The story of Dr Ava Eagle Brown reads like the plot of a heart-breaking movie with an inspirational and happy ending, which is great because she is currently in talks to adapt her autobiographical book, Mango Girl (released on 29 June 2017), to the big screen.
Born in Jamaica, her journey includes living through dramatic, life-changing situations including incest, homelessness and sexual abuse. Fast forward a few years and Ava is now a transformational coach, international motivational speaker and an author. She has reinvented herself and now holds an honorary doctorate degree, awarded for her philanthropy work in women empowerment, homelessness and people transformation. She lives in London and is the mother of two children, whom she calls her life.
Melan Magazine: What experiences most shaped you growing up in Jamaica?
Ava Brown: The experiences that truly shaped the woman I am today are centred around my mango selling days and the hustle of trying to survive as a child. In those times, I learnt very early on about resilience, courage, bravery and tenacity.
MM: Why did you want to be a teacher?
AV: I didn’t want to become a teacher, I wanted to be a barrister. Teaching was something I fell into when I had to cease an opportunity to get an education. It was my only way out. I don’t regret it as I later realised how massively important teachers are to vulnerable young people.
MM: What was your honorary doctorate for?
AB: I was awarded an honorary doctorate for the work I do in empowering women and being a humanitarian, charity work and peace advocate.
MM: Why the name, The Mango Girl?
AB: The Mango Girl name was borne out of the fact that I was looking for a cinematic title for the book as I always wanted it to be a movie. I sold mangoes on the train as a child. As I sat there thinking of names to call the manuscript, the title just popped out at me. It seemed perfect.
MM: What can readers expect to take away from the novel?
AB: I want readers to get that life will be challenging, and there are going to be sink or swim moments, but they need to find their WHY and focus on that as an anchor to get them back on their feet.
The fact that where you are from, is not a determinant on where you can go unless you allow it to. That Impossible; simply means I’M Possible. I want them to realise that if this underprivileged little child from a rural town in St. Elizabeth in Jamaica, who has endured incest, being raped at gunpoint, now single mother and a single woman, with two failed marriages, faced homelessness, failed Maths and English in high school, can make something of herself, that they are eternally possible, regardless of their battles. Oh, I could go on, I want them to realise that their storms have lessons for their next destination.
MM: Any plans for a sequel?
AB: Watch this space. I am currently writing something in mental health as that has hit home closely for me and in our community. I don’t believe it’s spoken about enough.
MM: What drives your desire to champion the vulnerable?
AB: I want to give people who are too afraid to speak out a voice, to make it permissible to come forth and share the taboos and dark, dirty secrets often swept under the carpet. I saw the damage it did to me, the anger, the pain and the poor relationship choices I made as a result of how broken I was. To save the younger generation and restore women who have been broken from sometimes what wasn’t their fault. I also wanted to demonstrate that if I can take my wounds and make myself wholesome again, then anyone else can.
MM: How do you juggle motherhood and career?
AB: OMG, this one is hard as I haven’t cracked it yet! It’s a classroom that I am still in, and maybe will be in forever. However, I found myself trying for ages to juggle single motherhood with two kids (19 and five) and it was wearing me out. I had Lisa Nichols on my podcast recently, and she said something that struck a chord with me. It has helped me put my parenting juggle into perspective. She helped me realise that balance is a myth, but harmony is a must. I started feeling less guilty about the amount of time I spent with my kids, but I was more focused on the quality time I spent with them. When it’s their time (I diarise almost all of my life!), I am FULLY present no phone, social media, etc. I am all theirs, especially my five-year-old.
I also pre-plan, as I cook most of our foods (with my former food tech teacher hat on!), so I shop for vegetables etc. wash, chop and freeze in small portions to be used when I am cooking. I operate on the Ava 20/80 rule. I do the 20% task that will yield me 80% result. I do the great things, not the good things. I am also very focused and determined. I also get some help from the teenager with the younger, such a saving grace! I will review all of this when my king appears.