In this 2nd interview in our series about “Other Groovy Moms”, we’re excited to talk to blog icon, Leila Noelliste. After establishing Black Girl with Long Hair with more than 4 million page views per month, Noelliste became a mom blogger and created Baby & Blog targeted towards African-American mothers who are rarely recognized in the blogosphere.
Leila, you were initially a news reporter. Why did you leave traditional journalism to be a blogger?
Well, firstly because the journalism industry pretty much imploded during the recession. I was in the newspaper reporting industry, which was the arm of journalism that was probably hit hardest (when’s the last time you read an actual, physical newspaper? Exactly.) I quit my job because the writing was on the industry wall: I was in a field that was going obsolete. My dad thought I was crazy because I was comfortably employed, had just gotten a raise, and was very well-liked by my editor. But I knew the job was ultimately a dead-end. I’d started my blog as a hobby and decided to see if I could make it a full-time paying gig.
Tell us about your first few months of blogging. Were you a sort of overnight sensation? What did you struggle with?
Um, definitely not an overnight sensation. I know of blogs that were. Mine definitely
was not. But I did feel a level of momentum behind it — and I still do. There is so much potential for growth when it comes to digital media that caters to black women (we’re under-served!). When I was doing the blog as a hobby, I didn’t really notice or care whether or not it was growing. But once I quit my job to work on my blog full-time I struggled with the usual: trying to get people to my site, trying to get good content up on a regular basis, defining my focus and my voice, and dealing with crazy internet commenters.
Quite a few bloggers visit our site. What advice might you give beginning bloggers who are trying to expand their reach?
Research effective marketing techniques. People think blogging is just about content, but content rarely sells itself. It needs to be pushed to an audience.
I heard that you started Baby & Blog because the web is a bit bereft of Black mom bloggers. What unique issues do you think Black moms have?
I think black moms lack access to resources and information that other mothers take for granted. There is simply not enough information being funneled to black mothers so that they can make informed decisions on birth, child-rearing, education, finances, etc. Sometimes when they DO get the information, they don’t have the community to implement it. Of course, this is not true of every black mom, but I know it’s the case for a lot. As far as black mothers who do NOT struggle with the resources aspect of it, I think they just don’t see themselves reflected in media, culture or in the current mom blogger community online. We’ve been erased, poorly portrayed or ignored, and left with the option to assimilate to what the mommy culture currently is, or just stay on the sidelines and be quiet. But Black women have a powerful and unique voice to add to the conversation on motherhood, both within our community and outside of it.
Leila Noelliste, founding editor of 2 blogs: Black Girl with Long Hair and Baby & Blog
How has motherhood changed you?
Not too much. I’m still the same crazy, goofy, ambitious girl. It did push me to improve my mental and physical health and my nutrition.
What’s an average day like for you as you balance working, being a mother, and being a wife?
On Mondays I spend the entire day with my son. We will typically go to the library, or a play place, or a museum, and have lunch together. It’s nice to spend time with him, but it means that I start my work when my husband gets home around 6, and I work late into the night. On Tuesdays and Thursdays my nanny is here all day and usually takes Noah out of the house. Those are my “me” days. I can decompress, get work done, catch up on emails, clean the house, watch TV and just relax. On Wednesdays my husband works from home, so we’re both kind of managing Noah. And from Friday to Sunday, my husband and I both manage Noah. We try to garden together on the weekends. It’s fun and a great way to connect. And if hubby and I are both done our work by 9 pm, we’ll typically watch a movie together before heading to bed. I guess that’s not an ‘average day’, but the days all look so different, lol
You have the privilege of being Haitian, Jamaican, and American. What attributes of those cultures do you hope your son will cherish?
*Sigh* Girl, I’m still trying to figure out which attributes of all these cultures I will cherish, lol. Tri-ethnic upbringing is no joke. For my son, I hope, at the very least, he develops a love for Africa and the African diaspora. I think that’s the biggest thing I got out of my upbringing. Seeing that no matter where Black people end up, they are creative, resourceful, influential and beautiful.
What TV show, book, movie, or album do you go crazy for?
I’m pretty addicted to Family Guy. I run it on a loop while I’m working. I know every episode of every season almost by heart. This is kind of embarrassing to admit. Also embarrassing to admit is that I really don’t read as much as I’d like to.
What would we find in your bookmarks?
Well, to be totally honest, I’m a huge politics and religion junkie. I know, the two things you’re not supposed to talk about ;). For political stuff, I love Alternet and The Sons of Baldwin. For religious stuff, I love the Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome group and the Kissing Fish page. For blog help, I love Problogger. For black women’s lifestyle, I love Clutch Magazine. For my style and hair care needs, I read my own blog Black Girl with Long Hair a whole lot, which I think is a good sign Now that I’m mom blogging, I’ve bookmarked a ton of black mom blogs too.
Do you know a woman that we should feature in our “Other Groovy Moms” series? Tell us about her in the comment section below or email us.
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