Unicorn Imani McGee-Stafford Explains How to Establish Your Authentic Brand

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Imani McGee-Stafford

I haven’t perfected many things in life, but I do think I’ve come damn close to a few. These things include, but are not limited to, reaching things off the top shelf, making people laugh in the most uncomfortable of situations and presenting myself authentically to the outside world—sometimes to my detriment. Now understand, while I am no expert, I think my life may speak for itself on this one. So, let’s talk about authentic branding. 

First and foremost, I want you to think about these questions:

  • How do you want to be remembered when you die?
  • What is your purpose?
  • What are you passionate about?

These questions may seem dramatic in the context of talking about your brand, but just go with me.

In a world where so many people copy or try their hardest to fit in, why would you want to be yourself? Especially when it so often seems as though there is no winning in that. I’d love to tell you that I’ve been this hell-raiser my whole life, and in some ways, I have, but that’d be a lie. At some point, we all yearn to blend in, to be alike. But, being 6’5” at thirteen left little room for that in my life, and time—plus experience—taught me that the best Imani was the real one. I’m sure that’s true for you too, even if you don’t know it yet.

How do you want to be remembered when you die?

If you died tomorrow and all that was left of you was your social media accounts, would you feel those accounts adequately reflected who you are or the things you set out to accomplish down here? Most of us will say “No”. 

I know this question seems dramatic, but we’ve been through a lot this past year and if I’ve learned anything it is that I do not have the time. So, why fake it, why pretend? In everything you do, be you.

What is your purpose?

Some people will spend their whole life trying to figure this out, while some of us will just wake up one day knowing. For me, my purpose is to be who I needed when I was younger, in a tangible way that means to create safe spaces everywhere I go and share my hurts and traumas and pain because a younger me merely needed to know she wasn’t alone. Nothing you do should be without purpose and that trickles into your branding as well. I know my purpose, so in all avenues and everything reflecting me, hopefully, my purpose is reflected, or you can find it somewhere in there. 

What are you passionate about?

What truly lights your soul on fire? I love poetry. I love helping people and giving back. I love my blackness. What do you love? Think about the things that make you happiest and why those things should be visible through your pursuits. Even if you’re not able to chase your passions career wise, who you are and the way you align yourself should be passion driven. People don’t buy products, they buy stories. People buy the reason behind the whys. 

So now that we’ve gotten to know ourselves a bit better, let’s talk about the how. I’m not so out of touch as to not understand that some of us do things to survive or out of necessity. I get that. But it is important for all of us to understand that what we do does not always have to equate to who we are. 

While I am a huge proponent of transparency and vulnerability, I understand everyone can’t sit in that space. Also, I am the queen of oversharing, so do as I say, not as I do. I think the key is knowing the answer to the above three questions. The rest will generally flow from there, because you will present yourself in such a way that honors those things. I don’t have a Tik Tok and while it would likely be advantageous for me to do so, I’m not tech savvy and I’m also too lazy to learn 5 eight counts that only fit into 15 seconds. That’s not my lane nor my brand. However, I love to write, and people seem to respond well to it. So, find what organically fits and lean into it. There is so much of the same out there; the world is waiting to meet you.

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