Tyler Newman: Afro Puff Chronicles
Firstly I just want a quick introduction so readers can get to know who you are. Could you tell us your name, age, if you’re in school, and what you do?
Hello loves! My name is Tyler Newman and I am a 17-year-old, rising senior at Kent Place School in Summit, New Jersey! I am an activist, blogger, and content-creator, and through my work, I aim to share diverse stories in an effort to further the representation of black and brown people’s voices in society. As part of this effort, last fall I launched my blog, Afro Puff Chronicles,for girls of color to share their stories. Over time, the platform has become a space for the transference of ideas through art, becoming a sort of poc art collective.
What pushed you to start Afro Puff Chronicles?
Afro Puff Chronicles is the product of many challenging factors within my life. Having attended a predominantly white, all-girls school since the age of 5, I always found it challenging to connect and relate to my peers. Though friendships seemed to come very easily outside of school, there was something about the environment and the time in which I attended my school that didn’t permit me to form many close bonds that were more than surface level interactions. I have always been a “do-er,” constantly thinking of the next big project that I could tackle or how my personal goals and actions could make positive ripples on the world around me, so naturally I saw the solution to my challenges in starting a community for girls of color to uplift and support one another. Through helping other young women find a space for affinity and positivity in a world where they might not otherwise have such an opportunity, I believed that I would also be able to heal myself.
The second circumstance that led me to launch Afro Puff Chronicles was the suicide of a classmate of mine named Lauren Liu. (Her parents have started a foundation in her honor, called Hope For Lauren Foundation, which supports young people who are combating depression and mental illness, funds biomedical research surrounding depression, and raises awareness about suicide prevention. You can donate to their foundation in order to support this important cause.) Lauren’s death impacted me deeply, by reawakening many struggles that I had with my own mental health during middle school. Because of her, I knew I wanted my blog to have a central focus on personal wellness, mental health, and community.
Being a young Black woman, what has been the most challenging thing when it came to
starting your own online platform?
The hardest thing that I had to overcome as a black woman starting my own platform was my own perfectionism. Growing up as a woman of color in predominantly white spaces, I felt an overwhelming pressure to “overcompensate for who I was.” I always believed (and often still struggle with this) that I had to be perfect. Always being one of a handful of people of color in the institutions that I frequented, I felt that I needed to represent my race in the most positive light. To me, that meant, constantly overachieving and seeking new opportunities to better myself. I often felt that I couldn’t share a project or talk about something I did unless it was completed or at the very least was “groundbreaking.” This same sentiment affected the release of Afro Puff Chronicles. I spent almost a year planning and brainstorming before I released the blog last fall because I felt that it had to be perfect before it could meet the public eye; I was afraid of rejection. However, I will never forget what my father told me the day I launched APC: that “people will always love what you do and some people will always criticize what you do, however, neither opinion really holds weight. As long as you feel you are growing and improving, and most of all feel proud of what you have accomplished, then you’ve already won.” That day that I published APC, I realized that there would never be a “perfect” time to launch my blog, just like there would never be a perfect time to do anything in life. I, like everything and everyone out there in the world, am a work of progress. APC is just a continual extension that, my evolution and all that I am becoming.
Why do you find having diverse voices within media and other settings important?
I find diversity in storytelling to be so important because it creates a balance of power. There are so many stereotypes out there about black and brown people, and I think that’s partly because they don’t have the pen in their hand. When people of color can write their own narratives, they can become more than the 2D stereotypes that society tries to trap them in. This idea was what inspired the name Afro Puff Chronicles. Afro puffs were my signature hairstyle growing up, and in spaces where straight hair was the norm, my afro puff felt like a crown for it made me unique and special. In a similar vein, in the name, “Afro Puff” represents the boldness and unapologetic truth of black and brown folk, especially when they walk into a room. It means not changing to fit in with your surroundings but instead owning who you are and not being afraid to take up some space! I incorporated “Chronicles” in order to portray the idea of poc women reclaiming the narrative and writing their own stories. Through the diverse portrayals of women of color on APCas artists, singers, dancers, musicians, and poets, etc., APC aims to expand people’s minds of what a black or brown girl can be.
Who would you consider to be a key figure in your life? Whether it be a family member or a
At the moment, I don’t have one key figure. Instead, I am inspired by the women in my life, who every day, teach me how to be a better version of myself. My mother, Deva Newman, teaches me hard work and passion and how to love deeply, no matter how much the world tries to harden you. My aunts and grandmothers teach me about wisdom and tradition and how all good things come with time. And lastly, my friends show me one of the most important lessons I have learned in 2019, which is how to be vulnerable. In a world where people seem to put on masks to disguise their problems, it has become a radical act to admit that you are struggling or share a personal aspect of yourself with the world. My friends have taught me that being vulnerable is the doorway to living a more in touch life with both yourself and the ones around you! There is nothing to be gained from repressed emotions and everything to be won when you embrace your full humanity, flaws and all. Little do you know, when you decide to be honest about how you feel about others or how you feel about different aspects of your life, you may open the door for others to do the same.
What is some advice you would give to other young women of color who may want to do the same thing as you? Or who want to break into white-dominated fields in their own way?
My advice to any girl seeking to break out into a white-dominated field is to embrace what makes you different! For years, I wished that I could fit into the mold of what was seen as acceptable at my school and “be like all the other girls,” however, it was only until I created Afro Puff Chronicles that I realized that my not-fitting-in was the biggest blessing I could have been given. Because I didn’t fit in, I didn’t become stagnant and too comfortable in my environment but was instead was pushed to embrace discomfort, the place where innovation and elevation happen. In reality, the most successful businesses and services have a niche, something that sets them apart from the crowd. In a world of billions of people, you wouldn’t want to blend in, you would want to stand out! Find your own difference, such as a talent, passion or aspect of your identity, and figure out a way to harness it for. Ask yourself, “How can I used my difference to positively impact others?” Your difference is your superpower and the key to unlocking the full potential that life has to offer. Use your difference to MAKE a difference, and watch how your life will be transformed.
My hope for Afro Puff Chronicles is that in 3 years, it will continue to touch the lives of girls from around the world and have established significant communities in each continent. It’s always been important to me not to equate APC’s success with numbers and followers, but instead with the amount of positive influence I’ve had on others’ lives. I want to develop and produce innovative, relevant content for my readers and continue to grow the community to include more transgender, LGBTQ+, international and differently abled women. It is important for me to include as many voices in the conversation that APC has created. I plan to continue running Afro Puff Chronicles throughout college and create a video series of college-based content to incorporate into the platform.
***Note: If you are a girl of color, looking to get involved with Afro Puff Chronicles, please reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org! I am always looking for new submissions for the blog. We feature work such as creative writing, dance, music, poetry, spoken word, op-eds, travel articles, visual art, etc. The submission process is very open and submitting content will enable you to connect with hundreds of girls from around the world. Come join a global community-- join APC!
Email (for APC submissions): email@example.com