In commemoration of Women’s History month, I wanted to take a different approach and take some time to honor, salute, and recognize some women in our city that’s doing some amazing work. I wanted to be intentional around highlighting women that have helped leverage the voice of others who are sometimes the unsung heroes in the world of advocacy. They don’t always have access or awareness to the proper outlets for their voices to be heard and stories to be shared.
TJ Jefferson is the Principal Owner of a local Public Relations firm, Fresh Touch Publicity and for the past few years, she has hosted the Heroine Legacy Brunch & Magazine Reveal where women honorees share their personal stories; these stories are memorialized for future generation in the magazine.
I am excited to share her story and what was revealed in our most recent sit down. What I appreciated most about this phenomenal woman is her transparency and authenticity. I hope you enjoy!
LaShundra Richmond: Why the name...Heroine Legacy Brunch?
TJ Jefferson: I named it the HERoine Legacy because I think women are heroes in our own right. Some of us are leaving legacies whether it is on a big level or a small level. I also used a small focus group that ultimately chose that name over two another options.
LR: What’s your profile of a Heroine?
TJ: My profile is an everyday woman who is OK with being authentic, transparent about her flaws, story and/or unpopular opinions and who has a resolve about something in particular, whether it is talking about the perils of motherhood, her love of God, her love/hate relationship with entrepreneurship, her natural ability to cheer on other people, her social activism, etc. and that resolve impacts others, whether it is on a big scale or small scale.
LR: What is your process for identifying & selecting Heroines?
TJ: So throughout the year, I write down a list of women I run across and who are recommended and then I watch them on social media and in real life and I pray on whom to be my final honorees. That’s my process.
LR: What are the challenges or obstacles in honoring women that you may not “ personally” know?
TJ: The challenge has just been trust/discernment on both sides. I started my first two years with women I knew personally and women I heard of--closely and from a distant. I reached out to one woman, who did not respond to me at all—I didn’t know her personally and she didn’t know me either. I soon realized she was pregnant and probably wouldn’t have been able to participate anyway because her due date was around the time of the brunch. Also, I asked two other women and they accepted initially, but didn’t return phone calls to set up the interview. I was a little salty about all of that. So for the 2018 class, I decided to ask two former honorees for recommendations; one has panned out and the other has backed out. She backed out because we couldn’t come to a compromise on how her story was to be told. We parted ways amicably. I still have an immense amount of respect for her and the work she’s done and is doing. So I understand that they share some hard truths with me that may be difficult for them to see written out. Again, my goal is to write their stories as honorable as I can but I won’t compromise on the integrity of my story. Basically, I’m not going to rewrite an interview that I didn’t have with them. I love the authentic, rawness of my interviews. I love their not-so-perfect quotes because, in essence, that’s who we are as humans- not so perfect. But I plan to continue with the trend of asking for recommendations from past honorees. I make sure that when I first reach out to them, I let them know who nominated them so if they do have any questions about me or the process, they know who to contact.
LR: How has putting on this event helped/inspired you?
TJ: It has inspired me so much because I’ve always had the gift of listening, so I get to sit and listen to the amazing stories of these women. I’ve laughed and cried with these women. I’ve been told it has been therapeutic for some of them. Some have been honored before or interviewed before, but the questions I asked were questions that they’ve never thought about. They’ve shared things with me that they haven’t shared with others before and that scared them. So for them to trust their stories with me is such an honor and I want to always share it in the most honorable way, even the ugly parts. I’ve had some tell me that I’ve nailed their stories and that they appreciate how I handled those parts that were hard for them to share. It reinforces my love of writing and storytelling and I want to make sure I do more of it!
LR: As the creator, what advice or tips would you share to women around living their lives honorably to leave a legacy whether they are ever publicly recognized or not?
TJ: As the owner of a public relations agency, my tag line is “where simplicity gets you noticed.” I don’t believe in contrived antics that get them noticed. Be yourself. And sometimes being yourself is being loud and over the top or being quiet or low-key. Whatever that is for you, be that. Also, find your cause, find where you fit in within the cause, do the work, and stand firm in it. There are some scriptures that I love that tell you not to work for man but work like God is your boss. (Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men… and Ephesians 6:6-7 (HCSB) Work hard, but not just to please your masters when they are watching. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all of your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than people.)
LR: Is Memphis an ideal space for women professionals?
TJ: Yes, Memphis is an ideal place for professional women. Memphis is a big city with a small town feel. There are plenty of other professional women to connect with for whatever your needs are on the social, emotional, and spiritual level. On the business-side, you have the opportunity to be a big fish in a small pond or carve your own new lane here. The side that I’ve heard is cumbersome here is the dating scene. I don’t know; I’m currently in a relationship, but I wasn’t a big dater prior to this relationship.
LR: Have you ever considered doing industry-focused events? Brunch honoring all educators one year, or all engineers, or those in the medical profession? Or is your goal to continue to display a diverse group of women?
TJ: Never considered doing an industry-focused honor brunch. My goal is to continue to display a diverse group of women. The profession doesn’t really have a huge impact on being honored because someone’s spiritual side may be the draw or their family values. I don’t want to water down my award/honor. I’m not going to have the public vote on my honorees. I like getting the public’s input as far as the woman from the past to honor mainly because the ones I pick for them to choose from aren’t the typical Rosa Parks or Coretta Scott King; I’m exposing them to other legendary women.
LR: Is it a goal to honor only women that reside in Memphis? Or, have you considering honoring women in other places though the event is hosted here?
TJ: In my first year of the #HERoineLegacy Magazine, I actually did honor three women who didn’t live in Memphis. They had really great stories to tell and I was happy to share their stories. I didn’t have the brunch in that inaugural year mainly because I didn’t think about it early enough and when I did think to have something, I didn’t have the funds to make anything happen, especially with three honorees not living here. I planned for the brunch my 2nd year and I decided to keep it in Memphis and the surrounding counties and smaller cities within about 60 miles outside of Memphis. I figure it would be OK for an honoree to drive into Memphis for a day if it’s less than an hour away. Plus, I want us to recognize the jewels that we have here.
LR: What’s your ultimate goal for the brunch? What do you hope each woman leaves with? What about attendees?
TJ: My ultimate goal for the brunch is to show people to give others their flowers while they are still here, especially for women. There is nothing wrong with letting each other know that I see you and I admire this specific quality or characteristic about you. Secondly, in this age of social media being a heavy influence on what our community deems successful, I want to show young people that you can be honored simply by being you. I want to show them that there are unsung HERoines right in their own community who are successful, which that definition is relative. I want to show them that you aren’t only successful if you’re in the entertainment or sports industries. I want the audience to leave with knowing that women can be great and flawed. That is why I don’t just choose them and hand them an award; I also tell their stories in a magazine and we go deep into all aspects of their lives. I want someone to be able to see themselves in one of my honorees and know everything will be OK, too.
LR: How can people contact you? Ticket information?