Bevy Smith: How to discover your authentic self -- at any age

Recorded atApril 10, 2022
Duration (min:sec)15:05
Video TypeTED Stage Talk
Words per minute190.32 fast
Readability (FK)71.4 very easy
SpeakerBevy Smith

Official TED page for this talk


In a talk packed with wry wisdom, pop culture queen Bevy Smith shares hard-earned lessons about authenticity, confidence, mature success and why, if you put in the work, "life gets greater later."

Text Highlight (experimental)
100:04 I am a late bloomer.
200:07 In fact, a friend of mine you may have heard of -- Chris Rock -- he once called me the most late-blooming mofo he’d ever met.
300:15 (Laughter)
400:17 Now, some people might consider that snide, but I revel in it.
500:22 I’m 55, and I’m here in this curvy body as someone who has done the work, lived the life walked the walk in these very high heels -- (Laughter) and therefore is qualified to testify in the church and in the court of law that it does, in fact, get greater later.
600:42 (Applause and cheers) Now coming to this realization wasn’t easy.
700:50 At the age of 38, I was a very successful fashion advertising executive, and I was really living what most people considered a dream life.
800:59 I was jet-setting to fashion shows; I was receiving free designer clothes; I was double-kissing my way across the globe.
901:06 (Laughter)
1001:07 I was.
1101:09 And, you know, it was everything that I ever wanted it to be, and then one day I realized I was only pretending to be happy.
1201:17 But I couldn’t blow up my good life in my prime earning years, right?
1301:22 Wrong.
1401:24 Which leads me to lessons my mother Lolly taught me.
1501:27 Lolly’s number one lesson: don’t settle.
1601:33 Don’t settle.
1701:34 Now I’m aware that my well-paying, glamorous career is not exactly the humdrum, “I hate my job” stereotype that most people equate with settling.
1801:43 But it was a settle for me, because when I actually did quit my job at the age of 38, it was with the intention that every day be a great adventure.
1901:53 Now sometimes it was a very scary adventure, like being broke from the age of 40 to 45.
2001:59 But even still, I wouldn’t trade that for the safe and settled version, because if I had, I would not be here with y’all today.
2102:06 (Applause and cheers)
2202:08 Yeah.
2302:09 So you know how when you like, buck the system and go against the status quo, it makes people really uncomfortable?
2402:18 And invariably, people will ask, “Where do you get your confidence?”
2502:23 (Laughter)
2602:25 Now some people mean it as a compliment, but very often it’s shady ... (Laughter) and it's a silent judgment.
2702:36 And to those people, I respond with a quote from this Brooklyn poet you may have heard of, Jay-Z. (Laughter)
2802:43 “She get it from her mama.”
2902:45 I am she, and my mama is the epitome of a grown-ass woman: someone who has always been very comfortable in her skin.
3002:54 In 1965, my mom was 37 years old.
3102:57 She already had one child, my big brother, Gerry, and she married my dad, but she kept her maiden name.
3203:03 And then she had my sister Stephanie and I back-to-back, but she continued to work because she refused to be beholden to my dad for money.
3303:12 And I bet my mom was the only woman in our neighborhood who cooked once a week.
3403:18 She made Sunday dinner.
3503:19 It was an extravaganza, but that’s all she did.
3603:22 She cooked one day a week.
3703:24 My mom is just amazing.
3803:27 And she also had this ability of talking to her children about real life and making sure that we understood the virtues of going your own way, which is why I believe today at the age of 94, and a recent widow, my mom is still carving out ways to find and determine and define her own version of happiness.
3903:50 She cooks for herself.
4003:52 She maintains her home exactly as she sees fit.
4103:55 She enjoys champagne and R-rated films.
4203:59 (Laughter) (Applause)
4304:02 My mom has managed to maintain her glamour, her sex appeal, you know, her independence.
4404:10 And I really hope some of that rubs off on me.
4504:13 You know, recently I’ve been thinking about one of the best lessons that my mom ever taught me, which is the literal beauty in aging.
4604:22 Now, we all know that Black don’t crack, right?
4704:26 OK...
4804:27 Black don’t crack.
4904:29 So at the age of 50, my mom could have easily passed for the age of 35.
5004:34 And you know, that’s back during the time when people -- women were really coy about their age.
5104:39 “Oh, a lady never tells her age.”
5204:42 My mom never subscribed to that.
5304:44 She was always proud of her age.
5404:45 As a matter of fact, she believes you may not tell your age, but your hands and your neck will.
5504:52 (Laughter)
5604:53 So make peace with aging, or prepare for an entire wardrobe of gloves and turtlenecks.
5704:59 (Laughter)
5805:04 Yeah, my mom has always done these wonderful things like that, but I wish she could rub off on everyone because I feel like now I’m looking at even 20-somethings who have a fear of aging.
5905:15 I watch them on social media, like, you know, compulsively practiclng the latest 10-second dance craze, and it feels like their angsty and asking, “Is that all there is?”
6005:26 And I just want to yell, “Yes, that is all there is if all you’re going to do is settle for dancing to someone else’s TikTok beat!”
6105:33 (Laughter) (Applause and cheers)
6205:37 Settling is very insidious.
6305:40 It keeps us dancing on this string, waiting for this elusive, better day to miraculously appear.
6405:46 Now thanks to Lolly’s tutelage, that’s not my story.
6505:50 In fact, I take each day as it comes but I try to make it better than the last.
6605:55 So, you know, I’m single ...
6705:57 but I’m always ready to mingle.
6806:00 (Laughter)
6906:02 I’m an entrepreneur, but I keep multiple revenue streams.
7006:07 I’m a solo traveler, which means I’ve done the sepia version of “Eat, Pray, Love” on six continents.
7106:16 Because I don’t settle.
7206:19 What that means is that I also don’t second-guess my decisions, and I’m also not worried about my future because I’m firmly rooted in the present.
7306:28 Settling is a really sinister thing.
7406:30 It will keep you up at night tossing and turning, trying to figure out why and trying to answer that age-old question of “Is that all there is?”
7506:38 Personally, I don’t have time for that, because the only time I want to be kept up all night long tossing and turning is when I’m in the company of a fine-ass man.
7606:47 (Laughter) (Applause and cheers)
7706:50 That's it.
7806:51 (Applause)
7906:54 I wish I could tell you guys that I learned all these valuable lessons from Lolly and they were instilled in me and it was great, but alas, I am a late bloomer in all regards.
8007:03 So I had to learn a couple of lessons from the era of Bitchy Bevy.
8107:12 What kind of person has 10 assistants in five years?
8207:17 Bitchy Bevy, that’s who.
8307:18 (Laughter)
8407:20 Now I didn’t start out my career with a toxic attitude.
8507:22 No, initially I was really happy to be in the fashion industry.
8607:26 You know, but then I began to compare my trajectory to others, and I also began to feel burned out because I was burdened by these personas that I had created that were allegedly going to help me progress in my career.
8707:37 I made a couple of mistakes.
8807:39 One, I thought that being snarky was a good career move.
8907:42 It wasn’t.
9007:43 I also thought I look good in the color brown.
9107:45 I actually don’t.
9207:46 (Laughter)
9307:47 Yeah.
9407:48 (Laughter)
9507:51 And, you know, I just -- in my dream montage, I wanted to get away from Bitchy Bevy.
9607:57 I wanted to get away from the color brown.
9707:59 And so in the movie version of my life, as soon as I quit my job, I’m a yoga guru.
9808:07 I’m extremely limber and very happy.
9908:10 Come to think of it though, guys, I’m actually limber and happy right now.
10008:14 But I would be lying -- and I believe it is against international law to lie during a TED Talk -- (Laughter)
10108:21 so I’m not going to do that.
10208:23 And as a matter of fact, my insecurities popped back up as late as last year.
10308:28 I was minding my business, as one does, perusing social media, and I saw people excelling in a space where I, you know, traditionally had a lot of success.
10408:39 So I’m looking at it and I’m like, “Well, why the hell they ain’t call me for that job?”
10508:44 And I have this, like, angst, and then I realize they didn’t call me for that job because you already said you didn’t want that job.
10608:51 You told the universe you weren’t into working like that.
10708:54 You don’t want a job -- I really don’t.
10808:56 (Laughter)
10908:57 I’m not into it.
11008:59 So... that’s why it happened.
11109:02 And what I realize is that intellectually I had grown and evolved, but emotionally ...
11209:10 I was Tom Petty and I was living in “Petticoat Junction.”
11309:14 (Laughter)
11409:15 I told y’all that brown doesn’t look good on me; petty looks even worse.
11509:20 It’s not my shade.
11609:23 And so what I wound up having to do was really get a grip.
11709:28 I had to assess a few things about myself, and I decided to do a little self-help ritual called ...
11809:34 “Take a note, give a note.”
11909:36 It’s easy.
12009:37 When you see someone having something that you believe you deserve, you take a note.
12109:41 You ask yourself a few questions.
12209:43 Is it something that you really want?
12309:45 Perhaps that person is better suited than you are for that.
12409:49 Does the universe -- is the universe conspiring for you to have that?
12509:52 Really kind of try and be honest with who you are and where you’re at in life.
12609:57 Once you do that, you take a deep breath -- (Inhales) and you say, “Their wins have nothing to do with my worthiness.”
12710:05 And then you’re ready to give a note.
12810:08 You go on social media, and you say congratulations.
12910:12 Or my personal favorite, you pick up the phone, like it’s the 20th century, and you say, “Congratulations, kudos, you did that, Al!
13010:20 You go, girl!”
13110:21 You do all the things.
13210:22 Instantly you feel like a better human being because you have actually extended grace.
13310:29 You’ve extended grace.
13410:31 You’ve extended grace to someone else.
13510:34 And I believe that when you remove malice from your heart, not only do you feel better, you look better.
13610:40 I think you lose your frown lines and your wrinkles lessen and your age spots disappear.
13710:46 I believe it’s better than Botox, extending grace.
13810:49 I do.
13910:50 (Applause)
14010:53 Yeah.
14110:55 No, but let me get back to the note thing.
14210:57 So one of my favorite notes is from Willie Shakespeare.
14311:03 “To thine own self be true.”
14411:06 Now we’ve all read self-help books, and the first line of defense is always “Be your most authentic self.”
14511:13 And I believe in that.
14611:15 I believe that nobody can be you but you, so you might as well show up and show out.
14711:21 But here’s the quandary that the bard never put forth.
14811:24 What if you don’t really know who you are because you suppressed your inner self?
14911:29 You’ve suppressed the core of you.
15011:31 You’ve suppressed the best parts of you because you took on these other identities and these personas in an effort to make your life better.
15111:39 Because, you know, we all buy into some things about what we’re supposed to be doing and who we’re supposed to be.
15211:45 So what if you squelch that?
15311:47 Because I know I had to excavate to dig up a Little Brown Bevy.
15411:51 But the way I found her was with three questions.
15511:54 Who am I at my core?
15611:55 How am I being perceived?
15711:56 How would I like to be perceived?
15811:58 Who am I at my core?
15911:59 At my core I’m looking to authentically connect with people.
16012:03 I don't like a cursory, you know, interaction, and I do not believe in networking.
16112:08 I like an authentic connection.
16212:11 I’m also curious and I’m adventurous and I’m kind and I’ve got big dreams.
16312:16 How am I being perceived?
16412:18 Well, y’all know the nickname, Bitchy Bevy ...
16512:21 so, duh.
16612:22 But here’s the problem.
16712:24 There’s a lot of power in that persona, and I actually really enjoyed it for a time, you know, because you can make a lot of money being a bitch, especially in fashion.
16812:33 (Laughter)
16912:35 But it’s also incredibly lonely and isolating, and I didn’t want to live that life anymore.
17012:40 And so I decided to change my life.
17112:42 And I left all of that alone.
17212:44 I really did, like, just change my spirit.
17312:47 And leaving fashion obviously helped.
17412:50 And when I did that, all of a sudden, I let Little Brown Bevy out to play.
17512:57 Little Brown Bevy.
17613:00 I love her so much.
17713:01 Little Brown Bevy is a nerdy girl, and so I let my nerdy pursuits come out to play.
17813:07 I must have joined every museum on Museum Mile in New York City.
17913:11 I began to travel the world just to look at architecture I had always dreamed of.
18013:15 I learned how to be alone without being lonely.
18113:18 My spirit shifted.
18213:20 I became a better person.
18313:21 You can ask people -- I became a better person.
18413:25 And now I get to stand here in front of you guys with no bravado, with nothing to prove, I tell you, with nothing to prove.
18513:33 I’m not trying to prove nothing to y’all.
18613:35 (Laughter) (Applause)
18713:37 (Cheers and applause) Thank you.
18813:40 (Applause and cheers)
18913:42 I have an open heart.
19013:45 And I can’t even believe that Little Brown Bevy from 150th Street and Eighth Avenue, from the hamlet of Harlem, is now an award-winning radio and TV host, an author, an actress, a creative consultant.
19114:00 I would do all those things for free.
19214:02 But here’s the thing.
19314:03 I ain’t cheap, and I’m definitely not free, so don't get any ideas.
19414:07 (Laughter) (Applause)
19514:11 But I am here in this “Mama I made it” moment as someone who can show up as her most Bevyest self because I’ve done the work.
19614:21 Yeah, my most Bevyest self.
19714:23 So, you know, I’m going to show up -- some of you’ve met me -- you know I’m vibrant and boisterous, AKA loud.
19814:30 OK, you know that I’m going to show up, and I’ve got a pep in my high heel, red-bottom step.
19914:37 I do have heaving cleavage.
20014:39 (Laughter)
20114:40 And I’ve got a tell-it-like-it-is approach to life that’s always dosed with a ladle of love.
20214:47 It took me 55 years to get here.
20314:50 So, Chris Rock, you’re right.
20414:53 I’m a late bloomer.
20514:54 And that’s OK.
20614:56 Because I’m right on time, Because it gets greater later.
20715:00 Thank you.
20815:01 (Applause and cheers)