Real Girls F.A.R.T. This powerful statement represents a movement for women to break the molds assigned by society so they can become — Fearless. Authentic. Rescuer. Trailblazer. Embracing these characteristics was not always easy for Achea Redd. As she was growing up in a Christian, African-American community, she felt there was only room for perfection.
The expectation for perfection only increased when she took on the role of supportive wife to former NBA and OSU basketball star, Michael Redd. Now married for 13 years and together for 16, most of their married years Achea was an NBA star’s wife, and with that role came a lot of scrutiny. Did she look right, hang with the right people, wear the right clothes?
Achea wasn’t interested in fitting into that mold, or any mold, for that matter. She was interested in being herself. But it wasn’t always easy for her to find out who that was.
“About seven years ago, I was joking with my husband that I should write a book about how it was okay to mess up and not always be perfect,” says Achea. But she had no idea at the time that this little conversation would change her life and the lives of many others.
About four and a half years ago, at the age of 34, Achea had a scare with cancer. She felt a lump in her breast. Because she has a family history of breast cancer, the situation quickly became serious. “The waiting sent my body into overdrive like there was a tiger chasing me,” she recalls.
Fortunately, the lump was benign. Throughout the waiting process, Achea tried to take care of her two small children and navigate life without breaking down. At the same time, she spent much of the waiting game putting her search bar into overdrive. Endless hours of research on breast cancer drove her to have severe anxiety.
Achea continued to suffer from anxiety to the point where she was having panic attacks nightly. She was not eating, not sleeping and not able to take care of herself or her children. When tremors started, she knew it was time to see a professional to find out what was going on. In 2016, Achea was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. “I felt 100% shame,” explains Achea. When symptoms persisted, she decided to start medication to gain control of her anxiety.
Four years later, thanks to the combination of therapy, medication and her pursuit of wellness, Achea is able to rely less on medication and use other tools to control her anxiety. “Now when life happens, I have ways to deal with it,” she says. “I slow down, do not overreact or overanalyze. I think things through.” She knew she was ready to take on that book that had its inception in that small conversation with Michael seven years ago.
She decided to change the focus of her book a bit. It needed to focus less on being a woman who wasn’t always perfect and more on being free to be who she is and free to talk about it.
Achea decided to start a blog to share her story and talk about what she went through (and continues to go through every day), and to see if this topic was even something people were interested in. “I received a huge response from the blog,” exclaims Achea. “The blog was creating a community of people who could be free with who they are.”
Real Girls F.A.R.T. was formed as a space to empower and equip women with the necessary tools to use their voices and become their best, most authentic selves. The word “fart” was used to take away the stigma that women can’t be human too, and it wasn’t intended to be an acronym for anything.
The acronym for F.A.R.T. came from a follower of the blog. “This man reached out to me and said that he knew what that stood for,” recalls Achea. He shared with her Fearless. Authentic. Rescuer. Trailblazer. “It was a revelation! Those four words describe my journey and what I want to empower other women to be.”
While building her blog and telling her story to various groups, Achea set out writing her first manuscript. She sent it to a publisher that specialized in independent authors and received an amazing response.
It was the time for this book. She got started with writing and editing and found that going through this process was actually helping her grow as a person. “Because of the transparency of the story, it brought up a lot about my growing up and about those who were in my life,” adds Achea. “It’s raw, and my anxiety was made better through the writing process.”
In mid-June, Be Free. Be You. was published. Be Free. Be You. is about the journey to wholeness and happiness through loving and embracing the real you. Achea uses her journey and adds in a bit of humor to take readers through her own ups and downs on her path to self-love and authenticity.
“This is my dream job; being able to influence others with my thoughts by putting words to paper gives me life,” shares Achea. Through this process she was able to rescue herself and is blazing a trail for others to talk about their anxiety, to know it is ok and that it is real, and to seek the help they need to manage it.
Achea has become a huge proponent and the official sponsor for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital On Our Sleeves™ movement. Over the years, Achea and her husband Michael have offered their support to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in various ways. After meeting a friend who works there, they both thought that Achea’s support of this new movement was an ideal path to take. With her following and voice on mental illness, she could help elevate this movement to a new level and expand it into different communities.
The Nationwide Children’s Hospital On Our Sleeves™ movement was created to be a community of support for children living with mental illness through advocacy, education and fundraising for much-needed research. As a main influencer of the movement, Achea was the honorary chair of Nationwide Children’s Hospital Pay It Forward gala.
At the gala, Achea shared her story in the hopes of creating an even greater focus on behavioral health. She hopes that with her advocacy she can help create a forum for parents to give their kids the words they need to use to communicate their feelings, particularly in inner city schools where there is a lack of resources.
In addition to her support of the On Our Sleeves™ movement, Real Girls F.A.R.T. has created a foundation geared toward middle school girls. “We want to have conversations and make programs available to support behavioral health issues,” adds Achea. “Kids don’t know how to communicate that they have anxiety. It is usually camouflaged behind symptoms related to a tummy ache.”
Achea’s future is focused on more writing opportunities and getting in front of more groups of women to speak. She wants to empower them to take their mental health seriously, know that there are others like them, and that there is support.
“I would love to add life coaching to my resume so that I can guide women in blazing their own trails and making their own voices be heard.” Columbus has been and will always be home for Achea and her family.
“Growing up in Columbus has been a delight,” Achea says. “It’s a big city with a small town feel.” Home for Achea is with Michael, her wonderful husband of 13 years, and her two amazing children Michael II and Ardyn. Along with Achea’s yoga practice, she and her active family enjoy their faith, bike rides, hiking, and lots of sports activities.
Somewhere down the road, Achea is open to the possibility of holding a government position where she can focus more on broader programs that will give children access to mental health treatments in their communities and schools.