As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.
This is Cherisse Jamison's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
I found out I was adopted when I was 12 years old—which sucked.
But my parents never treated me any differently from my siblings. I lived in a two-parent home, something not very common were I'm from. My dad has six kids, none of which graduated from high school. Because of this, people expected me to fail, or get pregnant early, and drop out of school. It was crazy.
When I turned 21, my curiosity got the best of me and I made the decision to look into obtaining my adoption records. I always had the urge to find out who I was, and was met with road blocks when searching before. One day out of the blue, while at home for the summer, I randomly received my adoption records in the mail. Oh my goodness, I remember being so excited.
I'm finally going to be able to meet my biological family!
I literally could not open it fast enough. Once I finished ripping open the envelope, I was instantly devastated to see the agency literally marked out all names, all addresses. Basically, all the important information that could lead me to finding my biological family.
I immediately began scrambling to find my original birth certificate, which listed my biological name before it was changed. I also found small details that had descriptions of my parents and grandparents, my two siblings which I learned both lived in my same state. And...a church.
First, I decided to call the hospital. The hospital no longer had any record, being that it was many years ago, so I decided to switch my attention to the church. I came across a YouTube channel, which belonged to a young musician who was also a member of this church. I eventually found him on Facebook, sent him a message, and he responded almost immediately. Initially, he thought it was a joke or a scam, but I ended up convincing him to give me a call.
His name was J—we were only four years apart. He told me that we, biologically, had the same last name and that 90% of that church would be my family if this were true. We all hopped on a call with his grandmother, where he explained the situation as she listened to the same details I gave J. Hesitant, she told him to reach out to his mom, which he did.
Moments later, it was confirmed. He called me back crying, and saying that his mom admitted to him being my brother.
The crazy part of all of this is the fact that this all happened in the same day. Me receiving a letter from the agency, and by 10:00 that night, finding my birth mother.
I met them in person and as time passed, we kept in contact until I graduated college. I decided to move closer to them for what was supposed to be only a summer, permanently. Admittedly, during this time, I was warned from my other siblings about my mom. But me, desperately wanting to foster a relationship with that side of my identity, didn't listen.
This is my biological mother. Nothing is going to stop me from being near her.
I decided to move in with her. And it wasn't long after that, that everything changed.
She became very narcissistic. A scammer. Neglectful to my younger brother. I witnessed multiple men come in and out in a week. And as a grown ass woman, it was a lot for me to take in. I never witnessed a "mother" move in the matter she did. Every attempt I made to get closer to her, she denied. There were times where I would get off work around 10pm every night and she would let me walk from the store to her house. Never bothered to come get me or even made sure I made it home. One day, I overheard a phone conversation she was having and during the call she was discussing me:
"I never came looking for her, she was looking for me."
"I wish she would go back to the people she came from."
I don't think there's a word for how hurt I was. I moved away from everything that I ever knew to build a relationship with her, and I was rejected in every way.
Soon, I ended up meeting a guy named [redacted] at work (for the sake of the story, let's call him Abusive Andy). Like a fragile child, that in hindsight I truly was, I instantly fell for his charm basically due to me being insecure, depressed, and now, homesick. I spent about two weeks with him, going back and forth. I would literally only go to my mom's house to get clothes and leave. He would pick me up and take me to work and treated me what seemed, at the time, like royalty. One day, while I was at Abusive Andy's house, I received a message from my biological mom saying I had three days to packs my things and return her key. She never gave me an explanation, nor did she bother to care where I would go. I spent a week living in a hotel while I figured out what I would do. Returning home was no longer an option, and my parents had no idea what was even going on.
Andy suggested I move in with him. And after only a month of knowing him, I moved in.
At first, everything was great and I felt protected. But like my mother, a couple weeks later, everything changed. He became very controlling, loud, and angry. It seemed like everything I did, or didn't do, made him upset. He once slapped me for not folding clothes the way he liked, which, of course, he apologized for and I brushed it off as him having a bad day. But still, we would fight every single day. He made me cut off all my friends and I became very isolated from everyone. I became even more depressed, very quiet, I gained a lot of weight as well.
And the thing about it is, Abusive Andy knew I had no family or anyone that I could call on for help. He preyed on it.
I kept protecting him because I loved him and I knew I had nowhere else to go. But the final straw came when I witnessed him fight his mother in front of me. Who would put their hands on their own mother?
He then turned and started beating me, and his mom did nothing and said nothing.
It was time to go. After a final fight, I picked myself up, filed a retraining order, and got the hell away from it all.
Thankfully, even through the pain, the hustle in me was never affected. I began to throw myself into work. In college, I would write songs for local artists, blog, and more. One day, I received a message on Instagram from Party Hardly, over at Hip Hop Weekly. He said he heard a lot about me and wanted to know if I was interested in interviewing for the platform, which of course, I was. My reputation and personal brand took off and eventually, I began receiving media invites for award shows, movie premieres, and all things red carpet. I revamped my brand to 'Keeping Up With Kells', opening myself to more diverse markets. Soon after, I covered the VMAs, The Grammys, Black Girls Rock, BET Hip Hop Awards, Soul Train, and more.
And now, I represent and work with multiple celebrities, independent artists, and entrepreneurs as a publicist. Everything I learned over the years was self-taught. I had no role models, I had no internships, or mentors. I did, however, have a lot of heartache, a lot of pain.
And so many of us are walking around with the same. So many of us create paths, while simultaneously carrying around our brokenness. But God is keeping us, ladies. He's not allowing us to be broken, He didn't allow me to be broken. I succeeded anyway.
So often, I sit back a reflect on my journey. How I'm where I am in life, why I'm where I am in life. Even now, this very story I'm telling, is a highlight for me, because I'm always in the game of pleasing my clients and making sure their stories are told, never mine.
Even currently, I'm writing a self-discovery book to unpack my thoughts (which I don't have a title yet, but I can say it's going to give complete transparency of my life from childhood to womanhood) and also, I'll drop a few tips that helped me become successful--you know, the do's and the don'ts of the industry; the secrets we won't say out loud. In the meantime, I will continue my journey, in my happiness.
My skin is clear, I'm not frustrated, and I feel genuinely loved by my partner. Just being completely comfortable and confident in me.
Cherisse is currently working on a few projects, with creating a resource for aspiring publicists being one. Follow her in Instagram @keepingupwithkellsonline for more information.
Feature image courtesy of KZW Capturing Essence