From Homeless To Hollywood: What I Learned On My Fearless Journey

Arian Simone (center) at last year's Fearless Conference.

I remember scrolling down the list counting all of the jobs I had applied for that I didn’t get. When I got to number 153, I just froze. I was in total shock at the amount of rejection I had received. There was no need to count anymore. It had become ridiculous. There I was, 23 years old and fresh out of college, sitting on the same floor I slept on the night before, wondering where I went wrong. I had a master’s degree in business from Florida A&M University. I had been taught that you go to school in order to graduate and get a job. Apparently the 153 places that had rejected me didn’t get the memo.

To be clear, I did briefly have a job — it just didn’t last. Thirty days after I started working at Apple Bottoms by Nelly, the company was sold. In 2003, I lost my apartment and resorted to living out of my car for the next seven months, occasionally crashing on my friend’s floor. I got by on welfare and food stamps, and I sold my clothes for gas and food money. It was miserable and all I wanted was to find work.

Then one day I got a call that would change everything: It was a job offer for some freelance PR and marketing work. I was beyond grateful for the opportunity, but the reality is I would have swept floors, cleaned toilets, even dug dirt, and still been thankful. I decided that if a door was open, I wasn’t going to walk through it, I was going to run. I knew in my heart this was my moment. I worked diligently at all of my tasks. My first (and only client!) was impressed, and they referred me to others.

In only a couple of weeks I had five to seven projects going on; it was like I had launched a business overnight. I moved into an office space that was more suitable for entertaining clients, and I slept on the floor there at night, because I couldn’t afford to pay any additional rent. But I was happy. Then one night, a magical thing happened: A man named Coach Carter (yes, as in Coach Carter from the movie) accidentally walked into my office while I was sleeping. He was doing business with my friend’s production company down the hall.

Coach Carter was upset that I was living in my office. I told him I was fine. He said no woman should live like this. Again I reassured him I was fine. I even went as far to tell him I was building an empire — that I had seen much worse and that I was just saving up for an apartment. I made sure he knew I was happy to be in the office. He said, “Well, I am going to help you and I am going to get Paramount Studios to cut you a check.” Movie studios typically outsource their PR and marketing for projects. He offered me an opportunity to work on his film.

I went on to land clients such as Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, and Walt Disney Pictures, as well as A-list clients in the music industry. I learned from this experience that being fearless is definitely an ingredient to my success. Being fearless is living life without doubt, going full steam ahead to pursue your dreams without worry of outcome.

Now, I was a bit of an extremist. For example, I sneaked into a radio station more than once to meet celebrities and network. I sneaked into the BET Awards just to have fun when I was homeless. So by no means am I encouraging anyone to take the same risk I took. But I am telling you to “act like it is already done.” In my mind, I was convinced of the outcome regardless of what anything may have looked like in reality. My mind was made up and there was no stopping me.

A panel at the Fearless Conference in Atlanta in November, 2017.

Which brings me to 2017, and the launch of my first ever Fearless Conference, an event dedicated to female entrepreneurs, innovators, creatives and leaders of today’s generation. My goal was for any woman attending this conference to be more than inspired — I wanted to give them the tools needed to propel their life to greater heights. Our speaker lineup was an amazing mix of celebrities (like Michelle Williams, Keshia Knight Pulliam, and Meagan Good-Franklin), influencers (Maile Pacheco, Karen Civil, and Dana Ward), and other women who have carved a big space for themselves in their industry.

The journey hasn’t been easy — in fact, there have been plenty of moments that have taken me back to being rejected 153 times out of college. I felt like I was being told "no" more times than one person can take. Some potential sponsors told me the event wasn’t “white enough,” and that I should replace my keynote speaker with a white female celebrity. I sell many items for business, but my soul is not one of them. I am a proud Black woman with friends from all walks of life, and that’s what’s happening over here. But you have to keep pressing until the miracles happen, and when they did they did.

The beauty of our conference is that it serves as a fundraising for our Fearless Foundation, a 501(c)(3) foundation that offers financial and rehabilitative aid to women shelters and transitional homes. Just this fall, the conference provided over 2,000 meals for the holidays, over 300 Christmas gifts to ladies in shelters, and welcome home parties to provide furniture for those leaving the shelters into permanent residency.

The next Fearless Conference (Fearless Destiny) will be held this July in Los Angeles, and you can find more information by joining our email list. The fearless message in a Trump Era is very needed right now. With so much going on in the area of social justice and women’s rights, people need to be encouraged to pursue life and dreams without fear and know that there is a community that will support them in the journey. So often, people think success happens overnight, but there is no promise without process. And most importantly, a commitment to never, ever give up on yourself.

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