Mental Health Warrior
Published By: RallyUp Mental Health Magazine
Donvinnie Boykin (born July 17, 1986), also known as Don, is an Author, Mental Health Advocate, Model, Entrepreneur, Celebrity
Stylist, Film/Tv Producer, Creative Director, Motivational Speaker & Actor. Donvinnie Boykin born in West Tennessee, TN he began
his career as a model at the age of 19, while in college at the University of Tennessee At Chattanooga. While modeling Boykin fell in love with the behind the scenes aspects of
the industry, and then transferred to Bauder College School of Fashion In Atlanta, Ga. It was then Boykin began to develop the passion for wardrobe styling & event planning which led him to work with Bronner Brothers Fashion and hair show as Creative Director and Stage Manager. Which led to his first Celebrity Client Bre From America's Next Top Model Cycle 5. Boykin then began his start to entrepreneurship starting his first company
Glam Life Entertainment in 2009, a fashion production company specializ-
ing in fashion show production. As Ceo & Creative Director of the company Boykin saw the need to produce high fashion, high energy shows as well as mentor and teach and train others in the fashion and entertain- ment industry.
Boykin then moved his knowledge of production to television in 2010-2011 and worked with the Bet Hip Hop Awards along with the Bet Soul Train Awards. Through this exposure Boykin then landed on the
sitcom Meet The Browns, Season 3 for an episode shortly after he made another film credit with Rockmund Dubar in film Pastor Brown, even though the roles were small, it fueled Boykin to rebrand his company and in 2013 renamed his company to Encore Entertainment groups. Through Encore Entertainment Groups Boykin relaunched his vision not only as a Production company, but as an Entertainment Agency. Focusing on Marketing,Branding,Client Placement, as well as Production of short films. In 2016, Boykin Launched a skin care line called VIIXVII by Donvinnie, a natural organic skin care line for people of color. After that venture Boykin paused and took a break from the industry after his father suffered an Dad'', based on his life and the year without his dad, Boykin opens upher, and felt lost and hopeless, he returned in 2020 and published his first book R.E.V.E.A.L. " The Year Without My Dad'', based on his life and the year without his dad, Boykin opens up about his battle with depression,mental health, and alcohol abuse. Through this Journey Boykin wants to use his voice to bring awareness to mental health with the African American Community.
RUM: What does mental health and wellness mean to you?
DONVINNIE: Wow!! I’d like to describe mental health as a moment in life when you’re emotionally exposed, or you’re taking risks, or facing uncertainty. When you experience a great loss or hurt that feels like ‘broken heartedness’. I’ve realized that your heart is not broken. It’s actually the heart’s protective shell of defenses breaking open to allow you to feel all emotions fully. It’s a feeling; a big feeling that feels horrible. In our culture, as African American men, we are taught at an early age. Why are you crying? Suck it up. These actions create an invisible switch that flips within our brain. We
learn to rub the tears from our eyes and keep life moving. We are taught to suppress our feelings because we are too young to express our feelings or if you’re a boy you’re being taught that’s too soft or you’ll grow up weak. We’ve been taught to grow up to be a man, but we’ve never been able to show true emotions. We are taught love through the expression of touch and gifts. However, we are not taught vulnerability. To go deep within ourselves and honestly say how we feel. As African American males we are often told to hide our emotions and refrain from expressing them even when that something or someone hurts them. We have been taught that Black Males don’t cry. We have to play the part of a tough non emotional black male. The words “I’m good” and “I’ll be alright” are familiar to me. As men we have had male figures tell us that when we express ourselves we are considered vulnerable, or weak. We may come off as being soft, or gay. So we hide our true emotions and switch them to anger and rage which could lead to mental illnesses or internal pain that we suppress with drugs, and alcohol, that leads to anger. And we wonder why mental illness is on the rise in our community. Mental health is a topic that many African American men consider taboo and do not want to discuss. The fact is that depression is one of the most common mental illnesses but an under-recognized and under treated
problem among African American men. We feel as if we can’t open up and be vulnerable. Our common beliefs about mental health within the African American community is that being depressed is normal, and talking about it is weak. Getting help is the same as telling your business to a stranger. Nobody cares about your mental health anyway. These statements are not true. Mental illness is real and affects us all, whether or not we choose to talk about it. I realized this through my struggle and loss. I found it difficult to talk about it out loud and bottled my feelings up inside. But through my life I’ve realized the power of affirmations and speaking life into oneself. Self care is the best care, not only that, but
embrace your vulnerability!
RUM: How do you advocate for mental health and wellness in your work as an
Author, Entrepreneur, Celebrity Stylist, and Actor?
DONVINNIE: I advocate using my voice, but as an Author I was able to reveal my story through my words. In the words of Dr Maya Angelou “Words are things. You must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names, using racial pejoratives and sexual pejoratives and all that ignorance. Don’t do that. Someday we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the
walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you.” As I was writing my book I thought about that quote. I wanted to make sure that people felt the power behind my message, not only to feel my pain, but to see themselves inside of me. I wanted them to not only read the words but be able to understand that there is someone else out there like them. As an Entrepreneur I developed my candle line to help people be able to self love. strategically came out with scents that soothed the body as well as relaxed the mental. When you think of candles you think of peace where you can relax and just burn your problems away. Not only that but created a 7 chakra sage stick to introduce people to the power of affirmations and meditation. With this people can cleanse their space and release negative toxins from their surroundings. As a stylist, I love to make people look and feel good. I’m a firm believer that you feel your best when you look your best. It gives you a certain level of confidence. As an Actor, I’m able to embody different Characters, and bring stories to life. But through it all I am able to embody all these elements through my social media platforms, and create a safe space of freedom through My voice. I post daily on my journey through life, to encourage and motivate people to be their best, and to overcome whatever it is they are battling.
RUM: Your father passed away in 2018. This experience caused you to battle
depression and alcohol abuse. Can you share with our readers what it was like to
lose a parent and how you have overcome depression and alcohol abuse?
DONVINNIE: It was very difficult, losing my father. Not only difficult but tough to come to terms with. Being close with my father and having that bond, made it even harder. It took me to a dark place. When you lose someone to death, it almost seems unreal, it’s like they have taken a trip or a vacation, and you just know that you will see them again. However, reality sinks in. Realizing I was never going to see my father again began affecting me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I remember within hours after hearing the news that my father passed, the messages, emails, and voicemails just started to flood. Saying sorry for your loss and telling me to let them know if I needed anything, every message I received was also a stinging reminder of what had happened. I was in denial and didn’t want to face the fact of what had happened. I hated checking my phone only to see constant reminders of my father’s death. I began to close myself off from everyone that I knew. I didn’t talk about it. I internalized all the pain, I painted a mask, a plastic smile on my face and went on with life, going through the motions
internally never truly processing the event. During processing this event I realized the gravity of the fact that we’re all going to die some day, and short lifespans don’t exactly help matters. So needless to say I was terrified, terrified at the prospect of tipping over the great beyond, into the great unknown,
the inevitable. I no longer have my father. Knowing this is really starting to affect my ability to function on many levels. I feel myself more paralyzed than ever with each passing day. It hurt like a knife, straight to the chest. This was a different type of pain. A pain directly to the heart. I wonder what life would have been like if I would have known. Known the pain he must have felt. Could have done anything to avoid it, or did he even feel pain. At this point in life I felt so numb to the thought that he was gone. In my mind I could hear his voice. A voice so clear saying that “you’re on your own
now kid.” Within that voice it led me to God and isolation. I had to ask God for strength not for
myself, but for my family. Through my period alone I began to search for answers. Then God spoke to me and said “you need your alone time.” I stepped away from it all and I began to meditate and pray. Through meditation and prayer the lord led me to Psalms. Through our conversation, I opened up to him and wondered why I had suffered so much and what I had been going through after the death of my father and how I just can’t seem to cry anymore, that I was honestly tired of doing it. He tt then reminded me of all the things in my past, and then I looked around and truly opened my eyes. Then instantly I started to sing, then I noticed that I was alive. I started to move then I noticed that I was alive. I noticed my first photo shoot hanging on my wall, then I knew that I had accomplished something. Then in the next instant my mother called and I noticed my roots. I then began to
pray harder. Dear God, you have shown me so much, but the pain I feel is unbearable. At this moment I don’t know if I am worthy of your forgiveness. I have sinned, I have betrayed my trust to you, as well
as cursed your name in vain due to my hurt. I don’t know if you can forgive me. I don’t know what to
do. I have been through so much heartache and pain, I have been let down, belittled, have been cheated
out of so much, and honestly I can’t come out of this. I pray at this moment for your forgiveness of my past, for all that I have done to hurt anyone, and I ask that you alienate me from all hurt, harm and danger. I need you to continue to be in my life and be a light to guide me to move forward. Lord, continue to look over my mother, I know her hurt is far more worse than mine. Continue to be a light in her path because I know that she is alone. Also Lord, wrap your hands around my entire family. Especially my sister, lord lift my brother up as he can be as strong as my father, so that I can lean to him for strength and guidance. Lord please comfort my uncles and aunts as I know this is hard on them. Allow us to grow strong and to continue the Boykin legacy as you see it fit through my father’s eye. Lastly, lord guide my nephew Kristus as our bond grows stronger and lead him into the right path of
manhood. Wrap your arms around him to protect him from any hurt, harm or danger. Bless and protect Kiara so that she can be as strong as her mother. And lastly lord allow me to be a role model for Jordan and Markissia so that they can see the good and pursue the dreams as you see fit. Lord, you are my God and I love you. Amen. As I said this prayer, I finished in tears and the Lord sent me to Psalm 91.
RUM: What are some ways you de-stress and practice self-care?
DONVINNIE: Self love over all is the main thing to de-stress along with meditationa nd just silence. Sometimes you have to break away and just shut things off. Turn off the Television, sign off of social media. It's ok to say no. We have to disconnect in order to connect with ourselves.
RUM: How can we continue to empower individuals to prioritize their
DONVINNIE: We have to continue having conversations, let’s normalize it
in our conversations. Also check in with others and check on your friends
RUM: What final words do you have for our readers?
DONVINNIE: I want to leave you with this. Mental Health is real. It doesn’t
necessarily have a look or actions. Some people go through life and mask it. I also
want to encourage those that are feeling any kind of way to seek help. Talk to
someone even if you don’t feel comfortable with talking to family or friends. Find
someone that you do feel comfortable with. Love yourself first.
Facebook: Donvinnie Boykin