Breanna Brock is a blogger and sociology PhD student dedicated to advancing the causes of her community through both her studies and creative endeavors. A firm believer in doing both, Breanna serves up delicious plant-based recipes and other healthy lifestyle tips through her platforms Plant Based Bre and WhereSheBegins, in addition to, serving up the goods in the classroom. You can keep up with Breanna on Twitter @PlantBasedBre @WhereSheBegins.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: who are you and where are you headed?
Hello, I’m Breanna Danielle, founder of lifestyle and wellness site WhereSheBegins.com and current sociology Ph.D. student. Originally from Baltimore, MD but currently residing in the Central Valley of California. I like to think I have two professions, a wellness entrepreneur and a researcher who intends on influencing socio-political policy through my work. I try to find a healthy and productive balance between my creative and academic endeavors which makes it a bit difficult to predict where life may take me next, but I’m praying it’s somewhere less hectic than the grad school environment.
Lifestyle and wellness blogger through your platforms ‘Where She Begins’ and ‘Plant Based Bre,’ talk to us about how you got your start in blogging and the goals for not only yourself through a healthier lifestyle rooted in wellness and better nutrition, but for your community?
Where She Begins actually started from a 50-day social media detox, I realized during that period that I wanted to create a community and write more so I started a blog. Fast forwards two years later and Where She Begins has expanded and grown beyond what I could’ve imagined. Plant Based Bre started this year out of a passion for cooking and teaching people that healthy foods can be enjoyable. I wanted to be an inspiration and example of how being plant based doesn’t mean that you have to be amazing in the kitchen or that you have to spend a ton of money on groceries per week. I truly believe a plant based lifestyle is for anyone, regardless of lifestyle, age, culture or body type so I wanted to highlight that through my Facebook community and Instagram.
Through my site I really wanted to do two things: one, let people know that it is ok to not have everything figured out. I’m extremely transparent in my writing because I believe in showing people the process, not just the final result. Two, to create a community that is positive and engaging. Over the years I’ve been able to interact with wonderful women due to my platform. I hope to see the community continue to grow over the years and become a resource to those who are trying to navigate establishing a healthier lifestyle.
A blogger who is also a PhD student, do you ever struggle with reconciling your creative and academic interests? How do you discern which to engage when?
I have my moments where I struggle with tying my creative and academic mind together and I also have had other instances where I use my research to inspire my creative writing. A lot of my work surrounding mental health and a plant based lifestyle came from academic projects I’ve worked on. I’ve studied the black/white mental health paradox and I’ve work on food insecurity which all influence how I speak on those topics. It’s also why I stress WOC in academic spaces needing to prioritize self-care and it’s also why I’ve made my food blog a POC inclusive community. My ‘#CarefreeBlackGirl and Therapy’ series along with my plant based cookbook are all a result of my creative mind being inspired by my academic research interests.
Though early in your program, what advice would you given to womxn considering academia about everything from the application process to picking a program to settling in once the semester begins?
If I could give advice to anyone considering academia it would be to find your community. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for such amazing mentors and friends who’ve guided me and supported me through the process. It really is impossible to navigate academia alone, especially if you’re from an underrepresented community so find those who can support you during your journey. Also ask as many questions as you have during the application process, no questions are dumb. Lastly, know your worth and don’t accept a funding package that is not fully funded for a minimum of 5 years when you’re applying to a Ph.D program.
What opportunities do you see for women/women of color/girls at the intersection of creativity and the academy? How do you intend to positively influence this arena?
I truly think that now is our time. We’re in a social and political climate that needs women of color to be seen, heard and represented in both academia and creative spaces. I think it’s time to show how versatile and dynamic women of color can be. Our experiences are truly valuable to creating dope creative projects and innovative research. I hope to bridge more of the academic world with pop culture. I always speak on how I don’t just want my research to die in a professional journal, I want it to be a mainstream source of knowledge. I plan to be published in top sociology journals as well as in Essence because I truly feel like there’s an ability to do both.
What message would you give millennial women of color with both a creative and an academic side? What would you tell them about balance or pursuing various sides of themselves?
You don’t have to “choose” a side is something that I’m just now realizing. Even though working in academia is very time consuming and stressful it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to devote all of your time to school, even if you feel like you do in order to keep up with the workload. Taking a break to work on creative projects is possible and often times it’s necessary for my own sanity.
While you maneuver both the creative and academic world it’s important to keep your priorities in order. If you’re going to enter the academic world, it becomes your work and your livelihood so it necessary to keep that in mind when considering creative projects. I personally had to but a lot of my creative projects on the back-burner in order to adjust to being a full time PhD student. It doesn’t mean I’m not open to any creative work, but I do find myself saying no to certain projects because I know I don’t have the ability to give them all the attention and time they require. Use your creative and academic sides to compliment each other, not compete.
What can we expect from you moving forward? How can we be of support?
I recently just released my first plant based e-cookbook, Plant Based Living. I created this book with every lifestyle in mind, it’s not only for people who want to go vegan, it’s a general guide on ways to incorporate less meat and more plants into your diet. If you’re meat eater, ‘flex’aterian, vegetarian, or plant based the book has something for you. You can grab a copy or join my Facebook Community at whereshebegins.com/shop.
In the end, how do you want your story depicted? What legacy do you hope to leave behind?
Honestly, I haven’t put much thought into this so I hope my answer will suffice, but I want my story to depict how you don’t have to do the same thing for the rest of your life. You can be all that you want to be with the proper planning and goal setting. I want to establish an NGO and be a mom. I want to host cooking courses and teach in a university setting. I truly believe that we are placed on this planet to follow our passions and I intend on following each and everyone of mine. I think a lot of people block their own blessing when they choose a career or life path that they aren’t passionate about.