the words Why I Do It in black and green text

Deja Foxx Wishes She’d Been Given More Time To Make Mistakes

Welcome to Refinery29's Why I Do It, a series where we ask inspirational, successful people 29 questions about what fuels them on and off the clock. Because, let's face it: life is about so much more than chasing inbox zero.
Deja Foxx runs the world. At least, we think so. She's accomplished a lot in her 22 years: she's the founder of GenZ Girl Gang, a student at Columbia University, and a digital creator who got her start advocating for reproductive justice after experiencing homelessness in her teenage years. And, at just 19, she worked for Kamala Harris as the influencer and surrogate strategist, becoming one of the youngest presidential campaign staffers in modern history. Here's why she does it.
What’s the very first thing you do when you wake up? Check my phone… yikes. I’ve been trying to be better about this. It’s kind of unsettling that in this day and age of interconnectedness our work literally gets into bed with us.
What’s the last thing you do before you go to bed? Read! I love to read as a solo ritual that allows me quality time away from a screen and with myself. A few books I’ve loved are Saeed Jones’ How We Fight for Our Lives, Paul Auster’s I Thought My Father Was God, and Sandra Ciseros’ The House on Mango Street.
Power nap or power workout? Nap, every time.
Early bird or night owl? The pandemic and multiple cross country moves have left me asking the same question… Night owl these days, but it's hard not to be in a city like NYC.
How many unread emails do you have in your inbox right now? 1,636 lol help.
Iced coffee or hot coffee? Iced lavender latte with oat milk.
What’s your favorite thing that you keep on your desk or work space? A to do list! I need to have it as a grounding exercise. I am being pulled in so many different directions as a creator, student, and founder, and without it I will start a lot of things and finish nothing.
When was the last time you felt like a success? Today! I launched a project that gave me the space to bring so many parts of me together: An academic engaging with research, a creator building this totally new kind of career and economy, and the vision of a lifelong activist and community builder while also looking and feeling like myself.
What do you do on those days when you don’t feel that confident? “Fake it”... you know that TikTok sound? Anyway, I often just have to take a step back and prioritize curiosity and community. I don’t need to have all of the answers and I’m not in this alone.
What’s one thing you do every day, without fail? My favorite and least favorite thing about my work is that no day is ever the same. Some days I’m shooting a project in L.A., on the ground protesting in D.C., or in a classroom in NYC, and what comes with me everywhere is my skincare routine. It's small, but it's a moment for me that is practical and ritual.
What’s something you wish you did every day? Write. Write badly. Write freely. Write for myself. I have spent so much time in school where writing only exists to produce work that will be evaluated and graded. Only now am I opening myself up to how expressive it can be for me as a storyteller, creator, activist, and person.
What’s your favorite piece of advice that you’ve gotten? “You are not exceptional, you are representative,” from my professor Deborah Paredez.
What’s your least favorite piece of advice that you’ve gotten? This is hard. I would have to say “do your best,” and hear me out. I used to misinterpret my "best" to mean better than I’ve ever done, like a new high score, gold trophy level. Now, I understand that my best changes every day. It’s a feeling more than a measurement.
Who inspires you the most? My younger self and the knowledge that there is a version of her out there right now watching. She was so strong and I am so grateful for the ways she has built the beautiful life I get to live in that is in so many ways much better, bigger, and brighter than she imagined.
Who, if anyone, do you try to emulate? I emulate the women who raised me. I love the way neighbors and family and community stepped up to invest in my success. I see it as my responsibility to invest in and open doors for others because it has been done for me.
What’s something people ask you for advice about often? Balancing it all. People see my life on social media and will ask me how it’s possible and I have to be honest. It’s hard sometimes, but it is doable because I have a team and community around me who catch me and because I am willing to come to terms with the fact that if I want to do 110% of the things, I’m going to mess up and drop the ball and turn that thing in late sometimes, and I can own that.
What’s a piece of advice you felt proud to give? You are an expert in your experience.
What is the most-used app on your phone? Instagram, no question. But that’s also kind of my job, so take that with a grain of salt.
Where do you put your phone while you’re sleeping? I try to leave her downstairs, but I'll be honest she’s often right in bed with me.
What do you do when you feel yourself burning out? I usually don’t feel it until it’s too late. Because of the public-facing nature of my work where I’m on camera, giving interviews, or speaking on stage, the hype of those moments will often fool me into feeling like I can go nonstop, but the minute I do slow down or get home from a long trip it catches up to me and most of the time in a real, physical way. Usually the only way out is napping and sleeping without alarms or restrictions and allowing my body the space to intuitively regulate.
What’s something you consider a secret weapon? My story. Absolutely everyone has one and absolutely no one is the same. That’s pretty incredible and whether you share that story at a dinner with friends and family to change their hearts and minds, at a school board meeting to change local legislation, or on national news or social media to influence culture and narrative, it is powerful.
Where are you, compared to where you thought you’d be at 12 years old? I am living a life beyond what I ever had the words, images, or role models to dream was possible for myself. When I think about what I want to be in this life the answer isn’t a job title, it's a good role model. I believe that I am able just by living and sharing my life in a way that is authentic to me to model for others what is possible for them.
If you could change one thing about your professional life, what would it be? I would release the labels and let myself explore more.
What’s been your biggest piece of support, helping you get where you are? My people! Hot take: I think the concept of self-care isn’t enough. I believe in community care. People in my life allow me the space to step back and I trust them to pick up the slack just like they know I’ll do for them when the time comes.
What do you do to start your work day? Rolling over and checking my phone in the morning… again, I’m working on it.
What do you do to end your work day? Embrace my home. My apartment is a creative outlet for me and I have designed it to hold me at the end of the work day in relaxation and to host joyful moments with friends.
What's the last song you listened to? Stop this is low key too perfect, but "girl in new york" by ROLE MODEL.
What’s the last photo in your favorites folder on your phone? It’s actually a video of a speaking event outfit check that I posted on TikTok.
If you could go back and do one thing differently in your career path, what would it be? I would start later. We’re all in such a rush and there is so much pressure to be the youngest or make those whatever under whatever age lists, which don't get me wrong I see the potential of, but I also know from a personal perspective I wish I’d been given more time and freedom to make mistakes without high levels of responsibility and visibility and maybe more importantly had more room to explore and experiment not only with what I want to do, but who I want to be.

More from Wellness

R29 Original Series