Today we’d like to introduce you to Courtney Alexander.
Hi Courtney, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today.
I was in college listening to a song by Anhayla called “UGLY” (You Gotta Love Yourself). It focused on female empowerment & self-esteem. I connected to it so deeply because I struggled with loving who I am & accepting my body. A couple of years later, Feb 8th, 2016, our community lost a dear friend and advocate Marshawn McCarrel to an unbearable pain. That year I struggled with school & work, while living in a faith-based transitional home. During this season, I was taking an entrepreneurship class & we had a project to create a business. I loved the term UGLY & wanted to expand its reach. I decided to name it “Project UGLY” (U Gotta Love Yourself) because the inner work is constant. How to love through the UGLY parts of yourself; that thing you criticize yourself the most about. I asked Anhayla for her permission to use UGLY. She advised she didn’t own the acronym, but still gave me her blessing. I wanted it to be co-ed, tackling suicide & different levels of mental health. I turned in my PowerPoint & not even 2 weeks later December 16th, 2016, I attempted suicide. I didn’t even know I was in that dark of a space. I was hospitalized & met so many beautiful people; the oldest was 88. My passion for healing inner pain for others began. 2018 I sat at my dining room table & was inspired to have an event, but I didn’t know what to call it. Then it clicked, “STAY” (Stories That Aspire You). When you think of your loved ones or when they think about you, they want you to stay. What better way than from aspiring someone’s story you resonate with. This event provides an open space to talk about mental health & wellness through art. There is live painting, poetry, dance, singing, food, vendors, speakers, & more. It is also free! I did not want there to be a barrier to obtain support & connection to an evolving community. We also provide a licensed therapist & prayer on-site because it does touch on heavy topics. 2020 I received my 501.c3 for Project UGLY, and it is the umbrella to all that has blossomed: 6 STAY events working on a 7th for this year, youth workshops, decluttering homes, giving back to other organizations, providing resources to over 600 families, and the opportunities continue to remind me that my work is important.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back, would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
“You cannot heal without first experiencing pain.” Some of my struggles along the way are making sure I take care of myself. I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. This condition’s main pain point is feeling a deep level of abandonment & high intense emotions that are difficult to regulate. I am emotionally in pain often & am finally able to educate myself more on how to work through it. Even though I have a nonprofit for suicide prevention, I find it difficult to fight for myself to stay. We do this work because we know the feeling of wanting to leave. I also am co-parenting my nephews with their other aunt & currently have full custody. Being a parent is not an easy road but rewarding when finding helpful resources. Finding funding to continue my event for free can also be challenging.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
*We are currently working on providing more events for Columbus, Oh and expanding to other states.
*Project UGLY cleaning & decluttering for clients who need to free their space & heal.
*Provide coaching to help others get through emotional situations & find their inner love.
*Raise more funding to help other organizations, families, & open a space for others to work on themselves.
Where we are in life is often partly because of others. Who/what else deserves credit for how your story turned out?
The Magic Execution Team- LaGina Johnson, Johnnie Johnson, & Chanda Showell with 5-Star Planning Event Company
STAY Team-Jakya Calloway, Lanna Smith, Nicole Hatcher, Chanelle Smith
Special Support-Caroline Bennett, Zach Hannah, Candice Igeleke, Leatha Wellington, Jariatu Mansaray
Special Hosts: Trek Manifest & Jalisha Lancaster
Everyone who shows up to STAY to support, volunteer their time, & create
Submitted my 501c3- Bright Minds Consulting
Sponsors- ADAMH, ASPF, MHA Ohio, DrRedefined, Sterling Carter Effect, Will Pounder, FuFu For Thought, Whitney Barkley, RISE UP Communities, So Loved, Kind Kamp, Art With Duarte, Sugar Lips Bake Shop, Butter Up Balloons LLC, I Am Enough, Reyna Montgomery
DJ IQ- 106.7 The Beat iHeartRadio
- Website: https://pjustay.wixsite.com/website
- Instagram: projectuglyohio
- Facebook: projectuglyohio