It’s funny.  When you tell an infant not to do something the FIRST thing, they do…is do it anyway. It then looks knowingly and purposely at you to see if you saw him do it.  But even more so, it’s the inner challenge that they are presented with—the baby now feels like it has something to prove; it’s much deeper than defiance…it’s always been more than defiance.

My name is Brandon Baker and this is my Crystal Stair.

My father was a mathematics major with dreams of opening his own academy and becoming a professor/headmaster. When that didn’t happen, his children –my brother, sisters, and I—became his students.  He had high expectations for all of us and demonstrated what, at times, seemed like insurmountable pressure.  There was pressure to pursue success in a technical field like economics, engineering, or political science — which I later majored in at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG).  A great deal of pressure came from not knowing how to turn my passion – which was fashion—into a career. 

As the son of a Computational Engineer and a Senior IT Product Manager, I wanted to outdo and overachieve.  I wanted to be perceived as smart, articulate, cultured and well rounded, which I later realized could be achieved through a career in fashion.  That jump from political science to fashion/ social media branding was a paralytic one. But as I look at the opportunities I’ve received: product sponsorships, styling models, walking in fashion shows, establishing myself as an influencer – I would have never had access to such opportunities had I not taken a chance. 

By no means has this been an easy journey, but the one thing I’ve always told myself is to just keep strolling. It’s not as fast as running nor is it as slow as walking- and it definitely isn’t flying.  When you’re strolling, you’re taking the time to be present, living in the moment; it allows you not to rush the process on the way to your goal or destination. 

State of Black Men

Society – stop looking at every black dude as a threat.  I’m 5’8 and about 170 pounds –am I still a threat? I never viewed myself as threatening until I self-identified as gay. I then became a different type of threat –a threat to the morals and values that society held dear. I posed a threat to other ethnicities who see black men as mere creatures destined for a life of crime. I posed a threat to my loved ones because I refuse to live my life afraid of my own shadow. I am boisterous and bold! I have never been afraid to speak up or speak out and that is my superpower! My strength comes not from being perceived as a threat but rather because I am not afraid to be authentic.

So, Black Men I implore you… I challenge you… to throw away all false personas and cliché alter egos. Don’t worry yourself about what they think of you or who the world hopes you will be. Instead, be as fully present in your own life as you can possibly be…. do that which brings you joy. Follow your bliss, have faith in your dreams, love who and what you want. If you heed my warning the world will fall at your feet.

Remember being an influencer is not about following the trends but, in fact, setting them!