Tai Gooden is a Black freelance pop culture/entertainment writer, occasional podcaster, editor, mom to humans and plants, and candle maker living in Virginia. She loves Doctor Who, podcasts, fanfiction, horror, crime documentaries, The Walking Dead (sometimes), witches, and food. She is currently a Contributing Editor/Writer for Nerdist and the owner of Faith & Flames Candles.
Black Girls Create: What do you create?
I create in-depth articles examining geek/nerd and general entertainment culture from a Black critical lens. I use my platform as a writer and editor to amplify marginalized creators, diverse characters, and people who live life within their own margins. As a candle maker, I craft aromatherapy candles fixed for meditation, prayer, moments of silence, peace, and more.
BGC: Why do you create?
I create because Black women’s voices, stories, and pursuits matter. I am in a unique space as a Black editor for a major geek/nerd website to give people (and platforms) the shine that they richly deserve. My goal is always to uplift, inspire, support, and show love to my people. But, I also write and do other creative pursuits for myself. Writing has been my saving grace as a person who deals with anxiety and depressive episodes. It’s a space where I feel confident, empowered, and like I have a purpose in the world.
BGC: Who is your audience?
My writing audience is anyone who wants to view culture through a Black lens. My viewpoint isn’t representative of all Black people (because we are not a monolith) but it’s a small window into experiencing something from an alternative perspective. And — of course — a lot of my work is for people of color because it covers our indelible impact on entertainment and pop culture.
BGC: What inspired you to venture into crafting candles and creating Faith and Flames Candles?
I knew I wanted to start this new decade with a venture that sparks my passion. It needed to be something that aligned with my desire to uplift and encourage others. I was in bed sick with a candle burning on my nightstand when I began to think about how much I love candles and essential oils. They both have deep meaning and spiritual significance in my life. I use them in my daily life while bathing, praying, cleaning, setting intentions, meditating, writing, and doing yoga.
There’s something about the smell of oils like ylang ylang, rose, and lavender and the flicker of the flame that is so powerful. So, I decided to combine my love for both and start making candles for myself and others. I feel like anything you go for with pure intentions is successful and a method to put more good into the world.
I also plan on donating a portion of profits from Faith & Flames Candles to different organizations and creatives who effect positive change in this world.
BGC: Why is it important as a Black person to create?
It’s a cyclical process that grabs other Black people and brings them into this band of support. If you are a Black writer, you get to use your platform to highlight artists, podcasters, bloggers, etc. They in return can widen their circles and give people a platform to edit, write, produce, create communities, or whatever else they are doing. We get to be our greatest support systems and advocates in spaces that generally don’t welcome us.
On a personal level, creating as a Black person is truly a political statement. This world tries to silence us, shame us, hurt us, and bring us down while simultaneously appropriating all our moves. But, we defy the misery they want us to have when we continue to write, draw, podcast, or whatever we choose to do. We should keep doing the things that spark joy, use our talents, and speak the truth. The world may emulate us but no one does it like we do…and we should keep right on doing it.
We should keep doing the things that spark joy, use our talents, and speak the truth.Tai Gooden
BGC: How do you balance the enjoyment of creation and the monetization of that creation?
Enjoyment and money will not always come together. Sometimes, I pick up contract writing work that I don’t enjoy, but it pays well. I have bills, kids, and student loans that don’t wait for me to always find “passion work.”
But, I balance it out at Nerdist by pitching and writing things that I personally enjoy. Right now, I am currently rebranding a podcast I started in 2018. My partner and I don’t make any money from it but we truly enjoy doing the episodes. So, I manage my time and expectations for the podcast. I know what I put into it isn’t yielding a financial gain but instead a spiritual gain. It does my soul well so it’s still important.
I have to manage expectations with my new business as well. I accept it will take a while to start turning a solid profit because I have put a lot of my own money into supplies, etc. Faith & Flames is doing better than I expected, so perhaps the joy it brings will also include a healthy financial supply, too!
I don’t have a problem pointing out my privileges. I have a staff position which allows me to have a steady, solid income vs. the days I struggled as a full-time freelancer. I also have a partner who is employed so I don’t have to worry about paying all the bills and taking care of our kids solely off my income. It can be harder to balance enjoyment and monetization when you don’t have those things.
BGC: Any advice for new creators or creators seeking new ventures?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! We all have our lanes and areas of expertise. If something isn’t your lane, then reach out to someone who knows that lane well. It will save you so much time and frustration.
Give yourself a ton of grace. You are stepping into new and unfamiliar territory so you will certainly make mistakes. Don’t let the need to be absolutely perfect and “have it all together” keep you from making progress.
BGC: Any future projects?
Right now my focus is on building and expanding Faith & Flames Candles. I hope to have new products before the end of the year! I am also (very slowly) plugging away at a sci-fi novel. I intend to take my time and let the words flow when they are ready.