By Ta-ning Connai
Will Smith is an O.G. when it comes to success, but his stratospheric rise on Instagram is brand spankin’ new. His mix of life lessons and family fun have us all loving the newly revealed side of a man we only get to know via interviews and the silver screen. And the video he posted on St. Patrick’s Day ought to remind us that he can still serve up a catchy tune no matter how many decades have gone by. His new song Freak Accident will probably be the anthem for all the “ooops, I had one too many drinks” for many years to come, but my favorite will always be the one about the haven of beachy sands.
Will Smith’s ‘Miami’
Back in the 90’s, Miami was getting major buzz as the “go to destination” for fun in the sun. It was Will Smith’s rap about the island-like paradise that made it that much more all the rave. You couldn’t turn on the TV or radio without hearing about Miami this, Miami that. The most popular place amongst retirees was quickly being added to the bucket list of young folks too, including me.
I was in LA selling my hand-dyed dresses at the local flea markets when it seemed at one point that every sale ended with, “Oh my God, these would do so well in Miami!” So, I finally gave in to what I thought was a sign and dragged my mom with me to see the hot spot live and in living color!
Miami quickly became the most horrible time of my life. Don’t tell me it’s sunny ALL YEAR LONG while I’m just in time for thunderstorms! My fresh press and a luggage full of sandals caught me some frizz and a bad cold, but no one wanting my dresses was the worst part of all. Yet day after day, we kept plugging away, even after getting doors slammed in our face.
My “leap of faith” wasn’t turning out like I had imagined. I was starting to feel stupid and through tears I would say, “Why am I here? Is this some sort of test?”
Waiting to get to that “God turned it all around” moment, we just kept getting deeper in the hole. I just kept saying, “Mom, God’s going to turn this around, watch and see.” Well, when your own mother doesn’t believe you, you’re in really big trouble!
One night she comes out of a store yelling that someone wanted some dresses and we could pick up a check for $800 the next morning. I started yelling too, “Thank Ya Jesus!” I excitedly got out the car to thank my first official Miami buyer…Wait, hold up. I don’t know if my mother was blinded by the lights or what, but it turned out to be a sex shop. Uh, not exactly what I had in mind. But hey, money is money, so let’s just take the money and run. Right? And that was the plan for the morning and we were sticking to it.
I woke up depressed. I knew I was about to make a desperate move. In the parking lot of the sex shop, I said my final prayer,
“Lord, if this isn’t the blessing you have for me, give me the strength to pass the test.”
“The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it,” popped in my head (Proverbs 10:22).
With this apartment to go back to…
|My LA digs|
I literally trembled while asking for my dresses back. “I’m a Christian and, although I don’t want to judge you, I don’t want my clothing line represented this way; I have a different vision,” I told the owner who was stunned to silence and I guess my mother was too because she didn’t speak to me all the way back to the motel. It was the hardest decision ever and I sobbed the entire night.
Days later, there we were, stuck in Miami on New Year’s Eve. I wanted to find a church so I could ring in the New Year urging God to save me from the end of my rope. We found one two minutes before midnight!
Whew, what a relief.
During the altar call, the pastor waves for me to come up. He told me that God was proud of me because I passed His test! He said that in 21 days God would give me a sign that what I’d been hoping for was about to begin. You know I held on to that prophecy like white on rice because I totally believed it!
By most accounts, my Miami trip was an absolute disaster. By its end, I wanted to kill Will Smith! Weeks went by and things got worse, even when I got back home. Then one day, I finally found a special fabric I had been struggling to find for years. I stopped in my tracks and scrambled for a calendar…it was almost exactly 21 days from the prophecy made by the pastor in Florida! And that was the day that my clothing company Churchgirl by Ta-ning was officially born.
|My LA Showroom|
Within a few short months my line was in major department stores, worn by Beyonce, Halle and more, and in three short years I reached over 3 million dollars in sales. Miami was only a test!
God used Will Smith’s song, a place far from home, and a much needed sale, to teach me to walk by faith. Through adversity, God’s intention is to teach us not to lower the level our dreams, to stop lowering the perception we have for ourselves, to stop underestimating the value of what we have to offer. So please don’t settle, it’s only a test. Sometimes ya gotta say no to get to God’s best!
Have you ever had a no that turned out to be a big fat YES?