I’m a diva because I know the value of my labor
As my mama once told me: I’m not conceited, I’m convinced.
by Briana Lawrence
I’m a certified geek. Anyone who knows me knows that this is a stone cold fact. I’m a geek with a dream of having her work heralded throughout the geek community. Actually, no, not just there. I want my voice to echo throughout society as a whole. I have a clear memory of turning to my partner many years ago and telling her that, someday, I’d have folks eager to meet me. They’d come to my table at the conventions we go to, excited to get the next book I’d released, and they’d be wearing merchandise based on my characters.
As my mama always said, speak it into the universe and it’ll come true, so I started saying it more often to the people in my circle.
Throughout the misadventures of my fat, Black, queer self, I got a piece of advice when it came to my lofty dream of becoming a somebody: Don’t be a diva. This was, of course, followed up with a story of a particular “diva” and how awful she’d been as a guest at some event. I kept this story—and the advice it came with—in the back of my mind, and I’ve had it lingering there for years. I even agreed with it at the time.
Until I started getting invited to events.
Today, going to conventions is part of my job as a freelance writer, self-published author, and cosplayer. It’s exactly what I strived for all those years ago, and I’m constantly working to get my creations out there. And that idea of not being a diva? I left it in the past because I quickly learned that I absolutely have to be a diva.
The first time a convention reached out to me was 2015, and let me tell you, I was riding high the entire time I read that email. But in that email were questions that I hadn’t been prepared to answer:
“What are your requirements for making a guest appearance?”
“Are you able to do X amount of panels over the weekend?”
“What are your panels about?”
“Can you write a bio for our website? Please add a list of your accomplishments with it.”
Admittedly, I had experience with the bio because I’m an author, so writing bios comes with the territory—and yes, any author will tell you that they are hard as hell to write because you’re basically advertising yourself.
Or… being a diva.
I’m aware of the negative images that spring up with the word diva: someone who wants their water at a certain temperature, someone who expects you to get them a bag of pink Starbursts because they taste the best—don’t @ me, you know that’s the best kind of Starburst. But I’m not talking about that ridiculous rockstar image where someone’s wrecking hotel property and trying to get waiters fired because they brought them three breadsticks instead of four. What I mean is exuding self-confidence and knowing that you are, most definitely, worth the price of admission.
As my mama once told me: I’m not conceited, I’m convinced.
This is advice I’ll be keeping with me for the rest of my life, but it especially rings true in my line of work because self-promotion is vital. No one’s gonna know who I am as a creative if I don’t open my mouth and talk. On the pie chart of my writing career, being a diva makes up a healthy chunk of it. In order to get my work noticed, make sales, and book gigs, you gotta talk the talk so folks give you the chance to walk that walk.
I have to keep an updated portfolio that shows my work, and more importantly, I have to make myself visible so I can be seen by potential employers—whether it’s just a one time job or several peppered throughout my schedule. Basically, folks wanna know why they should be invested in me. Furthermore, if they say “yes,” they expect me to advertise the fact that I’m working with them.
It’s not bragging if I say I’m a guest at a convention. It’s required. They’ve put me on their website. I’m part of the attraction. I have to build anticipation before the show and keep folks in the know when I get there.
It’s not bragging if I share an article I wrote. It’s expected. My name’s on it. The place I wrote for is gonna share it, anyway. So, I’m gonna use it as a reference when other places ask for writing samples.
Beyond divahood being the core of freelance job survival, I find that it’s also great for self-care—emotionally and financially. It’s the reassurance I need on those days where I feel like I’m not getting anything done. During those times when a pitch gets rejected or the writer’s block is showing the hell out? Having something to remind me that I’ve been out here doing work is crucial.
Now when it comes to the financial side of things? It’s an all-important reminder that it is, without a shadow of a doubt, acceptable to expect to be paid for my time. This is the kind of career where folks like to try to convince you that you should be doing it for the exposure, but all those convention appearances? Those articles I’ve written and the books I’ve released? These are all things for which I have been compensated for my work. So, no, I can’t—and won’t—work for nothing. Divas don’t work for free because they know they’re worth more than that.
Being in this industry is the equivalent of hitting the “refresh” button on your resume over and over again as you prove your worth to a live studio audience. It’s staying engaged with the community, whether it’s sharing your work or being an active face on social media. It’s letting folks know that yes, I’m qualified. Yes, I have these accolades. Yes, I’m worth your time, so you should consider investing in me.
Because yes, I am a diva.
Briana Lawrence is a freelance writer and self-published author who’s trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series’, or the pieces she writes for various websites. When she’s not writing about diversity, she’s speaking about it at different geek-centric conventions across the country, as she’s a black, queer, nerd girl at heart. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of comics, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to JRPGs. Check out her website, her Facebook, and follow her Twitter adventures over @BrichibiTweets!