My big sister: The original influencer

I inherited my mom’s knack for marching to the beat of her own stylish drum. (I may be off social media, but I passed the Insta-torch to my badass mommy.)

And you can thank my Dad for my persistent pursuit of excellence in everything that I do. (As he says: “If I touch it, I want it to be different.”)

But mark my words: My big sister Ty is where it’s really at.

If my family’s late-90s/early-00s lives were portrayed on a TV drama, my dominant storyline would have revolved around me figuring out how to be more like my sister, without annoying her too much in the process — something I failed at more times than I’d like to admit.

She was the original influencer before capital-I Influencers became a thing.

Ask Ty and she’ll suggest I was super popular growing up. But I would have traded being even more of an outcast than I actually was if it meant I got to be BFFs with my sis.

To this day, Ty is the best writer I know. So I became a writer.

She got back-to-back internships through the highly competitive ExxonMobil Summer Jobs Program in college. So rolled up my sleeves and got back-to-back internships through the highly competitive ExxonMobil Summer Jobs Program.

When she got a job at a nonprofit in our hometown, I started volunteering there so we could hang out together.

And I still attempt to mimic my sister’s handwriting — you’d think after more than two decades of practice, I’d have mastered her penscript, but I digress…

I loved Dru Hill, Boyz II Men, Next, Tyrese, Ginuwine (I mean, because if Ty did, how could I not?). I sat in the backseat of the car and cried when my sister found out Tupac died — I’d never seen my sister so devastated before and didn’t know how to deal.

My childhood’s cinematic holy grail included Clueless, My Girl, Love & Basketball, Forrest Gump, Mean Girls, Bring It On. I’ve rewatched more episodes of One Tree Hill than I’d like to admit. But that’s the cost of doing siblinghood with Ty Jones. And when it came to Moesha, I dropped my crush on Hakeem like a bad habit when I found out my sister preferred Q. 🤷🏾‍♂️

The highlight of my 15th birthday? When Ty gifted me an explicit version of Eve’s “Scorpion” CD. It was soooooooooooooo explicit — she knew Mom and Dad would never let me listen to such foul language; I knew Mom and Dad would scold her for letting me listen to such foul language. It was like our little secret. I loved when Ty trusted me to keep secrets.

She’s the source of two of my most cherished gifts: my niece Jordan and my nephew Micah. And I got the brother I always wanted when she married her high-school sweetheart.

Ty is even the reason I became obsessed with Lucky, the Condé Nast magazine I moved to New York City to work as a fashion editor and style columnist before it’s closure nearly three years ago. I’d sneak into her room and flip through the pages to see which clothes and accessories she tabbed with the stickers that were included in each issue.

It was like a window into her mind. One I didn’t think I was cool enough to ever get access to without slipping through the backdoor. Thank God, that’s not the case anymore. Ty tells me I’ve always been cool enough.

I think this fierce affinity for my sister was shaped by who she was during my most impressionable years.

Ty was a track star growing up. She was the real deal. This hotshot coach from our rival high school recruited her to join his program. My parents even rented an empty apartment nearby so her transfer would be legit. Ty and her talent was worth the investment, they would later tell me.

Track was Ty’s life. That’s the reason I’m able to vividly recount all the memories I shared above: There really weren’t that many moments that didn’t include track, so they stuck.

I was always impressed by how hard she trained. She could drive through the curve of her 400-meter sprint like nobody’s business. As long as her relay team was in striking distance when Ty got the baton, it was a sure thing that they’d finish in first place. Mondays were my favorite day of the week growing up — I got to brag about how my sister “smoked those slow-ass scrubs at Hanby Stadium last weekend.”

And what’s so cool about our relationship now is that the way I used to cheer for Ty is how she cheers for me now.

She’s one of the first to know what’s going on in my business — not to mention, she’s the ultimate Jane of all Trades: part strategist, proofreader, beta tester and therapist.

I know what this business is evolving into is largely because of my sister’s generosity and support. And I don’t take it for granted. I’m one blessed little brother.