EAP Episode 6: India Rias Thompson – Inclusivity, Influence, and Passion Projects
The Early Accountability Podcast is hosted by Kimi Walker and is a resource for people in the early stages of organizing or executing personal goals. Our guest on this episode is India Rias Thompson, communications coordinator at the Purdue University Extension, lifestyle blogger, podcast host, and Regional Director of Black Bloggers United – Indianapolis.
India graduated from IUPUI with a degree in Arts and Communication Studies (Broadcasting) and she has used this background to become the social influencer and digital communications resource that she is today. India’s passion about the importance of inclusion originates from her own life experiences of being a black gay woman, making her a target for discrimination in all areas of her life, and her desire to combat this discrimination is evidenced by her confident digital presence.
India’s advice to people looking to pursue their own “passion project” is to become your own hero and be unapologetic about your passion. There might not be anyone else out there doing what you want to do, but don’t be afraid to speak up and devote your time to promoting your message. India and her wife have been surprised by the response that they have received from their followers, which energizes them to continue their “Dude. We’re Married” lifestyle blog.
Topics Covered in this Podcast:
- An introduction to India and overview of her background.
- A discussion about her “passion projects” and how she knew she wanted to start a blog.
- India’s experience with discrimination and how that led to her passion for inclusion.
- How she got a sponsor to provide the venue and catering for the successful event that India planned for Black Bloggers United.
- Practical tips on how to operate a personal blog and social media with batch processing.
- India’s life mantra from “Eat, Pray, Love.” (including a “flawless” Italian pronunciation).
Feel free to connect with India on any of her social media platforms if you want some advice about social media, copywriting, photography, securing sponsorships, or startups.
India Rias-Thompson is a Communication Coordinator in Indianapolis where she also serves as the Regional Director for Black Bloggers United Inc. You may also know her as Haighlove from Dude. We’re Married! an LGBT Lifestyle blog started in 2016 with her Wife Trice. In her spare time India can be found recording for Single, Gay and Married a podcast she co-hosts with J.Nicole and Danyella. India is a Community Contributor for Buzzfeed and an avid Yelper in the Indianapolis community. If you’d like to reach out for partnerships, collaboration or communication projects please contact her via the platforms listed below.
‘Are we going to have to be the people that we were looking for?’ #Inclusivity #Diversity
I’m going to be more distinct and clear in my goals for this event. #SecureTheSponsorship #EventPlanning
India secured an event sponsorship from Punch Bowl Social for Black Bloggers United, Indianapolis.
Kimi: Kimi Walker here and welcome to the next episode of the Early Accountability Podcast. Happy to be with you again this evening. Today, my guest is India. India is a communications coordinator.
Hi, India. Thank you for being here today.
India: Hi, Kimi. No problem. It’s such a pleasure being invited to your podcast.
Kimi: So, like I was saying, India you’re very multifaceted so we’re very lucky to have you and the multitude of specialties that you have onboard. On Early Accountability, our guests are really sharing nuggets of experience from their personal life and professional experience to help individuals in the beginning stages of organizing or executing goals that they may have for themselves.
So why don’t you start just by introducing yourself. A little background of who you are, the different projects and things that you work on now just so people can get a better feel for what you have to offer.
India: Okay. Where do I start? I am a graduate of IUPI. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Communication Studies with a certificate in broadcasting, so that’s my educational background and kind of where I’ve got the passion to do all of these other passion projects that I do for free because I just feel that. I love doing it and you don’t always have to get paid to do the things that you love.
I am a communications coordinator for Purdue extension which is an affiliate of Purdue University. I do their press releases, any of their marketing and promotional items brochures, fliers and things of that nature that is all for me as well as the social media management aspect that’s also me.
I started my own lifestyle blog with my wife; it’s called Dude, We’re Married. That kind of came about because I wanted to show the world that same-sex couple is just as normal as a heterosexual couple. We aren’t hypersexualized, we don’t do anything that’s super awesome and supercool, we’re not traveling the world in bikinis 24/7, 365, we’re at the grocery store in sweats and flippers and we’re not always perfect-looking. So that’s how Dude, we’re Married came about and from that I’ve had the privilege of working with Black Bloggers United and we started a chapter here in Indianapolis about two years ago. I’m coming in on my second term as regional director.
If you haven’t heard about Black Bloggers United, it is a community of bloggers of people of color who come together and they share their experiences and they help curate different pieces. It’s so much talent to be had in the African-American community that when we get together it’s nothing but greatness in my opinion.
I’m also working on a podcast that just started. We just finished recording episode 3. Actually, it’s called Single, Gay, and Married the podcast. Each descriptor has a podcast member behind it. So single is my good friend Daniella, Gay is obviously me, and then married is my older sister Jay Nicole or Jessica to me because she’s my older sister. But we get together on Sunday nights and we talk about our week and what happened and talk about hot topics. We actually had a reader comment and write in to us this past weekend. She really wanted our insight on a topic that she’d been going through. That was the first time that ever happened so that was really exciting because we just really want to create a space where the everyday black woman could just get together and bring everything to the table. Whether we’re celebrating each other about accomplishments, Black Panther coming to theaters and things like that or if it was calling a spade a spade and getting the real out of a situation.
So all of these projects have really been great to me over the past 2 ½, 3 years. So that is me and all of my mini projects in a nutshell.
Kimi: Oh, that’s big. You have some great things and you definitely are a social influencer especially the dialogue you’re having or the space you’re creating for individuals who are not only in the LGBT community but who may also be advocates. I believe you create a space and platform where people can also be supporters and just get a greater understanding. So I feel like there’s a lot of education too with what you do?
India: Yeah, absolutely. We’re blogging, just like you said, helping people understand the perspective that you’re still human beings and things of that nature.
Kimi: When it comes down to it, what kind of causes do you think you’re most passionate about?
India: I would definitely say inclusion is something that is very near and dear to my heart because out of every single thing you could be discriminated against, I am. I am an African-American woman, I’m a woman, period, and I’m also LGBT. So it’s like everything that could go ‘wrong’ did go wrong in me.
When I think of people not accepting others for who they are or not helping to open doors and make people more inclusive for everyone, it really just grinds my gears when it’s so easy to be a kind human being. It’s like you don’t have to go out of your way to be mean and/or spiteful or put someone down. So inclusivity is something that I fight for everyday and it’s not something that I’m necessarily an expert at or I do it very well. Because sometimes I have moments where I say, ‘’I probably should have stood up for myself or I should have said a little bit more in the moment.’’ But it happens on different levels with different situations. I think that would be the top.
Kimi: The big.
India: Yeah, the big one [laugh].
Kimi: What advice would you give to someone—so how you started Dude, We’re Married, let’s say someone else belongs to a lot of different groups that might not be part of a status quo or mainstream, what advice would you give for someone who has more of a unique passion project they want to start or execute? And what kind of made you say, ‘’We’re going to do Dude, We’re Getting Married, we’re going to get this blog up and going.’’? Kind of talk for that.
India: We first didn’t want to start a blog necessarily, we just wanted to find people online who were maybe a little more in the game that we were, had been married longer, had different trials and tribulations that had online presence that we could go to look for not necessarily guidance but, ‘hey, this couple is going through this, too, it’s normal.’ Soft advice maybe through story telling instead of ‘5 ways to do this and 10 ways to do that’. More of, ‘’So today, this happened to me and this is how me and my wife navigated It.’’ and we could not find it.
We couldn’t find not one single blog that was about two African-American queer women being married. Not one. And I said, ‘’Oh, my gosh,’’ I looked at my wife and I said, ‘’Are we going to have to be the people that we were looking for? Are we ready for that?’’ And we just started making graphics and making logos and I began to create content and think about how we could say, what we should say, where we should publish, and it was a rolling snow bowl from there. So it’s kind of like becoming your own hero almost because I’ve always wanted to see a black couple, two women, thriving and looking like they’re enjoying life and they’re unapologetic about it. We’re not sorry we’re in love, we’re not sorry for holding our hands in front of you, just here it is and that’s it.
So once it began to grow and we got all these subscribers, we’re making all of these impressions and our reach was so great, I was like, ‘’Oh my gosh, I think we’re becoming like a little bit of a big deal. It’s almost like being a bigger fish in a small pond.’’
Kimi: A little bit of a big deal [laugh].
India: And claimed it. It happened literally overnight because I want to say we launched in December of 2016 but we had started in September. So by the summer time in 2017 people would come up to us and say, ‘’Hey, you’re Dude, We’re Married.’’ And we would be like, ‘’Oh my gosh, we are Dude We’re Married. Hi, how are you?’’
So now we’re super juiced and we’re energized and I think that’s one of the main things that kind of keeps me going because it is being hard staying motivated and inspired. Content just doesn’t always come to you but when you get messages like that and interactions like that it just recharges your batteries and makes you realize this I why I was doing it, so that younger women who think they may be curious or they know for sure that they want to be with another woman know that they’re other people out there doing it. It’s not a big deal, and it’s okay, and it’s awesome, and it’s healthy, it’s not toxic, it’s not jealous, it’s not any of those thing. It’s like one big flip over with your best friend.
Kimi: I think that’s good. You all had a lot of momentum going. How much time were you all putting in your project, your blog, the social media? Were you putting a certain amount of time daily, were you putting a certain amount of time weekly? How did you keep that ball rolling?
India: It was definitely a daily thing with social media but a way that I kind of curtailed that exhaustive experience – because the first two months were exactly that. I was always posting in the now instead of batch processing which I didn’t learn until maybe 6 months into Dude, We’re Married. And batch processing is simply sitting down and knocking out. Batch processing for me is sitting down on a Tuesday night and knocking out 4 posts. Scheduling out those 4 posts in our square space knowing that they’re going to post out a Thursday for the next four weeks. Then on Thursday night, I’m sitting for another 2-3 hours and I’m just making graphics. Because the first time we made graphics they were coming out starting that next day. So we were up all night making graphics. I want to say we only made 31 of them.
So after that experience we were like, ‘’We’ve got to get a better way to process this and get a set schedule.’’ And I’m all about organization. So we started to batch process on Thursday nights for the graphics. If we needed a different landing page for something, if we needed a different logo, all of that was done on Thursday nights. All of the content writing for the blog posts were done on Tuesday nights. It was a set schedule because it’s easier.
Kimi: Absolutely. So you all created a schedule of when you create, when you did content, when you did marketing. You put some focus in what you were doing. Because I know it’s very easy, especially with blogging, to kind of get, ‘’Ok, I need to go do this.’’ And you see this part that needs to be fixed and you want to try to do that and then you kind of get sidetracked. Although you’re doing stuff, you’re getting in that hamster running on a wheel type of thing.
India: And it will exhaust you.
Kimi: Absolutely. Do you also stick with that to this day? Certain days?
India: Certain days. I want to say all of my other projects have kind of pushed past Dude, We’re Married and so I’m now thinking of different ways to revamp it. Thinking I want more videos because that’s less time. I can edit a lot faster a video than I can words. So now we’re just revamping and reimagining how Dude, We’re Married can function on a way that is not so much time spent but still–
Kimi: And video is everything right now.
Kimi: Oh, yes. Video is huge right now as far as engagement.
India: And they want to see how you all interact. That’s some feedback that we got. Because I love asking our followers like, ‘’What do you want to see? Do you want to see us do pranks on each other? Do you want to see what our date nights look like?’’ They wanted to see more of the date nights and not my pranks because I don’t think they think I’m funny and I think I’m hilarious, Kimi. I crack myself up.
Kimi: Yes, mostly. Just knowing you and your wife, I think y’all both are funny and I do think y’all have a great dynamic with each other. And I’ve always enjoyed being around you and Trice and just backdrop. I know you all from Black Bloggers United and what you’ve done is really great and I think it’s so nice to see how self-supportive Trice is of you–
India: She’s so supportive.
Kimi: Yeah, she’s so supportive. But the event I met you at– What was it called? Was it BAE?
India: Yes, BAE. Blogging Aint Easy. So we were just talking about how not easy blogging is. It’s exhaustive.
Kimi: Why don’t you tell us about that event because I think that was phenomenal? I’ve been to a lot of blogging conferences and a lot of blogging events but that literally is truly – and I’m not just saying that because I’m talking to you right now – it really was one of the best ones I’ve been to. It was so well organized, it was so well executed, I made a lot of connections, and it felt very organic and just fun. So I wanted you to talk about that event, how you had the idea to do it, talk a little bit about the sponsorships and things you were able to get for that event to host it.
India: Okay, yes. Blogging Ain’t Easy was my first event as a regional director and planning that event was not easy. It was so touch and go for a really long time but I had the idea to kind of do a networking event that was not so serious. Because a lot of the times I think bloggers, content creators, creatives, whatever title they want to give themselves and their work, I think a lot of the time they feel they have to come and dress the best and have everything that they’re going to say planned out because they want to be polished and the image that they want to give to the world needs to be put together. Which to each his own, but I wanted to create an event and a space where you can just come and there’s drinks provided. You can just kick back and you can just talk about how hard it is to be so Instagram ready all the time, to be so perfectly eloquent all the time in your blog post, and to be around people who get it.
You’re talking to another blogger. Oh yes, I know batch processing is a life saver, but I hate sitting at my computer for 8 hours on a Monday writing out 5 blog posts. That’s a real thing but I feel as bloggers we get kind of touchy feely about saying that to non-bloggers. You don’t want to tell someone that you may want a sponsorship from or you may want to do a partnership with that you hate doing batch processing on Monday nights; you wish you can just drink wine and watch your favorite shows, but you can say that to a fellow blogger. So that’s where that event idea came from.
And she’s not necessarily my boss but the founder of BBU, she loved it. She said, ‘’okay, India. I know you can make it happen so run with it.’’ I said, ‘’I’m going to contact Punch Bowl Social.’’ She said, ‘’Oh, girl, you’re shooting for the stars.’’ I said, ‘’Yeah, I know. But they’re going to give me the event, they’re going to give me the food, they’re going to give me the drinks, they’re just going to give it to me for free. I’ll sell them this event.’’ And she said, ‘’Okay, if anybody has a way with words, India, it’s you.’’
And so I reached out and they were not necessarily standoffish but they were slower to respond. So I got a little nervous and I said, ‘’Okay, I’m going to be more distinct and clear in my goals for this event and what I can bring to Punch bowl Social. Instead of coming of as can I have your venue for free, and can you provide drinks and food, too, for about 50 people and games? Okay, thanks.’’ Instead, I thought let’s turn self-interest into mutual interest. I brought it to them in a way that, in my honest opinion, was absolutely true. Black Bloggers United has over 500,000 members. So we’ve got a very strong community, we are diverse community, so you’re reaching a different audience if you partner with us and sponsor this event. We also have over 2 million monthly unique visitors to our web pages and all of our social Medias combined, at least 50 million people are going to see that these black bloggers are having a great time at Punch Bowl Social.
And at the time, they were opening up 2 other Punch Bowl Social occasions where we had BBU chapters. So I went down that route. I said if this one goes great you can contact this regional director in city and state and this one and that one. I felt like I spread the wealth and I told them that, ‘’this not only benefits me but this benefits you as well because you’ll be reaching a different demographic. Your target market can be expanded because now all of these people know that they can come here and have a great time, have great drinks, have great food, and it’s a nice inclusive atmosphere.’’
Kimi: And it was wonderful.
India: Yes, and everything that I said that I wanted and I bolded it in the email too. I was so bold as to bold what I wanted.
Kimi: And they said, ‘’Okay, you’ve got it all.’’
India: Yes, got it all. But I do think that it was due to my research because I looked at their website at least 20 times a day in crafting my email. So my language in my email some of it was verbatim from their website. They had something on there about handcrafted cocktails and mixologists who are here to give you a different experience. It was very specific language that I put in the emails so it’s aligning theirs. It was a really, really great partnership.
Kimi: So it sounds like [inaudible 20:34] and I’m going to make sure we have pictures in this post because I don’t even know that words alone can do it justice because it was just a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful event.
What I got from it is you definitely have the art of perfecting the pitch and securing a sponsorship?
India: Yes [laugh].
Kimi: So if someone wanted to contact you for services – I know those are two things I caught that you’re able to do. I know there’s probably a multitude of other things. Like you said you are in communications and you deal a lot with social media in your job. – What kind of freelance services do you offer and how would someone go about getting in contact with you to secure your services? Because I know your work and I could attest firsthand that you are very, very talented in what you do.
India: Thank you. I would definitely say services that I can provide are social media services. I know how to move an image if that makes any sense. Getting it to the right audience, promoting it the right way, I’m fluent in almost every social media app that’s out there. Words are also important to me so if you’re needed help crafting anything from a resume to a cover letter to your ‘about me’ section on a blog that you’re launching, I’m your go to girl.
I’m also very talented with photography. I take a lot of myself and my wife’s pictures for our blog. And if I do have a photographer that is external that takes them, I know how to get it for free because I can word it in a way that they’re sponsored for something that is a much, much bigger picture which they always love. Photographers are always trying to get their name out there.
But I do think my biggest service is probably connecting people. if you’re needing to find a photographer, if you’re needing to find a makeup artist, if you’re needing to find someone for your podcast I probably know a person that can get you in touch with someone who can take you to the level that you want to be at.
I can be contacted via any social media that you can find me through India the projects I talked about. So Dude, we’re Married for Facebook or Instagram, there’s also a website, Dudeweremarried.com, the SGM podcast is also on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and Black Bloggers United is also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I have a specific one for our chapter, it’s @bbuIndianapolis.
There are a multitude of different channels where you can get in touch with me if you have any questions or if you just want to chit chat about a project that you’re trying to start. I have time.
Kimi: You sound you would do really well, too. Like you said with the startups, people who are starting to try to want to get their passion project up or want to host like this [inaudible 23:45]. You did a really good job. I can’t say this enough.
So what would you say, India, is your personal mantra that you live by? Your quote or saying, what is it that motivates you or keeps you going on the day?
India: I would definitely say a saying that I just recently heard of. I’ve never seen Eat, Pray, Love and apparently it came out like 5 years ago or something. But it’s my wife’s favorite movie and she finally got me to sit down and watch it completely through and there are little Italian phrases throughout that movie that just spoke to me. I’m really bad at Italian but I’m going to try it because I think that your listeners absolutely deserve to hear me mess up this Italian, okay. Here we go. So it’s La gioia di non fare nulla, and that means the joy of doing nothing. I do so many things all the time that I used to feel that if I wasn’t researching something or learning something new or reading a book or engaging with my followers, that I was wasting my time. And my wife felt the same way.
She would always say, ‘’oh, we’re lying down in bed just not doing anything but watching TV.’’ And after we both watched that movie together we appreciate those little moments. We’re like, ‘’Let’s just sit here and look at how the sun looks on the world and look at the moon and not just do anything be perfectly okay with it.’’ because I feel like sometimes you get caught up in the motion of pushing your dreams and going where it takes you that you never get to just stop and take a breath and look around like, ’I’ve accomplished so much and I have so much left to do.’’ But you can’t do that if you don’t recharge those batteries.
Kimi: Absolutely. [25:44]
India: Yes. So I’m all about doing nothing whenever I can. I’m capitalizing on it, Kimi, and I’m not doing anything.
Kimi: We’ve got to recharge, we’ve got to refuel.
India: Yes. Full bed in another room. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m relaxing. I have my wine, my popcorn. I love it. That’s perfect.
Kimi: Well, India, thank you so much for your time because I know your time is precious. So thank you for your busy, busy moments of gracing us with your presence on this podcast. I know it’s been of great help to me. I’ve enjoyed watching all that you’ve done, working with you and I know that everything you gave will be so helpful to the listeners. So thank you again and I hope to have you as a guest again some other time because I know you have so many gems you can give.
India: Yes. Invite me back I’ll come. I always have time for you, Kimi.
Kimi: Thank you. So Dudeweremarried.com?
India: Yeah, Dudeweremarried.com primary contact form where you can reach me almost immediately.
Kimi: Yaay. Thank you again. Until next time.
India: All right and goodnight.