by Staff Writer Britni Sharde
The mainstream usage of phrases like body positivity and mental wellness have challenged the status quo concerning body image and mental health. One of the main drivers of these movements was a demand for freedom from the social stigma of what a beautiful body should look like and the belief that all people should accept themselves as themselves.
I spoke with artist, designer and entrepreneur Erica Martez-Hicks about her passion around body positivity and how she incorporates this, in concert with her life experiences, into her business and her art.
Britni Sharde: Tell me about what led you to be an entrepreneur?
Erica Martez Hicks: I believe that herbs help women. Holistic wellness is a health option that many women don’t even really know they can utilize. I believe the importance of selling holistic items to women is to empower women to take responsibility for their own health. That, to me, is wealth. We need to get into the business of escaping the side effects that Western prescription drugs create in our bodies. I hadn’t seen any Black-owned apothecaries in general, but Tulsa is where I live, so I figured I could be that solution. There are so many things that I sell, like waist beads (which have been in our history for centuries), natural soap, yoni steam seats, custom teas, etc. I want to see women winning and doing well.
Sharde: How do you ensure that the mission of this brand remains relevant for future generations?
Hicks: I am a teacher. I am really heavy on being the representation of integrity for the 6th graders I teach. I believe in teaching body positivity also. I speak about morality in my lessons and the importance of setting healthy boundaries for my little girls. Because 6th grade is so hard so much is changing, I do my best to be present in that with them. Every teacher is teaching more than the curriculum.
Sharde: What are some things you’re intentional about that helps you to stay grounded in your mission to promote wellness through your business, art and brand?
Hicks: Now? Self-care. Caring for myself and all that that entails. Self care and gratitude. For a long time, I was not taking care of myself. I used to be so empty and hurt, but it was my choice. It was my choice to put others before myself and to focus on giving so much of myself that I had no idea how empty I was. That was until I started being more grateful. I believe that gratefulness is the key to success. It puts so much into perspective, but you have to be consistent with it.
Sharde: What life experiences have influenced your art as it relates to this intersection around blackness and wellness in your creative endeavors?
Hicks: As a woman, I have had this body since I was 12. For such a long time, I was taught to believe that I was the problem. [I believed] that these breasts and this ass was the problem instead of men that lacked self control being the problem. I should be able to wear a paper bag, but if you have no self control, I should not be blamed for that. There were countless times that I was scolded for simply existing in this body, especially by church people. I grew up in Colorado before it was cool. I was raised by two Black parents that were raised in the times of segregation. All I knew was being either one of two, or the only, Black person in a room. So when I moved to Tulsa to attend ORU, that space was normal for me. I didn’t know anything about Tulsa or Black Wall Street, but I didn’t see myself as truly different until Obama was elected. Hearing the things people would say really impacted how I saw people and, over time, made me want to speak out as an artist and have the work that I did and products I made showcase us or heal us.
Sharde: Why do your products speak specifically to Black women?
Hicks: I am a Black woman. I have needed all the products that I’ve made. So much of a woman’s worth has been measured either by her appearance or by whether or not she is loved by someone else. I find that unacceptable. A woman I know spoke out against someone for inappropriately approaching her and another spoke out against this same man for failing to pay her. They were both silenced by so many of our peers. That is unacceptable. We don’t go hard enough for Black women for me. We go hard for Black Lives Matter, but we need to address this. We need to go harder for women. We don’t go hard for women in any capacity. Women need to know that they are worthy of being protected, being invested in and that it starts with self first. Women need wellness options. Over the decades, Western medicine has proven that it is not the best holistic option.
Sharde: What are your intentions with the brand?
Hicks: I’m going to build an empire. My heart is for women. On this journey of healing myself and with all the things I have learned, my intention is to grow and promote the use of herbs and holistic wellness and self-care for women.
Sharde: Where can we continue to watch your art and business grow and thrive?
Hicks: Just stay tuned. You’ll see me. My personal Instagram page is @ohmissericamartez and my business Instagram page is @theeherbalhustle for the Soul Bird Apothecary.
Photo credit: Britni Sharde