The ‘Millennial Oprah’ talks to Moneyish about her new book, meeting Gloria Steinem, helping other women and her own fears and insecurities
Being called the “Millennial Oprah” is a title that poet, activist and eternal optimist Cleo Wade doesn’t take lightly.
The 28-year-old author from New Orleans launched her writing career on social media and became known as the “Instagram poet,” attracting 336,000 followers who scroll through self-help advice and motivational mantras like “Be yourself. I love you like that,” and “Flawed. & (still) worthy.” While she writes a lot about love, life and politics, Wade uses her platform largely to champion other women.
“We’re raised in a society where we’re constantly taught to compete against each other. Our first thought is always, ‘she’s trying to get a piece of my pie.’ We have to retrain our thinking to say ‘I have her back,’ so we can bring more girls up that way,” Wade tells Moneyish. “The better one woman does, the better we all do. Choose to let another woman’s journey inspire you, rather than make you feel insecure.”
Wade does exactly that, surrounding herself with lady bosses and mentors she loves whether it’s fashion folks like Diane Von Furstenberg and Stacey Bendet of Alice & Olivia, or Gloria Steinem and Huma Abedin.
“The first time I met Gloria Steinem I literally hugged her and I was so overwhelmed. I was like ‘I’m pretty sure you’re my real mom. It was so embarrassing,” Wade recalls. “For me, it’s always important to acknowledge and thank people for their inspiration they create in your life.”
Wade calls Alice Walker, Maya Angelou and, of course, Oprah, her biggest teachers in life. While she hasn’t met the queen of all media just yet, she knows exactly what she’d say to her.
“I would essentially thank Oprah for existing!” she quipps.
Like Oprah, Wade says her debut book “Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life” a collection of spiritual wisdom featuring more than 120 original poems and affirmations, out now, is meant to be your best friend.
“Everytime Oprah came on TV my mom was like ‘my best friend is here.’ I wanted the book to feel more like a friend, that’s how I wrote it. It’s meant to be a companion,” says Wade.
Being creative for a living and needing to pay the bills, Wade has found authentic and lucrative collaborations that make it possible for her to do so while still enjoying what she loves most — writing. Recently, she collaborated with champagne house Moet & Chandon for its “Love Unconventional Poem Generator,” which launched on Snapchat last month allowing users to get custom unconventional love poems.
Wade exudes zen, but even she admits she can get angry, especially over things like gun violence and the criminal justice system on a macro level, and, on a more personal level, inconsiderate people she calls “infuriating.” Her current cure for whining about mundane things like never ending to-do lists? A self prescribed complaint cleanse where she stops herself from griping about all the bad things in life, and instead focuses on the positives.
“I struggle with anxiety, and I have such incredible moments of fear and insecurity that I can’t even express,” Wade admits. “But complaints have no magic, they really just create this energetic negativity. I grew up as a little black girl in New Orleans and I wasn’t even brave enough to dream that I could write a book, or that anyone would want to read it, or that I would have the courage to speak from my soul. This is such a miraculous week for me and I’m not going to spend it in complaints.”
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