On Getting Better Results by Doing Things Differently: An Interview with Christine Michel Carter

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Building our personal, economic, and political power by getting educated, inspired, and taking action for progressive change – that’s what we’re all about at BlackHer!

This week we were thrilled to catch up with Christine Michel Carter, a global marketing strategist and writer.  Carter’s mission is to help brands better understand and market to Black women and working moms. She has been featured in the New York Times and has written for Forbes, Time, and Entrepreneur.  And, her clients include Starbucks, Under Armour, and The Coca-Cola Company.  Her highlight real is everything!

Jocelyn: Christine, before we get started.  What is the definition of a Millennial?

Christine: It’s a good question. The debate of who is considered a Millennial recently resurfaced after Kylie Jenner, the youngest female “self-made” billionaire was on the cover of Forbes. Some call her a Millennial, others consider her a member of Generation Z.

We used to say that Millennials were anyone born between 1980 – 2000.  Pew Research Center now defines it as 1981 – 1996.

Jocelyn: So, tell us about your work as a marketing strategist.  What do you do?

Christine: My mission is to clarify misconceptions and debunk stereotypes about Millennials and Black women and tell our stories in a positive light.

Jocelyn: So, what are the hopes/fears of your generation and Black women?

Christine: We grew up in a post-9/11 world.  And many of us left college and started jobs in the middle of a recession.

As a result, we are questioning traditional views of wealth and income. Because although we were told that we’d be comfortable by now, we’re still struggling just as much as we were in college.

It always drives me crazy when people stereotype us as entitled – eating avocado on our toast.  That’s a horrible stereotype.  In reality, many of us are penny-pinchers and with good reason.

Jocelyn: Say more about your perceptions about wealth and income.

Christine: In previous generations, once you left for college you left home physically AND financially.  That’s not true for us. For half of us, our parents are providing financial support.

Jocelyn: Wow!  That’s a big number. BlackHer Shero, Anne Price talked about the unprecedented debt that millennials and Black women, in particular, are in.  And we regularly report on the gender and racial wealth gap facing single Black women.  How do you think about that?

Christine: It’s devastating.  Especially when I think about single Millennial Black women who are also moms. 30% of African American Millennial moms are the primary breadwinners in their homes, as compared to 19% of all Millennial moms. We’re facing so many obstacles and also have to think about how childcare expenses are widening the wealth gap. Childcare is often the second largest monthly expense after paying the mortgage or rent.

Jocelyn: Are you worried about college debt and home ownership?

Christine: College debt. Yes. I have it.

No, I’m not worried about home ownership.  I owned a home and sold a home.  It wasn’t the end all be all or only source of wealth for me.  Going through the experience taught me that, like many Millennials, I didn’t like owning a home. We have a different mindset.

We don’t want to be tied down to a home.  Instead, we prefer an untethered lifestyle.  The gig economy and flexible job arrangements are also proving that we don’t need to commit to home ownership.

Some of us prefer to live in an apartment, especially if that affords us the opportunity to do other things like travel, and thus, enrich our children’s lives. I guess the point is that we’re not one size fits all.

It’s an old-school mentality that financial wealth equals freedom. Even the rich are suffering from anxiety, depression, and addiction. To me, happiness equals freedom.

Jocelyn: Say more.

Christine: I got married young, and we did everything previous generations taught us to do.  We bought a giant house and had a substantial two-person income, but we were miserable.  My husband was depressed, and I suffered from anxiety. We were living others’ expectations for us, and the financial wealth didn’t make us feel free.

So we amicably separated.  As mentioned, the financial wealth did not make us free.  For our happiness (and the happiness of our children) we were willing to let go of outdated notions of what it means to love another human being, raise a family, and be free.

We’re given a confusing message.  On the one hand, Millennials are told that we should fight for our rights and a seat at the table.  But on the other hand, we’re told to keep traditional family values. Why? Holding on to those outdated notions made our mothers feel unhappy, isolated, and insane.  What effect do you think it will have on us?

We’re holding higher job titles and dealing with more pressures than previous generations, yet want to believe like those previous generations our traditional family values and eventual financial wealth will bring us freedom. False.

We’re not following the definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  We’re actually doing things differently.

Jocelyn: What makes you hopeful about your generation?

Christine: Twenty years ago, I had to pick up a touch-tone phone or wait until my friends reached out to me.  Now, we have social media.  I’m proud of the advancements in technology that we’ve helped to create and spread. My generation is also reinvigorating the civil rights and women’s rights movements.

Jocelyn: What do brands get wrong about Millennials?

Christine: They assume that we’re selfish, entitled, and lazy.  As mothers, we are often portrayed as women who want to be perfect. But that’s not it.  In fact, we don’t like this idea of perfection. What we really want is a balance. Brands like Luvs get it.  On some days we’ve got it all together and on other days we’re a mess. This resonates with us as consumers.

Jocelyn: Who inspires you?

Christine: My children! Oprah once said that a mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself. My kids do that for me. I also do a lot of public speaking and professional development work for teenage girls and I’m so inspired by this next generation of passionate, self-confident #blackgirlmagic.

Jocelyn: That’s beautiful.  Let me ask you the Miracle Question. You go to sleep tonight and wake up in the morning and it’s September 2019.  The miracle has occurred for Black women.   What happened?

Christine: We are confident with who we are, and that confidence is serving as a catalyst for tangible change in our lives.

Confidence would lessen our feelings of being imposters and our fears around feeling unworthy of personal and professional blessings. Simply put, Black women aren’t letting crap come to our table because we know we deserve better. This, not $7,000 in all our bank accounts, would be a miracle. For the first time ever, Black women have collectively decided to put their own behavioral health above all else. And we are happy and free.

Jocelyn