“I think it’s important to pursue your passion with a purpose,” we couldn’t agree more with L’Oreal Thompson Payton, who at 28 has landed her dream job where empowering and encouraging girls is in her job description. A Baltimore native, she’s not shy to the fast-paced city life. Between translating her explorations of life and love to words, interviewing #GirlBosses, and being the Media Relations Manager of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago & NW Indiana, L’Oreal proves that not all super heroes wear capes. Despite jumping over hurdles of not feeling satisfied with her first two jobs, she honed in on every ounce of determination she had until she finally found the job of her dreams.
Read on to learn how L’Oreal combines her love of writing with her passion for empowering young women into a rewarding career.
L’Oreal Thompson Payton
Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago & NW Indiana Media Relations Manager
Hometown: Belcamp, MD
Education: Loyola University Maryland
Undergraduate Major: BA in Communications with a specialization in Journalism and a minor in Spanish
Stay Connected: @LTintheCity on Instagram & Twitter. Blog, LTintheCity.com
If you went to a Historically Black College/University (HBCU), why didn’t you attend a Predominantly White Institution (PWI) and vice versa?
I knew that I wanted to attend Loyola, a PWI, before I even understood what that really meant, or what an HBCU meant for that matter. I was probably 12 at the time and I chose Loyola after attending their summer camp for middle schoolers, where we did various community service projects, such as feeding the homeless and collecting tennis shoes for a new playground. The Jesuit motto “men and women for others” really resonated with me and I knew I wanted to be part of that community.
Why did you choose the college you went to?
As I mentioned earlier, the Jesuit motto really sold me on Loyola. When I visited the campus, that sense of community felt like home. And I knew the quality of education there would help me succeed in my future career.
What was your freshman year like?
Freshman year was so much fun! I befriended a core group of girls and we were later dubbed the “Dream Team.” Those girls are like sisters to me and were my bridesmaids, I love them so much. Freshman year was also very active…I was on the cheerleading team and a member of the dance company. I was having the time of my life!
Paying for college can be a challenge, did you receive any scholarships or grants?
All of the above! I received an academic scholarship from Loyola that paid for about half of my tuition and I also received scholarships from local politicians and other organizations. I’m also fortunate to have very supportive parents who took out loans to help me and I also had student loans (which I’m STILL paying back, eight years later!).
What organizations did you join while in college? Were any influential to your current career?
Gosh, where do I even begin? Besides cheerleading and dance company, I also worked on the student newspaper. I also had a plethora of journalism internships, which were fundamental to my previous career as a professional journalist and editor.
Was there a college professor or course that stood out to you, or may have influenced you in any way?
Wow, that’s a good question! I’d say it’s a tie between the Asian Philosophies class I took, which introduced me to Hinduism, Buddhism, and meditation, as well as the Sex & Sexuality course I took senior year, which taught me about the nuances surrounding gender, sexuality and sexual orientation. Both of those courses broadened my mind in ways I didn’t even know were possible.
Was interning helpful to landing your current position? If so, what internships did you have?
Absolutely. Even though all of my internships were related to journalism, those experiences were crucial to honing my writing, editing and interviewing skills, which I use every day in my current position. My first internship was at a national arts magazine and the next year, I interned at Girls Life’ magazine, a national teen magazine based in Baltimore. At the time, my goal was to become a teen magazine editor, so that internship was a dream come true! I was also a copy editor for a national news service for colleges and universities.
What was your first job out of college?
Well, I was offered a job with Girls’ Life during the spring semester of my senior year; however, the offer was rescinded a few weeks before graduation when the economy started to tank. So I studied abroad in Italy for a month after graduation where I learned about blogging, photography, web design and video editing. And then I visited my friend in Thailand for two weeks…it was the best summer ever! Of course, I was freaking out because I didn’t graduate with a job offer, but after five months of applying and interviewing at various publications, I landed a job as a general reporter for my community newspaper.
What’s the best advice you’d give your undergraduate self?
Chill out. Senior year I nearly made myself sick by doing too much: full class load, capstone magazine project, copy editing the student newspaper, two internships, campus tour guide, mentor, dance instructor…the list goes on. I vividly remember running to an awards ceremony and my friend shoving peanut butter crackers in my mouth because I hadn’t eaten all day. Even now, I struggle with doing too much so my new mantra is to “do less with more focus.”
What’s your favorite college memory?
Oh wow, there are so many! Studying abroad in Spain my junior year was definitely a life-changing experience. I learned so much about myself by being outside of my comfort zone. But perhaps my fondest memories were random moments with my roommates: spontaneous dance parties, late-night gab fests, we had the best time.
What is a typical workday like for you?
I start by reviewing and responding to emails and then I start tackling my to-do list, which looks different every day. I monitor news about Girl Scouts, both nationally and locally, with Google Alerts. And then it’s usually off to a meeting, or two or three. All the while, I’m brainstorming new ideas for our council to engage with local media, or following up with a reporter, or pitching stories to various outlets. I’m also responsible for our council blog, so I’m constantly thinking about what we can feature on that platform to better engage our audience.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Any chance I get to interact with the girls, whether it’s interviewing them for a blog post or taking selfies at events, is my absolute favorite part about my job. I’m so fortunate to be in the business of empowering and encouraging young girls every day. It’s the most rewarding feeling.
Unconventional or Conventional career path? Explain.
Whichever floats your boat. I’m not here to say one way is better than the other. Above all, I think it’s important to pursue your passion with a purpose. After leaving my position at JET magazine, I started working as a communications strategist for Chicago Public Schools. I figured it would help better position me for a communications position with a nonprofit and seven months later, I got a call from Girl Scouts for what’s essentially my dream job. I left a high-paying government job for a career in nonprofits and I haven’t looked back since. I’d rather be making less money doing something I love than coasting by collecting a paycheck every two weeks. It may not be the most popular (or profitable) choice, but I’m truly happy and for the first time ever, I can honestly say I love my job.
Does your college degree relate to the work you do?
Most definitely. I intentionally majored in communications because it was broader than journalism specifically. Communications encompasses journalism, marketing, public relations, advertising, etc.
Has being Black affected your career? If so, how?
Certainly. At my first job, I received hate mail after writing a column about President Barack Obama and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I distinctly remember my editor, an older White man, pulling me into his office and apologizing for not preparing me for the racists (we lived in a very conservative county). But I smiled and told him, “that’s not going to stop me” and it hasn’t. With the exception of when I worked at JET magazine, I was often the only Black woman in the office so you’re constantly battling stereotypes (loud, ghetto, angry, etc.) before you even open your mouth. But God gave me a voice and a gift and I’m going to use it.
How did you receive insight into your career? Do you have a mentor?
I’m very fortunate in my career to have worked with extremely talented women who’ve become friends and mentors. Perhaps the biggest one is Kyra Kyles, who hired me to work at JET. I reached out to her on Twitter of all places about writing and working for JET and several years later, she’s my big sister, friend and mentor. I’ve learned so many professional and personal lessons from her. We probably wouldn’t be having this conversation if it weren’t for her.
What has been the most challenging moment of your career?
Probably figuring out what I want to do. A couple of years ago, I’d become burnt out. I knew there had to be more to life than breaking news and making something “go viral.” So I began contemplating a career in nonprofits where I could still use my writing and editing superpowers for a cause I truly believe in, which is empowering young girls. Successfully transitioning from journalism to nonprofits has been the most challenging and rewarding aspect of my career thus far.
How do you escape on the weekends?
Honestly? Sleeping in, catching up on magazines and Netflix. Those are the best weekends. My husband and I also enjoy exploring the city, visiting local museums and trying new restaurants.
How would you describe your office culture? Happy hours, game nights?
I’ve never laughed so much at a job before. My coworkers are the best!
Coffee or Tea?
Neither. I’m a pumpkin spice latte kind of girl.
Favorite nail color?
OPI’s Louvre Me Louvre Me Not. Purple is my favorite color!
#TeamNatural or #TeamRelaxed?
#TeamHealthyHair As long as you’re happy, that’s all that matters.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
“What God has for you, nobody can take away.” My mom would tell me this whenever I’d get frustrated that I didn’t get something I believe I deserved. But she’s 100 percent right. What’s meant for me is for me. Everything happens for a reason and it could be that I wasn’t ready for that opportunity or God had something else better in mind. But it all works out in the end.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be?
It’s a tie between Beyoncé and first lady Michelle Obama. Perhaps the three of us can get together for brunch?
Does your career interfere with your relationship status?
Luckily, I’m blessed to have a supportive husband who understands the demands of my career. With that being said, I am making a conscious effort to make more time for us and put our relationship first because I don’t want to be an absentee wife.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Cupcakes, hands down.
Favorite Quote (or lyric)?
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it” by Maya Angelou. That is how I define success. It’s not about having a six-figure salary. It’s about being happy with what you do and using that to make the world a better place.
Be sure to follow along with L’Oreal at LTintheCity.com!