Minaa has the kind of voice coated in brown sugar. Much like her brand, it’s distinctive and makes you feel at ease. When we got on the phone a few weeks ago to talk about “Respect Your Struggle” (RYS), it felt like I had known her for years. Minaa first reached out to me about RYS at a time when I was knee-deep in vetting pitches. But, hers stood out. The concept stood out. This idea to extend our truths to the rhetoric of clothing felt new and different to me. In this interview, Minaa details how she came up with the concept for RYS, how her own story has influenced the brand and what she hopes young people can learn from sharing their truths.
Tell us a bit more about the story behind Respect Your Struggle. How did you come up with the concept and what does Respect Your Struggle mean?
Respect Your Struggle was birthed while I was working as a psychotherapist at a substance abuse treatment center. I conducted individual therapy and I also co-facilitated a co-ed group of 12-15 clients. Although my clients had one thing in common which was drug addiction, they each had their own individual stories to tell. It was through the exchange of stories that begot healing. Through the power of words and the sharing of intimate struggles, it immediately moved me to start a movement for people to learn, love and embrace their struggles.
Respecting your struggle means to proclaim your strengths alongside your weaknesses. It’s about learning how to be a light even in your darkest times. It’s most importantly a reminder to embrace every feeling that flows through the body: the good the bad it’s all a part of our story.
What is your current struggle?
As a kid, teenager and currently as a young adult I am brave enough to say that depression has been a lifelong struggle for me. Depression has had a stronghold over my life and has caused me at times to forget my worth. One thing I will say is that though depression is a part of my past and though I am currently fighting it right now on the battlefield I choose to walk with my head held high knowing that this entity will be defeated. I am on a journey of writing my testimony; I am on a journey that will lead me toward a place in my life where I will one day say that I finally conquered my Goliath.
An important part of this initiative hinges on storytelling. Do you think storytelling is a lost art? Why or why not?
Though I believe storytelling has never left, I believe that society has made storytelling less of an art and more of a praise report. What I mean by that is the telling of a story, or at least the telling of one’s life story, was all about removing the illusion of perfection and giving the world a glimpse of the thoughts that take precedence in one’s mind–to rise out of secrecy and to be transparent, to be vulnerable and to tell a story from the depths of one’s heart.
It’s all about taking your reader into a deep dark place where your words are permitted to run free and compels someone to release a story of their own. But now, all we get is nothing but surface stories; nobody wants to go deep anymore, we get nothing but praise reports because all we see is the good. Storytelling has become the twin of Instagram–the world only wants to upload and share the perfect moments and the victories, but what about how you got there? Every story has a beginning, yet too many people skip over the first chapter, they skip over the climax that sometimes includes the storms and tribulations and they take you right to the very end, to the destination. No story is perfect, if one considers themselves a storyteller and can only offer the last chapter then that’s not a life story, it’s a fairy tale.
How important is it for young people to admit weakness and vulnerability?
A part of being human is learning to accept that failure and weakness are a part of the package in life. To embrace vulnerability and admit weakness will be the strongest thing a person could ever do for their soul. To walk this earth without the ability to freely feel every emotion that flows through the body will simply rob someone of their ability to live as openly as they can. We all have moments of weakness and we all have moments of failure, and we have to understand that that is okay. We live in a society where people love to tell others that they are “overreacting” or “it’s not that serious” and will try to make you feel bad for having feelings. We are all entitled to our feelings and that is the one thing you should never allow someone to dictate.
What is your goal for the brand within the next year?
Within the next year I hope to see Respect Your Struggle become a movement that consists of more than just a fashion statement, but a platform where humans are brave enough to share intimate parts of themselves. I hope to turn this online movement into a mobile movement and have the ability to turn Respect Your Struggle into a mobile tour where we travel and simply share stories. I want to show the world that courage and vulnerability really do co-exist and to simply teach people how to become true storytellers.
What keeps you inspired?
There is so much in this world that keeps me inspired. From books to TV shows, to quiet walks by myself, coffee dates, riding the dirty NYC subway, visits to my dad’s grave, alone time with God on the boardwalk, a warm hug, a reminder that I am loved, binging on shows like Breaking Bad and Once Upon A Time, writing myself love notes, stuffing my face with popcorn, that long line to get inside Hillsong NYC church–it all inspires me. It inspires me because it’s life and life is my true source of inspiration. I’ve learned to fix my eyes on the unseen, the unknown and the more I anticipate not knowing what is yet to come, the more I’ve learned how to be inspired by what lies right in front of my face.
Minaa’s closing thoughts
After launching Respect Your Struggle, I decided I wanted the website to be more than just an online store but a place where people could not only seek encouragement, but also encourage others. I know it can be hard for some to share an intimate story of what their struggles are, but I also don’t want a valuable life to be silenced.
For those who struggle with vulnerability I created something for you and that is called “The Human 2 Human Experience.” On the website respectyourstruggle.com there is a tab titled “Be Inspired” which takes the reader to my personal blog where The Human 2 Human Experience is published. This project is conducted interview style and the Q&A gives people an opportunity to learn how to give a piece of them to the world without having to give too much. So with that being said, I am looking for humans who want to be brave with their lives and inspire others. Humans who are interested can contact Minaa B at jodearchbold [at] gmail [dot] com
Minaa is a daughter of a King, a friend, a sister, a writer and a lover. I’m Minaa B and I’m on a journey to a land where people finally learn how to embrace every feeling that flows through the body. I trust my journey while at the same time learning how to respect my struggles.
Follow Respect Your Struggle: Twitter + Instagram: @RespectRYS