THEN and NOW: Tamara L











Did you consider yourself an ugly duckling in high school?

I definitely considered myself an ugly duckling in high school – I felt that I didn’t have the right clothes, hair, skin color, or politics. My mother put her salary towards the education and day-to-day necessities of her children/family. I had hair that quickly transitioned to its natural, nappy state at the first spray of moisture, to my continual dismay. I lacked the light to white skin tone that the boys (no matter their race) at my high school preferred, as well as a mane of long, straight or wavy hair that seemed to guarantee attractiveness. To top it off, my liberal views did not go over well with the evangelical, conservative private Christian high school that I attended (in Orange County, CA) either. .


When and how did you officially “swan?”

In my view, I officially became a swan in college. I went to a fantastic college – Smith College, where I met many women who were just like me or what I would be upon graduation: smart, thoughtful, confident, and outspoken. Women who shine. I started wearing natural hair styles that complemented my facial features. My liberal politics became broader and more well-informed due to college study and interactions/friendships with a broader range of people. I studied economics and political science, and could more than hold my own in debates about public policy. I started down a path for a successful career that would enable me to be financially independent and intellectually stimulated. I refused to settle when it came to dating and, while in college, I met a wonderful guy who loves and respects me – we have a great partnership that is 14 years strong.


What advice would you give to the Before you?:

Hang in there. You have a well thought-out plan to study your way out. Don’t ever be ashamed to ask for help, or afraid to continually push yourself out of your comfort zone in coursework. The point is to push yourself intellectually as hard as possible. Your successes in high school will lay the groundwork for future opportunities to propel yourself in many different ways. You will leapfrog to a completely different and vastly improved trajectory (economic and social) for success if you hold on. Follow your heart, and do not let anyone lead you down a path that feels wrong. Take your stand and do not waver.