Written by Amber Hawkins @ambbamm_
Photos by Steven Wren; Makeup and hair by Erica Brooks
It is a powerful feeling when you reach a point in your life where you are no longer looking for others' validations and celebrations. When you look in the mirror at yourself and say..." you're a badass and you're killing it."
- Erica Brooks
Erica Brooks is an entrepreneur on the move. A mother of two beautiful children, a podcaster, owner and designer of Consciously Me 2 LLC, Campus Director at Tricoci University in Bridgeview, IL, a mentor, and the Beauty & Fashion Show coordinator for Fade Away Barber and Beauty Expo. There is literally never a dull moment and each day is a new adventure.
Erica Brooks is a licensed Cosmetologist with over 10 years of experience in the fashion and beauty industry. Her love of hair and her natural passion and purpose to help others has led her back to the beauty school that she started her dream at and graduated from. No longer as a student, but as the campus director. Recently the population at Erica's Bridgeview location has grown so much that she had to open a second location that is now the home for all esthetic students. She exposes her students to as much as she can within this industry so that they can get their feet wet with just a taste of what the hair and beauty industry can offer. They have volunteered for fashion shows, doing hair and makeup for FadeAway Barber and Beauty Expo, for Style Rivals annual fashion show, annually at Latino Fashion Week, and so much more. Along with that exposure is also the importance of serving the community. Erica and her students have volunteered to do hair at Retirement homes, Veteran homes, Women's Shelters and have participated in St. Baldrick's Cutting for Cancer, every year. Over the past 7 years, she has been given the opportunity to mentor, lead and help develop over 1,000 student professionals entering into the cosmetology, barber, and esthetics industries. She had no idea how God was going to use her in this industry, let alone in this school. It became clear that her purpose as a campus director was bigger than managing a school. Her purpose and passion were to mentor and build up the next generation of beauty professionals HOLISTICALLY; to motivate and help women and men find their purpose while developing their God-given gifts and abilities.
She started her jewelry and apparel business Consciously Me 2 LLC in 2019. She creates accessories and apparel to promote and bring light to mental health. The pieces she creates send messages of love, positivity, and wisdom not only to the individual wearing it but to all that can see it. Consciously Me 2 encourages others to be a light to the world by spreading messages of encouragement, love, and good energy.
YV: What was the spark that motivated you to embark on your entrepreneur journey?
I have always been a super creative person, creating things whether it be toys, games, stories, clothes, or haircuts for my dolls. Every year I make it a tradition to attend the African Festival that happens in Washington Park here on the southside of Chicago, towards the end of summer. Attending this festival is the highlight of my summer. Going there and seeing all the uniquely created jewelry pieces and artwork from all over the world. I made sure that every year that I went to buy at least 3-4 pairs of unique earrings. After many years of buying and being known for my dope earrings. A seed was planted to try and make my own. It came very easily and people loved the uniqueness and originality of my pieces. Here I am now, creating and designing, intentional, unique pieces that resonate with my tribe.
YV: What is the best advice you can give to help plan a career rather than simply work to keep a job?
Erica: The best advice I can give is to operate with your passions and abilities. Reflecting on what you are naturally good at and enjoy wholeheartedly, always tends to be something that you will excel at while enjoying yourself. Understanding early that what is for you, is for you, and comparing yourself to others, their stories, and where they are in their journeys, does nothing but slow your grind. We can all share a flame without losing our own.
YV: How do you encourage innovative ideas with your mentees?
Erica: I encourage them to identify with the things that they are good at and love to do naturally, so much so, that if they had to do it every day for the rest of their lives, they would be happy and enjoy doing it. Stepping outside of the box and getting comfortable being uncomfortable, and simply dare to try something different. Live in these present moments and allow them to branch into unknown adventures, and get inspired by what you see along the way.
YV: You motivate and uplift people on a daily, moving forward how can we continue to break mental health barriers within the minority community?
Erica: One of the main issues surrounding mental health in the minority community is the lack of education about it and because of that, not wanting to acknowledge or speak about it. The best thing we can do within our physical communities and cyber communities is to destroy the stigmatism around mental health. Break the silence and use the power of our tongues to bring awareness and support to the minority community. There are so many that suffer silently while gallantly wearing a beautiful mask to camouflage who they are and what they are really going through.
"Self-compassion + Grace-Shame = Healing for ourselves and connection and empathy toward others." - Erica Brooks
Erica Brooks' social media:
FB: Erica Brooks
Photos by: Erin Digangi and Steven Wren
Makeup by: Erica Brooks and Crystal Baldazo
Hair by: Erica Brooks