Trigger warnings: rape, homelessness, suicide Etc
This is a cry for support. I don’t want anything for free, I’m willing to work, but I have to bridge this gap to get my family safe. To make sure I’m not playing catch up at this time next year again. I’ve always heavily related to Amanda Palmer’s The Art of the Ask, her ted talk is legendary and explains exactly how I’ve always lived my life. From working 4 normal type jobs at a time to support other people from ages 16-23 to traveling the country with gutter punks and then starting my own business in 2011. I believe in that integral exchange. I believe in transparency. I believe in asking for help. I have always given freely and helped whoever I can however I can. When I follow my heart on these things, I can feel in my soul, myself aligning to my greater good and purpose. I know I can still do so much good in this world.
This has been the worst year of my life, which is really saying something considering how much trauma I had already endured from an early age. I almost didn’t make it this far and I’m so grateful I have because I’m finally at the point, for the first time in my life, that I have a stable support system moving forward. All the necessary opportunities are in place and my mental health is improving daily. I feel stronger in my convictions and self worth than I ever have and I know exactly what I have to do to rebuild. Cleansing by fire, that’s what this year has been.
A year ago, after the best selling month I ever had in my 8 years of business with Belladonna’s Cosmetics, everything began to crash down like a tower of cards.
We had no game plan going into this. I never should have been able to grow this company as big as I did with just social media marketing. I studied for years to learn how to do this, but I didn’t have ANY MONEY AT ALL to put into this. It took me 6 months to get $200 to get the first bout of supplies to begin testing and development in 2011. I didn’t know how many manufacturing issues we would run into when we tried to scale and I never expected the people who I relied on most to abandon me and steal from me in the end.
In September someone started to spread lies about us, our sales diminished by more than half. I was in the middle of finishing up two big launches. I’ve seen this happened to several other independent makeup lines, some recovered, some never have. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only thing stacked against me. This loss of sales cost us our ability to finish those, at the same time, my business partner and best friend decided to stop working entirely. Even though, she had never worked the kind of hours I had, when we were bringing in more money, I could at least get her to keep up with maybe half my workload. I spent 12+ hours a day sending emails, we had 2 months of backorders to process because we had to leave a situation where I was being raped for a place for us to stay. We finished those backorders in September.
By November, sales had gone back up and we switched from the pre-order format to making products from local sources so we had all the supplies. By Christmas, sales dropped to zero because unbeknownst to be until I finally brought Joseph Russell Keens Jr out from South Carolina and everything came to light, my partner and her assistants were hiding orders, destroying supplies and not filling things. I paid for supplies. I paid for shipping. I processed them, but thousands and thousands of orders and me stupidly trying to just hang on and scale, made the workload impossible for me to monitor alone. I was no longer drowning, I had drowned. I kicked this partner and her friends out in early February when this information came to light and had a coming to Jesus moment with my husband over similar, and other issues. I also learned exactly how valuable what it was I had built, i never realized the value until it was too late to salvage as it was. I listened to big businesses I got entangled in and let rich old white men tell me what to do instead of advocating in the best interests of myself and the business. I made the mistake of thinking they knew better because they’d been around longer. I didn’t realize that they were just cogs in a larger machine and hadn’t ever built anything to the magnitude that I had. It’s easy to be rich and successful when you’re born with money and handed success.
We managed to survive in Hollywood for 6 months only making enough money from gigging to cover rent. Months behind and still determined to somehow catch up and fix all the mistakes of this business, because it was never my intention to deceive or scam anyone despite what people have said, I found myself completely non functional for months. I was Extremely suicidal because of the online bullying I faced daily. My mother almost died in a horrific way in January that instead of killing her just left her in the hospital for months until I went out to Kansas a couple of weeks ago to help her move into a nursing home. My father died in March. Grandparents are dying. Violence. Poverty. I stopped eating for weeks because we couldn’t afford it. My kids always ate but I haven’t been. I’ve gone almost a full week without sleep. More roommates had to be culled who stopped helping and who weren’t pulling their weight. We need to stay in California for so many reasons, going somewhere else really isn’t an option.
At the end of all this, are the most important lessons I needed to learn. Stop letting people take advantage of my kind heart. Stop taking care of people who won’t take care of themselves. Build a stable foundation first. Make sure rent and bills are covered long term first before trying to grow. I’ve been in survival mode for months, going from one crisis and one bill to the next. Never ending. I needed to Stop martyring myself to those I love when they won’t do the same thing for me. I’ve been working to create a stable foundation before launching the businesses again and to do things differently so that manufacturing hiccups and unreliable help won’t stand in my way. I’ve kept all of this offline for months. I’ve made vague references at certain points to parts of it, but I couldn’t bring myself to explain most of this publicly. It’s no one’s business, I know. I know I’ll be judged for posting this, but I also know every single time I do share things like this, several people message me thanking me for doing so. I’m also dead tired of covering for the people who have hurt me under the guise of professionalism. To protect the guilty. Transparency is freedom. I’ve been hiding and afraid to move forward and share so much of this online because I know that people are watching me, waiting to twist things and attack. There’s an entire Facebook group dedicated to spreading lies about me and about 10 people who have made It their mission to contact and harass anyone I work with trying to get them to not work with me.
We’ve been living in a hotel in Long Beach since June paid for by a homeless organization, Path. This has allowed us to slowly start catching up on bills that were months behind and the isolation and lack of phone and internet at times has allowed me to really soul search & solidify the necessary relationships to move forward for my kids. I’m in a relationship with two amazing men, Joseph Russell Keens Jr & Eric Wallace. I’ve known Joe for 19 years and Eric for 13 years. I’ve always been polyamorous, it’s literally in my nature. I had 2 boyfriends at age 7 and couldn’t understand why they had a problem with it. I’ve always wanted the freedom of relationship anarchy. Monogamy has never worked for me. I’ve also repeatedly found myself in abusive, possessive and controlling relationships following the same wounds that my childhood had instilled in me. I’ve finally stopped equating the pain of abuse with love. I finally know what it tastes like to have relationships that don’t include that. Eric got two jobs within days of being out here and jumped head first into my crazy life and Joe has been my emotional support as well as doing mechanic work as he can find it (being non certified) for months and is about to start an electricians apprenticeship for $18/hr full time for 8 months. We are so close but we need help to bridge this last gap. I have so many skill sets. I build websites (when I have reliable internet), do graphic design work. I do social media management and advertising. I can sell $1000 for about $100 in ad spend (depending on the product and following some testing). I have grown several pages organically to over 10,000 and 30,000 likes in just over a month. I do high fashion & portrait photography (I haven’t done that professionally in years and my camera is in pawn right now, but if I can get it out-I can do that too.) remote or online work is better because our lives are still in this chaos and my mental health has always handled that type of thing better, but if you need event staff and I can’t do it, I’m sure one of the boys can if they’re not already booked.
I am so fucking grateful for everyone who has ever helped me, who has ever said a kind word, hired me, been there for me and also for every hardship. It’s brought me closer to where I need to be.
One of our struggles has always been credit, my credit has been bad since before I was an adult from my parents taking things out in my name followed by years of supporting people financially that I should have cut off and extreme poverty. My score has gone up over 200 points in the last two years because I’ve been working on it, but it’s still under 600 and too low for most housing in Los Angeles. A friend gave us a 5th wheel trailer but I need to buy a truck and generator to make that a viable living solution. Solar panels would help too. I need to pay $1500 on my storage units by the end of next week or I lose $10,000 in business supplies that I need to relaunch things next month as well as what little is left of family memories and my uncles ashes. I’ve already lost everything I’ve owned 5 times and this is a relatively small gap in the scheme of things. We’ve been paying things by priority as we catch up for months and we are out of time on both of these things.
I’m willing to work. I’m working on writing my autobiography because of know people want to hear my story. I know it will help people. I know there’s still so much left to do. So many projects I want to build that can help so many people. I’m done hiding. At my best, I’ve made $5000 in a few days, but I’m not at my best yet and I’ve tapped out so many resources trying to survive for months being so burnt out. Joe can build custom product displays, do home remodeling or repair, light electrical stuff etc. I can do custom dread wigs, we do have a small stock of products by Occult Cosmetics I can still sell.
Thank you for listening, I love you all so dearly. I’m truly sorry that I haven’t been able to show up like I used to for all of my friends, with how I’ve been struggling these past few months, but I’m determined to make absolutely everything right. If you have work for us or if you want to contribute in anyway, trust that I will return that energy fairly or I will pass it on.
❤️with all my love, Rachel