Eslee, Photographer and Art Director On Work and Mental Health, Faith, and Getting to No

Esther Choi, or as her online community refers to her as, @eslee, is a creative mind to watch. More impressively, and should one find themselves meeting her #irl, you’ll find her offline self exudes an inner grace and wisdom that appears to reflect a life far older than her own (she’s a mere 32). We chat with Esther and explore all things wellness: work, faith, balance, and skincare, and also get hints and tips on where this art director and photographer gets her artistic inspiration.

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Freakquencee on Manifesting Affirmations, the Real Influence of Trauma on Her Life, and Mental Health in the Family Sphere

Name: Freakquencee 
Role: Hiphop/Funk/Soul Artist
Based in: Newark, NJ
Age: 26
Freakquencee

1. In your words, who are you?  

I am someone ever growing and changing. I am someone that doesn’t completely know myself yet and I am forever learning. I am also a healer, an influencer, and an amazing life changing artist.

2. Give us a day in your life. 

I pick Thursday. Every Thursday I wake up at 10AM to prepare for my weekly therapy session.  I stay in bed for about 10 to 15 minutes to give my brain enough time to fully awake. Once I get up I sit and take a brief moment to give thanks and say my affirmation and contemplate on what to wear and how I want to express myself for the day. Afterwards, I prepare to leave and finally exit the house around 11:30AM. At 11:59PM I arrive at the counseling center for my 12PM session. The session lasts about an hour. After leaving the center I go grab a bit to eat from any local vegan eatery and then I head home to take at least an hour or two to myself to unwind before I start answering emails or doing anything business related. I most likely always have a show/recording session/meeting or a rehearsal to prepare for. By 6PM my work is usually complete so I change into my nightlife clothing and prepare myself for the rest of the night. My day usually ends around 2-2:30AM.

3. Describe your wellness regimen. What are some actions you take to keep yourself well (mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually)?  

I’m still working on finding things that I enjoy doing alone or with the people I care about. However, right now my wellness regimen looks like going to therapy every Thursday, reciting positive affirmations everyday to keep my brain afloat, going to the gym and finding balance between my career, my personal life and the people I care for.

4. You’ve mentioned that you are the first person in your family to really live life at large and out loud acknowledging, talking about, and pursuing mental health– being the one to do anything “first” is a big step for anyone. What have been the dynamics like in relation to that, and discussing mental health in the family sphere? 

I grew up in a household where discussing mental health wasn’t really a thing. As a child in my household it always seemed like the more you held in, the stronger you looked in the eyes of everyone else. Talking about mental health is still something that isn’t easily done in my family. There are a lot of stereotypes surrounding seeking therapy/counseling, some that may have turned my family off completely from seeking mental health. Some like you have to have money to afford talking to a therapist, mental health is only for crazy people, and mental health only being a thing for white people. I also believe that my family as well as many people don’t really understand what practicing positive mental health looks like. Positive mental health can be as simple as reciting positive affirmations everyday, learning to say no when you don’t agree, drawing boundaries with family, friends and associates. Taking up that favorite hobby that makes you feel good, practicing positive self esteem, working out, practicing healthier eating habits, talking about your feelings and also checking yourself when you do negative things as a human or things that may hurt others. I believe my family has to discover these truths on their own.

5. You are a big advocate of using affirmations for your life and your professional endeavors. Give me an example of how you go about it. Maybe tell us how an affirmation practice of yours played out, in actionable, “it happened like this” steps. We want to know.

My affirmations are more like mantras. I wake up and I take a moment to allow my brain time to catch up. Once I’m up and ready to stand, I stare into the mirror; It’s important to watch yourself, it makes a bigger impact. I believe in the universe so first I start by giving thanks to the universe, the same way one would pray to any God one believes in. After giving thanks to the universe for my existence, my life, and the loving people I have surrounding me, I give thanks to my ancestors and I also give thanks to myself because it’s important to recognize your own power and self worth. Then, I tell myself that “I am creative, I am accomplished, I am a phenomenal songwriter, I am an outstanding freestyler, I am a wonderful performer, I am happy, I am healthy, I am focused, I am wealthy.” I tell myself these things because I believe that humans are masters at manifesting. We have the power to bring whatever we think and say into existence. The more positive things I tell myself, the more I start to believe and act on it. The more someone says they have a crappy life, the more the universe provides them with that crappy life. Lastly, I picture my day and all of the beautiful things I want to happen for the day. I close my eyes and literally talk to myself as if the day has already happened for me and I try to think about it in the exact mood I would be in if something amazing has already happened to me. 

For example: I opened for Canadian singer/songwriter Ruth B. this past summer and I manifested my entire night.

Before I left my apartment to start the day I gave myself a moment to close my eyes and envision my day. It went a little something like this: “Today was fu*king incredible! My performance was amazing I can’t believe how much my skills have improved since my last performance. The people I’ve connected with are amazing. Everyone enjoyed my set. I made people dance, I made people cry, I made people release tonight. Wow, Ruth B. absolutely loved my performance and I can’t believe I have a collaboration with her. Tonight was so beautiful.” The scariest thing, but like scary in a good way, was that my day happened exactly the way I envisioned it would. At that exact moment I had more belief in the power of manifestation and positive affirmations than ever. For anyone that wants to try my manifestation technique, I would encourage you to say your affirmations and envision what you want as if, it is already yours and as if it is in front of you. Even if your don’t believe it yet. Take a chance and try it out for a month, because why not take a chance on your mental health? Why not take a chance on something that may benefit you?

We have the power to bring whatever we think and say into existence.

6. You have nurtured a love for music for 9 years, after having gotten your start in expression through the medium of poetry. Describe how it felt stepping into the roles you are in now, and continuing to develop your long-standing passion for music.  When does work transform into play? How does that feel?

Honestly, I feel a bit of everything. Especially lately, I’ve been getting really amazing opportunities. I’m surprised that I’m making a dent in the world of music but I’m also humbly cocky because I always believed I would. I also feel grateful to all who support me, grateful that my words are so powerful, and grateful to feel empowered through them. Work transforms into play when I am just creating music and performing. I absolutely love making music and performing with my bandmates, Liam aka Limabeats, Justin Guitarcia, Quinn Devlin, Bymaddz, Jake Stampen, Roc, Brandan Burdock, Nate Larose, Josué Simon, Hans, and Chiekh. Haha I don’t mean to name everyone, I just have a lot of respect for these guys so I had to mention them all. Creating music and performing– it doesn’t feel like a job at all. It feels like I’m speaking directly from my high self.

7. You are so passionate about your community. That’s pretty apparent through your platforms and your way of living. You hug a lot of the supporters that come out for your performances and you’ve hosted spontaneous mental health sessions too. How do you maintain the energy to keep on giving despite the emotional demands of being a performer and a community leader? Where does your motivation come from? 

I think that this is who I naturally am. I was born a Pisces and we naturally feel a connection to the world, to others and showing all beings compassion. Being that we’re the last sign of the zodiac we normally share so many qualities of the other 11 zodiacs and this is what I think makes it easy for us to connect to everyone. I’ve always felt an urgency to help my community, to help the people I share this world with and to show compassion to the animals we share the world with. I have an abundance of energy because this is my true spirit so I don’t feel drained. I only feel drained when I feel my spirit is being attacked, mistreated, or when I feel I am doing too much or not being my honest self.

My motivation comes from me seeing and understanding the demand for help in my community and in the world. I also realize that I have the ability to help and influence so I use the tools I have to help whenever I can. I have my life path numbers 33/6 tattooed on the back of my neck to remind myself who I am and what I stand for. I also have a koifish swimming up stream for good luck and great achievement on my arm to symbolize what I want to manifest in my life. Also, I was this years old when I found out how Pisces of me that is, haha. 

8. Tell me about a time you experienced poor mental health. 

I was just in a poor menstat. I’ve probably dealt with it for the past 2 and 1/2 weeks, maybe longer.  

I was under the weather for a moment and ended up gaining weight from lying in bed eating and resting up. With that I started to feel really bad because I’ve been working in the gym so hard to work off the weight I’ve gained back. I started to feel unattractive and once in that negative mind state, things in my life started to feel like they were falling apart and I got into a personal problem with my family and on top of that I got into another situation where I dealt with some really toxic masculinity in my neighborhood which left me feeling really powerless and I was in this really negative mindstate. It wasn’t until I listened to a song I have called “Driven” where I cried and realized how powerful I am and that I’ll be okay. I’ve also had a session with my therapist and randomly met some really beautiful souls. 

9. Trauma played a role in your life and in your mental health. You were raped/sexually assaulted (let me know which term you prefer I use). How would you describe the journey you took or take in continuing to heal from such an act of violence and what is it like, having an “invisible” injury such as that, which affects one internally as much as say, a comparative “physical injury” of being hit with a car or experiencing a violent physical scuffle?

I was raped: I was 12 years old and my innocence was taking advantage of. At first I felt guilty, confused, like I was to blame, like it was my fault, like I didn’t know myself, alone, just so many different hurtful emotions and it took me to some very dark and ugly places. Places I’ll never want to go again. It took me 12 years to get to a place of mental health I can be comfortable with and I still get flashbacks. It can be something as simple as a smell, a color, a word, a sound or even random memories or dreams. It’s something I feel I will always deal with, but I learn better ways to cope with it everyday. I realized I use to carry a lot of self hatred for myself, and in a way a I had developed a silence. I use to not speak up for myself or stand up for myself in moments I felt really mattered. I sought out the worst relationships and I thought I could carry tons of baggage because I’ve been through some pretty heavy things. Practicing self love, realizing that I am a different individual now and keeping it real with myself, confiding in a trusted someone and now seeking therapy, learning when to speak up even when the world stands against my decisions, demanding my respect whenever in spaces that where the minority is me, the black, queer, woman. Are all ways I’ve learned to find my power again and I see that I am extremely beautiful and powerful and I learn more everyday. 

10. What is something you want to share to those in your community who are specifically affected by trauma?

It is a frustrating, complicated journey. Be patient with yourself and the time it takes for you to heal. Be kind to yourself. It is okay to start over, it is okay to get angry, it is okay to be confused, it is okay to not know. This isn’t an easy journey but it is worth it. Dealing with trauma, I’ve always felt like something was taking away from me mentally. I now realize that I still have what I felt was taking from me, that I’ve always had it. My trauma just made it hard for me to recognize it and what has changed about it, but I am in control and I am relearning myself and empowering myself through every start. 

11. What is the next frontier in wellness for you? (Basically, what’s up ahead?)

I want to get back to meditation, I’ve been searching for ways to cope with my anxiety but kind of also avoiding meditation because I’m afraid of starting it over again. I also want to fully break down the things I find hard to understand about myself. I am currently working on that with my therapist.

12. What is a brand, organization, or an item in the wellness (I use the term wellness here liberally, basically any do good, positive impact related entity or thing that promotes good “health” or “wellbeing” of the world, or it can be referenced in the individualistic sense like the coffeemaker you use or the beauty product you use, etc.) space that you are in love with? 

I am in love with spaces that provide artists with a place to just work, expand and be. My good friend Regine Luis has a art studio in Newark, NJ that feels peaceful and provides me with peace of mind when I need it. If not there, whenever I am on stage. I truly feel free.

Interview by Susan Im

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