Today we’d like to introduce you to Leslie Antonoff.
Hi Leslie, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
If you want to talk about how I got started, it would have to be believing from a very early age that I could be whatever I wanted to. Initially that was an author and illustrator. Then that was an attorney with hopes of eventually becoming a Supreme Court judge. What I take away from that six year old’s dream, is that my goals have never been for the faint of heart. They’ve always been lofty because I’m of the mind that I can bend the world to my every whim as long as I’m moving the way I’m supposed to.
If you want to know how I became a media personality, lifestyle influencer, and writer, well that began about 10 or 11 years ago when I left my final position as an employee for someone else. That decision thrusted me into digital creation and opened up doors for me to do things I never thought I would love. My career began on YouTube with Issa Rae which took me to television. I created, hosted, and executive produced a culinary series along with a dear friend that ran on cable for three seasons. Sometimes I don’t think I really realize how gigantic that is. After that I had the opportunity to develop and film a pilot for HGTV, do digital work with Food Network, and develop an animated series for HBO Max. While some of those projects didn’t come to full fruition, I’ve learned through those experiences how capable I am, how the landscape of television still has a long way to go before we see real equality of representation and equity, and ultimately what I want to do in TV and what I don’t.
They say if you want to know what you should be when you grow up, think about what you loved as a child. I’m that spirit I’m back to doing what has always moved me — writing. I’m currently working on a novel, a lifestyle book, and a comedy series; all of which I’m aiming to sell by year’s end. Wish me luck!
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Can you hear me laughing? Smooth is certainly not the word I would use, but I wouldn’t say it hasn’t been hard. That may sound like an oxymoron but the truth is you can experience stress even when you’re walking in purpose. When I decided that all roads were leading me to television, writing, and creative work I jumped right in. I was a single mom, unemployed, and broke as hell but my village held me down. My daughter and I never went without. More importantly, while there were some people who may not have understood my choices, they supported me to the best of their ability and understanding. Investing in myself proved to be the best thing for me. I have always asked God to order my steps, and I think many people pray that but a lot of folks have trouble trusting where that may lead. When I stopped trying to control the journey, it began to really take off for me.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I’ve struggled for a long time trying to put a title on what I would call myself. It’s easiest to say television host because that’s where people may know me from, my show Butter + BROWN ran for three seasons on Aspire plus I had another show prior to that. And there are people who know me from my web series days on Issa Rae’s YouTube channel doing Let LESLIE Tell It the original and the remix. I also am a serial entrepreneur who has created profitable businesses and have gained some notoriety for that. All that to say, I think the title I would give myself is lifestyle personality and writer. It feels like those two cover the gamut.
I’m a home cook who loves to teach people that amazing meals are right at their fingertips. Cooking brings me a lot of joy because I like watching folks be happy and full. There’s something very special about making a meal for someone, the energy, time, and feeling you’ve put into ensuring they are getting what they need to live, is never lost on me. Food means a great deal to me. It’s a huge component of my personality and has played a pivotal role in my career.
Being a lifestyle host and creator is also something that I thoroughly enjoy. Creating beautiful moments at home and romanticizing my life makes me very happy. I didn’t grow up with a lot but my mother didn’t allow that to keep us from living well. Having a safe, clean space, even if small, is vital for maintaining peace in your life. My mom taught my sister and I that. So I now thread that lesson through every part of my life. I may have more to work with now but it’s the same principles at play. My Instagram or digital content really focuses on that. I want everyone to live well and have the life they envision for themselves.
Writing is my first love. Before I realized telling people I wanted to be a lawyer sounded better than saying I wanted to be an author, that was my dream job. To write books and illustrate them too. Words are powerful, they can mold, shape, and recreate your world. I have a deep understanding of that. Now that I am in a place to actively choose who and what I want to be, I always come back to writing in some capacity.
What I believe sets me apart from others is that I’m not afraid to stand alone. Not because I don’t love or need friends and people but because I don’t mind not doing what everyone else is doing. I’m okay being the first to try something, I’m okay saying yes where others may say no. Because the way my faith is set up? Everything I am meant to experience, touch, own, or do — belongs to me. My faith is greater than my fear. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of myself for having the audacity to believe in my ability even if I had to fake it for a while. I can also say that I’ve worked on being proud of what I have created out of nothing. I’ve built a few recognizable brands and I’m getting more comfortable owning my authority in that.
Are there any books, apps, podcasts or blogs that help you do your best?
Sure, The Shine App is a wonderful meditation geared toward Black and non-Black people of color. I struggled meditating at first because the voices in the space didn’t feel like they spoke to me, this app helped.
Being a voracious reader, my Kindle gets a lot of use. The best thing that ever happened to me was the Libby library app. You can connect library cards from all over and borrow books straight to your device. I read a book a week and this makes it profoundly easy to do so.
I enjoy Pastor Mike Todd and Transformation Church. His ministry is great for people who may be new to church and everything that comes with it. Growing up in church was huge for me and while I have shifted my relationship with how I experience it, I value my upbringing and faith a lot. Pastor Todd’s messaging plus his delivery really takes something that’s been archaic and stale and gives it new life. I appreciate what he’s doing and tune in often.
We Should All Be Millionaires is a book I recently read that has invigorated my business mind a lot. Great read.
I love podcasts one of my favs is Throughline, I’m a history lover and I live for a fact. This is the best of both. For Colored Nerds is another favorite. Hosted by two Howard grads (HU!!) it’s a hilarious take on what it means to be Black today. Lately I’ve been enjoying STUCK with Damon Young, who used to write Very Smart Brothas, his show offers great insight on growing up Black, specifically a Black man, and the lens through which he sees the world.
Obviously, my blog, The Hautemommie, which is a lifestyle blog that covers everything from How To Get Dressed Easier to recipes I’ve developed and like to share. It’s the space where I can fully bring all the parts of me together in one space.
Kaye McCoy Elton Anderson Moses Robinson