Sanni Brown is a TV / radio personality and voiceover artist based in St. Paul, MN. She hosts “Candy Fresh” on the St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN), appears on TV for Evine LIVE, fills in as a DJ at 89.9 KMOJ, and has done voiceover work for the likes of Target, Pandora, KDWB, and the Minnesota Historical Society.
Her charisma, charm, and positive energy kept me smiling throughout our interview and photoshoot. She made my day, and I know that her story will brighten your day, too!
Here are some excerpts from my conversation with Sanni about her journey:
“When I was a young child my family lived in Chicago. In 1991, when I was in the third grade my father decided to return home to Nigeria as a result of a misunderstanding related to a scholarship and his immigration status. My father wasn’t afraid to go back home and the plan was for he and my mom to reunite in Canada at some point in the future, so we decided to move to Minnesota. Unfortunately, my parents plans didn’t work out and my father ended up staying in Nigeria.
This really affected my mom. She took care of everyone else, but this didn’t leave her much time to take care of herself. About a year and a half after we moved to Minnesota she started to show signs of schizo-affective disorder. As a result of my mother’s condition, we moved back and forth from Chicago to Minnesota. We were homeless In St. Paul, MN for a stretch when I was about 14. Then, I was in and out of foster care until I was about age 19. When I graduated from high school in 2000 my mom and my sister were still in Chicago. A few years after my graduation my sister moved back to Minnesota and my mom followed not long after. Now we all live in Minnesota. We’re also in contact with my brother who lives in Chicago. Even though I haven’t talked to my dad since I was 10, I am by no means angry with him.
Despite her challenges and having to raise three kids as a single parent, my mom has always been a go getter. I remember one Saturday when I was young, my mom went to get groceries for us… in a blizzard! We didn’t have a car, so she took the bus. That’s just the kind of person she is. She doesn’t let things keep her down. I would call my mom a hustler. She gets stuff done! She never complained about what she had to do as a mother. She sang to us. She was so kind. My mother and I have a great relationship now. The only reason I have succeeded in life is because I was able to look to her example.
When I look back at my life, most of my challenges have revolved around overcoming my own self doubt. As a child I had to deal with a lot of sudden changes. At that time, I was a person who believed that my exterior circumstances determined what would happen inside of me. Over the years I’ve had to work to overcome that idea. Now, it doesn’t matter what’s going outside of me. As long as I understand what’s going on inside of me I can pretty much do anything. What’s really given me strength during the last 10 to 15 years has been believing in my own power regardless of my circumstances.
When I think on other women going through trials and challenges, I would give the following advice: Put your faith and your belief in your own abilities. And I know that is so hard, but that’s the best starting place because we can’t control exterior circumstances. We can’t control an employer going out of business. We can’t control someone getting sick. We can’t control death. We can’t control the weather. All of these things are happening outside of us. We really don’t have any control. The only control we have is over our reactions to those things. Find the power within yourself. That’s where it’s born. That’s where it lives. That’s where it’s maintained. You can control that.
When I was about 25 and a junior in college, I went through a very dark time. I had surrounded myself with people who did not take my best interests to heart. Everything I did and everything I consumed was to try to make other people happy. I was being what other people wanted me to be. I was very angry. I felt like I had gone swimming way out into the ocean and I didn’t know how to get back to shore. I hit rock bottom. I didn’t like myself.
It’s interesting sometimes how light can break through the clouds and a ray of sunshine and hope can come into your life. I had a friend who put a John Legend song called Refuge on his voicemail message. It was the first time I actually listened to the words of a song and I thought to myself, “I like the way this song makes me feel.” Before that I had been listening to the music that was horrible and misogynistic. But when I heard this song, Refuge, the words spoke of how this woman was his shelter from the storm. And that made me want to listen to other positive songs. Songs with meaning and hope and joy… and that’s when I started rebuilding myself, and it started with positive music.
That led to me being very careful about what I would listen to and watch. It used to be that I would watch anything on TV and at times what I watched made physically sick to my stomach. I remember thinking that I should start watching more positive and hopeful things. And today I am a COMPLETELY different woman. I am much more self aware and I am way less tolerant of people who have a bad attitude. Energy is contagious! So when I sense negative energy or hear people putting others down, or only dwelling on what’s wrong with the world, I just peacefully move along. And not because I’m stuck up, but because I’ve understand what I need to stay positive and fulfilled.
Now, 10 years from rock bottom, I really like myself! Now I can spend time with myself. The other day I went to a friend’s birthday party, spent some time with my boyfriend, then spent some time with my daughter, and the next morning my mom called and said, “Get up and talk to me!” And I said, You know what… No. Not in a mean way, but I have to refresh. And I love these people. I want to hang out with them, but I also have to make time for me. I remember what happened when I didn’t make time for me. I was worn out, and mad, and throwing dishes, and screaming, and I don’t want to revisit that lady. So, I really like myself now. I know that it sounds funny, but I’d hang out with me! But I didn’t have that before. Alone time is a beautiful time for me now, and I really enjoy it. I’m totally fine with burning a candle (honey beeswax is my favorite – it just makes my whole upstairs smell so good) and I’ll put on Netflix and grab some popcorn. I totally enjoy my own company now, where I couldn’t even stand my own company before. It took a long time for me to come to the place that I really like myself. And it took 10 years, so when I see women in the place that I was 10 years ago I want to say: it’s going to be okay! It won’t always be like this. Things will get better. But I went through a messy, mucky journey. There was a lot of crying. This has been a fight.
I like that story that says you have a good wolf and a bad wolf in you, and the one you feed gets stronger. I feel like the bad wolf inside of me was holding me captive. I have spent the last 10 years loosening its grip and really allowing my good wolf to shine. I remember back then I was angry at other people’s happiness. I didn’t like seeing happy people. I was like, why are you happy? What are you doing? Why do you get to be happy while I’m sad? I remember waking up everyday and sitting with my mom and just being angry and really hating life. It’s good for me to remember that place because it reminds me of how far I’ve come. It has not been easy. And it’s still a struggle today.
I just found out that I’m going to be hosting a TV show. I had been co-hosting this show with someone for the last year and a half and now I’m going to be hosting it myself. You know how you agree to do something and then you say to yourself, “Whoa! What did I just get myself into?!?” So the last three or four days I’ve been panicked, because I’m the lady now! But my good wolf has been saying, “You can do this! You must be putting something good out into the universe and people must see that good in you to get this opportunity.” I believe the universe is a big mirror. I’ve always been a deep thinker and an intellectual (which was one of the needs that I wasn’t meeting when I was younger). Earl Nightingale says, “Your total environment is an exact and merciless mirror.” So whatever you’re experiencing is what you’re giving out. That’s a hard pill to swallow, but once you accept it that’s really where your magic and power begins.
If you want to be this amazing artist that flies around the world and sings, do it! Nobody is stopping you. That’s where the magic begins. Once you say, “I don’t like this, so what can I do to fix it?” then you’re on your way. Just keep moving. Move past the disappointment and fear. Acknowledge it, figure out where it’s coming from, but then move past it and start changing your situation. Just try. Just keep moving forward. Today is just the sum of everything that has happened up to this point. Choose to make a better tomorrow. Move on. I think that’s what scares people about death. It’s not the end. It’s the beginning of something new. Even though we have fall and winter, we always have spring. As long as I keep that in my head I can move past any kind of panic. Because new is scary. Change is scary. That voice in my head says, “I don’t know how to do this!” But then my higher self says, “Okay Lady, you’ve overcome foster care, you’ve overcome homelessness, you’ve overcome people not treating you right, you’re tackling motherhood (that freaked me out – it’s still freaking me out) you’ve overcome that, I just saying to myself, “Okay, I have power to change this.” The secret is to remain calm (that’s a superpower). Take a breath and tell yourself: Don’t panic! I got this!
Now, the goal at the top of my list is to have a good relationship with my daughter. I want her to be great. Greater than me. I do my best to build her up and tell her that she can do anything and be anything.”