COLUMBUS, Ohio — Growing up in Columbus, Achea Redd dealt with her share of normal teenage problems.
Unhealthy relationships with friends and the opposite sex. Body-image issues. Bullies. Eating disorders.
And like many preteen and teen girls, she felt ill-prepared for the struggles of adolescence and how to handle them.
“I didn’t really want someone to say here’s how to avoid it, but it would’ve been nice to hear someone say, ‘This is what’s coming and it’s OK,’” said Redd, of New Albany.
Plus, it wouldn’t have hurt to have been taught a clever way to “snap back” at the boy who called her ugly every day of seventh grade.
“Instead, I was told to go play the hopeless victim — ‘Oh, someone’s being mean to me,’” Redd said. “I would’ve liked to have been a little more aggressive in getting him together and healing myself.”
That’s why Redd, a 40-year-old mother of two, wrote “Authentic You: A Girl’s Guide to Growing Up Fearless and True,” which was released Nov. 16.
Like her first book “Be Free. Be You.” published in 2019, this one is full of personal stories of what it was like growing up as the daughter of a pastor and falling in love with and marrying an NBA superstar and Ohio State standout Michael Redd, who was a childhood friend.
However, this one particularly focuses on her youth, including memories of losing her virginity at 14, and fights with female friends.
Redd has in more recent years been open about her life and experiences, especially surrounding mental health, through the blog she started shortly after being diagnosed with general anxiety disorder in 2016.
The blog Real Girls F.A.R.T. is a movement that helps women break through societal norms and empower them to become their own true selves. The acronym F.A.R.T. stands for fearless, authentic, rescuers and trailblazers — all things Redd strives to be and instill in others.
Real Girls F.A.R.T. was the catalyst for “Authentic You,” she said.
“In the book, I talk a lot about female relationships and their complexity,” said Redd, adding that she’s just beginning to understand them. “The best way to have great female relationships in your life is to have a great relationship with yourself. How you come to the table, how you show up in the world is how people will respond to you.
“You show others how to treat you.”
This applies to bullying, too, she said, as generally someone bringing you down is doing it because they are unhappy with themselves.
“It has nothing to do with you, but it’s the ugliness — the nastiness — they feel inside,” Redd said. “There’s not a whole lot you can do but to understand where it is coming from and try not to internalize it.”
She doesn’t want to come across as preachy in her book; rather, she hopes girls will see themselves in some of her stories and know that they’ll eventually make it through these challenging times.
Through her stories about first sexual experiences, she wants girls to rethink their virginity as something that isn’t taken from them, but given, and empower them to make educated decisions about these types of choices.
“I don’t condone underage sex, premarital sex and I provide the psychological statistics that when you wait, there are better outcomes … but I want them to know that whatever decision you make, you can’t blame it on anyone else,” she said. “Take ownership of it.”
And as tough as she had it as a teen, Redd said girls today face even bigger challenges because of social media.
That’s why she works hard on her own Instagram place to create a safe space for people, especially women and mothers, to learn, reflect and take respite.
“Honestly, I think there is a lot of trash on social media and I want to be the cleanup crew,” Redd said. “My page seeks to inspire and uplift while still telling the truth. I do not sugarcoat it but tell the truth in a simplistic, nice way.”
Never has that approach to her social media been more important than in the past few months, Redd said, as she navigates not only her role as a mental-health advocate but also as a social-justice activist.
“I’ve always been very justice driven,” she said. "I’m the type of person that it annoys you when people don’t stick up for themselves. If you won’t do it, I’ll do it.”
“Authentic You” seeks to be that voice for girls, especially her own daughter, Ardyn, 9. (She’s also mom to Michael II, 13.)
And she acknowledges that the book is a bit for herself, too.
“I know how confusing it was for me at that age,” she said. “It really healed the little girl in me while I was writing this manuscript.”