knew my passions lived elsewhere and I was ready to sacrifice my savings, playtime and whatever other luxury I could have done if I was employed. I knew that it was what I needed to do in order to focus myself on my goals. I made a promise that I wasn’t going to go back to work until I got a job in radio, and I did just that. Anything is literally possible. Your dreams are possible. You have to go out and #justaceit.