Glenessa Martin is the quintessential professional. Her boss chick moves saw her being the founder of Aspire Foundation Jamaica, director of G-Branding Creative Marketing Solutions, and talent coordinator at The LAB. Nothing, of course, beats being the proud mother of a smart and witty two-year-old. But when the world shut down, due to the pandemic, she found herself at a crossroads and decided to develop coping mechanisms through mental check-ins on social media. It all started with one post.
A year ago, Martin struggled to get out of bed because she lacked motivation and was depressed. “Many nights, I curled up on my floor crying, because I wanted to do better; I felt as if I was failing my daughter and also failing myself,” she explained to Flair. Martin even found herself requesting antidepressants from her doctor, but because she was breastfeeding at the time, that wasn’t an option.
This was a far cry from the Glenessa that her family and friends knew and loved. Growing up between her parents’ and my grandmother’s households, Martin was always creative. And she never hesitated in showcasing her artistic prowess through drawing, singing and acting. “My brother and I would write poems and have lyrical clashes. My cousins and I were always exploring our wild imaginations; in fact, I think that is where I get my storytelling skills from. I remember performing at church and my mother would always be the first to jump up and give a standing ovation,” she recalled during the interview.
While attending Garvey Maceo High School in Clarendon, the student entertained the idea of becoming a lawyer. But when the time came to make a career choice, Martin grew conflicted between pursuing a degree in drama education or arts management at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. In the end, the latter won the scholastic battle.
Armed with her qualification, she charged into the entertainment world, excited to learn and bring her passion and spark to the industry. She loved making magic and discovering new talent. She also learned to jump a few hurdles along the way.
“The entertainment industry is a male-dominated field, and being a young female in the business hasn’t been easy. Two major obstacles I have encountered have been sexual harassment and inequality. On numerous occasions, I have had remarks made about my body; men tend to freely express their fantasies. I have overcome these obstacles by creating boundaries and earning the respect of my co-workers. Over the years, I have discovered that people give respect when they realise you know what you are doing,” she asserted.
So when the entertainment arena suffered a major blow from the lockdown and restrictions, this shift in the economy emptied many pockets and crushed countless creative spirits. This overachiever wasn’t spared from such wrath. With no plan B in sight, she experienced a year of unemployment and had nowhere to turn. So, she took the time that she had to start the conversation online. She posted the question on her Instagram story, ‘Hey Mommy, Are You Okay?’ The responses to her simple yet complicated question made her realise that she was not alone.
“I thought I was the only person in the world who struggled mentally. I was surprised with the responses I got. So many people have voices in their heads. One person in particular stated, ‘The voices get louder everyday and I am barely just hanging on.’ That resonated a lot because I, too, had voices in my head and constant anxiety attacks,” she shared.
While Martin has had unwavering support from family and friends, something she never takes for granted, she didn’t believe enough strides were made on her part and to her, life had no purpose.
The mother and career woman would always be transparent about her mental state in the virtual world. This paid off with each question having more than 30 responses, many of which saw persons expressing what they were going through, and on equal footing, offering words of encouragement. “A young woman expressed her gratitude because she felt as if she wanted to end her life, and I believe that being open about my situation helped others to be comfortable enough to share. I am so happy I could have created a safe space for my followers.”
Her healing continues and she remains focused on the task of passion and progress. “Today, I get up and show up, no matter what the challenges. I realised my life depends on me. I also must set an example for the little girl, who watches my every move. And while every day is not perfect, I wake up, I listen to music and get ready to take on the day,” she highlighted.
G-Branding came into play out of her depression from COVID-19. Creating content and having social media became her escape, so she was encouraged by her daughter’s father and close friends to consider the option. “G-Branding primarily focuses on social media management and content creation,” she said. Her other start-up company, Dolls Like Me by Nyla Simpson, was created for, and dedicated to, her daughter and little black girls like her.
Aspire Foundation is still her first baby, although the pandemic affected their opportunity, Martin and her team are working towards embarking on more projects in the near future. As for The LAB, the talent coordinator revealed that work culture is very beautiful, “While the job can be demanding, they understand the importance of prioritising mental health. This is encouraged by special activities throughout the year, my favourite being Spirit Week,” she explained.
CREATE A BALANCE
As a working-class woman and an entrepreneur, it is difficult to create a balance. She challenges her bouts with procrastination by going back to the drawing board and rethinking the game plan, and writing in a journal to remind herself that “… I am the ‘OG’. If I am to be completely honest, I cry about it, before I go through steps one and two”.
When she isn’t working, the mother of one can be found making priceless memories with her daughter. Motherhood has brought exponential joy to her life, and she plans to savour every moment before she is all grown up. “We go to parks and the zoo.” And on occasion, she engages in some adult time by going out for drinks with her girlfriends, who play a major role in her life.
With plans to hopefully pursue her Master of Arts degree in cultural management at the Rome Business School in Italy, where she has been offered a seat, her aim is career advancement and self-development. She is also working on a blog and ‘working moms society’ that will offer support to young mothers.
Her advice to persons, particularly mothers, who are finding it hard to cope during this ‘new normal’ time, “Gwaan hol’ it. Try not to overwhelm yourself. Learn a new skill that can be therapeutic to you. Set goals, whether it may be daily, weekly or monthly goals, and see how you can accomplish them. Love yourself and take care of your mental and physical health.
Remember your reason; that way your passion and responsibilities will make the journey worthwhile. And do not be afraid to ask for help, especially in the moments you feel alone.”