I used to look for jobs on mediabistro.com in 2000 when I was starting out. It's all kinds of awesome to be featured on the site as a success story. This interview is the unintentional blueprint for how I do what I do. (I swear it sounds more impressive when its written about than living it. Ha!) One correction: I'd never call myself a celebrity for being on reality TV. Having a camera follow your life is cool and all, but it's not a talent to be celebrated.
Demetria Lucas spent the first half of her career as a journalist covering celebrities. Now she is one herself, and routine activities like going to the gym have become an adventure in the preservation of privacy. "Last week, this woman stopped in front of my car and mouthed 'Demetria Lucas?'" she said. "I nodded, and she just smiled and waved, then walked on across the street. I didn't think I'd be recognized, but apparently if you're invited into someone's living room every Sunday night, they know what you look like whether you've got on sweats or a dress."
She's adjusting to the reality of being a reality star, which includes run-ins with people feeling like they know you, even when you're off the clock. Before she was part of the six-woman cast of Bravo's Blood, Sweat and Heels, which chronicles the lives-in-progress of young, professional upstarts forging their careers in New York City, Lucas was far from unknown. Her blog, A Belle in Brooklyn, garnered a following of devotees and earned her critical accolades and a Black Weblog Award. Hers is the North Star of entrepreneurial journalism that many a writer wishes upon.
Adding certified life coach to her author-slash-editor-slash-columnist-slash-blogger-slash-TV personality repertoire, the once-quintessential single girl -- who's now a bride-to-be -- has formalized the wisdom she's dispensed to fans over the years in some 30,000 answered relationship questions. Here, the two-time author talks fortuitous opportunities, accidental marketing and being "the black Carrie Bradshaw."
Name: Demetria Lucas Position: Journalist, blogger, editor, author, columnist, life coach and reality show star Resume: Interned at Vibe, then transitioned to Russell Simmons' One World and Time Out New York. Edited romance novels for Harlequin and BET Books. Blogged about dating for Honeymag.com. Launched her personal blog, A Belle in Brooklyn, and was subsequently named one of "the Blogosphere's Best" by Black Enterprise and "30 Black Bloggers You Should Know" by The Root. Former relationships editor and dating columnist for Essence. Contributed freelance articles to The New York Times, The Guardian, People and XXL as well as The Grio, XoJane, Clutch, Vibe Vixen and Uptown. Contributing editor for The Root. Author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life and Don't Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love. Founded Coached By Belle, helping clients solve dating dilemmas and build healthy relationships. Most recently starred on Bravo's Blood, Sweat and Heels. Birthdate: July 9 Hometown: Mitchellville, Md. Education: BA in English from University of Maryland College Park; master's in journalism from New York University Marital status: Engaged Media mentors: Harriette Cole and Beverly Smith Best career advice received: "It's a marathon, not a sprint." Last book read: Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor: The New Way to Fast-Track Your Career by Sylvia Ann Hewlett Guilty pleasure: Reality TV Twitter handle: @abelleinbk
What was your original vision for your blog, A Belle in Brooklyn? Sex and the City was still on the air, and black women who watched it took issue like, 'This is New York City. There are amazing people of all colors here, including fabulous black women with great careers. Why isn't there one on the show?' I was looking for a site, a book, something that filled that gap. I complained to one of my writer friends about it and he said, 'Well, you're a writer. Why don't you write it?' That's how A Belle in Brooklyn was born. I started doing it on MySpace and it quickly became popular. Then I went to a networking event and pitched the idea of writing about dating and relationships as a single black woman in Brooklyn to the editor of Honeymag.com. She loved it. The first piece I did for her site got around 4,000 visitors and she called me like, 'Oh my God. We've struck gold.'
I wrote for Honey for three months or so before I got a call from a friend of a friend who worked at Essence. She said there was an opening for a relationship editor there and told me I had to apply for it. I'd only written for Essence once before that, so I was like, 'Really? An editor atEssence? Am I ready? I don't know.' She was like, 'Oh, no, the whole office reads your blog. We get in in the morning and are like, did you read Belle today?' The thought of a whole office of women reading my stuff was crazy. When I turned in a bunch of clips from my blog and that landed me the job, I realized I was probably on to something. Belle was a brand before I realized it was one. I was just writing. The readers are the ones who told me, 'You have to turn this into a book. It will sell.'
You mentioned Sex and the City. How do you like being labeled "the black Carrie Bradshaw?" I have mixed feelings about it. When I was working for Essence, I had a column called 'Dating Guide.' In one of the more popular stories, I went on three blind dates -- one arranged by my editor, one by my mother and one by my best friend. The one my mom set up was in D.C., so theWashington Post covered the story, and the headline was something like 'Demetria Lucas is the Black Carrie Bradshaw.' The name just kind of stuck. I can't get away from it now, even if I wanted to. But I'm a real woman. I'm a real black woman. I don't really like the equation to be a fill-in-the-lines white TV character. The thing that I do like, though, is that for all her flaws, Carrie was loved. People really liked her. She was that sort of urban girl next door with problems that people could relate to. So in that respect, I'm honored to claim that title.
Are there a plethora of tragic Carrie Bradshaws now in the forms of Being Mary Jane's Mary Jane Paul and Scandal's Olivia Pope? Even though Sex and the City is still hugely popular years after it went off the air, I think Olivia Pope is trying to be Olivia Pope and Mary Jane is trying to be Mary Jane. One of the reasons I started my blog was it seemed when single, white women were featured going through relationships, there was more lightheartedness. There was more comedy. There was more adventure. There was more optimism. Even if they got kicked down by somebody one day, they were back up and at it in the next episode. With black women, it just seemed depressing. It seemed hard and heavy and negative. That's the case for a lot of women, but there are also a lot of us who are just trying to figure it out.
When you prepared to write your first book, what kind of author did you want to become? I knew the combination of my blog and being the relationship editor at Essence raised my profile. I was also fortunate to land a spot on Let's Talk About Pep on VH1, which was another story about four black women dating in New York. I realized I had a really big platform and I should do something with it. That's when I pitched my book. Coming from a book editor's background, I knew that you could have a great story, but if you didn't have a platform to sell it on, nobody was going to know about it. Simon & Schuster took it. After the book came out, I was all over social media and started doing my 'Cocktails with Belle' events because I wanted to meet my readers. I wasn't really looking at it as a marketing strategy.
Do you think Blood Sweat and Heels stayed true to its original vision and the real, off-camera personalities of the cast members? No. The show was pitched to me as the professional lives of African-American women in New York City. Over time, it became professional and personal. My fiancé was not originally supposed to be on the show. That was a large discussion between us and producers and also my fiancé and myself. We didn't want to be a public couple. He's not in entertainment. He has no interest in being a part of this world. He has an interest in me.
As for the cast, I do kind of cringe at some of the things that were done and said. We all -- myself included -- could've done better in the representation. What's being shown on TV is not an authentic representation of how up-and-coming professional black women behave or how my friends and I behave. I would've liked to see a stronger emphasis on work. I know that the show's not done yet and there's stuff coming up. But I think we've got a lot of unnecessary drama.
Would you do it again? I don't know.
Being a journalist is one thing, being a reality star is another. How did your writing career prepare you for the TV spotlight? I tend to write about controversial subjects. You take a hard stance on something that people are split down the middle about and argue to the death for your side. I've always gotten a lot of feedback, positive and negative. My physical appearance has been attacked. My relationship status has been attacked. Being a writer gave me thicker skin and got me used to being in debate. Not angry, not arguing, but going back and forth respectfully. I absolutely love being challenged. All of that prepared me for reality TV. I don't think I could've gone from a completely behind-the-scenes life to a very public life and been OK afterwards. The responses to being on TV can be brutal if you're not prepared.
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