Creating an environment of inclusion — making someone feel welcome in a group
Finding the uniqueness of a person — encourage someone to bring their special talent to the table
Knowing when to change — realizing that the way you’re working may not be the best approach
As part of my series about people who stepped up to make a difference during the COVID19 Pandemic, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracey Ann-Marie Nelson, founder and owner of Tracey’s Faceys. An actress, Tracey has appeared in dozens of commercials and TV shows. As a Black, female business owner, she takes great pride in her company and its impact on the community which is not only to help protect people, but also to extend the power of her business to address the issues affecting people of color from a health perspective. She will be collaborating with a local charity to utilize her company to help combat pre-existing health conditions. Tracey grew up in Tennessee and attended Purdue University. She lives in Los Angeles, California.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how and where you grew up?
I was born in Indianapolis, IN while my father was in dental school and my mother was a teacher. After his graduation, we moved to Tennessee where he set up his practice in the hometown of my parents.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The book, “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali stays in the back of my mind. Whenever things get tough, I always think of her life and experiences and it gives me perspective.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke I feel like we always have to do something because otherwise we live a purposeless life. I don’t even mean huge monumental things but small acts every day.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?
We started making face masks for people, initially because the PPE needed to be allocated to medical professionals on the front line and then because if we could make them fashionable and cool, people would be more likely to wear them. The natural next step was to look at the people hit the hardest in this pandemic — People of Color with pre-existing conditions. Much of that is because of the food deserts and lack of information. Tracey’s Faceys is now collaborating to bring attention to the need for better habits with regard to eating. Essentially creating a mask of protection on the INSIDE by reducing the amount of processed “foods”.
In your opinion, what does it mean to be a hero?
Being a hero means being an inspiration so that others can find the hero in themselves. Making small heroic acts become viral instead of a deadly disease.
In your opinion or experience, what are “5 characteristics of a hero? Please share a story or example for each.
- Creating an environment of inclusion — making someone feel welcome in a group
- Finding the uniqueness of a person — encourage someone to bring their special talent to the table
- Open to new ideas — knowing the sum is greater than the parts and building on each others’ contributions
- Fearlessness — not afraid to say it, do it, protest it, stop it or defy it, and
- Knowing when to change — realizing that the way you’re working may not be the best approach.
If heroism is rooted in doing something difficult, scary, or even self-sacrificing, what do you think drives some people — ordinary people — to become heroes?
There is no such thing as ordinary people. We are all here for some unique purpose that no one else on the earth can do. It is a combination of purpose, opportunity and courage.
What was the specific catalyst for you or your organization to take heroic action? At what point did you personally decide that heroic action needed to be taken?
We had to DO something. Social media was sideline commenting, people were in fear, and we just jumped in and said, “We’re little guys, what can we do?” We found some out-of-work seamstresses because the garment factories in Downtown Los Angeles were shut down, and MANY people were out of work with no means to provide for their families. We sourced fabric online, borrowed elastic and started making masks and shipping them all over the country and Canada.
Who are your heroes, or who do you see as heroes today?
Funny question because I just had this discussion with someone about how we don’t have heroes like our parents and grandparents or even clear cut leaders anymore. I have always admired strong men and women who rose above their circumstances like Harriet Tubman, John Lewis, MLK, Condoleezza Rice, my Grandmothers, Marilyn Monroe (don’t sleep on her small acts of courage), Oprah Winfrey, so many and in so many ways.
Let’s talk a bit about what is happening in the world today. What specifically frightened or frightens you most about the pandemic?
The way our world has be race-baited, made even more divisive, xenophopic and the politicizing of the face masks.
Despite that, what gives you hope for the future? Can you explain?
I am hopeful that all of these circumstances have created deeper thinking and an impetus for action locally and thus globally. People are far more aware of world events, national events that play out on a daily basis and also the power they have when they vote. It is now more than ever that you have to think about your vote. If you ever thought your vote didn’t count much, then you really have to think now why the powers that be are trying to make it so difficult to accomplish.
What has inspired you the most about the behavior of people during the pandemic, and what behaviors do you find most disappointing?
I am most inspired by people finding a way to live and thrive when we could all really close our doors, occasionally Zoom, eat and watch TV. Most of the people I know are still finding ways to create and move forward. What I find most disappointing are the people who have no regard for anyone but themselves, don’t see wearing a mask as an act of respect for OTHER PEOPLE and who insist that all lives matter, but cannot recognize that all lives cannot matter if Black LIVES do not Matter.
Has this crisis caused you to reassess your view of the world or of society? We would love to hear what you mean.
I feel this pandemic represents a huge shift in Humanity. Nothing else on this planet could singularly affect everyone in this way. We have had to rethink just about everything in our lives from how we handle currency (they had to burn the paper money in Wuhan) to staying 6 feet away from each other (even at the grocery store) to how we work and meet (Zoom became the room) and sporting events and concerts are non-existent as we knew it. Like, no more moshpits crowded subways!
What permanent societal changes would you like to see come out of this crisis?
I hope to see a greater awareness for people not like ourselves and more compassion. We had a pandemic and civil unrest simultaneously.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
I would tell young people to observe this event which occurred in their lifetime (this is not what they’re reading about in history books) and know the power is in their hands. Schools will never be the same, many work environments will never be the same and while we must have fun and recreation, our efforts must also be on social change and how the power to improve our society is theirs for the making. I was so proud of so many young people during this pandemic. I have great hope for the future based on the young people I see.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would start/grow the movement addressing food inequality and information about self-care and health. Obesity, diabetes and hypertension can all be CURED.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Me, Oprah and Michelle. That is all.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Thank you and the same to you.