How Cleo Wade became known as the 'Oprah for millennials'

The American poet and activistnew work isn’t a self-help book, but it contains plenty of verses that are meant to feed the soul

This March 20, 2018 photo shows poet and activist Cleo Wade posing for a portrait in New York to promote her book, "Heart Talk." (Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP)
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Cleo Wade is known for not only her poetry, but also her positive, uplifting Instagram mantras that have earned a following that includes actresses Yara Shahidi and Jessica Alba.

So it's not surprising that on a day when the American is running around like crazy promoting her new book, she doesn't complain about being tired, but has another affirmation that fuels her eternally optimistic outlook.

"I [recently] went on a complaint cleanse," the poet and activist says. "Your dream book is coming out into the world, it's exactly the book you wanted to make. You can find a way to not complain about the logistics, work and people and things that come with it."

Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life isn't a self-help book, but it contains plenty of verses from Wade that are meant to feed the soul – she calls it a "healthy soul diet". Her inspirational slant has led her to being known as the "Oprah for millennials". The book covers everything from self-worth to relationships. "What is the opposite of self-care? Self-abandonment. We're also in this state of not being able to practice self-care in our dynamics with our neighbour, our partner, our boss, our colleague, the world," she says. "There's so much nourishment that is needed for that space, in order for us to feel really cared for so we can recognise how to care for other people."

You spend hours with fans at book signings. Why is it so important for you to give people your full attention?

There is a desire for people to be seen and heard. We can’t possibly learn how to love our neighbour unless we find common ground with them. But also we can’t understand how to listen to others if we don’t listen to ourselves. Whenever young people email me about heartbreak, I tell them: ‘This is the most divine point in which to listen to yourself because there’s such an education as far as your learning, your needs and desires.’”

You must find wherever you go people want deep conversation and encouragement.

I’m definitely the person that if I am in a space, I’m looking for the macro-connection and if I feel like I can’t take that on, I just stay home. For me, I definitely have that boundary of if I don’t feel like I could really be in that space, hear about your life, show up for you, and offer the best of me to you, then I know that’s a day that I need to stay home.

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Where does your outlook on the world come from?

A lot of it comes from growing up in a place like New Orleans because it’s a deeply expressive culture. Also my dad is an artist; my mom is a chef. Having these people with such clear manifestations of what they like to do with their time, it definitely fuelled me to understand that there is a very individualised thing you can do in the world.

Social media has really helped you spread your message, but do you find that sometimes it can be toxic?

It can either be used as a tool or a weapon. I always encourage people to really monitor their media diets. I don’t think food is the only thing we digest. We also ingest information, and if you’re finding your media feels really divisive or if it’s making you judge or covet in a way that doesn’t make you feel good, then it’s time to maybe switch up your media.