Note: Many thanks to Voyage Houston for the profile! I'm somewhere between humbled and "Hell yes!" *flips hair and twirls*
Today we’d like to introduce you to Cecilia M. Austin.
Cecilia, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I took a leap of faith, moving from California to Texas to attend the University of Houston. Everything was different and I was scared as shit, but eventually I figured it out, earning a degree in Journalism from the University of Houston in 2010. Despite minoring in political science (and dreams of working for CNN lol), after graduation I fell into music journalism – interning at outlets like SwaysUniverse.com and later writing for AllHipHop.com, Atlanta Black Star, Houston Press, Houston Style Magazine, Houston Trend Magazine, and more. I spent the first five years of my career writing about culture, music and politics – interviewing artists and celebrities including Kevin Hart, T.I., Master P, Morris Chestnut, Regina Hall, Cedric the Entertainer, Michael Bolton, Houston Mayors’ Annise Parker and Sylvester Turner and more. But early on, my favorite part was just going out and finding a story at local shows.Since then I’ve continued to write for various outlets while branching out into different things including Yellow Bandit Radio, event hosting, public speaking, social media management and more. I’ll admit, I’ve learned a lot of things either the hard way or through trial and error, which is what motivated me to start #TipsForCreatives – because if I can spare someone some of the L’s I’ve taken I absolutely will. Ready to expand, in 2015 I officially launched Yellow Bandit Media, a creative writing agency I’ve used to create content and share resources with other creative professionals. At 32 I haven’t figured it all out yet, but damn I’m having fun.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The biggest hurdle I faced initially was trying to figure out how to start my career. You go through years of college, get handed a shiny new degree and then it’s like, “Okay, now what?” Like others I wondered, “How do you get work experience if no one will hire you?” This was especially hard because I graduated as many newspapers were going under, and baby Sallie Mae still had to be paid. Blogs had begun to reign supreme, but I still had dreams of working for outlets like the New York Times, or even a local news station – but couldn’t land an interview to save my life. So I became a freelancer, writing for different outlets and working by day as needed before finding my groove as a writer and creative consultant.
Like others, I took a leap of faith and reached out to several people in the industry, but after receiving no response I realized I had take my career into my own hands and hit the ground running. I try not to take certain things personally, if a door doesn’t open you build another one. Or kick it down, whichever you prefer I suppose. After interning at a few began brining me on as a staff writing, increasing my earning potential and unlocking new opportunities. During this time I was also able to build a network of other writers and creatives, something that becomes invaluable as your career progresses. A good rule f thumb (as cliche as it sounds) is treat people well. In this industry you come across the same faces a lot, and you never know who your next editor or publisher may be. Treat people well and in time, it comes back in ways you might not expect. Sometimes all you really need is a chance to show and prove yourself. So has it been easy? Hell no. But if it’s your passion, you find a way or make one. I’ve also learned you don’t necessarily have to move away, though sometimes it’s needed. For years I was told, “Move to New York” but while there are certainly more media opportunities in some cities, in a digital age you can still create a viable path for yourself elsewhere. You just might have to work a little harder to do it.
When it comes to other young women, or young writers in general, I try to make myself available in ways I didn’t have when I was first starting out. I think mentorships and partnerships are amazing when done right, so I’m willing to lend a hand to those coming up behind me. There’s truly room for all of us to eat.
Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of. I think sometimes we get so busy chasing our goals, that we forget to acknowledge some of the dope things we’ve already accomplished. I went to college to become a journalist, but becoming a professional writer has opened other doors that I never considered, allowing me to ghostwrite, travel and more. Today I still serve as a freelance writer, and also work in global marketing for a Texas brand. Some of the brands I’ve worked with include BET, DJScrew.com, Triquest Management, Lillie B. Girls and others.
I also forced myself into Toastmasters, which gave me the courage to enter public speaking by speaking at local middle and high schools. I’ve realized that if it terrifies me, I should try it, at least that’s what I tell myself. Up next on my agenda of terrifying things, a book. Yikes
Looking back on your childhood, what experiences do you feel played an important role in shaping the person you grew up to be? I’m the old soul that learned to play Spades just so I could be my mom’s partner at the kickbacks. I grew up on the West Coast during the 90s, which could be a book in itself, and it absolutely shaped my childhood. I’ve always loved books, music and films. In that order. I learned to read young, I’ve always been terrible at math (still am), but God – I loved to read. I thank my mother for that, as she often forced me to read the dictionary or “go write sentences” when I’d been bad. As an adult I now live in Houston, where I’ve been spoiled by an insanely great cost of living
and crawfish. Oh how I love crawfish.
Instagram: @SimplyCecilia - Facebook: @TheSimplyCecilia - Twitter: @SimplyCecilia