Since February is Black History Month, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to highlight an amazing woman. Tanya Hayles, a Black mom and L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth honouree, tells her story.
Women of Worth honours extraordinary women who selflessly volunteer their time to serve their communities. The signature philanthropic program embodies the L’Oréal Paris tenet that ‘Every Woman Is Worth It’ by elevating women who find beauty in giving back.
Tanya Hayles is an award-winning event planner, freelance writer, public speaker and creative storyteller, using various mediums to evoke emotions, create change and magnify moments.
Planner, writer, and speaker are not the only titles that this renaissance woman holds. Also a mother, she balances being a business owner and community builder founding a moms group that has grown to over 16,000 members.
Black Moms Connection started as a mom meet up Facebook group, and is now an online global village, with chapters as far as Asia and non-profit organization providing culturally relevant programs and financial resources to educate and empower the Black mother and her family.
The work of disrupting and diversifying the motherhood space, has led her to her work in the anti-black racism sphere, through her diversity and inclusion consulting business Color In White Spaces.
I had the opportunity to interview Tanya, and I’m super excited for you to read and share her story. It’s evoking and inspiring.
So without further ado, let’s get to it!
Tanya, introduce yourself to The Chic Confidential Community. Tell us about yourself & don’t leave out any details!
You don’t have that kind of time! HAHA. So my name is Tanya. I like nice long walks on the beach. I’m kidding. So by heart and by trade, I call myself a creative storyteller. Telling stories is what I love to do and is the common thread between all the activities and brands and businesses that I have. It took me a while to get to that point, which is really interesting. But I think now that I know what it is, it’s easier to kind of say, oh, it doesn’t align with telling a story in some way, shape or form, then chances are I’m not going to do it.
So before Covid, what I define myself as in my bio said, I am an event planner by trade and by nature, had my own event planning agency for the past four years and been doing events and event planning for over 15, quite a long period of time. When you really sit down and think about it, I am a mom of one and in 2015 I started a Facebook group that is now a non-profit organization and global village. That’s question number two. So I won’t speak too much to that.
Last year as a result of a ton of media requests, and inquiries, launched an anti black racism, diversity, equity, inclusion and representation, as I like to call it, DEIR agency called Color In White Spaces. The goal there is to really shift the DEIR space and make conversations real and relatable. You cannot change a workplace without changing the people. And if you don’t reach them where they’re at, then they won’t share the information widely.
And then of course there’s some freelance writing and then there’s some public speaking. I keep busy. So, yeah, that’s that’s basically me.
There are also other things that I do that I’m very proud of. I’m an ambassador for Kids Help Phone, a longstanding organization that supports the mental health of children here in Canada and on different advisory committees and boards. I really just believe in giving back where I can and building relationships.
What inspired you to start Black Moms Connection?
Oh, goodness. So when my son was two, this about six years ago, just under two, he and I were at a splash pad. It was a super hot, sunny day. And I wondered to myself, ‘huh, I wonder if they make sunscreen for Black skin?’ In fact they do – Black girl Sunscreen is amazing.
A lot of times when you bring up things racially related, people automatically get their backs up and the conversation shuts down. So I wanted a space to be able to ask very Black questions and get Black answers. So I asked my friends if I started this thing, would you join? They said yes. So that was January 2015. I thought, oh, if you build it, they will come. Didn’t quite work out that way.
It was slow going in the beginning. I didn’t know what I was doing. I had other things on the go and other things that I was pursuing. And then in 2016, in the spring we went from 400 members to 4000 and it was directly in line with the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S.
And moms were looking for a space to say, “I’m afraid for myself, I’m afraid for my son” and have these very important conversations about race and police brutality and not be gaslighted and not be told all lives matter and all that kind of fun stuff.
So that was the impetus to eventually later on in 2016, turning it into a nonprofit so we can take the conversations offline, so we can provide real, tangible tools and courses for the moms. So that is what inspired me to start it.
How do you juggle being a mom, entrepreneur, event coordinator, and boss babe?
Ummm. Sometimes not very well. Especially in light of the global pandemic and all the shifts that have happened last year.
Some days when I’m about it and I’m on my game, I use the tools that are life changing. Calendly, which is a black owned company, manages all five of my calendar. So I don’t have to do the whole oh, what time works for you? By the time you get back to that person with a time and a date, that time is no longer free for them. I’m like, here’s a link, pick a time, go forth and prosper.
If it does not exist in my calendar, especially my digital one, it doesn’t exist in my brain. That being said, I am still a paper planner. I’m also a brand ambassador for Fashion Planner, which has been one of my favourite planners over the past five years. I still need to write things down. I value a good notebook and a pen and scribble out all the thoughts and ideas that I have.
Those are the things that keep me on track and focused for sure. But I as I get older and more forgetful, hiring people to assist with things that used to clog up my own To-Do list and delegating and sharing responsibilities has been probably the second biggest game changer behind Calendly.
What does a day in a life look like for you? Do you have a routine? Tell us more about that.
I do not. The only thing that’s consistent is the time I wake up on a weekday, get my son ready for school, take him to school and the alarm at 2:45pm that goes off that I have to go and pick him up.
Between 9am and 2:45pm, looks drastically different every day. Sometimes it’s just focused on BMC (Black Moms Connection) and responding to emails and inquiries and phone calls etc. As the board member and its founder and ambassador, sometimes it’s writing, sometimes it’s taking a nap.
I’m bad with routines. You know, do my face and then vitamins and breakfast and then some meditation.
And I have lofty goals and dreams for a daily routine and a nightly routine. But I just I think by rights of being an event planner, my days weren’t always the same, (pre-Covid), where one day I’d be on site in a horse barn and the next day I’d be working at a Swarovski, and the following day I would be in someone’s house.
So, I think that that’s made it a challenge to create a routine life when my days are not cyclical and I’m kind of happy about it. But I think it would a routine would be nice.
You are a L’Oreal Paris, Women of Worth Honouree – what does that feel like for you?
It’s still surreal. I’ll say that of all the people and all the planet and all the country and all the world, there’s only one 114 of us in this very awesome elite group of women.
And it’s really easy for imposter syndrome to come out and kick your ass when you hear the stories of what these women are doing and to feel like, wow, I’m not doing nearly as much and nearly enough. But, someone on the L’Oreal team committee saw what we’re doing is worthy. And the validation behind that is really huge.
To have a worldwide global brand say, this organization is doing good work and they’re worthy of being honoured, is amazing and I’m glad that I’ll be part of that kind of family forever.
Let’s get real – what are some challenges you face as a Black mom? What are things you struggle with?
Oh, I think the challenges that I personally face is having to do too much with not as much support. Whether that’s financially, emotionally, or physically. I’ve been a single parent from pregnancy till now.
I do have a partner, but he’s across the border. Basically single parent and it gets to be exhausting. And it’s not even just a physical exhaustion, it’s like an emotional and mental exhaustion.
It’s really difficult to find time to rejuvenate because when you’re the sole parent, you don’t have the option of just lying in bed and not wanting to get up. I have a son to feed. He can feed himself, but I still have to be responsible for parenting him. Whether it’s through sadness, grief or anything else. So, that’s probably my personal biggest challenge.
I think challenges being faced as a Black mom, really just depends on the stage of your motherhood that you’re in. In the U.S. we know that there’s a lot of issues with the Black maternal mortality rate and just how Black mothers are treated and the stereotypes. Even most people who think of Black Moms Connection, assume that it’s just an organization for some Black single mothers, which is not the case.
The majority of our members are married, which we know internally as a community. But externally, people are always just making these assumptions. And then you have, trying to navigate the school system, trying to navigate through helping your children find jobs and them having to learn about racism and other obstacles.
I also just like the recognition. The mom influencer or mommy blogger, mom speakers, people getting paid to speak on motherhood don’t always look like us. Which is really frustrating because there’s more than one type of mother. There’s more than one way to be a mom. Motherhood should be very colourful. It should look like the 31 flavours of Baskin Robbins, and it often does not. And it’s very frustrating.
What is your goal for Black Moms Connection?
I want to own a space that people can come and gather and network and learn. I want it to have an on site, 24/7 child care. I wanted to have rooms that other Black organizations in the community can rent to host their events someday, hopefully will be able to do events in person.
I want to franchise and have locations around the world as well, starting with the U.S. and hire an executive director and build out our board. Those are my 2021 goals. So that if something happens to me, the organization doesn’t fail and falter. It’s taken four or five years to get to this point and the sky’s the limit. We have amazing things in the works. I want to make sure that the organization doesn’t live and die and breathe with just one person.
How can other Black moms benefit from this organization?
There are several ways! I think having a space where you can ask any Black questions, get Black answers from people who understand. You don’t have to ask why this matters or why you’re questioning it, is really key.
Now, more than ever since we don’t have in-person, we only have these digital spaces and know that it’s culturally relevant is the primary thing for BMC for sure.
But then also all the extras that we’re offering. So whether it’s conversations about sex and mental health, whether it’s providing our grants. That’s what we did with the L’Oreal Funds. We created an emergency grant to help moms who need food, formula, their car broke down, they need bus money to get to work, whatever the need is. And knowing that we have that money to give is really helpful.
We also have our rent bank where people can apply to have their rent or their mortgage paid due to Covid-19 financial issues. So there’s financial benefits and social benefits that come with being a member of this organization. I’m really proud of that.
How can people find you? Drop your social handles!
If people want to follow me personally and learn more about my random randomness, I’m @thetanyahayles on Instagram.
Thank you so much for the opportunity.
I hope you guys enjoyed that interview. Thank you Tanya for sharing your story with us!
+++ If you enjoyed this post, check out my interview with Chantal Carter, a MAJOR BOSS BABE who owns Love & Nudes, a Black-owned business.
++++ Oh, and this post on International Women’s Day, a letter to my WOMEN.