While some public figures exist to influence, ‘Love & Hip Hop Atlanta’s’ Sierra Gates chooses to lead by example through her off-camera projects and message of self-reliance.
Have you ever said or heard a word so many times that it no longer makes sense? For some, “influencer” can be that word because there are so many out there and their motivations for fame and exposure are all over the map. However, Atlanta-native entrepreneur and television personality Sierra Gates can tell you precisely who she wants to influence, how she’s influencing those followers, and why.
She has big numbers of followers (to the tune of two million looking to her successful beauty industry businesses and fashionable looks) on Instagram and elsewhere. However, the numbers that count are her business bottom line in terms of making smart decisions that add up as well as women who like her are learning to turn extreme adversity into enriching opportunity. In less than two decades, she’s evolved from a teen mom who experienced homelessness, naysayers, and a torrent of negativity to a successful business person ultimately not content on being successful alone. She’s keen on helping women with similar life experiences embrace challenges and make even the hardest life lessons an empowering experience.
It’s also safe to say that Gates’ life leading up to the COVID-19 lockdown more than prepared her for this and other make-or-break moments.
“The ironic thing about the lockdown during the worst part of the pandemic is that Zoom enabled me to reach out and touch more people than I would have otherwise…even more so than when I had been traveling the world before the pandemic,” says Gates. “The lockdown also helped me build up my digital platform. And now that I have more followers, I have made the kind of contacts that will allow me to connect to even more people than just making in-person appearances to discuss microblading techniques and give business advice such as reinvesting profits to get a steady cash flow, building your business around your passion, looking at the big picture, and marketing yourself in positive ways to the public.”
Although Gates’ other goals include opening a restaurant and launching a beauty school, she is taking a little bit of time to celebrate how one of her greatest passions—working as a makeup artist—segued into her own product line, including her aptly named ‘Bo$$ Up, Babe’ palette inspired by daughter, Paris, and intended to encourage anybody who uses it to put her best face forward.
Q: What was the ‘Ah-ha!’? moment that led you to create Money Monsters Academy?
Sierra Gates: During the pandemic, I was not able to teach women how to do my microblading technique because the whole world shut town. That alone propelled me to start my “Money Monsters Academy,” an educational program which teaches young women the basics on starting their own business. I love to motivate women to “boss up” by teaching them how to use all the same tools and resources I used on my journey to become a millionaire.
Q: How did your early success define the core of the Money Monsters Academy?
SG: I think it was because of the fact that while I was teaching microblading, I was also filming some of the seminars and demonstrations. On top of that, I was being a mom, and constantly pushing myself forward. I was so busy that I never found the time to explain to my students and followers about how all of those things I did added up to success. The pandemic gave me the time to structure my thoughts, ideas, and methods I used into a single program that would explain the process and steps to others in an accessible way.
Q: What are some key elements and strategies you teach participants in the program?
SG:I show entrepreneurs how to make similar connections to the ones I connected with during my career (incuding great connections in China), as well a cut out the middleman to directly source their own raw materials, and have more control over logistics regardless of whether the aspiring entrepreneur’s desired business is fashion, beauty and skincare, hair, or interior design. I also teach students negotiation skills to get the best prices. Currently, 7,000 young women are enrolled in the program learning these essentials.
Q: Tell us about your Money Monsters 30-Day Challenge, and how it expands upon the academy.
SG: We all need to hold each other accountable, even if we’re operating our own business. For this reason, the 30-day challenge teaches us how women entrepreneurs can have their own goals while operating as a team. Women learn to provide each other feedback that will help them grow as businesswomen. We meet up every day online and go over the exercises and projects in the workbooks, as well as the eBooks that make up our coursework. The coursework also includes ways to improve time management, networking skills, organizational skills and other things involved in running a successful small business.
Q: What lessons have you learned as a young, single mother?
SG: When I became pregnant and gave birth to my daughter at 15, many people told me that I would never have a future if I did not get an abortion, and that my pregnancy would prevent me from having a successful life and career. However, as I did not want to have an abortion, I was determined to have both my daughter and my future through my faith, hard work, and dedication. While having and raising my daughter was my personal choice, every woman will make different decisions based on what’s right for them. I want my testimony to be an encouragement to them to never lose hope and move past anybody who voices negativity.
The point is that I never let the naysayers hold me back or prevent me from getting an education and carving out a career. While I was determined to raise my daughter, I was also not going to take “no” for an answer. I set a goal that was considered by others too high-up, but I still reached it.
Q: What lessons have you learned as an entrepreneur?
SG: Being a mom and an entrepreneur is never easy, no matter how old you are when you have a child. My daughter and I went through many struggles through the years, but we came out on top. It made me an even better role model than I imagined because my daughter grew up witnessing my many struggles, setbacks, and conflicts. She became a stronger, smarter person because of it, as I did as well. My daughter looks up to me, especially now that I am helping people change their lives is a big part of what I do professionally. Watching me grow gives her the courage to try new things and not be afraid to fail and try again.
Q: How do you view “Love & Hip Hop” and the other reality shows?
SG: I used “Love & Hip Hop” as a platform for my message, rather than a vehicle strictly for self-promotion. I try to avoid getting mixed up in the drama that comes up, and show the audience how I can rise above adversity when things come up. I also want people who follow the show to know that I am just me, Sierra. I am not about hanging out with celebrities. I would rather be in the company of my friends who have known me for years, and who have helped me stay focused on my goals and hold me accountable as I encourage other women to level up. I am not interested in participating in the celebrity scene, nightlife, and all of that.
Q: Who inspires you?
SG: One person who inspires me is my pastor. She has always been my friend, but she also holds me accountable for my actions and words. I also look up to Eboyne’ Gates, my publicist. I know it sounds crazy, but once you reach a certain level in life, you need people to hold you accountable and hold you up in prayer. Those who have your best interest at heart, even if it means telling you what you don’t want to hear. Surround yourself around people who will speak the truth! I don’t have to speak with them everyday to know that my pastor and my publicist are looking after me. I always try to think about how my words and actions and how they can make an impact in a variety of ways–which is an important responsibility, especially when young women are involved and are looking at you as a role model.
Q: Who do you consider to be your own personal role model?
SG: I also count LaShawn Browning, who is the executive producer of “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta” to be a role model. She has taught me so many things about the entertainment industry, and how to use one’s position as a platform to help others rather than something more self-serving. She is always honest about how I present myself in public, and it’s a shame that not everybody has a LaShawn Browning in their lives. When I have made mistakes in my career, she taught me how to learn from them and move forward.
Finally, I can’t leave out my mom, who ended up being my biggest cheerleader. She pushes me even on days when I feel I can’t get ahead. She always reminds me to move forward and keep going. I also admire Dara, a close friend of mine. She is a strong woman who takes responsibility for herself and her family and doesn’t bow down to negativity. Whenever I get into a challenging situation, I ask myself what would Dara do? She is a real woman, who gives back and stands up for what she believes in in the community, and on a global level.
Q: What do you want your legacy to be?
SG: I want to continue to be an example to others in terms of giving them the courage to push themselves forward and not take no for an answer. I want to help them get past the shallow things they see on social media in terms of what makes a woman ideal, and instead show them that it is OK to be young, love GOD, be kind to others, and help other people. I want women to realize that they have a destiny they can fulfil if they commit themselves to picking up new skills, be better negotiators and hold themselves and their peers accountable.
Keep Up with Sierra Gates on social media at @sierra_glamshop_, @moneymonstersacademy, and @sierrasecrets.co, and her website, sierraglamshop.com.
Photographer/Creative: Sommer Nicole Photography Studio: Kissworks Studio Atlanta, GA Styling/Creative: Rohan Hair: “Kee Glam Hair” Makeup: Camille Thomas PR: Divine Influence PR