Being a lifelong fan of the life, work and career of Russell Simmons I was flattered and a bit overwhelmed at his invitation to add my voice to this forum as The Jessica White Diaries. In getting started I thought I would take a moment to share a little about my story, and some of the topics I hope to address in the future on this blog.
Most of you know me from my work as a model, perhaps having seen me in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue or my commercials with Maybelline.
But what you probably don’t know is that I grew up in the hood in Buffalo, NY where kids tend to grow up way too fast.
Raised by my sisters and a single mom after my father died I know all-too-well, as many in our community do, the hardships faced by children growing up with parents in abusive relationships or without the loving support of a father and, likewise, the critical role that strong women like those in my family play in getting us on our feet.
But having a strong support system can only protect you from so much. Sex and drug abuse, many will agree, confront the children in our community way too early and always too often.
I know the helplessness of watching your best friends become mothers long before they are prepared for parenthood. I know how hopeless it feels to watch your family and loved-ones ruin their lives and the lives of those around them with drugs and alchohol.
Having been sexually abused as a teenager, I know first-hand the disastrous effects it can have on one’s spiritual and emotional development, the difficulties of working through the anger of victimhood, as well as the many ways sexual abuse can wound and inhibit one’s ability to enter into trusting, healthy romantic relationships.
Success in modeling came early and quickly for me. The money that came in was beyond the wildest dreams of myself and everyone in my family whom I was happy to support in my new role. Needless to say, I made some serious misteps on managing my finances in the early days and know what it feels like to go without food—not because you’re trying to lose weight, but rather because the agents you trusted stood idly by as you ran out of cash. Successfully managing money—knowing who to trust with it and where to seek the right advice—is one of the most difficult and important lessons I’ve ever had to learn.
But through all these trials and tribulations, throughout life’s journey, I’ve also learned how to heal, how to let God into my life, find a spiritual center and the strength to work through anger, learn to trust, feel and express love again, and move on.
Basically, I know what success looks like from both sides. I look forward to sharing more with you and if you have any ideas or comments, please share them with me!