I recently met Leeta ,former Choose Courage model, at a quant coffee shop to catch-up, discuss her motivation to make a difference, and living life without fear.
Rhonda: So let’s start with some fun stuff. I know you love to cook. (Side note: I always think I should show up at your house and have you teach me!) What is the strangest thing you have eaten and / or cooked?
Leeta: Strangest thing? Hmm… That catches me off guard a little. I love to cook but I’m picky so I don’t try a whole lot of new things.
Leeta: Well…. I’ve had coon before.
Rhonda: Really?! Did you like it!
Leeta: It actually tasted like BBQ Beef. It was good. I was younger when I ate it but I liked it. I would never eat it again though.
Rhonda: What’s your favorite thing to cook then?
Leeta: I love casseroles.
Rhonda: Are you from the midwest?
Leeta: I’m from Oklahoma.
Rhonda: Makes sense! And casseroles are everything in one dish. Perfection.
Rhonda: What is the last picture you took on your phone?
Leeta: The last picture I took was of some cookies I made from scratch from a Crumble Cookie duplicate recipe I found.
Rhonda: See! I should show up at your house!
Rhonda: What did 10 year old Leeta want to be when she grew up?
Leeta: Computer Science! Always! I always wanted to do that.
Rhonda: So you knew.
Leeta: I did know.
Rhonda: If you could have dinner with a famous person dead or alive who would it be and why?
Leeta: Laughing… Ok…. LL Cool Jay. He is sexy.
On an informative note it would be Maya Angelo. She is just awesome. To listen to her voice is inspiring, calming and motivational.
Rhonda: I would love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.
Rhonda: So it’s been a couple years since you were a model for the Choose Courage Foundation as a survivor of domestic abuse. What motivated you to say yes back then?
Leeta: My main motivation was that I knew it would reach someone else. I know the hurdles and the set backs women have that are going through that. And the not wanting to talk about it or tell someone. I know that seeing someone else telling their story would reach them a different way.
Rhonda: I’m trying to remember, How did you hear about Choose Courage?
Leeta: I had seen a news feature on Channel 8 and then applied to be a model.
Rhonda: What one word would you use to describe your emotions the day of your original photoshoot?
Leeta: Excited! I knew it was going to be a good thing. It’s exciting to do something that you know will help someone else. Most of what I do is for others.
Rhonda: What about one word to describe your emotions after your campaign was run on social media that first time?
Rhonda: What a great word.
Leeta: I was satisfied with the whole process. It was like a wrap. As in filming… That’s a wrap.
Rhonda: Where there any reactions or responses to your campaign that surprised you?
Leeta: It did what I was hoping it would do. People reached out. Co-workers who were glad I came forward and others online. They had been in the situation and had gotten out. Just talking with others who have experienced domestic violence.
Rhonda: Did you have any fears at that time about running a very public awareness campaign for being a survivor of domestic abuse?
Leeta: Yes. I paused. You always have this kind of fear of who’s watching, maybe someone would tell my ex-husband. But I put those feelings down because I don’t live my life in fear. I know I am stronger than that.
Rhonda; What has been the most surprising thing about this journey? Is there anything that has shocked you?
Leeta: I’m not fearful but I’m a little shy. That surprised me that I wasn’t shy about this. It shocked my sister!
Rhonda: They day of your shoot (and we still talk about your shoot) we literally watched you transform before the camera. Your confidence, your spirit, everything about you become stronger and more powerful. Did you feel that like we did?
Leeta: I did!
Rhonda: How did that feel to you as you experienced it?
Leeta: It felt great! I’m telling you I was so motivated. That push I had to get that message across was so strong for me. It pushed me in a way I needed. I could use the organization to get out there and to reach people. It was real motivating for me.
Rhonda: It was truly incredible to watch. Your physical appearance changed in the 2 hours we were shooting at the gardens
Leeta: I thought it was good. I didn’t know you saw it too.
Rhonda: We wondered if you felt it like we did.
Leeta: I felt it and then when I saw the images I saw it.
Rhonda: How are you inspired to keep growing?
Leeta: Knowing that there is always someone out there. This is happening every day. I’m looking forward to keep spreading this message and helping. I’m looking forward to the end of Covid so I can get more involved again.
Rhonda: If you could talk to 20 year old Leeta today what would you tell her?
Leeta: I would have been less shy and more interactive. I would have told her to get out there and do more. Do all the things. Learn more about other people. So many people and so many places to go.
Rhonda: What brings you joy?
Leeta: Peace. I like peace and the joy that my son is happy.
Rhonda: Is peace your word?
Leeta: Yes. That’s my word. If you don’t have peace you have nothing. If you have that you can handle anything.
Rhonda: How do you keep your peace?
Leeta: I journal, meditate and a little tia chi. I had to find ways to keep my peace through everything that is going on.
Rhonda: What about the future excites you the most?
Leeta: I look forward to retiring. I’ve been working for a long time and I’m looking forward to retiring and traveling. I really want to travel. Italy is on my bucket list, maybe a cruise. But just to travel in general is my goal.
Rhonda: Ok… What is one surprising thing about you? Hidden talent or maybe a secret obsession? Something that might entertain us!
Leeta: I love to sing, but I can’t sing. People tell me that, but I think I sound good. (laughing) And I’m a clown. That surprises people that I like to clown around.
Rhonda: Is there anything you wish you would have said 2 years ago after your campaign? Or anything you would like to add now.
Leeta: One of the things that held me back was embarrassment. I would say don’t be embarrassed to leave. I had just gotten marriage and that embarrassment held me there a lot longer than I should have stayed. You do what you need to do to get out of the situation and don’t be embarrassed to make that move.
Rhonda: You are incredible Miss Leeta. Thank you for choosing courage.