We are excited to present a new interview series, PAY IT FORWARD, in partnership with the Lily. The Lily, published by The Washington Post, elevates issues critical to women by fostering important conversations and empowering stories. We spoke with women who we collectively admire to hear what mentorship means to them, the advice that has been most meaningful, and the importance of uplifting the women around you.
First up in our series is Yaminah Mayo, content creator and writer. Yaminah is the force behind Spicy Mayo, where she documents her likes, dislikes, and progression as a writer. We spoke with Yaminah about what mentorship looks like to her and where she has found support in her career and personal life. Check back next week for our second interview in this series.
Do you have a female mentor or leader you respect? Who is she?
I have way too many! They are all in the creative field but their jobs vary. If I had to choose one or two that definitely hold me down, I would definitely have to pick Lilac Perez and Lavonda Manning. I met them at Refinery29 and they really are about pushing women of color, of all mediums, to the forefront. They’re always giving me advice and encouraging me. I literally have a DM full of screenshots from Lavonda telling me about which editors are looking for writers to pitch them!
What qualities make a good mentor or leader?
Caring about who you’re leading is very important, as is allowing yourself to still grow while mentoring. I also think transparency is key. The best thing about all my mentors (and I have a lot, even if they don’t know it) is that they’re transparent about how they started and the amount of work it takes to succeed. Mentorship is really a friendship.
Mentors come in all different forms, and are not always people who we expect. What is your experience with this?
I sought out a lot of the women I consider mentors. I’ve even met some at parties or at clubs while semi-drunk. It’s really about forming genuine relationships—never just go up to someone and cold ask them to be your mentor. Make sure they: 1. Are sane 2. Have your best interests in mind 3. Have 65% of their own sh*t together. Instagram is one big catfish! Trust.
What is something a woman mentor or leader did for you, that you now try and do for other women?
Push other women forward. In the (paraphrased) ever-brilliant words of Toni Morrison: ‘If you have power, your job is to empower someone else. If you are free, your job is to free someone else.’ It reminds me that there is room for everyone. Reach back.
How did that experience (of what your mentor did for you) change your career/life?
Lilac gave me my first editorial job, where I shot with JuCo. That shoot gave me a taste of the life I dreamed of. Recently, one of my mentors recommended me for a job that would surround me with women that I’m inspired by, and I got the job. That populace of greatness will now translate into my work and add another branch onto my community tree.
What’s one piece of advice that you struggle to put into practice (even though you know you should)
Getting out of my emotions! I’ve gotten a lot better but when I feel slighted or offended I sit with it for hours and replay it in my head. It’s slowly getting better. Slowly, very slowly.
Where and when do you do your best work?
I’m a night owl and catch a second wind between 10pm and 1:30am. For working during the day, I really like The Wing and Sincerely Tommy. Basically, anywhere there’s an almond chai and great decor, you’ll find me.
Have you had a recent “Aha!” moment or breakthrough?
I swear I have breakthroughs every day. However, I was recently at Project Beauty Expo in Chelsea and so many women came up to me and told me that they love my work/content. It really affirmed me to continue doing what I’m doing, only on a larger scale and platform!
What is once piece of advice that someone can put into action today?
Start! You can figure it out as you go…
What is one thing you want women to keep in mind as they go through life?
Nina Simone said it best: “Life is short. People are not easy to know. They’re not easy to know, so if you don’t tell them how you feel, you’re not going to get anywhere, I feel.”