Photo by Jeylin White
Sixteen-year-old Ajiona Alexus talks to several Elite Scholar Academy girls about negative self-images and low self-esteem.
Sixteen-year-old actress Ajiona Alexus was greeted with warm smiles, cheers and applause Wednesday afternoon, from several young ladies at Elite Scholars Academy.
“Oh my God, thank you so much!” said the refined teenager, while walking into the classroom.
The adulation was the result of Alexus’ sudden celebrity status. She landed her first major TV role as the daughter of comedian Rickey Smiley on the TV One network called, “The Rickey Smiley Show,” expected to air in the fall.
However, the Alabama native’s purpose for visiting the school was not to promote the show. She was there to impart words of inspiration and wisdom. Dressed like an everyday teenaged girl, in yellow capri pants, and a black shirt that read “Take The Oath,” she had one message for the “Ladies of Elite.”
“I’m just like you,” she said.
“Ladies of Elite” is a new mentoring program — initiated this year — that focuses on self-esteem, bullying, conflict resolution and promoting self worth, for seventh- through 11th-grade girls.
“It’s everything girl power,” said Jamilyne Lorme, school counselor and founder.
And “girl power” it was on that Wednesday afternoon. Lorme said the school partnered with another mentoring group called, “Saving our Daughters,” which is how Alexus was connected to the school.
“A student’s social and emotional health has a direct correlation with their academic success,” said Lorme. “We just have girls that are going through so many different things — just being a girl as it is [is hard.]”
Before the young actress entered, the girls watched a video promo of behind-the-scenes footage of her new show. While watching the video, the young women erupted with laughter as they got a glimpse of some of Smiley’s comical characters.
When the laughter died down, the conversation got real. Alexus went through a PowerPoint presentation which documented her journey, struggle, and rise to fame.
“I almost wanted to give up on everything — my acting, my singing, I just didn’t want to do it anymore,” said the soft-spoken girl, with dreamy brown eyes. “But I felt worse when I wasn’t following my dreams.”
She continued by telling the girls how to have a healthy self-image, how to overcome teenage peer pressure and to avoid making excuses.
“Don’t let the little things get in the way of your dreams,” she said. “Don’t let [the drama] break you but make you.”
The girls responded favorably.
“She really helped me,” said 11th-grader Chardonay Campbell, who is aspiring to be a Supreme Court Judge. “All of the points [Alexus] really inspired me to pursue my dreams — she’s just like me.”
Eighth-grader Mariah Prosper, 13, recalled an exercise with a mirror, where the girls were asked to look at their reflections and write the first word that came to mind.
“It was so good,” said Prosper. “[Alexus] really got me thinking. I know not to ever give up.” She, too, would like to follow in Alexus’ footsteps and become an actress, nurse, and artist.
“It could not have gone any better,” said Lorme. “She did such a wonderful job. She doesn’t look like a celebrity but [like one of my students] and the [girls] are so comfortable with her.”
Alexus, who seemed wise beyond her years, said she is proud to be a role model for young women. The teenager said she has been holding forums for three years, traveling to several schools speaking to young women about low self-esteem and negative self-image.
“I love what I’m doing and being an actor helps me to express myself,” she said. “My goal is through each of my performances is for people to get something out of it, learn from it and grow from it.”
Her parents — Ernest Brown, who is also her manager, and mother Tasha — said they are very supportive of their children and do their best to instill in them good moral character and values.
“When we see something that they are passionate about, whether they want to be a doctor, lawyer, or a school teacher, we want push to them to be the best,” said her father. The couple also has an 18-year-old son, Devon Brown, who plays football at the University of Alabama.
“I always tell my children to keep God first,” said her mother.
Alexus said as she continues to grow as an actress, she will always maintain a positive image.
“You see enough negative images out there,” she said.
As a special treat, the actress gave the teenagers bags filled with beauty accessories and joined the group to eat a catered lunch.
Lorme said Alexus will not be the last celebrity the girls will meet. She said throughout the year there will be several celebrity guests who will share their life experiences and address many important social issues.
“That’s the great thing about partnering with Saving Our Daughters, because they have an arsenal of supporters,” she said. “We want to encourage and inspire [our young ladies] that you are beautiful and worth something.”