Meet Hennapreneur Connie Tu
The story that Connie Tu, professional henna artist, most commonly tells about how she began with henna started with an exchange in a tattoo shop, but if you get the chance to speak with her in more depth like I did recently in an interview for the I Am Hennapreneur Artist Showcase, you’ll learn that her journey with henna began long before she ever picked up a cone.
“It all started when I had kids.” she says. “I don’t know about your experience with being a parent, but I just completely lost myself,” she continues, “I don’t know where I went. I don’t know who I was. I didn’t know which of me was me - which of me was supposed to be a mother. It was a really difficult adjustment period.” And her experience is not certainly not an isolated one. As a homeschooling mother of three, I am more than familiar with the challenges of balancing motherhood, business ownership, and personal identity. Like Connie, it was in henna that I found something to both quench my thirst for creative exploration, personal connection, and autonomy even despite the often overwhelming realities of motherhood.
Through the launch of her business, Created by Connie in Bradford, UK, the award-winning British-born Cantonese artist found herself once more, and in ways she’d never foreseen.
“It’s all been so empowering that I can actually make a business out of this. I have a studio now - what the hell?! I have a letterhead, I have an email signature, I have accounts. And I’ve done this all myself through henna - as a result of henna.”
And that’s not all she’s managed to accomplish. In her nearly three years of business, Connie has set herself apart as a qualified educator who has instructed at multiple henna conferences, she’s fostered the growth of her local community by way of Monthly Mehndi Meets, and has worked diligently to build an air of inclusivity within her brand among other things. It comes at no surprise that the artist has gained the trust and admiration of henna artists around the world.
But having the stamp of approval of one’s community doesn’t always translate to the same self-perception. During our chat, Connie shares about her battle with depression and anxiety, and she confides about feelings of inadequacy surrounding her capacity as an artist - things she works to counter on a daily basis using affirmations, the support of her family, and the expertise of a trusted mental health professional.
“The henna journey has been a catalyst. And where I am now it’s almost not about the henna anymore. The henna is going along, and I’m actually still developing apart, aside from the henna. The henna business is trundling along, and I’m sort of leaving it to do what it does, but personally there is still growth going on that’s no longer linked to it. It was kickstarted by it. But I’m finding myself giving myself to take up space, and permission to just be lazy if I need to be lazy and recharge. I’m giving myself permission to explore other ideas and other mediums. I’m giving myself permission to make crap or make nice stuff,” she says with a laugh, “and I’m slowly embracing the fact that I’m an artist.”
What strikes me most about the time spent with Connie is the apparent personal growth she’s experienced as a byproduct of her work as a henna artist. Over the years, I’ve watched her blossom as an artist and as a professional, emerging as a leader in the global henna community, a process that has been nothing less than inspiring. To the hennapreneurs out there who are struggling to find themselves in once more, she leaves this recommendation:
“Give yourself permission to do what you want to do and to just be you - you can look at other businesses, other henna artists, and be inspired by them,” she says, “but really what you need to do is just need to give yourself permission to be as great as you are.”
Watch the full interview here
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