Recently, we caught up with Tõnya Lewis Taylor, New York-based Billboard chart-topping artist, co-founder, CEO and executive director of the award-winning Entertainers 4 Education Alliance – I WILL GRADUATE Youth Development Program, philanthropist, and author of the upcoming book, Be You, Not Her: Becoming the Woman You Were Created to Be. The former Roc-A-Fella Records executive discusses how the Coronavirus pandemic has affected her both professionally and personally, women honoring their individuality, and more!
So Booking Cool: How does it feel to be a multi-hyphenate and as a child did you possess an interest in multiple industries?
Tõnya Lewis Taylor: Since I was a young child, I was always interested in many activities. Part of the reason is because I grew up in church, and as a church girl there was always so much for me to do – whether it was singing in the choir, leading youth ministry, or helping with anything else they needed me to do. So to answer your question, being a multi-hyphenate feels normal because it’s all I’ve ever known. I’m just a woman who does many things and tries to be excellent at everything I do.
SBC: As an author, how has the COVID-19 impacted you?
TLT: COVID-19 has awakened my creativity. I have an idea for a new book, but I may have to wait a while before I actually start to write it because I have so many other things going on at the moment. I actually contracted the virus a month ago, so recovering from it really forced me to slow down and rest, but now I feel more motivated to continue the work that I started and accomplish my goals.
SBC: Are there any valuable lessons you’ve learned so far from the experience?
TLT: Patience – I’m learning how to be patient! I’m learning how to follow my inner guide more, and learning how to develop myself for the next season.
SBC: What are you doing differently in terms of preparing for book launch compared to some of your original plans?
TLT: We are pushing the book launch back to my birthday, which is September 1st. This will give us time to adapt to our new societal normal, as well as develop a greater online strategy and target people who are attracted to the message of “Be You, Not Her”.
SBC: What advice can you give to other authors and creatives in general during this time?
TLT: Be true to what your inner voice is saying to you. Produce what you love, write about what you love, sing about what you love, and present to the world what is authentic to you. In doing that, you’ll attract people who connect with your message and you’ll be able to inspire them to pursue their dreams too.
SBC: What can you tell us about Be You, Not Her? What inspired the title?
TLT: Be You, Not Her is about my personal journey of self-discovery, and how I’ve learned to love and embrace all parts of myself. Through the book, I want to use my story to inspire women to embrace who they are instead of trying to be like someone else. That’s actually what inspired the title. Too many of us are trying so hard to emulate those we look up to, and in the process we fall short of embracing our own gifts and talents. This book is about trying to change that narrative.
SBC: What are the takeaways you want readers to have from Be You, Not Her?
TLT: I want readers to feel empowered. I especially want each woman who reads this book to realize they do not have to limit themselves to one box – mother, wife, caregiver, or any other category they fit into. Instead, they should be willing to pursue all of their passions, and become the woman they were created to be.
SBC: What are comparative titles for Be You, Not Her?
TLT: Some comparative titles for “Be You, Not Her” are “Don’t Settle for Safe” by Sarah Jakes Roberts, “More Than Pretty” by Erica Campbell, and “Woman, Thou Art Loosed” by T.D. Jakes.
SBC: How do you want to emerge from the COVID-19?
TLT: I want to emerge from the COVID-19 more spiritually connected to God, and understand more about what my assignment is in this new season. Mentally I would like to emerge more focused about my goals, and more motivated to achieve them. Physically I would like to be healthier and more physically fit. I also want to emerge more financially sound; my company took a big hit due to COVID-19, but there are new things on the horizon setting us up for greater success. Finally, for my family, I’d like for us to emerge from COVID-19 a closer and tighter unit, and to continue growing in love with each other.
SBC: In light of the George Floyd protests and resurgence of the Black Lives Matter Movement, many industries including publishing, are looking to promote more black authors and illustrators. What are your thoughts on this?
TLT: That’s amazing! Anything that will push Black and Brown people forward is always an awesome thing because we have been marginalized, undervalued, and underrepresented for decades. The more wealth we have as a people, the more we can affect change in our communities, so I’m all for this.
For more information, visit Taylor’s official website.