“My name is Leona, I’m 42 and I live by the seaside in Margate on the Kent coast of England. I’m self-conscious and angry, which isn’t a great mix. As a young person I would flush red if any attention came my way, I’d never speak my true thoughts for fear of humiliation and storm out of situations I felt uncomfortable on a regular basis. It was a lonely existence numbed by alcohol and clubbing in my early 20s – until I started my first creative business.
I was working as a freelance assistant stylist in the music industry when a make-up artist and I decided to sell all our stuff at Portobello Market to move to Ibiza. Before we could make the move my pal fell in love with a boy and I fell in love with the market. I started to buy stuff to sell, mainly second-hand clothing – no-one called it vintage then – and I customised my finds and shortly after moved into making accessories from found objects.
Engaging my creativity in this way that not only paid my bills but also gave me a sense of freedom to make decisions that were right for me was life changing. I went on to launch my first e-commerce website, open my own bricks and mortar shop in Shoreditch, London and build a jewellery brand with 240 stockists worldwide. It was a brilliant 7 years in total and I achieved more than I ever thought was possible but unfortunately my inner critic was deafening at the time. I thought I was getting it all wrong all of the time, I didn’t celebrate successes, I didn’t take time off and I was still the same self-conscious person that was deep in the trenches of imposter syndrome and scared of losing it all.
At the height of its success, I closed down my first business and didn’t work for a year afterwards. I’d bought my first property in London from cash I’d made myself and took to my bed. Thank goodness for my cats Joey and Dee Dee Ramone who slept either side of me that year. Cats just know, huh? I started selling vintage again when Instagram launched in 2011 and the friendly, warm community of second hand lovers that I could virtually chat to each day helped me to start believing in myself again – I *could* do this. I wasn’t quite ready to dig into my fear of failure at that point but nonetheless I launched my subscription box Lucky Dip Club in 2014.
A few more businesses and a long stint in therapy later and here I am with two decades experience under my belt and the confidence to say I can still be my own worst enemy. I’ve turned down the volume of my negative inner monologue and I have a clearer idea of where the internalised voices have come from – they’re not me. I have boundaries in place that protect my energy and mental health and I’m learning to love myself one day at a time. Learning about self-compassion, self talk and giving myself the freedom to explore my own creativity free from the definition of someone else’s view of success enables me to move forward. Reading and listening to podcasts is the most accessible way to start this journey and I wholeheartedly recommend Playing Big by Tara Mohr, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and Untamed by Glennon Doyle.”
We are so excited for our segment called Meet the Mental Health Artist where we will share a story from a Mental Health Artist, where you’ll hear about their journey, how they got to where they are now and how creating (whether through music, graphic design, writing, painting etc) has helped/helps them through different mental health issues.
As well as this, we will have IG Stories Takeover in the week of when their story goes up with each artist, where you will be able to see more of what they get up to/behind the scenes, ASK any questions you may have about their creative media/work/inspirations/healing etc & get answers from them and generally, find out more about them, what they do and tips they have for maintaining their mental health.
Leona will be doing an Instagram Story Takeover on the 2nd of June on our Instagram account, so make sure to tune into our stories that day – and if you miss it, you will be able to catch up with it in our Highlights on Instagram.
Check out our ethically made, from 100% organic cotton – merchandise to help raise mental health awareness: https://kayska.teemill.com/