From Shy, Insecure Girl to a Powerhouse of a Woman
A lot of people don’t know that I was a really shy girl. I hid behind my mother’s skirt when I was afraid (which was often) and I rarely said a word unless spoken to. So when childhood friends and neighbors see me now, when they witness my boldness, high energy and talkativeness, when they hear me on radio and read my love and sex content, they ask me, “What happened to you?”
Here’s what. I discovered who I really am: a passionate and creative person who has a lot to say and even more to do in this world. I realized that I was hiding behind more than Mami’s skirt; I was hiding behind a shell of a shy little girl, filled with insecurities and low self-worth.
I didn’t feel lovable. I didn’t feel like my voice mattered. So I silenced myself, dimmed my light and suppressed my wild, spontaneous and impulsive energy.
I didn’t think anyone wanted to see the real me.
At 14, I finally burst out of my self-imposed prison. I was a student at Phillips Academy Andover, a prep school where most students are geniuses, rich – or both. And there I was, adolescent Sujeiry with plastic and pink, one-size-too-large welfare glasses and a row of silver braces on her bottom teeth. I dragged my feet onto that beautiful campus with my head hung low, feeling different, poor and dumb. Until I was told about Af-Lat-Am’s Latin Arts Weekend Talent Show. I came alive. My back straightened and I felt a new sense of confidence kick in. I felt called to perform, even though my last time on a stage had been in elementary school. But, what would I do? What was my talent? Sing. I was in chorus in 4th and 5th grade; Ms. Tanner always said I had a pretty voice. I just couldn’t do it alone.
This is when the real Sujeiry peaked from behind the curtain. “I’m going to find singers and create a group,” I said. Just. Like. That.
I spread the word. Days later, a group of Lowers (sophomores in non-Andover speak) approached me outside of Commons (our dining hall). There were 3 of them: twins and a tall Amazon with big curly hair.
“We hear your looking for singers to perform,” the Amazon stated. She was the leader of the pack. I nodded, feeling intimidated. What did I get myself into? I knew my impulsiveness would get me in trouble, I badgered. And here I was, pretending I knew anything about forming and leading an acapella group.
“We want to be a part of it,” she continued. The twins then opened their mouths and the most angelic sound boomed from their voice box. They sang a Boyz II Men Song better than Boyz II Men.
“Ok, you’re in,” I finally spoke.
Then came Trudy. She found us one day and blew the campus down with her powerful voice. Trudy sang to us in front of Bancroft Dorm and every student stopped dead in their tracks. She was in. And I had created a singing group. We named ourselves Illusion.
The name spoke to each of us. Being Latinas of a darker complexion, the twins and Trudy felt the word “illusion” spoke to their feeling misunderstood. I loved the name also. Up to that point I lived behind an illusion of a timid, frightened and sensitive Sujeiry. I was so much more that than person.
I was ready to drop the illusion and embrace all parts of me.
And I did. Slowly but surely, I tapped into my truth thanks to music, writing and performing. I found my calling. That’s why I am so passionate about helping others do the same. That’s why it’s essential for me to work in a creative field. I wouldn’t be who I am today without creativity.
As I take on new roles, like mother, wife and business owner, I continue to grow and reflect on this Sujeiry: a sassy, sex-talking, sensitive and sometimes shy mujer who still loves her momma – and sometimes hides behind her skirt.