…seriously take the time to put the high tech world and social media away for the weekend. To spend quality time with the ones you love doing the things you enjoy the most together.
I had the pleasure of interviewing author, documentary filmmaker, business owner, actress, host, brand ambassador and an all American beauty queen, Ava ST. Pierre Cogburn, a powerful advocate for families and children affected by abuse.
Thank you so much for joining us Ava! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Welcome and thank you for this opportunity to spread greater awareness for better mental healthcare. When I was a young child my mother had debilitating schizophrenia, it was a devastating and scary world to live in. I lost contact with my mom when I was ten years old. I miss and love her tremendously. As I became a young adult I knew I had to champion a voice for other victims and families, who felt helpless because of this disease.
At the time I was a professional model and actress working in Houston, Texas. My talent and booking agent suggested I compete in the Mrs. Texas America pageant to gain greater exposure in the industry. At first, I wasn’t convinced, but then, I had an idea. If I won, I knew the sash and crown would give me the power for a bigger platform in my mission to give back. I dared to dream! Making the semi-finals the first year gave me hope and by the second year after doing my homework and working hard, to my surprise I won.
To think that first year competing I went to a second hand store, bought an old prom dress, cut a slit in it (I needed a bit of leg to sexy my look up;) ), used Elmer’s glue and shook a whole lot of colorful glitter on my gown to give it, what I thought, was the magic sparkle. The second year was a different story. When I walked out on that stage I felt pride. Nobody recognized me from the previous year. I knew my on stage answer to my question from last year couldn’t be, “John Elway from the Denver Broncos was my sports hero.” Texan are very protective of Texas sports teams! Thank goodness I was asked a different question. I was the dark horse that dared to believe and dream. The work ethic my dad instilled in me paid off.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
Queen Be Productions is based on my autobiography, AFTER THE STORM. The most interesting part is, I decided to turn the book into a documentary short film last year. I’ve always been in front of the camera and thought, why not? It’s been an eye opener with a four year degree turned into one year of ‘School Of Hard Knocks’. I had a lot to learn, I’m still learning. My family and I decided since we had a small budget we would do everything ourselves. After all, this film was/is meant to help others in not feeling alone in their life struggles with mental illness(es). My role was to direct, edit, produce, co-write with my daughter, Sheree` and have our family act and contribute in anyway possible. Never did we dream AFTER THE STORM would and still is winning film festival awards such as, “Best Family/Faith Film”, “Best Documentary Short” “Best Inspirational Film” to name a few.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I had no idea when modeling the runway that when the ladies took the athletic tape out of their bags, they weren’t taping their ankles. I grew up a competitive athlete with five athletic brothers. That same tape was used in playing sports for taping ankles and other body parts. Not lifting up the chest area to create more cleavage. I learned how to properly achieve this hidden skill and that beauty sometimes hurts!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Queen Be Productions was created through a labor of love. My daughter, Sheree` and I co-authored AFTER THE STORM. Through the book, our hopes of encouraging people globally to seek better mental healthcare was our mission. It was a project I had on my bucket list. We felt there was no better time to take this journey together. Sharing tears of living past memories was a challenge, but the laughter of present life with family will always be a sweet, lifelong memory. I couldn’t think of anyone else besides Sheree`, I wanted to work this project with.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
To seriously take the time to put the high tech world and social media away for the weekend. To spend quality time with the ones you love doing the things you enjoy the most together. My greatest pleasure is to go with my family into the nearby mountains to our family cabin. At 10,000 feet there is no internet service. As a family, we enjoy backpacking mountains, skiing, snowmobiling, four wheeling, etc. Sitting down for a family dinner and really listening and partaking in communicating builds a strong family unit. Board games and charades are hilarious with the people, I’m blessed to call family. I sometimes have to quiet my inner competitiveness when it comes to the younger family members. They must win or we play all night until they do. I need my beauty rest!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There’s more than one person that comes to mind. My dad, Pierre`, husband, Rodney, teacher, Mrs. Senior, bonus mom, Sylvia, coaches, Billy, Mr. Cook, Mr. Green and mentor Paddy Boyd. It really does take a village to inspire others to believe and achieve. I’m grateful to all of them and others who helped me believe in myself to become more.
I was a shy young girl that for some reason felt my mother’s mental illness was my fault. I didn’t feel beautiful or strong in anyway. My dad was the first to encourage me with affirmations of, I could be anything I was willing to work hard for. I learned through trial & error and was taught that was okay. Dad was my biggest cheerleader in sports, modeling, acting, pageantry, being a wife, teen mom (he had to adjust to that one), or anything I chose. He was a man of love and had a giving heart to many. Especially children and the elderly. Dad will always be my hero. He was an orphan at a young age in California. A Korean Veteran at seventeen. He found the love of boxing and was self taught, he made extra money that way. My brothers made money teaching me to box after school, I still shake my head at that one. Dad and I shared watching boxing, until the day God called him home in 2006.
My husband Rodney has always supported my dreams and vice versa. We grew up as children together. After forty years of Marriage we still feel like two teenagers in love. Operating two family owned businesses with our children has been a great experience. Our young grandchildren enjoy doing their part as well.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
By doing my small part in advocating for better mental healthcare. As well as spreading greater awareness and fundraising on media outlets, as a social media influencer, volunteering, donating and being an Ambassador for Johnson & Johnson “Speakers Series On Mental Healthcare”. One in five people are affected with some sort of mental illness. This is a global problem as a united world we must start the conversation by demanding better solutions.
Sharing my personal story hasn’t been easy. Through my mom’s mental illness, I lost a baby brother to child abuse. Mark didn’t pass to the heavens above right away. He was trapped in his mind and body from the time he was a toddler. Mark left this earth while living as an invalid in a Los Angeles County hospital, at the age of eighteen. Dad fought to keep Mark, but the judge terminated my dad’s parental rights for the well being of his surviving six children. My mother went on, even though she was from a wealthy family, to live on the streets of Los Angeles. She slept on park benches, was beat up and raped. My beautiful mom sadly had two more children on the streets. They were taken away from her and put up for adoption shortly after she gave birth. This is why in loving memory of my mom, dad, baby Mark, all victims and families, this is my way of giving back.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.” ~Anonymous
Sometimes in life things don’t come easy. Doing the almost impossible I credit to being a bit stubborn when told, “You can’t!” I don’t take it as an insult but a challenge of proving, “I can and will find a way!” I was told I could never write and self publish a book or do a indie documentary film. As I sat and pondered, I thought, this isn’t just about me. My platforms are global problems. Therefore, if I look at the bigger picture and artistically create for millions, the me factor is removed and it’s a WE factor in “Paying It Forward” for generations to come.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1) Success is a personal evaluation: For many companies success means making the most amount of financial gain as possible. Personally, Queen Be Productions has been successful on the measurement of how many people we can help. It’s been a worthy mission that lifts us as people helping people for a brighter tomorrow. Donating and using my own funds along the way has been a must in keeping my mission alive.
2) Don’t overthink things: Sometimes you just need to go for it! Learning important life lessons along the way. “You never fail until you stop trying.” Never be afraid to learn from past mistakes by taking a new approach to accomplishing the task at hand.
3) Don’t be too trusting: Never did I think a fake publishing company, who didn’t have permission, would steal my identity, email and book, AFTER THE STORM. Going on to sell my autobiography in twenty countries. Online and in book stores, making a ton of money while I made zero. I may not of recovered anything financially, yet. But, I fought for years trying to prove my case and recently forced this crook to close all his businesses relating to books and publishing. I pray other authors that were taken advantage of can now breath a sigh of relief knowing there’s one less greedy thief out there.
4) Not everyone is your friend: This is a hard one! I love people and dislike that we can’t all find common ground and be friends. God gifted us life to love everyone no matter our differences. Hard lesson to learn!
5) Don’t be too proud to ask for help: I never want to be that person to ask for help or seem too needy. Whether it’s hands on help or financial. I know in order to take our mission to the next level it’s going to take more of both.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Thank you for such kind words. I have a global dream! My ultimate dream would be to start up required mental health classes using AFTER THE STORM documentary as a tool. Starting with elementary, middle school, high school, universities and through adulthood. What a better world this earthly life would be if we educated children and people about mental illnesses. To have people feel free to sit down and talk openly about their/our feelings of the day, without being given a negative stigma. Instead, an empowering voice and ownership of well being physically & mentally, encouraging everyone to live their best life.
My second dream would be to find distribution for AFTER THE STORM documentary short (14:50 minutes) film. Whether it be the short documentary film I made, or a new TV/ feature film. I feel by sharing my story it helps people in not feeling a lone and much more. Hopefully ATS inspires faith in God’s greater plan. To turn tragedy into triumph and to never stop dreaming. All of us have a beauty with a greater purpose, it’s whether we choose to live it or not.
In closing, I greatly appreciate this opportunity to share with all of you, AFTER THE STORM: My true life story, my friends;)
How can our readers find more information and follow you on social media?
Ava St. Pierre — https://www.avastpierre.com
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ava-stpierre-👸 -7522a663