Article and Interview by: Debbie Stokes
For so long, growing up, I suffered with self-image issues. It wasn’t because I thought I was ugly or overweight, but because when I looked in the mirror I always saw flaws in my appearance. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of confidence, was smart, and got a lot of attention; but what I saw in the mirror, in my mind, could be better. I mean, when I looked at other girls, they seemed to have everything in the right place, and with me: my forehead was too short, my eyes were too small and close together, my neck was too short, my nose was too big, the height of my face was too short, my cheeks were too fat, my top lip was too skinny, my head was too big, my hips were too small, and my waist was not defined enough. See what I mean, I ripped myself apart. I know you are saying, “How could she tear herself apart like that? Doesn’t she know God made her that way and he doesn’t make any mistakes.” You know, I get that; but that comment is no solace for how I was thinking and feeling when I looked at myself in the mirror. If I am being truthful and authentic with you, I avoided mirrors most of the time because it told the truth; a truth I didn’t want to see or own up to. The sad part is I held it all in, the way I really felt.
Thinking back now, maybe that’s why I was so shy, maybe because I didn’t want to stand out. But no matter how hard I tried not to, I would stand out because of the beauty other people saw in me. I would always hear things like: you are so pretty, you should be a model, you are beautiful, and I can’t even tell you all the attention I received from boys… and then men as I got older; but no matter how many people said nice things about how I looked, I couldn’t see it and didn’t believe it. Although, I had a lot of confidence in my talents, I lacked belief in my looks. The only thing I had going for me, in my mind, was my smarts, my smile, and my personality. These things I held onto, too. In truth, the only person who knew how I felt was my mom, she would always tell me “stop talking like that,” and tell me I was pretty; again, I didn’t believe it.
Fast forward to today, since I have a women’s empowerment blog and I want to empower and be empowered, I must tell the truth and shame the devil. So here it goes, what if I told you I still suffer with some of those same issues, but the only difference is I have learned to accept it and be okay with knowing “I am who I am.”
I know you are saying, well how can she talk about women empowerment and she’s not fully empowered. Well, my answer to that is no matter who we are, we all have our flaws or idiosyncrasies about our outward appearance. Now some women do own their outward appearance and wear it well with no makeup or additives, and then there are some who wear makeup for enhancement, and I get that. But diving into the truth, most of us have issues we fight with, that’s why makeup is a billion dollar business, that’s why cosmetic surgery is a billion dollar business, that why the skincare industry is in the billions, that’s why hair wigs and extensions are in the billions, that’s why the nail industry is in the billions, that’s why the undergarments business is in the billions; because we all suffer with some form of trying to fix, improve or hide the things we don’t like about ourselves.
So to your response, I say, I am the perfect one to talk about empowerment because, first, God planted me with the vision and the gift of discernment. Secondly, he gave me the desire and words to do it, and because I’m a work in progress; as we all are for whatever reasons, I can share what I know and what I’m led to say to people who listen. Thirdly, because I am driven to address people who feel the way I do. Additionally, just because I tear my outward appearance apart, doesn’t mean I don’t or can’t offer empowering words I’ve learned about life— based off of my experiences and based on my inner confidence. Lastly, I realize if I can be vulnerable and empower others; I in turn, can get empowered at the same time. So for that reason, after reading what I wrote out loud and really seeing it, I have decided to change the things I can change about myself… ex: lose weight, eat better, and exercise; and to do it publicly with you as my accountability partners. Therefore, I will be chronicling my journey right before your eyes on Facebook and YouTube until I get to my desired destination and to a better me. I would appreciate any positive support and feedback you can give me, as I share my journey with you. If you feel the same way, join me on this transformation journey and let’s do it together.
You know those sayings people use in quotes and hashtags: women helping women, women supporting women, women lifting each other up, women supporting each other, women uniting. No matter which way you say it; when we help each other… we win together, which helps us to be stronger together; and when we grow and build together… we get stronger and become united. So, by all means, please don’t judge my truth and hold it against me, because what I’ve learned about myself is: I Am Worthy! I Am Strong! I Am Enough! So, let’s just celebrate, inspire, and help each other along the way… in this thing called “life.”
Now that I have let the cat out of the bag about me, and you know how I really feel, I release myself from my secret. I’m ready to grow with you, and move on to where God will take me. With that said, let me get out of the way and introduce Roxie, so she can tell you how to deal with your self-image issues.
Barbara began her radio career in 2006, and later became known as Roxie Digital. Intrigued by storytelling and connecting with people, Roxie used her platform and powerful voice to inspire others oﬀ the airwaves through founding her own non-proﬁt called the Self-I-See, which focuses on strengthening the self-awareness and image of young black and brown women. In addition she co-founded an initiative called the #NoDisrespectCampaign, which focuses on self-respect and respect for others in and out of the classroom. From the legendary WWRL and 1600 AM to WBLS 107.5, she used the power of these brands to buildup her own, and become one of the most sought after New York City event host, keynote speaker, and a leader in community activism. Growing up in a strict Caribbean household, Roxie proudly embraces her culture and is working on her lifetime goal of media ownership in Haiti.
In 2017, Roxie was awarded a citation from the Brooklyn Borough President, Eric L. Adams. He recognized her work for her initiative, the #NoDisrespectCampaign, where she motivated youth in public speaking and entrepreneurship, and also, for creating her “Self-I-See” nonprofit. Additionally, she is a recipient of the Power Women in Business award, Top 25 Women in Sales and Marketing award, and Rising Star B.E.L.L (Bring Excellence at a Local Level) award. Roxie’s dedication and activism landed her several new professional opportunities this year, including on-air with new digital broadcast platform DASH Radio, legendary Caribbean station— Irie Jam Radio, and becoming an award winning adjunct faculty member at Iona College in New Rochelle.
Roxie holds two master degrees from the New School University in both media studies and organizational change management, and is currently a doctoral student of instructional leadership at St. John’s University Queens Campus, where she also received her bachelor’s degree in communication arts and linguistics. Her goal is to expand on educating global entrepreneurship in the areas of media and speech. Furthermore, Roxie is a former on-air personality with 95.5 PLJ and Radio 103.9 with Cumulus Media New York, and has 15+ combined years of experience in the radio and public speaking arenas.
3WV: Other than your bio, who is Barbara “Roxie” DeLaleu?
Roxie: Other than what people read about me, I am a mother and resilient woman; and I am on a mission and a quest for knowledge to change the world my son lives in. I am passionate about making sure other people are “understood,” and I’m not afraid to tell their story. I am someone who learned how to use her voice to ask for what I want and GOT IT! I believe there are endless possibilities in this world, and we should never place any limits to what we can or cannot do. I am an observer, thought provoker, advocate, supporter, mentor, collector of memories, and a motivational spirit.
3WV: I see you have two master degrees and are working on your doctoral degree, tell us the importance of education.
Roxie: Education is everything. Education will get you through doors you were afraid to knock on. I remember having a conversation with fashion icon, Dappa Dan, and him telling me the story about how his father only had a third grade education and was unable to read. He then made a statement that will stay with me forever, he said, “My father took me and said… boy do you know that you can read? From then on, I read my way out of every (bad) situation I ever had.” That brief story and many others have helped to frame what I already knew education was doing in my life. The power to know is the power to change, and if you know better, you will do better.
3WV: It looks like your career in the radio broadcast field is on full speed, tell us about your journey.
Roxie: The goal has always been to remember to have, “It’s a bigger than this” mentality. I have had to learn quickly to strategically separate myself from the brand and make myself just as or more valuable. Radio will always be my first love and nothing can change that. From the days of interning in radio sales, to interviewing celebs at 106 & Park, to being in the unique positions to work across 7 radio formats, I have been blessed. Each station represented a different stage of my life and taught me a new lesson. I will forever be grateful for the program directors, who not only recognized my talent, but instilled in me that I was bigger than radio. Some of them saw in me what I couldn’t see in myself, and for that reason alone, my last stop in radio is inevitable–OWNERSHIP!
3WV: How does it feel being a radio host in a big-time city like New York?
Roxie: To be a radio host in a city like New York is invincible. The sky is really the limit here; and if you are smart about the way you move, you can do anything your heart desires. As long as you don’t allow others to place limits on what it is you do; not only will you be able to impact a city like New York, but you will be a force not to be reckoned within this world.
3WV: What are some obstacles you overcame in your life that could have derailed your journey to becoming who you are today?
Roxie: First and foremost, I am guided by God and nothing can take me off my path to greatness unless I allow it. I can say that many have tried and failed to derail my destined journey; but it was my faith, and talent was a reminder that each of those obstacles was just a test. Those tests I had to endure included ageism, discrimination, racism, and jealousy at the hands of those you consider family in the workplace. I overcame each by firmly knowing who I am and how important I am in this world.
3WV: Tell us about your initiative called #NoDisrespectCampaign.
Roxie: The #NoDisrespect Campaign is a multi-tier program for students in the New York City public school system and is designed to address difficulties in exhibiting respect for one another, without resorting to conflicts. The #NoDisrespectCampaign exists to inspire young adults to have respect for one another and build relationships in order to move the culture forward and to contribute to the dialogue of today’s young academic community. Also, to eliminate disrespect through dialogue, both visual and digital. The concept is to have a campaign that focuses on the young student leaders of the local junior high and high schools within the five boroughs, and introducing the idea of “No Disrespect” by teaching self-worth and the value of respecting others. This is done through an assembly. We are about Intervention, empowerment, and outcome.
3WV: What made you start you nonprofit “Self-I-See,” and what does it mean?
Roxie: The Self-I-See Initiative Program was born from personal experiences throughout my life where I saw myself through the eyes of others and how others viewed me. Although, more geared towards the correlation between self-esteem and use of positive language, the title itself came about when I was facilitating a leadership and entrepreneurship workshop in a middle school in Brooklyn and a young girl walked up to me and said, “You’re Haitian like me, I see myself in you.” The energy we exchanged and the bond we made when she said that inspired what truly inspired the name. I wanted everyone to experience that moment. I want young men and women to feel inspired through their words and the positive words of others. It just takes a few words to spark that light in our youth.
3WV: Why is having a good self-image and practicing self-love important?
Roxie: Good self-Image and practicing self-love is important because it motivates you to challenge yourself to be a better version of yourself everyday. It promotes high levels of security, keeps you grounded, boosts mental health, and eliminates doubt and negativity. Positive self-image and self-love doesn’t only motivate you to be a better person, but you develop a high level of self-respect, become accountable for your actions, and you understand your worth in the world. In addition, you will accept every single thing about yourself… flaws and all.
3WV: If there are women reading this article with a low self-image, what steps can you give them to change their mindset to love themselves more?
Roxie: My suggestions are to:
- Practice looking in the mirror to see YOU, and not the mask of makeup you are about to apply. Remind yourself how powerful you are, how beautiful you are, how you are about to walk outside your house and “F–k it up! Be a Boss! Stop everyone in their tracks!”
- Tell yourself it will be alright, and smile even if you don’t want to. Tell yourself it could be worse and think about the things you have, rather than the things you don’t have.
- And more importantly, you are alive for a reason and you have a purpose. Someone needs you more than you know, so, go be that life saver and change the world.
3WV: How has your career allowed or inspired you to empower women?
Roxie: Funny enough, my career has allowed me to inspire and empower through all the obstacles and rare moments of inspiration I have encountered. If it wasn’t for the “shade” and catty behavior of others, and the many attempts from women to undermine my credibility and confidence, and the lack of support from those who I once considered mentors and people to admire; in conjunction with those who have stepped up to show me the way, to be my cheerleader, to remind me to keep going, and to offer me words of motivation, I could never offer this level of inspiration and empowerment to others. I have learned, you have to go and grow through the good and bad in order to give to others.
3WV: What impact do you hope your organization has on people?
Roxie: I hope my organization can help young men and women identify the greatness in themselves, and ultimately, catapult them into their success. I want my organization to create a domino effect as to where the touch of success is so contagious, people feel compelled to keep spreading their knowledge, and building a community of generational and successful bonds, where no one is left behind. I want a space dedicated to uplifting and using positive language.
3WV: Do you think women suffer with self-image issues more than men? If so, why?
Roxie: I believe self-image is a people issue, not a more woman than man thing. We are living in a time of divisiveness and an excessive amount of exposure through social media. Both men and women are being told what to do, say, look like, read, eat, speak, and drink every single day. Although, there are many outlets to body positivity and practices in self-confidence and self-image, it is not nearly as much as the negative and fake messages of what society prefers. Unfortunately, I do observe women suffering at a faster rate from self-image issues simply because of what and who they watch and follow, their expectations, and because of their impressionable minds. The more these messages of fast weight loss and enhanced facial features reach the ears of our youth, the more damage it will cause. Hopefully, self-image can be a positive concept embedded in the young mind as, “more than enough, but always a work in progress.”
3WV: What are some red flags of a person suffering from self-image issues?
Roxie: Some red flags of a person suffering from self-image issues are:
- constant hostility
- overly critical
- negative thinking and speaking
- unfortunate feelings of defeat
In addition, all of these red flags can affect the body, as well, in the form of headaches and fatigue; and can even contribute to an onset of depression, anxiety, and restlessness.
3WV: If you could tell your younger self something, what would you say?
Roxie: I would say… there will be people who tell you that you can’t do it, but don’t say a word; move through life with your head high because, believe it or not, your silence is golden and will tell people exactly what they need to hear. People want you at their level, but you are not designed that way and you exist for a much higher purpose. Those stares and negative moments occur as your source of motivation. Take a shot, and go for it! You are exactly where you need to be at all times. Change will happen and it is good as long as you agree to it, and it’s not something guided by another’s opinion. Remember too, opinions are like a–holes; everyone has one, but you will weed out which ones matter. Lastly, your stamp in this world will be just how you envisioned it, so open your eyes and enjoy the ride baby girl. Congrats, you made it!
3WV: What woman has inspired you in your life?
Roxie: Inspiration comes to me everyday in so many different forms, it is hard to pinpoint. It could be from the industry, in the home, or a chance encounter. I often answer this question with the generic, “Wendy Williams,” simply because I work in radio, and she is a muse for me. We got the same sense of, “I don’t give a damn what people think, and I am going to say what I want to catch a rise out of you mentality,” but what I really like about Wendy is that she is who she is in and out that throne she sits on. Although, not completely authentic with herself at times, she is aware and controls her narrative. So for that… I still go with Wendy on inspiring my “radio life.” Also, my mom inspires me and keeps me grounded on what energies to keep in and kick out.
3WV: Can you share some words of empowerment or encouragement to help women pursue their dreams?
Roxie: Some words of encouragement and empowerment to my young women empowering your dreams. “Take that road less traveled, you will be surprised where you end up. The disappointments, the happiness, the surprises, the concerns— its all worth it!” Take a chance and be the person who tried it, did it, failed, succeeded, and made it through it all.
3WV: If somebody wanted to contact you for information, how can they reach you?
Roxie: If you would like to reach out to me to connect or talk, you can reach me at B.Delaleu@queenslibrary.org.
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