#38: Storytelling with Stacy Morataya-Pilkington [Podcast] - Jenn T. Grace—Book Publisher, Speaker, and Author Skip to the content

#38: Storytelling with Stacy Morataya-Pilkington [Podcast]

In this new podcast, I had the pleasure of interviewing a close friend and colleague on the show. I lovingly refer to her as an operational genius, but you can just call her Stacy (Morataya-Pilkington). This interview covers many topics and her retail experience as an LGBT shopper will teach you a thing or two about how to effectively market to the community. Don’t miss this episode!

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AUDIO TITLE:  Episode #38 – Stacy Morataya-Pilkington

Intro:

Welcome to the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast where you’ll learn how to do business with and market to the LGBT community in an authentic and transparent way. We’re talking about the $790 billion lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community. We’ll help you grow your business, gain market share and impact your bottom line. And now your host – she’s an entrepreneur, a marketing maven and an advocate for the LGBT business community. Jenn, with two N’s, T. Grace.

Jenn T. Grace:

Hello and welcome to episode number 38 of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. I am your host, Jenn Grace, and today I am absolutely delighted to bring you an interview that I did with a very dear close friend of mine, Stacy Morataya-Pilkington, and she is the Director of Hotel Operations for Foxwoods Resort Casino which is based here in southeastern Connecticut. And she and I have been friends for several years now, and she’s very near and dear to me, and she also happens to be the President of the greater Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in which I am the Vice President of. So it was really awesome to be able to sit down with her in a more formal capacity and just kind of pick her brain, and ask her some questions about her life’s story, and what’s brought her from Las Vegas out here to Connecticut, and then just really talk about what it means to be an advocate in the workplace. We talked about how to be effective in your LGBT marketing outreach, that there are a couple of things that you need to do such as be authentic; which I think by now you know that I preach a great deal about. But then also to be vulnerable and ask questions. So today’s episode is going to be fantastic. She had just tons of inspirational advice, and she’s just great, I’m certain that you will enjoy today’s interview.

However before we hop over to the interview, I just want to make a couple of announcements just because it is indeed July 24th and the launch of my new book, ‘No Wait, You do Look Gay: The Seven Mistakes Preventing You from Selling to the LGBT Market,’ is just days away from launching. So if you are listening to this, and you are listening to it live, hooray, I love you, you’re awesome. I encourage you to head over to www.NoWaitYouDoLookGay.com and check things out. And if you happen to be listening to this in the very, very distant future, maybe it’s a year from now, maybe it’s two, three years away, if you go to that same link, www.NoWaitYouDoLookGay.com it will be redirecting you over to Amazon where you can purchase the printed copy, the audio copy, or the Kindle version, or some sort of mobile version. I’m really excited about the book coming live. We kind of talk about it a little bit in the interview towards the end because while it may seem like I paid Stacy to talk about some of the things that she talked about, I did not actually do that. Although now that I think of it, it’s probably not a bad idea to pay my guests to do some plugging. But I would never do that because I love you guys, and I preach about authenticity, and transparency, and that’s what I want to make sure that I am for you at all times.

So I’m not going to ramble and take up any time today, I really am just so excited about the interview for today, that I just want to dive right into it. So I hope you enjoy. As always you can download any information we talked about, you can check out links, you can find out a way to contact Stacy directly, all by going to the website at www.JennTGrace.com/38 for episode number 38.

Stacy Morataya-Pilkington, tell the audience a little bit about yourself, and your story, and basically what your path looked like whether that’s personal or career related, that basically led you to where you are today in good old Ledyard, Connecticut.

Stacy:

Well that’s a very broad question, and I’ll start by saying that I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada and spent the first 31 years of my life there. So hospitality and entertainment was really in my blood. My father was an executive with entertainment for a long time. And there reached a certain point at which I thought I wanted to be more in the service realm, and less in the gaming realm because there was a big trend in Las Vegas to have major gaming casinos with very high end service. And I worked at the only five diamond resort in Las Vegas at that time, and I found it very challenging to give people sincere heartfelt service the way that I wanted to when they were there exercising a vice. And sometimes that can lead to some awkward conversations. So I decided to move somewhere where there were four seasons because I had three beautiful sons, and I wanted to be somewhere where they could play outside and we could enjoy the nature, and the weather, and I could be in a high end luxury hotel that was not attached to gaming.

So Denver we went. I spent three beautiful years in Denver, and during the economic downswing of 2008-2009, things did not go well there so I decided it would be in my best interest to continue to move east. I chose east because my family- once they emigrated from Ireland, settled in Rhode Island, and everybody is there. I came to Rhode Island and Connecticut every summer as a young child and fell in love with the place, and had determined that I would have a farm, and chickens, and animals when I grew up and I would live here. So I started to just move back this way, went through Massachusetts, found a great opportunity in Boston, and then met my wife in Boston, and got an offer in Connecticut, in Mashantucket. So the professional trajectory was fantastic because leaving Las Vegas I had so much industry knowledge, and going through luxury hotels through the- you know through Denver, through Massachusetts, and then central Mass and then in Boston, I also realized that there was an aspect to gaming that was really a part of my core, and who I am because I grew up in that environment. And rather than seeing it as a vice, I started to see that gaming was really something that was just another opportunity for people to have fun and relax in really difficult times. And sometimes I might prefer to go have a nice dinner, or go watch a movie, or to go for a hike, and there are some people who want to come and play a video game, or come sit on a game and feel the action of Craps or Roulette. So I really kind of overgrew- or overcame my distaste for gaming and embraced it again, and that’s what led me to Foxwoods.

Professionally that’s kind of it in a nutshell. Personally I would say that growing up in Las Vegas was very challenging, especially because I got married and had three children at a very young age, and was constantly conflicted with my identity as a gay woman. It’s a very patriarchal community there, full of transient people that have come from all over the place to work or play, or have gambled and gotten stuck there, and I found it very hard to be a mother and a lesbian and a professional in that sphere. So going to Colorado was certainly much more advanced; not completely accepting, although now that marriage is legal there, it’s certainly a different place. But the farther east I came, the more blessed I felt because I felt that I could be myself professionally, my full self, and not have to use opaque pronouns to try and make sure that my peers and superiors in leadership weren’t going to make judgments or put me in a situation where I had to become an advocate at work. Being an advocate at work is very challenging when you have three young children to take care of. So coming to Foxwoods has been unbelievably powerful for me, and living in Connecticut and being able to live on a farm, with my wife, and my chickens, and my horses has just been kind of a completion of a dream. I sometimes stand outside and think, ‘Did this really happen?’

Jenn T. Grace:

So I love your story, and how you kind of travelled from the west over to the east, and of course for those listening, Stacy and I have a longstanding friendship and we are very, very close friends now. So it’s always fun when I have somebody who’s really close to me on the show because I oftentimes walk away knowing something different than I may have before we started. And a couple of things that you were talking about, like you were talking about using opaque pronouns in the workplace, and that kind of stuff. And you mentioned being an advocate at work. So I know that this is not part of the series of questions that we were going to talk about, but I’m just curious what your take is on being an advocate at work, and how you see yourself in that role now. And then also we talked about your path in terms of the gaming industry, but we didn’t really talk about what your role is in the gaming atmosphere. So if you want to just kind of shed some light on that for the listeners as well, I think that would be helpful because I do refer to you as one of the most brilliant operations people that I know. So I think it merits having a little bit of dialogue around.

Stacy:

I love you. Okay so I am the Director of Hotel Operations for Foxwoods Resort, which is the largest casino resort in North America. And to your question about being a workplace advocate, it was an evolution for me and a sense of responsibility, great responsibility that started to grow the more people I managed. Because what I’m seeking on my team, and in the people that I work with, is for them to really bring their full complete human self to the job. When you’re in hospitality, at least from my viewpoint, you want to treat people the way you would if they were in your home. You know, you wouldn’t just leave your door unlocked and have somebody come in and get themselves a beer and make themselves dinner and find themselves a place to sleep in your home. You know, you would definitely want to make sure that all their needs were met, that they felt comfortable, that they felt welcome and safe. I know how it felt to be hiding behind my spouse, or my partner, or trying to stay away from saying, ‘my girlfriend,’ or ‘my fiancé,’ or ‘she.’ And the more I grew in this role, the more responsible I felt to out myself. I was never in the closet, I came out at 22 years old. But in the professional sphere, by the time I reached Colorado, everybody knew. I introduced myself to my prospective employer, I came out in my interview in a very discreet and professional way, but I wanted to make sure that the environment I was stepping into was going to be the right one for me to be as effective as I could be. And through the process I stayed true to that and made sure that I’m very transparent with who I am and what I’m about, and that this is a part of who I am, and I need to make sure that the work environment that I’m entering is going to be fully accepting and comfortable with that. So even in my first interview here at Foxwoods, I made it clear to him- to Jason Guyot who was interviewing me, that that was where I was, and that I had a female partner who was going to be relocating with me. And I did ask about the benefits that Foxwoods offered, and did they have domestic partnership benefits, and what was the LGBT stance of the resort? Because it is a Native American sovereign owned establishment. So I wanted to make sure that my values and my priorities were going to align well with the company that I was going to be coming into. Did that give you enough?

Jenn T. Grace:

It sure does, it sure does. I love that you made the comment of people needing to bring their full human selves to work, because ideally- especially for somebody in a role such as yours where you are managing a lot of people, having that not be- having that basically be a non-issue for your employees, I would imagine is going to be all it’s going to take in a lot of cases to make them want to be more productive and more effective for you. Because it’s one less thing that they have to worry about and hide.

Stacy:

And to that point, and I know you’re aware of the advocacy work that I’ve been blessed to be able to do here at Foxwoods, because it really is outside of my role in operations. I’ve become a point of- kind of a beacon of information and a beacon of support for LGBT people who are working within Foxwoods. I’ve had the great opportunity to meet with a lot of the department leaders that write and govern policy for human resources, employee services, and employee relations. And they’ve been very receptive to the feedback, and actually refer people to me that might need a little bit of guidance in one particular area of their career or life that’s related to them being LGBT. So I alongside you am a professional lesbian in some respect.

Jenn T. Grace:

I love it. And I think that’s such a great service that you’re doing for your company, who doesn’t necessarily have a formal structure for your LGBT employees to convene, but for you to be someone in a senior position, and allowing yourself to kind of be that point of contact for so many people who I’m sure in many cases, this might be their first job, or their very fresh in their careers, and it’s probably something that stresses them out a little bit. So it’s nice that you’re kind of there to be a shoulder for them.

Stacy:

I feel very blessed to have the opportunity.

Jenn T. Grace:

That’s great, I love that. And I want to ask you about a coming out story. I’m curious because I know that you probably have a dozen different either harmonious coming out stories, you probably have at least a dozen disastrous ones. But do you have one that you’d share with us that may be related to family, friends, in the workplace, just something that you want to share? Because the reason I ask is for those who are listening to this podcast, a lot of times it is an ally to our community who’s listening, oftentimes it’s people who are also part of the community. But I am trying to get to the point for those who are unfamiliar with the coming out process, what a- kind of a pain in the ass it is a lot of times for us to constantly be having to do. And the more coming out stories I think people hear, the better they’re able to relate to some of the struggle that a lot of us face on a regular basis.

Stacy:

Absolutely. Well I’ll give you my first official coming out story which is the most painful, and the one that I made a conscious decision not ever to hide just in case it can help somebody else, whether it be a parent or a child or in whatever capacity they are, that they could hear it and possibly think, ‘Maybe I can- I’m strong enough to handle this coming out for myself A. Or B I need to be sensitive to my loved one coming out.’ So as I said I did get married at a very young age, and I had been divorced with three beautiful sons by the age of 22. And immediately after my divorce, or therefore shortly after, I was involved in a relationship with my best friend who was a woman. And my family knew her as my best friends for many years, and we were very discreet about the relationship because I had not yet communicated it with my family. My sister knew, and my sister is also gay, and she was much younger than me at that time and still struggling with how she was going to let my parents know. So we went on a hike to Red Rock, which was one of our favorite things, and one of the most beautiful areas- it’s a nature area in Las Vegas, and you could just hike for hours and hours. And I had all three of my boys there, and I was there with my mom. And we started to have a discussion, and my mom was pushing the issue a little bit and saying, “I think that you and so-and-so are more than friends. I need to know about that.” And so there I was on the spot, and I certainly wasn’t going to lie to her, and I told her. I said, “Yes, we are involved.” And she said, “Well what does this mean? Are you gay? Are you going through a phase? Are you bisexual?” And I said, “No, I know who I am Mom, and I’m gay. And I’m a lesbian, and I’m comfortable with it, and I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you sooner.” And from there it unravelled rather quickly and became very painful for me because my mother said- and she had suspicions as well about my sister, “How do you think it feels for me to know that both of my daughters are going to burn in hell for all eternity?” And to that I said, “You know Mom, I work my tail off taking care of my sons, and I’m a good woman, and I’m a hard worker, and I’m a great part of this family, I’m a great sister, and I’m a great daughter, and if you think that hell is a place for me or for my sister, then maybe it’s not that bad.” And you know we had some different discussions about what the rainbow meant, and she saw the rainbow sticker on the back of my car, and harassed me and said that my children were going to be teased and insulted at school, and it was hard enough growing up being a child, let alone the fact that I’m announcing that I was gay. And I tried to explain to her what the rainbow meant, and that it represented the diversity of our community, and she said, “No it represents perversity.” And there was a certain famous comedian that was very popular in those days, and I was explaining what a fan of her I was, and rather than saying her last name was DeGeneres, it was ‘Degenerate.’ So it was certainly a very, very painful process with not a lot of flexibility, not a lot of acceptance.

Jenn T. Grace:

That sucks. And I find often that the coming out stories that people share on the show, a lot of times they are filled with just kind of pain, and while we’re over them now, still just thinking about them, how terrible in a lot of cases how people react. So I like how you prefaced before you started sharing your story. Basically saying like if somebody listening to this can learn basically from what you went through. And I feel like it might be worth pointing out how the rainbow sticker on your car- which I don’t even think you have one on your car right now, but that’s beside the point. In terms of affecting your children. I think that you have three amazing sons, all of which who are very supportive of your family. So I feel like in that case, that you’ve certainly proved your mother wrong.

Stacy:

You don’t have any idea how much that means to me.

Jenn T. Grace:

It’s true. So I think that this is a really- this is a really good road to go down, because it’s really important for people listening to this show to just kind of understand that while this podcast is the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast, at the same time it’s really important to understand the LGBT consumer that you may be trying to reach. So we all have very similar stories like this, and we all carry a little bit of baggage in relation to these types of coming out. So thank you for opening your heart and sharing that with us, I appreciate it.

Stacy:

You’re welcome.

Jenn T. Grace:

So I do want to kind of jump into a more lighthearted component here, and ask you if there is something about yourself that very few people know or would expect from you. Like just something really kind of random about yourself that not a lot of people know about.

Stacy:

There’s a lot of things I think people don’t know. I think the biggest surprise for people, and the one that I find having to explain, is that I am an introvert. I definitely engage well with other people, but I spend a majority of my time thinking and overthinking and rethinking and analyzing things in my own head. And can literally drift off during the middle of a meeting or a conversation because I have this own internal dialogue that takes place, and typically when people see me I’m very outward facing and very outgoing and dynamic and loud and smiling and positive. And that’s something that I would encourage people to develop as a skill, because certainly it’s not a talent for me, it’s a skill.

Jenn T. Grace:

That is so spot on in terms of being able to develop extroverted- or seemingly extroverted skills. That’s really important.

Stacy:

I remember the first time that I was asked to speak in front of a group of people, and you actually were there, and I had nothing prepared and was completely terrorized. Terrorized. I didn’t know what I was going to do, I thought that I did horribly, and at the end of it I guess I did pretty well. So it’s just allowing yourself to go into kind of uncomfortable territory where you might feel more at ease sitting in the corner of a room and observing the dynamics, and talking to people that you know; it’s much more effective and you can make a lot more change, and a lot more effective relationships by getting up and going and challenging yourself.

Jenn T. Grace:

Yeah you have to have I think goals around them too. I can remember probably- I don’t even know when it was, it was probably like 2009, maybe 2008. I wrote a bunch of goals on post-it notes and just kind of put them next to my desk as things that I wanted to develop. And one of them was to be an effective public speaker. And at that time I was very much like you were just saying. How you were completely like paralyzed in fear of being in front of a room, and I was totally at that place. And now after just constantly putting yourself into uncomfortable situations, you eventually develop that skill. So it really is a learned skill.

Stacy:

Yeah, I agree.

Jenn T. Grace:

Totally important. So let’s go back to you for a moment, and have you had- maybe it’s one, or maybe it’s a series, of ‘ah-ha’ moments in your life where you just kind of realized that where you are at this very moment is where you’re supposed to be?

Stacy:

There are so many.

Jenn T. Grace:

I love it.

Stacy:

There really are so many. And I would say they fall into the different categories of who Stacy is. You know Stacy as wife and mother, and advocate, and I do have some children that have some special needs that required me to be an advocate, and a very forceful one. And in my marriage, there have been some moments where I realized that our gender expression and the way that my wife expresses her gender and in general how everybody expresses their gender and their humanity, sometimes makes you realize that where you are at that particular second in time is exactly where you should be. I know professionally speaking when I have a team member that I’ve spent a few minutes of time with, that for me just spending a few minutes of time and chatting and maybe giving a pep talk. Whereas I didn’t have an agenda or any sort of goal in mind when I sat with them. To have them come back and say, “You know I just made these changes in my life that are going to benefit me, and you inspired me.” And literally I’m blown away, Jenn. I’m blown away by how often this happens. There’s been a transition where rather than being the pupil, I’ve become the teacher in a lot of areas in my experiences, and I think my willingness to share them; even though it makes the polish come off of my silver a little bit if you know what I mean, my willingness to share who I am and what I’ve been through really has helped other people, particularly other women who might be in difficult situations. Or other professionals who can’t get out of their own way and grow in a professional field, to take that next step.

Jenn T. Grace:

That’s so important to not only recognize that that’s happening, but embracing it and trying to cultivate it even more. Because it’s so important to have really positive role models around.

Stacy:

And it’s a very scary thing to realize that you’re getting old, and that you become a role model potentially, and there definitely is a sense of responsibility that comes with it. But being a mother and guiding my boys through single motherhood, and the challenges that came from relocations, and extra care that they needed, and the extra amount of time that it requires to get into a good leadership position in hospitality, you take those ‘ah-ha’ moments very seriously, and you realize that if you’re good at something, you need to share it, and at the same time when it feels so good to me to know that I’m serving somebody else. That’s really what makes me happy and what makes me say that I’m in the right place where I am right now because I’m in a position where I receive so much joy because I’m able to do for others.

Jenn T. Grace:

Absolutely and it’s one of those things that you- even if it’s not necessarily people who are beneath you, and of course that’s going to be a lot of the time, the cases people who are working for you or just looking at you as a mentor. But I know firsthand that there are a handful of people that you and I are very close to together, who also are looking to you and actually come up to you and just say, “Hey, can I learn from you?” Because you do have a very specific leadership style, and I always equate your name with operations, brilliance, and genius are always the three- and I don’t say that lightly, and I don’t say it to just flatter for you for no reason. I really always say this because it’s so rare to find somebody who’s so gifted, especially in an operations capacity which we know can be somewhat of a treacherous nightmare. But to also have that leadership style there as well. So I actually am going to completely go rogue and ask you to share just for- just a couple of minutes of your newest endeavors in terms of your most recent leadership post. Because I have talked about it on the podcast, however I don’t think any of my audience realizes that you’re that Stacy until this very moment.

Stacy:

Ah-ha, I’m that Stacy, yes.

Jenn T. Grace:

Yes.

Stacy:

Well let’s see, let’s go back and do a little bit of history. Back in 2011 my boss, who is one of the most wonderful straight allies that I’ve ever met, and has put me in contact with some very amazing people, decided to recommend that we have an LGBT event here at Foxwoods. And he said you should reach out to CABO because we just joined them last year and I think that they could really help. So I did some cold calling and set up- you know sent out some emails and I met this incredible young woman named Jenn. And so there spun my most inspirational role outside of motherhood and family that I’ve ever held. So I was on the board and served on the board for just about two years, and then stepped away. And very recently in March, Jenn reached out to me and said, “Let’s have a talk. And they need our help. CABO needs our help and I think I might be willing to do this with you,” and you threw it out to me, and said let’s give it a look, let’s kick the tires and let’s see if we can revive this and take in the direction that we want it to go in and that it desperately needs to go in. I think they were at a crucial point of having three voting board members, it’s not a good situation. So we kicked the tires, we took a look, and Jenn and I both jumped in, held hands, closed our eyes and jumped in the deep end together, and I’m proud to say that I’m serving as the President for the greater Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and we did go through a very exciting rebranding once Jenn and I got back involved, and we have now got our board up to twelve people, and our members are growing daily, and our programming is changing at a very dynamic and exciting way, and it just feels so good to be able to sit on a board call and everyone’s laughing, and paying each other true, real compliments, and enjoying learning from each other, challenging assumptions that were laid down by other organizations, and by our own. And I just feel the growth that happens every day that even one or two of us speak. So that would be me.

Jenn T. Grace:

Yes, I am so excited and for those listening, I was so excited by our most recent board call, that I did send an email to twelve of my peers telling them I was in love with them after the fact because it was just such an inspiring type of meeting, and it’s great when you’re part of an organization where you are genuinely friends with those who are around you. You don’t just tolerate each other, but you actually enjoy the company of each other; which is so I think important to have, but I think it goes back to the earlier point about leadership that when you have good leadership, things like that just come naturally and it just flows really naturally.

Stacy:

You know and I also think because I was so moved by looking around the event that we had the other day, and seeing the members that were there with us, but more importantly seeing the board members that were there with us. And I was so moved by the passions, and the advocacy work, and the charity work, and the community level of involvement, that all of our colleagues are involved in. And I looked around and said, “My God, these are some of the most amazing human beings that I’ve ever gotten the chance to know,” and I think that so much of our strength and our internal power and I’ll use the term brilliance just as it means bright, shining light. I think so much of that comes from our coming out, and our embracing who we are fully, and our being- once we’ve overcome that, and said to society, “Listen, this is who I am,” everything else is gravy. It’s so much easier to pursue all of your passions and your opportunities when you’ve overcome that one major hurdle, and really been reborn.

Jenn T. Grace:

That’s a really- that’s a really interesting vantage point. And I’m thinking now that as you’re saying that just basically overcoming an obstacle or some sort of hurdle, and oftentimes it could be coming to terms with who you are, and being able to shout it from the rooftops and the workplace, that it’s probably likely that there are people who are listening to this who are still in the closet. And I don’t think I have ever directly addressed those listeners. So I think that what you were just talking about might be a good source of inspiration for those folks.

Stacy:

I certainly hope so, because it feels so good, and to be surrounded by people that are full of life and support, and a deep connected understanding of what you’ve been through because they’ve been through it themselves, it’s very powerful for me.

Jenn T. Grace:

That is exceptionally powerful. And I’m wondering if this probably goes along the lines of what might be motivating to you, or inspires you personally on a regular basis. Do you have something that’s just kind of that guiding principle for you?

Stacy:

There’s a few different things. I would say first and foremost I’m inspired by nature. I think that honestly I can watch a hummingbird, or I can watch my parakeets, and I can learn lessons about how to be a better human being. You know, listening to the wind in the trees, and walking through the woods, is very cleansing for me, and very grounding for me, and very inspirational for me. Also I’m extremely blessed to be working where I am, where I’m working for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, and have really been blessed with the opportunity to work with the cultural department, and a lot of very influential and very passionate Native Americans, western Pequot, who are trying to keep their culture alive, and spread the word about what life is like here, and being Irish and way back in the day that was my heritage as well. So being able to share time with, and work space with, and creative time with, people that are just as passionate about what matters. And what matters is family, nature, work, life, truth, it’s things like that. I would say that my two favorite qualities in any human being are curiosity and candor. And any environment where I’m with people who are either curious about trying to challenge what they have assumed their whole life, or what they think they know but they want to learn more, or somebody who’s candid enough to tell me how they really feel and what they think without giving it a big sugar coating. Those are my favorite people, and I always find that when I’m around them, I grow.

Jenn T. Grace:

I like that, those are great great inspirations, and I think that we certainly share that being grounded in nature type of motivator. I know that that’s- I catch myself just dazing off looking at clouds for ungodly amounts of time and I’m like, ‘Wow.’ It just goes by so fast and you feel so connected to just your surroundings. I don’t think that enough people pay attention to them

Stacy:

No I had the great opportunity to sit outside and participate in the most incredible thunderstorm, and it was just a beautiful fifteen minutes.

Jenn T. Grace:

I love it, I love that stuff. So I want to ask about some advice. And I know that you are always dispensing wisdom very Yoda-like. And do you have any type of advice that you were given at some point that is just one of those things that is always sitting in the back of your mind that’s helping you make day to day decisions, or even big life-changing type of decisions?

Stacy:

Yes. I have a Yoda as well, and it’s my 90-year-old grandmother. And there have been many people in my life that have given me loving bits of wisdom, and guided me along the path. I’ve been very blessed to have a lot of numbers of my family that are supportive and nurturing. And with Grandma- I thought about this long and hard, because somebody asked the other day, “Do you have any advice that you were given?” And there a couple of things, and one of them was she told me don’t let life make you hard. You know I am very sensitive and very delicate, and cry at commercials. And what Grandma said to me was, “You’re gifted to be that way, and those special gifts of human connectedness and softness are a gift that you need to protect. And don’t let life turn you hard, because your sweetness and your nurturing ability, and your ability to laugh at yourself are going to change the world around you more than you think.” And that was really part one. And part two which I think is a powerful transitional message for me that I definitely needed to hear, and I imagine a lot of our LGBT community needs to hear as well, is that forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation. And I think I can speak personally that so many times in our life, we’re so- working so hard to seek the acceptance of those around us, so that we can be a part of, and we can participate in mainstream, non-LGBT environments; even if when that’s in our own family, that we take too much crap. And at some point we have to determine that in a loving way, you can let go of those relationships that are not productive to you, and you can forgive those who have wronged you consistently and repeatedly, but that doesn’t mean that you allow them to continue doing it.

Jenn T. Grace:

That is really, really such perfect advice. I’ve never actually thought of forgiveness and reconciliation side by side, but that’s really, really key.

Stacy:

That’s the blessing of having my 90-year-old grandmother.

Jenn T. Grace:

Yeah. She is a Yoda, I love it. We have been all over the map so far, and I think a lot of what you’ve been talking about is really inspiring and motivating, which I think is great. But I do want to turn us to something more specific and targeted in the sense of marketing. So as you know, those who are listening to this are primarily trying to figure out how they can better position themselves to be more effective in terms of marketing to the LGBT community. And I find that there’s no better advice than to ask those within the community of exactly what resonates with you, what doesn’t resonate, or if you just have a very specific type of advice that you would tell somebody listening to this, “Hey if you want to do this successfully, you must do,” insert your answer here.

Stacy:

Okay, and you know I had a really great conversation with my wife Mirza this morning about this, and she’s very service oriented too, and very engaging when it comes to people interacting. And my number one thing is be authentic, and be real. Because no matter where we go, we like variety, we do like to go dine out, and we’re both oyster fanatics, and like to try new things and go to new places. However I have found that we have limited our options significantly, and only patronize those places where they remember us. If we’ve come a couple of times, and they know our names, that restaurant or that establishment goes right to the top of the list and we will just continue to go there, even if it’s not the particular product that we want on that day. It’s more about- for example when we go to my favorite store to go shopping, and I probably shouldn’t mention it, right?

Jenn T. Grace:

Depends on what store.

Stacy:

Macy’s.

Jenn T. Grace:

Okay, well yeah you can mention it. They did it, it’s their fault.

Stacy:

Yeah, so you know we went to Macy’s, and we decided we wanted to pick up some linen clothes because we have a lot of summer weddings to go to. And we encountered unfortunately a staff member who looked at my wife and made the incorrect assumption that she was a boy, and I was trying to be proactive and ask, “Which dressing room should she use?” And the response was a haughty up and down look and examination of my wife, and she said to me, “Her? She?” And after a couple of back and forths, I finally just walked her into a dressing room. And it was extremely upsetting, I mean we had hundreds of dollars worth of clothes that were there, and the store was completely empty. So to take a look at what we represented with her credit cards, and she’s been a long, long time patron of Macy’s, and once she married me her credit limit needed to be extended, and that’s just the way that it went. I was ready to speak to the manager and I was furious, I was absolutely furious. But something interesting happened. When we started to go into the ladies section so that I could look for something for myself, this woman seemed to just pop up from time to time and ask us if we needed any help, she was making little bits of small talk, and by the time we left, Mirza and I both agreed that what had happened was she just made an incorrect assumption, but it wasn’t from a place of malice. And she did a really nice job of making things uncomfortable for herself so that by the time we left, we were comfortable with having purchased what we bought. And so many of those experiences are significant. And on another hand, we’re newlyweds. Two years in, I’ll say this still in twenty years. I hold her hand at dinner, and I’m not shy to walk in public with her as if she’s my wife, and those establishments that make us feel as comfortable as they would anybody else, are those that we’re going to patronize. So that’s my spin on it from a consumer perspective. I don’t want to see extras, and I don’t need to see that you’re treating me better than anybody else, I want to have the same experience that your non-LGBT client is having. Because when I walk in to have dinner somewhere, I’m not thinking, ‘Oh, we’re going to have dinner and we’re two lesbians, so we’re entering into an environment where I have to be mindful of my behavior, and I can’t kiss my wife,’ and all those things that used to plague me when I was in my twenties. So from a perspective of a corporate person, or somebody who’s involved in a very large company, I think that the most important thing for people to remember again, is to be authentic and ask questions. In my inner interactions here with some of the other departments, there were some wonderful people who said some things that were extremely ill-informed, and backwards, and I would almost say ignorant. But the blessing with that was- I can recall one of them saying to me, “You know what Stacy? I really don’t know anything about this. So if I say something wrong, I just need you to tell me what the right word is, or how I should say it so that it’s respectful.” And that was really very powerful for me. So I think being real, and being honest, and not just simply going after our dollar because it’s a powerful dollar, is going to work because we are a very loyal community, and we talk to each other, and we all tell each other where our good experiences have been, and even quicker where our bad ones have been.

Jenn T. Grace:

You know, it’s almost as if I paid you or prepped you beforehand to answer that question.

Stacy:

Well I have been reading some really great books lately.

Jenn T. Grace:

It would have nothing to do with mine. No, it’s funny because I obviously- I know the Macy’s story, and it’s unfortunate that it’s a company like Macy’s, because I actually mentioned them by name in both of my books. So my second book that’s coming out at the end of this month, but also in my first book because they are so known for their LGBT equality. And what I think your story actually shows is that their employees are- they may or may not be properly trained. So here’s the thing, if you’re working for a large company, and you are going to spend oodles and oodles of money marketing to the community, if you don’t have your staff trained to understand how to handle situations as it relates to LGBT guests, clients, customers, et cetera, then all that money is going to go out the window. But since you and Mirza are both more in tune with people’s emotions, and you could clearly tell that she wasn’t coming from a place of malice, you were able to kind of work through the situation, and you understood that she herself put herself into an uncomfortable position, but she did put herself there to make you feel better after misidentifying the situation. So I think that in this case, Macy’s is really lucky that you’re more open to this type of situation, where you can actually kind of work through it and go forward. Versus I can think of many people that I know, you know, and probably somebody listening knows, where if that happened to them it would have been sounding every alarm bell of discrimination happening at that particular department store. And clearly you don’t want to spend lots of money to get this great reputation, and have an instant like that just kind of blow it completely away.

Stacy:

Agreed. Which you know, from a recruiting standpoint, from a standpoint of training my team members, it is important to get that message all the way down to the front lines. And even if you don’t get the message clearly down to the front lines, if you recruit and hire the right human beings, then they’ll be like this woman who may have made a mistake, but it was an honest mistake and at least she had the strength of character to try and fix it as she should have. And you know, and in my environment if I did a lot of training within my own department, where team members will never ask two gentlemen checking in together that have a reservation for a king size bed if they want two beds. They’ve been taught.

Jenn T. Grace:

They know better.

Stacy:

And it’s a safe environment, and I have been approached by a lot of my staff or some of my support management team when they have a question about something. Because they know they can come in, it’s a safe space to ask the question, because my goal is really to educate and to inform, not to scold or punish.

Jenn T. Grace:

That’s exactly the entire style I take in my business, that’s exactly the style of just because you’ve done this doesn’t make you a terrible person, you just didn’t know any better. So how can we use this as a learning opportunity? So I think this is a really great story, and then actually I feel like this Macy’s case, this could make a very good case study for a future book that I may be working on.

Stacy:

Oh!

Jenn T. Grace:

Yup, and I’ll have a guest appearance by you in there, I think that would be fabulous.

Stacy:

Excellent, yes.

Jenn T. Grace:

Alright so now that we talked about that, I think this is great. And one of my questions- and you- everything about you answers this question, but I will ask it anyway in case you have any specifics as well that you want to add to it. But how have you been able to leverage your status as an LGBT person in business, or the workplace?

Stacy:

Well I think that it’s a great opportunity between and CTGLC and Foxwoods. It’s also been a great opportunity on the community level, whereas in some community agencies that I work with, with one of my sons, I’ve seen a transgender youth that was in a placement that wasn’t appropriate, and I was able to provide a lot of support and community resources indirectly to this young person so that hopefully she could be placed correctly. I think every opportunity that I see, one of my hats going along with the other one, I switch and go back and forth, I try not to use it too much as leverage because I don’t want to be seen as overbearing, because I have a very strong personality and I can be a bit intimidating I think at times. So leverage, could you maybe ask me the question in a different way?

Jenn T. Grace:

Well I would say leverage may not be the best usage of a word there. But moreso how have you been able to- and I don’t want to say capitalize, but really just use your status as somebody in the community to further your professional career, further the career advancements of others, and like what you were talking about before by being basically a beacon of resources and hope for the LGBT people that work under you? That alone in my opinion is a way that you’re leveraging your status to benefit others.

Stacy:

And you know, to your point, I think it might be even better for someone else to answer that question for me, because sometimes I’m not very good at seeing my own accomplishments. Except when I see something in somebody else’s eyes that I’ve done that’s helped them, it’s really- that’s a payback for me, and I guess that is pretty good leverage because I’ve been able to touch a lot of people’s lives with the pain and the struggle and the annoyingly present smile that’s on my face, and that you can beat it, you can get through it, and life is a gift. And if you have a challenge it just means that you have some opportunity to overcome it. So I do know that there are a few people that are well outside of my department that I’ve been able to help, and develop, and grow, and I’ve taken on a mentee recently through the chamber as well as having half a dozen here at work. So I think that’s pretty powerful leverage for me because the payback that I look for is knowing that I can help somebody to empower themselves, and maybe avoid some of the pitfalls that slowed up my progress.

Jenn T. Grace:

That’s beautiful, that’s exactly what I was looking for, I love it. So we’re nearing the end of the interview, and I have a couple of questions left. And this one sometimes seems a little bit random and out of place, but I like to ask it partially for my own personal benefit because I know that there’s so much to be learned by those that I’ve interviewed. But then also the people who are listening to this are often business owners, people who are working in corporate environments, et cetera. So I think we’re all in tune with trying to be more effective, and maybe more efficient, and streamlining processes, and all that great stuff. But do you have any type of program, or a tool, or maybe it’s a book- whether it’s a business kind of book, or just a personal read that you’ve had that has just helped you be better in your role at Foxwoods? Or in your role as a wife, or a role as a mother, or any type of role. Just something that’s really kind of just made your life a little bit easier.

Stacy:

You know, I’m going to surprise you with this one because I read, and I read a lot. But I read a lot of fiction, and I read a lot of ancient fiction about prehistoric animals, prehistoric people, and I’ve always been fascinated with Roman and Greek mythology, and a lot of ancient Celtic books too. But I find my inspiration, and I find my leadership nuggets in the strangest of places. So here’s a plug for Planet of the Apes. I just went to see Planet of the Apes the other night with Mirza, and I walked out of that movie- the second one that just came out. I walked out of it looking at the whole thing as a lesson on leadership. And it’s one particular character, I won’t spoil anything, but one particular character led with a strong hand explaining, and teaching, and guiding, loving, nurturing and trusting others that were outside of those that he led, and assuming best intentions with those that other people might not trust. I looked at that and said, “That’s the kind of leader that I hope that I am, but I always want to continue to be.” And then there was another leader, the opportunity there where he had had the same negative experiences in his life, and rather than overcoming them with love, and with positivity, and seeking to improve the condition, it basically turned his heart into mold and he became very hateful, and spiteful, and had a lot of deep-seeded hatred and led people through fear and intimidation. So I will really find in any movie that I watch, or any fiction book that I read, I prefer to look at those through simile rather than directly. Although I am a big subscriber in looking at all of the various- you know the disc assessment, and the Myers Briggs I think has been a very powerful tool for me in realizing what my type was, and learning the types of all of my teammates. So I do look at things like that, you know reading the love languages to understand my wife better, and recommending that to other people. I find a little bit quirky ways of supplementing my knowledge.

Jenn T. Grace:

I love it and I do similar things that you’re talking about, and I don’t know if there’s anybody else that I would speak to who would come out of The Planet of the Apes with a leadership lesson. I think that is hilarious. You never surprise me, I love it. This has been fabulous. I love when I actually get to have guests on that I have really close relationships with because like I said, there’s always something that can be learned. And I do want to give you an opportunity to share with those listening, a couple of things. One, if there’s any type of project, or something that just has you really ignited lately. And then two, how people can reach out to you if you would like them to.

Stacy:

Oh my goodness, I have so many. Well A- the chamber, if you haven’t seen what’s going on with the chamber, it’s not just your run of the mill chamber of commerce. This is- it’s going to be the hub of the LGBT community in the state of Connecticut. We also are looking to support Rhode Island and Massachusetts outside of the Boston area. Take a look at www.CTGLC.org and if you want to get involved in any way, or just learn more about the advocacy work that we’re beginning to do, the business development programming that we’re doing, and the partnerships that are being grown right on the ground, please look at the website and if you want to contact me directly here at Foxwoods, my number is (860) 312-8525. Here on property, I think the most exciting thing that I’m working on directly right now, is that over at Two Trees Inn we’ve just gone pet friendly in the last year, so we’ve made a lot of other fantastic changes to the first hotel that was at Foxwoods. It really was the first hotel. And it’s a beautiful country inn right across the street. But we’re renovating a lot of the rooms, and we’re definitely incorporating the Mashantucket Pequot culture into the rooms. And we’ve just gone in and done a massive overhaul and renovation of the restaurant- there’s the Grill at Two Trees there. And I’ve been able to sit in meetings every week with tribal elders and members of the cultural community who have been asked to make artifacts, and make tools that they would have used as a people back in the 1600’s.

Jenn T. Grace:

That’s awesome.

Stacy: So being the only non-tribal family member in that setting is incredibly inspirational for me. So watching them make tools that they would have used back in the 1600’s, pre-European contact, and being able to be a liaison. Because the project couldn’t happen without some operational support from me. So being able to serve in that way, and to kind of help to get that process going, and to create a real link between the cultural community and the actual gaming enterprise, it’s brought tears to my eyes more times than I can imagine, and I think the group that I’m working with, I call myself the groupie because I just really am so jazzed about being a part of reinvigorating a part of this culture, and showing it to our patrons who come to Foxwoods. And I think that I represent those types of people, the guests that come through the doors that don’t know much about what this family, what this tribe has gone through, and now they’re going to have the opportunity to look back through 500 years of history and see how they’ve grown and what they’ve been able to overcome, and how they’ve developed into such a strong and thriving family.
Jenn T. Grace:

That seems really awesome, I totally want a tour when it’s all said and done.

Stacy:

That will happen, you’ll have to bring the kids and they’ll be jazzed.

Jenn T. Grace:

Oh man, hopefully they don’t break any old pre-European tools.

Stacy:

We’ll make sure they don’t.

Jenn T. Grace:

Yeah, good idea. This was great, thank you so much for being on the show. Anyone who is listening to this, and you want to find out more about what we talked about today, you can head over to the website which is www.JennTGrace.com/38 because this is episode number 38. Thank you so much again, I really appreciate it and I know that you and I will be talking soon.

Stacy:

You’re welcome and I’m going to say in closing that I’m honored to have been asked to participate with you today, and I consider you like a sister to me. And I’m so incredibly proud of the work that you’re doing for our community, and the work that you’re doing as a mother, and as a friend- you just never cease to amaze me, and I’m incredibly proud of you.

Jenn T. Grace:

Aw, you’re so sweet. And I didn’t pay you to say that either.

Stacy:

Nope, nope.

Jenn T. Grace:

Awesome, thank you so much.

Stacy:

You’re welcome, I’ll talk to you soon.

Jenn T. Grace:

Thanks.

Stacy:

Bye bye.

Jenn T. Grace:

Alright that wraps up episode number 38 with Stacy Morataya-Pilkington. I hope that you really enjoyed today’s interview. It’s definitely been one of the more fun to produce. So I am really excited about it. I hope that you take some time and catch me either on social media, or on my website which if you are a new listener, it’s fairly recently redesigned just about six weeks or so ago, and it looks amazing, I’m seriously still so excited about how great it looks. So I encourage you to come check out my website if there’s something that we touched upon in today’s episode. Chances are I’ve already talked about it in a previous podcast, or it’s in a previous blog post. So I am here to be a resource to you. As always I’m trying to- or I aim to teach straight people how to market to gay people, but to also help LGBT people market themselves. So if that is you, please reach out to me. I would love to hear from you. Thank you again, and I will talk to you all real soon.

About Jenn T. Grace

Jenn T. Grace (she/her/hers) is an award-winning author and founder and CEO of Publish Your Purpose (PYP), the acclaimed hybrid publisher of non-fiction books. Jenn has published 100+ books written by thought leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs who are striving to make a difference. Jenn T. Grace’s work elevates and amplifies the voices of others—especially marginalized groups who are regularly excluded from traditional publishing.

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