This is a weekly staple affording our readers the opportunity to share their personal testimony regarding abuse, violence, disease, family, happiness, faith, jail time, obesity, and/or mistakes made in their youth, just to name a few. Let your testimony be a blessing to someone else attempting to overcome a particular avenue in life.
On April 2005, one month before my high school graduation and 18th birthday, I walked into Planned Parenthood seeking birth control assistance. Per their protocol, I was given a pregnancy test and learned I was pregnant. Raised in a Christian household, I was petrified and couldn’t fathom the thought of being a teen mom, let alone telling my parents. Furthermore, as class president, homecoming Queen and varsity cheer Captain, I felt as if I just wanted to die right there in the clinic.
I was already accepted into Florida State University, and upon speaking with my parents, they asked if I would still pursue my college plans. I replied “Yes”. They embraced me and my high school sweetheart, Anthony Wilcox, Sr. and said “life goes on.” I was wowed by their response but they were confident I would further my education, and set out to fulfill my dreams.
I did just that. I attended Florida State University in June 2005 while Anthony deferred his football scholarship to stay in Tallahassee with me and witness the birth of our son. On December 20, 2005, I gave birth to the most precious gift I have yet to receive, Anthony Wilcox, Jr. Fortunately, it was during the Christmas holiday break and when he was 3 weeks old, I started my 3rd semester of classes. At the time, I knew the odds were against me, but I was determined to graduate within 4 years. Most importantly, lead a life my son would be proud of and one affording him the ability to truly understand the essence of “never giving up.”
When Anthony Jr. was 6 months his dad had to report to his Junior College in California. I was left to physically take care of our son, balance a full load of college courses and work two jobs. Though he helped financially and spent time with him on his breaks, I was a carrying quite a load, doing it all myself. With my sister, Applemania attending Florida A&M University and my oldest sister, Alfreda, relocating to Tallahassee during my college years, I was blessed to have them a part of my support system! But they too, had a life of their own. I had to develop networking and trusting relationships with others (college friends) to help me. I couldn’t do it alone and surely, it took a village to help me become successful.
There were moments I felt overwhelmed with relationship issues. I had broken up with Anthony, and balancing motherhood along with classes and work wasn’t easy. There were times I faced financial hardship and many reasons to give up, but I kept going. I became involved with the Black Student Union, Student Government and pledged in the Zeta Omicron chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. I was also a member of the Garnet and Gold Guides, where we guided families and official football / basketball recruits during their visits at FSU. Soon enough I was no longer Altrichia Cook, instead I became the “girl with the cute baby”. It was all love and support. I would be a resource to other pregnant girls on campus seeking counsel, grants they may have been eligible for, and other necessities to help them be successful.
In August 2009, I graduated from FSU with a 3.0 GPA and celebrated this moment with my son and my family. My son was my motivation through it all. I furthered my education at Florida A&M University, receiving my Masters in 2011.
Upon graduation, I relocated to Lakeland FL and worked as a probation officer. I have always loved fashion and upon relocating, I started thrift shopping frequently. As I purchased these vintage finds, I would create and re-create looks while working with a tailor to make these creations come to life. In March 2013, while planning a trip to Puerto Rico, I aimlessly searched for a high-waist swimsuit to mask my abdominal imperfections. Frustrated and unsuccessful, I took matters into my own hands and created my own high-waist design, and had the tailor to materialize my idea. Upon loading my designs to social media, I instantly gained a following from women interested in my designs.
Upon returning to my hometown and working as an officer, I knew I would not work as a PO forever. Therefore, I spent time brainstorming business revenues for myself. I knew I wanted to (and still aspire to) establish a non-profit center / residential program for teen moms in need of direction. I figured that would in my later years when I would be financially concrete. So, I spent time thinking about establishing ideas to start a trucking company. My father had been in that business since I was little and he made a great deal of money…. then, I thought about starting a child care facility. For whatever reason, those ideas went onto notebook paper and stayed there. I was not motivated because none of them were my passion. With that being said, when I saw the inquires for my high waist piece instantly I felt an unction and heard a voice from Heaven whisper “That’s it this is your business!” I will never forget, I was sitting in my office on a Tuesday afternoon preparing to head to court, and my inner voice said create a pitch-stitch that said “Allusions by A.Lekay Highwaist Swimwear Coming Soon..”
This idea afforded me the opportunity to launch my very own business, Allusions by A.Lekay Swimwear. Utilizing social media, I was motivated and decided to move forward with researching, sourcing fabrics and drafting a contract with my tailor to get the ball rolling.
By sharing my story, I grew my brand and realized I have a platform. A platform to share and inspire was truly my passion. I decided I wanted my brand to only offer high waist style swimwear. My swimwear is a lifestyle brand to empower women to be confident and live life fierce and fearlessly.
Becoming an international brand within a short span, having clients in England, Spain, and Ireland to name a few, I continued to wow myself. By learning to invest in myself, serving others and being fearless in reaching out I was able to catapult my brand via social media. Two words “thank you” have also been the moving force of the elevation of my brand.
These qualities have taken me far. Being a GIRL BOSS and servant is who I am, and who I have been since I can remember. This past July, Nicki Minaj graced the cover of the July issue of Cosmopolitan Mag wearing an Allusions by A.Lekay design. So Here I am, this 2 year brand, landing a major collaboration with an international medium and the Queen of Rap! This within itself reinforces my life’s mantra “there are infinite possibilities to those who are determined.”
As a result of my ability to create opportunity, my drive and willingness to serve others, I have been humbled and grateful to receive numerous awards and media mentions. From Teen Mom to successful millennial business owner, my ambition, fearlessness and ability to Make It Happen have allowed me to soar.
A Girl Boss indeed, however, I am still a servant mentor and community leader. In February 2014, I launched the Sweetheart Seminar, an empowerment seminar hosted on Valentine’s Day empowering teen moms to promote self-love and confidence.
I will continue to utilize my platform to empower women and spread the notion that as woman, we must collaborate and NOT compete! I disagree with the colloquial saying that “it’s lonely at the top” because we can create opportunities for those willing to work hard and take them with you!
If I could leave readers with a piece of advice, I would simply encourage you to NEVER GIVE UP! In life we will face hardship, unexpected obstacles and issues designed to be road blocks in our lives. However, we have the power within, to turn those roadblocks into stepping stones!
To connect with others that can empower and encourage us to reach out highest potential!
In the poem, “Don’t Quit” one of my favorite stanzas reads:
Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
Written by A. LeKay