Let me be frank: My childhood was less than ideal. My mother – a phenomenal teacher and parent – battled depression most of my youth. Sadly, she passed away when I was sixteen, leaving my five younger siblings and I all on our own. Despite my family’s tremendous loss there were many blessings. My mother gifted us with priceless gems, such as an appreciation of the arts and education. Most important, she was surrounded by a village of loving and selfless adults. One of those members, a woman I grew up calling Nanna, took two of my brothers and I into her home, and raised us as her own.
I can still remember the day I learned of my mother’s passing very clearly. I was already living with Nanna at the time and when I came home she informed me of our loss. Ironically, I was coming in with good news. I was merely a week away from going on my first college tour and looking forward to making the last preparations. Unfortunately, my next few days were spent inundated with grief and finalizing my mom’s funeral details. While many adults encouraged me to wallow in sadness Nanna, a 70+ year-old spitfire, was having none of it. She pushed me to participate in the college tour as a way of honoring my mother, and her dream for me. That’s exactly what I did.
Visiting schools changed my life. While my mother’s death represented the end of my childhood and closing that chapter of my life, school was my new beginning. Additionally, thanks to Nanna’s old-school rules and emphasis on maintaining courage under fire, I was confident that I could meet the rigors of any academic setting. Going away to college gave wings.There I found a career that I loved, television, and mastered the art of the hustling and networking. By my junior year I was logging in more hours at the school’s local TV station than in class. It paid off. Under the guidance of some well-placed mentors I produced a PBS documentary entitled: “Teens in Need of Adoption”, which earned an Emmy nomination.
So right about now you’re at least expecting an “easily ever after” story – yeah, not so much. I graduated from school and couldn’t find a job. Blame it on the recession. Blame it on my age. Blame it on my race. The result was the same: No money coming in. I decided to fall back on doing make-up, my favorite past time. Growing up I was a theater kid who took dance and participated in productions for more than 20 years. I used my skill set to do make-up for friends and acquaintances on the side. At 23 I had a small child and no income. One day I placed an ad on Craig’s List showcasing my skills and offering my services for a nominal fee. It paid off.
Within the next few weeks I went from broke to balling. I used the money I made to update my kit and support my new family. Eventually, I landed a job at Sephora (a cosmetics brand) where I quickly rose up the ranks and participated in countless educational seminars about skincare, cosmetics and fragrance. My time at Sephora lead me to my first major entrepreneurial venture. Many customers with psoriasis, eczema or sensitive skin would ask about foot care products that suited their needs. Unfortunately, there weren’t any. I decided to step into that market.
In 2009 I launch Pedicureans, a line which offers natural and organic products for feet. I’ve spent the last two years developing the line…oh yeah, I was also working, I became engaged and gave birth to twins.
Today I am balancing being a mother, partner and businesswoman. Two things have helped me: prayer and support. My fiance, mother-in-law-to-be and brother are my primary supports. One of my mentors once told me that it was paramount to always utilize all of your skills. I live by that mantra. I am a brand. My talents as a performer, producer and make-up artist all inform my product development and career path. Still, I am most appreciative of my mom and Nanna for nurturing my spirit so I can dream. Thanks to them I am living the life I always wanted.