Cover photo: 2018 HERoine Legacy honorees with founder TJ Jefferson by Mainstream Images.
TJ Jefferson, a Memphis native, was living in Savannah, Georgia and working as a manager for a car salvage auction when she says her prayers were answered.
“I got laid off, which was really great. I know that sounds crazy.”
It’s not that her job was unbearable. In fact, she was thriving there. It was just that aside from the leadership skills she developed, it didn’t have much to do with her career goals. TJ had graduated from Tennessee State University with a degree in print journalism and communication but had also taken a liking to public relations in her final semester. She had previously run her own PR company but ran into some frustration while building her client base and let that go. The car salvage gig in Savannah wasn’t where she wanted her story to end, so when fate gave her the out, TJ took the opportunity to think about what would come next.
Her path forward was revealed by a neighbor.
“I had a neighbor who was in cosmetology school and she had a best friend who had a bee farm. They created a hair care product from beeswax from the bee farm, and she let me use it.”
TJ says she was so impressed with the quality that she wanted to share it with everyone.
“I ended up writing her a press release one day and she was like “What is this? This is great! This makes us sound really good!” I’m explaining to her what a press release is and she said, ‘You should reopen your PR business.’ I thought, why not? So I did and I stuck with it that time, but I moved to Atlanta.”
Another loving nudge from a woman in her life would change TJ’s direction again. Her mentor had some thoughts on building a career in Atlanta.
“She really pushed me, ‘Move from Atlanta, find another market. Everyone’s too “important” in Atlanta.’ I don’t even know how Memphis or Tennessee came back on the radar but it did. I said, ‘I’m not moving back home, what are you talking about? I’ve been gone for 12 years. I’m not doing that.’ She said, ‘You need to.’ I did, I came home and I prayed ‘God, I’m going to be home for a week. If you let me work for a week without distractions, I’ll take that as a sign that I’m supposed to come back.’ ”
That was in 2012 and she’s been in Memphis since.
As someone whose personal journey has been greatly influenced by the women around her, it seems fitting that TJ is preparing to host the HERoineLegacy Brunch this weekend to honor women who inspire the community around them. She founded HERoineLegacy Magazine in 2016 as a way to mark Women’s History Month and share the stories of amazing, everyday women in Memphis.
“I always wanted to do something for Women’s History Month beyond just posting about Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King,” said TJ. “I thought ‘What else can I do to really honor women?'”
Again, she turned to her female network.
“I was part of a mastermind group and I was talking it out with those ladies and somebody said, ‘Why don’t you do a magazine?’ I said, Well, I do have a background in journalism, but who am I going to cover? How about I honor women of today who’ve taken advantage of the opportunities that our foremothers have given us. That way, it’s twofold. I’m honoring our foremothers with the works of people today, and I’m also helping black women get recognized.”
The HERoineLegacy Brunch and Magazine Reveal will be held on Saturday, March 9th at the Family Banquet Hall in Whitehaven. This year’s honorees are Latricea Adams, Quavisa Henderson, Melody Hubbard Robinson, Danielle Inez, Laquita Jones, Shahidah Jones, and Cristina McCarter.
TJ says that the vibe of the HERoineLegacy Brunch is intentionally more relaxed and has more warmth than other awards events because it’s not about being showy. It’s grounded in appreciation for the real-life work of womanhood.
“I choose these women who are transparent about motherhood on social media, who talk about their ups and downs, and that’s what I like about this.”
TJ says is also adamant about using the event to expose the next generation to strong examples.
“There are high school kids coming from my alma mater. I always get Hillcrest alumni to sponsor a table for them to come because I want them to see that these are women in your community. Representation matters and these women are getting an award for being themselves. That’s my kind of slick protest, if you will, against the image that they see online or in the media. Here’s another option of what you can see and what you could be.”