Upspoken Woman Farrah Gets Real About Having It All
This month Upspoken had the very special privilege of interviewing Farrah Cerf, Chief Brand Officer of Eric Buterbaugh Los Angeles. But we didn’t interview her because she is a marketing genius. We wanted to chat with Cerf because she is that girl. That married mother of two known for having everyone over and letting the play cousins get together while she cooks up the best gumbo – a cue to her New Orleans heritage. That friend who will go run your errands for you just so you can have a much needed break from it all. That partner in crime who brings her blend of Southern hospitality and sharp-as-a-knife honesty to any advice she’s dropping on you. We checked in with her on womanhood, self-love, and having it all. Check out the flow below:
Upspoken: Do you believe you can have it all?
Farrah Cerf: Yes. It’s all about framing and definition. As I cycle through this life, and I do feel like this is a question that Black women really face in a distinct way, it’s very difficult to put myself first. That feels selfish. It feels foreign. It does not feel comfortable. And at the core of that, when I’m feeling that, I do not feel like I am enough. When I come from a place of ‘I do have enough’ then I absolutely do have it all.
Upspoken: Why do you think this is a particularly distinct question for Black women?
FC: Even as I talk to you and I’m driving back from this amazing weekend away from my husband and kids, it was hard to do that. I always feel like I’m stealing time. Stealing time from who? Why don’t I think I can take the time? I went to therapy this week. I detached from work this week in a way that was healthy – like it’s not defining me. And then my mother called me on the road and when I told her I was on my way to Malibu, she said I should be home taking care of my family and preparing dinner for them! This is why I’m messed up! I have been oppressed my whole life! To be a pretty girl you have to always have your hair combed and you have to wear a dress and all of these things that are not naturally me – I’ve been working outside of my core – to please my mom and grandmother who told us how we’re supposed to show up and how were supposed to be. So that idea of having it all – if we haven’t identified what that means to us – it seems like it’s someone else’s dream! And as Black women, I think the notion of having it all is a high bar. Fundamentally I feel like there’s a lack of road map of how to get there. What’s the example of what that looks like?
Upspoken: What would you say to young women who want what you have?
FC – Living by rungs on a ladder and check marks on a list and deciding to be happy based on when you’ve reached the top of your career or you have a man or a baby…none of that has anything to do with happiness or having it all. With every rung on the ladder comes another rung. These things are about filling holes and if we don’t fill the holes that we are born with as black women experiencing generational depletion, we are stuck. You must know you are full. You are enough. And if you don’t feel that, you need to start filling that hole. You can have all the things and still not be happy. Everything we’ve been taught to be happy isn’t aligned with what actually works. It’s about finding your passion. When people are constantly telling you what you “gotta be,” you are actually no longer being. You are not being yourself. You have to define this for yourself. My daughter said to me the other day, “if family is so important why do we spend so little time together?” Good question! Society is built this way. We need to ask more questions. What would make my soul happy? It’s not a baby. It’s not a man. It’s never the “thing.”
Upspoken: How do you incorporate being and living and feeling into your daily life?
FC: You have to find things that work for you and are only for you. Can you find the things that allow you to be in your body so that you can hear the answers and be able to connect with them? Even bringing it back down to sex, I love you and want to be intimate but I know I love myself enough that I won’t be doing it without a condom. That is being. That is self-love.
Upspoken: Where does that self-love come from?
FC: We are taught to have fake emotions. Women particularly and Black women specifically in America want to make everything okay and we’ve been taught to do that. Don’t talk too loud. Don’t make anyone uncomfortable. It’s like when people come to your house and you want them to take their shoes off because that’s how you respect and live in your home but you don’t want to ask them to do it! You don’t want to make THEM uncomfortable! Or in relationships where we play Russian Roulette. We wouldn’t do it with a gun so why do we do it with our bodies? It’s about our voice, especially in regards to sexuality and claiming our space – Black women have to fight to claim our space.
Upspoken: What do you see for your journey going forward?
FC: Basically it’s about identifying the voices in our heads. Our internal voices are our guides. That voice is always there protecting us. Fear keeps us from really following it. I am on the path of listening. In my 30s I started overthinking instead of being driven by my heart. And that created silence. When you get older you might fear that you have too much to lose. Why not go for it, why not feel it? And we are really getting worse with social media which is all about making our lives seem and look perfect – instead of making space for everyone in our lives to be messy. I want to be a safe space for people to come be messy. Imagine if everyone had that one person? Black women – we suppress – so we have to have the hard conversations! We are good at numbing to deal with pain but that means you end up being numb to the good stuff. This happens over generations. The last five generations of Black women in America have dealt with this. And we really haven’t had tools culturally to undo the damage we’ve experienced.
Upspoken: If you had to leave us with a word to describe your focus in 2019, what would it be?
FC: Discomfort. I’ve spent the better half of my life shying away from any discomfort. And what that means is that I’ve just run away from things in all of the ways – not going for the job that’s too big, not going for the guys that’s too fine, not going away for the weekend and leave my kids because that’s too neglectful. Fear of discomfort has paralyzed me in the past. Now I want to sit in it. I want to feel it. I want to be messy. I want to say and do the wrong things because at least I’m saying something and doing something. Life is messy. Life is uncomfortable – especially if you want more, if you want better, if you want change.