What About You?

My life has changed drastically over the past month. I’ve wanted to write about it for so long, but I couldn’t find the right words to say. I still can’t. Writers block is the worst, especially when I find solace in sorting out my thoughts via poetry, or simply jotting down what I feel to help make sense of what is going on in my life.

I realized that sometimes it isn’t about writing the next best piece that perfectly captures the current drama. Sometimes it isn’t about nailing a blog post that reaches the masses. I am finally becoming okay with not knowing how to feel, as well as not knowing how to write about it. How do you guys cope with life when you can’t put what’s going on into words?

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Faith vs. The Modeling World

Not too long ago, my co-worker said “I don’t know how you model Stef. I could never do it; I would be so self-conscious.” I just shook my head and shrugged. The standards of the modeling world and the way that it works never deter me from moving forward, nor do they alter the way I look at myself. But even though I have never really struggled with low self-esteem, being a model can be very draining.

To be in an industry where your compensation is determined by the way a client feels about you from head to toe is a lot. There is a subconscious pressure to constantly look perfect all of the time: clear face, beautiful skin, maintained physique, seemingly feeling your best despite any internal or external conditions that might effect your appearance or the way you’d normally work.

What has helped me in my modeling career thus far is to simply stay the course. For me, a major part of being a model is understanding that there are millions of women in the same industry as me, while recognizing that I still have something special to bring to the table. You have to believe that there are companies, brands, and agencies who are searching for you just as much as you desire to work with them.

Modeling equals investing in yourself. It requires confidence, humility, acceptance (accepting rejection but not allowing it to break you), a relentless work ethic, calculated risks, and a whole lot of sacrifices. I live a faith-based lifestyle which enables me to pursue my dreams full throttle. My belief in God causes me to disregard statistics and lean on Him for direction, strength, and wisdom while on my path. I was built for this life; my mind and my heart affirm that every day. So tell me, what are you built for?

Self Tape on Adversity

 

Last June, in order to submit for a role, I had to record a self-tape talking about a specific period in my life where I felt helpless and/or hopeless, and was able to overcome adversity. I briefly summed up a sequence of events that spanned from age 11 into my late teen years.

Coming across this tape reminded me of how far I’ve come: emotionally, spiritually, financially, and physically (speaking of – my white blood cell count was low, not my red!). Fractions of my life are portrayed in my poems and are sporadically dispersed in my blog entries, but I rarely talk about my story in its entirety because it’s lengthy, and extremely intricate.

In a previous IG post (now deleted, but still on my blog), I had elaborated in greater depth on the content featured in this video by paying homage to my baby cousin with a piece called #MySuicideStory. It detailed my history with depression, as well as my bouts with suicidal ideation.

I always believed that God led me through my darkest times to not only test my faith and to build character, but to be a blessing to others. Our power doesn’t just lie in being able to overcome trauma, it is shown in our ability to connect with others and help them with theirs. Sometimes sharing what is most personal can be uncomfortable, risky, or reveal other truths that might not have been discovered or went without addressing. But for me, one of the best things I’ve ever done was turn my worst days into art and advocacy.

Before I re-did my Instagram page, I had posted this picture on there, as well as here on my 25th birthday (November 2nd). It is truly gratifiying to realize that a lot of what I claimed in the caption is coming into fruition: new risks, greater opportunities, bigger financial gains, and a broader outlook. These past few weeks have been filled with amazing collabs, artistic growth, and bookings (both solidified and tentative) that wouldn’t have even been mere possibilities this time last year.

One thing I HAVE started doing that was not a part of my lifestyle when my 25th birthday arrived, was accepting the current period of my life as a tiny fraction of what is to come. Amidst all of the beautiful events unfolding for me lately, I spent quite a bit of time dwelling on my knee injury, and stressing about all of the personal expectations I had set for my body this spring and summer. But the truth is, a hiccup along my route NOW, doesn’t effect my final destination.

Life is about duality. We often accept one hard truth while denying the other(s); and what good is it to try to press forward on your path without an honest look at yourself and the space that surrounds you? I am overwhelmed with joy, not because so much is going right in my life, but because I am making a conscious effort to keep my faith and positivity intact while things unexpectedly go wrong. Today I encourage you to give thanks for everything: your success AND your struggle, because life is a constant tug-of-war between the two. #HappySunday

Can You Hear Me Now?

My name is Stefanie Parrott,
and I have the privilege of being a Black woman.
I also have the privilege of walking around with this complexion everyday.
But my father?
My brothers?
Not so much.
My boyfriend doesn’t have this privilege either.
Neither do my nephews,
or my male extended family,
or my male friends.
Neither do the men on my block,
or the men on the blocks that surround me.

See brown skin carries a mixture of blessings and burdens.
It’s enriched with melanin;
you know, the stuff White people want when it’s summer time;
the very thing that feeds their fetish for the same men and women that they would never actually bring home to meet their parents.
Brown skin holds an infinite amount of stories that are passed down from generation to generation;
thousands of which were cut short by cops.

There is just something about the color that makes a police officer want to pull the trigger.
There is something that entices them,
and enables them to beat us to bloody pulps in a public display.
They seem to find gratification in strangling us with their supremacy.
They managed to replace nooses with excuses like “It was self defense, because I thought he was armed.”

What a rush of adrenaline they must get,
as they increase the statistics of Black men slain by souls that go without cleansing.
And in the blink of an eye,
a man with a significant other,
and children,
and a future,
and dreams,
and a heart that no longer has the opportunity to beat,
has been reduced to a hashtag that cries out for justice,
but will never see it.

I wonder how many Black lives will be lost to law enforcement by the time this poem is finished.
But we won’t be able to say those names,
because we’ll never get to know them.
The media will make sure of that.
And no, I am not angry,
I am beyond it.
Yet, I am still speaking in a tone that the non-oppressed like the sound of.
So tell me,
can you hear me now?

 

***This Spoken Word piece was inspired by the recent slaying of #StephonClark (pictured), a Black man murdered by a Sacramento Police Officer in his own backyard. My prayers are with his loved ones, the loved ones of past #policebrutality victims, as well as the families and friends that will unfortunately and unjustly become acquainted with tragedies like this in the future. #BlackLivesMatter***

Photo retrieved from: https://www.w3livenews.com/News/ReadArticle

When I overcame my suicidal ideation several years ago, I knew that I had worked too hard to end up succumbing to a depressive episode in the future. I never wanted to feel the way that I did again, and if by some chance I returned to that space, I reassured myself that I would have enough strength to pull myself out of it.

I chose life back then, but choosing life is really only half of the battle. How many of us are alive and well but aren’t actually leading fulfilling lives? How many of us are actually carrying out our purpose? How many of us even know what our purpose is?

I refuse to be the type of person who fought through depression and my other diagnoses, just to live in vain. I wasn’t put on this earth to be average, or to allow fear to make decisions for me. I wasn’t blessed with my looks and talents just so that I could do nothing with them.

When we were kids, every single one of us had this crazy desire to be something great: a firefighter, an astronaut, a doctor. You know the deal; the list goes on. But when we got older and “life happened,” that spark died, and so many of us were left settling for what pays the bills or for what comes easy, as opposed to what brings us joy.

Today, I challenge you to really examine what you want to gain out of life, and create a blueprint to go get it. View every day as a new opportunity to build off of that blueprint. Promise yourself that you will be the person who executes it, and not the one who chooses to simply exist.

I will never understand why people love screaming that they’re successful while simultaneously omitting their struggle. I could NEVER act like my troubles didn’t exist; they are what made me who I am, and they are what will make me a living testament to what faith and a relentless work ethic can create. And what is this ego thing about? Everybody is talking about how they did everything by themselves, and are self-made. How is that possible? We all need help at some point; elevation doesn’t involve just one person.

From ages 12-14 I lived in a variety of hotels, and when I wasn’t in those I was crashing at a friend’s house. By age 16 I had moved back to East Orange and commuted to Plainsboro, NJ every day for school. I played soccer for my school team as well as my club team, and if it weren’t for a handful of generous, compassionate, and loving individuals, I probably would’ve dropped out of school and DEFINITELY would not have been able to play soccer.

The family of one of my high school teammate’s (The Carlen’s) opened up their home to me my junior year. I stayed with them part-time that year, and moved in with them senior year. Although I felt completely out of place the whole entire time, they always did their best to make me feel at home; I mean they seriously went above and beyond. Then, since my parents could no longer afford my club team dues, the parents on that team allowed the club to use some of its scholarship fund money to pay for the rest of my high school career. My club coach even picked me up from the Carlen’s home sometimes, just so I could make practice.

You see, I was a D1 recruit in high school, but what did that matter if I didn’t have a roof over my head? What did that matter if I couldn’t afford to stay on the one team that served as the source of my recruitment? Nothing. But I made it. Why? Because I had people pulling for me, always: guidance counselors, my principal and my assistant principals, teachers, my friends, my teammates. When I got offered scholarships, they weren’t because of me, they were because of every single person who helped make those opportunities possible.

I am forever indebted to every single person who gave me shelter and financial assistance and allowed me to be a part of endeavors that seemed out of reach: my senior trip to Disney World, prom, graduation, continuing to play the game that I love. I had the greatest people around me for the worst years of my life, and when I get to the level I want to be at, there will be no amnesia. I will still remember every single name and face and repay them for all that they did.

Raw photo shot by Collis Torrington.