“If it’s for you, there’s nothing in the world that can change that,” said Tiffany Bender to a captive audience of Haverford students, staff, and faculty (including President Kim Benston). “It’s about the tenacity and business acumen you have, and sometimes people see stuff in you that you don’t yet see in yourself. It’s on you to grow into that space.”
A senior editor and producer at Teen Vogue, Bender kicked off the “Creating a Life You Love” speaker series with an inspiring story of personal growth in the media industry and pride in her Harlem roots. In a talk full of energy and passion, Bender urged listeners to be the “first one in and last one out” of their work and to make their presence known.
“Be definite in the goal, but flexible in the process,” she said of breaking into creative industries. “I didn’t always know I wanted to be a producer, I just knew I wanted to tell stories. Your goal shouldn’t be a title if you want to be a creative.”
This new speaker series was started by Talia Scott ’19 to spotlight creative career possibilities that may be less common among Haverford’s alumni base.
“Thinking about my own career prospects led me to question the type of life that I wanted to have—one that didn’t just look good on paper, but one that I actually loved and enjoyed because it represented the complexities of my personality and interests,” said Scott. “In my mind, that’s when the idea of ‘Creating a Life You Love’ was created. What started as a result of my anxieties about life after Haverford has become an initiative and effort to have more authentic conversations about the endless opportunities for myself and my peers after college.”
Scott connected with Bender this summer during the Gyrl Wonder Leadership Academy, a week-long mentorship program that pairs young women in New York City with executives in media, beauty, journalism, and politics.
“Tiffany spoke about her professional journey and touched me with her story, honesty, rawness and amazing and humorous personality,” said Scott. “I knew that I wanted to bring Tiffany to campus when I realized that there was a new spark in me after meeting her. I became more focused, intentional, and eager to create my own path. I wanted my peers to experience this feeling as well. While I don’t have aspirations to pursue a career in production like Tiffany, there’s something so powerful about having a successful black woman tell you and show you that you should never limit yourself in life.” (Continued after the gallery.)
In addition to her talk, Bender also spent time with women of color on campus in a private dinner sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
“Tiffany spoke about her experiences as a woman of color in media and entertainment and answered questions about her path to success, dealing with doubt from herself and other people, building relationships with mentors, not being special and being humble enough to do any job,” Scott said.
After hearing from Bender, Scott hopes students will be reinvigorated and empowered to pursue any sort of job they want, not only the sort of more traditional careers (in business, law, medicine, academia, and the nonprofit sector) that she felt was more often highlighted by campus resources.
“I hope students are inspired to think creatively about the life they want to create for themselves after Haverford while also realizing that our liberal arts education has prepared us to enter in a wide variety of fields,” she said. “Tiffany discussed the importance of being authentic, building relationships with peers and mentors, working to be irreplaceable, honing in on your craft, taking care of yourself and finding your happiness in your journey. I hope all students in attendance walked away with these lessons regardless of their major or professional aspirations.”
Photos by Claire Chenyu Wang ’20.