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Lawyer Unmasked

KIRU speaks with Lydia, a successful lawyer specializing in IP law (intellectual property) by day and jewelry maker...also by day. Lydia discusses the importance of not just overcoming, but ‘owning’ her self-doubt so that she was able to fearlessly claim space in her field. This self-proclaimed ‘Gemini twin’ speaks about embracing the contradictory parts of herself; how being strong and fearless made her a successful lawyer but that her art has become a space which requires a different energy. Lydia, who boasts wearing bold pink glasses to the office, teaches us that acts of self-expression can be small but mighty.

KIRU [00:00:03] It looks like it's working now. OK. Cool. Yeah, you can see it, too.

LYDIA [00:00:08] Yeah, I can see it.

KIRU [00:00:09] OK, cool. So, Lydia, thank you so much for being here, for agreeing to be a partof this project. It's such a special honor to be talking to you. And you look so nice as always. I'minterested, actually. Could you show us the piece that you have on right now?

LYDIA [00:00:29] So I call this the pagoda. It's made out of brass. So, you know, I sort of cut allthe wires up and sodder them and then to match that, I'm wearing my rectangular pieces.KIRU[00:00:41]Yes. Are those all available?

KIRU [00:00:09] OK, cool. So, Lydia, thank you so much for being here, for agreeing to be a partof this project. It's such a special honor to be talking to you. And you look so nice as always. I'm interested, actually. Could you show us the piece that you have on right now?

KIRU [00:00:59] OK, nice. Well, for anyone who's like watching or listening, this is Lydia Gobena of Birabiro™. She is a jewelry maker and she is actually-- why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself?

LYDIA [00:01:19] So my name is Lydia Gobena. I live in New York City. I am married and have two kids. They are ten and twelve. I am an intellectual property lawyer by day. And that meansI protect brands and copyrights all across the world. And my passion, my side passion, I should say,is jewelry. And I make that under the trademark Birabiro™. And so I love making jewelry andvery creative. So I'm very fortunate in the fact that I can bring together my legal career coupled with my jewelry making.

KIRU [00:01:57] I love that. How did you actually get in to the the art of jewelry making to begin with?

LYDIA [00:02:04] So I've always had this creative element. But as a kid, I realized that I can'treally draw, you know, so, you know, I used to do a lot of beaded jewelry and I realized that I lovebig pieces. And unfortunately er fortunately, I have it rather small risks and so it was quite a finejewelry to fit me. In fact, my wrists are so small that they're the size I can fit bracelets for kids. And so really, I started to decide that beadding is fine, but really, I wanted to learn how to metal smith So I enrolled in the class at I. And that's how it all started.

KIRU [00:02:48] Wow. And so how long has it been that you've been making jewelry?

LYDIA [00:02:53] So I've been making metal work for, scary, almost 20 years now. But now, you know, it sort of gradually developed into a business. You know, there is a certain point where I realized that I couldn't I couldn't keep making jewelry for myself. So I started to make jewelry forfriends. And then a few years but three years ago, I decided that, well, you know what I'm going tohave? I've registered the Birabiro™ on Instagram, so I'm going to use that to promote my jewlery andso that's how and it's been actually wonderful because I've been able to connect with people all overthe world and ship pieces to different parts of the world.

KIRU [00:03:34] Yeah, I think that's really beautiful that you like came to this moment where you're like, you know, I love doing this. I can't just keep doing it for myself, though. Like there are other people, though, that could could benefit from this that could use that to kind of like express themselves because you create some really wide and varied pieces of jewelry or art that people really love and connect with in many special ways. I think even the pieces, like every piece that you wear, it's got some sort of statement. So the piece that you're wearing today, I was looking at I waslike, oh, show us more. Tell us more about that. So really dope.  I guess kind of illustrate maybe the background. So you started. Doing jewelry or metal work 20 years ago, you had already passed thebar, you were already like practicing law or where does that all come into play and how did it grow on the side of what you are currently doing professionally?

LYDIA [00:04:35] So, you know it coincided probably, I would say I started to make-- so it's not quite 20 years ago, but almost 20 years ago. But what had happened was I had started as, I had worked at a small firm. And then I realized that if you work with one person, you become aminiature of that person. Right. So if I wanted to grow as an attorney, I moved on to a different firm. But during the time, I just sort of realized that I had this creativity in a way that was callingme to my first class was actually supposed to be on September 11th of 2001 and obviously that happened. So I have to remember when I was first to start my jewelry sort of path. But, you know, I,do one class a week and that's what I did. And, you know, I in the beginning really sort of took it ina more traditional route in the sense that I would take specific classes on things like sawing and,you know, things on soddering. But then I realized that, you know, doing three months of sawing circles or whatever it was that we were supposed to do was really going to work for me. Plus, you know, my jewelry is, I call it a perfectly perfect because, you know, I'm not all about making the perfect circle, but rather trying to convey the things that I do. And also, when I make jewelry, really, I'm not a lot of times what I end up creating is not what I had in mind to begin with. And so in many ways, I let the metal talk to me. So in this piece in the Dakota really was more of trying to figure outhow I could get all these engineer together so there would be a perfectly symmetrical or in this instance, like with this ring, it's all about that. So, you know, what I realized is that, well, it was good to take these individualized classes. I then moved on to the School of Visual Arts, where really I could work on whatever projects I wanted to work on, and that was much better for me. And then eventually I went to the JCC in Manhattan because I took a year off when I had my older daughterand realized that the year was too much for me. So I went back and I found the JCC, which happens to be much closer to where I'm currently living in Harlem.

KIRU [00:06:53] Yeah. OK. That's pretty nice. I love this like this illustration of just like allowing the piece to become what it will be and like this collaborate, this collaboration that you're having with the jewlry that you are making. I think that's pretty cool. I'm curious to know a little bit about, so you you said that you transition to School of Visual Arts to kind of do what would be a little bit more free. What are some of the things that you learned that maybe you didn't really expect when you were starting a business and in jewelry making? So you had it as a hobby you had gone to school, you'd learned about it when you decided to actually you trademarked Birabiro™ and then you decided to start doing business under that name. What are some things that maybe took you by surprise that you weren't as aware of or expecting or maybe there wasn't anything? I'm just curious to know, like, what is this process like?

LYDIA [00:08:04] It's sort of interesting because I think that, you know, as a lawyer, I practiced fo rmy you know, I'm obviously the person that's doing the work. But overall, when I'm doing my work and doing the best that I possibly can for my clients, it's really the firm's reputation. Right. So really, you know, I may have may develop a reputation independently of that, but really, I have that inmind when I'm doing my legal work. Whereas, you know, with the jewelry, it's much more personal. Right. So, you know, a lot of it is, you know, and the way I do even my Instagramaccount, it really is like be wearing outfits or most often a lot more elaborate than I really wear onmy day to day basis. But part of it is I think it's more, you know, presenting myself. And so I feel like I have more at stake to make sure that my pieces are, you know, things that people like, that there are high quality. Of course, I do this as a lawyer as well. But that's more, I want my firm to have that reputation. But I think that it's much more personal. But the other thing, you know, in the practical day to day is you have to sort of figure out, you know, if you make a piece, it could takeyou a very long time to make it right. But with the customer looks at it, they may think they. That'ssuch a simple design. Like, you know, again, like, you know, talking about these rectangular shapes, they seem quite simple to do. But they're probably one of the most complex because you have tomake sure that you're soddering everything and it doesn't move when you're soddering to make itthat way. So really, I think that you have to learn how to price things. You know, I've had to sort ofwork with people when I get things cast to make sure when they're casting my pieces that those pieces are in fact, I can then in turn sell them for the amount that people think is overly high. Because, you know, again, my biggest pleasure and making jewelry and selling it to people is I wantpeople to buy it and love it and wear it. And when people tell me that they can't take it off or it brings them much joy, that brings me so much pleasure.

KIRU [00:10:10] Yeah, that's beautiful. There are some really important things that you mentioned in there that I picked up on about just kind of illustrating the difference, maybe the key points on your brand and your work as a lawyer representing a firm that's like more than just you. You're like,'I want to represent them really well'. And then your friend, it's really an extension and a representation more directly of you. And I'm just curious on that and about how it has influencedthe way that you portray yourself. You also mentioned that a lot of the pieces that we see are a littlelarger statements than you would wear on an everyday. If they are a more authentic or a fuller expression of who you are? These larger statement pieces, how have you reconcile that with your day to day when you have to go into the office? And what does that look like? And what have you learned about yourself in that process? Does that make sense?

LYDIA [00:11:23] Yeah, I think so. So it's all right. My air conditioning is very low key here, though.

KIRU [00:11:29] It's all good because it's hot in New York right now.

LYDIA [00:11:32] It's it's it's very loud. So, you know, I think it's this is it now. I think that my, sort of even the way I am, my progression as a lawyer and even the way I sort of present myself and the way I look as a lawyer has modified over time. And I think, you know, we were actually talking about this in terms of sort of cycles, you know, and I was thinking about that as well. You know, Iremember, you know, when I first went as lawyer, you know, we used to always wear suits. I had straight hair. I always wore my straight hair. And then there was a turning point where I decided Iwasn't going to have that straight hair anymore because really, my hair grows naturally like this. And I very like time conscious. I rather spend certain time doing certain things and doing my hair is one of those things that I enjoy doing. So. But, you know, I think in terms of how I sort of reconcile the two parts of me, I'm a Gemini. And, you know, if one believes in astrology in any way, I have these two personalities. I think that though I think I was much more of a person that would sort ofhide myself a bit, you know? And as I get dressed and as different things happened in my life, I

realized that your life is short. You only have one life to live. So, you know, I'll wear my pink glasses work, but I probably would never, ever wear a toole skirt to work, you know? But really, in terms of how I present myself, I always present myself professionally. I think you have to do that. I think, you know, I go in every day. Well, now I go into my office at home, but really every day, my legal career, if I was going into the office, I would just professionally but slightly funkier because that's who I am. And I think that's the way I become. And, you know, and I think in many ways, Isort of developed this sort of trademark persona of being a person that has a little more flair and theway she dresses. But you know and you know and you know, and that was sort of a big sort of dichotomy to think about whether or not by dressing in that way, I was somehow sort of going to impact how people perceive to me. But, you know, I coupled that with working as hard as I possibly can to get good results for people.

KIRU [00:13:51] Yeah. Yeah. And yet, I mean, in line with this idea of, I guess, the scope of the projects that brought us together, being Break the Cycle and highlighting these stories, our experiences of underrepresentation or really pinpointing those moments where you kind ofidentified a cycle and then decided to break it. I was literally just about to ask you, like, hey, when did you, like, identify a cycle? And I will leave space for you to kind of expound on that maybe in a more specific or a different way. But what I kind of gleaned from what you just said was that youwere understanding that when you go to work, you have to present yourself professionally. So you wear the pink glasses. You're not going to hide who you are, but you also want people to see you and be able to connect with you on a professional level. I think sometimes we get so easily caught up in this. Oh, I can't like like a lot of people wouldn't even go as far to wear the pink glasses. Right. They were just like wearing my, like, black boring square glasses that are like more acceptable in this like, sterile environment. And they would go in and kind of strip their identity for hopes of being seen as more professional or more whatever. You've decided that you're going to be yourself. You're not going to kind of get boxed in to this. Like lifeless drone type of situation. But you're also going to give it your all you're going to your work is going to speak for you. And so you decided to be professional and kind of --I think that, like, I'm trying to word it the right way, where you you do present yourself as professional and there's no but kind of to add on that it's you private, you present yourself as professional and personal. And for me, what you just illustrate is this cycle that a lot of us kind of find ourselves in is like. Put on a mask so that you can be seen a certain way. And then just like deal with who you really are, like later or on the weekends. And you found a wayto reconcile both aspects of life. You're full on big statement personality and your roll up yoursleeves and get to work.

LYDIA [00:16:14] Oh, what happened? (Phone ring)

KIRU [00:16:16] I don't know. It is very popular and people need to get in touch with you.

LYDIA [00:16:20] Not sure what that was. All right. Sorry about that. Good.

KIRU [00:16:28] But that's all I had to say right there in that moment.

LYDIA [00:16:31] All right. So, you know, I think I think what it is, is this is that, you know, I'm ina profession and I think we need to do better in terms of getting more diversity. And this is something that we've been just sort of talking about generally. But, you know, I'm in a profession, especially the type of law that I do IP. There's not that many Black women that do this, let alone. So, you know, I often will be the only person of color at certain meetings, at certain conferences. And so, you know, I sort of reconcile that with the fact that I already sort of stick out like a sore thumb,you know. And so basically part of it is that, well, you know, I'm different. You know, I could try to be like other people, but really, I ---you know my father used to say that I dance to my own drumbeat. And it's true. And the part of it is because I (Phone) I am sorry. I'm sorry about this.

KIRU [00:17:26] That's all good. I'll let you take this. I'm just going to mute your line and wait. All good.

LYDIA [00:17:39] Tween girls. Yeah, I have-- I started recording again all good. 

KIRU [00:17:48] I have my youngest sister. She's like 13. And I was talking to my dad and he's like, yeah, she's doing--I was asking, like, how's she doing? How she adjusting to, like, this virtual school type thing, like he's like she's doing great. She's just on face time with her friends all the time. Because I was I also askedlike how is she with friends, like, how's that going. So like, she just kind of wishes they could havevirtual school all the time. And they get on FaceTime and they're on all through the night. They go to sleep on FaceTime together.

LYDIA [00:18:14] That's cute. That's cute. We have to separate out our phones because literally itwill be like I will be doing things and she there will be calling all day. Now you taught me how todo do not disturb on lines, you know. I know. So sorry about that.

KIRU [00:18:32] That's one thing for the future. OK. So where were we?

LYDIA [00:18:36] So you were talking about cycles and so, you know, and I think you were talking about how it is that I can reconcile these two or different cycles or --how I think the question was really more of like, how did I come to decide that I could be able to like sort of on my unmask myself right? You were talking about there's certain times that people out masks and they like, youknow, we'll be one way at work and the office. You know, it's funny because I see that on Tik Tok. It's like me leaving my corporate job and the person puts on their leather jacket, right? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I'm not 100 percent myself at work. I will say that. But, you know, I think in terms of showing my personality, as I was sort of saying, is that I am in a career where there are not a lot ofpeople who are like myself. And so for me, I've always sort of stood out and I think I sort of just decided that, I mean, I'm going to be different than everyone else and I am different than everyone else. And then I think through the series of sort of personal things that have gone on my life, they've made me realize that life is fundamentally short. And so, you know, do I want to spend my life living a certain way and then waking up and realizing that I could have lived differently down the line? No. So, you know, I believe in fully living and being who I am and portraying to most partwho I am as appropriate, because otherwise I'm just not being authentic to myself.

LYDIA [00:21:39] So, I mean, I think, as I said, I started off at a smaller firm and then I moved onto my current firm. And I was very fortunate in having one of the founding partners as my mentor.He was great because the way he sort of mentored you is it was a trial by fire. I joined the firm and then there were about 2000 files that had come in for a brand new client. And he was like, OK, look at those files. Tell me what we need to do. And there you go. And, you know, and in many ways, I think I'm a fearless person. You know, I do have certain fears, but I'm certainly fearlesswhen it comes to things. And so, you know, I think having a person like that who really didn't know me, I mean, they interviewed me and they hired me, but they had no idea who I was really giving me that opportunity to really show who I was. It was it was a wonderful experience. And in many ways, I will say that client was also a great learning experience as well, because they had a trademark that most people don't even know is a trademark. So, you know and, you know, throughout my career and he's still at the firm, I've been able to turn to him many times. You know, I've also had-- I started working on other clients and one of the female partners, and now she's a counsel. She's another person, sort of a I turn to say, you know, internally I think of the firm. I wasable to have those mentors, you know, as opposed to within the firm itself. You know, I think interms of sort of career, you know, I happen to fall into that area of intellectual property by chance. But, you know, I really have to say that the type of work that I do is the only type of legal work thatI would do. Right. I love partnering  with different friends and coming up with their strategies abouthow they're going to expand internationally. I think it's pretty cool that I'm able to work with certain brands to search trademarks before they're even on the market. And I am part of this where they'dsort of decide whether or not that trademark is going to work. If there are going to be issues.

KIRU [00:23:52] So it's a beautiful thing. Truly like. Yeah. I think those are great notes on on being able to find like someone internally, because sometimes I think that even I myself look at this idea of underrepresentation is just like, oh, my God, like there's nobody out there. It's so sad that, like, blah blah blah. We get so caught up in this idea that no one is being represented before us and we allow it to take our focus, as opposed to understanding that, you know, we can be mentored by people who don't look like us. We can mentor other people who don't look like us, because even then, you know, when we box ourselves into this idea that we need to only help people that look like us or be helped by people that look like us. That perpetuates another cycle that won't allow usto really grow and build a better world , a boundless world of positive possibility. So just like I appreciate the note that you made, because I was definitely thinking about like, you're the only Black woman in the room. Sometimes you're the only woman in the room. Sometimes you're the only Black person in the room. So its like, you've come to this place where you understand how to navigate all these different situations and be yourself. You said in the most appropriate way. Which allows you to connect with with people really in really meaningful matters. And so I love that I'm learning a lot right now. It's just like repeating some of the things that I'm hearing because I'm just like, that's dope, because I myself am like a young artist and entrepreneur  that is just beginning.And I have a lot of thoughts, like I came up with this project. But there's so much that I didn't know coming into it. And so each conversation has been just eye opening. And I really appreciate you foropening a thought that even some things that we didn't talk about last time in our introduction. I think that  if I had to ask one big question, which will lead to another big question, what would you say was like, and you may have touched on it a little bit before, but what would you say is the biggest cycle or pivotal moment where you are like this has got to stop or I've got to overcome this?

LYDIA [00:26:18] Well, I think in terms of the pivotal moment, I really do think it's any time I've experienced sort of profound grief in my life is when I've had these cycles where I sort of have to break through, you know? And I think that, you know, I think that there's a lot of times that we have self-doubt. And I used to sort of be overwhelmed by certain self-doubt. But then I realized that you can't do that. You know, in many ways you have to fake it till you make it. You know, like I mean,some people have this thing where you have to go into the self-doubt and really sort of analyze it. Whereas in many instances, what I sort of realized is that what's going to hamper me in life is having that sort of fear of not, or having the fear overwhelm me such that I'm not going to succeed. And so, you know, really I have to sort of think, well, you know what? This is how I feel, but I can't go in there having that fear. I have to go in there sort of being fearless. You know, it's funny because I was talking to someone the other day. We were talking about, you know, rather like tough, sad circumstance. And, you know, the person said, well, you're completely fearless. Like, I always admired you from a far because you're just out there and, you know, you have this impression. I'm like, well, it's not that. It's like I sort of realized at a certain point where I have to convey that even ifI am feeling fear or anxious or anything else like that, because, like, if you don't do that, then andyou let people see it, your weaknesses,  I think that creates more problems down the line.

KIRU [00:28:00] Are you? Saying in the sense of--I want to get this right, because I don't I don't think that you're speaking against vulnerability. More as speaking about. Not being overpowered orovertaken by fear.

LYDIA [00:28:25] Well, exactly. I think the thing is what I'm trying to convey is that in terms of allof us feel vulnerable, all of us feel anxious. All of us. Maybe you'll feel fearful. But that can be used against you. Right. So instead, what you have to sort of take that. You sort of have to. For me. I confronted in the sense that I mean, like, this is how I feel. But when I walk in, I'm going to just rock it because I have to because I can't go in showing my vulnerabilities or my fears, because that could be used in many ways against me, or they may think that I'm not capable of doing something. So, you know, it goes back to that whole story. Like that, what I was telling you about--with the two thousand files that came in, you know, it was overwhelming task to be given these files and starting a new job and trying to decide how I was going to go through all those files and make heads or tails of it and sense and come up with some sort of strategy. But, you know, instead of saying, I'm really worried about this, I'm very fearful. I just went in and I did it and I dealt with my fears separatelyand quietly to myself.

KIRU [00:29:30] Yeah, gotcha. I think that's important for each of us to kind of have that type ofmoment to look at what am I feeling and what am I doing? Because who was I talking to recently? Probably a number of people. I read this book about emotional intelligence that spoke a lot abouthow we respond in many different situations where as physiologically like we're wired toexperience emotion before logic and reason. And so we have to take a moment to analyze those emotions and then make a decision on how we're going to act in logic and reason, because everything has a cause and effect. It's like if you went in and you're like, oh, 'boss, this is a lot'. If you saw this, like, are you sure that you want me to do all these different files? I'm not familiar with, like, X, Y, Z. And then it's, you know, like, oh, OK. If you can't do the job in life, you won'tget a feeling. I'm not really sure why you're here. And then that could have been a whole new future for you. Whereas you were just like this is a lot, but it's been given to me because I'm capable. Iknow I can do this. I'm going to sit down and do it and I'll figure it out as we go along. And you did.And you've done that and you continue to do that. And I think that's really inspiring. And I guess Ikind of answered my next question about like, how did you gain the courage to break the cycle? You've literally just articulated it so well. It's like you look at the fear and you're like, OK, you gotake a seat over here. And you went in and you did what you had to do and you've established connections to kind of take you further in your career and in your life. If you had a particular pieceof advice for someone watching, i.e., also asking for myself, because I've definitely learned so much in this conversation that I'll be taking and we'll be able to talk about a little more off-line, I'm sure. But if you have some advice to give to anyone watching or reading when that comes out, what would you want to say to them, whether they're maybe someone who is going into law or someone who's going into jewelry making and or does someone in general?

LYDIA [00:31:54] Well, I think the thing is, there's a couple of things I think, first, you have torealize there like that you may think you really want to do something, so try different things. You know, I think that, you know, my jewelry making was certainly never going to be initially, in my mind, something that I would turn into a business that was on something simply so, you know, Ithink sort of tried different things. I think you have to learn from your mistakes. And I think the other thing is that I think self-doubt can often take over and that can paralyze people. And, you know, I think you have to own that self-doubt. You have to own that fear or anxiety that you have. And if you want to succeed, you just have to remember it. You have to try. There are many times that I failed in life and there's many times that I've experienced disappointments and different facets of life. But I think that really you just sort of have to realize that you will get that setback. You'll be disappointed. You'll be anxious. But if you really want something, you just got to keep going and keep doing it until you achieve it. And I think that sometimes things happen to that. You may think that, oh, this is never gonna happen. But I think perseverance is really important.

KIRU [00:33:11] I love that. Well, I just want to say thank you so much for taking this time to speak with with me, to be a part of this project and to share insight into your life and just stories ofwho you are and what you've experienced and what you've done. I look forward to look ahead in seeing the next steps for Birabor™ for you as this rock star in IP law. There's a lot ahead of us. Like right now we're all just sitting at home and, like, doing our day to day, doing the best to kind ofkeep it all together. A lot is happening. But as we get closer to things, though, specifically New York City, because a lot of people that might be watching this and like other areas, like we're already open. But we are excited. I think slightly nervous to see, like what I had in terms of reopening thecity and just kind of getting back into the real world and connecting with other, like, face to face. But again, thank you so much. Is there anything else that you want to say?

LYDIA [00:34:22] Well, I just want to say thank you very much for this opportunity. I am inspired by you. I am in awe of you. And I think that you will go very far. And I just yeah. I mean, I think that we are all on a journey. I think New York will rise up and be New York. You know, it may be a slightly new New York, but I think it will New York. And I think this is one of the reasons why I chose to make it my home. So, yeah, I looked for it for everything in the future.

KIRU [00:34:50] Amazing. Well, thank you. Thank you.

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