Ivana Tucker is the homegirl you never knew you needed.
A lot of people move to New York with dreams of launching their career, but just as important as jobs are for your livelihood, so are friendships. Homegirls in the City is a hilarious and (painfully) relatable collection of black women’s stories that celebrate honesty, friendship and empowerment. Dictated in first person, Ivana has created a “safe space” for black women to live in their truth without feeling judged.
In true “homegirl” fashion we put everything on the table and got candid about being a single black woman in New York City, career woes and where the brand is headed next.
Saturday School: What inspired you to start Homegirls in the City?
Ivana Tucker: So I was depressed, and I don’t like to use the word depressed lightly but I really feel like I was. I quit my job in March and I had been there for two and a half years. I thought once I left I was going to find another job that made me feel happy, secure, important and interesting and that didn’t happen [laughs].
SS: Right... reality hit [laughs].
IT: Months go by and I’m freelancing which got me a little bit closer to what I wanted to do but I still wasn’t feeling it. My contracts were ending, I was making even less money and it was tough. When I went home over the summer, I was lowkey planning on moving back. One day I woke up from a depressive nap at my mom’s house and I had an idea to do an outro piece to New York. I imagined it being a series of stories that I had gathered while being here and then… I didn’t end up moving. I got a little less depressed and I did my first Homegirls In The City episode and it was pretty well received so I just kept going.
SS: I remember when I listened to the first episode and I thought “this is really good!” What has been your craziest “homegirl” experience you’ve had? I’m sure there isn’t only one [laughs].
IT: I definitely think maneuvering without work has been a defining moment in my life and I think it’ll remain that way. I mean there’s obviously dude stuff...but I would say the craziest thing has been the transition from having a job, to not having a job to having this passion project to having a job that I kind of like. I’m in marketing at Victoria’s Secret which is the kind of job that I’ve wanted, and if I had gotten it in April I would’ve been like “Oh shit! This is perfect, my life is made!” but now i’m realizing more and more that nothing outside of me can really turn me up.
SS: Right, that makes sense. So define “homegirl” for me.
IT: Homegirls are people who keep it real, who are honest with themselves, each other and the world. Social media streamlines success and all of our experiences but every time I post a homegirls episode I’m embarrassed.
IT: Yes, I’m embarrassed to hear my voice, I don’t like it. But the stuff isn’t shiny. It’s like you got played in front of people, or bitch you can’t afford dinner…
SS: [laughs] When your card gets declined so you have to transfer money to another account…
IT: Right “transfer” but when it’s really just the same account [laughs].
SS: Yup exactly [laughs]. Earlier you said you were embarrassed, have you ever been hesitant to release an episode? Not even your own story but someone else’s story.
IT: I have, but I think since it’s all in the first person it all falls on me. I don’t want to out anyone but I try to do a good job about that. People will ask “who was that about?” but I never say anything.
SS: I was thinking about that, because I’m assuming you interview a lot of your friends but do you ever interview someone that you’re not as close to, and if so, how do you get them to open to you?
IT: The interview process in the beginning was very formal. I would say “hey I’m going to come over and record this” but it’s not really like that anymore. Stuff just kind of happens or my friends will just tell me stuff. Even with you and Saturday School, I feel like I don’t really have to go outside of my friend group to get content. I feel like I can do anything off of the strength of anybody I know.
SS: Homegirls is literally a movement. I feel it and it’s growing. That’s why I was so pressed to get my t-shirt [laughs]. Clearly your friends are supportive but how have they specifically helped you in this process?
IT: Reposting is so basic but it makes you feel good! I’m obviously going to ride for my shit, I’m promoting my own stuff and I’m a little bit of a headass on the internet but…
SS: You have to be!
IT: It’s nice that my friends support, but people who aren’t even my friends support. Like a girl I went to highschool with that I haven’t spoken to since high school took a picture on Instagram and was like “support the homies” and I didn’t even know she bought a shirt! My homegirls are my tribe in pushing “homegirls” as a brand but they’re also good at keeping me in a good headspace. One thing that I found important in this process is that friends are so necessary for me. They have held me down and held me up when I wasn’t fun to be around.
SS: There has been on ongoing narrative of the “single women in the big city” in shows such as Sex and the City, Girlfriends, Insecure, Girls, etc. How do you feel you’ve made a space for Homegirls in the City in this seemingly oversaturated market?
IT: I think that there are so many stories. I guess Girls is the white girl story and Insecure is the black girl story but even under the “black girl story” there are a series of stories under that. 1. I am huge Issa Rae stan. I DM her, and she’s going to answer one day [laughs]. But even with her and Insecure, they’re at a level above us in life. Like Molly for example, I don’t have any friends negotiating a $100,000 salary because a white man is making more money than them. That’s not really my truth.
SS: That’s true because I was talking with friends about Sex and the City and those characters are in their thirties! If I’m still dealing with this kind of mess at 30 there is a problem!
IT: That’s the thing about New York too, it keeps you young and to a fault.
SS: Especially the guys...but that’s a whole separate story. Anyway, do you think the merch you started selling catapulted the “homegirls” movement even more?
IT: Yes it’s definitely a visual. I think it kind of gets their interest going. The visual makes people wonder what it’s about. I’m actually in transition to something visual. One of my friends that I went to school with is in film school now at USC and I just sent her the first draft of a script and we’re going to shoot a pilot episode. So pre-production is hopefully going to start in December and then we’ll start shooting in the spring.
SS: Is it going to be in New York?
IT: I feel like it needs to be in New York but most of her resources are in L.A.
SS: Who or what has served as an inspiration for you throughout this process?
IT: Issa Rae has been inspiration because I feel like there has been such a black arts renaissance going on. All of these awesome black women on TV and in film, Ava Duvernay, Lena Waithe. It’s a moment I’m trying to be in.
SS: So walk me through your creative process.
IT: Well I’m kind of a creep. I am always taking notes of people talking. I try and pretend like I’m texting or just looking at something in notes. But if I hear something that I’m drawn to I try and pick it out. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s shocking but I’m always taking notes. From there I have an arsenal of thoughts that I try and manage and bounce off of my friends. I give them scenarios and ask them questions based off of that. Then I would go and write, then send it to my roommate Breania and she edits it. I know it’s not that clean of process but it works. It’s very authentic to me the whole time.
SS: Wrapping up, what advice would you give to aspiring creators? I feel like the whole “quitting your job, then going into a depression” narrative is unfortunately turning into a common narrative in our generation. What advice would you give to someone trying to start something or dig themselves out of that hole?
IT: I don’t think everyone needs to quit their job. Like if I could’ve figured out how to do this without quitting my job then I would’ve kept it. The difference between people who want to do things and the people who don’t do things is that they try. It’s really about trying and being open to being embarrassed. And life hack, no one can embarrass you unless you embarrass yourself first.
SS: Last question, if you could go back in time, what advice would you give high school you?
IT: I was a completely different person in high school...yuck [laughs]. I think I was taking myself a little seriously for no reason so I would tell myself to relax. I still tell myself to relax because I feel like I’m high strung at times...and to enjoy the process.