Kehlani Parrish, a 23-year-old singer/songwriter from Oakland, CA is currently living her best life.
The talented performer has been killing it since she was a kid on America's Got Talent and now she works with some of the hottest names in the game while she isn't slaying New York Fashion week or launching an app, or creating opportunities for the LGBT community. Yeah, we love her too.
And not because she's this month's "It" girl, but because we knew what it took for her to get here. Recently, Kehlani told Cosmopolitanmagazine:
"I'm just a firm believer in you're always being prepared for your blessings because blessings are huge. If I hadn't got prepared to get so many nos and to be closed on so many times, I wouldn't be able to appreciate all the heavy heavy great things that happened. It was all preparation."
And as she learned, falling is just a part of learning how to truly take flight. When asked what she would tell a younger version of herself, she said:
"I would tell her to keep in mind, things are coming so don't beat yourself so hard that you keep getting somewhere good and falling. Getting somewhere good, and falling. Because those falls are literally just to make the rises so much better".
Let's be honest, when you're a smart and successful woman with potential and opportunity there is no room for complaining or weakness. The superwoman complex is dangerous and unrealistic and takes a toll of women of color in a major way. Kehlani was kicking down doors in the industry and had finally found her place in the game when she was ambushed by a bogus tabloid story gone viral in 2016.
The media had no mercy and Kehlani was met with attacks so ruthless that she deleted all of her social media accounts and attempted suicide. In a since-deleted Instagram post, she captioned:
"I wanted to leave this Earth. Being completely selfish for once. Never thought I'd get to such a low point."
The way that the internet reacted to this dark time in Kehlani's life makes a powerful statement about how we as a community and the outside world perceive mental health and women of color in positions of power.
For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be on stage. I looked at artists like Janet Jackson and Beyonce and I've always thought to myself, wow. I can't believe they're so amazing while all of those people stare at them. How are they not dying of anxiety? I thought they were superhuman and wanted to be just like them. I couldn't sing so I started kicking rhymes and wanted to be a rap star. I wanted people to care what I had to say, like they did Janet and B.
I was given a shot at my dream when I was 18 and featured on a reality show on MTV. So much of my life was put out to the public and I realized that there is duality to the spotlight that I desired. Not only did people see me when I was graceful and talented, but they saw me when I was weak and vulnerable, and it was a horrible feeling.
I began taking antidepressants and even though I had struggled with thoughts of suicide since I was 10, my thoughts became louder and more subtle than ever before.
"I wish I could just not wake up tomorrow." Or, "I never do anything right, I bet if I died everyone would be better off."
I read what spectators had to say about me on social media, and my anxiety increased. This was the first time I had actually wanted to die. After I had gotten everything I prayed for. I was on TV. Everyone was watching me. But I couldn't breathe.
It was difficult for me to write this article because what's even scarier than killing myself, is letting my friends and family know that it was something that I had thought about… more than once.
I know that I'll either be met with criticism that I'm too dramatic or met with pity, guilt, and disconnected sympathy.
So I buried my thoughts in my indulgence. I indulged in lethal combinations of Xanax and Adderall, or in the men that I loved, or just made love to. All so that I wouldn't have to be alone with my thoughts. I felt that after I had been on TV, people would just keep asking what I would do next and I had no clue. Kehlani teaches us all the value of shake back season.
I had been watching her story for years, and when I saw how the media attacked her after she expressed her mental illness I was disgusted and sad for her. I realized I felt that same pity that I didn't want my friends and family to show me, and I developed a new respect for her.
She told The Cruz Show in 2016:
"I wasn't a victim, you know what I mean. I'm never a victim, I refuse to be a victim—I'm not. It was really recovering from so many things at once…on the flip side, there's not too much that can hurt me now."
Kehlani was able to confront her demons on a public spectrum and became a worldwide inspiration. She is now one of the most notable names in the R&B industry appearing in Vogue, being recently featured in A Wrinkle in Time soundtrack, and working with huge artists like DJ Khaled. Kehlani also recently partnered up with Eminem to speak out against gun violence.
Despite the viral trauma that nearly burned her to the ground, she was able to channel the Phoenix that is deep inside of all of us and rise from the ashes to slay the world.
Featured image via Tenor