By Chanda Temple | birminghamal.gov
When Birmingham native Jessica S. Smith, founder of “Jess Ask,” the podcast Emmy winner and social media star Tabitha Brown took the stage at the Lyric Theatre on Feb. 3, they enriched the evening by dropping pearls of inspiration, wisdom and empowerment. Near the end, Brown commended Smith on a job well done.
“I’m so grateful you said, ‘yes,’’’ Brown told Smith, recalling how she first asked her to be a part of the event. “You have been amazing. ‘Honey, (doesn’t) it look like she belongs in this space?’ She’s doing what God has called her to do.’’
“So, I pray that whatever it is that you dream, whatever it is that you imagine, that God makes it 10 times even bigger than it is, honey.’’
“I appreciate you. I see you. And God sees you. He hears you. So, don’t ever forget, and don’t ever doubt it. It’s all over you, honey,’’ Brown told Smith.
On Dec. 1, 2023, Brown, New York Times best-selling author, Emmy winner and social media star announced that Birmingham would be one of nine cities on her 2024 book tour, “I Did A New Thing.’’
On Jan.16, 2024, Brown told her 4.4 million Instagram followers and her 3.2 million Facebook followers that she wanted to do a new thing for her Feb. 3 Birmingham visit, and she asked people to tag their favorite Birmingham content creator. At the time of the post, no one really knew what the invitation could lead to, but the posts garnered more than 17,000 comments from people tagging themselves or their favorite content creator.
One nominee who caught Brown’s eye was Smith. Brown knew almost immediately that Smith would be the perfect moderator for her Birmingham show, which would feature Brown talking about her new book, the importance of fighting fear to bring positive changes to one’s life and doing a new thing every day.
“I don’t know who tagged you, but I remember your name just popped up and I said, ‘Ooo, let me click on that,’” Brown told Smith in front of a sold-out crowd at the Lyric Theatre. “I think you had maybe 1,200 followers. And I said, ‘Oh, this is her, Lord.’”
“And I said, ‘Oh, this is going to be great.’”
Smith, 32, eagerly accepted Brown’s invitation.
“I don’t know if words can describe how I felt. I was grateful,’’ said Smith. “This whole process has brought another level of gratitude.’’
After the show, Smith said that appearing with Brown, who is a vegan personality with her own hair care line and is involved in numerous business ventures that have led to deals with Target, Ulta and McCormick Seasonings, has only increased her confidence.
“Bet on yourself,’’ Smith said in an interview with the City of Birmingham. “If I learned anything from this process (is that) I did it scared. I had people around me who said they saw more (for me.)’’
Smith, who works full time in sales and has an undergraduate degree in communications studies from the University of Alabama, started her podcast in October 2021 as a way to give Birmingham creatives a safe space to share their ideas.
She shares podcast clips, professional headshots and colorful podcast flyers on her Instagram account to promote her show and her thoughts. Her clips are heartfelt, transparent and encouraging, much like how Brown communicates with her followers.
But there was a time when Smith wanted to play it safe and never show her face on her podcast. When she first did her podcast in 2021, hardly any of her Season 1 episodes featured videos. But by Season 2 in 2022, her friend, Desiree Greenwood, signed on as her producer and encouraged Smith to do all of her podcast recordings with video so people could see Smith. Smith followed her advice.
Another thing that helped Smith improve her podcast was that she attended a summit led by “Social Proof” podcast guru David Shands in 2023. During that meeting, Shands stressed that podcasters cannot build trust with their followers if they are inconsistent. They must be consistent on when they produce and share content.
Smith listened and learned. She releases a new episode every Thursday at 7 a.m.
“That podcast summit changed my outlook on what a podcast can be,’’ Smith said, adding that the next Podcast Summit Shands will host will be July 4-5 at the Hilton Atlanta, 255 Courtland St. NE, Atlanta.
Smith is also grateful for her support system, which helped her get ready for her appearance with Brown.
Smith’s sister, Kendal McWilliams of Kendal’s Dreadheads, did Smith’s hair; Simone Williams of BeautyMarked did Smith’s makeup; and Smith’s podcast producer and friend, Desiree Greenwood, took photos of Smith and Brown on stage. For her nails, Smith used Nykki Houston with A Touch of Art 1.
Those words calmed Smith and gave her confidence. She walked out on stage to applause. Birmingham embraced her in that very moment, and Smith gave that love right back.
Smith said it was important for her to have Birmingham-area people involved in her preparation because “it was our moment to shine.’’
“Birmingham has a lot of talent … from all different forms of creativity,’’ she said. “And I love it.’’
So, what’s next for Smith? Her social media following continues to grow as she responds to several requests from people asking her to help them with their podcast or serve as a consultant. And she continues to work on her podcast, where she wants to promote Birmingham and the people who live here.
“A lot of people have a bad rep on my city, and I don’t like that,’’ she said. “I take it personal. To be able to have a moment to represent a city that has given to me, a city that I grew up in, I’m grateful.’’
For more information on Jessica S. Smith, visit jessicassmith.com.
For more information on Tabitha Brown and her new book, “I Did A New Thing,” visit iamtabithabrown.com.