Since I started whipping butters as a side (and increasingly main) hustle in late 2014, the progress has been pretty incredible and, in many ways, this year has felt like my ‘breakthrough’. My butters were recognized by YouTube and included in the swag bag for YouTube Black, and I opened my first storefront in Brooklyn. So when I got a message from a BET executive saying they wanted to meet me, it felt like destiny — something meant to be. That the meeting fell on my son’s 5th birthday was just another stroke of fate.

“Happy Birthday buddy!” I said cheerily when I woke him up. “Mommy has a big meeting with a TV network today!”

And yes, I suck for making his big day about my big news but I was pretty excited. I would go into Manhattan, to the Viacom building in Times Square, meet with two marketing executives, and by the time I got back home to Brooklyn that evening I would be celebrating both my son’s milestone birthday and a BET exclusive on my business.

But first there was the matter of my clothes. Tricky since, still 18 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight, I can’t fit into about 70% of my wardrobe. I fished through my closet for ankle boots, a pair of nice jeans that fit without too much muffintopping and the sleeveless turtleneck that always does a pretty good job of hiding my muffintop. Not comfortable, but I’d only have to endure this for a few hours.

After dropping the kids at school I stopped by my shop and picked out travel sizes of our most popular scented butters and called a Lyft.

The Lyft was late, and I panicked as it slowly weaved through Midtown. I texted updates to my BET contact as often as I could, “So so sorry! Really looking forward to meeting you!”

As I sat in my seat, I tested ways I could weave my lateness into the life narrative I was crafting to present to BET — a hard-working mother of three young kids who managed to grow a successful business, braving horrible Manhattan traffic in the late afternoon to chase her dream. Realizing that my Lyft was going nowhere fast and that walking to my appointment would add extra flair to my story, I resolutely told my cabbie. “Drop me off here. I’ll *walk* the rest of the way.”

“Lyft stuck in traffic. Getting out to walk to you.” I texted my contact before stepping onto the street.

After several sweaty blocks I arrived at the Viacom building, more than 30 minutes late. I got my name tag, went up the elevator to the 26th floor and met with my contact.

“Hi! I am soooo sorry!”

“No worries!” she said cheerily.

We did some small talk about traffic in Manhattan versus Brooklyn and then I presented my butters.

“So I want you to try these! These are some of our most popular scents. I did a lot of research when I first started because lack of absorbency is a big problem with a lot of whipped butter lines and I wanted mine to be as absorbent as possible…” My voice trailed off as I realized she was staring at her computer. She picked up a sample and flashed me a quick smile.

“Thank you! Okay, so I’m just going to give you this,” she said handing me a binder. “And here’s a flash drive with all the information.”

“Um, you should try the vanilla whipped shea,” I said, taking the binder. “It’s our most popular scent.”

She dabbed a tiny bit on the back of her hand.

“Wow. It’s soft.” She then launched into a detailed explanation of BET’s programming. I opened the binder. Inside was a catalog of BET’s various advertising packages. I scanned through and looked at the price tags. 6 figures. My heart sank as it dawned on me — she didn’t want to do a story about my business. She wanted me to advertise on BET.

My mind raced. ‘Why do they think I can afford this? What about anything I have ever said or done makes them think I can afford this??’

“So now we’ll do lunch.” my contact said, snapping me back to reality.

A tall, well-suited black man ambled up and extended his hand. “Hi, nice to meet you.” he said. “I’ll be doing lunch with you too.” I shook back as convincingly as I could, feeling hyper conscious of how hard the button on my jeans was pushing against my gut.

We took the elevator down and stepped out onto a busy street. As we passed more impeccably dressed New Yorkers my imposter syndrome went into overdrive. There I was, a mom of three who hadn’t showered in one and three quarter days, in between two high-powered marketing execs who somehow thought I could afford the advertising packages they were explaining to me in embarrassing detail. I figured I needed to diffuse the situation before it went further.

“Um, some of your advertising packages cost as much as my business earns…. in a year.”

“Well, you gotta put yourself out there. You have to try new approaches.”

“I don’t have ‘put yourself out there and try new approaches’ money though,” I replied. My contact’s glance wavered a bit, but she didn’t seem convinced.

We arrived at a fancy restaurant. “The crab salad is so good here,” she cooed.

As we took our seats I decided I could at least try to sell my story. I cleared my throat.

“You know I took a big risk opening up my storefront, “I started. “And this is actually my second venture. I started out as a blogger — I still maintain my blog — and was actually recognized by The Root as a top blogger in 2012. I’m a mom of three kids, five and under, and it’s hard to do this. I don’t have a lot of help. A lot of people told me I couldn’t do this, but I’m taking it on.”

My contact and her associate smiled nicely. And then pivoted the conversation to the lack of black representation on House Hunters.

“You know, a lot of black people can afford the more expensive properties, but they don’t SHOW that,” said well-dressed black man. “You should blog about *that*.”

By the time the raw tuna tacos came I realized my best bet was to just enjoy my free meal. I locked eyes with the restaurant cook, a young black man with locs working at an open grill. His sympathetic gaze seemed to say, “Yeh we BOTH don’t belong here.”

About halfway through the meal it seemed to finally dawn on the male exec how pointless the entire affair was.

“You know I take every meeting that comes my way, because you never know where people will end up.”

I smiled. He was throwing me a bone and I appreciated it.

“You have such an incredible story, and I’d love to write about it on BET Her, the new platform we’re launching.”

I breathed in sharply.

“But it’s not up to me.”

I know enough to know that an ‘It’s not up to me’ from a network executive is a nice way of saying, ‘That shit ain’t happening.’

He started to ramble about how I might have been perfect for BET’s reality competition, “Queen Boss’ before it was canceled on orders from Viacom.

We finished our meal and my contact pulled out a black card to pay for everything.

‘Nice touch,’ I thought. ‘If that shit meant anything to me.’

We descended the restaurant’s curved stairs and headed back out to the street.

“Uh, I don’t need to follow you back to the office. I’ll just catch my Lyft from here. And just try my butters, okay?” I offered weakly. “They’re really good.”

“Yeh, I’ll definitely come by your shop.” tall black man promised.

And with that we departed.

I headed down the street only to realize that my phone was dead and I’d forgotten my purse at home. I ducked into the entryway of a columned building to come up with a plan and let my disappointment flood. Was I stupid for thinking BET would be interested enough in my story to cover it? In that moment, I honestly was not sure.

I scanned the street. Going back to the BET offices to charge my phone was out of the question. Insult to injury and all… I headed towards a Duane Reed.

I trudged up to the counter. “Hey. I need to call a Lyft but my phone is dead and I don’t have any money.” The store clerk handed me a charger and pointed me towards an outlet. “Just don’t leave the store with it.”

I plugged my phone in and sat on the cool floor beside it, clutching my knees as I watched people pass, looking for bandaids, nail polish and instant coffee.

‘Well’, I thought to myself, ‘*I’m* proud of me for opening my shop. There’s that.’

When my phone hit 8% I called a Lyft. My cabbie dropped me off at my storefront and I shelved my disappointment to go into work and mommy mode. I finished whipping a couple bowls of shea, and picked the kids up from school. We sang Happy Birthday, ate a cupcake, unwrapped a few presents, and talked about my son’s big party, coming up in a few days.

I got the kids down for the night and looked at my phone. I had a missed call — from my contact at BET!

My stomach fluttered. Maybe this was it! Maybe she had tried the butters after all and realized how incredible they were. Maybe this was a mea culpa, a new proposal.

“Missed your call,” I texted, “Sorry!”

I was about to ask what time I could call back when I got a reply text.

“Sorry didn’t mean to call. My son was playing with my phone.”

***This story is entirely true from start to finish and happened yesterday. I’ve excluded the name of my contacts at BET because they were genuinely nice people. Dialogue isn’t exact (just rehashing from my memory) but yeh, all of this happened…

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noelliste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast. bell hooks' hair twin...

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83 Comments on "I was Wined and Dined by BET, and Then I Got Played"

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Dorcas

Girl, so sorry about that experience. You are a maverick and we as natural black women look upto you. Thankyou for starting a revolution.

Wanda

Peace and Blessing to you, and big props on the start of your storefront. Thanks for your total honesty. Keep your dreams alive, the universe sees and knows all. Offering prayers and goodwill. Wanda

SelenaKyl

So sorry this happened to you. I’m glad you wrote about it to show the struggle of starting your business. We always see the final results of successful businesses but we never hear about the hard part of getting there. Good luck in all of your endeavors and I’m sorry I laughed so hard at the end!

TWA4now

So true

Terina Nicole
Nearly the same thing happened to me! In a nutshell I got a call Modern Living, a home decor show hosted by Kathy ireland on Bloomberg TV. I was so excited. I called back and squirmed the entire call while the woman tried to seek me on going to LA to film an “interview” with Kathy to showcase my products. This “opportunity” though would cost more than I make in a year. Then she tried to offer me financing and he such. Arrrgh! Get off my phone! PS: I was on Queen Boss and it was an awful experience. Smh… Read more »
Shondell Brown

They Definitely don’t recognize the brilliance & intelligence-along with the determination and sheer will, that was seated before them! Oh Don’t fret-They Surely Will! Not religious but Thoroughly Spiritual & God is directing your path- keep walking & you Will arrive! Happy belated bday to your little one!!!

Lola

I enjoyed the read! Sucks, but you never know what future opportunities this will bring! Keep your head up

Denika

honey, u r doing just fine! trust me, your biz will continue to grow. keep doing what you doing. hold your head up high.

cindy mindy

Note to self : When a popular entity approaches me, inquire exactly as to the nature of the inquiry.

Thinking they want to partner with you in some way is very different than them looking for the next advertiser. This was a day wasted and you are a Boss. You don’t have time for that.

Clarify. Clarify. Clarify ladies.

ATC

Thanks for sharing your story. You don’t know how many people in similar situations that you’ve touched. Don’t give up #Onward!!!!!

AliciaFiasco

You had every reason to believe they were going to feature you for a story! You are phenomenal! Please don’t ever forget that! Btw, we miss you in Chicago sis! We’re rooting for you. Can’t wait to visit the shop. Always supporting from afar 😉

Abbysinia Wincher

God opens the doors that need to be opened and closes the doors that need to be shut. Based on the mere fact they know who you are is a seed you have planted sista. Stay encouraged your time will come.

Catriese Henning

More is coming . . . . you’ll see. Keep moving forward.

Isunji

Wow… I’m sorry that didn’t pan out, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if somewhere down the road they reach out again wanting to tell your story. For what it’s worth, I’m proud of you for opening a storefront AND that whipped mango butter is my hair’s favorite thing! 🙂

HeavnsGirl

Aww, this is heartbreaking right now, but just keep doing what you’re doing and one day they’ll be beating down your door to “feature” you. And will be sad when you go to Allure or Marie Claire instead.

Changing Winds Woman

Is BET Black-owned? Kudos to you for having the guts to meet with them. Keep on – your time will come and I so appreciate you sharing your story.

Kecia

It hurt my heart because I had such high hopes but this is just the beginning and in a few years when you are counting your millions you will lol at the memory. You are brave and smart and a super Mom/Woman! God bless you with so much more sooner than you think. You own a store front with your very own products-Huge! The Blog HUGE! Congrats and many applause

Alwina

Wow, Dear! Thank you for sharing your experience!

That is crazy! The executive should have set expectations for the meeting, not have you come in for different reasons and then change things up on you. No bueno!

Don’t let it burst your bubble. You are doing amazing things (I’m still struggling to start my blog O_o)! Keep doing amazing things and the right opportunity to share your business will come soon enough! 🙂

Adrienne Perkins

This breaks my heart. Keep up the good work we need you!!!!

Tmar

You are bada$$! Your honesty, your bravery should be applauded. I am so proud of you! Keep pressing girl! Thank you for the inspiration. Your encounter with BET WAS NOT in vain. Look at it like this: All your hard work and hustle has put (little ole) you on the radar of a multi-billion company. Press on my sista! Press on!

Kpossible

I love how you always tell a story with humor even when things suck. You my dear or an inspiration. Congrats on your store, be proud of yourself, and fugg BET! I live for this blog; I love your butters (use it daily) and your ability to story tell is amazing. As a mom of 4, I hope and pray that one day I can be doing something that makes me happy everyday; you’ve arrived!

Softie

I could feel the disappointment while reading this. I’m sad for you but also here to tell you that if BET noticed you, someone who’ll truly help you will probably notice you if you keep putting your work in. May God bless your hustle. Never give up. My blog opened a lot of doors for me and I’ve had similar experiences. You’re not alone <3 keep going.

Timberly

You don’t need BET. Look at how far you have come just on what you’ve done on your own. I’m sure its hard but its a supreme accomplishment. Keep pressing gurl , your blessings are right in front of you. Thank you for your vision and such a wonderful product!

StyledRoses

They dont know what they are missing! You keep at it GIRL! Peace & love…

cammie

It is never good to be late!!!! Nor, should you feel as if your time and theirs was wasted. Look at your meeting as an opportunity to get your story out! What did you learn from this experience?

TWA4now

Again, being late is NEVER cool but things do happen, and if they DIDN’T accept her on-my-way texts and apology, they would have stopped her before she even arrived at the doors let alone lunch with her and they paid. Make a mini movie out i it Issa may be interested or put it on youtube. 🙂

Donna

Actually, this sounds like a good idea. Create a youtube mini-series chronicling her life in the big apple, single mom, raising her children, running multiple businesses (i.e. blog, storefront, etc.), etc., etc. Have the story told from the first person perspective. Just a thought.

TWA4now

Ikr!

Naja Hall

We love you at Blended and Black and were gonna buy all your stuff!!! In fact, we have a retreat coming up and ill stop by and get some product for our gift bags!

afrolitchick

Eff BET! They’re always late to the party! BGLH has been and still is a pioneering blog to the natural hair community. You’re such an important figure and resource to our culture so it’s their lost. Congratulations on your store front!!

Kristie

Wow, I can see how disappointing this must have been?! Kind of weird that they reach out to meet with you, only for it to end like that. But maybe you should see it as an accomplishment because they recognize what you are doing, whether you are working for them or not! Keep doing what you’re doing. What’s meant for you is meant for you. Their loss!

https://www.bluelabelsboutique.com
http://www.fashionnotfear.wordpress.com

Aries
I really hate you feel let down by a company/network that is to Support black businesses platform. I think it is great that a major organization reached out because they thought you were that good to partner with. Unfortunately at your expense. I had my sour taste with BET back in 2004 when I worked long and hard to develop a tv show proposal. I thoroughly created it packaged it up and sent. I spoke with someone twice they confirmed they liked it will reach out if they would decide to use it. Fast forward maybe 1 year and a… Read more »
Donna

If you had your script copyrighted, etc., you could have sued BET for stealing your story. A friend of mine, did a similar thing, but he sent his script to a famous movie producer. He didn’t hear anything back, but a year & half later, this producer, created a movie exactly as my friend’s script. He sued. Not sure about the outcome, I left home before finding out how it was resolved.

LDub

Sue them. They’re playing dirty.

Kesha

You are putting it all out there. The universe see that. And, like the gentleman from BET said, you never know where all of this will go. I respect your honesty, bravery, and hustle. Hustle on.

Allie

Ouch…but hey, you put yourself out there and that, in itself, is something to be proud of. Congratulations on the new store front! BET is missing out. 🙂

Tiffany Gallien

This story is so heart-wrenching.
Your story overall is inspiring.
I hope to have the moxie to follow my dreams and start a blog with purpose like you AS WELL AS finding another way to contribute to the Black community.
Not that I think you need this, but this girl out here in the vast abyss called the Internet sees you, and she loves all that you do.

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