Twenty Someone: Cleopatra Lamothe

Hometown: Boston, MA
College: The New School and NYU  
Age: 27.  I’ll be 28 on Saturday
Occupation: Teen program manager at Step Up, a nonprofit that empowers teen girls from under-resourced communities to be confident, college-bound and career-ready
1. Describe your job in three words: Inspiring, dynamic, fun. No, challenging. No fun. Inspiring, dynamic and fun
2. Is it fun and challenging? Yes. You have to say more than yes. Well, it was a yes or no question. Okay, why is it fun and challenging? My job requires me to interact with a lot of different types of people from school leaders and administrators to professional women who are Step Up members to staff and also 400 teenage girls. It’s fun because I get to interact and engage with folks at the different events and programs I create. It’s challenging because I constantly work with various types of people and I have to learn how to communicate and code switch in those environments
3. Speaking of challenges, can you think of a challenge you have overcome-or not? Yes, I feel like I’ve overcome a lot of challenges most of which relate to things that affected my self-confidence. If you don’t have a lot of it, then it will be hard to prosper in life. A lot of my challenges have to deal with the way people have seen or interacted with one of my identities. Like my mom is a single mom and she had a lot of folks who thought I wouldn’t end up going to college because she was raising me on her own. In school teachers would question my ability to be academically successful. They would ask if I plagiarized my paper if they thought it was too good. The school had a lot of bureaucracy. Oh, they would also place me in classes I didn’t belong in. Things like that. That’s why I do the work I do now. So I can help give girls the confidence that they need to become successful
4. What type of school was that Cleo? It was a private, Catholic school. It didn’t make sense. So I guess your mom got the last laugh? Always
5. Tell me about your hair style because I know people must ask you about it a lot. Do they? They say they like it. Tell me the story behind it. Growing up I had long, straight hair. I had a lot of it. It was straightened and relaxed ever since I was six or seven. I was a tomboy and always hated it. I wasn’t into the hairstyles, but I was always praised for my hair. My mom is super brave and daring and experimental. She has had long hair and short hair and shaved hair so I don’t know why I was resistant, but eventually I cut it all off. My little cousin said, “No one likes hair like mine. They only like hair like yours.” She had natural hair. After that, I cut mine off. She was only seeing the outside. My hair is now a reflection of me
6. What else should we talk about? Food. What about it? You can tell a lot about a person by their eating habits and you can build community through food. You can share spaces with people you would never have anything in common with, but there you are connecting and enjoying the same meal. Yea, you should see the people who I meet at the donut shop 
7. A funny thing happened on the way to the forum. A funny thing also happened on the way to… I don’t know. Nothing funny ever happened to you on the way to somewhere else? Robin, what? Okay on the way back from Miami, my friends and I had a 6 am flight that we were close to missing. After bypassing everyone in the security line, we walked onto the plane. My friend and I sat in the back and my other friend sat up front. What’s funny about that? Well, the friend who sat up front wasn’t supposed to be on that plane. He just followed us and was actually supposed to be flying to JFK, not Laguardia. The flight attendants thought he was a little kid whose parents left him behind, but really he is a 33 year old lawyer. What did they say to him? Nothing. First they were arguing about him being on the plane. One person thought he should stay, the other thought he should go. He didn’t say a word. As long as he got to New York. Laguardia is a better airport anyway. Okay so a funny thing happened on the way to New York City. Yea. But why did they think a 33-year-old man was 12? He’s a trans guy so they just read him as young
8. You have the power to make everyone do this for one day. What is this? Don’t be violent in language, thought or action. I think this is impossible for folks to do. I’m not saying be nice, I’m saying don’t be violent. Isn’t it hard to discern? Yea, but if it’s oppressive to anybody then that’s what I’m talking about. You can be nice and oppressive at the same time. You think so? Yes. That’s what being polite is. You don’t have to be genuine, you just have to be nice for the sake of presentation. Welcome to the South! That’s why I like New Orleans. I think that was the only place where I really felt like folks were genuinely warm and kind to visitors and not just polite. Cleo, do you know where I’m from? Atlanta. And I like it there, but there are a lot of polite people there. I actually lived there for a year when I was younger and was very confused. In Boston, if we don’t like you we tell you. In Atlanta, people were really nice, but then still so mad. That was confusing for me
9. You met this person and couldn’t forget them if you tried. I mean it’s been an honor to meet Toni Morrison and Alice Walker and Sonia Sanchez. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of  literary idols of mine probably because I live in New York, but I met Toni Morrison because I dated her granddaughter. That was the only reason. Was she cool? Mmhmm. But Ciara is who I really should say. I was standing in her way at a magazine party and she had to tap me and say, “Excuse me.” I won’t ever forget that
10. In ten years you will be…running my own school, living by the beach and raising my children
Wait, one more thing! With a name like Cleopatra, do you feel powerful? Yea I’ll run with it. I’m a queen

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