Last week we concluded our three part [wellness] series titled Entering Autumn. Through this series, we’ve spoken to some of the newest faces in the [wellness] industry about the steps it would take to smoothly transition from Summer to Autumn. From its start, it was clear that it would leave an imprint on those who chose to receive these messages; and it seems the most impactful lesson learned through this series was the idea of having a strong community, which brings us to today’s interviewee.
Known for her comforting & down-to-earth aura, Priscilla O. Agyeman, known as the founder of Saddie Baddies has mastered the art of curating a healthy social community; and spoke to us about its beginnings today. The platform, which has accumulated over 9.000 supporters, was launched as a means of collective healing. Since its launch, it has gradually become one of the newest safe havens for people who struggle with mental health. With us being just 2 weeks shy of the ending of Daylight Savings; one of the most influential factors towards mental health, it is ESSENTIAL that we begin finding & showcasing outlets such as these.
In today’s interview, we got the opportunity to speak with Ms. Agyeman about the beginning of Saddie Baddies, how her personal journey with wellness has influenced her profession, and much more.
Full interview below.
Before we begin, would you like to introduce yourself?
Of course! My name is Priscilla O. Agyeman, MPH (she/her) and I am a mental health activist, digital content creator, and public health professional. In 2019, I created the digital platform, Saddie Baddies [which is a virtual sanctuary designed for people of color to destigmatize mental health and initiate collective healing]. I think it’s useful to mention I’m also a first generation American [birthed by Ghanaian immigrant parents] which is a huge part of my identity and storytelling. This part of me heavily shapes the lens of experience and narrative I share via Saddie Baddies.
Leading up to this interview, I knew about your platform; but as time went on, I grew to be curious about your own journey with wellness. Your platform is rooted in destigmatizing [the topic] of personal wellness in the Black community; so as someone in this community, what was your introduction to the topic? When did you realize that wellness was more than just an interest [for you]?
My introduction into wellness honestly started with me realizing there was a void in the wellness space to begin with. I never saw Black, queer, plus-sized or disabled bodies represented in the media growing up; especially not in regards to wellness as we know it today. It was overwhelmingly white, cisgender, and thin.
As a teen, there was an incredible volume of information on how to lose weight, how to exercise for a beach body, and how to reduce your calorie intake- with no regard to the overall baseline of health of an individual. I unknowingly internalized a lot of these harmful messages growing up, and as a young adult in my early 20s, while undergoing my own struggles with anxiety and depression in college it finally hit me that there was really no visible safe space for Black people and people of color to just exist.
To unpack our trauma, to share resources, to talk about spirituality, to have dialogue, to heal our relationship with our mental health. After being inspired by the Tumblr era of the mid 2010’s, I was led to create Saddie Baddies as a safe environment for the collective. I was having bits and pieces of a larger convo around wellness with my friends, but I didn’t know if making it educational would resonate with anyone. But it did; and ever since then, it’s taken on a life of its own.
“We’re always on a spiritual journey…”
At the time of the platform’s launch, how long had you been on your personal journey [with wellness]?
I’d say I was already three years deep into my spiritual/wellness journey, consciously. I say “consciously” because whether we are aware or not, we’re always on a spiritual journey but one day (or eventually) it just starts to feel more present and aware. How I know when it started was when I hit my ‘rock bottom’- I experienced my first depressive episode in 2017. So beforehand, I’d experienced bouts of sadness and even had multiple panic attacks, but nothing so deep and consuming as this first depressive episode. I was struggling heavily internally, felt this overwhelming feeling of loneliness and despair, and I didn’t have any coping mechanisms at the time outside of dissociating completely. [I know] this situation isn’t singular, because so many other people can relate to a similar experience. I know this now as the ‘dark night of the soul’ which really summarized both my spiritual and mental struggles at the time.
I ask the last question because people often assume that advocates/enthusiasts (specifically in wellness) have rarer moments of [mental] tribulations. What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about advocates/enthusiasts?
The biggest misconception about wellness enthusiasts or mental health activists is that we’re these self healing guru. In reality, at least for myself, I am constantly doing shadow work; constantly looking at the dark parts of myself and I’m still learning how to transmute that energy every single day. I’m not a guru or a guide, not ‘higher than thou’… I am a Black woman who’s just acknowledged her trauma; and feels compelled to create safe spaces for other Black and marginalized folks to do the same and heal collectively.
If I am correct, this platform launched in 2019. Can you remember your initial goals (or intentions) for this page; and do you think the events of 2020 strengthened or changed some goals?
Yes, you’re right! When I tell you that I had absolutely no intention of Saddie Baddies being anything other than a virtual sanctuary, a safe digital space, I mean I had no concept of how you even start a ‘brand’ from Instagram.
I didn’t really understand or see myself in this space [and] I never predicted that I’d be this person people actually look up to and seek information and advice from. [I was] deeply unaware of the business side of it all, like working with brands, having a media kit, fleshing out my communication channels, developing a business plan, and knowing when to outsource certain skills to people who can do it better. I feel like a self taught queen, but I also do an enormous amount of background research and I ask a lot of questions. [I can tell] when someone is an expert on a subject, and I either just observe or have conversations with them on what I’m not yet well versed in. That’s accumulating knowledge. Everything’s been such a learning process but I’m eternally grateful to be a vessel in this community and this work. Last year, I realized how much I needed my community too, especially during a time of so much fear, uncertainty and confusion. I leaned on my community so much, I started being more honest and vulnerable, and they really hold space for me just as much as I hold space for them.
I remember watching the year  unfold and entering a cycle of personal angst, somber & overall confusion; and this is as an everyday person. As someone whose job includes guiding people out of cycles similar to the one I’ve explained; how were you able to cope & separate your feelings as an individual and a mental health advocate? Did the lines ever blur for you?
Oh, this is such a well thought out question. I definitely had to learn to cope and separate my feelings as just Priscilla vs Priscilla of Saddie Baddies. Social media can really obscure peoples’ perception of you, because they’re getting a filtered reality instead of the real, raw, organic view. I prioritized therapy last year more than ever, and I created boundaries with my work and personal life. I made the decision to not be active on social media until I’d completed my morning grounding routine which usually starts with meditation and ends with some form of movement. It completely transformed my relationship with social media, and allowed me to make time and space for other facets of my life that need nurturing just as much as my community.
[I believe] the way the platform dealt with the events of ’20 solidified its credibility as a safe haven. When you think about that time, do you get overwhelmed with just how much you were able to get through; especially while helping others [along the way]?
Whew, yes! Oh my God. I’ll be going about my day sometimes, and I’ll just randomly remember how absolutely batshit crazy last year was us and the whole entire world. I’m still in disbelief at the volume of loss and suffering we witnessed. My previous job was at the biggest hospital in NYC, so being in the midst of such chaos was sobering to say the least. Shoutout to my loved ones, community and ancestors for protecting me, honestly. I still don’t know how we all survived, in some ways, even thrived, but we did.
There was this collective unraveling that happened last year, on so many levels, and I had to sit with parts of myself I hadn’t needed to visit in years. There is so much progress that needs to be made moving forward; politically, medically, socially, economically. I also think understanding that social justice and anti-oppressive work should be at the forefront of our priorities as a society is crucial. We can’t really heal unless these systems that keep us suffering so much are uprooted.
Learn about another collective that raised the moral of 2020 in our interview with Sabrina Abdalla; founder of The Cirri.
With that being said, is there a [specific] legacy that you would want to leave with Saddie Baddies? If someone was asked about the platform, what would you hope they say?
Wow. This is such a powerful question. I would hope that they felt represented, supported and loved by the platform of Saddie Baddies. [I can only hope] that it expanded their perspective on self care and community care; [and] I can only hope they felt less ashamed for asking for help, because it is one of the bravest and boldest acts of love you can ever do for yourself.
Because you specialize in mental wellness, are there e tips and tricks for how you maintain your mental health. Is there anything you personally do to keep your psyche in a good space? What’s something that always works for you?
Oh yes, for sure. I’m really into aromatherapy, and just creating a calming environment wherever possible. For me, that means my oil diffuser in my office (for a calm vibe, I go for lavender, vetiver, and eucalyptus), plants all over my home, smudging in the morning with incense or sage, and setting my intention for the day. Cooking homemade meals and trying new recipes is my go to. Charging my crystals under a new moon.
My morning routine really holds me down; especially because I do work a full time job outside of Saddie Baddies. I commute to work in NYC [and] that alone is a lot of stress on my mind and body. I’ve been using Prismatic Plants ‘Good Day’ CBD elixir for about three months now and it’s helped with my stress management so much. I also work out about five times a week, which allows me to get out of my head and feel embodied. I don’t go to a gym anymore, I just use the Nike Training Club and Nike Running Club apps. Both of those combined have all the workouts I need. But I also can’t resist a good tiramisu or sleeping in on the weekends. I think that’s called balance.
We are officially a month into Autumn, and as beautiful as it is; this is usually around the time people notice a shift in their mental health. Are there any words of wisdom/advice you can give for someone who doesn’t know where to look for guidance?
I can definitely relate, since I also deal with seasonal depression during this time. Now is the time to schedule your therapy appointments, go to your doctor and get your annual health exams, especially to check your Vitamin D levels and other labs. Cook nutrient dense, warm foods that will improve your gut health and fill you up. Refill your prescriptions, design your autumn/winter self care routines as I’m sure it’ll look much different than the warmer months. Connect with your community, invite your loved ones over (safely) for biweekly dinners and potlucks. Schedule FaceTime dates with your friends. Read some fiction, exercise your imagination. Find a new hobby you don’t have to monetize. Remember you’re not alone. Loneliness can literally kill us, so centering your community is important at this time.
Lastly, is there anything you would like to tell your supporters?
I love every single one of you, honestly. Thank you for trusting me to lead this community, and I can’t wait to continue growing together. We have so much planned for the next few months: events, a podcast, and other exciting programs so I’m just grateful to be here and be a vessel for these experiences.