Alumnae News & Highlights

“Learning not for school, but for life. It took me a while to understand that the hallways of 
HB made life beyond its reach much easier to navigate because, [after graduation], I was equipped with creative ways to achieve my goals as a girl, now a woman.”

Rev. Whittney-Marie Ijanaten ’07 constantly looks from within to find her next step forward. She has not allowed stereotypes or professional barriers hinder her faith and has honed her entrepreneurial spirit to become a successful and in-demand reverend in Los Angeles, California.

About Rev. Whittney-Marie

“As a Black queer woman, I never saw anyone like me affirmed and ordained in my Christian faith tradition. With that said, when I sought out ordination, I was originally put through hazing hoops, given unnecessary obstacles, and then eventually denied ordination. I was unkindly ousted from the warmth of care from the church, but that did not stop me. I went to seminary on a full-ride scholarship, graduated Cum Laude, and was eventually ordained as an openly queer Black female pastor. Now, I work in California as a wedding officiant for couples, who like me, aren't always fully accepted for who they are and who they love. My gifts are also being shared at UCLA Health as a chaplain and faith leader to students, staff, and hospital patients alike. I've learned that other people’s vision of my life is not my business. It's the vision I hold for myself that matters. So yes, I am Rev. Whittney-Marie, ordained and still me in all my intersections, quirks, and wholeness.” 

Rev. Whittney-Marie owns Rev. I Do Officiating and is a nationally-recognized leader in culturally inclusive wedding officiating. She works with couples of all creeds and sexual orientations and has been highlighted on several major wedding websites such as The Knot and WeddingWire. Notably, she was featured on the “Rebel Hearts” episode of the docuseries, Gutsy. She spoke with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the trials and tribulations of love and marriage. 

“In this series, I stand as a Black queer reverend, on a national network, with a global icon, making space for young girls who maybe once walked down private school corridors searching for images of herself,” Rev. Whittney-Marie described her experience on the episode which is currently streaming on Apple TV+.

Great Advice

As Rev. Whittney-Marie reflects on her career and the best professional advice she has received, she shares, “speak your truth, even if your voice shakes because your words are in the shape of someone's wounds. Meaning, fear can often shut our mouths from advocating for ourselves and others. It's in silence that we can feel isolated and spiral into negative self-talk and internalize other people's limits on our lives. However, when we speak up and speak out, shame dissipates and healing can happen. And the words that you say, even if your voice quakes a little, can be the key to someone else's liberation. So speak up, even if your voice shakes because someone's waiting on you to say something.”

Blazing Trails

And as she continues to forge forward and fashion the space she envisions, Rev. Whittney-Marie highlights her late great-grandmother and namesake, Marie Nadall, as a notable and admirable woman in her life. Born in 1913, in the segregated south, Marie migrated north and created success for herself beyond social expectations. She attended college and thrived as an entrepreneur, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. 

“My great-grandmother broke the glass ceiling around race and gender as she grew up in segregated America,” said Rev. Whittney-Marie. “I find that we can all aspire to be like Marie, my first glimpse into what it meant to be a Blazer, by climbing through windows of opportunity when doors shut in your face. Oftentimes society has a place for you and it can be limiting based on how you identify in the world, but Marie made sure that she BLAZED her own trail of uncharted educational and entrepreneurial goals. She defined herself, for herself, and left a trail of breadcrumbs for me and other marginalized groups to follow and see what can be possible.” 

Advice for Students

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” 

“Like the amazing Art department and sports teams at HB, the collective of talent makes for a great show, game, and overall experience. I remember running track at HB and I would run the 4X100 meter relay. As much as I wanted to run this race by myself I couldn't get anywhere without my teammates. It took all four of us to get around that track. And as fast as we were, we only got around the track together. So remember, you don't have to do life alone, there's a buddy system that can help you blaze the trail in school and in life. And if you don't know where to start, call me. I'll be your buddy.”

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