We had the good fortune of connecting with Tonja Stidhum and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tonja, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk is serves such a prominent role in my life and career. In 2015, I took a leap of faith by booking a one-way flight from Chicago to LA without a job. I ended up landing a job about a mouth before I left, so the phrase “leap and the net will appear” is so relevant to me. After about a year living in LA, I quit my law firm job after getting my first major byline at Ebony magazine. I freelanced for a year before landing my first Staff Writer job at The Root. After a few years in digital journalism, I made a pivot and now am a Script Writer at Tonal.
Of course, I don’t ever talk about about my upward trajectory without filling in the gaps. Risks always come with challenges. Freelancing full-time was probably one of the hardest thing I’ve done and it challenged me the most financially than I’ve ever have. I’m still recovering from that. Also, the risk was also cushioned by legitimate support from family and friends. For example, the assistance from my mother was priceless and is now paying off tenfold.
Because I’ve gone after the things I’ve wanted, I have faith that I will be able to reach more goals I have for myself. It may not happen in the exact path that I once envisioned, but trust me, I will get there.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
What sets me apart from others is my specific brand of humor that I’ve gained from my specific experiences. As Dr. Seuss says, “there is no one who is youer than you.” Or if I were to modernize it, it’ll be “bitch, I’m ME!”
I’m most proud of the path I’ve written for myself toward my goals that is atypical from the standard. I’m most excited about creating the projects I’m developing.
Getting to where I am professionally was not easy. The road to now has been paved with a lot of rejection and setbacks, but each and every one of those experiences is preparing me for what’s next because I’ll be able to handle it in stride. I have no doubt about that.
What I want the world to know about me is that I ultimately want people who consume my art to feel some sort of stark emotion. That can mean laughing, crying or even hating a character I wrote…if I can evoke emotion, no matter what it is, I’ve done my job.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
One of my most favorite hangouts in LA is a chill bonfire at Dockweiler Beach. To eat, I would definitely take them to a lowkey taco truck that isn’t the most popular or well-known taco truck, but it has the best I’ve tasted here. Since LA is filled with so many neighborhoods with their own cultures, I’d hit Koreatown, Leimert Park, West Hollywood, DTLA, Fairfax, Inglewood, etc.
To be honest, I would ultimately call up one of my best friends and the most adventurous person I know, Darnell Lamont Walker. If he’s not in LA at the time, I’d text him for advice.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to shoutout my mother, who I lovingly refer to as the Dalai Mama. Not only has she given me the financial support during my roughest moments, she is a constant source of spiritual affirmation. Overall, she has sacrificed so much for me to live the life I’ve had and I’m more than happy to return that support in kind and lift her burdens in any way that I can.