Interview: Isake Smith

As a part of our interview series, Flawless Project contributor Jessica Newsome has been asking flawless women in different fields and life places seven questions about life, career, feminism, dreams and goals, and more. 


Meet Isake Smith! Isake is an epic multi-tasker. She has been known to sing, row, and facilitate, all at the same time! She is currently a Program Coordinator and the head coach at a local rowing club in NYC. She is also the creator of Stitched by Isake, which offers custom crochet accessories. A renaissance woman in the truest sense of the word, Isake continues to pursue her interests in fighting for the rights of queer and trans people of color, theater, mental health/wellness, and cosplay, whilst keeping up with the latest in education and youth development. A Posse scholar, she graduated from Lawrence University with a BA in Psychology.


1) Did you know about The Flawless Project before today? How did you hear about The Flawless Project? What drew you to it?


No, I had not heard of the Flawless project before today.


2)What is your ‘day job’? Are you a mom, white collar, in the arts, etc.? What do you do as a career? What do you feel is your biggest passion/dream for your life purpose? How did you decide what to do with your life? Are you still working it out? What are your go-to ways to figuring that stuff out?


I am an educator. I hold two positions, one as a program coordinator with youth, and one as a head coach for a rowing club. I stumbled into education and youth development, and have found that it’s something I continue to be passionate about. I do not yet know if I would like to continue direct services or move into administrative roles, but I plan to go back to school for a masters in management so that I can continue to advance my career. I try to figure out what I enjoy, and then link jobs to that passion.


3) What do you think is the biggest myth about being a woman that you had to overcome?


I think the biggest myth that I have to deal with is that queer black womyn do not exist. As a queer black femme, I live at a difficult intersection between race, gender and sexual orientation. I face micro and macroaggressions from both youth and adults in many different spaces, but I feel like it is important to continue to be my authentic self in spite of these difficulties. If I can exist, survive, and thrive in a world that is actively trying to erase me, then I can inspire others to do the same.


4) What myth would you most like for society to change about how women interact with each other and the world?


Womyn are excellent at holding each other. We have always been good at building community, building each other up, and helping each other grow. Society continues to states that womyn are competitive, catty, and incapable of working together, when that simply is not the case.


5) How do you deal with it when you don’t feel flawless? Can you talk about a time in your life when you felt totally and completely lost (career, relationships, spirituality, etc.) and what the biggest/hardest lesson you took away from it was? What would you say to encourage other women going through something similar?


In 2013, I was laid off, and my long time partner ended our relationship. I felt that my personal and professional worlds had been torn to shreds, and that everything was outside of my control. My anxiety and depression was running unchecked. I made a conscious decision to center my wants, needs and desires, for the first time in my life. I had to learn how to ask for help. I asked my family and friends about connections to get job interviews. I spent time improving my interview skills, and working on my writing skills. I created a schedule consisting of applying to jobs, going to the gym, and crocheting. I started my business, Stitched by Isake, so I could bring in some money and keep myself busy. I stayed celibate, and decided to dedicate a significant amount of time to improving my physical health as a way of addressing my mental health. Eventually found a job, and rediscovered what it was like to prioritize joy. It was not an overnight journey. It took me a year to dig myself out of that depression. It took therapy to help me improve my mental helth and trust myself enough to start dating again. It took my friends, and my family to support my job search, and help do things like pay for food and rent. But thanks to my support system, I made it.


6) Who are the flawless women in your life? What would you like people to know about the relationships you have with other women?


I don’t think there are “flawless” womyn in my life. The people I keep close to me are folks who make mistakes, take risks, have failed. But they are important to me because they also have had levels of success beyond our wildest dreams. If you were to have told me at 11 years old that I would be watching my friends run companies, get PhDs, and travel the world, I would have told you you were crazy. If you had told me that my friends would be supporting me while I made television appearances, sang on multiple continents, or be featured as a model in museums, I would have laughed in your face. But, here we are. And all of those things are true.


7) What’s something you’ve accomplished recently that you are proud of and want to share with the other flawless women who are part of this project?


I was recently invited to speak on a panel about being a Black educator on The Root TV. Check out their website!

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