i stumbled upon Melissa Cassera when i won Miss USofA Diva in 2014 and was Googling a PR person to help with publicity. Melissa’s name and then-company and website Cassera Communications popped up on the first search page. i clicked on it, started binge reading her posts, and instantly became O.B.S.E.S.S.E.D. with her.
She just seemed like a really cool chic — like i knew if we met in person we’d immediately hit it off and become lifelong friends.** So when i saw she was offering a class called Making Headlines, i IMMEDIATELY signed up for it. It was amazing. She was amazing. And i have been a student of hers ever since .
And today is her birthday!
Since i’ve been focusing my last few posts on sharing with you the biggest influences and mentors in my life, i knew i couldn’t let today go by without sharing some of the biggest lessons i’ve learned under Melissa’s guidance.
If Miss Piggy is my glam, queen, and boldness mentor and Frida is my soul + creating deeply, real, and rawly mentor, Melissa is my real, in-the-flesh mentor who helps me bring all them (including myself) alive on the page, on this website, and in everything i do and create. She is a Jedi master in that way. Her mastery of The Force—of being able to see how our passions, guilty pleasures, and what we inherently love connects to our life and biz—is strong in her. But her ability to teach others the way of The Force is even stronger.
i call her Yoda. Because as a budding entrepreneurial Luke Skywalker (or Rey for this generation) she has given me all the tools i need to slay The Dark Side—which, more often than naught, is myself.
What follows is a love letter to Melissa in the form of the 3 biggest business tools she has given me that i believe will serve you in so many ways and the 3 biggest life and creative lessons that i am still and forever learning from her.
3 Biz Lessons
1. You gotta take breaks in your workday. Melissa calls these Pleasure Breaks. i call them hallelujah! For the longest time i believed that working hard, hustling didn’t really count if i wasn’t doing it 24 hours a day. That the only way i could be a “REAL” entrepreneur is if i went at it nonstop. Working with Melissa over the years has taught me that breaks (including watching an entire episode of Gossip Girl or The Tudors) is and should be just as big of a part of my workday as a paid writing gig for a client. If not more so because this space, this breathing room is what fuels our work and our ability to do said work.
Here’s everything you need to know about Pleasure Breaks in her own words: “Got 10 minutes? Schedule a Pleasure Break.”
2. Want to get a lot of shit done? Batch. Batch. Batch. You may have heard of this concept before: if you want to get a lot of work done then set aside a block of focused time to work on just that one thing. BORING. Snoozefest. To vanilla. Until Melissa got her Yoda hands on it 😉
In her free ebook called I Heart Batching: How to get a bunch of content written…all at once. Wham. Bam. Done., Melissa lays down her way and method of batching that when paired with the Pleasure Breaks above (there’s more about them in her guide too!) feels like a guilty pleasure vacation rather than boring vanilla work. i have used her method of batching for the last 2 years to create my podcast and Drag University. AND, i’m currently using it now to write my latest book on female drag queens!
The guide is free but the info in it is fucking priceless. Get it. Now. Here.
(Psst. She even hosts a FREE International Batching Day on Facebook – a full day where you are completely surrounded in the energy of other creatives doing the work the same day as you are. From the comfort of your very own home. Epic.)
3. Not having fun? Don’t do it. This one was revolutionary for me — and for a lot of other entrepreneurs and creatives. If something isn’t making you happy or bringing you pleasure in your life, creativity, or biz, don’t do it. Simple theory. VERY hard execution. It took me 4 years to really get this like deep-in-my-bones get this, but when i did, it totally changed the way i worked, produced work, and shared my work.
Seriously, this one is a game-changer.
3 (Major) Life Lessons
And while her teachings and classes have transformed me as a business owner and performer, getting to experience first hand how she works and being in her energy consistently for the last three years has impacted and changed the very core of me. Below are a few of the many ways Melissa has done that.
1. You can do it all — if you love what you do.
Her tenacity, will, and drive to succeed is just so fucking inspiring to be around. Seriously. This woman does it all. She teaches a year-long class called Obsessed where she gives 1:1 feedback to EVERY. SINGLE. STUDENT (spoiler alert – she has over 100 in the class currently) AND does a weekly Facebook live where she answers all our business, life, and coffee questions. AND …
She leads a 6-month intense online accountability group and mastermind called Obsessed Squad where she does weekly Monday and Friday check-ins, deep dives into all our biz and life Q’s AND reviews one piece of content from all 10 of us! It’s literally the best thing i’ve experienced. She gave me feedback on my book proposal and it was the bomb dot com!
That’s ENOUGH SHIT ALREADY. But on top of that, she’s also a screenwriter. So whenever i start to get into my whoa-is-me Eoyere kind of way, my mind immediately goes to her. Seeing and experiencing her hustle and love first hand inspires me daily to live my own.
Speaking of screenwriter ….
2. Have a dream? All you have to do is start.
There’s that too. When i first came into Melissa’s orbit she was just starting out as a screenwriter. She loved movies, decided she wanted to write them, and then went to town actually learning the craft of screenwriting. And since putting it out there in the universe that she wanted to be a screenwriter SHE HAS MADE IT HAPPEN. Her first movie, Girl Followed, premiered on Lifetime in 2017 and she has since inked a 3 movie deal that she’s currently writing the scripts for. And most recently her Obsession Thrillogy premiered on LifeTime July 10-12 of 2020!
Seeing her go from nothing to everything in a new field continues to inspire me to keep chugging along at all my dreams: writer, mentor, speaker, queen … She is living (and most importantly) working proof that if you do the work—good work—and hustle sharing it, then it—and you—will be found.
She wrote a great piece on that very same theory called “Good Work ALWAYS Gets Found.” Read it and get inspired.
Also, this is one of my favorite podcasts she’s been on: On the Page. While the advice she gives here is directed to filmmakers and screenwriters it is specific to ALL OF US as creatives. Listen to it with a notebook and pen in hand. It’s that useful and good!
3. Challenge inequalities in your own way
While all her accomplishments, accolades, and notches on her belt are so fucking impressive + inspiring to me, what i’m most in awe of is who she is as a human.
Melissa is one of those rare stars who shine brightly not only for themselves but because they want to help others burn just as bright (if not brighter). i’ve experienced it in her teaching style in both her free and paid offerings. i’ve read it in her feedback to her students in Obsessed for the last 3 years (yes, i am a reoccurring and forever student of Obsessed). i hear the love and light for all us and our creative and business adventures in our weekly Facebook live calls. And i just didn’t think she could get or be any better of a person than what i had already experienced in all the years i’ve been learning from her.
But i was wrong.
Dead. Fucking. Wrong.
Earlier this year, a tone-deaf marketing campaign for a new online product came out from one of the “leaders” of the online biz world. Entrepreneurs of color were outraged and spoke out about it on social media. This “leader” didn’t handle it very well (and neither did one of her other well-known peers) which pissed the POC biz world off even more.
When Melissa saw what was happening, she not only brought up the subject of how to be more inclusive as a business owner in one of her Obsessed Facebook Lives, but she also put together a list of resources for her audience, wrote a blog post called “Obsessing over . . .” about it and sent it out as a newsletter to her maillist (You can read the post here).
But then she went one step further. Quietly.
She did this.
Totally. Fucking. Revolutionary. Like it literally blew my rhinestone radical heart out of my body because now . . . now she was speaking directly to the thing that keeps me alive and drives every single thing i do: mi gente (my people) and empowering our visibility and voices.
More so than anything, this right here is why i love and will forever support and vouch for her, her work, and ethics as long as i’m on this earth.
Because THIS is the kind of woke action that is needed throughout the biz and creative communities. THIS is the shit that inspires others to act and creates lasting change. THIS is what i strive to inspire myself and others to do.
And it’s nice to know that as creatives of colors we, we have allies who will forever have our back too.
Happiest of birthdays, Yoda!
Your forever Jedi student,
PS. ** i did finally meet her in person and it/she was everything i hoped for—including (hopefully) the forever friends part 😉 . Here we areeee!