A Day In The Life Of Diversity Consultant Callia Hargrove

"I feel like a modern day Olivia Pope."

Last summer, when a flood of black squares began popping up on everyone’s Instagram feeds, it quickly became clear who was trying to make real, substantive change and who was simply hopping on a social media trend. Callia Hargrove, 28, a diversity consultant who works with fashion brands like Levi’s, said her business started booming when companies realized they needed to craft stronger and more authentic messaging around inclusivity.

“I’ve been joking that I feel like a modern-day Olivia Pope right now,” Hargrove, 28, tells Bustle. “A lot of people coming to me are like, ‘Oh my God, [we need] diversity and inclusion.’ Of course that’s great and I want to be hopeful in that way, but I didn’t really understand how taxing [the consulting work] would be on me. Because you’re being met with people that have either not taken diversity and inclusion into account before, or who have racist feelings.”

It’s a heavy job, but it’s one Hargrove feels uniquely positioned to take on after working at places like Teen Vogue and Ralph Lauren. “Because of my background, having worked in corporate America for my whole career, and that coupled with being a Black woman, it does give me a really interesting perspective to navigate these issues that a lot of companies are dealing with,” she says.

In June 2020, Hargrove decided to launch her own consulting agency, Backstory, and focus on diverse storytelling in part due to the racial reckoning that’s taking hold across industries. She knows she’s putting herself “on the frontlines” but believes it's worth it to help bring about change.

Hargrove says last year's police brutality cases inspired her even further. After Ahmaud Arbery’s death, one of Hargrove’s childhood friends, a Black man, reached out to her. “He said, ‘I feel I can’t go outside,’” she says. “After the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, I just felt impassioned, like I needed to be making a difference in my work. So, I decided to put my money where my mouth was and make that the focus of my agency.”

Ahead, Hargrove walks Bustle through a typical day as a diversity consultant.

9 a.m.: Make A Matcha Latte

Courtesy of Callia Hargrove

Hargrove knows many founders are early risers, but she is not one of them. “I’ll keep it real, that’s not me,” she says. “There are few things I love more than sleep, so most mornings I wake up right before my first meeting of the day around 9 a.m. I’ll make myself a matcha latte and jump right into my first Zoom call.”

10 A.M.: Hop On Calls & Emails

Courtesy of Callia Hargrove

Hargrove’s meetings vary since the agency covers various areas of expertise. “Sometimes it’s an intro call from a potential client looking to us for help with everything from creating a diverse cast for an upcoming campaign to reworking an employee handbook to make it more inclusive,” she says. “The next might be an Olivia Pope-style crisis call with a client navigating a social snafu that they want to use as a launchpad to embark on a better path. I love that my job allows for lots of variety and presents so many opportunities to work on projects I’m truly passionate about.”

12 P.M.: Head To Set

Courtesy of Callia Hargrove

On this particular day, Hargrove heads to set for an upcoming project with Levi’s highlighting “a powerful group of change makers.”

“I founded my agency because I wanted to be a part of telling stories that showcase people doing the work from all walks of life, and this project is perfectly aligned with that mission,” she says. “While I can’t speak too much on its exact premise, I think it will create some waves in the industry once it’s released and I can’t wait to see it out in the world.”

3 P.M.: Take A Late Lunch Break

Courtesy of Callia Hargrove

Later in the afternoon, Hargrove takes a lunch break. “It’s weird being back on set in the middle of a pandemic, but I feel really safe with everyone having been tested beforehand and following distancing protocols,” she says. “One of the things I’ve missed most during the pandemic is the magic of being on set, and while this is a little different, that spark is still there. Shout out to the catering service — the food was delicious and fueled me up for the second half of the day.”

5 P.M.: Get In The Note-Taking Zone

Courtesy of Callia Hargrove

Hargrove spends the rest of her time on set taking notes and watching the video playback in a socially-distanced tent. “My role with this project is storytelling-based, so I carefully watched as each [subject] took turns telling their story, writing down anything important that stuck out or particularly emotional moments,” Hargrove says. “More than one of the videos moved me to tears.”

7 P.M.: Wrap Up The Day

Courtesy of Callia Hargrove

After getting back from set, Hargrove wraps up a few loose ends for other clients that she wasn’t able to get to during the day, including rounding out a proposal deck for a new influencer marketing project for a jewelry client and creating a performance spreadsheet for another campaign. “After, I took a minute to reflect and recognize how lucky I feel to have been a part of today’s Levi’s project,” she says. “When I was working in-house at companies like Ralph Lauren, Teen Vogue, and Calvin Klein, I pushed for more diversity and projects like this, and it feels so good to see — and be a part of — more of them being created.”