As much as some of us would like to ignore it, we know that there are a plethora of television shows and media images of Black women arguing, fighting and being shown in an overall unfavorable light. Although these images tend to be sought after in popular culture these days, there are still women who hold themselves to a higher standard and view themselves as role models for young Black girls and women. Writer, motivational speaker and businesswoman Niya Brown-Matthews is a woman of such merit.
Although Brown-Matthews is married to former NFL star Eric Matthews, she has rejected the life of simply being a “ballplayer’s wife” for a greater purpose. She has long wanted to guide young women in the right direction, and that desire grew when she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer at the age of 27 and again at 38. Her self-esteem suffered and she lost her balance in life, but when she discovered how to bounce back, she knew she wanted to share that gift of being resilient in the face of challenges with those who need it the most.
Through her book, The Boss In You, Brown-Matthews has been providing women with the wisdom and guidance necessary to get through anything. She writes about how the media can lead women astray from their real purpose, but Brown-Matthews, an entrepreneur with a bachelor’s degree in business, leads by example as a woman who uses her intelligence to enrich the lives of those around her, and she wants young women to know that they can do the same.
We caught up with Brown-Matthews to discuss how her battle with cancer helped her write her book, why she thinks reality shows are heartbreaking, and what young women need to do to become empowered.
What lessons did you get from your battle with cancer that helped you write The Boss In You and taught you more about life in general?
I had to find a way to empower myself because clearly going through treatment, you become low, and my self-esteem was shot and I was trying to balance it all. But when I started writing, I felt I just really wanted to help anyone who was going through that or any life-altering disease know that any obstacle can [be] overcome with the right state of mind. But it’s just finding a balance of how to deal with your career, your family, your relationship; and I had to learn how to create a balance, and that’s what the book is. It’s like every chapter is a synopsis of my life so someone can relate. You can put your own personal notes in [the book] and use it as your own journal.
Why do you think the book is so relevant for today’s young women and girls?
Women are looking for wisdom, but sometimes they get lost along the way or just need a little guidance. So I just wanted to create a manual. This is the first of three books to come, but I just wanted to create a manual letting them know that it’s OK to support one another collectively. And I think that’s what’s needed in this society — women’s empowerment.
How to do you feel about how Black women are portrayed on reality TV?
There are some positive ones out there, but I think young girls are looking for someone to look up to, and it saddens me and breaks my heart that we display this [wretched behavior]. They see that and think that’s OK, and we’re going away from promoting positive, strong, classy, intelligent Black women.
Which reality shows do you think are positive?
In the very beginning, I really enjoyed “Married to Medicine.” Now, unfortunately, it’s gone a little left. Even with “Hollywood Divas” — they all start off great, but I get it; with television, you gotta keep it interesting. But kids are so impressionable. They watch everything. I just want us to, outside of television, have empowerment groups, congregations and organizations that reach out to these young ladies.
Do you think there are any celebrities out there who are positive role models for young Black girls and women?
I think there are. They may not be getting the promotion like they should be. Christina Johnson [Cee Lo Green’s ex-wife)], one of my dear friends, she was on “Atlanta Exes.” If you follow her on social media, she’s always giving back in the community.
What do you suggest young women do to expose themselves to positive influences?
It starts at home, I believe. But clearly it’s not just [home] … there [are] empowerment groups in the school system, there [are] empowerment groups in church. There are local organizations that have positive programs. They can reach out [and] find a mentor [in] their local community. Not that they need to cut the television off completely, because that’s not realistic, but just have … my daughter from time to time may catch some of that stuff on television, but I’m also preaching and teaching her the complete opposite — of how to be a lady.
To purchase The Boss In You and learn more about Niya Brown-Matthews, visit www.niyabrownmatthews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @NiyaBMatthews.