By Jade Solomon
Tania Richardson embodies the phrase “Jane of all trades” effortlessly. She’s a Desert Storm army veteran, commercial actress, has owned and operated two businesses, and even starred as a recurring cast member to an audience of 1.5 million weekly viewers on season two of The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
Tania exemplifies independence, empowerment, and authenticity in all that she does. Although she’s achieved undeniable success, she believes that its true definition is ultimately about “the difference you make in people’s lives, and waking up with a smile on your face because of what you do.” With this in mind, Tania launched Hey Lady; “an informative YouTube original, and social media platform” aimed at catering to women over the age of forty; a demographic too often overlooked by brands and advertisers. The objective is to use Tania’s life as inspiration for women who have “a passion for fashion, a love of travel, and an interest in owning or growing a business.”
You were born in Philadelphia, PA and grew up to be a commercial actress, avid traveler and Desert Storm army veteran. Did you always see that path for your life?
No, I didn’t see that. When I was about to graduate high school, my dad said “if you stay here you can go to Temple.” But that was not an option I wanted to take. So he said “pay for it yourself.” I had a friend who joined the army and she asked me what I wanted to do. She told me I’d get the GI bill and get to travel. I always tell people a random phone call, at the right time, led to the right opportunity.
Have you always been so multifaceted?
I was always into the arts, either into dancing, acting and I loved fashion. My godmother was a high fashion model in the 80’s and that’s where the fashion influence came from. Whether it was working retail, or babysitting, I always had multiple jobs.
I’ve always been a rebel. I’ve never been one to follow the pact. Even in high school, I never was the one to join cliques, I always did the opposite and it followed me throughout life.
Your first business endeavor, Beauty Fetish Apothecary and Salon launched in 2005, but due to high overhead costs in the long run was unable to make it. Why did this “failure” not deter you from continuing your ventures as an entrepreneur?
What most would consider a failure, to me was a step up. That business taught me what not to do. Oftentimes when we have a setback, it’s easy to stay in that space. But I had to do introspective work and say to myself â€˜these are the reasons why this didn’t work out.’’ Once I was able to be real with myself, I took what didn’t work and said â€˜once I have an opportunity to do it again, I know what not to do.’ It was always â€˜what could we have done?’ And taking that lesson from the first business and implementing it in the next business.
Hey Lady💋™ is a lifestyle brand with multiple platforms curated for all women forty and over who have a passion for fashion, a love of travel, and are interested in owning or growing their business. You launched this brand after noticing that advertisers cater less to women in the 40-55 age bracket. How did you notice this gap?
I started on Pinterest about 3-4 years ago. I was looking for â€˜fashion over 40’, anything 40 related. I went to YouTube, and searched for â€˜fashion over 40’ but couldn’t find anything. And not anything catered to African American women. There was nothing that I found between the two of those platforms that I could personally identify with. I started pinning on Pinterest and started building an audience. My hair videos, selfies or travel posts would have 2,000 views plus. I noticed that there was an interest there, but I hadn’t quite figured out a way to mesh the three things I was passionate about. Last year when COVID-19 hit, I closed my insurance office and started working from home. It allowed me the time to sit with this idea and brainstorm.
How did you come up with the name Hey Lady and Ladybugs for your audience?
My friends and I, when we call each other on the phone that’s exactly what we say. I was sitting down and called my best friend Simone Ward, and I told her I needed a name. She said â€˜You Know Tania, sometimes these things take years to figure it out.’ I told her, â€˜No, God has placed this on me right now.’ And she said â€˜what about Hey Lady?’
When I think of a lady, I think of style and sophistication. When you see a lady, you recognize a lady. You think of Black Hollywood, women like Phylicia Rashad. And it was really that simple.
One of the major objectives of your brand is to show women that life truly begins at the age of forty. What has been the biggest lesson that you’ve learned about life or learned about yourself since turning forty?
I’ve learned so many. I’ve learned the gift of â€˜no.’ I think as women in general, we are pleasers and oftentimes we don’t know how to say no without feeling guilty for saying no. Throughout my forties, I’ve learned the gift of no. I say no unapologetically. I say it without explanation. I stand firm in my no’s. I no longer feel the need to please everyone. So many of us are people pleasers, we don’t want people to feel ill about us. We feel the more we do for someone the more appreciative they’ll be. It really has opened my eyes to be authentically me and stand firm in my no’s. No is a complete answer. I don’t have to tell you why.
You appeared on season two of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, at the time the show saw 1.5 million weekly viewers. When many people speak about their time on reality TV, we often hear a lot about the negative. What positives did you take away from your time on reality TV? And do you think there’s a certain way people should go about it?
I was cognizant of the product that I was putting out and there were some things that I was unwilling to do. There’s a lot of people who do reality television and are willing to compromise themselves. But at the time my son was in kindergarten, and I was always aware that one day he’s going to see this and I’m never going to do anything that will embarrass him or myself. For me, being on the show was a blessing because it allowed people to get to know me a bit. But the women who reached out to me from the military were the biggest thing to me – they were so happy for people to finally see what women in the military looked like, because of all the stereotypes out there.
Through your platform you encourage your audience to “do what makes them happy and live their authentic lives.” What does happiness mean to you? What does an authentic life mean or look like to you?
Happiness to me is having a good work life balance. I remember the first time I traveled to Europe. I met a young man and he said â€˜Americans live to work. We work to live.’ And I never forgot that. Most people work nine to fives and on the weekends that’s when they decide to run errands, or never decide to vacation.
An authentic life, to me, means being exactly who you are, not trying to fit into whatever society’s standards of beauty, or whatever they deem proper. Everyone tells you what you should do. But rarely do people do what they want to do. Being authentic to me is being who you are unapologetically.
You host an Instagram Live series called “Wine Down Wednesday,” where you casually speak to your audience about various subjects like career and business. How does it feel to talk directly to your audience and know that your platform has had the impact, or even bigger impact, than you intended it to?
Most of the guests I’ve been personally affiliated with, be it a friend or friend of a friend. All know what I’m doing and have been inspired by what I’m doing. But as of late we’ve been reaching out to more people. Once they hear the stories and read the website, it’s amazing how many people are saying yes to us. I have new women coming on that I’ve never met, scheduled until the end of May. And to me that’s everything, because what it says to me is: whatever social media presence I have, it’s resonating with people. To get a complete stranger to come on and do 30 minutes is a testament to what I knew was missing and also that I’m onto something… Onto a movement that’s bigger than me.
Being that your platform focuses on three main sectors: fashion, travel and business. I want to ask you a major advice question to cover each realm. In fashion, what is your biggest advice for a lady having trouble finding her style? Not the styles or trends popular on social media but her own style.
Whenever somebody asks me to help dress them, I always ask who’s their style icon; we all have people who we love the way they dress. I love Jennifer Lopez. I’ll see something she has on and ask my seamstress to make it. So that’s where I start. It doesn’t mean you have to look like them but it gives an idea of what you like. That’s someone you can see yourself in. And then we can pull from that to create your own look. You don’t have to recreate the wheel, but some people put rims on it.
Another piece of advice is, go to Pinterest. Type in anything, and all of it is there.
In travel, what is your biggest advice to a woman out there who says she’s scared to travel, may not have anyone to travel with, or confines herself to taking care of her family so much that she doesn’t see any time to travel?
You have to make it a priority. Just like anything else in your life. As women we were taught that we’re supposed to take care of everyone except ourselves. Men take care of themselves, they go play golf or basketball to honor themselves. But for whatever reason, women feel like it’s selfish to do that. I always say to people, â€˜when you’re on an airplane and the pilot says there’s a mask drop, you’re supposed to secure yourself before you help somebody else.’
Even when it comes to solo travel, there’s so many groups you can travel with that you don’t have to be by yourself, like Black Travel Movement. It’s the fear that stops a lot of people from going but there’s so many tools out there. There’s so many clubs and if you really want to do it, there’s information out there to help you do it… I think most people don’t have the information, they don’t know where to start and because they don’t know where to start that’s where the fear comes.
What is your biggest piece of advice to a woman out there, who wants to launch her own business but is scared that she may fail or feel that it is “too late” for her?
If she’s already talking about failing then she’s already failed. It’s a mindset, so what if you do, what’s the worst that can happen? Would you rather go through life living with regret or would you rather say â€˜I tried it’? The best advice given to me was, â€˜Tania, learn to get out of your own way.’ There’s resources out there, don’t recreate the wheel. Most people are not willing to reach out to someone else for help. They feel they need to know all the answers today, I’m still figuring stuff out.
Your business will evolve and grow, you just have to be open to it. Once you put it out in the universe and you put some action behind it, the universe will open up and put you at the right time, right place, with the right people. And that’s what separates the people who do it and those who don’t, it’s not that they are better. It’s just that they were willing to take the leap of faith.
What do you want people to remember about Tania Richardson and Hey Lady?
It’s really a platform to inspire, empower and motivate women, particularly over 40. I am such a champion for women and I want to see women not just live but thrive.