The month of October is dedicated to raising awareness for several causes. While many of us know that October is Breast Cancer awareness month, it’s also domestic violence awareness month. Today, domestic abuse survivor Lakeisha Allen shares how she transformed her physical scars into a business and cosmetic line that benefits other survivors. See more tales from our Survivor Series here.
MN: You now work as an advocate and champion for domestic abuse survivors. Can you tell me about your background and how you became involved in this work?
LA: As a former victim of domestic violence, I mostly endured physical trauma. Makeup was my escape to fit into reality. I would hide my scars behind some of the most expensive brand names, but I would feel cheap on the inside. I wanted to develop my own makeup line by starting with a lipstick. Not only enhancing the outer beauty, but uplifting the inner beauty.
MN: How did you begin the personal journey of healing from your experiences? What tools/resources/support enabled you to overcome your circumstances?
LA: My journey began when I started to let go of everything that was toxic. Right after my room was caught on fire from me trying to escape my former abuser, I knew then its either life or death. I chose to live. I started a new path and began the healing process. My family was a huge factor. My praying parents were very supportive. My case manager referred me to programs to seek help and encouraged me to join a domestic violence group while seeking therapy. I wasn’t too fond of going to the sessions. The fact is, I was scared to speak out, and I didn’t want my abuser to get in trouble. I finally took the time time to seek out help after ten years of feeling like I’ve lost my identity. The therapy process helped me to create a life plan that turned my negative thoughts into positive ones. After doing the work, StillNatural manifested into reality.
MN: Talk to me about StillNatural. At what point in your journey did you launch the company? How did you get the idea to start?
LA: StillNatural was born when I realized makeup had a deeper meaning for me than just having a pretty face. Love was war and lipstick became my weapon of choice. The idea started when I began using makeup and my favorite lipstick (which is called “Red Clay”) to cover my scars of being abused. What the eyes see from my outer beauty is what I wished I felt on the inside. Being brave enough to speak out was the best decision I made. Having my voice heard helped me to find self love, confidence and StillNatural.
MN: What differentiates StillNatural from other beauty brands?
LA: StillNatural started with a lipstick that gives back to a person while celebrating inner and outer beauty. My company is geared towards transitioning victims into victors by focusing on issues related to domestic violence.
MN: What was the inspiration behind your “Trash To Treasure” beauty shoot? Looking back at the photos, how do they make you feel?
LA: My inspiration behind “Trash To Treasure” was finding a way to capture the beauty in the parts of someone that has been viewed as unwanted, ugly and easily discarded. Looking back at my photos, it was tears of joy, words cannot describe to how I felt at that moment it was incredible… it was beautiful!
MN: What advice do you give to women struggling with the trauma of past domestic abuse? How does one begin the healing process?
LA: My advice to others will be to seek help, please. Immediately if possible. I’m blessed to be here today and some don’t have the chance to make it out. It’s hard, but it’s worth the effort to try. There are so many programs out there that will take you by the hand and guide you in the right direction. It’s not too late to speak out. It starts with you. You have a purpose and it can be found in your pain. There is a queen in you! The healing process starts when you walk away first. Find a shelter if you have nowhere to go.
What laws in particular need to be changed to support domestic abuse survivors?
Honestly after doing research and my own experience, there has been a significant increase in domestic violence legislation made since 2015. Now, there are longer jail times and victims are able to have personal advocates to support them. I do believe once a victim reports domestic violence, counseling needs to be mandatory for both parties (separate sessions of courses) .
MN: Explain how donations to StillNatural help to provide aid to DV victims.
LA: I’ve created a foundation on my Facebook page called, “Zyonn Allen”, named after my son for victims of domestic violence. I’ve decided to give free makeovers to enhance confidence and natural beauty as well.
MN: There is such a stigma around mental health in the Black community. For DV survivors who may be resistant to seeing therapy, how do you advice they overcome those mental blocks?
LA: The only advice I can give for domestic violence victims who are suffering a mental block is an honest one: You have to want to get the help. Often times it is difficult to help victims in domestic violence because they don’t see theirselves in a dangerous situation and they often blame themselves. I would suggest a safety plan to be discuss and have them put in place, so when they are ready to make a change they have a place to start.
MN: What advice would you give to family members of domestic abuse survivors who are struggling to get their loved ones to seek help?
LA: Stay supportive and connected as much as possible when it come to family members of the victims. Suicide thoughts are more rampant. Checking in can make a word of a difference. I’m a living witness.