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"J.Lo's Personal Branding Secrets" — Connie Steele, Future Of Work Expert⁠

Connie Steele (00:00): Hello, I'm Connie Steele. I'm a future of work and life expert, executive consultant, career strategist, author, and podcaster. And this is my love letter to Jennifer Lopez, AKA J.Lo.

Sam Thorogood (00:25): Welcome to Branding Love Letters, exploring the emotions brands evoke and the journeys they take us on. I'm Sam Thorogood, a graphic designer and your host. In each episode, I invite a guest to pick their favourite brand and unpack why it means so much to them. This podcast is a celebration of the branding that informs, impacts and inspires us. So, without further ado...

Connie Steele (01:07): Uh, I first experienced J.Lo when I saw her on 'Living Color' as one of the fly girl dancers. I was 18 years old and I loved seeing other women of colour performing because during, at that time, the level of diversity on TV, wasn't what it is today. And I think secretly, I probably wanted to be a fly girl myself.

Sam Thorogood (01:25): And what was it about her in particular that sort of intrigued you or, or drew you in?

Connie Steele (01:31): Well, what drew me into seeing, what drew me into J.Lo was seeing another, um, woman of colour who stood out, who looked and, and just was, was standing out so confidently and showcasing her strengths in a different way. Um, it wasn't that stereotypical mould, particularly from a beauty standpoint and she wasn't going to conform to those typical standards of beauty. And I also noticed that other people were drawn to that. Uh, so you could tell she was going to be a changemaker early on, cuz she was all about showcasing her unique, you know, abilities, but just everything holistically about her, what made her her. And, uh, I think the other piece was that her sort of charting her own path, you know, I mean it was this focus and conviction she had. Um, and certainly she shifted doubters to being believers and fans, uh, and crafting the career that she ultimately has now. And, you know, she's role model for, I think, many to showcase that, you know, where we come from, our roots, um, you lean into it and, uh, showcasing the real you and leaning into being unique and different.

Sam Thorogood (02:55): And when did you first sort of start thinking about what she was doing as a brand? When did that come in, that piece of the puzzle?

Connie Steele (03:03): Uh, I really started thinking about that... I would say probably the past four years. I mean, obviously she's always been this strong brand, but in particular, really leaning into how her brand has evolved, how she's reflected it. When I personally leaned to myself understanding the future of work and how it was changing, particularly among, you know, different generations and seeing what they truly wanted out of work and life. And it was taking a non-linear path to defining a different goal, which wasn't always about money, title, power. It was really about a level of fulfillment and happiness and being able to showcase your full self.

Sam Thorogood (03:51): Can you unpack this idea of the career mashup, which you, you talk about in relation to J.Lo?

Connie Steele (03:56): Absolutely. So J.Lo is one of the examples that I have in a book that I eventually wrote, um, that reflects the career of future, the career mashup. And it is one in which a person combines their skills, interest, passions, capabilities, uh, roles, opportunities, gigs into a career that truly reflects all of you. So it could be a portfolio career, which is what she's done. She is not just an actress and a singer and an entrepreneur, but she's also an investor too. And I'm sure she's, you know, and a performer and so on. I mean, there's so many different elements to her and she continues to talent stack and go broad, it's about breadth, not depth anymore. But another example would be one in which you could look at as a super job, it's where you have taken this non-linear path and you've accumulated all these different skills and capabilities and combine it into a role that enables you to flex in different directions, because for most people now, if you, if you work in different, um, industries and so forth, your ability to, uh, flex and pivot and do various things, not just the one thing.

(05:14): So maybe you're a developer, but if you're a developer, who actually some design capability and even writing and so forth, actually significantly more impactful because then you know how to connect the dots with the other cross-functional teams you work with to deliver a greater impact. So again, that career mashup is just combining all of those talents and interests, unique abilities that make you you.

Sam Thorogood (05:36): You've got a section in the book titled 'We're All Jennifer Lopez Now', what did you mean when you, when you wrote that?

Connie Steele (05:43): Well, Jennifer is multipotentialite, right? She acts, she sings, she dances, she's a fashion designer. She is a reflection of what I talk about as a career mashup. So I wanted to, uh, really showcase somebody who has done it and has been around for a really long time. It's not someone who has just started doing it. You know, she's been in the, uh, entertainment industry, or I don't know how many different industries, if you think about it, but she's been around for a really long time and she is constantly reinventing herself. So I wanted to showcase somebody who's had such incredible longevity and also has started to redefine what it means to be successful as a woman of colour in a period of, you know, one's life where many times this is when they fizzle out.

Sam Thorogood (06:32): When you think about her, what, what emotions come up?

Connie Steele (06:37): Confidence, passion, excitement, determination, boldness, um, and dynamicism.

Sam Thorogood (06:44): And in terms of the way she's kind of presented herself online in, in her different products that she's launched and, and especially thinking about like the visual element of her brand, what what's appealing about that, cos she's gone through quite a few different brand refreshes in terms of things like her logo and whatnot, what what's appealing about what she's doing, uh, visually?

Connie Steele (07:04): Well, I think each refresh she does is just an authentic reflection of who she is at that point in time. So it showcases a willingness and, and acceptance of testing, iterating and optimising on yourself because who you are at in one period of your life is not gonna be the same at another period. And that's okay, but there's still things that are foundationally you. So if I think about, you know, her latest, um, brand launch or product launch was her beauty line. When you look at the typography of that, it is clean. It is simple, you know, the sans serif fonts, but it's modern. I think she's always been a bit ahead of her time, but you can even look at her other clothing lines and there's a boldness, there's a brightness to her and it just shows different facets. Um, in the, going back to the, the beauty stuff, like there's a glow, right? So I find it quite interesting where she's emphasising that and people know that about her, that she has this glow. So in the name of her fragrance, even the design of that, that bottle, um, but to the look and feel of her beauty brand, now the colours that she's chosen, uh, the packaging that she has, that very much just aligns with who she is right now. And people wouldn't say that that isn't on brand, right? They're like, yeah, that feels very much on brand.

Sam Thorogood (08:40): And do you think part of the reason why she's been able to sustain such a successful career for, for so many years is that this sort of willingness to experiment this, this willingness to take risks and not, not get pigeonholed into just, just being one thing like you said, but, uh, but constantly exploring what can, what can fit under the, the J.Lo brand in a sense?

Connie Steele (09:00): A hundred percent. And she even says that I know in an interview, I think she did for Advertising Week. She fundamentally understands the importance of reinvention, evolution, iteration. But for me, I think the key point is going broad across industries, across roles and this idea of talent, stacking building on what you have, not staying in one lane will push you to exercise the different parts of you. It will help you uncover and unleash potential that you might not have known you've had. So you then are able to continually identify new white space opportunities that make you unique and different. If we stayed very narrow and deep, you can become a commodity pretty fast. And in this new world of work where change is constant and uncertainty is the new certainty, you have to spot the trends and see where you can evolve to next because those new opportunities are gonna be a hybridisation of different things. They're not gonna be pure plays of, you know, opportunities or, or, or areas that we have seen in the past. And we see it pretty much in just about everything now.

Sam Thorogood (10:22): Has she done anything over the years that has really surprised you?

Connie Steele (10:27): I would say, you know, the year in 2020 where, uh, there were all these major opportunities that she had, it was just one after another, you know, and usually celebrities have one big one, but to have done the Super Bowl, to have done the inauguration here, to have performed, uh, in New Year's. But I think also at the time it was her Oscar nomination. I mean, it was just, she was really on fire that year, but to have done that at the age that she was at, and it was as if she had really launched her career like she did in her thirties. Right. To, but to see that again, 20 years later is incredibly impressive because for many women and many women of colour at her age, you don't see opportunities like that. So that unto itself is quite inspirational to showcase that you too could do this. It's about defining those goals. It's defining a different way and having the persistence and resilience to achieve it.

Sam Thorogood (12:41): We'll be back with today's guest in a short moment. I wanted to just jump in to say thank you. Thank you for, for listening, for choosing to listen to this podcast, um, above all of the other ones that you could be listening to right now. And also wanted to say that the podcast is released on the 14th of every month. There's a new episode that goes out on the 14th of the month. And normally it's just one episode, but this month there is more than one episode. So do check out what else has been released today, um, if you're enjoying this one, listen to the others and um, and, and do share the podcast with, with friends, with family, with colleagues, with cats and dogs and people in the street that you wander past, just, you know, spread the word about Branding Love Letters. Okay. Let's get back to the conversation.

(12:47): Have there been any times where it's been quite, quite hard to, to love what she's doing or maybe she's made a decision that you've disagreed with quite strongly?

Connie Steele (12:55): I dunno, it's so much, you know, um, difficulty in not loving the brand. It's more just sadness in that. Um, there were times when there was inconsistency when it came to her personal life on the romantic front. So you, you just wish for somebody who has had quite a bit of success and is building and building and building, um, on the romantic front, you were, you just hope that you would find lasting stability. Now, granted, I think hopefully that's changed in light of, you know, the marriage, but I think that you, you would hope that the continued growth that somebody sees on the professional front just translates into the personal front and, you know, it seems hopefully now it has.

Sam Thorogood (13:42): Um, how would you sort of summarise if you, if you were looking back on your, your kind of story with J.Lo in a sense, and, and you look back and, and think, reflect on kind of what it's meant for you and how it's impacted your life, your professional life in, in particular, how would you summarise your, your journey with, with that brand?

Connie Steele (14:01): Um, I would say it is one of admiration, uh, and a role model because it showcases that when you really stick to who you are, what you believe, um, understanding what your unique talent and abilities are and could be, you can make naysayers into believers and admirers.

Sam Thorogood (14:23): And was it always very clear that you were gonna include her in your, in your book as quite a central part of that?

Connie Steele (14:29): Yeah.

Sam Thorogood (14:29): It's fantastic. And it's, it's fascinating. I think, to kind of apply that to the world of business as well. Cause it's not necessarily, I mean, I've been doing this podcast and I, I was, I think it's fantastic that you've chosen J.Lo as a brand, cos it's, it's a bit kind of, um, it's not what you expect, is it, you know, it's, it's quite different to, to maybe some of the other ones that people are going with, but I think it's fantastic because actually, as you're talking about her, she absolutely embodies so many, um, practices and opportunities that there are for, for businesspeople at large. So it's a really interesting, it's a really interesting way in, I think you've, you've, you've hit on with that.

Connie Steele (15:04): Well, in this book, I emphasise that you now have to be the CEO of you when we talk about the future of work and life, what the career of the future is. It means you have to do your own personal branding because if you don't, it will be predetermined for you, anyone, and everyone will get some information about you online. If there's really not much, there's already a perception. If there's a lot, they'll have a perception based on what is put out there. So it's better that you control the narrative that you want versus having somebody else determine what that narrative should be. So what I believe is really important for people to recognise is that you have to now create that strategic plan for you to create the career and life that you want because people now see work and life are integrated. They're not separate.

(15:59): So if you wanna define that, it's up to you to take control and map that out. Otherwise you are gonna get stuck, but if you don't have clarity on what you are aiming for or, or take the time and do the work to define that goal, you're gonna have difficulty mapping out a roadmap that leads you to the eventual place that you wanna be. But it's not going to be a straight line path. You just need to define the goal and you need to put some plan in place and you will test, learn, iterate. Some things will work. Some things will not that's data, right? That data you take back and assess and say this fit and this didn't. So how do I learn from that? And tweak my plan. That's what she's been doing. What any of us have been doing.

Sam Thorogood (16:55): And interestingly she's been doing it kind of for a long, you know, before social media really. So she was kind of in a sense, like ahead of the curve, really in this, in this idea of personal brand. Really ahead of the curve.

Connie Steele (17:07): 100% and you see it, you hundred percent see it, that unto itself had always remembering where you came from, your roots, your, your ethnic roots, your geographic roots. What makes you you, you know, she'll say I'm a scarce asset. There's only one J.Lo and she's created that. And that is very true. Now we live in a world where DE and I is certainly coming to the forefront and people recognising that diversity, equity, inclusion is so important to truly accelerate your business because it's through diversity, it's through differences, it's through understanding, you know, those different aspects of the people on your team and what they can bring. That's how you unleash new ideas, right? So all of that comes into play. And right now I think the reason why she's also having this moment is because there is this acknowledgement and recognition globally that wow, the world has totally changed.

(18:17): It is much more, um, it, it has so much more diversity. You've got various cultures. Um, people's identity are multiple things. We're not just one thing. And we don't wanna be compartmentalised. We're not as human beings, one-dimensional, but we've been forced to be much more one-dimensional and conformist in the way that we've operated much more rigid. Nobody wants that anymore. People recognise that if we cannot just be us, whatever that looks like, be comfortable in your own skin. You've heard that for years. You know, I have two kids, I teach them that, right. You need to be you, what does you look like? Well, there's really one and only you. So you have to figure out what that is. But, you know, I think she's having her moment because everybody now has caught up to what she's known innately.

Sam Thorogood (19:14): Connie. Uh, tell us more about you and where people can connect with what you are, what you are doing.

Connie Steele (19:19): Uh, well, you can connect with me, um, on my website,, that's S T E E L E. You know, also find me on LinkedIn and on Instagram @conniewangsteele, on Twitter @conniewsteele. And as I mentioned before, I am a future of work and life expert. It's something in which I'm quite passionate about. And I started off as a marketer myself. So I was a marketing stragedy executive working with technology companies for most of my career, originally started as a marketing researcher. So understanding people, having data to understand human behaviour is core to me, but I made a pivot myself to identify what fit me best 10 years ago. And for those women who have partaken in the great resignation, because they've realised that being able to juggle everything, being a mom and having your role in your work and all the other responsibilities you have, it's hard to manage. And you just had to refocus and fear that, I understand cuz that was me. So I encourage people to spend the time, understand yourself, learn about your own personal strengths, spot those trends, really spot those trends on a macro level and on a micro level. And when you do, then you'll be able to identify what makes you, you, what makes you unique? And it's not just your what, it's your how. That's, where you could start to build a brand.

Sam Thorogood (21:02): Fantastic. Well finally, would you be happy to just read out your, your love letter to J.Lo?

Connie Steele (21:08): Sure. To J.Lo, thanks for showing us that you don't have to fit the mould to create a lasting impact personally and professionally, by going broad in what you do and how you do it. You've shown people all over the world that no one way is the right way. Your career journey has been an inspiration to so many of us because it has reflected the career of the future, the career mashup. You've intuitively known that by combining all of your skills, interest experience, hobbies, passions enables you to be your whole self. And that's what all of us want in this new world of work and life. But you also recognise that you can never stay stagnant. It's about constantly testing, learning, and iterating on yourself to identify what fits you best. We've seen from you, that what you wanna need in one period of life, won't be the same as another. So it's important to push ourselves to do things differently because fortune favours the bold. Thank you for showing us women of colour and of a certain age. A way to stand out, stay the course and continually push through the barriers that can often get us stuck. So thank you for being you and staying you, whatever that looks like today and tomorrow. With love, Connie Steele.

Sam Thorogood (22:23): Connie, thank you very much for letting us hear your branding love letter.

Connie Steele (22:27): Thank you so much for having me.

Sam Thorogood (22:32): You've been listening to Branding Love Letters and I've been Sam Thorogood. I'm on a mission: equip pioneers like you to bring others onto your journey. Come and find out more at Thanks for listening. Oh, and big thanks to Thomas Thorogood for the music. Take it away, Tommy boy.

Sam Thorogood | Pilgrimage Design