The Future is…Danielle Heard

It was the cute bowtie that caught my attention. I’d seen Danielle post several times on a Black woman’s website we both visit. I enjoyed her thoughtful commentary. I always wanted to ask her about her bowties. One day, someone started a thread encouraging people to promote their side gigs. Danielle shared briefly about her bowtie venture. It was an opportunity to learn more!

Hello! Thank you for the interview. Tell us about yourself. 

Firstly, I was born in Frankfurt, Germany via military and experienced various countries, languages, and peoples…thus my engagement with learning about the world outside of the United States began. Those formative years shaped me into the individual I am today, because when you have the birth situation or opportunity to experience culture outside of the U.S., you’re able to intellectually flex your brain muscles a tad more to engage with a lot of really heavy topics. We eventually moved back to the U.S., to a military base, (surprise-surprise) and that’s where I’ve been intermittently since.

Second, I’ve always had natural hair, which I have to brag about because Black Women have been given so much scorn and belittling because of the way our hair naturally grows out of our scalp. Our hair is the most versatile and beautiful work of art: mohawks, high tops, braids, locs, curls, afros, bantu knots, etc. The sky is really the limit with our hair and it never fails to leave me speechless. Praise be and blessings to my Mother who saved my Sister and I from a lot of self hate.

Third, I identify as Ace-greysexual. This was a process of self discovery that was as confusing as it was educational because I knew about the main umbrella/lettering but the periphery letters so often get left off of the promotional materials, you know? I always felt like I was standing on the outside looking in when the topic of romantic and sexual relationships came up. I had no interest and the synapses that were supposed to ignite, didn’t even fizzle. I’ve learned that I’m not alone, an outlier, and more than anything broken.

Fourth, when I’m not working on content, you can catch me at the gym or working out at home. I got into powerlifting and various muscle training exercises while I was at University. It’s super cathartic, an incredible way to decompress, and great for my health. When I personally channel my own vanity, it’s for mental health and to combat some body dysmorphia issues that used to pop up for me.

I am excited about your upcoming bowtie business. I know you love fashion, but why specifically bowties? Any challenges you’ve faced as a Black woman entrepreneur? When will products be available for purchase?  

Bowties have always been fascinating to me; I’ve always been enamored by their shapes and how they rest on/around the neck. Plus, I puzzled when I was little, where/how do you tie these? I bought my first bow tie when I was in Undergraduate school and am reaching closer and closer to 100. They are so much more exquisite in form, function, and variety to me than neckties. Alongside bowties, I have a sizable hat collection and collect more when my funds permit. The motivating factor in starting this business venture was minimal job opportunities after I graduated—and not living in a state where a fashion store or company could easily pick me up—with my particular niche/expertise.

Also, my Grandmother who passed away two years ago was a sewer, knitter, crocheter, needle-pointer, and anything else you can imagine with fabric. She made various clothes for her children, drapes and curtains, quilts, pillowcases, and so much more. My main regret is missing out on crucial learning time about her and with her; Dementia gradually sapped her mind and her voice. But, her legacy will continue in a way through her grandchild that wants to take up her mantle and sewing machine. I’ve faced no challenges thus far with my business (praying that the waters don’t become rough). My market has so much untapped potential that I personally feel that people will be knocking my website door down to make a purchase.

There’s so many businesses that by proxy of having a Black Woman (or Black queer woman) attached do incredibly well. My Grandmother has so much fabric, sewing machines, needles, thread, etc. that purchasing essentials may be nil to very inexpensive. At most, the domain for my website may cost a bit through Squarespace, but once I launch later this year, everyone should be on the lookout for something truly special!

You shared you’re an avid reader. I love to read too! My latest obsession is N.K. Jemisin (science fiction/fantasy). What books do you enjoy reading? 

Thanks for the recommendation! I really need to get into more science fiction books because I love the science fiction genre, especially in film, plus I know it’s really grown and has tons of Black Women and Black people as leads. I read a lot of social justice, history, feminist, environmental, sci-fi, horror, and video game texts. I’m a logophile nerd that loved reading the dictionary and competing in spelling bee competitions, so of course I read everything!

There’s a book that was released recently called, Let’s Talk About Love by a young Black female author named Claire Kann. You’ve got to check out the cover too, you will be overwhelmed by its beauty. The story follows a young Black Woman that’s trying to navigate her relationships as an Asexual person, and its representation like that, which was severely lacking when I was a child/young person trying to navigate the world as a non-overtly sexual Black person. The media we ingest so often over-sexualizes Black people so that when you don’t fall into that spectrum, you feel like an otherized other inside of another otherness.

I also just downloaded the comic Bingo Love, it’s about two Black girls that fall in love in the 1960s, society forces them to change/act heteronormatively, get married yada, yada, yada…however their story doesn’t end there…when they’re much older in their sixties they reconnect in a Bingo Hall and rekindle the same love that was snatched away so many years earlier. The story and then the artwork had me hooked immediately, Black Women loving each other outside of a cis-hetero framework, sign me all the way up!

I’ve never watched Scandal (don’t judge me!) I used to watch How to Get Away with Murder.  Recently, you’ve started making pop culture critique videos. Your debut video focused on an interaction between Olivia and Annalise. Why was it important for you to discuss this scene? What are your plans for future videos? P.S. You have a nice voice! 

Scandal has been a rollercoaster type show for me. When its high you’re up in the clouds with binge worthy television and when its bad–well let’s just say I wasn’t watching for a season or two. Especially, the Fitz and Olivia plot romantic stuff, yuuuck to the nth power, but I digress. How to Get Away with Murder has actually surpassed Scandal and a lot of the other Shondaland programming in several ways. Viola Davis/Annalise Keating as the main focal point of the show is so rare for television, a dark-skinned bisexual Black Woman, that’s shown her natural hair sans wigs multiple times, and that’s experienced so much mental trauma and actually seeks help and talks to therapists so that she can heal. She’s shed the baggage of people and relationships that were destroying her. Gosh, Annalise is the freshest breath of fresh air in the entire world.

It was important for me to discuss the scene between Olivia and Annalise because it was definitely a television crossover event that had been building for a while. Olivia and Annalise are such different characters, especially in regards to their relationship with Black people and Blackness. Olivia Pope is a Black Woman in appearance only but rarely suffers or endures any of the trauma that comes with being Black, because she’s been given so much shelter, money, and prestige that she doesn’t have to engage with the terror and judgment that Annalise does. By proxy of Annalise being darker skinned, having a different body frame than Olivia, and having immediate ties to the Deep South she can’t easily flee from her Blackness and I greatly wanted to explore that in my YouTube video.

Future videos will be about exploring different pop-culture Black Women, their representation in oversaturated white media/markets, their place as political figures, colorism/featurism (if it applies), and why these girls or women matter. Oh, and I plan on doing some video game critiques/commentary when I have the time. My schedule for video releases should be every Monday or Wednesday. Thank you for the vocal compliment, I’ve always had a knack for oratory and I also have a singing/instrumental background so I suppose that doesn’t hurt either.

You are an accomplished academic. As someone interested in working with adult learners, I’m always curious about Black women in higher education. What has been your experiences as a scholar/student? Do you have tips for Black women working towards their degree?

Oh wow! You are in a very crucial field. Education is so important however you’re able to receive it, inside or outside of collegiate academia. I’ve always loved to learn and my parents pushed us to be high achievers regardless of what we do and how we do it.  My experiences as a scholar/student have been interesting…I loved to learn but oftentimes what I was learning inside of predominantly white college institutions or when I finally entered the public school system after private school and home schooling was really jarring. The students there can be so indoctrinated to comply, be quiet, and remain in the back of the class because they aren’t engaged or learning anything of value to their self-worth.  There was a palpable atmosphere that allowed some students to sink or swim depending on the teacher or professor, and that’s if they like you or take an interest in you, and that can be even tougher for Black children and other children of color.

So, I found that I needed to decompress and take some self-care days often when I was in University. I studied Trust-Law and Wealth Management as an undergrad, found that wasn’t I wanted to do after a few years and changed my major to full-time Music Performance. That experience allowed me to grow and mature a lot, and really hone a craft that I’d been doing since I was twelve years old. I’ve heard adults say, “do what you love” and I never really understood what that meant until that moment. After I graduated, I went to Graduate School for Environmental Policy and Women’s Studies.

Its imperative that Black Women fight and advocate for themselves, what they want to learn, how they want to learn it, and especially where they want to learn it. One of my greatest regrets was not attending a historically Black College or University. I know I would have avoided some really troubling issues, problematic white culturalisms, certain Professors, and mental health crises if I’d been amongst more Black Women at Spelman or a co-ed student body like Howard.

You’ve lived in New Zealand. I love hearing about Black women and their travels. Why New Zealand? What did you do there? 

I went to New Zealand via a semester study abroad program. I always wanted to see/experience the Pacific islands and its culture, climate, and beauty of this unique volcanic island chain. The weather is sublime and the air is so clean. Your skin will be free from blemish and acne within a few days, trust me! Aotearoa {land of the long white cloud} as New Zealand is called by the Maori is like no place I’ve ever been in my life. The pace is different and time doesn’t even seem to exist there. However, it wasn’t completely sunshine and Kiwi birds there, because I know from reading and thank you Internet, that Aotearoa is an invaded colonized space like so much of the globe and that translates into various facets of life there.

For example, the Indigenous people here in the Americas try to maintain their identity, language, and traditions; they, too have been greatly stifled, stymied, and murdered by colonizers. And like the rest of the world, they too have fought, struggled, and died to retain some of their lands, protecting their environment, speaking their mother tongue, and practicing their cultural traditions. While I was in the Pacific, I visited Australia as well and had the same cathartic amazing experience. However, their history in various ways is similar and far worse than New Zealand. Oppressed and killed by the federal government, lands stolen, enslaved, studied and experimented on, forced to assimilate. The more I’ve come to learn about Australia, the more enraged and heartbroken I become. Black people and those with direct ties to the continent of Africa have been the most oppressed and are dually the most resilient people on the planet.

It’s been wonderful chatting with you… 

Thank you for having me. It’s truly incredible what you’ve been able to build and the people you’ve been able to reach out to! I’m trying to build my platform from the ground up and on my own, so donations and advice from established creators greatly help to finance my content.









Author: Tonya J.

I enjoy reading, writing, and traveling!

2 thoughts on “The Future is…Danielle Heard”

  1. Smooches to Tonya J. for featuring me in her Interview series! I feel incredibly honored and humbled that she would feature me on her platform. I gladly endorse her work and commend the work that she’s been able to create here. Smooches to the nth power!

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