BY ADINAWA ADJAGBODJOU
Can you tell me more about the people who have really shaped how you view the world and empowered you as you made your way to who you are today?
I think my parents have done such an incredible job and they’ve worked so hard and they’ve really shown me what hard work and perseverance is.
My mom is such a role model to me. She has worked so hard and she was the Vice President of this Human Resources department. And in the nineties being a woman with all these men she would show up to meetings and they’d give her the coffee order and she’d be like “No, I’m sitting here.”
She’d be the only woman there and just her progress and how much she’s been through as a business woman is just so inspiring to me and it makes me proud to be a woman. And she’s such a boss lady and she’s one of my biggest inspirations and she makes me feel so empowered.
You have accomplished so much already, but is there an area in which you are hoping to have impact, or a cause that is really close to your heart where you want to make change?
Well I’ve been doing so much charity work for children’s hospitals. That means so much to me. Right now I’ve been doing it virtually but usually I’ll go to different States and just visit all the children’s hospitals in the area. And just making them smile is the best thing in the entire world and giving them any sense of normalcy is one of my main priorities.
And also about mental health as well because I’ve been struggling with my mental health my whole life. And recently during this pandemic, during the summer, I feel like so many people have been stuck with themselves in their house.
And they’ve been starting to realize that maybe they’re struggling as well. I feel like this is the most prevalent time where the mental health conversation has been going. And that’s something that’s so important to me because I’ve been really scared to share my story and open up about my experiences. But if literally one person hears my story or hears what I have to say and it makes them not feel lonely, that would mean everything to me.
I wonder if you could tell me just more about what your journey dealing with your mental health has been like, and some of the difficult moments you’ve faced and how you navigated them?
Yeah it kind of started when I was around seven or eight. So when I started to realize the pattern and it was so funny because performing and music has always been there for me, but performing on stage in front of people is something that relieved my anxiety but also caused it at the same time, which was this really weird thing. And with my panic attacks and anxiety attacks, sometimes they would just happen out of nowhere for no reason.
So I saw them as a battle so if it was withholding me from something that I wanted to do and I overcame it and I got to do something I wanted to, then I won that battle.
So that’s how I kind of saw that. Helped me a lot. It’s been a journey, it’s been hard having to battle coming to work and dealing with having to memorize so many lines and like maybe memorizing dance moves and going on stage and then talking to people and then having like five people talking to at the same time, it’s like really difficult, but it’s been a journey.
One of the positive things that have happened during this pandemic has been I really have been able to stay at home and work on myself and really listen to myself. So there’s a little positive light in all of this craziness.
When you feel overwhelmed, do you have something that you personally like to do to get through that moment?
If I’m at home, and during these times something that has really helped me is writing in my journal. Sometimes, you have intrusive thoughts or you obsess over one thing and then it kind of just spirals and it can feel really overwhelming and you start panicking.
And I noticed that when I write it down and I have it like just there and I can read it sometimes I’m like “Woah that’s what I was thinking about.” And I’ll think “Oh, actually not that bad.” Like I can get through this or even just saying it out loud or just saying it to like a trusted friend or parent or guardian is really helpful because it kind of helps you collect things and it doesn’t get lost in your head.
So that’s helped me a lot and then also you can look back at your previous years and just see so much progress that you’ve made.
So when it comes to different forms of expression, would you say that there’s a name you would give your own personal style?
I mean, when it comes to fashion and stuff, just the more jewelry, the better. Like sparkly jewelry, anything is great. Definitely like go extra or go home. When I’m with my friends and just in public, we just act a fool and are very extra.
Music wise, definitely Aaliyah just kind of like mindset wise. Like Bob Marley has always been a huge part of my life. Like every time I have something going on and I’m like, yo, I need some guidance. I need someone to tell me to just calm down. Like I always listen to his music. It’s so incredible.
Is there something that you wish the world would know about you that you don’t think that they do?
I guess now that I’ve started talking about mental health and stuff, just learning that every day is not perfect. It’s not even really just about me, but just people in general who have a quote unquote social media presence is that what you see on social media and what you see in interviews, on TV, film, red carpets, or whatever is not at all what any of these people’s lives are. And it’s funny because I feel like people would know that but a lot of times you just get so insecure and you start questioning your worth. Because you say “These people are doing this and they’re okay, why am I not?” But we’re really not. Everyone is going through their own thing, everyone’s struggling. And I just feel like it’s really important for people to know that social media is not even 2% of someone’s life.
So I want to shift gears a bit and go back to when you were younger and just more of your background and some of the things that shaped you as a child and if you could just speak overall to what it was like growing up and becoming who you are.
I guess now that I’ve started talking about mental health and stuff, just learning that every day is not perfect. It’s not even really just about me, but just people in general who have a quote unquote social media presence is that what you see on social media and what you see in interviews, on TV, film, red carpets, or whatever is not at all what any of these people’s lives are. And it’s funny because I feel like people would know that but a lot of times y
Yeah, I feel like New York and New Jersey definitely shaped me as a person just because of the energy there. And just the work ethic that everyone has and the mindset. It’s just so incredible. I feel like my parents definitely shaped me to who I am today but also the music, I feel, had a huge part in it.
You know, growing up my parents would play all types of music, from Rock to R&B. Like my mom would always be playing like Lauren Hill or like Erykah Badu, or India Arie and they are huge inspirations to my life now and such powerful women and their music is just so incredible.
And I feel like that definitely gave me a sense of all different types of music and all different types of people just because it’s so many different sounds. So, I’m really grateful for that and I feel like so much of who you are comes from just other people. So I’m really grateful to be influenced by and be around such amazing people all the time.
Photo Credits: The Riker Brothers