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Full Circle

Graduation season is in full swing and recently I had the absolute honor to be the commencement speaker for my Alma Maters Black Graduation. It was a full circle moment for so many reasons. At University of the Pacific, I found my voice. It was where I discovered my confidence and realized that being Black was a privilege. I could explain it further but I thought there was no better way to show my sheer amazement for the day but to post my actual speech. 

I am incredibly grateful for Marshea Pratt and her entire staff for asking me to speak and congratulations to the 2019 University of the Pacific Black Graduates!

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Good evening! How is everyone doing today? Greetings friends, faculty, staff, alumni and the illustrious class of 2019! Yes, you better make some noise for yourself! You did that!

My name is Alicia Jay. I received my Bachelors in broadcasting in 2002 and my Masters in Public Relations in 2003 right here at Pacific. I see you sitting there trying to do the math and let me just do it for you...I am 38 years old and looking great I might add. Now the burning question, did I play a sport at Pacific? Yes. I was the captain of the soccer team. The tallest goalie Pacific has ever had. Y’all actually believed me?

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Really, I played basketball for 5 years because I redshirted for a season. For those of you who don’t know what that is, I was granted an extra year of eligibility because I needed to get stronger. When I walked on this campus I was a very skinny girl, with absolutely no muscle, who didn’t know who she was, with zero confidence. I came all the way down from Beaverton, Oregon where I was one of a few black kids in the school district. Not the school...the entire district. I would walk home from elementary school with my little brother and someone would yell nigger out the window. I had a teacher that would bring me up in front of the class on a regular basis and tell everyone how poor my spelling scores were and what a terrible student I was. Later when I began my career in basketball, my Father pulled me off of the court during a game because he could see that I was visibly shaken due to the other teams racial remarks against me. On top of that, I was bullied on a regular basis for being exceptionally tall. Now, I know that they were making fun of me because they wanted my gift and couldn’t have it but at the time every comment felt like a knife to my side. So by the time I arrived at UOP, I was depleted. I was low. I was suicidal.

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During the first week, my teammate and I got a knock on our door and when we opened it, we were greeted by every black person on campus. The entire black student union came to make sure that we knew that they were there and more importantly that they had our back. After they left, my roommate and teammate who was from Oakland (shout out to Ahshalic) was shocked that the group were ALL of the black people in the student union, but for me, I was juiced! I finally had MY community with me. The 15 people at my door made me feel seen. They are my best friends to this day. They are the people who brought me back from hating who I was and more importantly taught me what a privilege it is to be black. They are my Sorors who I crossed with in 2001 when we reinitiated Delta Sigma Theta Sorority incorporated right here on this campus. They are my community that reminds me every day that I do in fact belong in the rooms that I am in and have the strength of every single black person who paved the way before me.

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Look around you right now. No matter where you go, you will always have a thread of being in this graduating class with each other. This moment is the starting point to the rest of your lives. Now, I’m gonna take it church. I need you to greet your graduating class right now. Hug your neighbor to the left and the right. Congratulate them. Really. Do it right now. Don’t make me come down there and hug each and every one of you because I will...

Now, why am I up here? Sure. I have accomplished some things. I could talk about how after graduating from Pacific, I commenced a 13 year career in corporate America with the Golden State Warriors in Game operations and marketing. I won awards, produced championship games, I was in parades and I have three rings which of course I am wearing tonight because I earned these bad boys and paid the taxes on them so please believe I wear them whenever I get the chance.

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I could talk about creating a successful lifestyle platform called TallSWAG that helps people to stand tall every day, in every way, that has brought me to many stages just like this one, enabled me to change lives and even star in a number one hit television show on TLC that was watched by millions of viewers. BTW I’m @TallSWAG on all social channels.

Click the photo for more about why I decided to go on a show with the word GIANT in the title.

Click the photo for more about why I decided to go on a show with the word GIANT in the title.

I could also talk about meeting Michelle Obama. I have proof y’all. Look. She is hugging me like I’m family. That’s not photoshopped. I still can’t believe that.

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But I am not going to talk about any of those things. Today, I am going to talk about painting your own picture.

The other day, I went to one of those paint and sip classes for the first time. If you haven’t been, it’s a class that teaches you how to paint the template of a picture while you sip the drink of your choice.
This was the one that we were going to paint.

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So, I get there. Find my easel. And I see the outline that is drawn. I make sure all of the colors are there and I am ready to paint it exactly how they told me too and something just clicked...why? There’s nothing wrong with it but I don’t put flowers in my hair and these colors don’t really go with my apartment...why did I have to stay in these lines? The answer is...you don’t.

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As you walk into the rest of your lives there are many people that are going to try and box you in and up. They will put parameters around you and give you parameters to stick to.

They will tell you your hair is too natural,
that you can’t deviate from the plan,
that you are intimidating,
that you don’t deserve the promotion, a seat at the table or can create your own table.

That is their version of the painting. Those are their lines. Don’t let those lies incarcerate your truth. You are bold. You are dynamic. You are a game changer and a history maker. You are everything that many people don’t want you to be

and they will do things to make you believe that their version is better. Do not let them.

8 months ago I listened to myself say this and walked away from a guided portrait to pursue my own work of art. I am now a full time entrepreneur. It has been challenging, it is taking prayer, patience and persistence but any great feat does. In your path you will encounter many lessons and it is your job to live through them, learn from them and pass them on, so today that is what I am going to do for you. These are lessons I learned for someone in this room today and you better appreciate them because they were not pleasant but like all lessons completely necessary...

Starting over is essential. You will do it many times throughout your life. They will all be scary. They will all be worth it. You arrive at every new start with the necessary lessons for that level of your life. Nothing is wasted. Use the levels, don’t let the levels use you.

You belong in the room. Whether it be a room that you created or one that you are helping to create, you deserve to be there. Your path led you to this place.

God makes no mistakes. Embrace it and thrive in it.

You are the only one with your gifts. No two people are the same. We are created to accomplish things that only we can do. Stop comparing your gifts to someone else’s. There is no comparison. Create your lane and thrive in your purpose.

Congratulate and Collaborate. We are here to build with our community. We achieve together. Our gifts are to be shared and celebrated. Contribute to and gain from your community.

Hard work always pays off. You must move your feet or someone else will. Purpose cannot be achieved without movement.

Never stand at closed doors. Closed doors are a blessing. They carve our path just like open ones do. Do not stare at them. They are there to create movement. Thank them for the experience and move forward.

The bear is scared of you. Your gifts will scare people into forming weapons against you. They will not prosper. Move past their noise and towards the achievement of your goals.

Ignore the clock. Shed the worlds timeline of success. Work hard. Follow your path and let your purpose unfold in the way that it was meant to. Don’t rush your story. Live it.

Get out of your own way. Your feelings will stop you from doing what it takes to accomplish your purpose. Choose faith over feelings always.

Leave it here. You will never see a U-Haul behind a hearse. You are here to leave a positive mark on the world. Get out there and use your gifts to do it. Use your influence to the fullest.

Now, these are very important points but really it all comes down to this very moment. You have accomplished something amazing and I am very proud of you but if you don’t do anything with it, you just paid a lot of money for a cap and gown. Use your gifts, your black privilege and the knowledge that you have gained right here at UOP to change the world in the most humble way possible. There is nobody that can do it in the way that you can except for you.

It has truly been an honor. Thank you for having me and congratulations to OUR new class of 2019!

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Congratulations to the 2019 University of the Pacific Black graduating class!

Congratulations to the 2019 University of the Pacific Black graduating class!

Sweat Equity

We have all been there. You are straight chillin on the couch, when your friend calls last minute with something fun that you just can’t pass up. You only have moments to get ready and are currently in sweat mode. What to do? Remix those sweats boo!

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You can add some very small things that will make a big impact on a chic athleisure look. In this case, I added a simple faux leather jacket, hoops and some nude pumps. Seriously, thats it. I guarantee you already have accessories that you can add. No purchase necessary. Just go in that closet and mix it up.

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ASOS DESIGN Tall Hoodie & Jogger Set (shown in size L) /Faux Leather Jacket - ASOS  (similar here) /Glasses and Hoops - Forever 21/Pumps - Calvin Klein (shown in size 12)  Photos by  Alina Mamlyuk

ASOS DESIGN Tall Hoodie & Jogger Set (shown in size L)/Faux Leather Jacket - ASOS (similar here)/Glasses and Hoops - Forever 21/Pumps - Calvin Klein (shown in size 12)

Photos by Alina Mamlyuk

If you are looking for sweats, I highly recommend the ASOS loungewear line but if you already have them, there are simple, easy and free ways to pump them up 20 notches. Try some things out. The worst thing that can happen is you have to buy a new pair of sweats and the best is unlocking new looks you didn’t even know you had in your closet. That doesn’t sound like much of a risk to me. Besides, you need that emergency look on hand for that one last minute friend that we all have, know and love. Stay ready so you wont have to get ready. Period.

Audience of One

Photo -  Nikki Notarte   Entire outfit -  Long Tall Sally

Photo - Nikki Notarte

Entire outfit - Long Tall Sally

To say that this time of my life has been formative is an understatement. It’s been almost 7 months of discovering things about myself that I never would have if I didn’t follow the step of obedience of resigning from the job that I had for 13 years.

It’s been beautiful. It’s been terrifying. It’s been a ball of every emotion that you could ever have. There are so many unknowns in my path but the one thing that I do know is; I am on the right one.

I have been grinding behind the scenes on some pretty amazing things. As an entrepreneur you always have multiple irons in the fire. Some of them come to fruition, some aren’t meant to be and most you have to relentlessly pursue and simply make them happen. As they say, often the ones that succeed aren’t the first to do it, they are just the people that never gave up. 

And I am one of those people. I won’t give up on the things that God told me to do but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel every emotion while I am doing it. I have felt the warmth of joy and the sting of tears running down my cheeks on a regular basis. I don’t care how much faith you have, nobody is immune to feeling feelings.

With that breakdown in tow, fear is the main culprit right now. Not a fear of God not coming through but more a sheer fear of what people are thinking of my path.

Is she crazy? What is she even doing? Is she just sitting at home? She made a mistake. She isn’t a success.

All of these statements flow through my mind and at times have literally kept me captive. Not since I found my confidence have I cared what people thought, until now. 

So I sat with those feels for awhile. I interviewed them, broke bread with them and stared intently into their eyes so that I could figure out a way to handle them. You see. Feelings will always be there. You must pinpoint a way to get them on the side of right.

Every analysis boiled down to this fact: God is the only audience we should care about.

If God tells you to do it, no matter what it may look like to the world, do it for His applause and his applause only. No worldly opinion should matter. Do not let yourself, social media, haters or even friends and family supersede the ovation of God. No matter the size of the stage you find yourself on, let His claps guide the way to His purpose for your life.

So moving forward, let’s mute the approval of the world and look to God for everything that we need. Stand tall in the certainty that there is only one stamp of approval you need and that is from Him.

Moving forward I will be adding an audio version of my blogs for the visually impaired (or any else that wants to listen instead of read:). Thank you for the suggestion Patricia! I am sorry I didn’t think of it before!

Starting Line

When I took the leap to follow my dreams, I knew it would take a lot of hard work. Being a dream slayer is a relentless pursuit of getting the bag your way, every day. I’m knocking on every door that I am passionate about, and praising God for the ones that He opens, as well as the doors he creates. It’s a faith fueled grind and I am here for every minute of it.

Perhaps the thing that is hardest, is my budget. While I was saving up for this time before, now I am living solely off of my pursuit and savings. By no means am I broke but there is still a change in the way that I spend my money. I was a baby about it at first, but I am adjusting in the best way I know how. I am well aware that I have more than most and every single day God shows me that money doesn’t make you rich. It’s a lesson that humbles me constantly. My eyes are being opened in ways that I didn’t know I desperately needed.

With that said, mixing and matching are my jam right now. The days of acquiring pieces that aren’t thoughtful are over. If I can’t wear them in every season, in multiple ways, it more than likely won’t end up in my cart. Also, I am moving into a time of living in a more minimalistic manner. I have too much stuff and it’s time to simplify everything (something exciting is on the way there so stay tuned).

Take these pants for example. I have been wearing them all summer with some sandals and a bodysuit but now that it’s fall, they will get a remix. Not only because I love them, but also because they are a pant that you can literally wear everything with.

All of these pieces are from Long Tall Sally. The construction is stellar. Wanna try their pieces on? Check to see if there is a pop-up shop near you. I’m telling you, it’s worth your time. When was the last time you walked in and were able to try everything on? It also helps to know your LTS sizing for future online orders. THE BEST part is meeting your fellow tall queens. It’s magical.

Throw on a  cardigan  and  sneaks  and walk right into fall.

Throw on a cardigan and sneaks and walk right into fall.

From a cardigan, to a blazer, to a sweatshirt, these leggings are on trend and go with everything. I have been channeling sporty spice like a mug. I’m also incredibly comfortable which has been very important to me these days. I’m working hard and not trying to be irritated by my clothing or shoes. Actually never but you know what I mean.

Now, I am going to post a thousand more pictures in this outfit because it’s a lot of work to take them (check out my IGTV episode on blog shoots on IG) AND Nikki shot some killer shots. She not only shot the photos, she also slayed the makeup. Please follow her page @TheEyeThatGetsThePicture. Enjoy the blizzard of photos and like the great blogger that I am, I will sum them all up at the end.

Side Stripe Ponte Leggings (shown in size s) / LTS Peyton Lace Detail Sneaker  (shown in s size 13. I always personally size up for LTS Sneakers)/Bodysuit and necklace - Forever 21 (some of the bodysuits actually fit me. Emphasis on some.)/ Block Sandals above  - Target (shown in size 12).

Side Stripe Ponte Leggings (shown in size s)/LTS Peyton Lace Detail Sneaker (shown in s size 13. I always personally size up for LTS Sneakers)/Bodysuit and necklace - Forever 21 (some of the bodysuits actually fit me. Emphasis on some.)/Block Sandals above - Target (shown in size 12).

While I definitely still have my moments of uncertainty, I rest in knowing that I am rockin whatever I wear on the right path with God leading me all of the way. I am working harder, smarter and in a fiscally responsible manner. The lessons that I am learning far outweigh the change in my payroll. God wants it ALL for me and I will faith it forward, achieving His purposes for my life along the way.

It’s the start of fall, but every day is a start of something great that God has planned for you. Whether a new path, new project, or new frame of mind, it’s never too late to start. Are you ready? Get set. Go!

My First Style Segment

I updated the last post with this video but just in case you didn't see it...this is my first style segment on Good Day Sacramento!

It was such an amazing day! My beautiful friends slayed the segment and we had a blast. It is truly a blessing to be surrounded and loved by all of the dynamic, successful women in my life.

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We also got to meet the ridiculously gorgeous (inside and out) Goapele. We all definitely had official fan girl moments.

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I am just so thankful to Carly, Monica, Monique and Lameka for doing this. It meant and means so much to me! I mean...just look at their beautiful, tall selves. I couldn't have done it without them! 

To check out their looks...click the pics!

Carly . 6'2". Click photo for details. 

Carly. 6'2". Click photo for details. 

Monique . 6'5". Click photo for Details.

Monique. 6'5". Click photo for Details.

Monica . 6'1". Click photo for Details.

Monica. 6'1". Click photo for Details.

Lameka . 6'2". Click photo for Details. 

Lameka. 6'2". Click photo for Details. 

My dear friend Nikki (you may have seen her on MGL) went above and beyond for this segment. Her support means the world to me! She did all of the makeup for the segment and took amazing photos and videos after. I am so thankful for her talents but more importantly, beyond grateful for her friendship. 

Nikki Notarte Artistry

Nikki Notarte Artistry

The entire day felt like one of those moments where you literally feel God doing His work. I was working right within my purpose all day, He showed me the love that He has created all around me and He certainly started my 37th year on this earth with a bang so I can't wait to see what He does next!

I am forever grateful to Good Day Sacramento for having us on the show. It was an amazing start to what I know will continue to flourish. My friend Courtney Dempsey is the real MVP for setting the whole segment up. I look up to you in so many ways. Thank you from the bottom of my tall heart:-)    

Please let me know what you think about the piece (comment below or email info@TallSWAG.com). Personally, I am cutting it up and studying it like game film. We must always do, learn and improve.

Also, if you have any ideas/connections for more pieces, please let me know. I mean...a closed mouth doesn't get fed lol. I am here for all of the constructive criticism, suggestions and connections:-)

Thanks for reading about this awesome day...I can't wait to share many more with you!

Let God

Style posts have taken over my life for some years now. People don't understand how much work they really are. Imagine every outfit you have worn in a 2 week span, constructed, gathered and shot in a single shoot. It's taxing. While this style schedule has been draining, this post is the first time in a long time that I actually had fun doing one.

In the past I put so much pressure on myself to look perfect, have the perfect on trend clothes and obsessed about angles. I was unknowingly creating an image that I could never live up to. I was doing you a disservice and I apologize for that. 

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I would toil over every detail and it was taxing.

No more.

Whenever I shoot these from now on, I will just let them unfold organically. Those veins on my hand will be poppin. If a hair is out of place, that is where it will sit. If my nails don't match, oh well. If I don't feel like rockin a trend, I won't. I will no longer push outside ideals of what I think I should be. That drug no longer has a place here.

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For the past 6 months especially I have been stretched to the hilt. I have found out so many things about myself. I love the beautiful things and am repairing the ugly ones. My confidence is a constant werk in progress. It ebbs and flows. I don't want to preach that it is always positive. While our confidence is always there, no doubt there are days when it's exausted.

There will be many more days where I will need to build my strength. This doesn't make me weak, it makes me human.

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And really I need to stop caring about what you think. I found myself caring more about your thoughts of my content than the purpose behind the pictures and words. 

I absolutely enjoy sharing our stories and beautiful comments about life. It is one of my favorite things about being a blogger but I need to shed the act of caring what you and other people think. The only opinion that should matter is God's. He built me, He gave me my purpose and has made me exactly who I am. He and He alone is who I should be concerned with. I love you and will listen to anything you have to say but at the end of the day, He is the only opinion that matters. To fully live my life, I must walk tall in this fact every single day.

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Sweatshirt - STUZO Clothing / Tall Mom Jeans - ASOS /Glasses - Opaque Eyewear/Kicks - Nike via Nordstrom Rack  Photo credit:  Ashdav Photo

Sweatshirt - STUZO Clothing/Tall Mom Jeans - ASOS/Glasses - Opaque Eyewear/Kicks - Nike via Nordstrom Rack

Photo credit: Ashdav Photo

This is a revelation that came out of a 14 day period of non-stop anxiety about the show. When I dropped the trailer, anxiety enveloped every being of my body. I didn't like the reactions of some people, I didn't like the way I looked with my natural hair (silly yet real thought), questioned the telling of my story and a hundred other completely fabricated things. I built a false mountain out of a non-existent molehill.

I relied on my own view of the situation instead of relying on God's principles and promises for my life. He has given me this opportunity, told me to do it and will do great things with it despite what my view of it may be. Our steps of faith are hard and often confusing but lead to God's plan that is always better than anything we could ever piece together. 

I say all of that to say this...stop trying to control your life and let God take the lead. Work on giving Him the reigns for good. Your life is strategically unfolding in the way that He wants it to. Get out of your own way and certainly get out of His. Listen to Him and unapologetically walk with Him. Be yourself, learn, grow, let go and let God be who He is.