Luvvie Ajayi wants the simple things.
She wants you to recognize that Africa is a continent, not a country. She wants you to leave the bike-riding-only baes alone. She wants you to more fully consider why you share your intimate relationship details on Facebook but share nothing of your breakup.
Ajayi’s new book, “I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual,” is humor writing at its best. But like most humor, it’s also a truth serum tempered with the bite of laugh. She talks about everybody: late people, racist people, those scroogy people who dip off without paying when a big group of friends dines out at a restaurant.
And she offers help in the form of modern-day pop culture etiquette without the Miss Manners mannerisms. Ajayi, 31, started blogging in 2003. For fun. By 2010 she realized she make monetize her site and since then, her social media takedowns have become the stuff of legend.
Ajayi talked to NBCBLK about her book, her life and her giveback. Here’s what else she had to say.
NBCBLK: You could have written a book out of any one of the chapters in “I’m Judging You.” How did you approach your writing?
Luvvie Ajayi: I wanted this book to be a version of my blog on steroids. It’s all brand new information, but it’s true to my voice… just how on my blog any given day I might be talking about candy one day and racism the next. This book is the same. It’s just way more organized. This was way more intentional. I thought I would write a book that covers all the topics I want people to do better in.
Where’d the idea come from?
I also got the idea for this book on Twitter, funnily enough. It came in 2014, when a quote unquote journalist plagiarized my work. And when I called him out on it, he was like ‘oh I didn’t now I wasn’t supposed to do that.” I literally tweeted: “Is there a manual on how not to [plagiarize]? It was a light bulb moment.
How’d you get that title? Did the publisher change it at all?
I’m judging you: I just felt like it was such a phrase that captured how I felt about people. I am judging them. When I came up with the idea, the outline and my proposal and all that stuff, I expected whoever I landed with to be like, ‘oh, we can’t call it that.’ But they were like, ‘yes!’ that was the title from the beginning.
You are an equal opportunity judger. You even talk about Nigerians being late to everything. Has anyone gotten angry about that?
That’s it, we can’t even be mad. People are like they’ve been to a Nigerian event. You right. I saw it. I saw people not show up for four hours.
You always write about real issues, some of them racial. But conventional wisdom tells us to shy away from tweeting or FBing “racial issues” because it might impact our job. How are you able to build a social brand business and still discuss racial issues at a time when many businesses shy away from race?
There is some credence to it. You see football players taking the knee and lose an endorsement. But I’ve had people tell me that part of what they like about my brand is I speak the truth and it makes me more of a whole person as oppose to others who are so brand conscious they only throw up brand guidelines. It’s important to be a full person. You don’t have to be a robot.
Your nonprofit, The Red Pump Project, raises awareness on HIV and AIDS. Why did you start it?
I think it’s important for service to be a part of your life instead of an option. It’s awesome to make it a point to do something that’s gonna make the world slightly better than you left it. I started the Red Pump Project with a friend of mine and we both realized we were closer to the epidemic than we imagined. We hadn’t heard about HIV since people stopped talking about Magic Johnson. Yet, even when women don’t have it, we’re the ones taking care of those who have it. And, black women are a hugely disproportionate number of new infections. That’s what spurred us on to create the Red Pump Project.
What’s it like to be social media famous?
I’ve reached a high profile enough to where sometimes I just don’t want to leave the house because I just kind of want to get my brain back. I’ve reached the point where people text me randomly for favors, like ‘hey can I pick your brain.” People I haven’t talked to in years are asking for favors. It’s like “wow people really got some nerve.”
Did you know, back when you created your first blog, that you would be doing this now?
It took me seven years to realize what I was doing was actually worth being paid for. I did the hard work but it’s a bit of God’s grace here too.
Your book had me chuckling, but a lot of it needed to be said. What do you hope your reader takes away?
I want them to do better and I want them to spread the word. I want to encourage people to actually speak up when it matters, even when it’s tough. We need that person in the room.
Have people told you their favorite chapter?
When Baehood Goes Bad. That seems to be the crowd favorite.