Somolia Pumphrey, writer for The Odyssey Online, interviewed Lanisha Porter earlier this July in a tell-all sit down. Porter responded candidly to questions illustrating clearly for us who she is, what she is about, her goals, the ways in which she is different, but most importantly how she's really just the girl from down the street. The now-college student, who aspires to be a supermogul, is a name worth remembering in the coming years.
Here, the full interview.
Who is Lanisha Porter?
This is such a loaded question. Let’s see. Lanisha Porter is a 21 year-old who started from humble beginnings in Louisville's Westend, but looks forward to an exciting end. I identify myself as an ambassador for empowerment, simply. I am an individual who is an author, a speaker, a mentor, a feminist, a Christian, a global citizen, a student, a teacher, a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. I am very compassionate yet firm, ambitious and intelligent, and am a person who is very principled. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty when it comes to my work; I’m very serious and business-oriented. However, I do like to have fun and seize the moment when I’ve earned it. I’m also philosophical and am aware that my life will expire, so I’m always thinking of the best and most fulfilling ways to lead my life.
When people speak on your name what do you want them to say?
I want people to say Lanisha Porter made them feel safe enough to dream. There are always so many chronic attacks that break people down in different ways. In connecting with me, I want people to feel encouraged to dream and feel like they are enough.
What is the latest professional project you’re working on?
A philanthropic joint project. A long time colleague of mine and myself have partnered together to personally fund a scholarship at our high school to one deserving senior.
With your book, and your Urban Girls Rock! camp what brand are you trying to build?
A brand of brilliance. Both my book and The Urban Girls Rock! group are predicated on women building confidence, character, and class despite their circumstances. In my book I’m talking about myself— a girl who literally came from nothing and still had to the audacity to dream of becoming something. In my girls group there are so many brilliant young women who sometimes come from less than ideal circumstances, and still dare to be something. That’s what this brand is all about.
Why do you consider yourself an advocate of women empowerment?
There was a lot I had to figure out on my own as a young woman. Many times I learned from my mistakes, or I silently solicited other women in search for guidance on what was becoming of a woman. After years and years of studying so many different women I learned one underlying truth: all women share the inseparable cord of femininity linking us to one destiny whether we realize it or not. The same hurdles I face as a woman, many will be likely to face from the fears, biases, biological organization, insecurities, societal pressures, and even joys. In learning and experiencing these realizations, I just felt compelled to be an advocate for women and pushing forth our advantages in society. I believe women are the souls of the universe who keep the cosmic forces in balance. How could you not support a group endowed with such powers? Being a woman comes with very rigid and demanding, yet divine, responsibilities that we must inherit antecedent to choice. We must learn to render love and forgiveness, squander pain and proceed forward with strength, sacrifice our welfare for the security of others, and surrender our temples so that life may manifest inside and yet and still, unfortunately, the woman's power is reduced to only being functional insofar as ornaments, canals to fleeting pleasures, or up to 79% worth of compensation. I have an issue with that. A very passionate one.
How do you think that began?
Growing up I suffered from maternal abandonment. In the most developmental stages of my life my mother wasn’t near to guide me and in missing her I realized the essential need for that feminine presence to push me through the canal of girlhood to womanhood. If I can offer a push to another young lady I will because I don’t want anyone else to linger in aloneness, confusion, and feelings of abandonment like I once did. Therefore, I make myself accessible to young women; I like to serve them in the ways God has equipped me to.
Are you religious? If so what does your religion mean to you?
Yes I am. I identify as a Christian. Religion to me is a value system that helps us form a life stance. Religion is a chance to believe and have faith in the higher power of The Creator. Honoring my religion is like being logged on to The Lords Wi-fi—it helps me stay connected in life. I wouldn’t understand the process of faith, salvation, or forgiveness if my religion wasn’t such an integral piece to my identity.
What is the one thing that people misunderstand about you?
I think people mistake me to be somber. Because I’m very cautious of my surroundings and take myself very seriously, I think people misunderstand me to be someone incapable of having fun. For a young person, my self principles are organized very differently making me a bit different from my peers. When the crowd zigs, I zag happily in my own direction.
Why do you take yourself so seriously at your age?
The better question is, why not take myself so seriously given all the possibilities that there are in the world? I've seen a lot, and have survived a lot and I didn't do it by playing around. Emerging from the circumstances I have, I think it would be a disservice to all the potential I have not to give myself a serious shot at succeeding. Don't get me wrong, I like to have fun and do give myself my proper due of relaxation, but I also understand where I have come from and I give myself little margin for error, as does the world, because of it. I don't come from privilege, shortcuts, or a background of financial security. I've had to work, my loved ones have had to work, and I've had to ask for help, just to get by. After college you're not cute...to wander around aimlessly like an accident isn't cool. So I always try hard. When needed, I remember those days of coming home to a broken furnace and freezing; I remember the candles that had to light our darkness whenever the lights were shut off; and I remember my bored hunger pains that came once tired of eating repeated meals for days on in. No way I could ever go in class and not care to pay attention. No way I could consistently ever sit around and waste valuable hours doing things that I know will not get me ahead. No way I can't take myself seriously.
What does fun look like for you?
You know...I really like Times Square; I really like the party scene in Cancun; and I loved shopping in Quebec. But most of all, I really love my city. Louisville is home for me and always will be, so a fun day for me at 21 years old is getting lost in the city. I'm simple in that sense. I'll check out a party with some of my girlfriends; take my lawn chair to the waterfront while sitting under a shaded tree to read a book; go to Shawnee park and play kickball with my family; go to Gattiland; or grab a bite to eat with my dad at our favorite spot in Cardinal Towne.
What makes you feel accomplished?
Growth! Anytime I’m able to look back and say, “wow look at what I can do now that I couldn’t do before” I feel accomplished. That’s my way to measure whether I am flourishing in my human capabilities or not.
Who is the person you relate to the most (famous or not)?
Most definitely Oprah and India Arie. Oprah because she’s dedicated herself to being a student of life and the science of the universe. She’s always seeking the highest truth and so I am. Hence why I chose to study philosophy in college as early as 9th grade. I love her mind and how she is an outlier. She gives me confidence to own my differences because look at where owning hers got her; it got her OWN! (chuckles)
India Arie is the epitome of a modern day Queen. Her mind, her soul, her spirituality, her poise, her class, her dedication to art and how she magnifies all the most beautiful things in life through her music reminds me of my truest self. India is my soul sister. Sometimes I go through things and I’m just like I need to talk to India.
Who is the one person(s) who has always motivated you?
Most definitely Beyonce. Her work ethic is lethal. Beyonce to me is real personal simply because she was my go- to figure growing up. I’m more than a fan of hers, I’m a dedicated student.
How have they helped you to where you are today?
Growing up I couldn’t always count on my mother being there but I could always count on my Beyonce posters, or her magazine interviews to learn from. Beyonce gave me a woman to consistently count on. I literally studied each one of her interviews and I credit that to my professional development. In a sense Beyonce is like a mother to me in all that she has taught me. I like that she has lived under the glare of the spotlight and still carries a clean reputation. I admire her business acumen and her sharp ability to take charge. To achieve the body of work she has accumulated over the years, has motivated me tremendously. All of these examples she’s given has kindled a flame in me that’ll never be extinguished.
Do you have an ultimate master plan, if so what is it?
To facilitate healing in the world. I write the things that I write in hopes it can be a cushion of strength for people to rest on when they are feeling really beat down. I pray to God for wisdom in aim to say things that will energize someone's soul and inspire them to go out and fulfill their dreams. I'd just like my life to be used to help those who feel unseen to be seen, those who feel abandoned to feel accompanied, and those who come from nothing to know they are something. Overall the master plan has nothing to do with myself, it's about the world that the Master saw fit for me to be apart and do His plan.
What do you think it means to be happy?
To be happy is to feel up inside or have internal goodness brewing. And I think we only get certain moments of feeling upward. Aristotle says happiness is ultimately a life long process. I think I agree with that. I’m not sure what happiness is but I do understand it is a pursuit. In the years to come I crave the moments where I can sit around the Christmas tree with my husband and child and open gifts and share love. That would make me happy. That’s the type of happiness I’m in pursuit of, but I’m wise enough to know that that moment requires a process.
How do you connect with people who are unlike you?
By listening. The more different someone is from me the better because it opens up an entire galaxy for me to explore and learn from and I love to learn.
Do you consider yourself and introvert or extrovert?
I’m an introvert with vibrant extrovert qualities. I love people but I recharge in aloneness.
What is your message that you have for young girls?
Books over Boys. That's been my motto for years and I pass it on faithfully to every young woman I know. Education and school should come first. I prioritize self-development over romantic bonds any day. For one to flourish to their highest potential and nurture their God-given talents, they need to take their education seriously. Education is a major key in personal elevation. Putting boys before books can severely undercut your opportunities in life and self growth. I've seen it happen. You can't slay if you're playing around with these boys.
Shimmering gold and black
Tilapia and fried potatoes
Don't really have one. Anything all black really.
LTD love ballad
Movie that has made you cry?
Last thing you googled?
A Pete Lentz quote
What was the last gift you gave someone?
I gifted someone a surprise birthday treat to a spa for an hour massage..
What is your favorite element?
I really love water. Water is both humbling and powerful. A drop of water is calm and harmless, but collectively an entire body of water is forceful and dangerous yet it’s all the same element. Whenever I stand near the sea it reminds me just how trivial I am in the grand scheme of God’s work, yet it makes me feel special because He saw fit to include me. Water is purifying. It by far is my favorite element. Without water there is no life.
Lastly, how can people contact you?
If ever someone wants to book me to speak they can go through my website and fill out the contact me form. I speak at award ceremonies, banquets, youth fairs, seminars, church settings, occasionally in classrooms, and community events. I am always thrilled to share myself with new groups.
Welcome to my views from this horizon!