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?”
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.
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