I Am the Sommelier

By Felicia Colbert

By

Felicia Colbert
Rising Star Sommelier Felicia Colbert of Arake's Progress
Rising Star Sommelier Felicia Colbert of Arake's Progress

The challenges of being a black female sommelier are the same as being a black lady in this world. It’s the intersection of race and gender and age and class and the singular idea of what a “fill in the blank” looks like. Hello, a brown lady can be any of those things. It’s frustrating when guests think I am the  hostess or refuse to engage in a real conversation with me. I’ve had to let a few people on my team go. But I am at a place in my career that I honestly don’t have to care about the opinions of those types of people any more. If you want to be a bigot, your loss. I’m a unicorn princess. Small minded people will continue to be that way, and as my sister says, “Their life is the lesson.”

I do, however, have to play by the rules, and not just any rules but the unwritten ones that most minorities know all too well. It’s in a way similar to the double standard women have to navigate but requires far more day-to-day boundary maintenance. It’s everything from the way that I dress and walk, down to what I order when I go to a restaurant. I do not drink at work. I spit. I never want someone to say that Felicia is the drunk one. I work to keep my personal brand strong—I’m always nice, even when its hard and in a world that’s not set up for me. For those fortunate to have privilege, it may seem exhausting, but after years of repetition, it gets a lot easier. I think this truly is the hardest part of the job: that it is in fact two jobs, and one of them never ends.

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