Black Woman Creator: Asa Todd
Asa is a 31 year old Black woman, born and raised in New Jersey. She was first diagnosed with a mental illness at 12 years old and has spent the past 19 years learning to live her life to the fullest, even with her limitations. We spoke to Asa about her blog Makeup and Mania, where she discusses mental health and her passion for makeup.
Black Girls Create: What do you create (in your own words)?
I create a blog about two of of my main passions: makeup and mental health. The overall mission for my blog is to show the general public that people living with a mental illness are more than their illness. My take on it is that I’m showing my hobby, which is makeup enthusiasm and pretty much all things beauty, from natural hair to skin care. I do it to get people out of looking at people with mental illnesses as just their illness. And on the other side, it’s to help other black women, women of color, and people of color in general who are living with a mental illness know that they’re not alone, that their experiences are not out there, and that there is hope to have a productive and fulfilling life.
BGC: How did you come up with the idea to merge the two topics of makeup and mental health together?
It was a lot of influence from friends, just because one, they’re like, “you have a lot to say.” Also that I’m really good with make up for someone who’s never taken a class and doing it on my own, and it would help other people who are new to it. They said that it’s a very new and different concept to merge the two just because you don’t see that, you either see one or the other. There’s definitely a lot of influence from my friends to merge them.
BGC: Why do you create?
I do it because while it helps others, it also helps me. Being able to be a part of and build a community where you can share some things that you can’t share with others. It really helps me to process some of my own thoughts when I’m writing about my own journey in mental illness, so with me being able to process my own that I’m hoping it helps others process theirs as well. I definitely do want for me as a therapeutic thing, but also because I want to help others who are trying to find themselves or haven’t really reached out to anyone.
BGC: Have you been able to build a community through your writing and through your blog?
I have a couple people who reach out and say “what you wrote about really hit home for me,” or “I really relate to it,” when it comes to mental health or there are people who with make up they’re like “I’ve always wanted to try this, can you give me some more tips and pointers?” I’m hoping that the longer I do it I can build a community where I’m not the only outlet for support but the other people that read my blog can support each other.
BGC: Who or what inspires you to do what you do?
I have a ton of friends who are creatives and just seeing the joy they get from creating is a motivator. Also, they push me to be my best and to go after what I want. There’s a ton of people - way too many to name - I have a circle of people who push me and motivate me and are inspiring in their own rights.
BGC: How do you balance creating with the rest of your life?
It’s definitely a challenge. It’s gotten easier because I quit my full time job, for issues with my own depression and complications with medical issues, but with that I’m then able to focus on creative stuff for myself but also doing some freelance work where I write and guest blog or ghost write for other blogs as well.
BGC: How has the freelancing process been for you?
It’s very difficult to get started, that’s one thing I have to say. I’m still very new to freelancing, so getting my client roster up is where it’s difficult because you need a portfolio of experience to start to really get people interested in you, but you have to build a portfolio. Getting that ball rolling is difficult, I have to take lower paying gigs and what not, but it’s something I enjoy and and every little bit of money helps. It’s great because you get to do what you want to do, there’s nothing you’re obligated to do. If you’re reading a proposal and it’s not what you want to do, you can skip it. One resource that’s I’ve find very helpful to get me started and keep me motivated is BlackFreelance.com. It’s a community of black freelancers that give you tips on where to go to start. Just like there are job boards for regular jobs, there are job boards for freelance positions. That’s really helped me.
BGC: Why is it important as a black person to create?
I feel that it’s definitely important because mainstream media and places that display creative talents don’t always really focus on our stories or our voices. As far as we’ve come, it’s still very much lacking. We have so much to say and so many feelings that aren’t being heard. In order to not feel like you’re voiceless and have it all just bottled up in you, creating helps you get it all out, whether or not you’re doing it to share with the world or just to keep to yourself. It’s a way of venting and expressing yourself in many different forms whether the written word or visual or music or anything, it’s something that is so important to keep us grounded and feeling good.
BGC: Where do you see your blog going?
I am hoping to really get it to reach a bigger audience, that’s my main goal. With building a bigger audience hopefully I can partially monetize it. I’ve put so much money into it, I want to hopefully get some of it back at some point. I really want my blog to help me become a better advocate for people with mental illnesses and hopefully be able to use public speaking engagements where I can talk to consumers of mental health services, physicians and clinicians, and also the general public who are either not informed or misinformed about it.
BGC: Do you have any advice for young creators or people who are just starting out?
My advice is really just to do it. I wanted to do this blog for so long, but there’s always the what-ifs and worries. Just do it, go for it. Whether or not it becomes what you envisioned isn’t the point. It’s that you did it and that you gave it that try. It doesn’t matter how it turns out, just keep going and genuinely do it for yourself. Don’t do it to try and keep up with anybody else, or because it looks like the thing to do. Do it for yourself, because once you start doing it to try and keep up with other people it really becomes work as opposed to something that fulfills you.
BGC: Do you have any future projects or things you want to do in the future?
2017 is my year of travel. I have about three overseas trips that are either booked or in the works. So I’m putting that into the part about mental health, because a big barrier to me traveling and a lot of other people traveling is fear, anxiety, depression, and really not having the confidence to do it. It took me a long time to be able to build up that confidence - and the funds - to do it. I’m trying to make it another part of my blog, where I talk about the difficulties of traveling but also how rewarding it is as well. Hopefully it will encourage people who have the means but not the confidence to get out there and see the world or not even just the world, just the country we live in.