interview by Brianne Patrice. photography by Kaye McCoy.
“Just keep going”, Brittney said to me during my interview with her. A black woman’s ode summed up in three words to just…keep…going.
A subtle reminder that Brittney offers to each of us through the branding and product placement of Alexandra Winbush. A self-care and wellness brand that upholds our right and privilege to hold space for ourselves. To remain soft and kind during those downtrodden times and an offering of permission to slow down when necessary but, to never cease in forward movement.
In other words, we’ve got to keep pushing, sis.
We are a generation dedicated to breaking generational cycles and ill-forsaken curses. We have opened the floor to candid and honest conversation. We are a healing one; refusing to further this tradition of passing down trauma to the next— we are shifting the paradigm.
And as Brittney Winbush leads by example, this is her message to you…
As I explained to you in the email our theme for the month is ‘The Personal is Political’ and we want to highlight all of the ways that we as women of color and persons of color, in general, show up in the world as political beings. And you, Brittney, as a woman of color who owns a business— that in itself is a political act. Therefore, it only seemed right that we take time to sit with you and a few other of our faves this month. So my first question to you is:
When you hear ‘The Personal is Political’, what exactly does that mean to you?
When you first sent that over my initial thought was, “The Personal is Political...I’m not in politics”, but as I sat with it a little bit longer-- I thought about my work being part of a bigger responsibility within our community. I thought about the things that may be we deemed personal like self-care and wellness; things that we’ve kept to ourselves in the past and how they are now creating a playground, if you will, for each other to thrive within our community. And it's no longer just for play either, it’s a necessary happening that will allow our community to work together. Making sure that, first, we are well together.
I’ve already mentioned how being a woman of color and owning a business is a political act. So I would like to know, what exactly led you to create something not just for you, but for us as a community? What was Alexandra Winbush’s birth-story and how does it further shape the way that you present to the world?
Well, it started off personal. It started off with me working on my own healing. I was depressed after surviving a house fire that started in my room. I lost everything. But, more than the material possessions, I felt as though I had lost my comfort zone. I was in college at the time and I would come home from Athens to Atlanta. Like most days, I would stay in Atlanta and then go to Athens for like class or something but when the house burned down I could no longer do that. So, I was left feeling like I’d lost my sense of comfort and joy.
I had to re-create something for myself.
I had to create something that would help me get out of this depressive state but that would also provide me a zone to feel safe again. And ironically that came through candles— I think it was the aromatherapy through natural tea leaves and then of course, music. Therefore, for the past 5 years that’s just always been my go-to; whether I’m sad or feeling displaced. Wherever I am, it just made me feel like I had a little bit more control. Like my comfort didn’t have to be tied to a specific space, that I could create it on-the-go. I can make a cup of tea and have it with me wherever I am and you know. Or I can light a candle when I travel and I can play music whenever I want to. Like it doesn’t matter where I am, I can bring the comfort to me instead of me going to it. It doesn’t have to be stationary. It doesn’t have to be tied to something so specific because at anytime those things can leave us. So, when I was thinking about what I wanted to do and the kind of business I wanted to start I said, “this has helped me. and yes, I've been in a literal fire while everyone else may not have been, but you could just be having a rough day or maybe you just need a reminder to take a moment for yourself. And while the products are cute, they’re nice and they smell good more than anything they serve as reminder to create space for yourself. A reminder that you deserve to feel safe and they offer you a chance to just reflect, feel and be in the moment— whatever it is”.
And how has this continued to shape the way you present yourself to the world? And to others?
I have always been candid about my anxiety, my depression and things of that nature so, I think that daily it has continued to encourage my own mental health journey. It serves as reminder to show up because with anxiety and depression I feel as though, sometimes, it’s just so easy to just stop. To just be still. But, you know there’s a message that I preach often and that is to just keep moving. Even if I’m have a bad day or I’m feeling extremely anxious to the point where I may have to call up my therapist and be like, “I need to see you girl, like today if you can fit me in”— thus, instead of being sad, sitting still in that moment and just keeping it all to myself, I will share it with my audience and I will say, “I know you guys see these wins that happening are but, here’s the reality of my mental health. And here’s the reality of me still pushing. And you also can push through and if you need help, I’m here to talk with you”. Not stopping is how I show up in the world. I might have to slow down some days. There might be days that are harder than others, but I will always remain in motion. You, too, can slow down if you have to, but you cannot stop— because when you stop its hard to get going again.
Your products are catered to the ways we as women are allowed to love on ourselves. During this political climate, however, how are you staying informed while still tending to your personal?
I know when I have to unplug. And that is so important for me because I do get wrapped up in the things that I'm reading, listening to, and/or watching. And because I’m hypersensitive and super emotional, all that I take in really has affect on me. So, I have to know when to take a break and I'm just so blessed to have an amazing friend circle where I can be like, “I need yall to post for me on AW because I can't get online right now”. It’s too much sometimes, it’s all too much. I get the information that I need because I need it. I do need to know what is going on around me, we all need to know what policies and things may or may not form and how that will impact us but only to a point. The moment I begin to feel as though, I’m sinking into a hole I immediately unplug.
We always hear the term, legacy, in regards to men in the passing on of their name, but Alexandra Winbush is the beginning of yours. So what do you hope to leave behind?
I hope to leave behind a space for people to just feel a little bit more comfortable. I hope that when it's all said and done people will feel as though they have a space to unload. A space to talk about their mental health without it feeling like taboo. Of course, it'd be great if everyone had a candle but that isn’t my goal. I want people to have somewhere to go and not feel judged for dealing with whatever it is that he or she may be going through. I want this to be so much more than a candle and tea company. Before it’s all said and done, I want this to leave a legacy of ‘we made people’s mental health better’. I want people to be affected by this product and by this company but in a positive way. And my hope is that people will then pass this on to their kids, saying to them “this product helped me to take some time for myself and I want to encourage you to do the same”. I want other women to pass this on to their daughters, equipping her with the tools necessary to just hold space. And then, at an even younger age, she’ll be able to teach her daughter creating this paradigm shift for generations to come to openly discuss the effects of mental health.
So my last question to you is, how has becoming a small business made you more aware of your own buying power?
I just think about it all the time now. Even when I do pop ups and markets, especially if they are two days, I make sure that the second day is dedicated to me going around and supporting the other vendors. Recently, I was at an event in Atlanta It was mainly a dance party and there was just one vendor in the corner and I made it my responsibility to patronage. I understand businesses investing their money to be in these places and people following their dreams. So whenever I can support a business, I will.
Also, we [blacks] have the power. I feel like I'm in a great age. I have a great target audience that is willing and ready to buy and I want to do the same. We have to continue to pour into each other. I'm constantly reminded of that because there were so many business owners that poured into me that were you know in a better place than I was when I started. They were able to support me, shop with me and buy for their friends and their families. And I definitely want to do the same and I will always do the same. Especially with buying black products. If I hear about it and it's something that I can use or support, then I always will because it's important.
Okay, I’m just curious to know, have you always been supportive of black businesses or do you find yourself being even more supportive?
I've always been supportive but I definitely find myself being more supportive. I've never been a marketshop with vendors kind of girl. And in that situation it was definitely more intention around it. Before it was like if I heard something or if somebody shared something with me, I didn’t necessarily go out of my way. But now I find myself going the extra distance to support black businesses.
Brittney Winbush is the CEO & Founder of wellness brand, Alexandra Winbush. Brittney created Alexandra Winbush as a way to cope with depression after surviving a house fire that nearly claimed her life. The process allowed her to find safety and comfort within her new space, while sparking a passion for self-care. With a B.A. in communication studies from the University of Georgia, Brittney utilized her people skills to share these self care resources with others, which currently include customized candles, teas, and playlists. Through Alexandra Winbush, Brittney continues to connect people through self care and mental health.