As Told To Veronica R. Wells
Stacy Ike Refused To Get A Job After College And Ended Up Working For Oprah
Photo by Taylor S. Hunter @GoldenTimeTay
During our conversation, television host, actress, and entrepreneur Stacy Ike, offhandedly described herself as a "fluff girl." And while I believe in the power of letting Black women define themselves, this descriptor is limited, to say the least. I met Stacy years ago as a freshman during a National Association of Black Journalist meeting at the University of Missouri, where we both studied journalism. From that day forward, she has consistently been a light. I’ve described her as such before. I know I risk sounding redundant, but it’s just the most accurate depiction. Stacy radiates full, positive, authentic and inspirational energy. And thankfully, she doesn’t mind sharing. I interviewed her almost a year ago for MadameNoire, where we discussed her project “Fight For Your Fairytale.” She shared so many gems in that interview, I knew I needed to have a second conversation for NSNC. See what she had to say about intentionally avoiding getting a 9-5 after college, being handpicked by Oprah, and the power of listening to and trusting God.
NSNC: During our first interview you touched on some key things that I really wanted you to dive in a bit further with. Tell me again about your decision not to pursue a traditional nine to five job after completing journalism school. Well the funny thing is, I don't know if I said it the first time we chatted, but there was a little bit of fear too. With going into a journalism job, the fear of being unhappy was super real. I was like, I'm too scared to find out how unhappy I'm going to be if I do something that I KNOW I don't want to do but I am good at. I have been trained. I might be fine, but I was so scared to find out-- like you know how you apply for a job and you think you're not going to get and then you get it and you're like 'Oh wait...' It was literally that feeling. There will be nothing stopping me from getting a job. I'm qualified to do the job and I was too scared to find out, if I really went down the full path of doing that, like what did that look like? So instead of doing that, I just decided I'd rather be scared on this side, than be scared in something that I know I don't want. NSNC: How did you know you didn't want that? Because when I was doing it [in journalism school], I was not the best version of myself. I'm so happy that I have those skills and I learned it, but you know, when you don't want to do something. There's a difference between like lazy and genuine this isn't for me. I used to really beat myself up about it when I would be at the news station [At the University of Missouri, all journalism students work at local media outlets for school credit.] and they'd say 'Breaking News Story!' and I'd be like, 'Umm I'm going to the bathroom.' Legit... Girl, I remember the day that this story broke out and I hid in the bathroom! Fifteen minutes. That's not right!
That was it. I was like, 'You don't want this.' And I was so scared to admit it. I was so scared to admit it because I'm at the number one journalism school. And it wasn't that I didn't want journalism, I just wanted to do it my own way. And I didn't know if that was possible and I was very frightened to figure it out. I was like, 'Well, I think the first step would be just not doing that [getting a traditional journalism job.]' So we're just going to have to trust that. That's the first step. Thank God it really was. And so, yeah girl it was just like I'm too scared to actually do this.
NSNC: That is so self aware at such a young age. I was always around you guys. You guys were older and wise. NSNC: So after you graduated, you went to Australia and then you moved to LA. And you talked about "Do It Scared." And that really stuck out to me too. So could you just expound a little bit about what that means and when you've had to do that in your life and in your career? Yeah, I think the higher I'm getting in my career, the more I'm doing things scared. Which means, you're completely leveling up, like you're growing up. The more things, I'm doing scared, the prouder I am of myself. I don't think I do it all the time. I'm not always the most fearless person. I really like to say that because I want people to know. People are like, 'Wow she's so accomplished. She's so fearless.' Confidence, yeah. That's been pretty easy by the grace of God because I really do believe we all get to be ourselves. Fearless though isn't for real. I think there's something about just deciding and understanding that you're going to be scared because you've never done it before. You're human and that's what happens. So identifying that, not letting that cripple you, and just deciding to go anyway. Sometimes you've got to be pushed. I've been pushed enough times where as soon as I get those feelings, I'm like, 'Somebody's probably about to push me.' But doing it scared is probably the best way to do it. 'I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm about to leap because then you're a true testimony and true inspiration to other people. Almost everything we're doing is for each other. We don't realize because we're so basic and think about ourselves all the time. But if you want to be happy, get yourself off your mind. So I'm always thinking the more scared and the more crazy that I get, the more I can actually tell you, 'No, you could do it. I just did it.' Like fear is not the plug. It's not the plug. It's a daily thing. It is not something where I'm like, 'Oh my God. I can totally do this.' I definitely have the moment of 'Wow, we're about the level of again?!' 'I'm scared again?!' The new mistakes I made are a new level up. I'm trying to be bomb enough to make some mistakes on the regular. Do it scared. Make the mistake. You have to do it or you'll never get the opportunity to find out what your greatness looks like or what your fairy tale really could be.
[Editor's Note: Stacy and I had this conversation a full calendar year before Ciara's "Level Up" was released.]
NSNC: Exactly. What would you say was your first break after moving to LA? So I moved here in January [years ago], went to a lot networking things, did the restaurant job and all that kind of stuff. Took the bus, whatever. I went to this event and met a really dope girl her name is Tiana and she introduced me to Afterbuzz Tv and that really gave me a platform and a starting point to practice and get a reel together in an entertainment way. So that was I think like a first starting point... and then first break?.. Wow. Because the thing is, I guess it's all relative, you know? I don't even know if I've had my first break now. But once you keep leveling up, the goal just keeps expanding. You're like, 'Ooh, there's more to do.' So I remember I got Dish Nation. I started working there, but I was working behind the scenes for awhile and that was hard because you know, they were like, 'She clearly wants to be doing something else.' Because I would be suggesting ideas and they were like, 'Ma'am, your job is to type.' I was logging. As the host of the show would talk, I'm supposed to be typing them live. NSNC: Oh God. The worst. I was like, 'This is not what I'm supposed to be doing.' Not even in life but I mean literally I shouldn't even be doing this for y'all. I'm so bad at it. I mean I was so bad. So they gave me a few on-camera opportunities and that was a really cool experience too. But it's all been an inch because Baller Alert was a whole 'nother experience. Every little thing I was like, 'Ooo' because all of it was what I was seeking before I moved here. Like 'Can I do it my own way?' And all of those jobs proved you could. Now all of them weren't for me. But they were always different ways to be like here's another version of what entertainment looks like. Within the first year, I got really blessed and like after about six, seven months of really just putting myself out there consistently and then doing the BET carpet after I moved here-- that was pretty big. I bulldozed my way onto that carpet.
Photo by adrianjphoto
NSNC: How did you do that?
It was petty. I was just crazy. I was just very persistent with the boss. Oo I don't know if I should...because I really want to tell you the full story but... yeah I'm going to tell you. So I was asking, 'Hey are you guys looking for hosts for the BET Awards?' And they had said, 'Oh yeah, but don't worry about it. We already have the A team together.' NSNC: Oh!
And I was like, I'm not on the team though so... That's literally what happened and I made sure to be part of that carpet. But at the end of the day everybody was like, she's that crazy. Like that's how much she wants it. I also pissed people off, but I also made a really great friend out of it because he was like, 'I don't really like you.' And I said, 'Let's talk about that.' Because I did do the most. I did. But let's talk about why you don't like me, like why are you mad? Because I was right and this carpet went really well? It was a really crazy experience for me because I was not trying to be stepping on people's toes. It's not my style. But I wanted to be there so badly and it wasn't looking like any other way. But the carpet. And ,it was one of the best weekends of my life, honestly. Because it was like, 'Wow, this is cool.' So that was one of the first carpets I ever did. Lessons learned. Don't be rude but be good. If you're going to bulldoze, when you get there, you better be good. That's the only thing that saved me. They're like, 'Oh, she's hella researched and knows everybody coming down the carpet.' That saved me. NSNC: And you weren't afraid to have a conversation. You weren't afraid of the confrontation. Yeah...I should have been... but I was so excited. I just wanted to be anywhere I could be working. And I'm glad that I was, that I did the most that day because it worked out. Thank God it worked out. I don't do that like all the time. But I felt like this is the moment, I've got to be here for this. NSNC: Good for you.
NSNC: You also said Take a moment to be basic. And it's so important. We were talking about the highlight reel and social media culture. So could you explain what that's about? Well, I think the basic is the real fabric and the thread that actually connects us all. We all have our elements of basic because that's called human. It's really like take a moment to be human. And every single person, every single person you admire has the same experiences as you do. Money does not change that. Circumstances can influence a situation, but everybody has a heart. Everybody has a soul. Everybody has a spirit. Everybody has a mind. That's our thread, that's our fabric and it connects us all. And so those moments of being basic or just being you-- it's not makeup. Not being made into something. It's just being the most authentic. And sometimes it's the version of you that you work on, the version of you that no one claps for. That's the version that sometimes you sit with. That's like when I say "Fight For Your Fairytale," it's the you that you deserve. You're fighting for that version of yourself. So everything you're doing is leading to that version. But within that, you're still a human. And that's another thing, as a believer, that's the version of me that's being saved. Like, God is saving the version of me that is basic. He's making our ordinary extraordinary. That's really what's happening. But to know that we are all ordinary, we're all trying to work it out and that's something I learned so much. I don't know if it's adulthood or LA, but everybody's trying to figure it out. Everybody. And when they tell you they're not like, they're not your mentor. They're not your person. Everyone is figuring it out. So take your moment to be basic and then regroup and then come back out, shining on the 'gram.
NSNC: So of course we have to talk about Oprah. I think it was really profound that she told you that you wouldn't have gotten this opportunity if you weren't prepared. But was there anything else that she said that you would feel comfortable sharing that could maybe help some other people? I mean even elaborating on that, she literally goes, 'People are going to tell you got this because you were on the carpet or because you knew this, or you go through this, but I'm telling you right now it's none of those things. It's always because you were prepared. No one would have given you this opportunity if you weren't prepared and if we didn't see the preparation, feel the preparation, it wouldn't be your opportunity.' That really stuck out because she said that, following me, saying, 'I just want to thank you so much for the opportunity.' And she goes, 'Thanks. You're welcome. But also you've earned it.' And I'm like, ma'am, I'm trying to like--you're Oprah. I need to give you full gratitude. She's like, 'I appreciate it. But really, you earned to be here. No one picked you up off the floor and said 'Omg dust her off. She was ready.' And so that was a really big deal and it just really taught me about, again, all the effort that we put into success and all those moments that it takes to get to that one moment. It's the effort that is really the success story. It's all the preparation, all the late nights and the really early mornings and all the free red carpets and all the free work and all the clothes and all of the work that we do, the writing and the switching computers and all the stuff that it takes for us to be these creatives, buying a new camera. We all see it and sometimes we don't express it with each other. I mean she said a lot of things-- I have the coolest journal. But she said really hone in on your craft. She was like, 'I see your potential. It's enormous and so we just have to hone in on the craft.' And that whole thing was just about continuing to work on your craft, like it doesn't stop because you got this moment with Oprah. It doesn't matter. She's going to continue being Oprah and you've got to continue being Stace. NSNC: That's right! It doesn't stop. Never stop practicing. Never stop developing what it is, the magic that you have because you can always get better. Not in a way that gives us pressure and makes us think that we're still not the best. No, no, no. Just knowing that you can always improve and you can always evolve. More evolve than improve. Because you're good, you're good. But you can always evolve into the better version of yourself. So that was something she shared too. She's just...She's lit. And that's really the truth. She's a gem. She's got such a presence, obviously. And you're like, 'Wow.' And I felt so comfortable. It was crazy. I was like 'Is this Oprah or is this my aunt?' That's what she does. We know that. And I just want to say, I guess, that it's real.
NSNC: So you said something about having people around that push you. So what do those people look like? And then also to that point, how do you know when to leave people who aren't pushing you?
Yeah... I would answer the second question first. When you keep turning around to grab them and bring them to the goal, when you keep turning around to push them. Not that you shouldn't be pushing people too because you should; but when you're looking for your core team, when you have to keep turning around to check on them or turning around to make sure that they understand the vision? Nah. And it doesn't mean that they're not in your life. It just might mean they're not in your corner. Everybody in your circle is not in your corner. The corner is where I have made the most magic and met the best people. It's a big ole circle and that's great but the corner is extremely important. And I just started to really identify the difference. And it doesn't take away anything from the people in the circle. I think you're wonderful. You're brilliant and we'll definitely celebrate at the party, but the corner stuff is so intimate and so detailed and it's really that version of yourself that gets weak and get scared and gets nervous and not everybody deserves to see that. And not everybody can help you in that. So for me, I got really blessed. Thank God I have a beautiful family and they're a big support. My brothers and sisters, they're growing up-- because I'm the oldest-- so watching them grow up and like how bomb they turned out to be and how they support what I do and I support what they do. They're a big part of that. A lot of my team members are my friends because we started this friendship and it was like, 'I see you, I see you, I see you. I want to be a part of it.' And you trust that elevation so much because you saw me when I was doing nothing. So when you're seeing me now, you were a part of this movement and this growth. My brand manager is probably the closest person to me. Her and I met right when I came back from Australia. When I was working retail and she just got back from college and was looking for jobs and she started working retail. We started exchanging gifts with each other, like conversations and goals with each other. She got real serious about my goals and was like, 'Why are you living in Houston? Like, I'm confused.' I was thinking, 'I just met you two months ago. I don't think you can talk to me like that.' She said, 'I just don't get it. You have this vision, you have this goal, so go do it.' And when I moved, she was like, 'Well, call me if you need anything.' And I did, for help or advice or whatever. It started with her styling all my outfits. Then I started getting a lot of business inquiries and I hate sending-- I'm a fluff girl. Like I like to just talk and be cute. I don't really want to talk about business, ever. I do now, but at the time I was like, 'I'm not doing that.' So she started handling business conversations and then she started handling all of my business conversations, to the point where I was like, 'I think you're managing me now.' So she understands the brand and where my heart and my passion is. So this is the corner we're talking about. And everybody in the corner is pushing for the higher purpose. They're the type of people when I'm freaking out about stuff that has to do with me, they're like, 'You need to get yourself off your mind because it really has nothing to do with you.' That's who you need in your corner. They're honest. They're real. You have to have those kinds of conversations. You fight, you make up. They're a part of the push, they're a part of the growth because they see something in you and they feel like you're an assignment to them. It's really, really important to have people that believe in you more than you believe in yourself somedays because you're going to get tired of yourself. But you've got to have people who are like, 'Nah. You told me the vision a year ago and I wrote it down and now I'm bringing it up to you.' NSNC: Holding you accountable for what you say. Yeah, absolutely. My Gosh.
NSNC: And so the last thing. I feel like it's unstated but understood-- can you just speak about the role your faith has played in helping you get to this point in your career, in your life, and in your development as a woman? So you know how you think, you know. You have all your goals and your plans, and they're written down and you're like, 'Oh, it's about to be so big.' And then behind Jesus' back, He's got a way bigger thing? And you're so busy holding tight to your thing that you forgot to ask Him, 'What's your thing, actually?' And He's like, 'Oh, you're talking to me now!' NSNC: Whew! That's so real. 'That cute little plan you had, I was going to blow it out of the water, but I'll let you wait.' I literally feel like God and I are like friends, homies because when I'm talking or when I'm praying or whatever, I can hear Him sometimes laughing at me because literally He'll be like, 'You thought that was it?' It's the most beautiful thing because it's like He's meeting me where I am, which is how beautiful He is. And so there's a lot of moments. There were a lot of lessons that I had to learn, up until now that I'm still going to be learning. But God really--He didn't let me move on to the next level until I learned certain lessons and now I know why. Because He was like, I really need you to be on point at this space. And so we're not going there until you're ready. I also learned obedience. I'm still learning this because there are so many moments where you're like, ' Okay God, I know I trust you. But Ima just do this right quick and can you just bless it?' And He's like, I'm really trying to teach you to give it all to me.
I remember a couple of years ago, I got this opportunity to do this reality show and I really needed the money and whatever, whatever. And so my spirit wasn't feeling it. My family wasn't feeling it. And I was like, let me just go with the fact that no one's feeling it. Maybe it's not for me. But it took a second to decide that. And then two days later--I was broke that day, too. I was like, okay, I'm really trying to figure out what's next. And then I got an email from Smashbox. 'We love you. We want you to come audition for this part.' Which I ended up getting. One of the best weekends of hosting I've ever had in my life! It was such a flash of what, what God has for me and what He wanted to show me. He was like, this is nothing but let me give you a quick weekend of everything you've been praying for. So the faith part of it is about developing the versions of yourself that you deserve and that He wants for us. Faith plays a big part in that knowing I couldn't do this by myself. People ask me, how did you do this? How did you do that? Sometimes I'm looking at them like, 'I'm not sure. I really want to tell you. I have no idea, but I think you need a better answer. So I'm going to just try to come up with something.' But at the end of the day, it's all Him saying, 'Ok, you said yes to this crazy journey, let's do it. I have a life for you.' And so really trusting and it's a scary thing because we're still human. I'm like, 'Hey, you told me to trust you, but I'm really in the mood to do what I want to do.' I really be talking to Him like that. And it's also growing up in the church and knowing that can't save you, you need your own relationship with God. NSNC: Gurl! Yup! Figured that one out. What do you mean I can't depend on the stories from when I was fifteen? We need to talk about what you're doing now. So that was interesting. That was a big deal. But faith has moved my entire family. It has saved my entire life. It's saved everything. So I just can't let it go. People ask me 'Why are you so comfortable talking about God?' I don't have a choice. I really scared to find out what will happen if I don't. Then He'll be like, 'Oh you told them it was you?' You're done. I cannot do that. It would be a lie. So I'm going to do this. It seems to be working out so far.
To learn more about Stacy Ike, her projects and her work, visit StacyIke.com or follow her on Instagram @onetakestace.