Tarana Burke Has the Best Advice for Workplace Rejection


Her childhood dream job:

A fashion editor. I wanted to be a writer, from a very young age, so I should say writing in some form. That kind of shifted into fashion at about 13 or 14, when I became obsessed with Vogue magazine, Glamour, and Elle. I would get all these fashion magazines and devour them. I always wanted to write in some capacity, and I just knew it was going to be fashion. 

How she deals with rejection in the workplace:

As the person in a leadership position, I trust my team. That’s the reason why I hired them, that’s the reason why we are successful. So when they reject my ideas, it’s never really a rejection. It’s more like we all agree that this other way is better. I have to kind of swallow that. It doesn’t hurt me—I trust that they know better than I do. Part of accepting rejection is also some humility that says, “I’m not the smartest person in the room all the time.” It’s different if somebody is like, “No. Get out of here. That’s dumb.” I don’t want to be a part of that team. That means I don’t belong in that space because I don’t want to be around people who will be that disrespectful.

Her biggest workplace challenge:

My biggest workplace challenge is keeping up with all the moving pieces. I’ve spent a lot of years being completely involved in every aspect of the work that I’m doing or the work that I’m leading. Part of my work now does involve me being a public-facing figure or representative for the organization and the movement. So that means that I can’t be in the granular stuff, and that’s really difficult.

The moment she realized, “I’m successful”: 

Years ago, we joined MySpace. We really just joined to have a place to house the information about the work, like a website, because we couldn’t afford a website. When it started trickling out, and we started getting responses from people around the country saying, “This is brilliant. How can we join? I want to support. I want to be a part of it.” It was validating on one hand that the young people were receptive, but it was a completely different level of, “Oh yeah, we’re onto something. This is super necessary.”

Her favorite treat after a long, productive day:

My husband is the chef in the house. He does a good deal of the cooking, and he has started making these pound cakes from scratch. Oh my god, they’re so good. I’ll come downstairs, and I can smell it in the house. I keep saying, “Hey, please stop making these.” He’s like, “Well, don’t eat it.” That’s not even a fair question. That’s not an option. If you make it, I’m going to eat it. I get a cold glass of milk and a warm piece of pound cake.

Tarana Burke’s Workday Essentials

I’m not really a techie person, but I was gifted a Google Home. I love it because I just say, “Google, when’s my next meeting? Google, what time is my dentist?” I talk to my little assistant all day.

I chew on crushed ice all day, probably because I’m anemic and need iron, but that’s another conversation. Occasionally, I add apple juice, which is my favorite juice. I usually like fill a tall glass with crushed ice, drink all the apple juice, and then chew on the ice. I focus that way.

I have to have my pen. The kind that you twist. I need them to be a certain width, a little fat but not too bad.

My big sticky notes. I am obsessed with sticky notes. They’re all over the place, and I very rarely use the little square ones. Mine are 5 x 7 and bigger. I write whole outlines on sticky notes all over my computer screen.

I’m a big fan of Free People and Anthropologie. I’m a size 14, and you’d think they don’t fit us because they advertise to the California yoga free-spirited white woman, but their clothes do fit. Their large and extra large fit, and they have the best lounge clothes. Quarantine turned us into homebodies, so all my clothes are lounge clothes. I have a ton pants from Free People and Anthropologie, and their loose-fitting, flowy tops and T-shirts.

Janae McKenzie is a contributing writer for Glamour.


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