I’ve always been more inspired by Necole Kane’s (better known as Necole Bitchie) story than the success of her celebrity gossip site NecoleBitchie.com. On July 2, 2015 Necole stopped the blogging world with a post on the site titled “It’s Time for me to move on.” She wrote, ‘this is probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do…And I will cry after I write this. I’m very saddened to announce that today is my last day as a ‘celebrity gossip blogger.’ It’s also my last day running the site as you know it, NecoleBitchie.com.”
That was it, Necole Bitchie as we knew it had come to an end.
But once I read the post and dug deeper into Necole’s story you understand why she made the decision and you also learn a few things about popularity and purpose.
As a fan and avid reader of the site, Necole had talked about moving for a while, we all knew it was coming we just didn’t know it would be that sudden. For weeks after that post went up, I would still check the site daily in hopes that even though Necole wouldn’t be running the site, her team would. I was wrong.
Necole grew up in in a small town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. In college, she majored in Television & Film and hoped to become the next Mara Brock Akil or the female John Singleton. After the death of her parents, Necole would go on a trying journey of self-discovery and growth. Seeking a change, she moved to Detroit to intern for a radio station and was introduced to marketing, brand strategizing and the importance of building a platform.
From there, the young entrepreneur hopeful quit her job, moved to New York City, and interviewed with numerous record labels and management companies including Tyra Banks and Sean John. Unfortunately, her lack of experience kept her from the job of her dreams. By 2008, Necole found herself broke and forced to move in with her aunt who reminded her daily that she needed to find a job soon or find somewhere else to live.
Seeing a lack of coverage in urban entertainment, Necole Bitchie was born. She began reporting on the world of celebrity entertainment and new music while blogging some of her personal experiences as well. The following on her website grew quickly. She moved to Atlanta and couch surfed while she got herself situated. Within a year, NecoleBitchie.com became one of the leading and fastest growing Urban Gossip Sites on the Internet, attracting readers and advertisers. She was featured on The Huffington Post, in Ebony and Cosmopolitan magazine. Her accolades included Black Enterprise’s Black Blogger of the Month, Soul Train Music Award For Best Soul Site, and the Black Weblog Awards Best Gossip Blog.
When Necole decided to walk away, Necole Bitchie was receiving 20 million page views a month and had a worldwide audience. Why would anyone work away from this kind of success?
At some point the celebrity access, the numbers, and the accolades were no longer enough. She needed more. Necole left her popular project behind to pursue her passion, her purpose project xoNecole.
Her decision offers 5 great lessons about popularity vs. purpose.
1. Popularity is not Happiness
Despite the popularity of her site, her access to the celebrity world, and the accolades, Necole wasn’t happy. She had a life many of us would envy but it wasn’t really what she wanted. In a recent personal note on xoNecole she wrote:
“They [the site’s supporters] wanted the tea, and we had to give it to them! But I wasn’t happy! And it drove me into a state of depression because it was all I knew. The thought of walking away from something that I spent almost eight years building was devastating.”
Necole really wanted to inspire young women but found herself far away from that conversation. In an interview for the Huffington Post she expressed how she was often kept out of that lane:
I am sure I have been, but I didn't see myself being thrown in those conversations when people talked about women who are inspiring. I remember it was a struggle for me to get invited on the red carpet of Black Girls Rock, and I hate that I want to be validated by it, you know, that type of recognition, but it's important to me. That is what I wanted my brand to be about. When I saw it straying from that, I thought, I am not working hard enough and may have to reroute my path.
2. Happiness Starts with a purpose driven life
Happiness for Necole didn’t come until she started to focus on her purpose. In “Its Time to Move On” she wrote:
"I began measuring my success not by the amount of people who read my blog, or the money I made, but by the number of people I was able to touch, motivate and inspire. I also started to realize what purpose was – and I knew to be happy, I had to start living a purpose-driven life."
Despite the huge blog numbers, being mentioned in shows like “Single Ladies” and by rappers Nicki Minaj and Wale, Necole always got more fulfillment from inspiring young women. In a recent update on her new site xoNecole, she wrote:
"I continued to notice that I was experiencing more fulfillment and success from women coming to me on the street and saying, ‘Your story inspires me so much!!’ than I did the ‘you got all the tea, I love your celebrity blog!!!’ I was getting more fulfillment out of speaking engagements, panels and inspirational interviews than I was flying to a luxurious location, given freebies and standing next to someone famous."
3. It’s not about popularity, it’s about legacy
When the nagging of her purpose intensified and turned into a question of legacy, I had to start thinking about what I wanted my legacy to be, too. I had to consider what steps I’d have to take to start living in it. Necole never wanted to known for being JUST “a celebrity blogger.”
In a time when blog numbers, follow counts and overall popularity dominate the online space, it’s an incredibly important lesson to remember our “why” and reject the pieces of our lives that don’t fit, regardless of how “popular” those pieces may be.
4. Create a life that feels right to you, not one that looks right to everyone else.
Necole has shared extensively on feeling trapped by the life we all as readers saw as the good life. In “Its Time to Move On” she wrote:
There is a constant internal struggle between being a character –Necole Bitchie—when I walk out in public, and being the woman I know I was meant to be. Eventually, I began feeling like I wasn’t doing enough and I would never reach my goals. I felt stuck! I felt boxed in! No matter how much success people thought I had, or how many page views our stories generated, I felt as though I was regressing. There was also a constant struggle of what I thought my audience wanted to see (salacious tea), and what I wanted to post (Inspirational women interest stories). I was so exhausted from fighting that battle, that I literally felt defeated and I mentally gave up.
Everyone has an enviable and well-curated life these days. Our lives look so good to everyone else. The struggle, the hard work, the pain, the hurt can’t be put into a pretty brand picture for Instagram. We are all preoccupied with what our lives look like to others but Necole inspires us to create a life that feels right to us.
5. Don’t be afraid to evolve
Evolution can be a frightening prospect, especially when you’ve achieved so much success doing something. It’s clear that Necole has embraced her evolution. The end of Necole Bitchie marked the end of an era and, with the launch of xoNecole, the evolution of a woman dedicated to inspiring young women. In her Huffington Post interview, she shared:
In Blogger of the Year speech at the Blogging While Brown conference two years ago, I said, 'When you are given a platform to speak, you should say something meaningful' and I want to live up to that. I am such a different person than I was almost 8 years ago when I launched the site, and I wanted my work and my brand to reflect my evolution.
The story of how Necole Bitchie came to be on it’s own is a shining inspiration. The latest act in Necole’s life only solidifies her as one of the most inspirational women in the online space.
I hope that one day my story will inspire young women across the globe to pursue their heart’s desires, but I also want them to know that when their passion turns into a project, and it’s no longer fun anymore, that it’s okay to move on. It’s okay to evolve, and it’s definitely okay to reinvent.
You are definitely an inspiration, Necole.