Oh what a night. It’s long been most people’s favorite part of the BlogHer conference: Voices of the Year.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was one of the VOTY winners who was chosen to read during the evening’s keynote. To add icing on the cake, Queen Latifah was the host of the event.

All of the us VOTY readers were sitting backstage waiting for the show to begin. Our nerves were running wild, the funny girls got funnier, the quiet girls seemed to grow pensive and there was a lot of nervous banter. At one point, we even kicked off our heels and danced.

After waiting and waiting for the Queen (she got stuck in traffic) I was sitting on the floor, doing what I do when I’m nervous: I Tweet. When I looked up and saw the silohuette of Dana Owens aka Queen Latifah. I shot up to my feet as she screamed: “Who here’s a winner? Who here’s a winner?”

Queen Latifah, me, and other VOTY honorees past and present.

Queen Latifah, me, and other VOTY honorees past and present.

We all looked at her, completely stunned, then the smiling and the shrieking began.  I walked right up to her and said “Hi, I’m Melanie.” We shook hands and then I just stopped and stared. I couldn’t really do anything because right in front of me was this force of talent, greatness and strength that I’d admired for more than 20 years.

And the girl looked good. Her skin was flawless, sure there was make up but it wasn’t caked on. Her hair, her clothes, everything, was awesome, I can testify ya’ll that there’s not much Photoshopping that is needed for Queen Latifah’s photo shoots.

I wanted to hug her, but is that kind of weird? She’s used to people being star struck, so she graciously took control and asked: Did you want a hug? I could only nod. We hugged and she said, “Nice to meet you Melanie.”

Granted this exchange was probably seven seconds, but for me it was a wonderfully long moment that I’ll never forget.

But I had to snap out of it because shoot, I couldn’t be star struck while reading my piece. And since the Queen was here, the show was about to start.

The first set of readers, who were from the humor category got ready to hit the stage. We heard Queen Latifah on the mic and all too soon it was Go Time. The first reader, Fadra Nally, killed it. The second, JC Little, killed it too. Same as the blogger after her, after her and after her.

Then came my turn. The ever loveable Deb Rox introduced me and the crowd erupted in applause, warming my heart as I climbed the stairs to the stage. I wanted to take a picture of the audience right before I read my piece, but my phone, in typical sad fashion, konked out. So I turned it off. Just like I promised him, I gave a shout out to Michael Jackson, one of the workers at the Sheraton hotel and then it was time to read.

It was this one where Logan and I are talking about race. I wasn’t nervous behind the podium and in front of the masses, I just kept telling myself to read slowly, enjoy the moment. The crowd laughed in a few parts that surprised me. They also clapped after the line: “There’s no stronger weapon against racism and other ignorance than the truth,” which also surprised me.

I love it when you connect with an audience, especially when you’re talking about something so close to the heart. It’s an honest and unifying feeling.

I closed out my piece, the crowd gave me love through cheers and claps and I floated off the stage. I’d done it. I was given a great honor for my work, I shared my truth with people and genuinely touched them.

I didn’t know how much my piece resonated with the audience until afterward. Dozens of people came up to me congratulating me, telling me how I made them cry, their own struggle to discuss race with their children, or they spoke of the internal struggles about being a biracial kid.

One girl, who was as sweet as sweet could be said she was born in South Africa and grew up growing up during apartheid. She tearfully told me how as a child she didn’t understand why her nanny sat on the grass and she sat on the bench.

It was powerful, she was bringing tears to my eyes. And that’s why I do this whole writing thing. I love sharing information whether it’s a news article or a blog post. I truly, truly believe that the more we know about each other and our experiences, the closer we become.

I’ve always, always said, I’m not looking to change the world, just my little corner of it.


BlogHer13 VOTY by ShesWrite

After the ceremony, there was a VOTY reception where all 100 winners had their posts blown up on these large posters.

Here’s a list of the fantastic women who read alongside me:

Shannon Bradley-Colleary from The Woman Formerly Known As Beautiful

Casey Carey-Brown from Life with Roozle

Ellie Schoenberger from One Crafty Mother

Fadra Nally from All Things Fadra

JC Little from The Animated Woman

Zakary Watson from Raising Colorado

Adrienne Jones from No Points for Style

Melissa Tingley from The Broad Side

Thien Kim Lam from I’m Not the Nanny

Ann Imig from Ann’s Rants

Kelly Wickham from Mocha Momma




Reading my piece at BlogHer13’s VOTY keynote — 40 Comments

  1. You got to give the Queen a hug? Seriously I think I would have started crying. She is absolutely beautiful. And congratulations, I have been a loyal reader because of your fantastic writing.

    • Ha! I know what you mean, I had to kinda pull my stuff together after seeing her. She’s so amazing and also I wanted to thank you so much for following me. I am truly honored that you take time out of your schedule to check out what’s up on my blog and it’s wonderfully humbling to know that you enjoy reading what I’m creating. Thanks again. 🙂

  2. Brings tears to my eyes to read the whole experience through your eyes. I have known you are amazing for a long time, I’m glad the rest of the blogging world is figuring it out! Heart you BIG time!! Did you get your sign home?

  3. Oh-so amazing – made me cry. I wish I could have seen you read. You are inspiring. You are changing your corner of the world (because that’s where it starts) and, now, it’s getting legs, spreading out, reaching beyond (just as you’ve always done).

    • Thanks Bree! Can you believe it? Me and Latifah?? Yeah, me neither. 🙂 You’ve always been such a wonderful support since high school and I’m glad we’re sisters.

      • Ha – I would believe it, my dear. You’ve been a star in your own right ever since I met you more than 20 years ago. As an only child (by birth family), to be considered like a sister to you is the highest honor.

  4. I would have been trying to pack that poster in my bag! How totally COOL is that?????????????????????????????????????????????????????? So glad you were chosen. Amazing.

    • Thanks Lynn. I too am glad I was lucky enough to be chosen!!! 🙂 I soooo tried to bring that poster, but FedEx told me it was going to cost 300 $mackaroos so yeah, that stuff stayed in Chicago. 🙂

  5. Melanie – I loved everything about your piece and as someone from last year told me, the experience was amazing. So supportive, so wonderful, and just so glad I got to stand alongside wonderful women and writers like yourself.

    • Oh wow, Fadra. Thank you. I’m glad you liked my piece, however your piece was masterful. I loved how funny you were and the delivery was spot on! It’s hard going first and you set the bar high chica. So happy to have met you and to have shared a special experience with you.

  6. I didn’t know you were such a celebrity in the world’s face!!! I knew you were I my eyesight. Sorry I didn’t know about this sooner; just found about it Monday. I am proud of you!!!!. I am still struggling with this computer and my galaxy4 phone. Too many gadgets for this old LADY.

    Love and your family.

    • Hi Grandma!!! This hands down is the best comment I’ve ever received on my blog. I love that you came here and left me a little comment love. You are such a phenomenal woman and I’m so happy and blessed that you’re my grandma. Thank you for everything. Also, no need to apologize as it’s kind of in my nature not to broadcast these kinds of things before they happen, so it’s totally understandable that you didn’t know about it until a few days later. 🙂

    • Thanks babe! Isn’t it crazy? I feel lucky to have been included in the magical moment of the Voices of the Year. It’s funny I’ll always, always cherish our talks on the floor of the gym, cheering for the boys playing. Much love babe.

    • Thank you so much! That means a lot, especially coming from a supah stah like yourself. You were a great host/mentor. I’m soooo glad I had the pleasure of meeting you!! I’ll shoot you an email soon asking for advice on leveraging the opportunity. <3

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    • Awww, thanks for that. I really enjoyed meeting and spending time with you backstage. Your blog is so hilarious and you’re a talented storyteller. Glad that we’ve connected!! 🙂

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