From Drugs & Sex to Saved & Depressed: How Bri Continues to Overcome & Empower Women
By Adunola Adeshola
We will never reach a moment where we feel like we have arrived. In fact, it is in those brief moments of arrival that we realize that there is still more to achieve. More we must do, see, fix, manage, adjust and so forth.
But isn’t that the beauty of life? That there is still more to see, more to learn, more to gain and more to change?
Yes, there will be challenges and circumstances that we will overcome. Yes, we will have cause to celebrate and every now and then our Instagram and Snapchat will be poppin’ with beautiful photos of love, success and fun.
But, the reality of life is that when the dust settles, everyone – no matter how successful, poor, young, or old – is still a work in progress.
Our intimate, and always transparent, conversation with our founder Bri’Ann Stephens was yet another reminder that it is ok to be a work in progress and that our imperfections simply lead us to a perfect God.
In our latest interview with her, she dives into the experiences that led her to where she is today, she gives us a peak into her current struggles and she lets us in on her plans for the future.
For those who aren’t familiar with your story already, could you share a little bit about your story before you became the founder we know you to be today? What memories and experiences impacted you the most?
Most times, young girls learn about sex during a sex education class or they are given “the talk” from their parents. Well, my first encounter with sex was watching porn at the age of six.
Growing up, I lived with my mom, her two sisters and their kids – my cousins. My mom gave birth to me at the age of 19, she was a single mom. Our mothers worked to make sure we were taken care of, so many times my older cousins were left in charge.
With no real authority, we basically did whatever we wanted. That was the time I was introduced to porn, watching it simply because that’s what all the older kids wanted to watch. I knew watching porn was something we had to keep a secret from our parents, but I never really knew why. The older kids told me keep it a secret, so I did.
I didn’t notice how being introduced to sex at a young age would have such a huge effect on me today.
My junior year of high school, I began to experiment with my sexuality. I had entertained the idea before, but never seriously. Once I began dating and being sexual with women, it was something I couldn’t stop... and I didn’t want to. I went from simply actively having sex with women to being in relationships.
It became my lifestyle. For about 8 years of my life, I considered myself a "lesbian.” I didn’t want to be with a man emotionally, the only thing a man could do for me was stimulate my body. Women were more appealing to my mind, so I latched onto women.
Once I graduated high school, I attended Lamar University. I began to take drugs consistently. I drank so much that I felt sick sober. I partied, smoked, drank, and popped countless amounts of pills.
I dropped out of LU after the first semester. I returned home and thought I would make a change in my life, but I didn’t. I continued the downward spiral from 2011 to 2015. The liquor intake increased, the drugs got stronger, and sex was more intense.
Around that time, I was completely lost. I found comfort in women, drugs, sex, and being “the fun girl.” Everyone loved me, so I didn’t think I was flawed. I knew my life wasn’t perfect, but I enjoyed the spontaneous thrill of not knowing what was going to happen next.
My life was always up and down. I was always moving into a new home, new school, making new friends, meeting new guys. Everything was always new. I loved new. I hated being understood, because I was never understood. I didn’t even understand myself.
However, I wanted clarity and I wanted to be happy. I wanted to be the woman God designed me to be. I knew continuing a life of conforming to my fleshly desires wasn’t the answer.
In your blog posts titled "My First Boyfriend After 8 Years of Lesbianism" you talked about being in an unhealthy relationship with a woman. Tell us about that experience. How did it influence who you are today?
Well, that was the worst relationship I have ever been in – in my life. It was extremely toxic, but at the same time it was both detrimental and beneficial to my growth.
It was detrimental, because it created a false sense of what it meant to be in love or in a healthy relationship. It was a mirage. However, it was beneficial because it sucked so bad that I ran to God and held onto him like never before. That was the beginning of my transformation.
After being left with nothing, I decided I needed a change in my life. God took away my "friends," the drugs, the money, the women, and He changed my life. It was extremely hard to transition, because it was a culture shock for me.
I literally lived on weed, ecstasy, Adderall, alcohol, and other drugs. I barely ate and always wanted to feel high and different. I would have sex with the most beautiful women and I loved strip clubs.
So, imagine going from that, to locking yourself in your room, praying, painting, listening to Hozier, and writing poetry for a month.
It was hard, but it was truly the happiest time in my life. It was a month of finding God, and finding myself. It was a month of learning what I like and loving the parts of me people did not understand. It was a month of finding my purpose and walking in my light. Change is hard because sometimes it takes God breaking us down, so that He can build us up.
How has becoming a founder and business owner changed your outlook on life?
I find a way to lead in every situation. Similar to a body, everyone plays a different role and all roles are important for the body to function properly.
My outlook on life has changed from "self-focus" to "What can I do in order to lead in this area that I am in?" I try to set that tone no matter what I am doing.
As a founder and business owner, what advice do you have for new entrepreneurs hoping to make their mark in business?
Just do it. Most people spend months second guessing themselves. Whatever it is that is put on your heart to do, plan it out and execute. Do not second guess yourself and your business. Do not let the opinions of others sway your judgement. Pray about everything and let God give you the answers.
Something I do is write essays, I will choose a topic I know nothing about or a little about and I write essays about the topics to teach myself. Sometimes I even write essays about things I feel as though I know, you can never know too much.
Mimic those who are in the same field as you. "To know the road ahead, ask those coming back." Whoever it is you look up to and aspire to be, learn their story, their routines, their lessons and take from it what you need and leave what you do not need.
What is the biggest lesson you've learned within the first year of starting Pink Productions?
The biggest lesson I've learned within the first year of starting Pink Productions is that everything, good or bad, can be a learning experience when you're following the will of God.
Things have happened that I did not like and things have happened that I did like. No matter what, I learned a lesson when I obeyed God. It is easy to sit and focus on what went wrong when things go wrong, I've learned to find the beauty in it all.
The beauty is the lesson. The beauty is the knowledge that comes from it all. Everything God does, he does it for a reason.
Running and growing a company can be a lot of work. I'm sure you have to step away sometimes to relax and regroup. In those moments, how do you recharge?
My favorite place on earth is Memorial Park in Houston, Texas. I love to be out in the sun, on the grass, meeting new people, eating snow cones, and popsicles. When it is time for me to relax and regroup, that is definitely my go to.
Other times, I paint, drink wine, put my phone on do not disturb, and watch Netflix. I love food, so sometimes I will even go out to eat.
As entrepreneurs, we make ourselves believe we are not productive if we aren't piled up in work, making moves, or not sleeping. I do not know why this generation equates not sleeping with success.
I am a firm believer on taking breaks, sleeping in some days, or even taking a week long hiatus. These are things you have to do, not just once every year, but often! You cannot give what's in your cup, if your cup is empty or half full.
Outside of Pink Productions, what other goals do you hope to accomplish in life?
I have so many goals, I will share my top 5 life goals:
Travel the world—while making a living and making an impact
Get married & have a lot of children—with a Christian foundation
Go back to school
Meet and work with Beyonce, Michelle Obama, Norah Jones, and Diana "Wynter" Gordon
My life goals go on and on. There is a poem that I keep close that reads, "It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting." Paulo Coelho.
We can’t wait for you to check those off your list! I know that it's so easy for other people to see your life and think that you have it all together. What insecurities would you say you're still struggling with and how are you working to overcome them?
I still struggle with lust for women. I struggle with trusting people and letting people get close to me. I struggle with overthinking and over talking. And, my biggest insecurity is depression.
The only way I get through my day to day with all of these struggles is with prayer and my best friend. I know prayer can sound cliché, but it works for me. There is a peace I get when I pray, because I feel as if it's not mine to carry anymore. Insecurities are like baggage, and prayer is my way of letting it go.
My boyfriend is definitely my accountability partner and he is always there for me, but it is always great to be able to talk to a woman. My best friend, Klarke, has helped me through so much in just 7 months. So, I would say, prayer and just having someone to talk to who knows you. Not someone who just knows your surface, but knows your layers and knows you internally—the you, you're afraid to show.
As a member on the team & friend, I've always admired your boldness & transparency. You've opened up to the team about your struggles with depression. Could you share what it's like to deal with depression?
This is a tough question to answer because I don't know if there's an analogy that I could use to fully describe what it's like to deal with depression.
Depression was always something hard for me to open up about because I am saved, I am the Founder and CEO of an amazing company, I am a leader, I am a mentor, I am a daughter, friend, girlfriend, and sister.
So being that I am all of those things... "I am not supposed to be depressed."
"Depression is not something that happens to a girl like me."
"I have too many responsibilities to be depressed."
"I am a Christian. We pray. We don't get depressed."
Those are the things I've heard and the things I would tell myself. For me, depression doesn't come from situations, circumstances, people, things or lack thereof - depression is a feeling that comes when it wants to come.
Depression comes whether I start my day early with prayer and coffee. Depression comes whether I sleep in because I took sleeping pills the night before. It's a feeling that is overwhelming sometimes.
Before giving my life to Christ, I would get depressed and it would lead to suicidal thoughts. Now when I get an overwhelming feeling of depression, I can identify that it's just the enemy (evil spirits) and I remind myself that it will not last long.
I remind myself to give it to God and that it will go away soon. Sometimes, I will go months without feeling depressed, other times I will go months feeling depressed.
I just remind myself that it will not last long and that my breakthrough comes through perseverance. Talking to someone also helps me deal with depression. My boyfriend and my best friend are my go-to people when it comes to what I am feeling.
It's great to have people to talk to who actually take the time to understand what you need and when you need it. I do not always know the words to say or how to even get them out. It's great to have people in my life who can listen to my actions and my lack of words and know exactly how to respond.
Pink Productions is a huge part of what keeps me going – I get out of bed everyday with something to look forward to, I love what I do and why I do it. That helps me.
I guess if I could describe what it is like dealing with depression, it would be: Depression is like suffering from extreme migraines (or extreme irregular menstrual cramps).
I know that it is coming, I know it will hurt, and I know it will be severe pain. I just do not know when it's coming and when it will end.
With friends, I know I will have someone who will rub my head or bring me a heating pad. I know it may be hard to deal with, but with God I know it will not last forever and I know I will get through it.
Wow, I know that many people can, unfortunately, relate to that. Relationships seem to be a very important part of your life. I know, from experience, that relationships are quite often reminders that we are imperfect. They often teach us what we still need to work on as humans. How have your relationships with friends, family and even your significant other led you to a better understanding of yourself?
My relationship with my mom (Tiffany), my sister (Chelsea), my boyfriend (Ray), and my best friend (Klarke) are the biggest reminders that I am not perfect.
My mom complains about a lot, things that she has the right to complain about, but sometimes it can be overwhelming. I can remember times when she would yell and I would ask, "why are you hollering?"
To me, nothing is that deep. However, I find myself nitpicking and complaining about the same things when it comes to my boyfriend, sister, and best friend. It has taught me to have more compassion and consideration towards my mom and her things, and it has also taught me to be more compassionate towards my sister, boyfriend, and best friend.
I believe my boyfriend, sister, and best friend are all complete replicas of me. So many times they show me things about myself—things I love and things I do not like so much.
It has taught me truly that growth is something that happens over time, not overnight. I am learning from each of them how to be a sister, girlfriend, and friend. They are all beneficial to my growth and I am thankful for the lessons.
There are other people in my life who have taught me major lessons, but it is the closest people to me that have watered me, and vise versa.
If you could go back in time and give your younger self some advice, what would you tell young Bri’Ann, particularly when you were six, seeing and experiencing things most six-year-olds don’t experience, and when you were in high school struggling with your identity?
Wow. I would tell my six and high school self the same things.
It is okay to be different, and be weird. Do not be afraid to stand out.
Sex is not how you keep people close. Cling to God, not sex and sexual people.
Your mom loves you and she is proud of you. She is learning the same way you are, be patient and show her compassion.
Your dad never showed up. That is his loss, not yours.
Poetry is cool. Keep writing, never stop.
You often talk about protecting your peace. Why is that so important to you and what ways do you protect your peace?
Protect Your Peace is actually a daily reminder of how Phenomenal God is and insignificant we really are. Protect Your Peace means:
Trust that God is God and whatever will be, will be.
We have no control over anything but ourselves, so why get worked up over something that we cannot control?
Situations, life, and people are not perfect and in some cases, things will not go the way we had hoped. In those moments, we have to make a decision to trust God and not get worked up over things we cannot control. It is important to protect your peace because understanding, wisdom, and knowledge comes from peace, it comes from stillness and silence. I protect my peace in a couple of ways:
Walking the park
Venting to a friend
There is power in knowing and understanding that we hold our own power of peace.