LaQuayle Agurs: Inspiring young WOC one celebrity interview at a time

“I recently had a conversation with my mom and she introduced me to a side of her that I didn’t know existed. She’s been my mother for 22 years, yet I felt like that was our first conversation ever. She inspires me because she somehow found a way to beautify the mistakes and tribulations in her own life, take them, and turn them into joy and love for the sake of my own life. She’s always been a beautiful person. She’s always been extremely talented. She has a heart of gold, and those things I’ve always admired. But I can now add influential to that list. That makes me most proud.” —LaQuayle Agurs

[Editor’s note: The above passage is from a separate conversation after the initial interview for this piece. Quayle felt compelled to share this revelation. The Curatours was happy to oblige.]

LaQuayle Agurs, a recent college graduate, has a lot of people she looks up to, but she works every day to make sure younger women of color have role models, too. That’s why she started Got Mocha, a media platform that seeks to offer both “celebrity crazed content” and substantive pieces for girls of color. Why? LaQuayle saw there weren’t enough faces of color in young women’s service publications, so she decided to create one.

“We obviously have Teen Vogue and Seventeen and things like that but rarely do we have content with girls that look like us,” LaQuayle said. While she credits Teen Vogue editor Elaine Welteroth with making strides to diversify the women featured in her publication, LaQuayle feels there is still much more work to be done across the industry. As a media professional, she saw this firsthand.
“It wasn’t until I actually got to InStyle in June [2016] that I actually physically started writing things down and putting things in my notes,” she said. “And for me, when I start writing tangibles out of things, it’s about to get real.”

“Hey, do you think my stories are too black?”

Then an intern, LaQuayle now serves as a freelancer at InStyle. Although Got Mocha is not her main gig, she continues to push the diversity envelope with her work at Instyle as well.

“All the stories that I would pitch for InStyle.com, it would be black stories,” she said. “So I’ve only done three stories for [InStyle.com] so far but it was Angela Simmons, Leslie Jones and then I did a story on a care line for brown babies.”

There came a point when LaQuayle felt the need to ask her supervisor if her pitches were “too black.” The supervisor, who is also black, immediately said they were not. In fact, she encouraged LaQuayle to keep pitching these stories — if she didn’t, it was possible these stories would never make it to the site.

“My experience at InStyle is great, don’t get me wrong,” she said, “but it was mindboggling for me when I would go to InStyle.com every day, for example, and they’d have 20 stories on the front page and none of these women are black.”

 

The HBCU experience

Before interning and freelancing at InStyle, LaQuayle was a journalism student at Hampton University, a premier HBCU in Virginia. Although she would not trade her experience for anything, LaQuayle still remembers a time when she thought she’d end up at another ‘HU’ — Howard University in Washington D.C., another premier HBCU.

“I knew I was going to Howard, I got into Howard, you couldn’t tell me anything,” she recalled. “But for whatever reason, my head was telling me Howard but my heart was still telling me Hampton. And I’m the type of person, like, I always follow my heart.” She admitted to not following her heart on two occasions in her life. She counts these as her only two regrets.

“With an HBCU, it’s just one of those things where…it’s just a different type of trust and a different type of love.”

Four years later, LaQuayle feels her experience was one that could not be replicated anywhere — an HBCU, a predominately white institution (PWI) or otherwise. That said, she feels HBCUs offer a more nurturing atmosphere for black students than other institutions, which she says makes all the difference.

“It’s nothing against PWIs,” she said, “I just think with HBCUs, you aren’t gonna find that type of people nurturing you and your culture and people being invested in what you are and what it is that you want to do.”

LaQuayle also expressed frustration with black students who go to PWIs “only to create a black student club or only hang with black friends,” when, if they’d gone to an HBCU, they would’ve had easy access to thousands of black friends, instead of having to seek out a small fraction of the university population.

Her main focus, though, was having a priceless experience at Hampton, and seeing friends from a range of schools get their education.
“I got out of Hampton what I put into it, and I just don’t believe I would’ve gotten that anywhere else, at a PWI or at another HBCU,” she said. “But I really think as black people as a whole, as long as we’re leaving more educated than [when we arrived], whether it’s a PWI or an HBCU, it’s all good to me.”

Making her change

As the fight for equal treatment and representation rages on in the U.S. and across the world, LaQuayle’s formula for making a difference is simple: find your passion and go from there.

“I think a lot of the times we get this idea that you have to become a lawyer or you have to go into politics or you have to do this or you have to do that in order to make a difference,” she said. “And I just don’t think that’s true.”

As a child, LaQuayle found she had a nack and a passion for storytelling. In first grade, it was short stories. Now, she’s interviewing well-known figures like Jasmine Guy and Paige Hurd to offer young women of color positive, honest role models.
“Use what you already have to make a difference,” she said. “And that’s what I’m trying to do, I’m using writing and storytelling and things like that to make my difference.”

“Nothing beats a failure but a try.”

As for a difference she wants to make in her own life? “Right now what I’m working on is intimate relationships with people.” Although she has siblings, Quayle was raised as an only child and attended four different high schools — she’s no expert on companionship. “That’s one thing I’m really trying to work on: how to be a friend, how to accept friends.”
Meanwhile, she’s got her head in the game: with a freelance job and a budding media platform to juggle, LaQuayle keeps one mantra on repeat in her head: “Nothing beats a failure but a try.”

Catch up with LaQuayle on Instagram or LinkedIn.

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