Black Honey Collective's Queen Bee series features influential women that show excellence in their areas of work to gain insight into their relationship experiences as it relates to their success and personal growth.
Black Honey Collective had the pleasure of interviewing Sabine Quetant, Head of Digital Operations of women’s lifestyle publication, 21Ninety. During this long-distance call between Minneapolis and Los Angeles, we learned quickly that Sabine is a true hustler and to attain her level of success was a matter of consistency and unapologetic strides to the finish line. She talked about her career and gave us notes on the healing phase of her relationship status. We were truly inspired by Sabine Quetant.
BHC: Tell us about yourself.
Sabine: I am 26 years old. I am originally from Connecticut, so I was born and raised on the East Coast. I live on the West Coast now and I moved for work. Currently, I work as the Head of Digital Operations for 21Ninety. Really, all that means is, anything that’s digital and creative. It’s really been an adventure and I love what I do.
BHC: How did you get started?
Sabine: I started with Blavity right since the beginning, working as an intern. That’s really how I’ve been able to learn all the different elements and how I got to a point of running [21 Ninety] and having a hand in every department because I’ve literally worked in every department. That’s how I got to where I am now where anything from tech things that are going on the site to graphics, I’m all in it.
BHC: Have you gone to college? If so where and what did you study?
Sabine: Yes! I went to University of Connecticut. I studied Marketing with a minor in Communications.
BHC: What made you move from Connecticut to LA?
Sabine: It was primarily work. I will say there was a secondary reason of kind of just wanting something new. I just wanted a new view, a new perspective. I grew up, born and raised in Connecticut. My parents are immigrants from Haiti so I’m first generation. I definitely got a lot of different cultural experiences from being at home with my family and my grandmother, speaking Creole, eating the food, doing the church thing and then having school with that whole dynamic of code switching a bit. Then having gone to school in state, I was ready to get out of there. I was like, “I’m over the East Coast, I’m done with snow. Send me somewhere else.” So when the opportunity came and they offered me the position to come out to LA, you know, I really couldn’t turn it down.
BHC: What are 3 things that you’re most passionate about?
I would definitely say, right off the bat is storytelling. My definition of storytelling is, I guess, in the traditional sense of whatever you experience and being able to communicate that and translate that to somebody else. Before moving to LA and even still now, I’ve written poetry, performed poetry, spoken word specifically. That really became an outlet for me to express myself. I think as Black women in the society that we live in, a lot of times you can feel like you’re alone and you feel like you’re the only one going through things. Where I grew up in Milford, Connecticut, most of the time I was the only Black person in the room. Going through all of that in high school and kind of having all these different stories and feelings, I didn’t have a way to express it. Then, I fell into poetry when I was in college and began actually sharing it and performing it. So storytelling is definitely something I’m passionate about. I think for me, one of the reasons I’m passionate about it is because it’s so accessible to everyone, you know? Oral storytelling is the oldest form of sharing information to people and communities.
"I think as Black women in the society that we live in, a lot of times you can feel like you’re alone and you feel like you’re the only one going through things."
I would say the second thing is the phrase I say, “Unapologetically me.” In college, one of our
big mantras in the poetry group was, “No shame”. It was really a rallying call to be like, “You don’t have to apologize for who you are. You don’t have to make excuses. You don’t have to make anyone else feel better about who you are.” It’s something that I got through the poetry community.
Anywhere from my looks, you know, physically what I look like to how I speak, I always make sure to set whatever my own boundaries are. A lot of my co-workers, family and friends have learned that there’s certain things you just can’t say around Sabine. It’s not that I’m trying to dictate what people say. I’m just dictating my own space. You know, if there’s certain phrases or opinions, or certain things where I’m like, “Listen, one hundred percent, you have every right to your opinion but if it’s going to be problematic, if it’s offensive or insulting, I will let you know.” I won’t let that slip because a part of me being myself fully and unapologetically, I have to let everybody know who I am. So I set those boundaries just whenever I walk into a space or the moment I hear it. That carries over from professional to personal. No matter where I am, what coast I’m on, what job I’m in, I’m always me.
"I refuse to change who I am to satisfy anyone else."
The last thing I would say is community. I say that because I could not have gotten where I am today without community. There’s nothing that I’ve achieved or accomplished completely on my own. I say that proudly because I do think that no matter what you’re doing, it really does take community. Whether that’s people who are working with you to accomplish your tasks or the people that are waiting at home for so you can come home and still get a hot meal.
BHC: What advice would you give to someone looking to be in your position?
Do Not Be Afraid to Fail
One of the things that I would definitely say is (this is a top one for me because I am a perfectionist) is to not be afraid to fail. I know that sounds so ominous like, “Is she saying that we’re going to fail?” I know I, through different partnerships and projects, have put so much pressure on myself that it has to be perfect and that it had to, you know, meet all expectations. Sometimes you can get lost in that. You’ll stress yourself out for no reason. You also lose out on the beauty of the journey and actually having fun as you’re grinding. For me, looking back, I would have loved to have enjoyed some of the process and some of what we were actually doing. For [BHC], you know, you just started in March but it’s like, “Hey, that’s okay. We haven’t been doing it this long but, we did it! We started this thing!” Every time you put something out that was never there for the world to see ever before, that’s amazing. That’s great. I definitely lost some of those moments by just being so focused on it being perfect or it needing to be this way or that way.
Don’t Compare Yourself
Don’t compare yourself. That’s just a life rule. It can be really difficult, especially in the technological world we live in where every single day you can see everyone’s greatest highlights on display. That can be really intimidating when you start to pit yourself up against other people lives and other people’s businesses. Sometimes when you’re approaching it from a business perspective, obviously you have to figure out what your competitors are doing, but sometimes it can crossover into that, “Oh okay well they did this. We’re not doing that.” I think that can stifle creativity all the way. You’re just copying what they’re doing instead of creating these new inspired ideas and creations and projects. So while it is one hundred percent good to see what’s happening in your industry, definitely leave room to just be you and uniquely that.
A lot of folks who are big now, who have made it…you can take like, Issa Rae for example. When she was doing Awkward Black Girl I’m pretty sure lots of people were like, “This is weird. That’s never going to make it. Who wants to hear about this awkward black girl’s life?” It was so uniquely her and so amazing in and of itself that it has become this huge, amazing thing.
The last thing I’ll say on that is to always keep learning. We get funneled through this education system in our country where you go all the way through high school and then you jump right into college, some folks may take a break, then you’re just making decisions so early about what you want to do and who you want to be. For most people, your path is going to change, obstacles are going to show up, or you’re going to go to school for one thing and end up doing something completely different. So when you keep yourself open to learning and to experiencing new things, you enable yourself to roll with the punches which is very necessary in the start-up world because you never know what’s going to happen. By keeping yourself ready and educated, you will be ready to take what’s yours when the moment comes.
BHC: How would you describe your relationship status?
Sabine: Oh boy. I really, really appreciate that you guys added healing as a relationship status. I think that is so important. I think I’m in that healing phase. When I moved to LA, I actually was leaving a long-term relationship. I had been in a relationship for five years and it ended when I moved to LA, not because I moved to LA, but that was just the timing of when that happened. It was from Sophomore year of college all the way through graduation. So yeah, I’m definitely in that healing stage in trying to just get back to Sabine as an individual because a lot of times when you’re with someone, you’re coupled together or your like, “Oh yeah, you’re such and such’s girl.” I used to hate that. I was like, “I have a name,” but that association happens when you get so connected to a person. There’s lots of layers to it all.
BHC: How long have you been going through this healing process? When was the break up?
Sabine: It was about two years ago. I think something that was very surprising to me was how long I’ve been in the healing stage. At the time I was like, “Oh wow, we’ve been together for x amount of time. That’s actually a good chunk of time.” So realizing that and then right after it I was like, “Ok I’m single. I’m moving to LA. This is about to be lit. This is what it is.” Then time passes and you think you’re good. You think you’re okay and then there’s a triggering moment. Maybe it’s a holiday you guys spent together or maybe it’s a phrase you used to say. Something that triggers a memory and then you’re like, “Oh wait. Wait a minute. I miss that person,” or I miss just having somebody. I think that was a big surprise for me in terms of the length of time. I’ve just been processing and growing and learning about myself in this new space that I find myself in. For about a year I was like, “Ok cool. I’m good. No worries.” Then all of a sudden it was like, “Wait a minute. I have all of these emotions that I didn’t feel before. What’s happening?” You know, now just I’m just working through all of those feelings and emotions.
BHC: It’s never the same for everybody but if you could put a step process to it, how do you heal?
Sabine: Oh wow. That’s a very good question. You know what? There’s a few different ways. I started seeing a therapist. This wasn’t necessarily for the relationship ending. In my life, being in a completely new space, being in a high-pressure job, also the relationship stuff, I didn’t really think about how much had changed in the last year. Then all of sudden it all comes to me like, “Oh my gosh. There’s so much going on.” It was almost too much stimuli. There was too much happening, too many things were different and new. For a long time, I actually was thinking about seeing a therapist. “Just talk to somebody. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to keep going.” I think I definitely fell victim into that stigma around therapists, not only in the black community, but then also my parents being Caribbean and that sort of stigma around that from island folk. So I ultimately made that leap and made the choice to actually go and see if it was something that would actually help me. It wasn’t even a huge realization. One day I was like, “Ok. Let me just do this.” Maybe I was just tired of not knowing if it would help and continuing to wonder. I was like, “Well I could just go and see if it actually helps and if it doesn’t, then I’ll keep it pushing.” I think the jury is still out in terms of is it helpful, but I’m definitely happy that I took that step.
And then from there, some additional steps have been opening myself up to the healing process. Healing and happiness are very intentional and active things. You can’t just be passively happy. I think you have to be very intentional about it which means being open to healing and then being okay with however you feel about something. Those have been the three big steps for me: to take action, to be open, and to accept whatever those feelings are.
"Healing and happiness are very intentional and active things. You can’t just be passively happy. You have to be very intentional about it, which means being open to healing."
Sabine: I promise, I’m still working through these ladies.
BHC: What is one piece of love advice that you would give to your younger self?
Sabine: My younger self, she didn’t know what she was doing, she was all over the place. The love advice I would give my younger self is to let it be. I guess I used to obsess over what love was supposed to be. My parents are both married. They’ve been together for thirty plus years and so I had them as one example. I never really saw them as a wife and a husband or a lover and a lover. It was like, “that’s mom and dad.” Those are my parents. In our household, that’s what it was. I didn’t really see my parents kiss or be overly affectionate in that sense, but I definitely saw them have a strong marriage and how they raised us to be good people. So, I got this very good parental grounding from them but not really that emotional love.
As young girl in America, what did I turn to? I turned to the Disney movies and romantic comedies and all of that where everything seemed to work out in the end. I think I kind of adopted this definition of love as, “If it’s love it’ll just be. It’ll just be easy.” Maybe that’s some people’s realities, but so much of love is the hard stuff. It’s not about, “Can it work or are we compatible?” It’s more of, “Do you want to be here? If you want to be here, you put in the work and you make it work.” It’s not just all of a sudden it works. You make it work. That was a lesson learned later in life and it ended up impacting relationships I’ve had, not just romantic, even platonic relationships. Thinking like, “I moved across the country and my friends are still on the East Coast. It’ll just work out. It’ll just be okay.” But it’s like, "No. If you want to still be friends with them, you do that work and make sure you call every once in a while, or check in or whatever it may be." It may sound kind of counter intuitive because the advice I had was to let it be, but I mean that in the sense of not obsessing about it. Don’t create this false idea of whatever love is in your head and then, if it doesn’t fit that, you obsess about it like, “Well that must mean it’s not the right person.” It’s like no. It’s a choice.
Love is a choice. Do you want to be here? If yes, then everything else we’ll make work because we want to be here.
BHC: How are the prospects in LA? Are the men fine?
Sabine: Girl. Alright. Let me tell you about this. It’s LA. There’s beautiful people everywhere you turn. This is from my perspective as someone who’s from the East Coast moving to the West Coast. I think that there’s plenty of available people out here. What happens is that everyone in LA is so concerned about the connections you can make, who you know, and how many Instagram followers do you have. I’ve actually been asked that before the person asked my name. Again, this is just my experience. I know a lot of different women, specifically black women who have had the same experience. That being said, I do know some folks who are in happy, really loving relationships out here, but a majority of people would say dating in LA is very difficult. I think a part of it is because people are so focused on what they can get from you or what connections they can make from you.
BHC: What’s your type?
Sabine: I actually think I go for kind of nerdy dudes. For me, debating is like foreplay. I like a good back and forth. You give as good as you get. I like someone who can verbally spar with me and go back and forth. I want a real connection. Sometimes I’ll be that girl at a party asking, “So what do you think about this film and the impact it’s having on our children’s brains?” You know? Just getting deep into different ideas and concepts and thoughts. For me, that’s where a real connection lies. Definitely a little more nerdy and intellectual and emotionally in tuned.
BHC: Sabine you’re awesome. This was a pleasure.
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