Tressa Azarel Smallwood is the true definition of a boss woman. She is a former teacher who resigned from her teaching tenure in 2003 to fulfill her dream of becoming an entrepreneur. After writing her first novel, Life to Remember, written in attempt to help change lives of young men, she launched her own publishing company, Life Changing Books, affectionately known as LCB. She is also the founder of Mega Mind Media. Now with over 100 titles published in print to date and even more digitally, LCB is one of the few multi-million dollar independent publishing companies thriving in the literacy industry. Smallwood is also the executive producer of the upcoming film Secrets, premiering in theaters this September. Smallwoodrecently spoke with Everything Girls Love to discuss all the juicy details in her new film, her career advice for women and how her destiny changed from being a former school teacher to now a CEO.
EGL: Welcome to Everything Girls Love, Tressa! Thank you so much for chatting with us. Now before we get into Secrets, we want to know more about you. How did you find the courage to leave your teaching job and launch your own publishing company?
Tressa Azarel: Wow. You know, I think it was destiny for me because I never had a dream to write books. I had the ability to write them. I was a schoolteacher at the time and I was teaching English Language Arts and the doctor put me on bed rest once they found out I was three months pregnant with my daughter Bailey, and I was having issues with my pregnancy. So when he told me six months, I thought that was a death sentence. But essentially, it was the beginning of a new life for me because while on bed rest, I penned my first novel. I learned how to publish it on my own and then when that book came out, I sold 5,000 copies in the first two months, and I’m like ‘whoa, this is my new life now.’
EGL: What advice do you have for other women who want to follow in your footsteps and pursue entrepreneurship?
Tressa Azarel: I would say first just believe in yourself because a lot of times I coach women on starting businesses and the number one reason that most of them say they don’t do it is because of the fear of what other people say. So we got to get people out of the mindset of worrying about what others think and do what makes you happy and if you’re passionate about something, go for it!
EGL: Ok, let’s get into this super juicy Secrets plot. Tell us more about the movie and what we can expect.
Tressa Azarel: Secrets is adapted from one of the novels that I published called Secrets of a Housewife. It’s steamy, juicy and it deals with a lot of infidelity, but in the end, it also deals with saving relationships and saving black families because a lot of times you hear people say, “Oh if he cheated on me I’m gone or she did this I’m this’ but when reality hits, it’s like, what would you do? Especially if you’ve done the same thing and you just didn’t get caught. The tagline for the movie is “Everyone has secrets. What’s yours?” because we all have secrets. It’s a very, very compelling movie. People are going to enjoy it. I can’t wait for you to see it.
EGL: We can’t wait to see it either! Now who’s your favorite character in the movie?
Tressa Azarel: My favorite character is probably Denyce Lawton, she plays Secrets. And I think she’s my favorite because a lot of women go through what she is going through. Basically, her husband is well off, he’s the bread winner, and because of that, he feels that he can run around town doing whatever because she’s at home doing what he calls, “not working.” But we all know that women who are stay-at-home moms, they are truly working. They work more than the rest of us out here handling business or going to a 9 to 5 job running a company. Being a single mom is a task in itself. So I think that’s why she’s my favorite.
EGL: Very good! Now on a scale of one to 10, how hot are the sex scenes in this movie?
Tressa Azarel: Ooh I would say a seven. We kept it at a level where we would be able to make sure we could be on network television, so I would say a seven.
EGL: What do you think is the recipe for an exceptionally good book or movie?
Tressa Azarel: Oh my goodness! It absolutely has to be an amazing plot twist. Without it, we are going to bore our readers and our viewers to tears and we don’t want that. We want to excite them; prone them in that last page or leave the theater saying, “Whoa that was great! What’s next for them?”
EGL: What is your favorite book that you’ve written or published so far?
Tressa Azarel: Probably my favorite would be Married to a Baller by Jackie Dee. That is actually going to be our third movie. Right now, we’ve lined up our next five movies that have already been adapted from book to script. So Married to a Baller is going to be our third movie and it’s my favorite book from Life Changing Books right now.
Your best friend’s boyfriend makes a pass at you? Do you keep the secret or spill the beans?
Tressa Azarel: Spill the beans
EGL: If a woman’s husband no longer satisfies her in the bedroom, should she keep quiet or spill the beans?
Tressa Azarel: Keep the secret. A lot of times, [with] men’s ego they instantly say, ‘Oh so now you messing with somebody else? You cheating now?’ I think it would do more damage. I think you can find a way to get your point across differently as opposed to saying something.
EGL: Your boyfriend cheats on you, so you turn around and cheat on him. Secret or spill the beans?
Tressa Azarel: Secret.
EGL: This one may be crazy! You have one too many cocktails and have relations with another woman. Spill it or take it to the grave?
Tressa Azarel: Take it to the grave, that’s insane! [laughs]
Be sure to catch the movie Secrets when it premieres this fall. You can learn more about Tressa Smallwood and LCB here!
Interview By: Tiffany Hercules