My mother is my best friend. She is my biggest influence. My mother is the reason that I feel it is okay to cry. She is the reason I refuse to give up on anything. My mother taught me how to love. She taught me how to fight. I have her laugh. I have her cheekbones. I have her heart.
My mother is the reason I followed my dreams back out here to Los Angeles.
She grew up in Mississippi. When my mother was six weeks old, my grandmother was diagnosed with kidney cancer. It spread into her female organs, and become uncontrollable. Before she died, she underwent two surgeries. She knew going into them that they wouldn’t save her. They were entirely created to research the condition. My grandmother offered herself as an experiment to science. My grandfather didn’t want her to undergo the surgeries. He knew that she was in pain, and begged her not to do them. Her response was “Wilford. We know now that I’m going to die. This could save the life of one of our children one day.”
At eighteen months, my mother lost her mom. I think when I was younger, I took this for granted. I knew my mom grew up without a mother, but I didn’t think about how it might have affected her. I often wonder now if I would be who I am had my mother not been there. The answer is no.
My grandfather didn’t really know how to raise a young girl, and he worked full time to support the family. He also drove back and forth from Memphis to stay with my grandmother in the hospital so he wasn’t home a lot. My mother had two older brothers, both in high school, but they couldn’t raise a baby. She went to live with her grandmother and aunt at the beginning of her mother’s diagnosis.
They were poor. My mother used to tell me stories of waking up in the dead of winter, a blizzard falling outside. They had no heat, so she slept in a bed between her aunt and grandmother to keep warm. There were five or six blankets on the bed and most were pulled up to her chin. She would wake in the mornings with a blanket of snow on top of her. The wind had blown it through the cracks in the hardwood floor.
She would wiggle her body side to side until she broke free from the heavy layer, and then would sprint into the living room next to the fire. If she paused for a second, she could see the chickens huddled into a clan beneath the house. Everyone was trying to escape the gnarly fingers of winter’s grasp.
Before civil rights ever existed, my mother was out in the fields picking cotton too. As early as 4 years old, she would work from 6 A.M until noon, shoving handful after handful of cotton into a burlap sack. Around that time my grandfather remarried. After lunch time her step mother would let her lie down on the fifty pound sack of cotton she drug down the row behind her, and there my mother would take her mid-day nap.
Maybe you’ve noticed by now that I come from a long line of incredibly strong female influences.
My mother wore flour sacks to school. During that time, companies would print them with flower designs on them so that people could multi-purpose them. Her grandmother would make her clothes for her with that material. Kids were cruel even then. She began saving up her money in middle school so she could buy her own school clothes.
I’m an old soul. I was raised the way that my mother was raised. I was raised very simply. You have manners. You are polite. You are friendly. You work hard. You love harder.
I think that so many people in our generation are missing that… I feel like everyone in every generation is missing that. It’s funny because I have the heart of a small town girl, and I’m implanted into this unrealistic world of celebrities, power and artistry. I live a beautiful life, but I want to find a way to share that into the lives of others. I want our country to live up to the name it was given. The UNITED states of America. Let’s come together. Let’s be the land of opportunity. Let’s be the home of the brave. Let’s hold ourselves accountable for the things that we do and improve ourselves.
Do you appreciate who you are? Do you care where you came from?
You are beautiful. You are strong. You are important. Why not show that? Be who you want to be. Do what you want to do. All I ask, is that when you do that, you leave a positive message. Not for me, but for yourself.
I plan to have a very successful life. I don’t even mean that I will be rich, and wealthy… I mean that when I reflect back on my life years from now, I will be able to say “I did it, and I loved it.”
I will have fond memories, and have done everything I ever wanted. I will be successful. The only thing we have to do is humans is live… Why not have a life worth living? I don’t mean you all have to live my dreams, but create your own. What is important to you? What do you want to try? What would you like to change?
I’m feeling so inspired today. This morning I met Lee Merriweather (the original catwoman), Lou Gossett Jr. (Roots) and John Amos (Die Hard 2).. I couldn’t believe how much talent I was surrounded by. Yesterday I met Sam Tremmel (True Blood) and Drake Bell (Drake and Josh). I’m living a fantasy, only it’s real. It’s my life. I don’t want to waste it. I want to make a difference. I want my mother to know that the days she spent picking cotton weren’t in vain.
My real father (we went five years without talking) said to me tonight, “You’re doing something with your life, and I want you to know that I’m proud of you.”
This is the same man who walked out on my mother while she was in labor.
He’s human. It took him time to grow, and time to learn. He had to figure out for himself what was important, and after 23 years, he has finally decided that I am. I don’t resent him for leaving. I don’t resent him for disowning me five years ago. I appreciate him for growing up and being man enough now to tell me that he is proud and he loves me.
And I love him.
I would like to have a relationship with my father. That to me is success. My mother is successful. She raised 35+ kids. She loved with all her heart. She raised me. She doesn't own a business. She doesn't have a lot of money, but my mother is successful. She has given me what it takes to pursue my dreams.
We take what we have been given, and we try to improve on it. That is success. It doesn’t have a price tag. It has an effect.
I love you all. Truly. Thank you for being a part of this beautiful journey I call life.