How To Find Your Purpose Through Adversity: With Fatima Alexander, Editor-In-Chief Of I Am Unashamed Magazine
I had the pleasure of interviewing Fatima Alexander, Editor-in-Chief of I Am Unashamed Magazine, Motivational Speaker, and Author, of The Faith of Hannah. She is a single mother, who through adversity found her purpose, but instead of keeping quiet she used the pain of her life to develop a cause to help other people find their way as well.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I Am Unashamed Magazine is no big corporation, has no big backers, or fancy media moguls to promote its message. I Am Unashamed Magazine is one woman, a working, single mom, who through adversity found her passion, and decided whatever the risk, whatever the cost, she would make a dream come true of helping others become whole again.
I endured a lot of pain in my life with the loss of my mom, my niece to brain cancer, and my son being diagnosed with leukemia, and I had to find a way to channel that energy someplace in order to not go mad. Writing my experience and sharing it helped me, and in turn helped other people. So with that thought in mind, I came up with I Am Unashamed Magazine. I felt that if my story, and posts on social media, and multiple conversations with others going through adversity could help them, that maybe a publication with not just my story but the stories of other inspiring individuals can truly help save lives. So, I gave up the luxuries and decided to invest into something worthwhile. I had many sleepless nights, with writing, and seeking out participants to feature, in addition to dealing with my son’s condition. At the time he was put in hospice, and we were told that he had only two months to live. I wouldn’t accept that diagnosis though, and fought those words to my family with prayer, and continuously helping others in need, and in return my family was given a second chance, when my son went into complete remission. But through that time I chronicled and re-read her own family’s journey for inspiration, focusing not on their pain, but how we pushed through each hurdle that came our way, and fed off those triumphs. Through that adversity, I felt it was important to invest that energy into others by writing stories of hope, perseverance and strength to enrich and motivate someone who has or is giving up on themselves. I realized that if people could read stories about others enduring the same things, then the reader would realize that peace and happiness aren’t out of reach for them, and that they too can fight, dream and take risks to make things happen in their own lives! But most importantly, through I Am Unashamed, I wanted readers to understand that no matter how dark the journey may seem, one must never be ashamed of what they endured, and if you stick it out to the end, having faith that there will be a positive outcome, that you will almost always run into a rainbow, but only if you never give up!
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
In the first issue of I Am Unashamed, I covered entrepreneurs mostly, but I did a campaign featuring children. It was an awesome experience, but it was also unexpected to see how all the little girls being featured were extremely conscious of the camera. They wanted their hair redone, they were asking for close-ups, but the funniest moment was this one toddler who took off running each time we counted to three before the photo was taken. We would count One…Two…and by the time we made it to Three, the young man was clear across the room. The photographer had to chase him around to get the shot of him, and in the end, that ended up being one the most amazing shots taken. It was full of so much energy and the joy on that child’s face said it all.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think what makes I Am Unashamed special and stand out is because it is about more than just me. It is about everyone. It is about the mother watching her child endure the pain of cancer. It is about the young man who has dreams of going to college, but his environment is telling him otherwise. It is about the young girl who wants to change the world, but feels like she has no voice. It is about that everyday person. It allows people with phenomenal stories of strength to be able to showcase their story in a safe place, void of criticism and full of love. I pick individuals who are willing to truly be vulnerable, and to share even the deepest pains of their journey, and they do, because they understand that this cause is bigger than them. They understand that in doing that it opens the doors to others to be healed, to find their way, and most important to be a light in someone else’s life as well.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Without the people who trusted me with individual stories I wouldn’t even be. Each time a person says yes, it truly humbles me. One of the greatest yes’ that I received is a 93 year old gentleman who had lived an incredible life. His journey took him through the pains of Jim Crowe to the historic moment of seeing our first African-American president. I interviewed Mr. Fields in October 2017, and he passed away two months later, but only after having the opportunity to share such a prolific story with so many people. It was at that moment, that I truly understood the importance of this cause. It was at that moment, that I took a step back and looked at how this man, and so many others trusted me with their lives, because they believed in what I was doing, and for that and each and every one of them, I am forever grateful!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
There are so many people out there who have something incredible to say. I use my success and cause to provide them with an avenue to do it. I read each and every email and message that I receive, and answer every one of them. I want to let each person know that they are important to me. I talk with them, and in some cases personally call them to ensure that all is well, when the emails are extra heavy. But most importantly, I use what I do to help others feel loved, cared for and comforted. One touching moment, was a woman who was about to take her life. She said that she was feeling hopeless and wanted to give up, but then I posted about something that I was personally enduring and she said in the message that she felt like if I could make it through all of that, then she could make it through what she was experiencing. It is those moments that make it is so worth it.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why?
That sometimes you have to go at it alone.
I was extremely surprised at how hard it was to get people to help you do things. So there were times that I had to make it work on my own. It was exhausting at times, but I had to understand that sometimes the journey is yours alone into you push through to the next level.
That you will want to give up a million times, but don’t.
My life was going crazy with my son being ill. I never got any rest with all that was happening. It was crazy to start a mission like this with your life in turmoil, but I did. Sometimes I would be up all day with my son, working full-time, traveling back and forth to the doctor, which was sometimes in other states, and then had to write whenever I could, sometimes all night. No rest at all for days sometimes. It was at the moments when I pushed myself to the edge that I wanted to sometimes give up, but then I would look at my son who would draw off of my energy and what I was doing and push all the harder. Or I would get a message that would make me push all the harder, and at the end while your weariness may make you want to quit — your passion pushes you to continue on.
It is expensive starting a new business.
Wow, the biggest thing, but yet the smallest thing was the investment. I had to really rethink my finances and how I was spending my money in order to make this thing happen. I cut back on EVERYTHING!!! But what I noticed in giving up my luxuries I wasn’t really giving up anything at all. It seemed like the more I saw things come to fruition the less I cared about the things that I “thought’ I was depriving myself of. There was an incredible sacrifice, but I am finding that while the sacrifice is huge, it has been so worth it, when you see how it is changing people’s lives.
Your loved ones are watching you.
It was so incredible to see how my children became inspired as they watched me. But it was also an eye opener that they watched my every reaction to the tough times, just like they did the good. If I looked stressed or strained they would really pay attention to what I did and how I handled it. One time I was a bit overwhelmed trying to do so much with so little time, and my 16 year old said “Mom, you are so strong, and you make me so proud.” At that age, it’s so comforting to see that he saw that what I was doing, and understood what it was for.
Not everyone is going to be happy for your success.
I believe that this was the thing that really hurt me the most. I had so many amazing things happening for the magazine, and started to notice that the people in my life who had been in my life for a very long time weren’t very supportive of me. Some even stopped speaking to me for reasons that I couldn’t understand. It was in that moment that I understood that life will always have those types of people, but as long as I stayed true to myself that I could work through that disappointment and hope that despite the reasons they felt the way that they did, that it would not move me from fulfilling my purpose.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I would love the opportunity to meet with Bill Gates. Here is a man who has done such incredible things in this world, but still continues to stay humble. Through his business and foundation, Bill Gates shows what a true leader is all about. If I had the opportunity to sit with him, I would want to know what drove him to push through. I would also ask him how doing it made him feel when looking back on his life, knowing that he did it, and succeed his way and on his own terms!