For most of my childhood, I was in private school. My freshman year of high school was great. I had good grades, new friends and everything was going well. Four days after Christmas, my stepfather, who was 31 at the time, died unexpectedly. That was a very traumatic experience to deal with. I stopped caring about school and my grades dropped. Senior year, I applied to only HBCUs because that was his dream for his daughters. But I did not get in any school because I had a 2.3 GPA.
During the summer of 2009, all of my friends were going away to school. I was happy for them, but in the back of my mind, I knew I could not be home. My mother took me to the admissions department of a local community college. That day, I declared that I will not graduate from that school. For me community college was a trap. I didn’t want to make friends—I just wanted to be in and out. December 2009, I went back to the drawing board and applied to four HBCUs. One school lost my application, another was too close to home and when Bennett accepted me. I said, “this is far enough for me!” I just wanted to be far away from New York as possible.
My experience at Bennett was great. However, tuition was sky high. I promised myself I was going to get scholarships, so my mother would not have struggle with paying my tuition. Every semester, I ended it with a GPA above a 3.0. And, I promised myself to join as many student organizations (that I can handle) because I did not do any of that in high school. Fall semester of my sophomore year my lifelong dream of being a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated came true (I was studying the sorority since 13, so my mind was set). I have met so many women at Bennett who are always very supportive and positive. My Bennett sisters are amazing.
It was so difficult. I used to march to the beat of my own drum. But after graduating, I chose to isolate myself from a lot of people. I didn’t want to tell anyone what I was doing because I felt like I had failed. A few months after graduating, I got into a relationship with someone who I’ve been friends with since my freshman year of college. I saw life from a different perspective because of him. He knows me better than a lot of people. Also, I started to depend on God even more.
I was supposed to be in Atlanta for two weeks. However, two weeks turned into one year and two months. I got accepted to a MBA program in Alabama. That was the only thing I had lined up after college, so I jumped on the opportunity. I decided not to go because of A LOT of miscommunication. And, I am very big on professionalism.In the meantime, I called Atlanta home. My family thought I turned down an opportunity of a lifetime. *insert emoji side eye*. While in Atlanta, I applied to 147 jobs (yes, I counted). And out of all of those job applications, I’ve only had five interviews. One job was for some PR firm (the interview was held in a bar) lol, two retail jobs, a college and an international PR firm. I ended up working in a mall and at a bookstore. I was so desperate, I started looking into becoming a lawyer until a customer at my job talked me out of it.
For some odd reason, I kept thinking about continuing my career in journalism. I was being haunted every single day. I didn’t even know why I happened to do PR. While I was looking at top j-schools in the nation, I fell in love with Medill’s curriculum. Because of Medill, I was able to be a reporter in Johannesburg, SA for a week, go to the Formation World Tour FOR FREE (Well, I was covering the concert as a reporter because of Beyonce’s publicist and my professor), spent my final quarter in Washington, D.C. as a credentialed reporter, and go to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. So by the time I graduated, my resume was AMAZING!
In September, I competed in the Miss Illinois USA pageant. I have always been into pageantry, but this was my very first national pageant. I felt like I was able to introduce the real Torene to everyone. I would look at myself in the mirror completely in awe. Lately, I have been stepping out of my comfort zone A LOT. One thing I needed, was a platform. My platform was and still is, to help combat sexual abuse. At Bennett, I’ve written a 64-page paper on the effects of women who have been sexually abused. And this was the first time, I’ve told the world my story of being sexually abused. Yes, I was nervous. But in order for me to help someone else, I needed to be transparent.
I have been writing a book for the last two years about my experience after undergrad. Since 2014, I have become more dependent on God. But within the last two years, my faith has been stronger than ever. My book consists of my letters to Him—It’s pretty much unfiltered. I am talking about everything from traveling to my job interviews, getting no call backs from jobs, being in a relationship with some I love dearly, my grad school journey, starting from scratch etc. So far, it’s about 180 pages long. Also, I am releasing my blog QueenConfidential.com ( go subscribe now) in a few days. In addition to that, I will be making a big announcement in a week or two.
1.When it comes to anything you want in life, go the extra mile for it—you have to make yourself standout from someone who may want the same thing as you.
2. Never focus on what someone else is doing because their path is completely different from yours.
3.There may be people who doubt you, but the biggest disappointment is when you doubt yourself.
4. Sometimes God puts you in uncomfortable situations to show you how strong you are, and place you in the right direction. Always embrace your journey.