I am not quite sure what it was that had me so enamored with Octavia. Perhaps it was the confidence with which she presented herself. There was just something so interesting about this bad-ass woman and I knew that I had to meet her. My instinct was “on point” and I am so glad that she and I were able to create some photos and have a conversation. Octavia really inspires me. She doesn’t let herself get beat down but hustles through whatever is thrown her way.
For this photo interview, I decided to challenge myself and take photos in the evening (this is something I do rarely). The location chosen was Dilworth Park , although we did end up wandering around City Hall.
Tell me about yourself.
My name is Octavia, and the number one question I get is if that is my real name. It is my real name and I don’t have a nickname. I went to a culinary school for international cuisine and due to personal situations, I was unable to complete my education.
Would I go back and do it? Yes, I love cooking!
Am I able to? No, because it’s not a single parent career.
I am from Leesburg Virginia, a town close to Richmond. When my parents immigrated to USA, they were sponsored to live in Virginia. My mothers family was sponsored to live in Philadelphia, while my Father’s was sponsored to live in Virginia. My father’s side of the family did not stay in Virginia because it was too cold and they ended up moving south. After this, my mother convinced my father to move closer to her family, which was in Philadelphia. So I ended up moving to Philadelphia when I was three and for the most part have been in Philadelphia my whole life.
Where do you work and are there any projects you are currently working on?
Currently, I own a company called 215Yoga. We specialize in onsite yoga and wellness. This means that I don’t have a brick and mortar. I have instructors, including myself, that go out to corporations and other locations (such as roof top pop-up events or private clients). We have customized yoga classes, guide in meditation, nutritional presentations or mind/body presentations. Whatever the clients needs are.
Sometimes it’s working with children with mental health disabilities. This whole summer I taught at a summer camp for kids with mental health disabilities and behavioral issues (CCTC/Children’s Crisis Treatment Center) through a non-profit.
I also do real estate. I am a real estate agent in Philadelphia, primarily, although I sometimes travel outside PHL.
What do you like about Yoga and what do you like about Real Estate?
I love interacting with people and helping them. What I love most about yoga is that it allows me to maximize my potential as a human being, while helping me learn what I can control and what I cannot. I am not talking about poses on a mat. Yoga, for me, is off the mat as well. It’s about taking care of your mind, body and soul. Not about doing a crazy back bend and post it on instagram and hashtag #inversion (laugh).
Real estate challenges me because each time I meet with a client, each one has different needs. Sometimes it could be a smooth transaction, where it’s just too good to be true. Other times, it’s extremely complicated. I love meeting new people and finding out where they’re from and what their stories are, just like you do.
What would you say is your greatest achievement so far?
My daughter, Audrina. She has been my main focus for the past six and a half years. I am devoted in raising her and helping her maximize her potential. I want her to become a loving, caring, serving, compassionate person, not someone who is selfish.
Can you share some of your future goals with me?
There is something that I’ve really, really, really, REALLY wanted to do, but life took its turn and I was unable to go through with it. I used to volunteer a lot with children, actually, I still do whenever I can. It’s difficult, as a full-time, single parent to have extra time – especially time to volunteer. I am already heavily involved in my daughter’s school, life and in the community.
I used to travel and work with children. I went to Montego Bay, Jamaica where I worked in orphanages there and Teen Challenge. We brought non-perishable food, clothes, shoes, school supplies to kids and spent time with them.
One of my goals was to go and live in Thailand from six months to a year in a safe house. It was one of the safe houses for which I was helping raise money to help them out. I was selling bracelets from the Red Thread Movement and was raising money and awareness against sex and human trafficking. Both of these huge matters are close to my heart and 100% of the profit goes to rescuing and helping more girls, children and humans. It’s not just targeted towards women. Anyway, these safe houses help train girls to have life skills. When it’s safe for these girls to return back to their homes, they leave. Otherwise, they stay and continue training. If I had gone on this trip, I would’ve been volunteering at the safe house and I really, really, REALLY wanted to go but now I have my daughter and I can’t even bear to be a day away from her. So, this goal has been put on the backseat.
Do I care less about this matter? No.
Am I still trying to raise awareness and whatever I can to help? Yes, I do.
If I could, in the future, do this, then I would love to.
In terms of personal goals, I would love to grow my company 215Yoga. I want to monopolize Philadelphia (laugh).
Can you tell me what drives you towards your everyday and future goals? I want to know what it is that makes you work so hard everyday.
I know what it’s like to be at the bottom of the barrel. I’m not talking about starting from the bottom because my parents were immigrants. Yes, that’s one thing, but I know what it’s like to start over from zero. I am not talking about monetary but about starting over your identity. Starting over from childhood then starting over after marriage and starting over yet again after leaving the marriage. This is very, very difficult. I couldn’t have prepared myself for this difficulty in any way. Even knowing in advance what I would have to face, there was no way I could’ve prepared myself and said “Hey Octavia, this is what you’re going to face and this is what you need to do.” There is no law book, no blog, no word of advice that could fix that. It’s something you have to learn to do on your own. My daughter is basically driving me to continuously strive and I want her to know that. No matter where you are, whether it’s zero dollars to your name or in a sticky situation, there is always a solution. It might not be your ideal solution or the perfect solution. It might not even be what the world might consider a solution, but there IS a solution. It should never be an end all.
What inspires you?
Actually, it’s kinda corny, but seeing other people smile (laugh). Whether it’s giving someone a meal who may not have seen one for a couple of days, providing a piece of advice or tip for somebody or dedicating a couple of hours to assist somebody, whether paid or unpaid. Making someone else happy and putting your own selfish goals aside, makes me happy and is very rewarding to me. Especially since I’ve worked with kids in the past, in the orphanages, and seeing how these kids have nothing. Everything a child owns can fit in a bag or a single drawer. Seeing how minimalistic they are and with no attachments, it’s inspiring to see how these kids are willing to put a person above them. You come and they ask “You want this toy? You can have it.” Just being completely selfless, loving and helping others is something that inspires me.
Can you tell me about some of your hobbies?
I am very crafty! I used to hang out on First Fridays and I would make and sell barbie shoe jewelry (laugh). I would import barbie shoes in bulk.. You’re laughing at me but I actually sold them for a couple of hundred dollars a pop! They were so tacky and I wouldn’t be caught wearing one (laugh). One of the designs I made was with all of the scrap shoes I had left. Usually I made them color coordinated but this one just looked like a box of Fruit Loops. I would give each piece of jewelry a name and a story, which helped boost my sales. So this particular one, I called Hula Baby because it looked like a floral lei. This one lady bought it for like three hundred and something dollars. The materials probably cost me about $10, although it took me a couple of hours to make it. It’s very tedious and there is no way you can cut corners. You have to punch the holes and move the wiring, your hands get really sore and you get tired of sitting. Anyway, this lady was so excited about it! Meanwhile I was thinking to myself “Oh my God, I cannot spend this money, she’s going to return it, she’s going to hate it. This must’ve been a drunk purchase or something.” Eventually, this woman sends me an email and I’m like “Oh my goodness, here she is, requesting her refund.” I open the email and saw that she had sent me photos of herself wearing it out! (laugh). She was so excited about this huge necklace! (laugh) I used to make them with Swarovski crystals, sterling silver and feathers. I made them really fancy, Audrina has some of them now.
I really enjoy designing, crafting and making stuff. I made my website 215Yoga myself! I enjoy the challenges where I have to teach myself coding, what’s visually appealing or if its user friendly. Also, I do simple art projects with my daughter.
Can you tell me of some causes, issues or ideas that you are passionate about?
We kinda brushed upon this earlier, but human and sex trafficking – which I believe go hand in hand. Many people say this is a women’s issue but it’s not. Many people ask me “why are you so passionate about this, you should be helping your own country”. Believe it or not but there are people who traffic for strip clubs and you don’t know what kind of threats they are under (such as whether their families will get killed etc). Just because these individuals are out there doing it, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are doing it out of free will. Even with nail salons, some of these salons traffic workers to be there. It’s very devastating that people are refusing to acknowledge that it’s right underneath our noses.
In addition to that, I have been vegan now for two years. Animal cruelty has also become a passion of mine.
Is there any advice or personal life lessons you would like to share?
If you are faced with a decision, whatever it may be (whether it’s a personal matter, a career choice or any other kind of decision), if you don’t make that choice, nobody will stand behind you. Whether you come from a very religious or cultured family like I did, (when you feel like no one will stand behind you and you will be excommunicated), and you’re almost forced to make that decision. Know that that you are not forced to make any decision and you have the right to walk away and say otherwise. You’d be surprised how the universe works. I was faced with this kind of situation when my daughter and I had absolutely nothing, yet in so many different ways, the universe just spoke out and provided the assistance we needed, from aspects I had no idea were going to be available. Basically, if you feel like no one is standing behind you in a decision, it might feel like that in the moment. Once you make that decision and people see the confidence you have making the decision you wanted, people will rise behind you with support.
If you liked the photo interview and want to keep up with Octavia, follow her on her instagram! Otherwise, till next time! Au revoir !