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I Built My Investment Property Brand While Confined To A Wheelchair

I began watching rehabbing videos, reading books, cleaning up my credit—and I owned 6 properties within a year.

As Told To

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 India Monae's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.

Leading up to the accident, it was a normal Friday for me.

As an entrepreneur, I was always busy and I had a pop-up shop for my boutique that day. My cousin, who had just graduated from college, was with me; she came to shadow me for the summer. She grabbed her keys, we hopped in the car, and decided to head to lunch at a restaurant located in a pretty busy area. Suddenly, as we were turning left, we heard a loud engine revving—we heard him before we even saw him, speeding well over 80 mph on a residential street.

Drunk driver.

My cousin veered left in an effort to avoid the impact, and BOOM.

We were struck head-on, more so on my (passenger) side.

What made it even worse, this guy hit us so hard that our car flew backwards and landed in the patio of a restaurant, striking a waitress. She was lucky to only sustain three broken ribs.

As for me, once the car stopped, I immediately marveled at the fact that I was conscious. I checked on my cousin and made an effort to use my remaining strength to get out of the car.

I realized I was trapped.

The car was completely inverted, smashed on my feet. Once emergency responders arrived, chaos ensued. There were paramedics, firefighters, and policemen everywhere, all working together to get me out. It took roughly 40 minutes to cut the car enough to pull me out.

Both of my feet were completely shattered.

I was whisked off the to the hospital to have emergency reconstructive surgery the next morning. On the way, I lost consciousness.

I remember waking up and one of my friends was in the corner nauseous, trying not to throw up. Another was sitting on the floor with her head down. Confused, I quickly realized the bone in my right foot had come completely out.

Time passed on and I spent about a week in the hospital, which was a blur. My meds would put me to sleep left and right, I could never stay awake for long periods of time. I ended up with two metal screws, four pins, and about 11 metal plates laced through both feet, leaving me in a wheelchair for six months.

Then came recovery...

And it. Was. Tough. It was humbling. The pain was so intense, that they were pumping me with meds every two hours.

And it sucked because I was incapable of anything. I couldn't take care of my son, I couldn't work, I couldn't shower. I couldn't use the bathroom on my own, I had to use a handheld urinal. My mind would constantly go a mile a minute. I had been working so hard with work, as a full-time stylist and online boutique owner prior to the accident, so I was stressed, but doing well. After the accident however, all of my income stopped. I didn't have much savings; my whole world shut down. I even had to refund orders, because I couldn't fulfill them.

Being wheelchair-bound made me realize that I needed to work smart if I was going to survive. I had a son to take care of and realized I needed to create stability. I needed streams of income that would flow whether I was walking or not.

So, I began to educate myself and pivot my business.

The vast majority of my recovery time, I spent studying real estate investing. For some strange reason I gravitated towards it, maybe because I knew the revenue potential. And after committing myself to learning, I actually became very fluent in its language. I knew that investing was going to create that financial stability for my family, so I dove in, full throttle. I began watching rehabbing videos, reading books, and cleaning up my credit. After about six months, I transitioned from the chair into a heavy special walking boot. And then to crutches, eventually to a cane.

And sis, guess what? You better believe I would attend real estate seminars in every single one of them too; nothing stopped me, I was adamant.

Six months later, I purchased my first property. And then the second. The third—so on and so on. Within a year, I had six and my mission evolved. My passion developed into helping the black community create generational wealth while securing a legitimate legacy. Now, I mentor some of the most ferocious head hunters in real estate. And most importantly, I own several homes, which will all be left to my son.

I want that for all of us.

Over time, I have adjusted to a new normal and pushing the importance of my agenda. My biggest takeaway from my journey, which I cannot stress this enough, is to know the significance of entrepreneurship—or at least passive income. I've been an entrepreneur for 15 years, but at the time of my accident, I wasn't reveling in my full potential. And ladies, being counterproductive is real.

Just because you're busy, it doesn't mean that you're productive. And I was forced to distinguish the difference between the two.

Learn how to maximize your productivity to relieve yourself of spending too much time within your businesses. Work SMARTER, because we aren't taught this shit in school. Not all entrepreneurs have a retirement to fall back on. So, investing in assets is extremely important.

Credit > Christian Louboutin

As for what's next for me, maintaining and expanding. I'm actually staying afloat during the pandemic purely out of habit.

Many are out of work or furloughed, and in complete survival mode. COVID has taken so many jobs, and turned the world upside down, which is very reminiscent of what I went through, so I feel prepared. I feel I've been in this space before. And although I've had to cancel my business tour and postpone upcoming retreats, and even if I have tenants' situations to consider, I still have multiple streams of income, so, I'm not as affected, which is exactly how I designed it to be.

If you're struggling with where to start, know that your future is now. Invest your money so that it always sees returns. Investing will give you the freedom we all deserve (I wish I had known this years ago, which is why I preach this so heavily now).

Land > Labels.

Accident survivors: it's not easy moving forward, but don't pity yourselves. Admittedly, I'm still very traumatized, as it's hard for me to drive sometimes. But we survived because we still have a purpose to fulfill here. It takes a certain amount of darkness to see the stars. But don't ever stop seeking the light. There is purpose in pain.

So, stay encouraged always.

To attend one of India's classes, you can find more information on her Instagram page, @_indiamonae. You can also find a full list of services by following her Land Over Labels page and/or her website.

Featured image courtesy of India Monae

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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