Renée Simone, Model: Grounded in Liberian & US Roots and Pursuing Her Now & Future In South Korea

“I was interested in South Korea before I came to live here so it made me eager to keep learning about Korean language and culture. This curiosity, openness, and desire to culturally assimilate makes certain things easier in adjustment as a foreigner. But it’s not always easy. There are times I feel like I have to have my teacher hat on– needing to politely correct racially/ethnically ignorant comments, looks, or gestures, but I understand that comes with the territory of being and looking different in a country that has been a reflection of homogeneity for decades…
Somewhere down my childhood, I learned that being a “strong” woman was a great honor. However, in my world, the virtues people praised in the “strong woman” were things like suffering and carrying on dutifully in self-sacrifice for her family, or the collective. I grew up being taught that the strong woman was defined as one who put others first, always. Always, always, others before oneself. With this in mind, I did not feel I had access to the full understanding of mental health nor the freedom in evaluating, validating, and responding to my needs, which is what I needed as an individual and woman. For a long time I separated myself from pursuing the whole of mental health– it was more of something I read about in textbooks, heard from friends, maybe saw in a few good relationships that surrounded me.