Keah Brown is an essayist and author of the upcoming book, "The Pretty One." We talked via email about her viral hashtag, #DisabledandCute, her book, and making The Root 100, the root.com’s annual list of 100 most influential African Americans paving the way for the next generators of leaders, change-makers, and influencers
Adolescent Content: Congrats on making The Root 100! That’s huge. How did you feel when you found out? I would have lost it. Was the ceremony what you thought it would be?
Keah Brown: Thank you! I was in the library of all places when I found out. They keep it a total surprise so I was genuinely shocked. I shed quite a few tears. It’s a list you dream of being on, and what an honor it was. The gala event that was held to celebrate it was great. This was my very first gala, and it was so cool to see everyone dressed in their best and equally as excited to be there.
Adolescent: #DisabledandCute was a big deal for you! You created it in 2017—a rough year for a lot of folks. Did you expect it to do what it did?
Keah: Absolutely not. I made it to celebrate feeling good about myself, and I was completely blown away by the response. I think of it as a movement, not a moment because self-love...is a journey, and people can always use the hashtag whenever they see fit. I like that there is no expiration date on discovering things to love about the person you are.
Adolescent: How did the hashtag play into writing a book? What was the writing process like?
Keah: I mention the hashtag in pivotal moments in the book because it’s been a monumental point in my life so far. However, I was very clear in that I wanted "The Pretty One" to cover more than just the hashtag and disability. I write about love and pop culture, loss, grief, [and] joy. The hashtag is a stepping stone in what I hope to be a long career. The process was a lot of introspection. I spent a lot of time sitting in who I was and processing who I used to be in order to thrive in who I am becoming. I wasn’t scared of writing it. I think that’ll come when it’s out in the world later this year!
Adolescent: As a disabled person, do you worry about how your narrative will be perceived due to the fact that able-bodied folks love inspiration porn?
Keah: All the time! I want more opportunities to write outside of disability for that reason! I hope the book will foster those opportunities.
Adolescent: Disability is not a monolith and we all have different experiences, but what would say to a disabled person who feels like there might not be space in the community for their own narrative?
Keah: I would say [that] even if you feel like there isn’t enough space for your voice in our community, I’m here to tell you there is. You just have to carve it out yourself. No one is going to do it for you. There is no perfect time, so stop waiting... There are people out there who need your story. Don’t leave them hanging.
Adolescent: What does 2019 hold for you and "The Pretty One"? Do you think you’ll write more books?
Keah: 2019 is the year of "The Pretty One" and a few really exciting freelance pieces! I’m really proud of the book though, and I hope people buy it and love it too! Fingers crossed.
I hope to write many many more books across genre for sure. Fiction is my first love, so hopefully, I can get a few novels in, a short story collection or two, and definitely a poetry collection! Those are big dreams, but I also want to write for TV! And a movie! And be in both, so we gotta dream big! "The Pretty One" first—and then world domination!
You can follow Keah on Twitter @Keah_Maria. The Pretty One will be available in August 2019.