This blog was written by mentee Jayli Milan who was inspired by Whitney Blackmon’s Industry Talk at the Poetry Workshop.
When the Industry Talk at the Poetry Workshop began, I knew this would be a pivotal turning point in my life. Whitney Blackmon’s lithe form and commanding voice filled the room. As a model and the founder and CEO of The Blue List, Whitney is the embodiment of the woman I want to be. She shared the challenges that molded her into the woman—a multifaceted boss!—she is today.
Whitney told us she became a model after confiding in a friend that she was broke. This friend hooked her up with a modeling gig. Although her preferred career was designing, she took it. Today Whitney is an editorial and fit model, a model who helps designers decide what changes need to be made to a garment to make it functional and beautiful. Her experience as a designer allows her to give realistic and pointed feedback during fittings.
Whitney’s second career began as she thought of the crisis homeless women face in New York. If these women can scarcely afford food, how will they buy the monthly supplies a woman needs? Whitney thought, “Why don’t I just buy a box of tampons and hand some out?” She soon realized this was a “terrible idea.” Instead, she asked each of her friends to meet her in front of a women’s shelter with a box of tampons. It soon turned into a mini event that had amassed 85 boxes of tampons. This small spark ignited a movement and formed The Blue List. The Blue List aligns itself with brands, companies, and sponsors to form a community of people focused on helping women and young girls in New York. As The Blue List’s CEO, Whitney uses her industry experience to identify and market to brands for mutually beneficial projects.
Sometimes her two careers clash. Whitney shared an instance where her agent told her never to tell potential gigs her true age. While this may be the norm in the arena of modeling, it is not the standard when you are a CEO. She shared with us that her biggest challenge with her two careers is colliding schedules; her current dilemma is whether to attend an important board meeting or go to a fabulous fashion shoot in Spain! Whitney’s advice for us was that it’s important to always live and tell your truth, use and reshape your story to fit your audience, be aware of one’s limits, and choose your partners well.
Whitney’s story and advice really resonated with me as I would like to be a model and a published writer. Around the time of the workshop, I was struggling with how I would pursue a modeling career and a writing career at the same time. I often wonder if I should just focus on writing first. Whitney really put things into perspective showing I can do it all, with hard work and great time management.