From her first summer internship in 2012 at CBS Radio where she worked the 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. shift, to now being in control of her own brand, Gia Peppers is one to watch. When you look at the scope of her work, you instantly notice that something sets her apart from the rest. Despite living in a digitally dominated industry, Gia couldn’t care less about virality, instead, she’s focused on the quality of her work. And underneath her success and beaming smile, is just a girl who is on a mission to change the world.
When she was 25 years old, Gia proclaimed that her goal was “to host a syndicated entertainment news TV show like Extra, E! News or Entertainment Tonight.” Proof that her destiny was written in the stars, she is now a talented content creator and multimedia journalist known for her work on Entertainment Tonight, Today Show, and a beloved co-host on Black Girl Podcast.
As Gia is on the verge of becoming a household name she aims to serve as living proof that you too can be unstoppable in your own life, no matter where you live or who you are.
Gia recently spoke with Her Agenda via phone about career milestones, hacks for success, and determining how the world sees you.
Her Agenda: I’ve noticed that being a young woman of color in the media is extremely competitive. Not only because there are limited opportunities, but also because some people don’t always want to support someone who is winning. What is your process like determining who to work with and what opportunities to take?
Gia Peppers: I choose opportunities based on what I believe that I am here to do with my purpose and assignment on Earth. I really believe in amplifying incredible stories of people who have maintained their sense of joy and sense of self in an industry that tries to belittle them and a world that says they do not matter. There are also a lot of factors like budget, what the project is about, the intentions of the project, its foreseeable impact, and what it is trying to inspire in others. I want my work to be a reminder of the greatness that exists in every single person and a reminder that this greatness doesn’t just belong to certain people. We all have greatness inside of us. With my content, I want to remind people of how dope they already are. At the beginning of my career, I was trying to pay a lot of bills, but now I have more power to say, “Sorry, I’ll pass.” It’s all about what I believe that I can bring to the project and if it aligns with my personal and professional goals.
I think there are more opportunities than ever for Black women, especially right now, because of how this industry is creating more spaces for Black people to tell stories. Look at what Issa Rae has been able to do with Hoorae or what Lena Waithe and Ava Duvernay have been able to do. These women have been in the game for a long time and are incredible north stars for us to see all that can happen and what our gifts can bring us.
We have little things that teach us what the world deems acceptable and we learn how to maneuver based on that, which catches up with you.
Her Agenda: You have your own YouTube series called, Give You The Game, and you are taking your content into your own hands and creating your own opportunities. Though you have 57K followers and counting, do you still feel scared to put yourself and your ideas out there or does it come naturally for you?
Gia Peppers: Naturally? Absolutely not! I have to talk myself into doing it all the time. I pray that it becomes more natural as I continue to do it more. But, in journalism school, they teach you how to get a job as a journalist, the art of one man banding, and how to create your own stories all in hopes that you will get a job at a major network on a major television station in a major city. This generation of millennials changed that when we started making money off of Instagram and influencing people. Not that what I learned in journalism school is obsolete, but they did not teach you how to make your own content but to just be a great reporter and move on from the story. To me, it is very foreign to create my own content for just myself and not for a major network.
As I learn and intersect my purpose, faith, and hustle, it has become something that I am more aware of and can call out and say, “Gia you are afraid of this moment, but you have no idea what could come from it. And, you don’t know who needs it because if only two people watched it, they were meant to find it.”I have now gotten to the point where I am trying to get out of my own way, which is a step-by-step process. If Issa had a YouTube series in the early 2000s that eventually turned into Insecure, who knows what could happen if I keep showing up and betting on myself.
As I learn and intersect my purpose, faith, and hustle, it has become something that I am more aware of and can call out and say “Gia you are afraid of this moment but you have no idea what could come from it.”
Her Agenda: Along with your countless projects, you are also a co-host on Black Girl Podcast. When collaborating with others, how do you distinguish your voice and incorporate your creative vision?
Gia Peppers: We all came into Black Girl Podcast very naturally. I say that because when we started it 5 years ago, we were all working at Hot 97 trying to make it to the next level in our careers. We would just vent to each other outside of the morning show and one day Ebro caught us talking and said, “This is what would happen if y’all had a Black women podcast.” Next thing you know, we started recording and we had to learn how to give everyone space to speak. We are all opinionated women who like to talk and take up our space. But, at the end of the day, we understand that there are also women who are listening and waiting for us to speak on a certain topic with our natural reaction. You have to find the balance within yourself because not everything deserves your energy. But, when it is your turn to speak, you better speak even though your voice shakes. We are young women that are still growing as people. We get into moments where we say, “I didn’t like when you said that,” and we immediately learn how to do better next time. We understand that what we have is way bigger than what we imagined when we started five years ago. It has been one of the greatest journeys in my career.
Her Agenda: It is extremely evident that on-air talent, specifically women, have to alter so much of their appearance to be deemed acceptable. But, I’ve noticed that you still rock your twists and natural hair during segments, and retain authenticity. What was your process like for determining how you want the world to see you?
Gia Peppers: I am still determining it. I am now old enough to know what I threw at the wall that didn’t stick, what I threw at the wall that did stick, what wasn’t really me, and what was me which I have to keep up there by any means necessary. I don’t think people realize how much of you has been conditioned because of side remarks from some of your friends online, a conversation with your mom in which she didn’t like your hair that day, a boy that you dated and he hated your looks, or an Instagram post that you hated and everyone loved. We have little things that teach us what the world deems acceptable and we learn how to maneuver based on that, which catches up with you. Eventually, you watch a segment back and you think ”Yuck, who was that because it wasn’t me,” or “Yes, that was it!” I am older now, better now, have failed a lot, been redirected a lot, have been told “no” a lot, have won a lot, and done a lot of things that I am so grateful for. Now, the world is my oyster so what do I want to say? Though I am nowhere near where I want to be, I have to be grateful for all of the things that I have and have not done. When I think about the process, I trust it and am not trying to be perfect anymore, I am trying to be authentic. If you get so caught up in what everyone else is saying and doing, you forget who you are, what you are here to do, and every single thing that you said that you wanted when you started.
Her Agenda: I see that you have been making some appearances on the Today Show, congratulations! I know that these are big stepping stones for you. As someone who has been following your career for the past few years, I’ve noticed that your career has been an accumulation of small steps in the right direction. From your perspective do you think steadily climbing up has been more beneficial than microwave success would have been?
Gia Peppers: Yes, because I do not know what the other side would have been like. Sometimes, when you are thrown into the lion’s den from microwave success and blow up overnight, it hits you in a way that you might not have been ready for. At the end of the day, everyone’s journey will be exactly how it is supposed to be and I cannot compare my wins to anybody else’s. I am focused on building a career that is long, integral, and representative of me. The Today Show is major and one of the things that I have been praying on. I am grateful for my journey and what I am here to do. Microwavable success is cool too because I have been able to witness my friends blow up in a beautiful way overnight. My challenges may look different from my friends who did experience that, but there is beauty in both sides because whatever happens in your journey is supposed to happen as it should. My biggest thing has always been to trust my journey completely and trust God who wrote it way before I was placed on Earth.
Her Agenda: Very recently, Nivea appeared on, On That Note, Podcast with Kandi Burruss. And, I saw that you tweeted about it and mentioned how heartbreaking the industry can be. A lot of people lose sight of their “Why” and I’m very curious to know how you maintain your vision amid a pandemic and several detours?
Gia Peppers: It is so important to allow a practice of stillness and daily prayer or gratitude moments. I keep my vision intact by staying in touch with God and staying in touch with my purpose, path, and heart. I often reflect on what I’m doing, what I can say better, and what I can learn from a moment. I’m very big on my internal clock. When I was younger, my parents couldn’t send me to time out because I was always writing in my journal and hosting talk shows with my dolls. I check in with my spirit and also give myself time to dream. There is so much that happens in your daily life and career that changes those dreams. It’s good to have a version of your dreams that grows with the new things on your journey, but it’s good to remember what you wanted when you began. Now that those moments are here, what do I want to say and do so that the younger version of me who dreamt this up is proud? You have to stay connected with the little girl inside you because if you don’t, it gets so overwhelming to try and remember every promise you made to yourself. All of those versions of yourself still exist. People really forget that every single thing that we do are reflections of who we believe we are. If we don’t love ourselves first, we aren’t living up to all the adult versions of ourselves. I stay connected to the reason why “no” will never throw me off my journey.
Her Agenda: A lot of aspiring creators get stumped because it takes a lot of money and time to invest in themselves, but can you share an inexpensive hack that helped you along the way?
Gia Peppers: Issa Rae said a long time ago that the most important networking that you do is not up, but side to side. And, I totally believe that and have seen that come true in my own life and journey. The biggest hack is creating with people who are looking to create dope things. They don’t have a big budget either, so it may be a barter system. They might need a host on an event premiere because they are a cinematographer and they want an incredible event and know you can bring incredible energy. So, barter your talent and say “Hey I can do your next event for free if you can record this for me for free.” Or, collaborate on a project that would mutually benefit both of your portfolios. Tap into those communities that are actually in your sphere of influence. Full circle moments are real and authentically networking is the biggest life hack.
Her Agenda: My final question centers around self-worth. We are in an era where comparison is everywhere and it can be hard to take a break from it. With all that you have accomplished, do you think that you appreciate yourself enough?
Gia Peppers: Yes and no! The idea of worthiness is one of the biggest and tallest borders in my life that I have been trying to unpack, build, restore, and replenish. I want to truly walk in my worth and understand the practice of pouring into myself. You have no idea what people have survived to still be in this industry. The greenlight shows that were canceled, the stolen ideas from shows that I pitched, the people who are saying in back rooms, “We don’t need Gia because we have other people who represent what she represents,” can get to you if you do not stay connected to what sustains you.
Though I am nowhere near where I want to be, I have to be grateful for all of the things that I have and have not done. When I think about the process, I trust it and am not trying to be perfect anymore.
You need people who really love you and see you, and you have to practice seeing yourself in the way that you actually are. So many of us are walking around with depleted or flickering light because of incidents that doused them with water and prevented their light from coming back on. It’s scary to go through that process, but it’s the most necessary process to give yourself back to yourself. Every single day at 9:06 pm, I have an alarm that goes off and I internally say “I love you, Gia,” and give myself positive thoughts. The most important relationship that you have is the one with yourself.
[Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]