On today’s episode of Period Story podcast, I’m pleased to share the wonderful and very expansive conversation I had with Allysa Rochelle, the Vulnerability Queen and founder of TING. We talked about trauma and its effect on menstrual health, the vulnerability spectrum, why Black women need to embrace softness and of course, Rochelle shared the story of her first period.
Rochelle says that after she got her first period, she kept it secret for 4 months. Eventually, pain become a big part of her period life and she learnt to just get on with it, which she says was part of the negative programming she had around her period quite early on.
Listen to hear about the pivotal moment where Rochelle changed her perspective on the pain she was experiencing and the role trauma played in this.
Rochelle talks about a light bulb moment when she realised that she had been ignoring her needs because she had always been in service to other people. She says that she had to get really still and ask herself: ‘what do you need? what are your needs?’
We had a fascinating discussion about the stereotype of the strong Black woman and how important it is for Black women to embrace softness too and let themselves be vulnerable.
Finally, we talked about Rochelle’s self-styled title, ‘The Vulnerability Queen’ and how important it is to lean into vulnerability in a very intentional way.
Rochelle says that we need to hold space for ourselves and never ignore what we’re feeling. I completely agree!
Get in touch with Rochelle:
Allysa Rochelle is the vulnerability queen, she is a podcaster, and the founder of TING, a social enterprise for young creatives. She combines her experience of significant trauma in her childhood and her love for creativity to curate content that inspires people to begin their own healing process.
Le’Nise: On today’s episode, we have Allysa Rochelle. Rochelle is the vulnerability queen. She is a podcast and the founder of TING, a social enterprise for young creatives. She combines her experience of significant trauma in her childhood and her love for creativity to curate content that inspires people to begin their own healing process. Welcome to the show.
Rochelle: Hey, how you doing? Yeah. Good.
Le’Nise: Good. Let’s start off by getting into the story of your very first period. Can you share with us what happened?
Rochelle: Yes, I can. Oh, I just want to kind of like preface before I even start talking and just be like I. My story of my first period. So I am so happy that you asked me to be on this podcast has actually got me thinking about my period. And and I just want to put some trigger warnings in. Now, there’s a lot of stuff that might bring stuff up for other people. Yes. So I just kind of say that before I start. So, my first period, I think I was about year seven, so like 11, 12, that time of age. And I remember being in my lesson and, and being in, like, uncomfortable, but sometimes something’s happening and it’s like a belly ache because obviously as a kid, I’m like, oh, this is a belly ache. And then I remember at some point in the day, going into the toilet and noticing that something was in my pants and it wasn’t red. It was like blood red. It was like, brown, that kind of colour. So I remember being really embarrassed and being like, Oh, my God, have I shit myself type thing, like that’s just the truth? I literally thought that I had, but I’d also be like I definitely haven’t like, I would have know if I did and just not knowing what it was, it was that there was no I had no information as to kind of what was happening into my body.
So, for the next few days, it kept on happening and I just kept on being confused, like watching my knickers at home and hiding them and then just going through that whole process. And that happened. And I said nothing for about I’d say about four months. And then it got to a point when I was like, something keeps happening to me and I’m not I don’t know what it is. And so, like, just kind of I kind of come back to tell me about your first period. When I think about that, I think about how did I, how was I not prepared for that situation? So, yeah. That’s who it was like. It was traumatic. And I suppose it was my first entry. No, it wasn’t my first entry, I was very used to shame by then. But it was like a massive, shameful thing for me because I was unaware of what was happening to my body. I was in a lot of pain and I wasn’t speaking about it at all to anybody.
Le’Nise: So your friends hadn’t had their periods yet, or it was just that you just weren’t having that conversation with your friends.
Rochelle: I think if we had spoken about periods at that point, it was like the same way, like kids talk about sex, it’s like nobody knows what they’re talking about. You’re just saying the words trying to sound like an adult. So if somebody had said something about a period, I probably just pretended I knew what was happening. But I think it was. I don’t know. I probably need to dig into this a little bit more or maybe not, but I don’t know why I never correlated the two, like something. Maybe I didn’t realise it was happening monthly. It was just happening randomly. I mean, I you know, I didn’t have enough information to kind of put the pieces together to figure out that it was it was my period.
Le’Nise: So when did you figure out what was happening?
Rochelle: I think eventually I am. I told my mom, the mom, myself, my mom didn’t have a good relationship because she is extremely religious and extremely conservative. And eventually I spoke to her. She was just like, that’s your period, why didn’t you tell me? And I was like. I suppose it’s like how how, how, why did I not know that? Well, also, like, how did you not prepare me to know that type things? There’s a whole lot of stuff going on. So eventually when I told her, she kind of basically just gave me some sanitary towels and told me to get on with it.
And then I didn’t know is. Once I realised what it was, it. I didn’t. I don’t know if the pain got worse, because I remember I was in pain before I knew what it was, but after I knew what it was, the pain became like. I don’t know, a big part of my period life. Like anybody that knows me, knows that Rochelle has very bad periods. I I’m at times unable to walk. Not much now. And, yeah, lying down. Not going to work. How lucky. It stops my life like that. I got to a point in my life where I was like planning for days off, a month of doing nothing because I physically couldn’t move. And I remember like because of her cultural stance and religion, as I am, say like you get on with it. You do what you need to do. You don’t get to be in pain in you’re a woman now type thing. And so there was a lot of negative programming around my period very early on.
Le’Nise: This idea of just getting on with it. Your mom gave you the sanitary towels, told you just to get on with it, and you took that message even though you were in significant amounts of pain. So four days of pain a month where you plan to do nothing. That’s 48 days a year. I mean, that’s that’s a month and a half of your year being in pain. And, you know, when I talk about pain a lot with my clients and the rest of my work. And being able to put your pain in context like that and say, you know, for 48 days a year, you expect to be in a lot of pain. And the fact that you you have this and you’ve been and you’ve internalised this message of, oh, I just need to get on with it. It says a lot about our culture and how we’ve tried to normalise women’s pain.
And I want to understand a little bit more about. So you said that things are different now. What have you done to change the pain or change? Your expectations around the pain.
Rochelle: Good question. I think it’s also I think I have to say this point, you know, it’s a kind of make my next point. So actually, after I started to have my period. I was probably say after like a year or six months, I started to then be sexually abused. And so I think that. And that lasted a very long time. And I think that my. Because I am I have more of a spiritual kind of like lens on life now. I think that the pain I was experiencing probably got a lot worse because of the trauma was experiencing at the same time. Yeah, I probably would. I’d say I’d probably put money on the fact that it did and my body was reacting. And so now I my, my period pains have only been, I would say, bearable, like I’ve been able to. I remember the last time I had to go home, because of my period. It was last year. So that’s that’s quite a long time for me. Just to have that amount of time not be completely like, on bedrest is a really good time. I would say in the last year or so, I’ve been able to do stuff like that I’ve actually planned to do. And I think it’s because I realised how much trauma I had still stored in my body. And I started it’s kind of like pay attention to it and do like exercises and be mindful of the fact that, like adapting to lose your mentality around pain isn’t normal and maybe the pain is a residue off like, somebody said to me once. And I really hope that I can experience in the way that people understand. She said to me, I was on a retreat and this was in 2018 and the retreat was 8:00 in the morning until 6:00 at night. So we had had lunch and we were supposed to come back and do some activities. I came on my period. And I’m a person. I’m not extroverted. I’m not a look at me type person, I was in so much pain. I couldn’t take part in the afternoon activities and they couldn’t move on without me being in the room. And so one of the founders came upstairs and she said, when you experienced. She came up with magnesium, to give me some magnesium, which is like when you experience trauma, especially in that womb space. She says everything in the universe expands and contracts is how we like things move expansion and contraction.
And the same for your womb. And she said it’s possible that it’s contracted so tightly that it needs to expand for your period, it struggles to do so.
And it just gave me a different perspective because I had never you, don’t I? I just had never seen my body in that way, or I never. I was still working out how everything was interlinked and everything is connected like everything. And I’m still I’m still understanding that now. It still blows my mind how much one thing can really affect another. And I just had this kind of image of like my womb just being so tightly held together, tightly constricted because of years of trauma in that space.
And then. All the pain made so much sense then I was like, well, of course, if you if I if I have to be on my period and my body needs to go through this process, and this used to be because I’m actually quite tight, naturally, as a result, I had to hold it up. And so, yeah, I think since 2008, since I had that kind of realisation and I’ve been more mindful about how the body holds trauma. I think my periods have got better. I think I started to eat better, I’ve started to move my body. I think just having an awareness has shifted for me. So. So, yeah, my period are painful 100 percent. But I realise now it would be for four days. I’m I’m day three and I’m still screaming, you know. I mean now I reckon it’s probably like one day of extreme pain, maybe a bit of pain the next day. Half the day. And then I’m OK. Yeah, it’s it’s not it’s not completely I’m not pain free and there was still time, so I think I take co-codamol like for the pain that I have. But it’s nowhere near as bad as it was like 10 years ago.
Le’Nise: That’s interesting what you say about magnesium, because I see this along with some of the women I work with who have really severe period pain or who have things condition such as endometriosis or adenomyosis, where it’s a contraction in their body and the pain. It also it almost causes them to kind of hold in like tighten everything and kind of they get so used to doubling over in pain or contracting themselves into a ball because, you know, when there are a lot of pain, you kind of all you want to do is lay down. And I know this from my own experience. You want to lay down and you kind of just contract into that kind of. You’re into that foetal position that can be so comforting. But that contraction is a kind of scientific level. You’re using a lot of calcium in the body and then magnesium. It helps. It’s a relaxing mineral. So it helps to release everything. So magnesium, I mean, I recommend it all the time. It’s one of my favourite supplements. But it’s interesting that you’ve seen being able to identify that kind of contraction and having a tool like magnesium and other things you’ve been doing to release that has been so powerful for you. I want to ask about the pain that you’ve been experiencing. Did you ever speak to anyone about it? Did you speak to a doctor?
Rochelle: Yeah. So I have been I’ve been to the doctors. But that’s such a good question as well. I think there’s this thing about doctors not really paying attention very much to black women in pain. And so that was my experience. But I’m also very, very desensitised to support and the system. So I kind of just go in there knowing that, you know, this is awful. But I’m just going to call it out. I expect the bare minimum because I’ve been I’m used to receiving it, if that makes sense, especially when it comes to systems like education and health care. And so I had kind of done my own research beforehand. They never went through like I’ve never been tested for endo. They’ve never liked to do this. It’s just never been anything more than contraception. Here you go. And so I was very I didn’t want to do be on the pill or anything. I tried the pill once and I was so sad. I remember the day. I felt like I was heaving like wanting to vomit. And my stomach because I have IBS as well. I have a dodgy stomach situation, believe it came out really and it was really hard. And I was like day one. I was like, I know you probably could try this for like seven days and it might get better, but I’m not going to do that. And so the contraception that I decided I would take was the patch because it just wasn’t internal and and it allowed my periods to stop and less pain.
So when I so I did that and it worked. But then I just. I just wanted to be more natural. And so I kind of just the idea that, like hormones I have like a weight issue, I gain weight quickly. And I just I’m not on top of my health enough to kind of then add hormones. And it’s like I kind of know that, like, this is a slippery slope. I’d rather deal with the issue. So I stopped using the patch probably around the same kind of time, 2018. After the years just doing it. And yes, that was that’s basically all the doctors have ever kind of like offered me. It’s never been more of a conversation around other things. I do have friends who have endo and they’ve had to tell me they’ve had to fight to be taken seriously about the pain that they’re experiencing. And I do. And I have wondered sometimes if it could be something more serious, maybe have PCOS or maybe, you know, maybe you have. And I’m also very aware that like that I have to call it out, I’m on a journey. This is why I call myself the vulnerability queen. For me, it’s a process like I. I know that I have to get to a process where I prioritise myself enough to kind of like kick down the doors at the doctor. Well, just to kind of like connect that again to my upbringing, I wasn’t really taught that your kind of needs matter, if that makes sense, just to kind of go right to the example of my mum being like here’s some pads, just get on with it. And so I think there’s definitely a remnant of that kind of thought process and programming when it comes to my own needs. Even today, I’m continuously working on so, you know, and maybe in the future I will go to the doctor if I can’t fix it myself. I’ll go to the doctors and I’ll probably get tested for something. And I don’t know what it could be, but I know that there’s something not right there.
Le’Nise: I would really encourage you to explore that because, you know, the pain that you you are experiencing isn’t normal. And I really wouldn’t I don’t want you to continue to live like this. Everything you’re saying is like ticking off certain boxes in my mind. I don’t want to do the whole thing.
It’s like you’re not one of my clients and I don’t want to go down that road on the podcast. But I would really encourage you to speak to a health care professional and explore what options are available for you for testing, because there’s so much there and it’s. It is part of that journey of you knowing that your needs matter. And I want to ask you about that, that that whole idea of growing up and seeing, hearing this programming of all your needs, your needs, they don’t matter. Talk about how you started to understand that your needs do matter and what you’ve been doing to explore that and reinforce that message to yourself.
Rochelle: So that retreat that I went on in 2018 is called The Bridge. The Bridge Retreat. Yeah. If anyone wants to search it up on Instagram, The Bridge Retreat they’re amazing. And it’s all about grieving like things that happened to you. So it could be anything. It could be the fact that you has your house burn down when you were a child and you lost absolutely everything each could literally. We don’t grieve, and that’s the problem, that we’re not naturally like, oh, society doesn’t allow us to grieve in the way that we should be. So in that I understood that just kind of telling my story and having a space for me to be heard. How much I hadn’t been heard up until that point. And. That was just I mean, this is two years ago. I think it is a bit of a light bulb for me. Oh, wow. Like, I have been ignoring my needs and I’ve been in service for other people because my job is always in service. I help people. I support people. That’s what I do. And so kind of like looking at my co-dependency and all the things that have come out of the me not knowing what my needs are. So the first thing was to kind of get really still and ask myself, what do you need? What are your needs? Which is a wild question. If you have if you don’t like, you realise you don’t know the answer to that question. It’s like. I don’t know it can be like bomb drops. How could I not answer that question for myself?
And I’m still learning how to answer that question. I ask my question because I asked myself that question consistently now that what do you need at this moment? And you can start off with something like you’re dehydrated, you need to drink water. You know, I mean, I drink because because you need the water. And and you and your programming would actually tell you to complete a million different tasks for other people before you drink that water. You know you need that or you need sleep now or you need rest because you’re tired and you’ve done enough for today or or you need to be seen in your relationship by your partner in a way that they haven’t seen you because you’ve not said that you need to be seen in this way. Do you know what I mean? I think it is just like it was many different ways of identifying what I needed for me to kind of start feeling like my needs were worthy.
And then because I think another thing as well is that this. I just think the way in which society is formed is so detrimental to people like because this whole thing about ego. I mean, there’s there were massive conversations about ego. But I think when it comes to kind of like people being really firm in who they are and what they need, it can come off as quite abrasive to other people. And so I think as women as well, you’re consistently like ‘oh no, I’m okay, oh no, I’m okay’ because you just don’t want to be this abrasive kind of abrasive, egotistical kind of person. And also being a Black woman. You don’t want to be aggressive or whatever, or all of the things they put on you.
Le’Nise: Quote, quote, unquote, “aggressive”.
Rochelle: Yeah. So I think, like figuring out your needs and then voicing them. It’s a task in itself and then especially for people that are from similar backgrounds as me, but then doing that and knowing the way in which society kind of sees Black women. And the way we’re seen as, once again, aggressive, attitude problems. I don’t know. A lot like that. You have to grapple both of those things at the same time. And, yeah, it it becomes political. Like when you just want to be healing, like you just want to be working out like who you are and how to be. good. And you’re now navigate these identity politics at the same time. It’s just it’s just a thing. And so, yeah, I think just kind of identifying my needs and working out what they were was just a series of me asking myself questions on a daily basis. What do you need right now? What do you need right now? On a very simple level, was like water but on a deeper level when it comes to the part I play in relationship with people. Getting really real with myself about how I do too much for other people. Why? Why I do too much. And what does that take me away from doing for myself? It’s journey, isn’t it? It’s an ongoing journey. And yeah, I think it’s just a long journey.
Le’Nise: What do you think about the the idea of the strong Black woman? And how do you think this plays into this? This idea that we as women, we tend to put our needs second anyway? I think that’s the kind of thing that a lot of women do. But as this idea of a strong Black woman, you you feel like you you can’t show vulnerability. You have to be so-called strong all the time because loads of people are standing on your back trying to get ahead. What do you think about that?
Rochelle: I think the strong Black women like stereotype is mad interesting is what you said is the strong woman, the Black woman is quote unquote strong because she puts everyone else’s needs. Is that strength? Is that strength? And it’s like, why is that stereotype being perpetuated so strongly, you know, because it’s it’s like the Black woman I know are strong. If I thought generationally, when I think about the elder women that I’m aware I’m aware of in my family, they’re very much so women that do carry their families on their backs, for example. Is that is that strength cos I would have preferred to see strength of a woman that put herself first. But then, like I say, it gets it gets political when we start thinking about the reasons why Black women had to pay those role. You know, the fact that Black men are way out of it, especially in America. I need to know more about the way in which the family structure was affected by systemic racism in the UK. I know within America like the men were like taken out of the houses. And obviously you’ve got mass incarceration and other things. So many things paint into kind of why women have to become these strong, but I think it’s strong by default.
I especially like, within a little aside, like a commercial break. I was on a date once with this white guy from a dating app. I would just let me just try. Let me just try something different. Right. And I realised at that moment this is not I can’t do this because I sat with him and talking and he said that he loves Black women because we’re strong. And I felt fire in my chest when he said that: I love Black women because they’re strong. And I was like, do you know why we have to be strong like that? I was like, you can’t like, this is not, it’s not. What is that? What is that? This is ages ago before I kind of, I suppose, had the vocab to really understand it myself. But the idea that, like Black women are seen as martyrs that carry everybody and everything and forsake themselves is not strength to me. And I hate that it’s romanticised in a way and kind of like it doesn’t allow for softness. Yeah. And. I can see what you want about me. I’m very, very formidable. I’m like, I’ve got this, like, energy. People think that I’m strong and whatever else, I want to be soft, too. Mm hmm. And I don’t want to be around people that don’t allow me to be soft because I’m a strong Black. I’ve had exes that have said that, oh, you’re you’re so intelligent. You’re so strong and I’m just like you, this is where the relationship ends because I just don’t like it. I also quite zero tolerance. What I’m doing was I just like you need to be able to see beneath that. So I think I think it’s damaging.
But I think that I think that the strengths and stereotype comes from a need to support a family because society has failed the Black family for a very long time. That’s basically that. And if the society wasn’t failing Black families then the strong Black woman wouldn’t need to exist.
Le’Nise: Your story about the date reminds me of this scene. Have you read Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams?
It’s a must read it, it’s so good. So there’s a scene in it that’s similar to the way that your date went, when she goes on the dating app, she meets this guy and then he talks about how he loves Black woman and he loves strong Black women.
And it just kind of the date just kind of descends into chaos from there. Yeah. But yeah, I agree with you that it’s damaging and it leads to this idea that we can’t be soft and it’s also damaging internally because you feel like you can’t be vulnerable because people are expecting so much more from you. And it’s certainly an issue that I’ve had in my life. You know, this idea that you have to be strong, you have to be strong. So many people are depending on you, but this leads into what I want to ask you about, you call yourself the vulnerability queen. Tell me why you tell. You talked a little bit about that in the beginning of the podcast. But just tell me where where this comes from. The Vulnerability Queen.
Rochelle: So I started a podcast, The Vulnerable Podcast in 2017. And it came about because, like I said, my job, I’ve always been in service. I work with people and young people especially. And the role I had at the time was head of pastoral in the school. So I was like looking after the needs of the whole school. And that job was like a combination of all of the jobs I had done that was similar up until that point. So my job has always been everybody else’s needs. And what was happening is I was kind of hearing a lot of stories about people’s, you know, traumas and stuff. And I was realising that I was hearing the same things over and over again and that we were all going through the same things. And shame stopped us from like experiencing those things. Shame stops us from sharing those things with other people, because you didn’t want to, I suppose, feel embarrassed about them. So that was like that was like one point. I was like the reason why I started the podcast. But then I reflected on my own experience with vulnerability and the way how I was raised to, like, not have any vulnerability at all. You do not speak on things that can make me to be seen like I don’t at an extreme level. Like I feel like when I think about my mom and even the way she conducts himself now, I’m just like. It’s really sad that nobody, she doesn’t let anyone in to hurt her person. And it’s a shame and it’s that guilt that stops having been very vulnerable.
And so to me, I was like, no, no, ma’am. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to lean into my vulnerability and encourage other people to do so, too. Specifically, people that look like me, that are from places that are similar to where I’m from because shame eats us up so much, so much more. And, you know, I think it’s easy. I think it’s fair to say they it eats Black people up way more because outside of kind of like, the internal shame in your community, you’re dealing with the racism externally and how that shame can manifest in other places. In your work life, in your education, in life. Do you know I mean, is you’re managing so many, you’re spinning so many plates? And it’s killing us because we know that stress turns into sickness. Do you know what I mean? And so for me, vulnerability, I think where it’s like. You get to kind of release things that you shouldn’t be carrying for yourself or holding something that isn’t yours. And by no means am I like some kind of guru. I’m figuring this out, but I kind of.
I want to call it a thing like I want to say that I am. I am consciously and intentionally working in vulnerability on a daily basis to support other people, to kind of decide that by actually modelling, that to me is really important. And not just to find, just to be like, really, honest if I’ve had to find some balance with that. Because when you’re coming from trauma initially, when you think about vulnerability, it’s like I’m going to tell the world everything about me and everything that’s happened to me. And it’s going to be some type of oil spill of trauma everywhere. Right. Because initially, that’s what vulnerability is like when you first step into it. And on the healing journey. Oh, no, I, I don’t have to say all the things, but I can still get to model vulnerability in a different way. So I’ve had to kind of on the vulnerability spectrum, let’s figure out where is the safe space for me to do the work that I know that I’m here to do, but in a safe way for me. And that’s just something I’ve been able to pick up on and develop my therapy and stuff. Yeah, that’s my thing. I think it is modelling vulnerability. And it makes me think I hope one is my ex-students DM me a couple of days ago, I was just talking about the things that she’s been experiencing and the books that she’s been reading and how she likes my Instagram and stuff like that. And I’m like imagining an 18 year old Black girl from South London is so typically not what you would put together. But she’s able to kind of like see the types of things I am posting and kind of apply these things to her own life and her own personal healing journey. And that’s that’s the kind of I that’s the kind of that’s how I kind of want to that’s what I want to do.
Le’Nise: It’s hard to be vulnerable. And it’s hard to. I love how you said that there’s a spectrum to vulnerability, because I think that a lot of people think that to be vulnerable, you have to completely open yourself up. And if you’re used to holding things for yourself and having everything internalised for so long and the idea of even opening up a little bit is really it’s really frightening. Well, I want to ask, is that spectrum of vulnerability that you mentioned? How can someone who is listening to this and thinking, I connect with that, I connect with that need to be more open, to be more vulnerable. And vulnerability isn’t a bad thing. How can they start on this journey?
Rochelle: I think journalling. Well. I was thinking, like of some big items and I was like, no, there’s no big answer. I think journalling means is helps me to to tap into those kind of feelings that I don’t want to say out loud to everybody. And. Sometimes I’ll just be, there’s journalling that you’re encouraged to do at night. And when you wake up in the morning, there’s that. And that should definitely be done. I think it’s important to do that before you go to sleep. And when you wake up in the morning, put this to me. I’ve caught some of my best like vulnerable, I think best vulnerable moments not like that there’s some type of like race. Like in the middle of the day when something just bubbles up and it just comes out and I’m like, whoa. And it almost brings me to tears. And then I write it down because that needs to it needs to leave. I find that I think giving the vulnerability a space is important. So when you’re having a moment where you’re feeling vulnerable and it’s come out of nowhere, for example, society’s programming will have you bury it and put it back down. And I’m like, create a table for it. Like, let’s put it on a long time. What is going on? Like the like like you would serve dinner on, like a table that’s set. Like, let’s bring that to the table. Do you know I mean. And what is that about. Write it down. You don’t need to know what it’s about right now. But but I think it’s important to pay attention. And I like the ritual of paying attention to me is writing it down. I think people can start there.
I would also encourage, I find friendship really interesting because I have had the most phenomenal friends in my life. People that I can I can speak to about anything. And I am more mindful now that a lot of people do not have that. A lot of people have really superficial friendships. And that, to me, makes me feel claustrophobic. How do you not get to share a part of who you are? So I would say if you’re in a friendship circle and you feel like you don’t get to tap into that part of you that you’ve seen and heard, then make a new friend like put yourself out there. I’m very much just say, like, I need somebody who I can be friends with and be myself with. Write that down, call in and then go out to these places and meet someone that you that can be your friend in that way, because it’s important that outside of yourself that other people are able to hold space for you too you know, in a way, it’s kind of like validation of who you are because we’re not islands are we as people like we feel the things that we feel. But it’s incredible to be supported by someone else. You know, if you don’t have that family, I don’t, it has become my friends. And if it’s not your friends, then your partner. You know, I think it’s important to have someone. I think it’s important to take inventory of who is in your life and who is actually able to show up for you. And if there isn’t anyone you can identify, call someone else in. You have to. For me that’s a non-negotiable. You have to have people around you that are that allow you to be your complete self.
Le’Nise: It’s interesting, you talk about details about journalling and then you talk about how you relate and how you’re vulnerable to others. And this idea, it’s two types of vulnerability. It’s being vulnerable to yourself and acknowledging how you feel and really going there and going deep into certain thoughts and feelings. And then also allowing yourself to be open and vulnerable with others and finding that that support network. I think those two areas are really interesting and really powerful and give people a good starting point. So journaling is something that anyone can do. You can do it on your phone. You can get a book. You know, a bit of paper, doesn’t matter. But this even writing a couple of words down and then thinking about those words is really powerful. So I love. I love those two options that you gave there. I want to talk more about your work. So tell us about your your business, the social enterprise Ting.
Rochelle: Yes. Like I’ve said, I’ve been working with people for a really long time. And in 2018, 2018 was a really pivotal year for me. I keep saying it, don’t I? I look at my chart, my solar chart or something and see what was happening there. And so I left education that year because it became too much. Once again, like we don’t get to separate identities. And as a Black woman working in majority white spaces, it was way too much for me. And supporting Black students at the same time, so it was kind of being asked to support these kids and then fighting for my own kind of like humanity. And if I could, I could no longer do both things.
So I left and I went to work within the creative industries supporting people to get mentors in the creative industries. I realised that and realised that the issue that I faced in education existed outside too. So spaces weren’t safe for Black and Brown people. There was a lot of opportunities created for marginalised groups in terms of like an internship programme and here’s a mentor or here’s some funding. And it was kind of like plasters on wounds. Let’s just give them something. So we feel good. We feel benevolent. And I was just like this doesn’t feel right, because I’ve spent I’d say the best the best part of the last 4-5 is hooking people up with the most phenomenal opportunities, but also having conversations with them about their ability to access those opportunities. So, for example, their family is being made evicted and they’ve just got this mentor and they really want to make use of that opportunity, but they’re unable to do so because of life and the similar things that are coming up over and over again. Mental health is a big thing that comes up, not having jobs for young people. Massive. And how that’s affecting their mental health. And so I was having those conversations way more. And I’m realising that my job title wasn’t paying me to kind of make do with that kind of pastoral stuff. I was just doing it and realising that if we could kind of put some support in place for that, a kind of an equity piece that allows these young Black and Brown people to access these opportunities and then thrive.
Then that’s like a that’s a big piece of work that could literally change a lot. In which the way the industry is because they like you know, everyone talks about retention and recruitment and we need to be more diverse. And it’s kind of like. I just want to get into the nitty gritty of the reasons why. And I just didn’t feel like anybody else saw. And to be fair, my jobs and my life experience have allowed me to see things in ways that people can’t. So it’s not like me throwing shame on the industry, it’s more maybe like let me take my lens and what I know, to be sure and do something. So Ting is essentially a personal and professional development service for companies and young people. And so with companies that might look like, what, I’m going to come in. I’ve had conversations with companies that have internship programmes that I just like, ah yeah, a director gets an email and then we just kind of find it two weeks a month. I know this is nepotism first of all, you know. I mean, like, that’s not going to support diversity. Like, there’s so much going on there. And it’s like, OK, I can come in and help you to develop that internship programme and create like an internship scheme that allows you to kind of get into more diverse communities because I have access there.
And then I can work with the young people to prepare them to go into your space because they need to know they need to have resilience to be in that space. We also need to be a safe space and receive them and know what you’re both kind of working with. So that’s why I’m saying my life has kind of allowed me to see things on both sides and Ting is that we provide the personal and professional for companies and personal and professional for young people. And it’s at the beginning stages. And so I’m kind of at the stage and I was kind of starting sounding like a new entrepreneur, figuring out like the best ways in which to kind of get this done, it’s super new, but I feel like it’s I think it’s going to be really good.
Le’Nise: Yeah. I think it’s incredible. What an amazing idea, because you’re right. These companies have these diversity programmes, these internships.
But it’s kind of like it’s this idea that you, the the young people going in, they need to be prepared to code switch and they need to know what that code is that they’re switching to. It’s like I think I used to work in advertising for a long time, and the example that always sticks in my mind as young people from various backgrounds coming in and it’s the sushi with clients example, you need to tell them that they need to learn how to use chopsticks and that they might have sushi with clients. And some people say, oh, they’ve never had that in their life. They have no idea that how to use chopsticks and kind of need to have that conversation with them. And there’s a million other examples. Yeah. I really love that.
Rochelle: It’s the cultural capital. It’s like they’re not coming to the table, like you say, with the same utensils that everybody else has. Because if you think about the advertising is extremely middle-class, extremely white. And if you think about these young people that work in advertising, it’s very likely that they’ve had dinner parties with other people that work in advertising when they were like 12. I mean, I have been in conversations about things and pitches and brands and stuff, and I didn’t know anything about that until two years ago. I’m that person who had to learn how to eat with chopsticks pretty quickly because I had to be able to understand it and explain it to younger people that were coming in. And I think I’ve just got to a place I suppose, once again, going back to the beginning of this conversation about needs and worthiness.
I’ve I’ve I’m starting to kind of understand that I am the best person to do this job. And like, I don’t get to opt out of that because of my own lack of self things that I’ve had growing up. It’s like, oh, no, this is time to step into who you are now. And in spite of everything, it’s I know this is this is what is that you need to be doing, at least for now. And it requires you to show up in full health. So you’re right. I do need to check out my my period situation. I need to do a lot of things because I. Yeah. When you get to a place where you’ve been doing the work, wherever the left looks like for you and you and you have places like this tells me is actualisation. You have to know that you have to step into that wave, firing on all cylinders, operating on your best health, hydrated, well fed, it’s the only way. Because the truth is this: I can be. I can be as ambitious and romanticise this new thing that I’m about to do all I want. If I’m not healthy, it’s not going to work. And the young people I want to support, they’re not going to get the support. So there’s there’s no there’s no, there should be no trophies for martyrdom. And I think I think that this is why this is the the programming and I’m doing the vulnerability for me. I am so just like I have been taught. I have seen a million times so many women from my community have been martyrs, so many because they didn’t know any better. And I do. And to me, it’s like I definitely have been a martyr for so long. And now I’m like, I don’t want to do that anymore.
Luckily, I’m still alive and I still have my my faculties in place. And I still have I’m so young enough to kind of switch it around. And so I think that there’s definitely a strong call to be like that. We need to kind of, you know, get our house together and really start into the next the next phase of my life.
Le’Nise: And so to round up our conversation, if someone’s listening and you want them to take one thing away from all the amazing things that you’ve said, what would you want that to be?
Rochelle: Hold space for yourself. I haven’t said that explicitly, but I think the whole conversation, there’s been examples of me holding space myself and not all the time did I action anything because I didn’t have the tools to action. I suppose even when I was 11, like having my period, like four months before I even said anything, I was I was present and something was happening and eventually actioned it. And I just think that if you can hold space with yourself and be honest about how you’re feeling good and bad. I call the thing a thing like this is not it’s not something that should be ignored. Do not ignore what you are feeling. Hold space for yourself. Do not ignore what you’re feeling. Write it down and speak about it to someone that you trust. And that and that is on everything. Anything like it. There’s nothing too small. Too big. Like literally anything. It’s so important.
Le’Nise: Thank you so much. I think that’s so powerful. Where can listeners find out more about you?
Rochelle: You follow me on Instagram at @allysarochelle. And I’m quite active on Instagram. So follow me there and then you’ll find links to everything I do.
Le’Nise: Great and all of your links will be in the show notes. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
Rochelle: Thank you. I really enjoyed this conversation. It’s allowed me to tap into a different part of my experience. And so thank you so much. Amazing. Thank you.