Draya Michele is a woman who wears many hats. She’s an actress, a TV personality, a fashion designer behind the successful swimwear brand Mint Swim and a boy mom of two. One of her newest hats though, is one that looks far different from any she’s worn before. She’s a gardener. The beauty began testing the green in her thumb during the pandemic, when many went searching for activities that could spark joy in bleak times.
“During COVID, I was at home a lot and decided to explore other hobbies. I was gifted a house plant and I believe it started there,” Michele tells ESSENCE. “I had space outside my previous home for some plants so I started small with tomatoes and a small lemon tree.”
Soon enough, her garden exploded. It has sprouted everything from fruits like lemons, strawberries, pomegranates and figs, to veggies like kale, lettuce, zucchini, cauliflower, artichoke, squash and peppers, as well as herbs including thyme and mint. While she may have gone into the practice looking to try something new, she also desired access to truly fresh produce for herself and her family. She’s known for keeping her body in tip-top shape, but what goes inside of it is also of great significance to her.
“My health is really important to me and I work out a lot. But I know it doesn’t just end there,” Michele shares. “Diet is important and I wanted to make sure I had access to fresh fruits and vegetables at all times. I also wanted to ensure I was eating what is in season.”
The star had help on this journey, getting support from Manda USA. The company is known for products, made in Japan, that are a blend of fermented natural ingredients for both your personal garden and your actual person (they sell wellness supplements, too). The special fertilizer they sell is said to help in the healthy growth of vegetables, flowers, fruits, herbs and more.
“Manda has been a Godsend! They came in, saw my garden and totally rejuvenated it. It was lifeless and dry and they worked the soil and treated it with their product. It started thriving shortly after,” she says.
The growth since has been exciting for Michele, who can now comfortably offer advice to people looking to start their own little green sanctuary in their backyard, on their balcony, or wherever is feasible for the modern gardener. Her biggest advice would be to do some research first in an effort to keep your harvest from experiencing an early demise.
“I tried to wing it and plant on my own at first. My spacing was off. Some plants were exposed to too much sunlight and it was a bit disastrous,” she admits. “Then I went down a YouTube rabbit whole and began to learn the proper gardening methods. There is so much information out there and it will save you from having to attend plant funerals. So sad.”
Gardening is a great hobby to pick up, not only for the amazing things you can produce, but also because of the self-care practice it can be. Getting to see the work of her hands thrive brings a sense of joy and achievement to Michele that is unlike anything else the accomplished star has experienced.
“The space itself is calming. It gives me a sense of peace and a place to think,” she says. “I also love seeing the transformation of plants to fruit. It is so rewarding. Sometimes I come outside and full vegetables have grown overnight. I’m just so excited when things like that happen.”