"I have a lot of times where I doubt the power of my voice. I'm consistently trying to tell myself that my opinions are valid. I have to remind myself not to be so afraid to go against the tide for fear of shaking shit up."
This month’s #LoudMouth is no other than the very-stylish, Glynn Pogue, also known as Bedstuy Brat. I met the Brooklyn-native at an MFA event and she has been helping your girl navigate this writing life ever since. She easily has one of the cutest apartments in NYC, looking like it was pulled straight from an Essence spread, which makes sense since the travel enthusiast grew up roaming the halls of the magazine on every Black mama’s coffee table. I sat down with Glynn to talk high school rebellions, the “chill-girl” trope, and the consistent struggle of finding your voice.
DM: What is your relationship with the phrase “talking back”? Are you familiar with the term and did you ever get in trouble for it?
GP: It's so layered because I'm super familiar with that phrase. “Don't talk back!” and “Who you think you talking to?!” all that kind of stuff was everywhere, but I think I most experienced that when I was with my aunts or my grandmothers who are a little bit more old school. My parents, however, were these outliers that moved to New York and their way of raising me was a little more non-traditional. I also grew up in a Bed-n-Breakfast where my parents were always really busy so I was on my own a lot, very independent. So I spent a lot of time in my head more than being vocal and visible, especially because there were always other people in the house.
I had to play the background and was mostly observing more than I was asserting my voice. But, as I'm thinking about it, when I was a kid I wanted to be an actress. I put on plays and shows and stuff, so I was ostentatious in a way but I wasn't necessarily challenging authority with my own voice as an adolescent. Of course, when I was in high school I was an asshole and had a rebellious moment. By then my parents didn't know what to do with me because that had never been my style, that’s not how they raised me.
DM: Have you ever felt like your voice was not welcomed or there wasn’t a space for your voice? How did you deal with that?
High school was a hot mess. I was doing the most. It was partially because of my fear of being, seen and heard that I was rebellious. So I was going to school – I'm from Brooklyn. I went to public school in Brooklyn my whole life and then I went to high school on the Upper West Side and I'm in class with a bunch of white, very privileged students for the first time in my life. And I just automatically felt like they were smarter than me, just more competent. They read more than I had before I got there and in class I was afraid that my opinions were not as good as theirs. So I just retreated from school, I just never went. So a part of my rebellion was that I cut school all the time.
I’m also curious if you've ever felt this way, sometimes even in my romantic relationships, I sometimes feel like I can't ask for what I want because I don't want to be too pushy or whatever. I don't want to make shit too complicated or whatever when it doesn't need to be complicated.
DM: I definitely feel that. When you're in the relationship as the woman, you're supposed to be easy-going, don't cause too much raucous or that's who you are as a person – you don't appreciate things. You're just the girl with the attitude.
GP: Yeah and there's some allure to being like, “Oh my God, she's so chill! She's down. My girl is so cool.”
DM: Yes! Absolutely! The chill girl is the girl to be. Chill girls don't got no attitude they don’t got no problem, everything is cool.
GP: Fuck that.
DM: Yeah. You’re ass is raggedy, and I’m going to tell you.
DM: But also there's this idea that because you say something – and I think this is something I actively work against as I get older – the relationship is completely threatened. Because you say how you're unhappy or how something has impacted you in a negative way, then you feel like you might lose the relationship.
GP: I think that might be a thread in all of these times when I've been afraid to speak because I'm afraid to compromise something. I'm not giving people enough credit, or giving the possibility of debate, or conversation enough credit – that I can raise something and then we can just talk it out and see what happens, and it not automatically be chaos . . . or you lose the person . . . or an opportunity. Something I've been talking about recently with people as I'm starting to freelance more is asking for how much money you want. When someone asks you how much you want to be paid, just tell them what you're worth versus being like “Well, let me see. . . how much do I think that they can offer me? l want to make sure that I don't overstep. I don't want it to be too much for them.”
DM: Absolutely. That goes to my question, who are some of your earliest encounters with other #LoudMouths? Who inspired you to talk back and really advocate for yourself/others?
The kinds of girls I started hanging out with when going through my rebellious phase. I admired them so much because they were fearless in the way that they spoke and talked back to everyone – a professor, the other girls in our class. They didn't give a fuck. And I loved that so I tried to model myself after them.
When I was growing up, my mom was the Editor-in-Chief at Essence. So I'd be going from seeing those girls on the playground and then maybe another given day I'm with my mom at “Take Your Daughter to Work Day,” roaming the halls with these black women who shaped culture, consistently voicing their thoughts and opinions within the pages of a magazine that black women widely read.
And then of course growing up in this Bed-n-Breakfast and I would also see my mom hosting guests and constantly hearing her voice all the time. And when I was in high school she wrote a book, so I used to go to all her speaking engagements. So it's literally my mom talking, talking, talking, and I think I never really appreciated what she was doing growing up. I took it for granted or I just assumed that’s just a thing that my mom does without realizing that that it’s a very big deal, that she has a platform that people listen to her. And people feel empowered to speak to reclaim their space.This is what I want to write about in my work and how I am thinking about reshaping this memoir I'm working on. It's about centering different women and girls in my life that I tried to model myself after and tried to emulate because I liked the way that they were so comfortably themselves, especially in speaking their minds, which is something I was always afraid to do and I'm still kind of afraid to do vocally, which is why I can do it in my writing more than anything.
DM: When did you first learn that your voice held power?
GP: This is an interesting conversation to have because it's constantly a thing that I'm struggling with and working through, the power of my voice. I have a lot of times where I doubt the power of my voice. I'm consistently trying to tell myself that my opinions are valid. I have to remind myself not to be so afraid to go against the tide for fear of shaking shit up.
So I realized my voice had power when I started taking myself seriously as a writer, so probably within the last three years. I remember the first time I wrote a piece to have it workshopped. I was so afraid of how it was going to be read, I was worried if people would think it was good enough. But then it resonated with the class and I was like, oh shit. People are interested in what I have to say. I have a point of view! That was really empowering.
It came to a point that once I was at the end of my MFA program, I confidently turned in things for people to read without fear because I already believed that what I had to say was popping or the prose was good. And I think that's what it really comes down to in a lot of cases. It's a confidence thing and I'm trying to work on mastering it every fucking day.
DM: Nice! My last question is who are your favorite contemporary #LoudMouths right now?
GP: Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah. She's amazing. Her pieces flow and wind and you're just in this story, in this flow and you're with her as she’s uncovering and the pieces are constantly opening up and broadening and broadening and broadening. So she's fucking goals. She's such an amazing writer.
Glory Edim and Dianca Potts who work on Well-Read Black Girl. When we saw them on that panel, they were great. I loved Dianca’s energy and humor and she's one of those people that say how they feel. And she definitely is using social media as that space and within her articles. She’s also working on a book that's coming out and I'm really excited for that. And you know, Glory, just did an anthology of Black women writers and it’s amazing! I love that she champions black women writers and champions community.
You can find Glynn’s latest essay in the most recent print edition of HANNAH magazine and her words can be found all over the web on places like Essence, National Geographic Traveler, Travel Noire, Jezebel and Guernica, among others. Learn more about Glynn on her website, GlynnPogue.com.