Jacque Aye created a successful business–Adorned by Chi–during a time she was struggling with complex feelings of anxiety and depression. Honing her creative outlets not only led to a thriving business, but also provided the means to make new friends online. Aye focuses on a niche market of Black girls and women who are interested in quirky, magical characters and uses bright, vibrant colours with anime-inspired designs.
Habiba Abudu (HA): Can you discuss your first experience with anxiety and depression?
Jacque Aye (JA): I’ve had anxiety my whole life. Growing up, I always freaked out when I was put in the spotlight, so I shrunk myself by staying quiet and not speaking or standing up for myself to avoid feelings I didn’t understand yet. My first experience with depression was in college; I was a Psychology sophomore and I felt isolated and overwhelmed. I had moved to a campus away from home for the first time and went from attending a small to a large, predominantly white school. That said, I think more should be done to prepare young people mentally and emotionally during the transition from high school to university.
HA: Adorned by Chi was created during a “low point” in your life. Can you talk about this time and how having a creative outlet and business helped you to cope with those complex feelings?
JA: It was a pretty weird time. I was depressed after college and I felt alone. During this time, I was also sleeping on a friend’s couch and I lost a lot of confidence in myself and what I was capable of. I ended up creating Adorned by Chi to honour God with my skills and provide a creative outlet for myself to represent Black women in a way I was yearning to see–soft, sensitive, hyper-feminine, quirky and nerdy. Through my business I regained my confidence a bit, met so many friends through networking events and collaborations with other creatives online. Social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook groups and Twitter also allowed me to meet people.
HA: On social media, you are candid with your mental health challenges. Being admittedly shy, what encouraged you to be open with your wellness struggles?
JA: Watching and reading about other people sharing their experiences helped me immensely when I needed it. By being transparent with my challenges I hope to inspire people as well. Also, the internet doesn’t feel real to me so I’m less shy on virtual platforms.
HA: Do you feel your family has been supportive with your mental health challenges?
JA: I’m a first-generation American and I’ll leave it at that!
HA: The Black community underdiscusses mental health, how has this impacted your experience with wellness?
JA: It’s been hard. It took me way too long to realize something was wrong, and when I realized I had a mental health issue I felt so much shame and thought I’d be judged. It’s also hard to find resources and help when I need it. The Black experience is unique, so in therapy I need a Black woman to talk to–which is pretty hard to find. Luckily, Therapy for Black Girls has been a blessing for me and many others because it is targeted to cater to people like me.
HA: The mental health journey is not straight. How do you deal with setbacks with your wellbeing story?
JA: I cry a lot, or I used to. Now I just allow myself to wallow. However, something new I’ve been doing is letting people in my life know how I’m feeling so they’re prepared before interacting with me and it also gives them an understanding to why I may be distant at times. I’m very straightforward and open about how I feel.
HA: What tips would you give to someone struggling with similar issues as yourself?
JA: Don’t feel like you’re alone and avoid being ashamed about how you feel. It’s not your fault and you can get through it. Trust me!