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How I Beat The Odds Of Becoming A Statistic


Let's flashback to 2007.

My home church in Killeen, Texas was having one of its annual youth-led services in honor of the seniors graduating high school. Church was ending, and it was time for altar call. The youth minister asked if I could come down because he wanted to pray over my next journey in life as a college student.

I expected to hear the typical “God watch over my life, keep me safe, and help me to remain focused in school" prayer. Instead, the minister tells me that I have overcome the odds of a single-parent home without even realizing it. He says by my dad dying when I was a younger kid, the odds were already stacked against me and that most people can't survive the death of a parent.

Usually their life spirals downhill immediately afterwards.

He says there was a calling to be fulfilled because I overcame the odds. He was speaking about those single-parent statistics that say most children growing up in that type of environment will drop out of school, turn to drugs and alcohol, and become a single parent themselves. It was then at that moment when I thought to myself, “Hmm, I'm not a statistic after all, maybe there's more to my life than I originally thought."

I kept that memory close to me and used it as motivation whenever I thought about quitting college.

Fast forward to 2009, I'm sitting in a psychology class, and again I am hearing those same statistics about single-parent households. The topic of discussion is the statistics of those living in poverty and low-income families. I hear the professor and other students say, “Most children in single-parent homes are African American or Hispanic, uneducated, will not graduate high school, are prone to drug use, and will have a criminal record."

I proceeded to tune them out, but the more they spoke, the more infuriated I became. Surely everyone at this age has been taught the damaging effects of generalizing stereotypes to a specific group of people.

I decided to join the classroom discussion because I was in the outlier that beat the odds, and I wanted everyone to know it. I graduated at the top of my high school class and was one of the few that actually went off to a four-year college. I didn't have any problematic behaviors, no drug use, no criminal record, and I did not have any children. It seemed like no matter how much I spoke up for myself and the other outliers that existed, no one was listening. It's as if they already had their minds made up about what was factual, but no amount of research studies was going to make me feel defeated. In fact, most people aren't aware of the real statistics that state Caucasians actually have the highest rates of welfare assistance, and African American women are earning more degrees than ever before, but no one is talking about that either.

I remember being so angry that I left class to call my mom so that I could vent to her. I was on the verge of tears. How dare these people and society try to tell me how my life is going to go? They don't know anything about me. It was at that moment I felt even more motivated to beat those odds and statistics against me. I wanted to prove everyone wrong, especially those that doubted me.

Children from single-parent homes can be successful.

In fact, I think it motivates us to work harder because we want better for ourselves. We know what it feels like to go without as children, so we are sure to make up for that in our adult lives. Being raised in a single-parent home has taught me:

How to be a strong woman:

I am a self-sufficient woman that has the determination and drive to be successful in life. I can be just as successful as, if not more than, any man, or child that grew up with both of their parents in their lives. My circumstances do not define my abilities to be great. I learned how to be bold and fearless.

How to survive on my own:

I understood the importance of handling responsibilities at an early age by watching my mom. She taught me how to work hard, run a household, and manage money at a young age. She used to say, “If all else fails, bills will be paid, and food will be on the table." I somehow became the family cook as well.

How to persevere:

Despite trials and tribulations that may arise, I will persevere. Setbacks will arise, but I am a survivor. I've learned to keep moving forward regardless of what happens in life. Failure is not an option.

I remember at one point thinking I would never make it go college because I kept hearing those same statistics over and over. Luckily, I was able to see beyond my current circumstances by refusing to let anything negative guide my life. Not only did I graduate high school and college, but I went on to earn a Master's degree.

I quickly learned how powerful my own words and thoughts can be.

This week's motto is “Not a Statistic." Be bold and brave enough to beat those statistics, stereotypes, and odds set against you. Kick down the doors to discrimination, and write your own rules. Like the old saying goes, you can do anything you put your mind to, just believe in yourself.

Never let anyone tell you that you can't reach your goals, or that you won't be successful. Make the choice to be who you want to be, not what “they" say you will be.

Featured image by Getty Images

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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