Given the current state of reality television I chose to stay away from watching. That being said, I had not heard of Devyn Abdullah prior to meeting her through The National Urban League. I was moderating a panel entitled, “Transcending Stereotypes: Redefining the Black Woman” and Devyn was one of the panelists.
Our first meeting was a casual and insightful phone conversation that I had with the rising star. In preparation for our conversation, I Googled to learn more. As with most things, the negative news was first up. We’ll get to that later. After that I learned a little about her upbringing in Bronx, New York, attending the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts and her recent win on Naomi’s Campbell’s model search reality show called, “The Face.”
I try to manage my paradigms and stereotype assignments, especially since I live in America where they run wild. After meeting Devyn, I learned from meeting Devyn that I had a few of my own about models. And she blew them all out of the water. Devyn was sweet, relatable, humble and comfortable. She was poised and presented our audience with great insights to her transformation, as well as her fight for other young single mothers. Given that there are stereotypes that stick with many young mothers, it was nice to hear her perspective and her story.
While Devyn won The Face, she was unfortunately best known for her statement on the show that she does not consider herself a black model while being interviewed by Wendy Williams. Of course Wendy took the opportunity to assign her own meaning to Devyn’s words instead of understanding the point she was trying to make. As with most reality shows, the producers chose to show all of the negative responses to Devyn’s comments. This lead to a social media firestorm with most people attacking Devyn personally. Many of the posts were unrelated to her actual comments on the show and were just mean without cause. I have to say on a personal note that I am usually confused when someone’s perception of themselves causes others to launch personal attacks.
When I spoke to Devyn about the comment she made in the interview with Wendy, prior to our
panel, she told me that while she completely embraces being an African American woman (because that’s what she is), she doesn’t think it’s fair to have to constantly identify herself as a “black model.” I understood immediately, as I have NEVER called myself a black Brand Strategist or a black Author or a black Entrepreneur even. I don’t think it’s fair that Devyn has to choose the title we give her in her profession. It’s one thing for the public to acknowledge her ethnicity, it’s another to demand that she line up her professional title with what makes us feel better and more comfortable. Which, for those who take comfort in Devyn calling herself a “black model,” I would ask where is the offense to you? To me, it appears that the discomfort lies with the discomforted. I’ll move on.
When I asked Devyn about her ability to stay true to herself despite being in an industry that promotes disingenuous behavior, she said that she had to attribute it to knowing who she is in Christ, as well as having her daughter’s father and others as a great support system to keep her grounded.
Devyn is clear that modeling is a career that lasts only for a time. During her journey, she would love to be a national spokesperson for a respected brand, have her own reality show (exposing some of the ills that plague young single mothers) and possibly to visit the Wendy Williams Show for another conversation with her.
She is enjoying this time and honing her other professional passion, which is photography. Devyn hopes to one day be a photographer for National Geographic. In addition, she is co-creating a clothing line called Amerikan Outkast that targets the audience it names.
Devyn’s ultimate face off is yet to be seen with so many new opportunities headed her way. I look forward to seeing more of this authentic beauty.
Monica Cost is a Brand Strategist, Author of the new life changing book about living an authentic life, called “The Things I Used to do to Sneeze: How to live an authentic life with awesome emotional sensations” (found at www.monicacost.com), and host of the new and groundbreaking talk show “The L.Y.T.E. (live your truth experience) with Monica Cost, launching in fall of 2013. Email her at: monica@MonicaCost.com. Follow her via Twitter: @monicacost and Facebook.com/monicahairstoncost. www.monicacost.com. Live true!