It’s a warm and sunny Tuesday afternoon as I pull up to Sibylla Nash’s duplex in Baldwin Hills. The weather is pretty typical for autumn in Los Angeles, but remarkably pleasant for me as I arrived in California from a chilly London just a few days ago.
Sibylla, relaxed in a pair of leggings and an embellished white top, comes downstairs to greet me, then welcomes me into her home as we chat about mutual acquaintances and how we met.
I actually know Sibylla, as with so many people these days, through Twitter, having first ‘met’ her when I worked for a website called Young Black Stars that Nash’s daughter Kortney is featured on. More on that later.
This mother of one is an accomplished writer and entrepreneur that I was instantly intrigued by. She has worked as a freelance writer for Vibe, Essence, The Chicago Tribune and more as well as authoring both fiction and non-fiction books. It isn’t easy to detect a person’s true personality in an online context, but it was clear to me that as well as being successful in her own endeavours, Sibylla was all about motivating action in others through informing, rather than just preaching. I liked that, a lot.
What drew me most to Nash, though, is the sheer amount of hats that she wears as an author, blogger, entrepreneur, mother and more. I can relate well to this ‘jack of all trades’ mentality, so I was here to get her take on that and find out about how she found her true passion amidst this long list of career paths. Her ability and willingness to follow an entrepreneurial hunch and put her all behind a project made her a natural first choice for The Passion Profiles series.
As we sit at her high top dining table, Sibylla starts to tell me about her first memories of executing her passion of writing. Chuckling, she tells me that she grew up on the Jersey Shore in the 80s, and quips that the popular MTV show by the same name has tainted peoples perception of the area. She announces modestly that she had a normal and happy childhood with her parents and brother, commenting that so many people on TV shows or in the public eye seem to have a traumatic tale of their childhood. She has nothing of the sort.
Nash was an avid reader and enjoyed writing short stories as a child, pleading with her parents for an electric typewriter on her 10th birthday . They weren’t convinced that she’d make use of such a purchase so she continued to peck away at her old school typewriter, putting her tales down on paper, one key push at a time. Despite her dedication to writing at such an early age, Sibylla says that it didn’t occur to her then to pursue a career in the field. Her eyes dance with nostalgia as she recalls a journal entry from her childhood;
“I wrote that I wanted to be a supermodel, lawyer and animal activist. I’ve not even come close to any of them!”
It was in her late teens, when reading an article about Tina Brown taking over as editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair, that the notion of writing for a living struck a chord with her; “I was reading about how much the freelance writers were getting paid and I was like, I can write magazine stories and earn how much?! So I decided to major in journalism.”
At 17, Nash went off to Rutgers University to do just that, eventually transferring and graduating from USC with a degree in journalism. While she enjoys some journalistic pursuits, she prefers fiction writing and explains that as a writer, she’s more observant. Rather than arriving at a burning building and immediately gathering leads and interviews from witnesses, she’d prefer to sit back and watch the flames. Thus, her fondness for fiction writing was realised.
She defines creativity as “having the ability to see more than what’s in front of you”, which is something she’s certainly good at both in her writing and in her life. Nash isn’t afraid to invest in and build on an idea, in fact she loves to create something from nothing and watch it grow, be it a concept for a story that she turns into a published book or a business venture that she can monetise. That right there would be the entrepreneurial spirit she embodies so well, and what she states is her passion.
It was her first job out of college that ignited this entrepreneurialism in Sibylla. Whilst interning at Newsweek, the search for a better paycheque led her to becoming an assistant in the development department at a production company in Hollywood. The antisocial hours and industry attitudes weren’t something she wanted to deal with long term, so in wanting to be her own boss she quit the job to write her first fiction novel, Dream City.
This might seem like a brash move for the average Joe, but Nash is a serial self starter that wasted no time in getting herself to her goal. While most people would write a book and then shop it around to publishing houses, Sibylla skipped that step and went straight to self publishing. She blames this on impatience, but I suspect that it has more to do with an innate sense of confidence Nash has in her ability to do a job the right way. Her way. She made the right decision as since Dream City, she has successfully self published two further books; fiction novel, Bumped and her guide for fellow showbiz parents, Baby Modeling & Beyond: How to Build a Modeling & Acting Career for your Child.
I realised, whilst we spoke, that Sibylla is the queen of research. Clearly no one could self publish 3 well received books without educating themselves on the process first but she is far from just a clued up author. Sibylla also runs three websites, StarBabyLA, Divaluscious and College Prepped. They are blogs, where she aggregates useful information, links, knowledge and opportunities for readers interested in the various subjects the sites cover. (FYI, for writers, Sibylla recommends Scrivener for writing and Evernote for clipping research and inspiration.)
Much of the information she collects is because of her daughter, Kortney. Sibylla sighs as she recalls the hours she would spend online looking for different college related opportunities for her 13 year old. She figured they couldn’t take advantage of them all, so decided to create College Prepped and share them online for other parents to benefit from. This is something Nash is quite an expert at. She started her blog, StarBabyLA, as a way to share information on casting calls for other parents that have kids in the acting or modelling industry, which goes back to how Sibylla and I came to know each other. As a youngster, Kortney enjoyed success as a child model and actress, thanks to Nash exploring the industry with her cherub cheeked, personality filled baby. Before becoming a mother, she had encouraged friends with cute kids to do the same, so once Kortney came along she decided to put her money where her mouth was and give it a go herself. It worked out. I mean, she even wrote a book about it!
This is where the 'jack of all trades' part of this story starts to become apparent. One might say that a successful entrepreneur must embody this versatile nature as they go wherever money is to be made, and if that’s the case, then Nash has the right idea. I asked her for her take on the term and after a little thought, she decides she’s a bit ambivalent about it. ‘When I was younger, I thought it was helpful to have your hands in different pies. In hindsight, I feel like if I wasn’t paying attention to all of these other things, then I could just focus on one thing and maybe it would happen faster.”
She tells me that she’s been doling the same advice out to Kortney of late...
“I said, don’t create a plan B. If you’re gonna have a plan, go all in for plan A because that way you’ll make sure it works. If you have a plan B, you don’t try as hard, as you think if it doesn’t work out, you have an alternative.”
Wise words. Ones that I myself feel that I should take on board as someone with a penchant for collecting various hats, pies and jobs. The hardest thing about that route is choosing one thing to focus on, especially when there are so many things you love to do and so many things that your skills lend themselves to. I ask Sibylla what her plan A is and unsurprisingly, she picks writing books. It’s the plan A I would have picked for her too, which makes me think that maybe others can see your true calling a mile off, even if you’re still lost in the fog of all the trades you’re trying your hand at.
Like me, Sibylla didn’t pick a plan A from the get go, so there can be a catch even when you know what your true calling is;
“My Plan A would be to be that novelist that just sits on an island and writes. If I had to do it all over again, though, I wouldn’t be so chicken. I would go all in for creative writing.”
But what if it’s not that easy? I ask Sibylla what she would say to a person that doesn’t know what their passion is, a person that wanted to find their plan A. She believes it’s something that deep down, we all know. “I think we all know but sometimes we don’t accept it or we overlook it. When you really go back to just who you are, it’s there.”. She poses a leading question to me; “What do I do when I don’t have anything to do? When I have time to myself, what do I enjoy doing? That’s your foundation.“
Her entrepreneurial spirit comes through in full force when, in the next breath, she passionately states that “the real question is, can you monetise it, or do you WANT to monetise it? Sometimes, people don’t.” It’s an important point that is often overlooked in the topic of chasing ones dreams. Nash feels strongly about this one, as she knows all too well that someone has to make money to keep the lights on whilst still enjoying a satisfying career path. She defines success as “being able to do what you want, when you want, how you want.” and says that “money comes into that because if you want to do certain things, live a certain lifestyle and call the shots in your own life, you need money.”
This might explain why picking only plan A wasn’t the path that Nash took early on. While her books have done well, she knows that unless you’re Joan Collins or Stephen King, writing alone can’t always pay the bills and raise a child. Sibylla is far from a one trick pony when it comes to her talents though, so in her case the jack of all trades moniker isn’t necessarily followed by ‘master of none’. She is a certified life and creativity coach and spends some of her time as a consultant to fellow entrepreneurs looking for advice on building their brands and content online. Add that to the ever growing list that includes the 3 blogs that she writes for daily and is working on monetising, self publisher and novelist of 3 successful books and mother to a well rounded, intelligent and motivated 13 year old, one might say that Nash’s plan A can actually be found in her ability to diversify so successfully. ‘Master of many’ is a bit more like it.
I begin to take some photos of Sibylla for the profile and as she takes me upstairs to show me her writing room, I ask her if she’s reached her definition of success. I ask more out of curiosity for the standard she sets for herself, because as an outsider looking in I would count Nash as a prime example of someone that is thriving whilst living their passion. She sits down on the grey couch and as she answers, I get a real life example of how Sibylla Nash is a motivator that practices what she preaches;
“I don’t think I’m there yet but I think I’m trying. Everyday I ask myself, what’s one thing I can do to take it to the next level? If I’m having the same results then I must be doing the same thing, so what can I do differently? I haven’t gotten to, as Oprah would say, my best life yet but I am on my way. I’m pursuing a goal, and my dreams.”
So your opus is pending? I ask her with a wry smile. She lets out a friendly chuckle, “yes”.
It seems that opus might not be far off, as Nash is currently working on the sequel to her novel Bumped, which is aptly named 'Popped', and trying to grow College Prepped into a revenue making website. With this much on her plate, multitasker extraordinaire must be another one of the many talents that Sibylla has. I ask her how she fits everything in and she humbly shrugs it off; “it’s breaking down my time into doing things for an hour each so that I can water all of my plants.” Sounds simple, but she does admit that it’s challenging. I almost hesitate before asking her what she does in her spare time, as she’d be forgiven for saying that she has none, but it seems this multi-faceted lady is just like the rest of us at the end of the day - she enjoys binge watching shows on Netflix and reading Jackie Collins.
Soon, our conversation winds down and Kortney returns home from school after hanging out downtown with her friends as, I’m told, every grown up 13 year old likes to do. It’s time for Sibylla to return to mummy mode so we exchange hugs and say our goodbyes.
I can’t help but feel that warm wash of inspiration and motivation when I leave. Speaking to someone like Sibylla, that isn’t afraid to put her all into an idea and put time and effort into making it grow, can only make you want to work harder and the fact that she doesn’t hesitate to share her knowledge with others is equally admirable. It’s a trait that more people on the path to success should have in my opinion. Your own light isn’t dampened by igniting another, if anything it can make you shine that much brighter and Sibylla Nash’s light is blazing pretty damn bright from where I’m standing.
You can find out more about Sibylla Nash and her books at www.SibyllaNash.com
Her blogs can be found here: