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Black Excellence In College: Rikki Lee Shares Gems On How To Succeed and Set Intentions

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As an accomplished YouTuber, business owner, and host of ‘That Girl Radio’, Ohio State University senior and marketing major Rikki Lee has proven that it is possible to be everything you imagine and more whilst balancing college. 

Rikki shares that the reasoning for her starting a YouTube channel was because she wanted to share more of what being a Black woman looked like with the world. She shares that she dedicated herself to creating and taking up space where young women could see that the possibilities are endless. 

I had the honor of interviewing her to discuss her accomplishments and advice for incoming freshmen who are hungry and seek to make impacts around the world through their passions, understanding how to overcome failures, and trusting the process of these next four important years. 

VOX ATL: Mental health is very important in college, how have you been balancing your YouTube channel, academics, and other responsibilities ? 

Rikki Lee: I think for me it’s more of a visual diary, kind of like an archive of where I’ve been emotionally every step of the way. It’s been a way for me mental health wise, a way to discuss a lot of my anxieties and my fears. For me every single time I make a small clip or I’m even having a sit down moment with my audience it’s really about creating a moment for my supporters to take away lessons from the circumstances I’m sharing and that’s helped me vastly with my mental health. 

VOX ATL: For incoming freshmen who are very driven, how should they go about making impacts on campus and in their communities? 

Rikki Lee: I would definitely say intention, intention, intention, you have to be intentional. One thing that set me apart from a lot of my peers was that I knew what I wanted to do, I bring my superpowers to the forefront, I know what I can do, and I’m not shy about sharing what I like to do with others… and I think that will serve you very well when you’re coming onto campus. Also not being afraid to be honest with yourself and others and say “hey I’m interested in this or that club. You never know who can have an opportunity for you and what those doors can open. Closed mouths don’t get fed! 

Secondly, “take up space,” that is my motto. You have to take up space but also remember while you’re moving through this experience to also leave room for women who look like you and can come into these spaces and occupy them with ease. That’s my whole goal with anything that I’m a part of because I want that space to be very comfortable for the next person that comes in after me. 

VOX ATL: Why do you think it’s so important for college students to define their own criteria for success and detach themselves from academic validation? 

Rikki Lee: Like I said in my New York City vlog, the stressor for me in high school was performing, and that was on a scale that was defined by an academic system that was not built by me nor for me. When you allow those certain things to define who you are as an individual and define how capable you are it can really be misleading and it can make you feel very insecure. For me, I was really discouraged after the college admission processes because I had gotten rejections from like 10 Ivys and I had worked so hard throughout the years to “perform” in a sense that an academic institution defined what performing and being successful looked like and that was not to consider people who were in my sort of circumstances and so I had to redefine what success looks like for myself. 

Success to me looks like trying to the best of my ability with the resources that I have been given and with the skill sets that I have. I think it’s so important for incoming freshmen and even college students to understand how your worth is not determined by what you do. What matters is the impact and the way that you make people feel when you walk into rooms, your ability to be effective and your ability to be a contributor to society.  

VOX ATL: What is your advice to incoming freshmen about learning how to embrace failure and knowing how to fail forward? 

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Rikki Lee: I think mainly for me it’s the faith that I have. I’m a big believer, I pray to God,  I live by his word, and for me I know that God wouldn’t put me in any situation that I knew I couldn’t handle. It’s all about perspective, it’s all about figuring out what was the lesson in this? Not necessarily “why is this happening to me” but “what’s the lesson in this”? 

I keep myself motivated through the failure by not allowing myself to sit in the failure. If you allow yourself to sit in failure for too long it’s like when do you allow yourself to get back up? I think my ability to see things from a glass half full instead of a glass half empty has served me so well, because I understand and know that I am going to have to fail in order to succeed. There will be 1,000 no’s before there is one yes, but that is what builds endurance. 

VOX ATL:  As incoming college students who feel like they have to have everything figured out and planned for their next 4 years and beyond, how do you think they can release this desire for control?

Rikki Lee: I was very adamant about being very future oriented and I now have an appreciation for the now. Because why did God create time like this… we can only reference the past. When things are not clear, that’s when I personally know that they are not for me. It’s a matter of having faith and trust. You have to take in everything like a sponge and just appreciate it because you will never get these years back and you don’t want to look back on them and have regrets. 

VOX ATL: How do students work on being intentional with getting to know their professors, getting summer internships, and networking for opportunities that not only help them stand out as a student but aid the world in impactful contributions through their passions? 

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Rikki Lee: It’s all about the level of intentionality that you have. People will come to you and life is a box of chocolates filled with a lot of opportunities. Allow yourself to weigh the pros and cons of each opportunity and remember “to whom much is given much is required”. You don’t want to overload yourself so much to where you just fall apart. You have to weigh these pros and cons and ask yourself is this opportunity going to bring me joy and is it going to bring me growth.  

For those students who are coming in, are super excited, and want all of these opportunities, you have to be an energy source. You have to be an asset, not a liability, build up your repertoire, build up your portfolio and your resume. Even offering people your services for free, and not just giving some rundown version, but doing it to the best of your ability because the return on your investment, of your time, is going to be so much more when you get that internship opportunity, or that phone call, or you’re called to be considered for an experience. 

Weigh each experience on how it will make you feel. Ask yourself what are your pillars? What do you stand on? Take the time to figure out your values, because if you don’t stand for anything you don’t stand for nothing. 

And with that Rikki Lee shares her gems for succeeding through failures, finding yourself through challenges, and making your mark during these next four years of college and beyond. 

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