Female Disruptors: Gabrielle Pickens of Pickens Creative On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry
Everything you want, you deserve: Don’t shy away from your big dreams and goals. Your awareness has planted those seeds inside of you for a reason. Also, don’t expect everyone to believe in or support YOUR vision at first… that’s why it’s in YOUR head. You have to take it to the next level.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gabrielle Pickens.
Gabrielle Pickens, CEO of Pickens Creative, is a skilled media professional that understands the power of communication and persuasion. Gabrielle leads with a genuine interest in her clients and their brands — a perfect mixture of military-grade precision and free-flowing creativity. From event and television production to strategic public relations, Gabrielle hopes to inspire and empower all people and servicemembers to conquer the mental blocks that are holding them back from living a life they truly desire.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Joining the military was never a part of my plan. As life had it though, I joined in 2013 at 22 years old and spent six years of my life serving this country. During my time in, I explored the world, met some of the most unique and dedicated people on Earth, and built an unshakeable work ethic and discipline that money simply can’t buy.
Fast forward June 2019, the beginning of my year-long transition phase, I realized there were significant holes in the journey to becoming a civilian. I believe the military, specifically the US Navy, tried really hard to provide a comprehensive program for separating service members, including but not limited to resume practice, skills search, and robust, albeit linear career options. However, what I saw missing wasn’t related to anything one could create on paper. For me, it was the emotional and psychological aspects that were swept under the rug. That’s where the idea for Barracks To Baller came about.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Barracks To Baller is disruptive because it addresses the mental health of the servicemember via the lens of mindfulness. Originating as an online community for melanated, military women, Barracks To Baller is a result of my own intense soul searching and self-reflection; a place for all women, but especially Black servicewomen, to come and explore new ways of thinking, develop compassion and grace, and ultimately engage in mindful meditation.
While there are undoubtedly effective military transition coaches, resources, and programs out there, very few that address the tremendous mental strain that is exacerbated during the transition from Active Duty to civilian. Moreover, there are even fewer programs dedicated to exploring the Black female service member and her unique experience.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Where do I begin, ha! I’d say the funniest mistake I made was looking for other versions of “Barracks To Baller” as a guidepost. I spent a lot of time with this idea in my mind, afraid to put it out. Then, once I finally took my first step, I stalled — -dissatisfied with the product because it wasn’t turning out to be what I had envisioned. It was like I was hoping someone else was going to do the work for me; someone else was going to come down and take what was in my mind and make it the “Barracks To Baller” I wanted it to be.
The lesson? There wasn’t a Barracks To Baller platform. I had created the first and only. I needed to understand that my vision and ideas were all I needed to move forward. I didn’t need the validation from “another “ replica. All I needed was myself.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who has been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
My mentors have been other Black women forging their own path. From my close friends to family, to public figures I’ll probably never meet, I’m continuously inspired by the world around me.
I was first introduced and inspired by Lauren Ash, a Black woman, entrepreneur, and mindful meditation practitioner. Through her courage, I understood that being mindful was okay to say out loud and build a profitable brand around. At the time, she was one of the first Black women I’d ever come across in this digital world that created a space for herself (and others!) in a mostly whitewashed wellness space.
It’s interesting to me because Black women are the natural healers of the universe, yet we are underrepresented in the very spaces we naturally inhabit. I seek to add my experience as a military service member to that changing narrative.
Another popular figure I admire is Karen Civil. A woman entirely defined by the beat of her own drum and never to a title. She makes it’s very clear she is a woman of many talents and proceeds to do whatever her heart desires. I respect that. As a multi-hyphenate and Navy Veteran, I experienced the inevitable identity crisis we face when transitioning out. Before I started following Karen Civil’s career, I made a decision to myself that after my separation, I’d never work a job I wasn’t passionate about or get so attached to a title that I limit myself to a box. Karen Civil has proven to follow that same line of thinking.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
If we look at nature, we can see that some of the most beautiful, most majestic occurrences, take mountains, for example, are a result of massive disruption. This idea of disruption or “trying something new” is innate in humans. Therefore, I believe disruption is inherently positive — it makes way for innovation and new players. However, when that disruption is spearheaded without humanity in mind, i.e., a new efficient process that generates a more significant ROI for investors, but continues to marginalize underrepresented groups or people, this is what we’d call a ‘not so positive’ disruption.
Many companies deem the insurgence of POC or WOC at the helm of organizations and companies as “disruptive” in their respective industries. Take a look at Hollywood. Since it’s inception, white creatives have been front and center, continuously creating and perpetuating stereotypes and caricatures of BIPOC. Now, we have Lena Waithe, Ava Duvernay, Spike Lee, Tyler Perry, and Will Packer hiring Black and brown actors and crews to showcase their talents, in a way that is authentic and accurate. While holding the title may seem like a badge of honor to some, if we’re being honest and objective, BIPOC professionals are simply “reclaiming their time” in the words of the Honorable Maxine Waters of the U.S. House of Representatives. We have to be honest with ourselves and realize, many of the “disruptors” have been forced in the shadows or mysteriously overlooked for decades — they didn’t want to be deemed a “disruptor”. They simply didn’t have a choice.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- Everything you need is already inside of you: So many of us spend ample amounts of time seeking validation from external sources. Stop it. Listen to yourself and move on. You only have one life to live!
- Treat every day like Monday until Friday comes: As an entrepreneur if you don’t work, you don’t eat. Invest in yourself enough to push through and push forward with the same energy of a perfect, well-rested Monday morning. Your bank account will thank you!
- Everything you want, you deserve: Don’t shy away from your big dreams and goals. Your awareness has planted those seeds inside of you for a reason. Also, don’t expect everyone to believe in or support YOUR vision at first… that’s why it’s in YOUR head. You have to take it to the next level.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
My goal is to introduce 1,000 Black women to engage with and embrace a mindful mediation practice. As the original trendsetters of this universe, I’m sure if I can get these women to seek the light within themselves and learn to quiet their minds, they will certainly inspire the rest of the world to do the same.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
Writer Cheryl Strayed aka “Sugar” hosts a podcast called “Sugar Calling” where she quite literally calls some of the world’s most brilliant minds and prolific writers. On an episode that aired on April 8th, 2020, she calls famous writer, environmentalist, and octogenarian Margaret Atwood at her home, in which she casually mentions she is sharing with no one — in self-inflicted isolation.
However, the most memorable moment isn’t her isolation. For me, it is the way in which she effortlessly explains death, and the ease and comfort in instantly bought me.
She explains to Cheryl that while “your loved ones aren’t going to be in your life anymore… in the way that they used to be….they’ll still be in your life, it’s just that there probably won’t be any new conversations”. I froze.
When I was 16, my grandmother died due to cancer. Then, at 17, days after my high school graduation, my brother was tragically killed in Chicago due to gun violence. Currently, my mother lives in Chicago while I work and live in San Diego. During the pandemic, I struggled with severe anxiety attacks over what I thought was the inevitable demise of my mother to the coronavirus. *Spoiler alert: she’s still alive*
When I heard Maragaret’s word, a wave of calm came over me in a way that I hadn’t felt before. I’d failed to realize or face the reality of the nature of death in humans. At some point, we will all go. However, that doesn’t wipe away the feelings, memories and energy shared between two loving humans. While I wish my grandmother and brother were still alive, I now feel my heart open enough to allow their infinite power to come and visit me.
Thank You, Margaret.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Well, I don’t have a quote, more so a mantra. The idea of Sho Shin in Zen Buddhism means to approach everything with a “beginner’s mind”. The purpose is to release prejudice and assumptions to open your mind and heart to the experience of life as it is. So many times, especially as adults, we assume that since we’ve done something one hundred times, then we are in fact, an expert. While this might be true, there is something to be said about the innocence and rich experience of new places, faces, and things. Therefore, manufacturing the idea of a beginner, we tend to open our minds, eyes, and hearts to new stimuli and hopefully, new lessons. At the very least, I can guarantee life will be much richer once you adopt the Sho Shin mentality.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
In the perfect world, mindful meditation would voluntarily be a part of our everyday routine — -as automatic as showering and brushing your teeth. We live in a world that celebrates running around and “getting things done.” I’d like to show people that being mindful can increase your happiness and brain function, all the while providing you with the edge we so desperately seek in stimulants and other external sources.
Mindfulness will help you get things done faster, better, and more efficiently!
How can our readers follow you online?
You can find me online on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram at Gabrielle Pickens.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thank You! May you be happy. May you be at peace. May you be safe. May you be healthy.