#CrownAndGlory: 5 Questions with Falesha A. Johnson
Apr 22, 2022 – minute read
Inspired by spring – a season for renewal and reaping the fruits of our labor – we’ve launched #CrownAndGlory, a month-long series celebrating Black women creators who have been hard at work planting seeds to build a better world for themselves and the next generation of content creators. By telling these stories, we hope to give this community their overdue flowers (or praise) and empower more creators to share their story both on and off YouTube.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, well, Falesha Johnson has a “Cali Crew” – a YouTube community of nearly 150,000 cyber aunties and uncles who tune into her channel as she navigates life as a medical needs mother to her sweet rambunctious daughter, Caliyah “Cali” Joy.
Cali, who was born with a rare genetic disorder called Pfeiffer syndrome, is of course the star of nearly every video on her mother’s YouTube channel. Over the past two years, Falesha has been documenting Cali’s developmental milestones, surgeries, Daddy dance sessions and more. The goal is to educate others on the realities of raising a child with special needs, but also, “I really want others to see that life can be so beautiful, even if it's different,” Falesha says.
During her #CrownAndGlory interview, Falesha opened up about the importance of seeing families like hers represented online and how she found the confidence to be vulnerable on her YouTube channel.
My channel is all about being your authentic self. My daughter was born with a rare syndrome called Pfeiffer syndrome, and I really wanted to share her story and inspire others. When she was first born, we were told there were so many limitations on her life, and that because she would have a facial difference, that life was going to be different for her. And I really want others to see that life can be so beautiful, even if it's different.
I showcase our life via vlogs. I also want to educate others, so we talk about her medical complications, and we really dive into teaching others what it's like living with a facial difference and what it's like when life is unexpected and how you attack it straight on. It's family, it's lifestyle, it’s love, it's compassion – it’s so many things rolled into one, but it’s all about my sweetie Cali Joy and my journey as a mom.
Sharing my story is so important because when I found out that my daughter was going to have Pfeiffer syndrome, I looked online. I looked all over to find other families that looked like me that were living a life that I was soon to be living and didn't find many. And the ones I did weren't women of color. So I felt like if I don't see it out there, why can't I be a pioneer and lead others? So many times we feel that we can't share our stories because we don't see the stories out there, but you never know who out there is being silenced because they don't see anyone that looks like them.
It was the silver lining of the pandemic. I remember that so many family members couldn't come visit. They couldn't come see my daughter and see us as a family. So, I started my channel to share updates with my family. I literally thought that it was going to be like family and friends commenting and watching – maybe I’d get like 100, 200 views. But it took off.
We've created this amazing community who love her, and we call them the Cali Crew. They are like our extended family. We have cyber aunties and uncles. It's been beautiful and it's been just growing like crazy. I'm so excited to see where it goes next. I definitely feel like my community has planted a seed, and it has just grown. I mean, it's perfect that I'm wearing this crown of flowers because I'm blooming every day, blooming with confidence and blooming with love.
Honestly, I think sometimes as a black woman I feel like I have to show up so strong all the time. But instead, I showed up very vulnerable. I showed up very authentic and through that, I found confidence. I always thought it was the other way around – that you have to be super composed all the time and you have to come off confident – kind of like fake it till you make it. But you don't have to fake it till you make it. You can just be real and say, “This is a hard situation. This is a hard moment. And I'm sad and I'm dealing with it. I'm figuring it out every day.”
My daughter gives me confidence. This girl is a fighter. She's phenomenal. I'm honored to be her mom and honored to be on this journey of motherhood. I know that I was hand-selected to be her mom. She was hand-selected to be my daughter, and we pour into each other.
It's important to share other stories of Black women because we're silenced so often or we're put in a box. I feel like Black culture is sometimes stolen and taken – [people] try to recreate it in their own way. So, let us have our stories. Let us have our authentic selves and show the uniqueness of us, the beauty of us, how well rounded we are and how we don't have to be strong women. We can be everything all wrapped up into one.