Do you ever feel like you’re rotting from the inside? I don’t know sometimes I just feel like I want to or need to cut myself open and dig out all the decay. Sickle cell is a chronic pain condition that is genetic. And I was diagnosed at 2. When you have sickle cell it’s very hard for your blood to carry oxygen, which means that I can’t walk far distances I can’t run marathons you know I can’t do a lot of things that require a good healthy blood oxygen level. Strength as I understand it is very different from strength as a lot of people understand it because I don’t have muscle definition, I can’t work out because of my chronic pain. How I started drawing, I was in the hospital Laying in bed and I could literally only move my arms and my hand. I said to my Dad, “Get me a sketchbook some pens and some markers.” It was just in that moment I really, really needed something to help me get through the pain. What I immediately was drawing were women. They are raw and hurting. They, to me represent an understanding of what it truly means to exist as a woman and being wholly in tune with what femininity means when it ties into mental illness and when it ties into suffering and pain. Being in excrutiating pain and having someone come in and tell you “You wouldn’t feel like this if you had God in your life,” or “You wouldn’t feel like this you can just got out of that mindset and stop being so negative.” When you can’t walk and you’re crying in pain, that’s the last thing you want to hear. I would create alternate realities that I could take myself to to explain why I was in the hospital or to make it somewhere I want it to be rather than somewhere I had to be it. It was easier to be like, “I’m in this hospital bed not walking because I’m a badass goddess who has this like throne of pillows and blankets and people waiting on her hand and foot. I grew up in Tucson, Arizona. I never had people of color to look up to and to go to strengthen and to develop my sense of identity from a young age. For me to bring that into the art world an increased representation of women of color on art world especially women of color with mental illness and chronic illness because you don’t see women of color talking about depression and anxiety. I do struggle a lot with intense mental illness and severe depression, severe anxiety. Having sickle cell for my whole life, I can definitely say that depression hurts more. I wasn’t always confident so I would create characters that were intensely confident and one hundred percent sure of themselves. And to then say to myself it’s not something you’re imagining it something that you are. To create a physical manifestation of all the things that I was feeling. That I could not verbalize. It feels really good and empowering to be able to use color and draw the human manifestations of emotion and pain. Being told that what you feel is not real or not as shitty as you make it out to be. I’m very luck to be able to express so clearly how I feel in my artwork when a lot of people can’t do that. Mental illness is so misunderstood. There’s so much strength in acknowledging your vulnerabilities. Not for approval or comfort but in showing them your vulnerabilities, because we’re all human and stupid and there’s no time to beat around the bush and to pretend you didn’t just have, like, an anxiety attack in the bathroom those are battles and despite those things there’s no space for weakness. 17, I’m 17 years old.