By day, Carla Youngblood is the Director of Compliance and Special Projects at Urban Impact, an economic development agency dedicated to the revitalization of Birmingham’s Historic 4th Avenue Business District and Civil Rights District.
But after hours, Carla takes the stage as a comedian and motivational speaker who uses humor and her story of beating breast cancer to encourage her audiences that they can overcome any challenge. In 2016, she created her one-woman show, “The Truth about Breast Cancer.” Since then, Carla has continued to do comedy and motivational speaking in Birmingham and cities across the country, and in 2019, she published her debut book Cancer Ain’t Funny! Laugh Anyway…
We are honored to introduce our newest FACE of Birmingham, Carla Youngblood.
What is the main message you try to convey to others through your motivational speaking?
In October 2015, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After being a survivor and coming through that, I realized a lot of people go through things and come out feeling like a victim. My message is not only for breast cancer survivors. Any type of traumatic event that may take place in one’s life – my message is to tell people that they can overcome it. If you live to see yourself through it, you need to look at the victory in it and see yourself as a winner.
After your diagnosis, you began to include your breast cancer survival story in your comedy. What inspired you to mix humor with something so serious?
I had to do chemotherapy, and in about my second or third session, I realized that every time I walked in, I saw all these sad faces and would begin to feel sad myself. So, I just made up my mind to start talking to people and doing what I do, which is to say things that are out of the ordinary just to create a little laugh and change the atmosphere in the room. So, I started talking with the nurses first, giving the patients a chance to hear some of it without me directly talking to them. After a while, people started looking for me to come in with this light attitude.
When I saw it started to take hold, I decided I’m just going to share the light, share the laughter and get people to realize that, yeah, we’re going through it, but the fact that we’re still here to go through it is a victory within itself.
Look around. There’s comedy all around us, including going through cancer.
You were very open about your breast cancer journey, even recording videos to give updates after your double mastectomy. Did making your process so public help you cope?
It was very cathartic for me. I noticed as long as I was keeping quiet, it was an issue. But whenever I was saying something and sharing something positive with somebody about what I was going through, it gave me a whole different perspective.
Even when I’m on stage now sharing what I’ve gone through, sometimes when I get off stage, I ask myself, “Really? Did you just tell all those people all that?” But it feels good because afterward, people come up to me and tell me their story – that’s when I know that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.
How did you get into comedy?
I think I went around the world just to get back to my comedy. As a CPA, I had some clients that were a real estate attorney and a real estate broker. Both of them said if I had a real estate license, I could make more money. So, I got a real estate license. There was an event in July 2011 called Realtors Got Talent at the StarDome Comedy Club. I’ve always wanted to entertain. I would do stuff at church and family reunions, but in my mind, this was my chance to try standup comedy at a real club. Over 400 people were in the room. I did it, I got good feedback, and I haven’t looked back. I’ve been doing it ever since.
Tell us more about your work at Urban Impact.
I’m the Director of Compliance and Special Projects. I handle all of the money, which includes reporting for all of the funding that comes in. By being a nonprofit, most of it is grants. All the money has to be handled a certain way, and we have to report back on the spending.
As for special projects, we have something called the Taste of 4th Avenue Jazz Festival that we have annually in the summertime. 2020 will be our 17th event. I produce that festival, and I have a team that helps.
What made you want to be involved in an organization like Urban Impact?
My goal when I came to Urban Impact was to help the Historic Fourth Avenue District. At one time, it was thriving. My goal was to help turn the area back around. This was the place to be, and my goal is to have events like the festival and others to bring more awareness to the district and to get people to want to move their businesses down into the district.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
My all-time favorite pastime is playing Bid Whist. People ask me how long I’ve been playing, and I say when you learn your numbers in my house, you learn to play Bid Whist. I’m a member of the Birmingham Bid Whist Association. We play every Thursday.
What are some of your favorite restaurants?
Being in the Historic 4th Avenue District, I love my Green Acres chicken. Niki’s West. When I go to Niki’s West, I’ve got to have the liver and onions. I enjoy the pizza at Bottega. Surin West. I go there for the Yummi Yummi Roll. Ruth’s Chris. When I go there, I always want the scallops.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Birmingham?
I enjoy being a member of the Summit Speakers Toastmasters Club. I really like going to Birmingham Barons games. I got the opportunity to throw out the first pitch in July. I like going to Railroad Park. That’s where I go to exercise and people watch. And I like going to the Botanical Gardens. The Japanese Garden is one of my favorites!
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
A teacher told me in the eighth grade to always remember that to have a friend, you must first be one.
Aside from faith, family and friends, name three things you can’t live without.
A good Malbec, cake and socks.
Thank you, Carla, for the work you do on behalf of Birmingham and to bring joy into others’ lives. And thank you to Eric & Jamie Photography for the fabulous photos.
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