Raised first in the suburbs of Stockton, California, and then in the bad side of town after her father abandoned the family, Rebekah Lynn Pierce saw her two younger brothers fall prey to gangs, drugs and prison. Yet, inspired by her mom (who only had a high school education) and two teachers who were her mentors, she graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a BA in English and a few years later obtained her Master’s Degree and became a teacher herself. Along the way, this courageous woman also served for six years in the United States Air Force – 4 in active duty and 2 as a reserve. Her determination to follow her passion for teaching and then for helping women find their own dreams is a powerful inspiration for all of us.
You’ve had several careers in one lifetime something that is not easy to manage. What motivated the changes and how did you manage to break through each different industry?
I have had several different careers over the years, but none of them have caused me to stray from my purpose. From teaching to magazine publishing to playwriting, each has been a building block to solidifying the foundation of who I am and what I am here to do, which is to serve. I like to think of these careers as individual gift boxes all fitting into one another inside of one big gift box; that big gift box is education.
For example, I had always wanted to be a teacher because I love Literature and writing, and I wanted to bring the power of storytelling and relevance of a work to the present: to show how some things have and have not changed, and how this affects our lives today. Well, that philosophical approach lead to publishing Average Girl Magazine when my cousin, Damita Oglesby, was violently attacked-s tabbed in the head with a screwdriver – by the father of the child she was carrying and lived in a coma from January 2003 – May 2003 until they were able to deliver her last child via a c-section.
I had to do something to honor not just her story, but the countless stories of other women who had lost their lives to domestic violence. I felt compelled to give a voice to the voiceless, and so the day I came home from her funeral, I sat down and created a publication whose mission was to empower and inform/educate everyday woman to be extraordinary in her own right. And I was going to do that by focusing on the four core issues of a woman’s life: career/business, health & wellness, finances and family/relationships.
This naturally, for me, gravitated towards activism in theatre because I met so many women during my travels with Average Girl Magazine whose stories needed to be told. So, while in graduate school, I had taken a class on drama, and there, I had written my first play, which dealt with the mental illness of a woman named Charlotte. I produced it and was able to put it on the stage. And the response I received from women in the audience was profound. No one was telling our stories in this way – the stories of real women with real life issues living an all too real life. And I’ve been writing ever since.
There are a lot of women in the careers you’ve chosen. Do you feel there are certain areas where women are not getting through?
Breaking into publishing was very difficult. There were no women publishers I could reach out to for information in my area. All of the male publishers told me I’d either never make it or refused to even sit down and speak with me. I walked away from one meeting with a publisher completely devastated after he said my idea for Average Girl would never sell. He said, “No one will ever buy this.” With regards to playwriting, I am still trying to break into that world, and once again it seems like I cannot access the persons responsible for bringing in new shows in my town because I don’t have a big name behind me or, sadly, I am not in the right “click.” There are absolutely days when I want to quit. But I refuse to give up. I just encourage other women who want to write and produce plays to 1) continue to pound the pavement by submitting your work to different festivals and such, but 2) produce your own work. Rent a theatre space, hire a cast/director and go for it.
What do you find the most satisfying part of your current work?
The most satisfying part of being a storyteller is that I am given stories to tell that others are too afraid to touch because it’s controversial. I have never been afraid of a challenge and have never taken the road well worn. There’s something in me that bucks against tradition and following blindly. So, when I tell a story and an audience reacts with tears, laughter or shock at a subject matter that is too often pushed under the carpet like mental illness, marital rape, poverty, then I’ve done my job as a writer.
What advice do you have for other women who have unusual (or challenging) career goals?
My advice is to find someone who is either willing to mentor them or at least give them 10 minutes of their time. Each one, teach one. If they cannot find someone, then start researching. When no one would tell me how to publish a magazine, literally how to put one together, I went on the hunt for the information. Average Girl started off as a two page newsletter, then a 35 page Word documented booklet with clipart images and finally, after about a year, I found a graphic designer and a printer to work with my horrific budget of $0. I sold the ads myself – and sales is so not my strong suit – for most of the life of the business. In short, never give up. Where there is a will, you will find a way.
Give us an example of how you’re currently helping other women advance professionally or fulfill their career goals?
I am currently helping other women to advance professionally and fulfill their goals/dreams by doing what I have always done: writing about the struggle to be my own woman and that of others. I recently published my life empowerment journal book, Kryptonite Killed Superwoman: Turning in the Cape for an Authentic, Purpose-Driven Life. I speak in the book about my struggles to achieve my goals as well as providing the stories of other successful women who have made it. I’m also mentoring a few people and hope to assist more in coming to an understanding as to who they are and what their purpose is. I’ve also created a free membership for women called “Walk the Journey with Rebekah in Removing the Cape,” which you can learn more about on my website. It is my mission through this program to encourage, empower and uplift women to their greatest potential and self-awareness. Finally, my play, That Woman’s Child, will be performed in the John Chatterton/Midwinter Madness Short Play Festival in NYC.
Could you mention one or more women who have helped you get to where you are now?
The first, of course, is my mother, Genovia. She always told me that I could do whatever I put my mind to, and even though she did not have the finances to support me, she gave me the next best thing: her prayers. My former high school English teacher, Mrs. Sherri Pratt, changed my life completely. When my high school guidance counselor told me I couldn’t go to college because it wasn’t the place for me (i.e, you are colored and a girl), she told me not to believe that, and I quote, “Shit,” and helped me to fill out my college applications and wrote letters of recommendations for me. Finally, my friend Maggie, who passed away last June from a 3 year long battle with cancer, taught me to love unconditionally.
You can get in touch with Rebekah here:
LinkedIn: Rebekah L. Pierce
Website: www.rebekahpierce.synthasite.com / www.averagegirlmagazine.com
Pinterest: Rebekah Pierce