LEAH VERNON | Model, Speaker, Writer, Muslim Feminist + Body-Positive Activist | Pod No. 17
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HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW.
Sometimes, life brings in people when you least expect them and they become the exact person that you need most. That is Leah V for me.
We met at a diner in Detroit. Rose's Fine Food. I grabbed us a table. It was in the early stages of my Recovery from my Eating Disorder and so I sat nervously glancing through the decadence that was the menu. Pancakes. Bacon. Eggs. All of it looked good. None of it I could have. Yogurt, I thought. I'll just do yogurt. Leah came shortly thereafter. "Thanks for checking on the bathroom situation. I have IBS, you know. I've always got to make sure an establishment has a bathroom in the case I need it." Interesting, I thought. She doesn't know me and yet here we are talking about what I would consider a very intimate subject. "You're welcome."
Leah grabs the menu. She takes a gander. The waitress approaches, "what'll it be?" "Yogurt for me! Leah?" "I'll have the pancakes, eggs (not too runny, not too dry), bacon." She looks at me, "I'm hungry." My stomach dropped. I probably am too. The waitress leaves us. "I wish I could do that. That is my dream meal." "You'll get there." And we switch topics into what turns into a two-hour conversation.
You'll get there. That subtle, yet strong phrase has stuck with me since. I, like Leah, can overcome anything as long as I put my mind to it.
Flash forward 7 months later, Leah and I find ourselves in the Podcast Room of the Detroit Foundation Hotel, looking into each other's eyes, as we dissect her Story.
“I never felt like I belong. I remember being very young and feeling like, do I belong here?
What is my place on this earth? Why am I here?”
“Being dependent on other people is a no-go. And don’t trust people. People are out to get you. I had that mentality growing up really hard because I didn’t know any other way. That’s what I was taught. That’s what I saw my mom doing. She didn’t ask for help. She’d rather struggle than ask for help. But within that struggle that we put ourselves through we’re destroying ourselves. I didn’t know that so I took on the same thing - like, you needed help? you don’t say anything - You just suffer silently.”
“Right now my Truth would be to dive into The Unknown even though you’re, like, super knees buckling, like, I wanna throw up type of fear. Do it anyway. I tell my platform that a lot and I tell my close friends, do it anyway even though you’re scared. Because the things in my life that I have been totally fearful of have been the best decisions I’ve made in my life.”
That's the Truth of Leah. All labels tossed onto her - MUSLIM, FEMINIST, BLACK, WOMAN, FAT - she lets fall by the wayside. These WORDS do not define her anymore. Now, she challenges these labels, proving that every human being is allowed to be exactly who they are.
This didn't come over night. After a bad divorce, Leah hit her lowest of lows.
“I was not eating. I couldn’t sleep. I had, not thoughts of suicide, but thoughts of like, why am I here? What’s the point? No one’s connecting. I don’t connect with them. I have no value. So why am I taking up space on this planet? And I’m going to admit myself to the psychiatric ward. It’s the worst feeling you could ever have to be at the lowest of low. Where you’ve lost everything. Where you don’t see anything good for yourself for the future. You don’t even see the future. It doesn’t exist.”
Reaching out for help, Leah called the Muslim Family Services, where a Somali woman picked up the phone and pulled her out of herself. She saw Life once more. Hope. That is the Power of acknowledging others' stories, truths, flaws, pains, and traumas.
Now, she uses her story, her voice, to shine light on issues that are not nearly talked about as much as they should be. She provides a voice for the unheard. She lends an ear to those who need it most. She bares her soul because within there is the Power of Healing. That is the significance of Leah stating those very simple words to me, "you'll get there." She, unlike me, believe in me. She, unlike most, believes in you. I am humbled and honored to call this gem of a human my friend. Thanks for sharing your Story with me and my listeners.
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“As I got older I started to be like, okay, so he’s not that good of a person but I still wanted that connection with him. I kind of want a Father but he’s abusive when I go over there. I’d go over there still. I never told my mom that he fat-shamed me. I never told my mom that he bad-mouthed my religion, or made me feel uncomfortable. I never said anything. I don’t think she knows to this day because I thought, she wasn’t going to allow me to go over there anymore, and I’m like, I need a father.”
Body Image Post from our Photoshoot
She's got a book coming out SOON.