Uplifting women to their greatest heights and being a mentor is something that you may have thought you could only do once you're 20 years into your career. But on-air talent, blogger, and creative Maura Chanz is building her tribe of confident, successful women, and she's not even 25 years old yet.
With a Bachelors degree in Women's Studies from Spelman College, Chanz has been able to forge her own path in digital marketing and media as it pertains to women's lives and activism.
We were able to talk with Chanz about her widely popular T-shirt designs, fighting imposer syndrome and building You Need Tribe.
What was your motivation for starting You Need Tribe?
I have amazing friends in my everyday life. But I [thought] 'I'm sure there are women who are more like me'. I felt a lot of my friends, we were just friends because we went to college together or the same school, and they're there for mental support but a lot of things they just don't get. We have completely different aspirations, and I'm not a big turn up person and things like that so I literally was looking for my own circle, my own tribe; women like me, like-minded women. I thought the best way to form that was through the digital space.
Any idea that is somewhat innovative, it comes from a need, and it usually comes from the need of the creator. I needed support getting into my entrepreneurial endeavors ans collaborators.
I needed something new and I created what I needed.
You recently tweeted about what it means to be an influencer and why we shouldn’t chase influence, tell me what motivated those tweets?
With influencer marketing, you're scrolling and you're seeing people living amazing lifestyles and they're making money, and I was like 'Wow, I want to live like that.' It looked really cool, their feeds looked really cool. For a while I was hiring photographers and making great content to put out there but I wasn't actually doing anything or contributing anything into the world.
I was trying to make an identity, instead of just being who I was.
We're literally allowing just regular people shape what we do, how we think and what we buy. I was really strategic about what I was going to post but it just felt inauthentic.
My following recently grew a lot on Twitter, and I was doing this inspirational post, talking to myself really, about having time. And after a while I saw that it had thousands of favorites, and it was on Facebook and people [were posting it] to Instagram. So many people reached out to me and [said I impacted their life] and I was literally just being who I was. I wasn't crafting anything and I [thought] me using my voice to do something that's influential.
This whole influencer culture, is BS, it's all really fake. But the funny thing is I know a lot of influencers in real life, and their life isn't like that. It's crafted, on Sunday or once a month, creating flatlays, etc.
Authenticity breeds influence. Action breeds Influence.
Social media has allowed us to [confuse] fame and influence. Fame just means a lot of people know you. It doesn't mean that you have any impact in their life. It's so crazy because I think even brands are realizing it. Even if you have a lot of people who want to see what you're doing but that could be because of the attraction privilege - you're really pretty or have a nice body - but that could just be genetics. You may not be contributing anything, and the products you're telling me to buy you probably [haven't used them.]
People are realizing that influence and fame aren't mutually exclusive.
I know a lot of people who are influential who you don't now. The people who push the dial and make Beyonce so influential. I love Issa Rae, I think she's a genius but we don't always talk about Melissa who directs Insecure. We don't always talk about the people behind the scenes who actually influence our conversations and what we do.
If you have to tell someone you're doing something, you're probably not doing it.
With that said, who do you follow on social media that’s doing the work and not chasing influence?
I don't want to say my friends, but - my friends. I know so many people who are doing the work but someone who comes to mind immediately is Shelby Ivey Christie, she works at Vogue currently. Shelby is definitely doing the work. The creator of Black Girls Who Blog, Morgan Pitts; Myleik does the work. The fame and influence has come [for Myleik], but she did the work. There's some celebrities too. I look at at everything Yara Shahidi is doing, she pushes the needle and drives the culture forward. With her fame I watched her push for a lot important messages.
Everyone I follow I feel is doing the work because if not I probably will unfollow them.
The way you can tell the difference between “influencers” and people doing the work is the byproduct. I see this awesome flatlay, but what are you putting out into the world? What is the product?
A lot of the time the people doing the work are in a collaborative effort. People doing the work come together as a collective so you might not know them by name but as huge platforms.
You’ve been pretty candid about your struggle with imposter syndrome. First of all, what is imposter syndrome and how do you actively work to combat it in your life?
I define imposter syndrome as not believing who the hell you are. I can look at my resume and say “Wow, I’ve done a lot,” and still not think that I’ve done anything. That’s what imposter syndrome is – when you don’t believe the receipts.
How do you fight it? It literally takes looking at the receipts. How can you question your identity as a writer when you have 30 bylines? How can you say you’ve never done something when you have proof of it?
Take a self-assessment, and remember who the hell you are. Sometimes you have to check the statement to see what your balance actually reflects.
Even when you think you’ve made it, there’s always going to be another level to reach. There are some people who call themselves something and don’t have the work to back it up and they aren’t dealing with imposter syndrome, they’re just aspiring.
You’re the designer of the popular t-shirt Cardi B & Coretta, how did this design come about and how does it feel to create something that has resonated with so many women?
It’s crazy, I created that shirt from a tweet. I felt like I was every woman, but I felt like I had to choose. I can be very articulate, I’m definitely an intellectual and I’m also sometimes a little profane, a little prude and that can all be in one conversation.
So I tweeted that I’m every woman and started naming off real people and fictional characters from Whitley Gilbert to Cardi B to Coretta Scott King, who I’m a huge fan of. I’m a designer by trade and I thought alliteration would look good on a T-shirt and the two names that happen to be able to do that [Cardi and Coretta] – and that was the viral shirt.
For it to have resonated with so many women, I’m not surprised.
I’m never surprised when truth resonates. Authenticity does that.
I can go on Twitter and talk about imposter syndrome and it goes viral, because I’m telling the truth. In this day and age with trap music and Black women being the most educated demographic, of course you’re going to have some women who identify with Coretta and Cardi – that’s who we are.
You’ve landed a great gig at Bossip on WEtv, what has that experience been like and how did you land that gig?
With social media, people think you kind of popped up on the scene. I have actually been in the entertainment industry for almost a decade.
Here's some background on me: I started my career at 13 years old. I met Keke Palmer when I was 10 years old, she was 11. I wanted to be a professional actress. Keke and I [met through] a mutual mentor of ours, like a big sister. I told my parents I wanted to act and they invested in that.
At 13, I went to an acting camp in LA, and I got offered a contract after our showcase. I got the opportunity to be signed with a top agency in LA and I ended up living with the woman who founded the camp. I worked until I went to college. My parents and I made a deal that if I wasn’t regularly occurring on a show then I would have to go to college. By December of my senior year the two shows I was in final stages of auditions for, had both flopped and I had to apply to school.
So I came to Atlanta with tons of experience and ended up interning everywhere including BET and Akon’s record label. I stayed in entertainment on the business side.
I was volunteering at an event and a woman told me I had an amazing personality and asked me if I’d like to audition for an on-air position. That woman turned out to be Janee Bolden, managing editor of Bossip. I actually have no pop culture knowledge, I don’t watch reality TV and I butchered the audition. But I got the job and become a freelancer for Bossip in January 2016.
When they started pitching for the show, they let everybody audition – freelancers and staff writers. I auditioned and I was one of the seven members selected, four are actually writers for Bossip and two of the guys are comedians who are freelancers for Bossip.
I try to bring positivity to the news and try my best not to give my opinion on personal matters. [Back then] Reality TV was shaping the landscape and setting the tone for how African Americans were viewed in media. I don’t have as much of a problem with [reality TV] anymore because TV has become more diverse. I didn’t think I’d ever do it, but never say never.
How do you balance career and sisterhood? How do you find time to be a present friend, sister, partner, etc. with all that you have going on?
Schedule. I keep and passion planner and my friends know that I have to schedule time with them. I am not a last minute person and so I have to be purposeful and intentional with my time. For example, in my relationship on Friday nights, we watch Netflix and eat pizza – that is on my schedule. I’m intentional with my schedule and my time.
I use an app called Freedom to remove me from social media. I know the times when I am most productive, and it blocks social media for me. I have no control over it and when it does that, I have to work.
When you focus and allocate time to do things, you have time for everything. I also grant myself grace. I do a thing called glass ball, rubber ball - there are things that are important but not urgent.
As someone who has a business, I give people timelines, I have to stick to those. Sometimes I grant myself the grace to say ‘You didn’t get that done, and its ok.’
You let rubber balls drop, you don’t let glass balls drop.
What are some lessons you’ve learned about sisterhood and building relationships?
Sisterhood is vital. I grew up as the girl who had all the guy friends and I was happy but that’s where I found relationships, with men. I really just didn’t have the right women In my life at the time. Since God has blessed me with women in my life, they are everything to me, sisterhood is everything to me.
I learned to be what I seek in a sister. And that’s with any relationship, I can’t want more than I’m willing to give.
Sometimes just being there is all you need. Sometimes you think you can’t help a situation and your presence is enough. And lastly what I’ve learned in sisterhood is that support comes in so many different shapes and forms. It might not be buying every product I make, but you keeping me in your prayers or pulling my receipts for me when [I forget who I am].
Most people aren’t malicious and are actually doing the best they can. So when you think someone isn’t doing enough for you as a sister that goes back to granting grace. Are they doing the best they can?
What’s a motto that you live by?
If you can’t be used, you’re useless. That’s a quote by Kanye West.
A lot of times we don’t want to be used but if you can’t be used you truly are useless. I go into every situation like ‘How can I be used?’
In relationships when things don’t work out we feel used but what are we to do but be used? Used a vessels, used as tools, used for support, used as a shoulder to cry on, etc.
There’s more to you than just being used but that’s a pretty important part.