On July 3, 2017, the tables were turned. The woman, who has spent a large portion of her life as a reporter and content creator, found herself on the other side of the experience. Baltimore’s very own, L’Oreal Thompson Payton, took the time out of her schedule to have a conversation with me about her journey in writing, dedicating herself to her purpose and finding healing in self-care. L’Oreal is a true mover and shaker in this world, and I hope that you apply just a portion of the gems that she dropped throughout this conversation!
NW: Tell me about yourself!
LTP*: I was born and raised in Belcamp, Maryland, just outside of Baltimore. I graduated from Loyola University Maryland, where I worked for the college newspaper [During that time, L’Oreal also had the opportunity to study abroad in Spain!]. I later worked for my hometown newspaper before moving to Chicago!
After arriving in Chicago, she began volunteering with Polished Pebbles, while working as the Digital Content Editor for JET Magazine in 2014. Over time, L’Oreal found herself growing increasingly overwhelmed and “burned out” by covering stories about breaking news and triggering incidents on a daily basis.
LTP: I got to the point where I [didn’t] know if I [wanted] this to be the rest of my life. I felt like I was becoming burned out, especially when the reason I got into magazines in the first place was to help teenage girls.
L’Oreal made the brave decision to move on from JET magazine, and began working for the Chicago Public School System in early 2015. She later transitioned to working with the Girl Scouts full-time in the summer of 2015 as a Media Relations Manager and was recently promoted to Director of External Affairs in early 2017!
NW: What’s the best piece of advice that you have received?
LTP: The best piece of advice that I have received is from my friend and mentor, Kyra Kyles, and she said, “Think like a white man.” There’s also a popular Instagram quote that says “Have the confidence of a mediocre white man!” It completely changed my outlook. Women look at requirements and see they don’t have 100 percent of them, so they don’t go for it. Men see the requirements, and say, “Well, I have sixty percent of the requirements, so I’m still gonna go for it.” That is why it’s important to be afraid and do it anyway.
NW: Who is your role model/inspiration?
LTP: My parents. Growing up with a Black working mom and reflecting back on it now as an adult is just wow, I don’t know how she did it! And my father is a retired firefighter who showed my sister and I that you can do what you love and follow your passion. He loved what he did and he showed that success isn’t necessarily a six-figure salary. My sister is a high school math teacher and we get this fulfillment from what we do (even though we’re not making a ton of money). My other inspirations are Michelle Obama, my “Forever First Lady,” she’s such a symbol of strength, grace and inspiration. And Beyoncé! How can you not love Beyoncé? She’s the author of her own narrative. And of course, my former boss, Kyra!
NW: What do you do outside of your work with the Girl Scouts?
LTP: I’m also a blogger and freelance writer for publications such as Sesi, a quarterly print publication for Black teen girls, and HelloGiggles!
NW: What do you think your purpose is?
LTP: I feel very fortunate to be 29 and know this already. I want everything I say and do to empower women and girls. I know that my purpose is to empower women and girls to be more confident. I want them to know that someone is there rooting for them and cheering them on. We are stronger together than we are apart. These are my sisters. I don’t believe in competition. I want us all to succeed.
NW: How do you give back to your community? Neighborhood? Organizations? The world?
LTP*: It gets tough because it feels like there is more that I should be doing. But you’re not helping anyone if you’re not prioritizing yourself and your needs. In Chicago, I hit the ground running. Polished Pebbles is a mentoring nonprofit for young Black girls from 7 to 17 founded by Kelly Fair, that I’ve mentored at for four years to help girls with their communication skills. It’s important to give back to girls who look like me. They need to see that there are other options available to them. There’s a saying that goes, “You can’t be what you can’t see!” That’s why representation is so important, which is why I say “yes” to every Career Day I’m invited to.. I’m also involved with SheSays, a networking group for creative women in Chicago, which is more of a sisterhood. It’s where I have met some of the most amazing women. I just eat, sleep, and breathe women and girls empowerment.
NW: What does social activism mean to you?
LTP: I was a latecomer. I needed a break after leaving JET for the sake of self-care and sanity (which I admit are privileged, first-world problems). I reached the boiling point last year. It’s too easy to sit on the sidelines and let someone else do that [read= fight for the cause!]! It’s my responsibility as a blogger and writer to use my platform for a greater good. I don’t have to wait for someone else to do this. I can do this. And if I lose a few readers or followers in the process, then so be it. They’re not my kind of people anyway. And I’ve heard from my white friends and followers that my posts have actually helped them gain a greater understanding of what it means to be a Black woman in this society, which is what it’s all about — starting the conversation.
I then switched gears a bit, and asked L’Oreal to discuss what a typical day looks like for her, and it was incredibly inspiring!
LTP: I was doing the most with the absolute least, and trying to do everything under the sun before work was a fail. So I had to sit down. Be humble. [This moment was punctuated by a ton of giggles. Thanks, Kendrick!] I meditate before anything else. I complete a devotional, prayer and journal for some quality me time before work. During my commute to work, I listen to a podcast, or read a book, and take notes on different projects. Once I get to work, I make a to-do list for the three most important things I have to do that day.
Then it’s meetings on meetings on meetings. For lunch, I’ll do some writing for my side projects or interviews, or I’m meeting up with a friend or networking with a new contact.
Very rarely do I go straight home after work. It’s either the gym, which is my self-care (and it’s a women-only gym, go girl power!) or I’ll attend a panel/networking event. Then I go home, eat dinner with my husband, check my personal email one last time, work on some stories and I try to go to bed by 10:30 (although it doesn’t always happen).
To see a woman who has accomplished so much on behalf of women and girls everywhere and prioritize herself in such a beautiful way really encouraged me on my self-care as a young woman with so much ahead of me.
NW: Anything else you’d like to share?
LTP: I go to therapy every Monday. It’s important to have routine mental health “checkups.”
And of course, I would have been remiss if I didn’t ask my final question given her Chi-town residency, which I’m proud to say is the only one that has stumped the veteran journalist:
NW: If you had the chance to collaborate with Chance the Rapper, what would the title of the collaboration be?
LTP: Wow! You know, I’ve done a lot of interviews and this is the first time that I’m truly stumped. I’d have to think about it. Maybe something with Black Boy Joy and Black Girl Magic?
NW: How about Black Boy Joy x Black Girl Magic?
LTP: That works [laughs]! I must admit that the first thing that came to mind truthfully was Cupcake, but I’d still like some time to think on it!
As you can see, L’Oreal is a powerful force in this society, and it is my hope that this interview offered you a clearer glimpse into her life as a woman, leader, and bomb.com writer. Don’t forget to share and like this article, as well as subscribe to Najya’s Newsletter to stay updated about future interviews and features!
You can learn more about her and her work by visiting her website (http://ltinthecity.com/) and following her everywhere at @LTintheCity!
*Please be aware that LTP’s comments are paraphrased for clarity purposes.