Arah: I want to be the Queen of America
Updated: Jul 3
I met Arah when she was helping out at a friend's coffee shop in Los Angeles.
Through talking to her, I realized that she not only worked as a stylist, but also had a clothing brand with her daughter, published a book, and wrote songs.
We had lunch together a few days later, and it was only then that I found out this energetic woman sitting in front of me had been through a really dark time, bearing labels like "teen mom," "domestic violence victim," "single mother," and "black woman," and her life just had a shift.
Interviewer & Photographer：Nox
"Queen of America"
I was in a really hard, toxic, narcissistic relationship, and it took me down to a low space to where I attempted suicide. That was really scary for me because I had to isolate myself from everybody. I just completely lost my identity. I didn’t really know who I was anymore. Everything in my world was like just crashing down on top of that. Inside out, things didn’t feel good. I was suffering.
I finally had a breakthrough when I got strong enough to get out of that relationship. But it took lots of steps. It took long for me to recover from what I was going through. I decided that I never want to be in that situation again, not only that, but also never give someone that much power to make me feel different about myself or make me feel less than who I really am.
So I recreated myself, I reinvented myself, I made a promise with myself that I was just gonna try everyday, that's all I could offer and that's what I've been doing everyday, just putting one foot in front of the other.
My life shifted. I started showing up for myself, started standing up for myself. When things weren't feeling right, or I wasn’t being treated the way I deserved to be treated — in any situation, whether in work or personal I started to speak up for myself, and I realize that I never did it before. Everything was always okay and always smile and saying "it's ok it's ok, treat me however you want" - that's what I was really saying.
I was never saying "No, that's not what I want, that I deserve better." I wasn't saying those things and I’ve never noticed it until I was forced to have to do that.
So I started a shift in my life, like "Hold on, what do I really want out of this life, who do I wanna be." I get to decide every step of the way, who I wanna be.
I want to change the world. I want to be legendary. I want to be seen as the queen of America.
All these vivid imagination came. My thoughts got brighter and better. the conversation I was having with people got more personal. It’s just beautiful and enlightening. My life just feels like magic now.
Looking back then, I was really in the dark space. I wasn’t seeing anything that's precious, glittering. I just want something to relate to. The only thing I can really do was really spending time with myself and forcing myself to do that: going out and having a dinner just by myself; going to movies just by myself; staying at the home at 6 o'clock in the afternoon, just literally looking around my apartment, what needs to be recovered, what I can do to shift this energy. And I started building spiritual practice and awareness, reading books, writing things down and attaching myself to the world, and to the nature.
My life now is a fairytale story. I embrace myself and embrace that there is magic everywhere. I appreciate myself for being able to create the environment for my daughter who’s now 13 years old.
I was supposed to be a model if I didn’t get pregnant at 16.
I was supposed to sign the contract in New York, but that got canceled when they found out I was pregnant, so my life totally shifted.
The pregnancy was unexpected. It was my first time and I actually used protection but I still got pregnant.
I went through a phase of denial where I was like "I’m not pregnant. This isn’t real." I ended up not being able to do things, and these things were happening so fast. I had my daughter at 26 weeks, and it's supposed to be 39 weeks. I had her early. They told me she wasn't gonna be alive when she came out and they ended up doing an emergency C-section, where they cut a vertical cross on my stomach, and they pretty much got her out. She’s only one pound 4 ounces when she came out. She’s a miracle baby, and she’s the reason why our clothing company called Miracle Child.
When I woke up, there were like 10 nurses clapping, because they weren’t expecting me to wake up. I was only 115 pounds, and I was in doubt of carrying a baby at that time.
I stayed in the hospital for almost 3 weeks after that. I went home for two days and my stomach split open and I had to go back to hospital for 1 month.
It was scary when I first had the child. I've been pretty much abandoned by everyone at that point. Everybody is so mad at you when you had a kid at 16. All my family stopped talking to me.
Everybody was giving up on me.
I worked at KFC and went to school at the same time. Every time my mom wanted me to drop out and be homeschooled, but I forged my mom’s signature and got myself back to school because I really want to finish. I almost graduated with honors, only one credit away. I created a teen mom support group at that high school I went to. I feel empowered.
I was forced out of my mom’s house before I was even 18. I had to figure all out. For my first apartment, I wasn't even old enough to sign a lease.
But along the journey, I’ve met lots of impactful people who helped me. The universe was really good to me that way.
"Domestic violence victim"
But I've also experienced a lot of tragedies in there. My daughter’s father was abusive. There's one point where he held a gun to my neck. I almost lost my life in that relationship. Actually, a few really close calls happened. He would chock me and pass me out to the point I would wake up and was barricaded in my own house.
My daughter was 3 when the abuse was really peaking up. She would be locked in the room, screaming for her mom. I'm grateful right now she doesn’t have those memories attached. That’s also why I wanna move out from Las Vegas and came to Los Angeles — being in a new space allowed me to be free from those things, or all those memories would be there haunting me. I would drive up street and get flashbacks.
When my daughter was around 3 or 4, I was still in cosmetology school, and my daughter's father proposed to me. He came to my school and proposed to me in front of everybody. I remember just being was stuck, I wasn’t happy or anything. This is the man who hurt me -- the abuse happened before. He was already hurting me.
After we got home that day, I got beaten up.
At that stage, what he did was more like psychological intimidation and stalking. He would show up to my school and argue with me for no reason and make me feel emotionally attached like I owe him something.
He was also a drug addict, I didn't know about drug. I grew up in North Nevada, and I wasn’t exposed to those things. I was very sheltered as a kid. He was acting out, being crazy, I don’t know how to identify that.
With me not having a good relationship with my family — My family abandoned me, they made me feel horrible for having a kid — I felt so alone.
I couldn’t talk to anybody about what I was going through.
When I called the police, they came in and talked to me, "Oh you would just gonna go back anyways." I only got one follow-up call from the police. They came in and went searching for him because he would run every time. So a woman gave me a follow-up call saying she's from the domestic violence situation, "We just wanna check in and see if you’re ok."
I said I’m ok.
She said "Ok, that's all we need to know," and then hung up.
I never got any support from that.
I talked to my mom but it was only after. She probably went through the same things so it wasn’t anything nurturing and supportive.
It was always really hard.
My daughter's father couldn’t stopped going in and out of jail. I haven't seen him for years.
He kinda knew I was separating me and my daughter from himself because he knew the kind of things he was doing. He knew he wasn't well.
We had been broken up and we got to a safe location. He didn’t know where I lived. When I moved out here, he tried to get in touch once or twice, but it was too emotionally traumatic for my daughter. I was like, "Hey, if you are not gonna be well, you don’t need to be in our lives, do our daughter a favor, come back when you are ready."
We still support him and pray for him. It's not a hatred situation.
I don’t hate anybody, even if they hurt me, because at the end of the day, it will always be something that weighs me down.
It's hard to raise a daughter alone. But my duty is to do it proudly, and whole-heartedly. For me, it's like get up and work. I have to do whatever I have to do to make sure we have a roof over our head, have hot meals to eat, she can have access to education and our needs are met. I've had hard days and close calls, and we almost got to the points of homelessness. But we went through it.
I was ashamed for being a mom at 16, but now I’m 29, I can finally say that I am a mom, and I love it. I'm doing a good job. I'm happy, and I'm really proud of myself.
It takes a lot to say that.
It was only now that I healed and liberated myself from that state of suffering, feeling ashamed, and being abused. I am no longer a victim, I am a survivor.
I never really felt the courage to come outside and share those things until I realized my life was just the same, that I stopped growing, that this isn’t enough for me. I want more. I wanna create wellness for my family. I want my daughter to have unlimited access to education, being able to do things she wants to do. I don’t want to worry about month-to-month living. I don't want just be like working and have others tell me when to get a raise.
The only way I can do that is I take control.
My daughter has a Chiari Malformation, which means her brain is sitting to low and she needs a brain surgery. But the public insurance couldn’t fully cover this surgery, so I need more money for a better medical insurance. I communicated with my boss and was up for a raise. My responsibilities piled up and we gained much profit, but in the end, it was a white male that got a raise and promotion, and so was another white male. And by that time I've already waited for months.The racial tension started building up and got to a bullying point. And I finally decided to stand up for myself before I allow them to do this to me again. I wrote a resignation letter and used the settlement check to start a business with my daughter.
2 months ago, my daughter and I started this clothing company where we design cloths and make jewelries together. I also wrote a book and released it. My life changed in such a short period of time not for any other reason but because I said so, because I made a decision this is what I'm gonna do. And I’m just gonna go for it.
So this is what I am right now, an entrepreneur, writer, and creative.
I’ve been a single mom this whole time. We have our moments but it’s always like harsh struggles. I really want to re-identify what that is because it doesn't matter what the state of economics or whatever trauma and struggle that’s happening, life can still be magic.
We can still embrace each other and she can be raised in a environment that's beautiful, full of life, and she will be able to say that’s her life experience. She has a great story to remember herself by.
Things that were going on around me during my childhood have affected me in a very harsh way. I’ve been abused in almost every way, and I didn’t want my daughter to deal with that type of memories. I realize that if I don’t heal she will never have that or it takes her longer to attain that. I want it to be easier for her. I want to rewire the way we see ourselves.
We should be helping each other to share our stories. We all have been through the same things, even it's not exactly the same storylines, we can always relate to some, since we all identify with trauma, pain, and suffering to some type of degrees. We all have that memory of suffering in some forms, and everybody’s been through something major that reset the tone of their life. If they haven’t yet, it’s on the way.
When we connect ourselves, we can really become one community of human beings. We don’t have to separate our identities. No matter where you come from, we are all human beings. We are all here. Sharing ourselves is gonna create wellness for all of us.
We are not well until all of us are well.
I wanna see people off the streets, I've helped lots of people stay off the streets. It didn't really feel rewarding like oh yeah I helped them out, but rather felt like I have to help you. I’m passionate. I'm not gonna let you fall. I have your back I have to do that. It didn’t matter if I know you, it’s more like here’s an opportunity to help people stay safe and have a hot meal, no matter how big or small the meal was, you just able to do that.
In the end, I asked Arah her plan for the future.
"Besides trying to be the queen of America, I think my plan is to create stability and wellness first for myself and my daughter, and then next I plan to invite the communities, especially young girls, who I think are the really important ones to focus on.
I’d like to create a recreation center for girls, just a space for them to be creative. Some girls are just artists, and just want to create with other girls to have fun, hopefully I would be able to expand it to an international drop-in space for girls from all over the world, have translators coming in, and let’s do arts together, create together, a kind-hearted uplifting magical place for girls to exist with each other, empower and inspire each other.
So that’s what I wanna leave here.
I wanna speak all over the world, share my story, and continue thriving. I wanna do more creative things.
I just wanna be the greatest version of myself."