Interview: Chinae Alexander
Below is an interview with Chinae Alexander: wellness expert, entrepreneur, social media influencer, and speaker. Through her work on her own brand, Adidas, and other projects she aims to encourage and empower people through positive thinking and honest expression.
Addis: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are now? What have the past three years looked like for you?
Chinae: I started my own event planning company around three years ago. Before doing that I was working for someone else, who was a marketing director. One day he turned to me and said: “You’re an entrepreneur, you’re not supposed to work for me”. I then became an entrepreneur; he paid me for three months and I went off on my own and started my company. During this time I was also getting more involved with Instagram, which started because I was applying for a job at Classpass in social media. I wanted to show them that I had an interest in social media and fitness; however, I ended up not getting the job because of a lack of experience. I still liked running my Instagram account, so I kept working on it; it’s a fun project that has been able to connect women all over the world. As I was growing my event planning company my Instagram also started growing, so about a year and a half ago I began working on developing my personal brand full time. Now I pursue that full time and have a team that helps me do that!
A: You have several titles for yourself – entrepreneur, brand ambassador, speaker, etc – what do they mean for your and the spread of your message?
C: My multiple titles show that women can be many things. For example, being an entrepreneur looks many different ways, as does a speaker, but how you speak and who you speak to is what differentiates you from the rest. There are many connotations that are attached to all of these titles but for me it means that I don’t have to only choose to develop one side of myself.
A: Definitely! So I guess, when you speak who are you speaking to?
C: I speak to whoever will listen. I don’t have a one type of message for one type of person, we all listen to different things to get what we need in that moment. My audience has a wide range of interests and experiences, which means that they come to me for many different reasons. I like that!
A: Who did you use as inspiration in order to become an entrepreneur, brand ambassador, and speaker? Was it one person? Many different people?
C: Honestly it was myself. I don’t really watch what other people do, I think that’s what’s wrong with a lot of the social and media worlds. People try to emulate others rather than spending that time focusing on who they are. People ask: “What is she doing?” or “How is she doing that so well?” or “Who is doing what?”. If we all just focused more on ourselves and what we’re doing the product would be so much better. Too many people are trying to emulate what’s popular, but I’d rather see more individuals work on themselves and work on their craft.
A: When did you first realize you want to be fighting for female empowerment in a public space?
C: I never realized it because it was never my plan, it was never the goal to fight for anything really. These are real things that I care about in real life, so I didn’t carefully choose subject matter to talk about. My work is more about sharing my life online. Therefore, when your life encompasses certain values and you share your life the way I do it’s not that hard to talk about them online. I think a lot of people shy away from speaking about social justice issues online because they don’t want to talk about anything that people might disagree with, but personally I don’t.
A: What are some issues that you think more people (or yourself!) should be paying attention to? How can you use your platform to raise awareness and make change?
C: Right now social issues and politics are really important to me. As I said, a lot of people shy away from talking about that stuff online, because that fits my personal brand. However, it doesn’t fit everyone’s and I think that’s understandable and reasonable. (Also, I don’t ask that people agree with me! I just want people to know that having an opinion of their own and sharing that opinion is healthy). I think the many types of racial injustice in our country is a glaring issue that people should be more aware of. The women’s movement is also another important subject; it’s very near and dear to my own heart. Generally, I think advocating for groups that don’t have very many advocates is very important.
A: Can you describe your relationship with social media and how it’s changed since gaining more of a following.
C: I don’t really think it has, to be honest, which I think is a good thing. The only difference is how much I protect my personal life and personal time. It’s definitely a struggle sometimes, especially when I have many people who need many things from me. I love what I do but I also have to be careful and protect my sanity.
A: Do you find yourself getting overextended sometimes?
C: I protect myself with all that I can and try not to let myself get to that point. There have been times where I’ve felt really drained, which I don’t like because I never want to be drained by something that I love. I never want to resent what I do or feel so out of energy that I don’t give my projects my all. For me, that just means creating really strong boundaries. Sometimes I’ll choose to relax for a weekend or not answer the 300th message of the day, and that’s okay! I protect my time, which I think is important for anyone. Learning how to say no is essential, and I have to say it in order to be my best.
A: Clearly social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, what do you think the future holds for our digital lives?
C: I think we’re going back to a place where reality is more compelling than fantasy. For Instagram specifically, I think it used to be more about sharing instantly, but then users started adopting a highly curated persona that isn’t real and more just for aesthetics. I think Instagram users are coming back to its original roots in terms of how they share, when they share, and who they share for. It’s how I’ve developed my brand so I selfishly hope that we continue on that trajectory, I think it’s nice to share honestly. I think social media will be a lot more video and a lot more instantaneous sharing, but I’m not sure exactly what that will look like. In general, I hope that social media moves more into reality.