Shallene “Pookie” Francis reading her daughter Shaskyja Gittens’ favourite book to her. (Picture by Lennox Devonish.)
Mother’s Day is a celebration honoring mothers and celebrating motherhood, maternal bonds and the influence of mothers in society. It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, yet most commonly in May.
Being a mother has been a life-changing experience for Shallene “Pookie” Francis. Not only did she become a better version of herself, but she was also able to help a young woman in her Salisbury, St George community develop her talent.
Francis, a loctician and entrepreneur said being a mother was hard work. For her, motherhood is about setting the right examples, making sacrifices and trying to find the perfect balance between work and family time.
The 28-year-old gave birth to a bouncy baby girl name Shaskyja Gittens two years ago, and it was during pregnancy that Francis’ life began to change.
“I was a party animal before,” she told EASY magazine during an interview recently. “That’s how everybody come to know me as Pookie. I used to hold a lot of cruises and dubs [fetes].
“But when I became pregnant I was sick; I had something called hyperemesis gravidarum, which caused me to vomit constantly and I developed severe nausea.”
Francis said her condition was so bad that she was hospitalised for almost the entire duration of her pregnancy. It was during that time she took the opportunity to reflect.
“While I was in there I realised that other than my family, only a few people came and looked for me. So that was an eye-opening experience and a reality check about life in the whole.
“God showed me the way and I made my circle smaller. Doing that helped me to concentrate more, get my act together as it relates to my business and I started to think in a different way.”
The former Springer Memorial School student said some of the days she spent away from the hospital were at church, adding that it was one of the few places where she felt at home and did not experience pain. She made up in her mind that she needed to get right with God and resorted back to the Christian upbringing her grandmother raised her on.
“I wanted my child to come up right and have a better life than me.
“I wanted her to come up in church to gain a good foundation; I wanted her to have stability, manners and respect so I had to stop living the way I was and be a good example.”
At the age of 20, Francis started her career working at a salon in White Hall, St Michael. She said building a clientele was so difficult at first that she had to offer free hairdos to get her name and business out there. She explained that as a new face in the industry, she had to prove she was just as talented as those who were in the industry longer.
About three years ago, Francis moved her salon – Angels of Beauty – to the first floor of her home. She always wanted to run her business from home where it would be more convenient.
Through the help of God, family support and saving “piece by piece”, Francis said she was able to achieve her dream.
One day her spirit drew her to a young woman in her community who was unemployed and liming outside her home to past time. Francis said she asked the young lady what skills she had and offered her a job as an assistant.
“She has a young child too and I couldn’t see her not do anything and leave her. With all that I was able to accomplish, the least I could do was help someone else get their act together.
“Not only is she able to make her own money, take care of herself and family, but she has become an asset to my business. Everyone loves her funny and bubbly personality and her help comes in handy. When the salon is busy and I have to put my daughter to bed or comfort her I can leave everything in her hands, deal with my child and come back.”
That would be 22-year-old Jodi Burnham, who has a three-year-old son name Jebario Burnham. Jodi said she was grateful for the experience and knowledge Francis passed on to her.
“She has become a true friend to me,” she said. “I knew how to braid and style hair before but Pookie helped me develop my skills and I learnt more things like how to apply treatments and palm roll hair.”
Francis is also working on a hair care line. Thus far she has developed natural hair oils for hair growth, for moistening dry hair and strengthening hair follicles.
Francis, known for her elaborate and creative hairstyles, also likes to share inspirational messages with her customers as she does their hair.
“I like to tell my clients about my journey and how good God has been to me. I try to keep them on the right path and encourage them to do positive things.
“I tell them to always trust and believe God will make a way for them no matter how challenging life may seem.” (SB)