Chasity Cooper - Freelance journalist with bylines in Wine Enthusiast, Vinepair, ZORA, & Essence.
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I’ve been in the wine industry for the last three years. My background is in marketing and public relations, and I’ve always worked full-time in some capacity of marketing communications. It wasn’t until 2017 that I started to explore professional opportunities in the industry. I worked part time at a wine shop in Washington, D.C., but started to seek ways to write about wine as I continued to learned about it. Today, I work full-time in content marketing and outside of my 9-to-5, I am a freelance journalist with bylines in Wine Enthusiast, Vinepair, ZORA, Essence and others.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
For me, there have been two “aha!” moments. The first came in 2010 when I traveled abroad to Spain and visited my first winery. I was enamored by the process and while, at the time, I didn’t know what I was going to do with that experience professionally, it absolutely had an impact on me. The second came in 2016. At the time, I had been generally blogging about social media, media and what it meant to be a millennial, and I found myself no longer motivated. During that time, my interest in wine had been piqued. I joined a monthly wine club and began exploring wine shops in my neighborhood to learn more about the grapes in the bottles that I was buying on a weekly basis. I had been posting photos of the wines I was drinking on Instagram for about three years at that point, and became the resident “wine expert” among my friends. Instead of merely posting what I ‘thought’ was in my wine, I wanted to know with confidence what I was drinking and recommending to friends.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Telling the stories of Black and brown wine professionals. Learning what inspires them, why they chose a career in wine, and how they are uniquely using their passion for wine to empower their communities. Oh, and tasting delicious wine, of course.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
At this point in my career, I can’t say that I have directly experienced prejudices as a wine journalist. While experiencing prejudice isn’t something I’m looking forward to, I am aware that being a Black woman in this industry means that there will undoubtedly be challenges and obstacles for me to overcome.
Women are victims of the patriarchy as well, and often are more judgmental of other women as a result. How can we as women become more aware of our own prejudice towards each other and change that behavior?
I think the most important thing we can do, as women, is listen to understand and not necessarily respond. The beautiful thing about wine is that it brings us together. So many varietals and regions - there is something for every palate. And because of that, we have to remember that there is always space to learn more about it. As women in wine, we have to always remain students of the craft – constantly learning and welcoming to those who are just as curious and passionate about the vine as we are. That humility, I believe, can and will challenge us to check our own privilege and become more understanding of one another.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
Everything. More thoughtful stories, more intentional conversations, more delicious wines made, more successful businesses - I could go on and on. When women are fully supported, paid fairly and allowed to have their creativity put on full display, there’s absolutely nothing that can stop us.
What changes do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
While I still consider myself a newbie in this industry, I want to see more women of color in leadership roles making important decisions. I want to see more women of color in wine sales and marketing, as vintners, beverage directors, wine educators, brand ambassadors, influencers, restaurant managers, journalists, authors and business owners.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Don’t be intimidated! Yes, wine can be an overwhelming and daunting thing, but don’t be afraid to find what interests you the most and roll with it. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. Also, you don’t know what you don’t know - so ask all of the questions! Seek out the expertise of others to help you get better at your game. Community is absolutely everything in wine, and no one can win by themselves.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
Fair compensation and recognition for women who have to work twice as hard - if not harder - to receive it. More opportunities for women to be funded for their businesses and continued education. I think companies are starting to get hip to the fact that wine education is extremely expensive, and a lot of women have responsibilities outside of wine that require them to work in other industries in order to support themselves and their families. Women shouldn’t have to jump through tons of hoops in order to prove that they are worthy of having a voice in this industry.
In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
By uplifting the stories of Black women and men in this industry who are using their gifts and talents to teach, serve and bring delicious wine and rich wine experiences to their communities.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
She’s resilient, a hustler, a risk-taker and knows how to ask for help. She knows that, in order to get better, she’ll have to get knocked down a few times and always be willing to learn from her mistakes. She is creative, bold, courageous and she never settles.
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
Honestly, there are SO MANY! Dorothy J. Gaiter and Julia Coney for their thoughtful reporting and because they’ve paved for me to pursue a career in wine journalism. Other women include Theodora Lee, Zwann Grays, Regine Rousseau, Brenae Royal, Andrea and Robin McBride, Dr. Dawna Darjean Jones, Cha McCoy, Kelly Mitchell, Larissa Dubose, Sukari Bowman, Tahiirah Habibi, Krista Scruggs, Shanika Hillocks, Ashtin Berry, Shakera Jones and Shayla Varnado. All of these women, and so many others, are using their brilliance, creativity and talent to change the world of wine.