Off the Record Episode 6 : Tyeshea Campbell

Welcome to Off the Record, a series meant to inform, inspire and highlight women of color creating their own lane in their respective industries. If you were looking for boss women, you found them

Today, meet blogger, photographer and dancer, Tyeshea Campbell.

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Can you tell us about your journey to your career in media?/ What started it all?

When I was in school originally I was a psychology major. I loved watching the behaviors of people, studying their interactions and what makes us do the things that we do, but it wasn’t fulfilling for me. So, I switched over to marketing because I felt like [it] was a wide range field.

I started doing photography when I was a freshman in college — around 2011 — and I just wanted to see images of other black women that were positive for people my age that just weren’t celebrities. I’ve always been into celebrity gossip and I knew that I wanted to work in that field of media. I just didn’t know it’d be behind the camera.

Eventually once I moved to NY, I decided to go full-steam ahead and figure out where my place was in media. Fortunately, it was behind the camera doing red carpet stuff and it led me to working at Alvin Ailey.

How long have you worked in dance? 

I’ve been dancing since I was about six years old. Dance was my first passion, before I ever became a photographer, before I ever loved film making. Once I injured my knee, I figured my career was over of trying to be a professional dancer and pursuing that after college. So when I moved to New York, of course, there’s Alvin Ailey and this is the best place to work.

What part of your job do you find most satisfying?

I sit and I watch these people, especially the younger kids, and they look so full of life and I remember being that when I was dancing and just being in it and happy. And you know you get body aches and stuff like that, but it’s a fun thing when you love what you do. The fact that I can work somewhere and I can watch other people dance and I appreciate the art of dance, that is the most satisfying thing.

How do you go about choosing what events/people to cover for Afrovocative

When I originally started Afrovocative, it was something that was just about photography and highlighting women of color. I came up with the name Afrovocative one day [when] I was sitting and trying to figure out what I wanted to name my blog, but I did a photoshoot of myself as a hero and I called her Afrogirl. Then as I was going on to figure out the name of my blog, I was like, “you know I always got an opinion about somethin’, I’m provocative” and I was like “oh snap, Afrovocative”. So that is literally how it came about.

So, I went further and tried to define what that meant. Being Afrovocative to me is about being a fearless person who is trying to uplift Afro culture. I tend to focus on events that are geared towards black people, black culture and specifically black women.

It’s such a niche thing to be a black director as a woman or a black writer as a woman. You look at people like Ava DuVernay, who is this amazing woman, and she’s reaching back into the young creatives that are coming up now. Like Issa Rae says it’s about networking across. So, I try to focus on events that aren’t so mainstream that I can’t get into but things that are either at my same level or things that are up and coming.

What are the best tactics you use to market yourself and build your network in the media space? 

Being a photographer that is also a filmmaker has given me some sort of edge becase I’m a one woman show. I know how to get the pictures, but I also know how to film the video and I’ve taught myself to edit. Being a dancer I also know what I like things to look like visually, so I feel like I’m a total package and that’s how I market myself.

I often go to the website and look at who their public relations person is or who their director of events and marketing is and then send out an email and say, “I see that you have this event coming up. I would really like to cover it.” Then I’ll send my media kit with the email and explain exactly what Afrovocative is and why I should be covering their event. Sometimes you gotta finesse and you gotta name drop, so sometimes I’ll mention those things to kind of give myself leverage and let them see that I’m not playing around. This is something that I’m taking serious and trying to build my own brand.

What advice would you give someone interested in a career in media or starting their own brand?

  1. Know what you want to say. You don’t necessarily need to know how you’re going to say it because those are things you learn along the way. For me, I knew I wanted to talk about black women, I wanted to talk about black culture, I wanted to talk about what it means to be a black person in today’s world, so that has been my main focus

  2. Also, do your research on brands. If you know you want to write for Essence Magazine, [for example], start off by writing for smaller companies or publications. Then, as you build your resume, you reach out to things that are a little bit above you. You don’t necessarily have to go for the top because you might get denied if you don’t have that experience or that background.

What are your goals for Afrovocative? Where do you see it in 5 years? 

In the next five years, I would really like for my blog to be similar to Oprah’s brand. I would like for my blog to become the popular media site for other black creative to showcase their work on and can employ other black creatives that are coming up. I know how hard it is to try to break through that door and to get into media and to be like, “I’m here, I’m with it, I’m talented, I’m ready to work.” It’s not always easy especially when you’re a brown girl.