Mattie James launched Mattieologie.com in 2009 and grew it into a thriving blog for women who love style and fashion. But it quickly turned into a platform for women who also aspired to leave their 9-5 and blog full time.  

As her audience expanded, her brand followed. Soon, she felt the urge to let go of Mattieologie.com and display the fullness of herself and her brand.

She no longer wanted to mask behind what appeared to be a screen name. She was ready to show the world the real her. The one who loves God, loves her family, loves to cook and so much more.

Earlier this year, she made the transition. She dropped Mattieologie.com and turned it into MattieJames.com. But in many ways, the transition to MattieJames.com was only the after-effect of the real transition that was occurring in Mattie’s life.  

Her marriage – and separation, her motherhood – and miscarriages, her sisterhood – and the art of forgiveness, alongside a variety of other life lessons, helped shaped Mattie into the woman she is today. One full of perspective, boldness and purpose.  

Still, she’s just touching the surface of what all she hopes to accomplish. 

She shines a light on the reality that life isn’t – and will never be perfect, and reminds us that it’s not about perfection or speed, it’s about moving in the right direction.

Mastering Working with Brands

You recently teamed up with CVS Pharmacy and in the past you’ve worked with Buick USA, Neutrogena, JCPenny, and other noteworthy brands. What’s your secret to working with so many brands?

I look at the numbers and the stats and I see what people react to after reviewing my Instagram [stats] or my Google analytics. I found that people reacted more when they saw me with my husband or with my child. My audience likes to see the full range of it. I am a wife. I am a mother. I am an entrepreneur. So, you do get these various things that you don’t always get in one influencer. And for me, it was important to share all of these things and make them visible and marketable, [which ultimately appeals to the brands you named above].

It’s very interesting, because I have worked brands in each of the aspects of my life. For instance, I’ve had brands who’ve reached out to me and said, “Hey! We’d love for you and your husband to do this.” Or, “We love your relationship and how you show it on Instagram.” Or, I’ll have brands that want to send stuff to my daughter.  And then, I still have brands that want to send me stuff to wear on Instagram as well. So, I am really blessed because I have figured out how each part of my life is marketable, without over-exposing or even disrespecting the relationship between me and my husband, or me and my daughter.

My daughter will be three next month. I’m not interested in posting her every day but, you know, she is really cute, [laughs] so, I happen to post her often. But, it is important that she is a kid and not an influencer. And she’ll be able to make her own decision when that happens.

But I do think when I get a really cool opportunity [to work] with a brand that I do love and respect, I ask my husband, “Do you think this is good for our family?” “How do you feel about our daughter being a part of this?” “Is this something you feel comfortable with?” And if it’s not, we don’t move forward regardless of how much it is, just because, you can only get money back: you can’t get time and experiences back.

Your sponsored posts look very natural and authentic. How do you think you are able to advertise a product without appearing like it?

Thank you. I think that is also it too. Yes, I didn’t even realize it until a good friend of mine who is in PR said to me, “Wow! You don’t even really notice it until you look closer, but a lot of your posts on Instagram have been sponsored, but it doesn’t look different.”

And I think that’s the point; you don’t want it to stick out like a sore thumb. I’m also not interested in pushing something to my audience that I don’t believe in, or that would not work seamlessly in my content. If I do wear Shoe Carnival, I want it to look organic and authentic, and like it is already a part of my life because that is really the only reason that I would say “yes” to a brand; it is [a product] that I like and enjoy.

My team and I work really hard to make sure that the content we create looks like it is a part of the existing story because that’s what is so important. That is why brands reach out, because they want to be a part of the story.

Balancing Marriage, Family & Business

Earlier this year, you opened up about how in 2016 you put your business over your family. That was so brave of you to share the reality that many successful people struggle with everyday. But now your family seems better than ever. What did that experience teach you and how is it positively impacting your life today?

It was just a really bad time in my life. I thought it was really important to share because a lot of times people see influencers, public figures and celebrities and it’s like ‘Wow! Their life is so perfect!” Or think, “Man! If I had her life!”

But we are all still very human. And, really hard life things happen to us. And for me, it just put everything into perspective. I think for a lot of us who work for ourselves or who are really focused on achieving a certain goal, you just don’t want to lose sight of what’s actually important.

It wasn't about the blogging, because I thought for a minute, “Oh my God! Social Media is bad, and I’m getting so influenced by all of these things,” but it’s not.  

I think that it is about creating boundaries, and I do think it’s about doing things in order. It’s about taking care of home, both spiritually and physically. Then, you can take care of business.

But, if your life is out of order, then ‘out of order’ is just another term for ‘chaos.’ Eventually, you will start to go insane and things will start to fall apart. For my husband and I, it was not worth not giving up. It was worth getting better and fixing.

There are more things that are important in life than likes and brand campaigns, and that’s forgiveness and family, and really making sure that you are healthy. I really missed out on the awesomeness of my husband. Or, the awesomeness of being together as a family. Or, the awesomeness of just doing nothing, because I was trying to look important instead of being important.

Doing important things, instead of looking important is so essential. Lately, you’ve been showing us a little bit of Chef Mattie. The skirt steak with parmesan truffle fries has been my favorite so far and it’s still on my to-do list to make as well! What’s your favorite meal to cook and how do you consistently find time to cook these amazing meals with your busy schedule?

My husband and I were talking about transitioning food into the site, and I think a lot of people don’t realize that I am good at cooking. I come from a really big West African family, and my husband comes from New Orleans and has a big family as well. So, cooking is just a part of our family culture.

However, I will say if it takes me more than thirty minutes of prep time, and a max of forty-five minutes to an hour to cook then I don’t cook it, unless it’s a special occasion like Thanksgiving, a birthday, or an anniversary. I don’t have the time.

With me having a toddler whom I am potty training, and being five months pregnant, and trying to keep my energy up, I just don’t have the time. I’m doing the best that I can. I am trying to make sure that my husband comes home to a hot meal everyday, but your girl only has thirty minutes in her! [laughs]

I am very active on Pinterest: I have a board called ‘For Dinner This Week.’ I have another board called “Food to Try or Make,” so I love that! I also love calling up my mom and saying, “Hey mom, remember you used to make this when we grew up? How did you do that?” We’ll be on Facetime and she’ll walk me through. It is also important to create the tradition of the family sitting around the table eating a home-cooked meal at least three to four times a week. And even when we get takeout, we always eat together at the table.

This is probably the first time in my life that I’ve purchase cookbooks. I’m just so excited to see my husband and my daughter gobble up their meal. For college students, for instance, who are on a budget, there are some amazing meals you can cook for under ten bucks, and in thirty minutes or less!

Learning Forgiveness & The Value of Sisterhood + Relationships

For those who don’t know, your sister Maya is your best friend. How do you all maintain such a great friendship as sisters and what advice do you have for siblings who struggle to build such a relationship with each other?

My sister Maya and I are six years apart, so for a long time, we just did not get each other because of the age difference. Now, we Facetime like four times a day!

She is very different than me in that she is much more laid back and detail oriented. When it comes to her business, she is one of the most clear people I’ve ever met. Even spiritually. We would get into random sibling fights because we didn't communicate effectively.

A few years back, we sat down and talked about what type of relationship we wanted to have with each other. A lot of times, we don’t do that with friends, we don’t do that with siblings, we don’t even do that with spouses. We said to each other ‘this is the type of person I am’ and ‘this is what’s important to me, though it may not be important to you.’

Because we had the sit down and the clarity, when we have disagreements now, we are able to say to one another, “I may not understand you, but if I love you and I respect you, then I am going to at least try to be as empathetic as I can.” It really has created a relationship that we value and we just protect so much, because we know how it was before.

We are both very blessed and are entrepreneurs, and so we have the luxury to Facetime four times a day. We are very alike but, we are also very different; we are both Geminis, so we definitely like attention and we’re both very extra.

But, again, she is more laid back. She’s like, “I’m going to do these things in this order,” whereas, I’m like, “I’m going to do these seven things and it’s going to be awesome.” I just really love her and I think she’s brilliant, and I think she’s kind, and I think she’s thoughtful. I also think she’s super random.

We were very intentional about our relationship. We both sat down and said, “Hey, I really do want to be close to you. This is why we haven’t in the past, and this is how we should treat the future.”  And we decided to do that.

Besides your sister, what is your philosophy for dealing with conflict, and how has it helped to keep you centered?

There are so many reasons to be mad. I think it was Kevin Hart who said it in a recent interview: “Do you know how much energy it takes to be mad at someone? I just don’t have that kind of time!”

And, I sincerely don’t have that time! You know, if there are certain people who are not in my life, whether I chose to stop talking to them, and vice versa, then sobeit. I don’t think that you should try to force anyone to stay in your life that walks out of your life voluntarily.

But, I am also very happy, and full, and completely okay. Like, there’s no love lost on my part. I forgive everybody of everything, just because it takes too much energy to be mad, you know? I mean, that stuff is not good for your pore. [Laughs] You’re going to be breaking out and stuff. I’m like, the way my pores are set up, I literally don’t have the time for that!

Set clear expectations for your relationships. If somebody loves and respects you, there should be an expectation. My husband has a clear expectation out of me. We are people who have two very different love languages that are on opposite sides of the spectrum. But, you have to set those expectations with everybody. It’s really important if you love and respect them and you want them to stay in your life.

Overcoming the Tragedy of Miscarriages

You opened up in the past about how you’ve suffered from two miscarriages, one specifically due to uterine fibroids. And, now you’re carrying your second baby! So happy for you! Now that things seem to be full circle, what lessons have those experiences taught you?

You know, you just have to keep trying. It’s funny because you hear this all of your life, that life is hard.

It happens in your twenties: I often joke that your twenties are the dumbest time of your life. Not because you are a bad person, but you are just finding out so many different things.

For me it was like, life is hard - even if you are a good person. Even if you do work hard...you just have to keep pushing through. And, A lot of us don’t make it, whether it’s family terms, or career terms, or marriage terms because we give up so easily because we thought it should’ve looked a certain way. God is like, “Hey, I’m here to bless you, but it’s not going to look like what you thought it was going to look like.”

I really want to have three children, so, we kept on trying. Once we fixed the issue at hand, our marriage and stuff like that, we were like, “Okay, we want to have a family.” I want to be done having kids by the time I’m 36, so we gotta get this train going!

But, I think I learned to not give up. To be really familiar with your health, with whatever conditions that you have, to really know and understand that. I thought, for a long time after my first miscarriage that I couldn’t get pregnant because I had fibroids. I had two fibroids when I got pregnant with my daughter, and coincidently, I currently have four fibroids, and I am having a healthy pregnancy...even less complicated than my first.

And, I think just always remembering your why.  

What advice would you give to a woman suffering from a miscarriage?

It’s something that happens often but you don’t really hear people talk about their experiences much because it’s almost like this unspoken shame attached to it.

My advice to a follower who recently suffered a miscarriage is to please take the time to heal. There is nothing that I can say to you that will remove the feeling that you have right now. But, don’t think that you’re supposed to get over it quickly. Don’t think that because other people don’t understand how you feel, that you have the wrong feelings. Please take the time to heal, because if you don’t, it will creep back up on you.  

Remaining Bold, Confident & Focused

You’re so humble, yet bold and confident. If you could say just 3 things to other women struggling with finding the boldness and confidence they need to be themselves, what would you say?

I will say that my identity is attached with God’s. And God is so dope, so if I am made in his image, than I must be a little bit dope! So just by default, I try to keep that image.

Then, He didn’t put me down here on Earth to feel sorry for myself. Sure, it could be better, but it could be so much worse. There are people who would kill to be in your position right now. Even anyone reading this right now, there are literally people in third world countries or in other countries, in other states, or down the street, who would kill to be in your position. So, I try to keep that in perspective, too. Even if you’re not thinking about other people, just think about where you were two years ago, or five years ago.

And then I am really careful about what I am importing or ingesting in my spirit. I export a lot of content: podcasts, Periscopes, vlog posts, etc. But, I’m really careful.

If I am not reading the Word, I’m listening to some type of Word message at least 2-3 times a day. If I am not in the mood for that, I am watching something that makes me laugh. I’m not really watching things or following people that I feel I have to compare myself to.

Sometimes, we don’t even mean to do that, right? Sometimes, I will notice that I am comparing myself to a certain person because the image of their life looks really good. If that is the case, I don’t necessarily unfollow them, but I do retreat back and say to myself, “Ok, now, why am I feeling like that?”

And, I’ll get to the root of that. “Do you feel like the way their life looks is something that you couldn’t get for yourself?”

The thing is, I focus on direction and I think a lot of us focus on speed. “I’ve got to be a millionaire by the time I’m thirty.” “I need to find a man who makes this amount of money.” “I have to have ‘x’ amount of kids.” Cool. Fine.

But, I’m really focused on the direction that I am going in. Am I a good person? Did I do something that mattered today? Do I love intentionally? Do I treat people kindly? Am I graceful? Those are the things that I am concerned with versus the amount of “likes.”

I think a lot of people, by default, we care about what others think. That’s just our nature. But, I think outside opinions matter much less when you have inside direction.

Want more of Mattie? Visit her website, MattieJames.com or follow her on Instagram and Twitter, @TheMattieJames.

Originally Published on Pinkprods.com. Pink Prods is now Foundation First, LLC.

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