For the past few years, a strangely familiar presence has haunted millions of TikTok users’ For You Pages. From the tinny voice rambling off pointless corporate jargon to the ever-present coffee cup, it all seems a little too recognizable. You’ve been in a meeting with her. You’ve gotten an email from her. You’ve worked with her, but…you haven’t. It’s your boss…but not. No, it’s actually Corporate Erin.
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The satirical take is an amalgamation of nearly every corporate trope you can think of, and it’s masterfully portrayed by seasoned comedian Lisa Beasley. She has taken the internet by storm and it all started from the traumatic experiences she’d faced while at her former day job as a contract worker. Like everything, she worked through it with her comedy and decided to share it with her large following on social media. It started as a one-off bit that she thought she could set aside, but it took on a life of its own. That’s why, when I attempted to set up an interview with Lisa, Erin showed up instead. Here’s what happened.
ESSENCE: How are you?
Corporate Erin: Good!
I’m so excited to talk to you! I’m Jasmine Browley, the Money & Careers editor at ESSENCE.
Yeah, money. Money!
I wanted to connect with you not only to get a little bit more insight into who you are, but also to hear about your relationship with Lisa because she’s had some amazing things happen to her lately. Does that sound good?
Absolutely. I love this. Let’s circle back to this conversation right now.
Okay. That sounds good. So, first of all, how are you feeling this morning?
Well, my bandwidth is a little stretched. I’m very busy. Today is a working day. *Editor’s note: this interview was conducted on Saturday, December 30.*
During the holidays, some people kind of, like, take some time off, but I’m still in it, so I’m doing well. I do the best that I can.
Yeah, same here. Same here. You know, it’s so funny, I read that Lisa is actually from Chicago. I am, too. That’s where I am currently. Erin, are you. Where are you from?
So, I am also from Chicago. I don’t say what location in Chicago, because I don’t want my coworkers to know or be jealous. But Lis’ lives on the *whispers* South Side.That can be a little challenging at times.
So, can you tell me a little bit more of your story? How did you meet Lisa?
Okay, so, in the winter of 2021, Lis’ really kind of felt the need to make sure that there was a stronger presence regarding work personas. And this is where I came in, and she co-created me, and we cross collaborated and said, hey, you are going to be the pivotal character that kind of represents this framework of this corporate world. And they said, well, okay, that’s already what I do. Happy to kind of step in, fulfill this role for you. But then over the years, it’s kind of evolved. One thing that Lisa noticed is that every time I popped out, big eyeballs were on us, okay. But a lot of people don’t know, is that I was also a trigger for Lisa. So, she wouldn’t just pull it out all the time. Then she needed a break. She wanted to niche down and said, ‘hey, it’s time to kind of let my character speak for me.’ So she just brought me out to the forefront to take over her social media because she needed a break from her real face kind of just being put out there.
Yeah, that makes total sense. You’d mentioned that sometimes you trigger her. What was Erin’s corporate background?
Well, as the manager of management mcmanagement mcmanagement, what that means is I kind of work cross-globally. Cross-industry. The term is like industry agnostic. I’m able to step in and fulfill any need in any industry. And I think due to Lisa’s experience, she knows the pain of working at a freelancer capacity. She’s worked with just about every single industry, government, education, pharmaceutical, every single industry. It’s all kind of the same wherever you go.
I agree. I feel like I personally know you, even though we’ve never met. I’ve worked with so many versions of people that have your personality, and I know there are others that can relate to that. Why do you think so many people have gravitated toward you?
I was just doing my job, taking over Lisa’s social media, and I just find it so interesting that there’s millions of people who say, ‘I know her,’ and hey, I don’t know millions of people. And I think that for a period of time, I thought I was unique. I thought that I was different. I thought that I was special. And it turns out that there’s a lot of me just kind of all running around. I’d like to get to know them. I like to meet them, to kind of cross reference and make sure that it’s an accurate depiction of me. But I think what’s interesting is if there are a lot of me’s and companies driving the business forward.
Yeah. You mentioned again, Lisa was triggered by some of the corporate experiences that she’s had. Do you know what she’s done to heal herself from those experiences?
Therapy. THERAPY. About two years of therapy. There’s also kind of some self-medication going into play. I don’t use ganja to cope, but Lisa’s a fan with her anxiety. Friendship is another, but also going on a strict social diet, so you can’t follow up and circle back with everyone. Sometimes you kind of close the team down a little bit and kind of close that loop on who your team members are and ensure the people that are in your life are there to help you succeed. Another thing that has helped is to not enter that environment at all. Truly choosing to not go where you’re tolerated, only where you’re appreciated. And there are some sacrifices that go into that. So I make $8,500 every two weeks. Lisa makes no money every two weeks because of the sacrifice of saying, ‘hey, I can’t be here. I’ve tried and tried and tried, and everywhere I go, it didn’t work.’ So she doesn’t go in those environments.
Makes sense. I know that Lisa is an amazingly talented comedian. She has been gracing stages in person and online for many years now. You talk to her all the time. How did it feel for her to know that you were the one that kind of broke through for her? I know that she did an amazing impression of Lori Lightfoot, our former mayor, but Erin really has seemed become a phenomenon. So why do you think that is? How does she feel about that?
Well, what a lot of people may be kind of realizing is that each character or persona that Lisa puts out there is ran through to that experience. So, Lori was a political figure. Lisa ran that entire bit like a political campaign.
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So that means in-person town halls, a lot of in-person meetings, kind of like going door to door, going to different neighborhoods, just popping out and saying, ‘hi, I’m here.’ So me, I work a lot. I have no problem going overboard. Sometimes creators say, ‘hi, you can only post once a day.’ Well, I say, ‘hey, let’s post twelve because we have some Q4 goals that we have to push through.’ I’m not afraid to push the boundaries at all levels. Additionally, Lori Lightfoot kind of served a purpose for Chicago. It was intentionally Chicago-focused. Lisa wanted to bring me into the national spotlight, and she understood, between the numbers and between the people using the internet, that there’s a large workforce that works from home. There’s also a large percentage of the workforce that has quit.
In terms of content and marketability, this is kind of the subject that she thought would grad national interest. And also, hey, is anybody paying attention to this sector of the world here? And so, sometimes what it takes is shining a light on a particular situation. Lori shined a light on Chicago. Erin through Lis’ is shining a light on America and how we work. So for Lis’, it’s kind of like the intention was so strong. The numbers are not surprising.
Personally, she’s excited to finally have more of an audience to kind of direct consume her content because a lot of people think there’s something after this or the next logical step is to procure a tv show. But where the numbers are, the way the numbers are working, that’s bigger than tv. This experiential comedic experience is evolving into an independent artistry that a lot of people are not familiar with. Every character serves their purpose and their audience. And it just so happens that I piqued national interest. Now, did she know it was going to go click boom?
Yes. But not in a short amount of time. She thought at least we were going to be until Q2, until we saw some major attraction, but it was resonating with people. Another thing to note, I’m glad you mentioned her experience. One thing that she’s noticed, every winter, November, December, her views on her comedic videos goes up because everybody’s depressed.
Yes, that definitely tracks.
There’s a lot of moving parts and moving components.
Yes, I definitely agree with that, and thank you so much for providing that insight. To your point, depression, I think part of the reason why. Oh, is your hand raised in the Zoom right now?
Oh, no but I’m happy to take over this meeting and run the meeting if you kind of want me to acknowledge your hand.
Yeah, thank you for that, I’m good. Anyway, there are lots of people who are struggling in the workplace. And I think that at this point, there’s an interesting relationship between Lisa’s audience and how they view Erin in that they watch for comedic relief, but at the same time, they are also triggered because of their own workplace trauma. Have you and Lisa seen any messages from audience members who’ve been helped by the content?
Every day. Every day I’m going to grab a book. One second. *goes to grab book.*
So, what I noticed is when I was triggering everybody to the heavens, I said, okay, I’m here to kind of do this mission for Lis’, but I’m stirring up some real feelings. And I take that seriously. So I asked my good friend Minda Harts to send me her book. She sent me two of her books. The one I recommend is Right Within: How To Heal From Racial Trauma In The Workplace.
Now, the thing about this is everybody’s dealing with workplace trauma, but this speaks specifically to Black women and women of color. And the memo is what women of color need to know to secure the seat. So it’s like, ‘how do you get the job? How do you get out of the job?’ And I started to pull on some of my pivotal partners, who are my friends, and say, ‘hey, I need some resources.’
Some of them are realizing for the first time that ‘hey, my heart’s beating fast. Oh, that’s anxiety. Oh, this is a trigger.’ So I don’t know if you noticed, but the word trigger kind of fell off a little bit, and now it’s back. And I think people are beginning to realize what the real trauma and trigger is. They’re also starting to awaken to the force that is comedy and how healing it is to be able to laugh at real pain. The thing is, typically tragedy plus time equals comedy. People are currently working under tragic situations. So it being funny now is just kind of an added extra layer of kind of protection. Some people now are able to handle these meetings because they’ll come across a Corporate Erin and they’ll say, ‘okay, it’s not me, that woman’s tripping.’ Or some have said, ‘hey, I got to quit. It’s time to move on, or I have to heal, or I just have to keep watching these videos because I have no choice and I have to make this money. So, I have to find ways to healthily cope.’
I want to talk a little bit about Lisa’s next steps. You mentioned there were thoughts around a show, but the brand is much bigger than that. Is there anything else particularly exciting that she’s looking forward to that you can speak on?
Let me see if I have any memos from Lisa. Oh, an exclusive. Well, she always has her monthly show at the Laugh Factory in Chicago. An exclusive would be that she is planning to tour in 2024. She hasn’t told anyone that we’ve been having internal stakeholder meetings.
Okay. She’s been laddering it up.
Yeah, we’ve been laddering up and kind of working out what that would be. Keep in mind, she’s doing everything independently. That’s the biggest next step. I think a lot of people, when they see a creator blow up, they think like, oh, time to get somebody in there to help them. She’s already done all of that and everything that people are seeing now, someone has said no to in the past. She wants to grow what’s already been in motion. In her words, she wants to do Hollywood type shit without Hollywood. And it’s staying true to being independent. We know what it takes to get there. Literally, the only thing we lack sometimes is money. So, she’s turned on her business brain and has just been kind of thinking of different income streams that all of these different eyeballs can serve without having to go mega ultra capitalistic and going for brands and deals and things like that. She still wants to highlight her community and kind of do the same thing she’s been doing before, but in front of a larger audience. So, who are the brands that are going to sponsor free classes for the community? Instead of doing a traditional TikTok, just one like, hey, come get this book. Instead of that, it says, hey, we’re doing a twelve-week online course sponsored by this company. And then that’s how Lisa gets her money to kind of put into other areas of the business.
Yeah, and that makes total sense. Thank you for explaining that. And I love that Lisa is committed to, again, serving her community in the ways that she knows works. Authenticity works. I believe I just saw a tweet about some hesitation around joining SNL because there were fans that asked. And she said, no, that’s not something she wants to explore.
And lately she’s been doing, sorry to cut you off, but lately she’s been doing on the ground market research. When someone tells her that in-person, she asks, ‘do you watch SNL?’ And they always say no.
Yeah, true. Yeah. There’s a reason that data is viable.
The data is data-ing.
We’ve covered a lot. Is there anything I missed?
I think it’s interesting that a lot of people kind of disregard my race. A lot. I’m Black, and some people don’t know that, and I think that’s so interesting. I think it’s because they have their cameras off, and they’re probably not looking at their Zooms, but they assume I’m a different race, and that kind of hurts my feelings. I think that’s just something I wanted to touch on really quickly. I am Black.
Yeah. I’m so glad that you pointed that out, because I did not know that.
I didn’t want to have to come out with my race and all.
Yeah. It’s so uncomfortable, but it’s very uncomfortable. Well, I thank you so much for your time. Erin, thank Lisa, as well, for passing along her story through you. I hope you enjoy the rest of your workday.
Thank you. I hope you enjoy the rest of your workday, too. I’m sure you have a lot of follow ups to do.
Yeah, actually, I do. We’re work soldiers.
We’re warriors for work.