Name: Theresa Hayes Role: Model, Activist Based in: Brooklyn, New York
A Black Lives Matter activist and mental health and wellness advocate, along with having been a Louis Vuitton exclusive for three consecutive seasons, Theresa dedicates her social media presence to supporting underserved communities and to bringing about awareness for the need for broader mental health and wellness social services and assistance. In this feature, we explore a breadth of sociological factors that impact our wellness, from work, to foster care and adverse childhood experiences, to race. Theresa Haye’s positive and resilient outlook stands out in a way that makes one hopeful for the rising generation of creative leaders taking their place.
1. In your words, describe who you are
I describe myself as powerful, peaceful, happy, beautiful, smart & loving. I’m someone who loves and respects nature so I’m up for any adventure!
2. I love your bio on your Instagram, “remember to breathe”. It’s similar to the message that ATEM (German for breath) champions as well. What’s your experience with anxiety, depression, or mental health?
Thank you so much. I recently added that to my bio because I’m always reminding myself and others to breathe. Just taking a minute to take 3 deep breaths is so helpful in all situations.
During one season of fashion week, I had a panic attack and I wish I knew how to meditate and breathe at that time!! Soon after that experience, the universe kept sending me messages about meditating and I gave it a shot; I learned to control my breath and then gradually build up my time meditating.
3. What does self-care mean to you?
Self-care to me means crying when necessary, journaling, meditating, talking about my feelings/problems, taking spiritual baths, doing shadow work, being in nature whenever I can, and speaking affirmations.
4. What is some “self-talk” you’d said to yourself in the past year to protect your mental health?
In the past year I’ve said three things: “I’m grateful”, “I’m thankful” thought to “why I’m happy;” it’s helped me to be more grateful for the things I have and not focused on the things I don’t have. I’ve had times where I had to look at myself in the mirror while crying, hug myself and let myself know that everything is going to be okay and that everything happens for a reason. It’s impossible for me to control every situation and I have to trust the universe fully and its powers, let myself know that I’m not in this alone and that I have love & support!
5. Have you ever been interested in or pursued therapy? What’s your opinion of therapy?
I went to family therapy when I was in middle school for some time to deal with the trauma of being in foster care when I was a kid. I believe it helped me be able to talk to someone I didn’t know about my emotions at such a young age and to be able to process it all.
I strongly believe in therapy and I suggest everyone at some point in their life talk to one. We have to break the stereotype that black people don’t need therapy because we absolutely do. It’s such a blessing to have someone listen to you and work through your emotions and problems you have in your life.
6. Let’s talk about the intersectionality of race and mental health. How do you see the mental health of your community right now in the United States?
In my community I can see people taking mental health way more seriously and actually paying attention to how situations make them feel. I can see more support within the community: people are leaning on one another more and I love it! It shows can all help and lean on each other in one way or another.
7. Was there a moment growing up as a child when you had an experience of being made to feel less than for the color of your skin?
As a child I went to an elementary school where the students were predominantly white, like I could count all of the people of color with 2 hands. I remember thinking, “why does my school get to have a gymnastics class apart from regular gym class, and a drama class when all of the other schools I attended before with predominantly African American students didn’t have that at all.” I didn’t really understand why things were the way they were just because the people lived in different neighborhoods, but I began to understand as I grew older.
8. What do you think the long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the current climate politically will be on minority communities, especially children of color?
I think this will strongly affect the children in minority communities, because some of these kids rely on school to escape abuse, hunger, and parental or familial neglect. I think a lot of mental health issues can and will arise from these problems, but that’s only if we as a community will let it.
9. Can you share some brands in the fashion industry that you respect for using their platform to champion authentic representation and wellness?
10. Describe your self-care plan.
My self-care plan consists of cleaning up my apartment, taking a spiritual bath (during which I usually meditate, read a book, write in my journal and chant “Om”). Then, I’ll meditate with a sound bath in my spiritual room and stretch my body. Sometimes I’ll even pull a tarot card :).
11. Letters to My Younger Self: If you had any advice to give your younger self, what would it be?
If I had any advice for my younger self it’d go like this:
Dear Baby T,
You are so beautiful! Believe it. Inside & out. Don’t listen to the bullies, don’t listen to that little voice in your head telling you that you’re not good enough or you don’t deserve a beautiful life! You deserve to be happy and loved. Love others, but more importantly love yourself first.
Be free! Don’t limit yourself for others because you are a butterfly, so let your wings be free babygirl! Live in the present moments, always!
I love you,
P.S. Listen to your intuition because she won’t steer you wrong.
A native New Yorker, Theresa Hayes was scouted on the streets of Manhattan while on her way to an agency open call. Theresa began her career as a Louis Vuitton exclusive, continuing the exclusive relationship for three consecutive seasons. Since, Theresa has expanded her brand portfolio to include runway appearances for brands including Saint Laurent, Valentino, Dior, Bottega Veneta, Hermes, Miu Miu and the like, with campaigns for Prada and Marc Jacobs Beauty. Theresa has graced the pages of Harper’s Bazaar, Document Journal, T Magazine and Numéro internationally, to name a few. On her free time, she volunteers with and dedicates her personal resources and time to the Brown Girl Butterfly Project, which provides tools and therapeutic practices dedicated to creating healing and nurturing initiatives within the Black and Brown womxn and nonbinary communities. Theresa currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.
Read Clinical Jessica Lopresti’s discourse on racism and mental health here, mental health for youth by mental health non-profit founder Danny Tsoi here, and more on racial micro-aggressions and their impact on mental health here.
Interview and Edited by Susan Yoomin Im
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