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DEAR SINGLE PARENTS: YOU ARE NOT ALONE...
"I now pronounce you a Single Parent.” That is how I felt the day I signed the divorce papers, looked at my little one and realized I was about to embark on a journey I knew absolutely nothing about. My parents have been married for over 37 years so all I knew was a childhood with a mother and father. Now what. Shame? Check. Embarrassment? Check. Anxiety? Check. Drained bank account? Check. Fear of change? Check. Feeling completely alone? …No. While I didn’t know how to be a single parent, I was lucky enough to know a lot of incredible, strong single mother’s in my circle. I just didn’t think that I would one day be in their shoes and did not know if I could be as strong as these women. I had lost everything - well not everything, I had a beautiful lifetime souvenir: my daughter. Don’t let the smiley-faced social media profiles fool you…the journey has not been easy. I have been through some rough times and it’s all worth it, because it has given me the strength to stand where I am today.
The year was 2014 and I, Nzinga Blake - the UCLA film and TV cum laude grad, turned TV host / actress who moved away to start a new life, had returned to Los Angeles as a single mom without a penny to her name. I was scared, felt like a failure and oh so broken. But thankfully I have an incredible family who supported me and helped get me back on my feet.
I was ready to start a new chapter in my life and thought I could just get back in the game and land another TV show…but not so much. I kept hearing the same old thing: “Love your reel Nzinga, you have such a great personality…you are totally right for our show…but what’s your social media following? What’s the Nzinga Blake BRAND???” Wait, what? What’s my social media following?? Since when was my talent based on my social media following?? And when did I have to become a brand? Now unfortunately being someone of African descent, I was never one to share too much of my personal life on social media because we had always been taught to be somewhat private. I never really paid attention to the important role that social media played in the entertainment industry. Instead, I always focused on improving my talent and skillset. But as we all know now, social media is definitely a skill and content is key in the world of building your brand.
So here I was, the new me, with my mini me – having to figure out how to get back to work when there were no prospects in sight. I had to ask myself, “Well Nzinga, what the hell is your brand?“ It was like starting a new script. I had to go back to my film school screenwriting class days where we were taught to write what you know. I felt like I had a lot of experiences that I could write about, but had serious writer's block because I was still living in fear of having to figure out life out as a single parent. How was I going to afford childcare, health insurance, daycare, preschool, food, rent, college?! That kind of worry does a number on your body and psyche. What I felt at that moment was the road ahead looked impossible. I started doing some research about single parenthood and statistics, which truthfully was not the best idea because the most negative search results would always pop up. I would read about the high poverty rates, sleepless nights, guilt, behavioral problems, loneliness, the list went on and on. I did not want to be a statistic. I also did not want people to pity me, which was something that I felt on a regular basis. There is nothing like seeing people you know look at you with the “oh my gosh I feel so sorry for her and I am so glad that I am not in her shoes,” look. Now maybe that was just my insecurities, but every time someone would say “Oh Nzinga I am so sorry you are going through this,” I would simply reply, “Don’t pity me. Celebrate me.” Celebrate the fact that I am doing this on my own and doing everything in my power to ensure that my daughter has the best life possible. I had to learn how to stay positive because that became my fuel to move me forward. That is where the story of Me + 1 begins.
I wanted to create a positive, inspirational and entertaining narrative about single parenting - especially millennial single parenthood in the digital age. The best part about where we are today is that social media has significantly democratized the world of consumer engagement and social impact. It gives each and every one of us the opportunity to create content that pierces through the clutter of everyday living and all the other messages we get as potential consumers or agents of change. With just a click of a button or tap on the screen, we are able to upload and post content that allows us to be transparent, feel a connection and allow us to share stories of the human spirit at its best. Stories that inspire us to move, give, and engage. This is what Me + 1 is all about. I wanted to create a platform where parents could share their stories, seek advice, receive helpful information and encouragement. It’s not just a comedic show that highlights and celebrates the nuances of single parenthood, it’s a movement, a community, a village.
So on this National Single Parent Day, I invite you to join our Me +1 village and celebrate every single mother and father out there, who has taken on one of the most challenging and most rewarding jobs in life! You are not alone!
Nzinga Christine Blake
Are you a single parent or know of a single parent that you would like to celebrate? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with us via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @meplusoneshow @nzingablake