While nearly 96,000 followers on Instagram know that Teele has had a boyfriend for more than a year, they don't know his name. And, they've never seen his full face. Strategic photos and Snapchat stories reveal small details about his appearance, his voice, his work as an artist and their seemingly fun relationship, but followers could never ascertain the color of his eyes based on these posts.
“(My success) was the highest goal for me, so I’m more apt to show this off than to be like ‘somebody chose me,’” Teele said. “The relationship is the icing. It’s not the cake.”
Teele explores this idea frequently on “Myleik Teele’s Podcast,” where entrepreneurs Kimberly Foster and Necole Kane have appeared to talk about the pressures women feel to be successful both in their work endeavors and in securing long-term partners.
Kane, who launched lifestyle site XoNecole after shutting down her successful gossip blog Necole Bitchie, praised Teele as her “entrepreneurial hero” on Twitter and thanked listeners for the outpouring of love after the emotional podcast was posted. It’s been played more than 23,000 times on Podomatic.
In 2012, Teele founded Curlbox, a monthly subscription service that allows people with naturally curly hair to test hair care products. On social media, the business’ first year was tainted by criticism and backlash from subscribers and Teele’s defensive responses.
“It was toxic,” Teele said. “For weeks after we first started (Curlbox), people were bombarding me with hate messages and all of these terrible things. My feelings were so hurt, because I was like ‘I launched a business trying to help (black women).’”
That wasn’t Teele’s first time dealing with the harsh realities of social media, however.
She first started receiving negative messages on social media when she appeared on “Real Housewives of Atlanta” as Kim Zolciak’s assistant in Season 2.
Teele said she’d often “clap back” at commenters, but noticed a shift in the dynamics once she started to post inspirational quotes and career tips.
“All of a sudden, these girls that once hated me were now into what I had to say,” she said.
Followers began suggesting Teele start a podcast. What began in 2011 as a “labor of love” and a way for Teele to encourage young black women has since grown into the MyTaughtYou brand.
Unlike Curlbox, the success of MyTaughtYou is based completely on Teele’s ability to come across as likable and inspiring to followers.
Forbes defines a "personal brand" as "a set identity, expertise and personality for an individual professional rather than a corporation." They can be used independently, or as extension "mouthpieces" for the main corporate brand, but, either way, personal brands "offer some serious advantages over their corporate brand counterparts."
In many ways, Teele’s social media failures and successes serve as lessons in personal (and corporate) branding. The same apps that served as platforms for disagreements in Curlbox’s early days also opened up a new stream of income for Teele in the form of the positive, encouraging MyTaughtYou brand, launched from her personal social media accounts.
When asked how she unplugs from a lifestyle that’s dependent on social media, Teele admitted it’s not something she does often, outside of regular trips to the Four Seasons.
“I try to shut off and it just doesn’t work,” she said. “I get positively anxious.