People 06 February 2017
Hollywood actress and author Mirtha Michelle spoke with SWAAY this week, to discuss the launch of her new book "Letters, To Women Like Me." Mirtha's life in Hollywood has earned her a roster of figures for her books as she has also built up a significant circle of influence, including close friends like Selena Gomez and Zendaya. This third book, follows two very successful love poem compilations that have earned her considerable praise and respect amongst other contemporary poets. Below she discusses love, life, loss and how poetry has pervaded her entire life.
1. What drew you to write poetry?
Poetry has been a natural passion of mine since I was a child. It's part of my life, like a sport is to an athlete.
2. What are some of your childhood memories that inspire your writing?
Love is always a muse but my first inspirations came from missing my native country of Dominican Republic. I was born by the ocean, so my first works always had hints of the ocean.
3. Which of your current life moments keep inspiring your poetry?
Love, life and loss. Maybe, not the painful immigrant story but more like the loss of people in my life.
I am woman who believes and walks in love; a woman who continues to hope for a better future for myself and my family; a woman who dresses in strength and gets up after any failure.
4. Your new book is titled "Letters to Women Like Me" - How would you describe the woman "like you"? Who is the woman you are addressing?
I am a woman who turned a negative experience into a positive. I am woman who believes and walks in love; a woman who continues to hope for a better future for myself and my family; a woman who dresses in strength and gets up after any failure. I think there are many women who are like me, but sometimes need reminding. This book can serve as a reminder. It's a very relatable book.
5. What is your biggest goal with this new book? What is the overall message behind the Letters, to women like me?
My biggest goal with the book aside from empowering and uniting women is to provoke anyone who reads it to understand themselves. We take so much time getting to know other people that we don't always take the time to build a relationship with ourselves. In this book I share many questions that led me to get to know myself better. The moment I built a strong sense of self I was able to confidently pursue my dreams and happiness.
6. What has been your biggest career challenge thus far? How did you overcome it?
I think I've encountered many challenges but I've learned that my mind will always be the biggest challenge. Overcoming pessimistic thoughts and replacing them with positive thoughts of myself has made a huge difference; and that takes work.
7. As a woman in Hollywood, how do you approach personal growth and self-development to always stay confident in your own skin?
I've never been afraid of making mistakes. I can't live passionately and expect not to make mistakes. I believe mistakes always teach me valuable lessons which help my growth. But overall you have to program your mind to think positive thoughts. That helps your confidence at all times.
8. What is the process of self-publishing? What's the advantage of being self-published vs. going through a publisher?
The advantage is the control you have and always owning the rights to your work. The disadvantage is the amount of work that goes in to a project. Being my own publisher I have to rely on free-lancers, word of mouth and my own marketing efforts.
9. What has been your most efficient strategy to market your books and build up such a loyal readership?
I'd say social media has been an essential help. I think it helps the word of mouth efforts because people can easily check your work out by clicking on a hashtag.
10. What are your top 3 advice pieces for the young women looking up to you and hoping to rise to the spotlight one day?
Firstly, I'd say to learn yourself and place yourself first. Especially when you're young, because so many times young people dedicate so much time to a significant other that their identity gets lost. Secondly, don't share your aspirations with everyone. Not everyone will be supportive of your dreams, listening to other peoples' opinions can cause confusion and lack of confidence.
Thirdly, be assertive and have genuine conviction. In a world in which people lack authenticity, stand up for the things you believe in and be proud of who you are, where you come from, and where you want to go.
Listen to the full interview with Mirtha on Entrepreneurs En Vogue Podcast.
4 Min Read
During a recent meeting on Microsoft Teams, I couldn't seem to get a single word out.
When I tried to chime in, I kept getting interrupted. At one point two individuals talked right over me and over each other. When I thought it was finally my turn, someone else parachuted in from out of nowhere. When I raised and waved my hand as if I was in grade school to be called on (yes, I had my camera on) we swiftly moved on to the next topic. And then, completely frustrated, I stayed on mute for the remainder of the meeting. I even momentarily shut off my camera to devour the rest of my heavily bruised, brown banana. (No one needed to see that.)
This wasn't the first time I had struggled to find my voice. Since elementary school, I always preferring the back seat unless the teacher assigned me a seat in the front. In high school, I did piles of extra credit or mini-reports to offset my 0% in class participation. In college, I went into each lecture nauseous and with wasted prayers — wishing and hoping that I wouldn't be cold-called on by the professor.
By the time I got to Corporate America, it was clear that if I wanted to lead, I needed to pull my chair up (and sometimes bring my own), sit right at the table front and center, and ask for others to make space for me. From then on, I found my voice and never stop using it.
But now, all of a sudden, in this forced social experiment of mass remote working, I was having trouble being heard… again. None of the coaching I had given myself and other women on finding your voice seemed to work when my voice was being projected across a conference call and not a conference room.
I couldn't read any body language. I couldn't see if others were about to jump in and I should wait or if it was my time to speak. They couldn't see if I had something to say. For our Microsoft teams setting, you can only see a few faces on your screen, the rest are icons at the bottom of the window with a static picture or even just their name. And, even then, I couldn't see some people simply because they wouldn't turn their cameras on.
If I did get a chance to speak and cracked a funny joke, well, I didn't hear any laughing. Most people were on mute. Or maybe the joke wasn't that funny?
At one point, I could hear some heavy breathing and the unwrapping of (what I could only assume was) a candy bar. I imagined it was a Nestle Crunch Bar as my tummy rumbled in response to the crinkling of unwrapped candy. (There is a right and a wrong time to mute, people.)
At another point, I did see one face nodding at me blankly.
They say that remote working will be good for women. They say it will level the playing field. They say it will be more inclusive. But it won't be for me and others if I don't speak up now.
- Start with turning your camera on and encouraging others to do the same. I was recently in a two-person meeting. My camera was on, but the other person wouldn't turn theirs on. In that case, ten minutes in, I turned my camera off. You can't stare at my fuzzy eyebrows and my pile of laundry in the background if I can't do the same to you. When you have a willing participant, you'd be surprised by how helpful it can be to make actual eye contact with someone, even on a computer (and despite the fuzzy eyebrows).
- Use the chatbox. Enter in your questions. Enter in your comments. Dialogue back and forth. Type in a joke. I did that recently and someone entered back a laughing face — reaffirming that I was, indeed, funny.
- Designate a facilitator for the meeting: someone leading, coaching, and guiding. On my most recent call, a leader went around ensuring everyone was able to contribute fairly. She also ensured she asked for feedback on a specific topic and helped move the discussion around so no one person took up all the airtime.
- Unmute yourself. Please don't just sit there on mute for the entire meeting. Jump in and speak up. You will be interrupted. You will interrupt others. But don't get frustrated or discouraged — this is what work is now — just keep showing up and contributing.
- Smile, and smile big. Nod your head in agreement. Laugh. Give a thumbs up; give two! Wave. Make a heart with your hands. Signal to others on the call who are contributing that you support and value them. They will do the same in return when your turn comes to contribute.
It's too easy to keep your camera turned off. It's too easy to stay on mute. It's too easy to disappear. But now is not the time to disappear. Now is the time to stay engaged and networked within our organizations and communities.
So please don't put yourself on mute.
Well, actually, please do put yourself on mute so I don't have to hear your heavy breathing, candy bar crunching, or tinkling bathroom break.
But after that, please take yourself off mute so you can reclaim your seat (and your voice) at the table.