BY ADINAWA ADJAGBODJOU
Can you tell us who you are and what you care about?
My name is Ishmael Mayhew and I am a serial entrepreneur, Digital Media strategist, and I really just care really about people knowing who they are and really navigating through life and pursuing the genuine meaning of happiness.
I’ve spent a lot of time in my life not being happy and not knowing what joy really looked like and thus not really feeling like my life had a purpose. So I think what I care about the most is people knowing what their life’s purpose is and taking the time to discover that because I don’t think it’s something that’s easy to come by.
So can you tell me just more about what your own journey towards finding your mission and purpose was like?
My journey has not always been easy throughout life. I think like I’m still always uncovering and unpacking. What my true purpose and meaning is. I don’t think that it’s something that you find out right away. I think it takes your entire life to really experience the fullness of why you’re here.
I started that journey by just really seeking a higher power. And I don’t say that to encourage anyone to ascribe to any specific faith or anything like that but I definitely know that my journey was absolutely rooted in really finding out who my higher power was for myself. To me, that’s God, and that can be anything for anybody else.
I do believe that God shows up differently for everyone. And it was important for me to create that unique connection for myself and really find out who this is. Really what it was was me finding out who I am, and really loving who I am and that’s really how I discovered it and how I am still discovering it.
I wanted to know if you could speak more on some of the communities that you take part in.
Yeah, absolutely. The biggest community that I’m a part of is the black community. The reason why I think that’s the number one community that I want to mention first and why it’s so important to me is because that is the one area of my life and the one community that I feel like has been impacted in a way that has been so unresolved and still so unheard.
And when I say unheard I mean ignored. Because it doesn’t matter how loud a black person’s pain is in this world, literally the entire world has turned its back on black people. And not until recently have we seen it to become trendy, among companies, among leaders, among other thought leaders, including thought leaders in the black community to speak out about these things.
And this is something that has always existed since we’ve known that we were black, right. And so it’s just one of those things where it’s like, I would love to see Black people really be heard, and racism really be resolved and actually addressed and not us doing it by ourselves because we didn’t do it.
It’s not a problem that we created by ourselves, it’s a problem that we experienced though.
And I would also say that I consider myself a member of the LGBTQ community. To me, it’s an important part of me, but the way that I approach that part of me is so unique and different than I think most people would, because I still can’t wrap my head around identifying myself based on the way that I choose to love someone or choose to have sex with someone. Because those things, not that they’re not important, but those things are, for me personally, so low on my priority list when it comes to my overall purpose in life and what else I have to offer and give and what else God has gifted me with to contribute to the world.
And I would also say that I consider myself a member of the LGBTQ community. To me, it’s an important part of me, but the way that I approach that part of me is so unique and different than I think most people would, I just feel like those are things that are so minor, um, in that, in that sense, right? They’re not minor as far as it does matter that people feel represented and seen and respected and safe. Those things are important. But as far as my identity goes, that’s a community that I’m a part of by default, simply because of who I am and the way that I am. But it’s not something that I feel encompasses all of me.
I think that’s really what a lot of LGBTQ plus people want to be seen as: they want to be seen as people and human first. They don’t want to be seen as their sexuality. They don’t want to be seen as just the way that they love someone; there’s so much more to them than their bodies and their dating dynamics.
There’s so much more to us, and so for me, my form of activism in that way and my form of revolution, is to actually not amplify that. See me first as just a human. See me first as as somebody, see me as a son, a future husband and maybe a future dad, as a grandson, see me as a coworker.
So that’s kind of how I see it. One of the things I always remind myself of is that the biggest form of activism is to show up as yourself. Show up as yourself, show up as your authentic self, don’t hide yourself. Don’t become someone else to hide who you are. That, in and of itself, is a form of activism. That’s very important.
I would love it if you could take a step back then and tell me how your upbringing influenced who you are now.
Yes, absolutely. So I was raised by my grandmother, I was not raised by my mom. It was me and my sister and we were raised by my grandmother. I did develop a relationship closer with my mom in my teen years. My mom was previously incarcerated, right around the time of the drug war and all of that and we know how that impacted black families and my mom was caught up in that. And so she didn’t get a chance to nurture me in the beginning. But we have an amazing relationship now, but a lot of the way that I see the world I realized was defined by my grandmother. And some of those things are good and some of those things aren’t good.
Throughout that process, I’ve obviously grown over time to see the world and see my own community in different ways through my own experiences and how I’ve learned. But, I did grow up in that broken family concept, some form of it. And I think we have to come up with a different name for it because “broken family” just sounds so disparaging.
But that’s what people would think, if they heard the way that I grew up. But also my grandmother made amazing sacrifices. I was afforded a lot of opportunities. I was grateful enough to come into a family that did not terrorize me for being homosexual. So my experience about that is different. That may contribute to why I don’t feel the need to amplify it as much as others. I haven’t been deprived of that expression as much.
I definitely understand the feeling of feeling like you need to hide it: being teased, being bullied, I definitely understand that. I’ve experienced that, but when it comes to my family unit, I never felt terrified, or like scared for my life or ostracized or put out or homeless or anything like that. So it’s definitely a different experience that I realized I am grateful and blessed to have because a lot of people did not have that experience, especially young black men. So I totally understand that.
I think that that blessing has given me a unique perspective as a gay black man in society. And I’m hoping that it’s a positive one and I’m hoping that it’s a way to give me space to learn from others who have had different experiences and also show other people and show the world a different version. Because no one is monolithic. No group in the world is all the same. So I love that I can show another flavor of a guy who just wants to make the world a better place at the end of the day.
I guess that makes me sort of think about and define sort of wellness and wellbeing or what that looks like for you.
That is my favorite thing. Wellness is literally to me, the most, all encompassing state of being that I think most people want to have. Wellness is physical, it’s mental, it’s spiritual, it’s materialistic, it’s supernatural, and it’s superficial. To me, wellness is everything to do with elevating who you are as a human, elevating your spirit. Like Pavé The Ways is a perfect example of that, because wellness plays a role. Pavé The Way plays a role in wellness because it’s not just jewelry, but it’s something that uplifts your spirit, it’s something that makes you feel better.
That’s why art is a billion dollar industry, that’s why fashion is a billion dollar industry.
These things do matter; these are the things that make us human. This is what makes our species so unique to other animals and other creatures throughout the world is that we have the ability to create things that give us an emotional response that can heal us emotionally, that can heal our minds, that can heal our hearts and our spirits.
We already know that jewelry is a symbol of affection. Sharing jewelry as gifts and sharing it with your loved ones; we know the meaning behind memories when it comes to jewelry and heirlooms and family things being passed down through the family, and jewelry exchange between lovers.
The symbolism is an international global symbolism. And those are the types of things that bring us together. And I think wellness is rooted in that. I think wellness is enjoying music, enjoying a concert, enjoying music on your headphones, you know, working out of course, as well as eating is wellness.
But so is self care. So it’s skincare and spa days and massages and lotion and all of those things great. And also small things that we do everyday that we just think are habitual hygiene things, but also things that we indulge in that we consider additional luxuries.
But so is self care. So it’s skincare and spa days and massages and lotion and all of those things great. And also It’s all rooted in wellness. That’s why I love the word wellness. I love what it represents. I love what it means. It’s a huge part of who I am now that if I had to describe myself, that’s what I would describe myself as a wellness ambassador.