Kendra Crooks, age 28

Albuquerque, New Mexico

“Paradigm Shift”

My mother was a fierce woman. She grew up on a farm in a very small border town where she met my dad at age 7. He fell in love with her in the second grade and never let her go until she had to take a trip above the clouds. Growing up in my household, in retrospect, was one of the biggest blessings in my life. I was raised by two parents who supported each other through good times and bad. I grew up with a father that adored and respected my mother not just as a woman, but also as an individual. I never knew anything different until I began my journey in the work environment. Naturally, I entered into male dominated industries not knowing the complexities of the glass ceiling. After graduating from the odd jobs in high school like baby sitting and pizza tossing, I entered into the realm of film production and the wine world. I have over ten years under my belt now with learning how to work the system, how to find that perfect balance that my mom so gracefully fought to achieve so young in life.

Today she would have been 58. Cancer took her away after a very long battle. While battling, she never gave up hope and never showed up to work late while she could still walk. During her career, she founded a business, became a CEO of one of New Mexico’s largest companies, and never missed any of my brother or I’s school functions. She lived to help people, and never succumbed to being less than her best. She also never let men stand in the way of her goals.

So, when I was 18 and decided I wanted to pursue an education in film production, I said hell yeah. And when I was 21 and got my first job at a winery, they found out later on how young I was and I said hell yeah. During my journey through these hoops, I’ve seen many eyebrows raised from the men I had to work for. To me, however, I always approached it as men I had to work with. Some of them did not like that, but some of them were on the same level. We get more done working together than trying to defeat one another; a concept I learned from my parents.

I left my first job in the wine world just 7 months after I started. My boss at the time was a cruel man. I later found out I was hired because he knew I’d be naive enough to do whatever it took to keep the job, and that he could exploit the fact that I was highly competent in Word Excel and social media and could do the legwork for the winery for next to nothing. I walked out of that place when I found out he’d gotten drunk at an event where he not only insulted me, saying I was just “cheap labor”, but more importantly he insulted my father. He said, “How could she amount to anything of value when her dad is just an electrician.” I stood up from my desk, and said “I cannot work for you, you don’t deserve it,” and walked out. Years later, before he was even aware, he’d be hiring the company I co-founded to do media work for his winery. Trust me, this time it was not cheap labor. He greeted me with a shocked smile and attempted a hug. I’d rather kiss a trash bag.

In 2013 I co-founded a media company alongside two gentlemen. These fellas were and still are very well versed in their craft and I trusted them from the get go. Unfortunately, I had a lot of work to do trying to live up to their standards. I shortly fell into the role of producer, scheduler and organizer rather than photographer or videographer. I truly don’t regret those assignments, always felt I needed to prove myself to be considered a valuable component to the company. Five years later, I am still co-owner. I also am requested for my own photography and videography work on certain projects. It did, however, take a lot of work, a ton of patience and the courage to stand up for and be myself with “the guys”. 

I guess, what it comes down to, in my 28 years of life, I’ve learned to be strong. To not submit to what men think you should be. To not bow down to anyone, for that matter. Also, that if you have faith in yourself, the will to go your own way, and the love in your heart to fight for what you want, life is cherry.

Currently, I’m in a relationship with a man who I see eye to eye with. Not one of us is better than the other and we work together as a team. Do I love it when he surprises me with breakfast for dinner after a long day? Hell yeah. Do I try to find matching socks for him in the morning or a misplaced cord he needs off a shoot when he can’t find it? Every day. Would I change anything? Well, maybe if my mom could still be here. That would be very nice. But she’s taught me so much about being a woman in a man’s world and how it takes the grace, strength and balance to change the paradigm.