Women Behind The Brand: Pasha Cook
A sponsored post in partnership with Uber. All opinions are my own.
When it comes to empowering women, a mission so dear to my hear, I'm here for it. Thus, it only made sense to take part of Uber's initiative to promote equality and empower more women in all career paths - a collaboration I'm very proud of. Their Women Behind the Music Stories gave me the boost needed to continue sharing the stories of exceptional and inspirational women, like Pasha Cook.
Hailing from the city of Houston in Texas, Pasha's southern hospitality radiated in her welcome. On a moody Monday afternoon, we met inside of the recently closed Brown Butter Café located in BedStuy. As the baristas were breaking down, and the owner making her return to the tiny, soulful shop, Pasha unlocked the doors and let me in.
"I didn't realized they closed early today, but we're good. This is one of my clients' establishments, we can hang out and chat here or there's a patio in the back that we're in the process of fixing." Pasha uttered these words as she greeted me with an embrace and a smile. She introduced me to the owner and we settled on the patio.
I set up the camera and started snapping as we chatted about goals. I began wondering "who is Pasha Cook?"
A former basketball player, Pasha sustained a career-ending injury that changed the course of her life. Her dream of being in the WNBA, which led her to return to High School at the age of 24, had been shattered. Having had a tumultuous home life, Pasha described how basketball was the one consistent part of her life - the only thing she had control over. It helped her escape from the world she didn't fit in, where girls were sidelined and guys were angry at her assertiveness and her skills. She hoped to use the sport to forge a path for her education and create a better life, ultimately entering the WNBA.
Pasha faced many adversities on her journey to reach her goal. Although her alumna status from The University of Memphis led her to the league, she tore her ACL (her fourth injury), and therefore concluded that she'd lost her chance. Subsequently, she tried different avenues that led her to move to New York as an intern and celebrity stylist. She eventually made her return to the WNBA, on a different stage, as a speaker teaching athletes how to utilize their transferrable skills on the court and apply them into their personal and professional lives.
Resilience, hustle, and instincts of survival guided Pasha to use what she had learned in sports, and her journey of self discovery into a career that fulfilled her dream. Thus, her route to entrepreneurship commenced.
Pasha has recently made history by becoming the first African-American, female speaking ambassador for the NFL. She successfully founded an independent image and branding consulting agency, Pasha Cook & Associates. She is a highly sough-after public speaker, and a two-time author. While sitting on a painted wooden bench, we talked about her most recent book, Brand Yourself Like A Champion: Cultivating Brand Excellence From The Inside Out, and the importance of empowering women.
What do you want your audience to know about your book “Brand Yourself like A Champion”?
It derives from truth. Along my journey, I had to find myself because as an adult, I still didn't fit in. Though my aesthetic was perceived as being androgynous, I’ve never connected to labels. So, I felt this pressure: who do I need to be to become what God created me to be? I took notes from what everyone else said, but applying only what was meant for me to apply and leaving the rest on the table - that took a long time to get there. While working on my first book, Champs U, which was dedicated to athletes to help them transfer their skills on the court into their actual lives, I realized I was branding myself this whole time.
The question was: How do I show people how to get where I’ve been able to?
With Brand Yourself Like A Champion, I wanted to speak to a larger audience. I want people to understand that branding, personal branding is about you and your truth. How do you peel back the layers and expose your truth to the world? That's what I want to help people to do by doing self-evaluation and assessment - living outside of the box and in the space of who you are. The world has taught us this traditional way of success, but you know that you define success how you want and make it happen. Let's kick the tradition out the door, let's figure out who we are and make it work for us. That's what Brand Yourself is about, doing that inner work and being excellent in who you are.
Tell us about how you conceptualized the book and walk us through your creative process.
A lot of what I do is meditation, a lot of spiritual work. I ask questions and I let it come to me, and that was hard because it was the opposite of what I was doing in terms of hustling and being resilient all of these years to become something that I didn't see around me. To step back and say "ask and it shall be given, seek and you shall find, knock on the door and it shall be open", and then letting that answer questions and bring people into my life was difficult.
I started thinking who do I want to talk to? I had moved away from fashion in Champs U, and I wanted to re-embrace that part of myself . I didn't need to be a stylist or a guru to be in fashion. I could just say this is what I learned about myself through this experience, I learned what my aesthetic is and how it works for me. I started taking all of these lessons and my experiences and ingraining them in this book. My goal was to take all of this complex information and simplify it for anyone who picked up the book; I wanted people to become self-efficient.
How important is it to you to help women build?
Very. Women have been taught to be submissive, quiet, and supportive of others. Doing all of this external work for other people - husband, children, family. Now, women are leading the game!
Any person who’s been repressed, when you have to struggle to get to the top, the people that are already sitting there don’t have the tools that you have. That being said, women have struggled with their identity for a long time because we’ve been taught to. We've been conditioned to believe that this the box that we fit into as women - be feminine, be quiet. What if your personality isn’t that? You have to go and figure out who you are. And women have found their power, and I want to empower them even more.
We’re leading the game because we had to struggle our way up, so we have these tools that once we know everything comes from within, there’s no limit - not even the sky. It’s important that women have to be a part of the equation, they have to be a part of the fabric, or the fabric is weakened.
What’s your advice to women who want to take a leap of faith into entrepreneurship?
Know thyself - that's my mantra. Start doing some inner work, get quiet, journal, write down your ideas, your vision, something bigger than you can even imagine. Write it down because when we keep things locked in our heads, it’s hard for them to manifest. Once you write down your vision for yourself and let it flow, it may scare you and it needs to because that means that desire is in you.
No desire is placed there to hinder or punish you, it’s there because you can make it come to pass. It’s a matter of figuring out how to make it happen, and it's up to you. So, seek and you shall find. Seek what is your greatness and connect to your passion and your love. We see people building businesses everyday that would be considered untraditional, therefore don’t worry about what society says.
Always have a plan, but understand that you should be flexible on how you accomplish it because the universe will bring people and opportunities in your life that you never saw coming, it's your responsibility to just always be prepared.
Be prepared. Put it out there. And just go. It’s going to meet you.