A Motivational Speaker with a dramatic twist to share her winning stories one at a time.
The Empowering Movement of Coco LaRain INSPIRED BY COCO STORIES organization feeds your soul with chronicles that incorporate the arts mixed with improv to dynamically share Coco LaRain’s tales of her own bittersweet journey through life to teach, inspire, encourage and motivate children and youth to live lives of mental health, wellness and success.
I sat comfortably in the only seat available I could see, a big wide comfy brown leather couch very close to the main entrance, inside a fairly busy small but quaint coffee shop while waiting patiently for Coco LaRain to arrive. A few short minutes later she opened the door bringing the bitter cold wind in with her and walked casually over to greet me. I stood up to greet her.
“Hi,” I said and she said ‘hi’ in the up-beat way that I had expected. I quickly thought of the phone conversation we had had in which Coco’s vibrancy seemed to gleam through the phone. We embraced each other, shared a warm hug, and warm was Coco. She was dressed very warmly and certainly equipped for the winter weather. She had on a long well-padded black ankle-length coat with black and white faux fur around the neck, a polyester scarf, a pair of gloves, a thick gray cotton sweater underneath her coat and black thigh-high boots. Her hair was cut short but was curled nicely and she wore red fashionable dangling earrings with red lipstick to match.
“You look very warm,” I said. ‘Warm’ was the operative word used again unconsciously to describe Coco’s person.
“Yes, I do not play with this weather. It is cooold…”
“Yes, it is very cold outside,” I agreed. We sat down on the big wide brown comfy couch while we unraveled our many winter garments. At this point Coco said, “Are you going to buy something to drink?”
“Yes,” I said. “I was in fact waiting for you to arrive before I placed an order.”
“OK then. We can go buy something now.” We got up and proceeded toward the order desk.
This was my first face-to-face encounter with Coco, never have met her before, but what burst into my mind about her right away was her vitality. Her cheerful personality and energy was quite evident. Yes, I could tell all of that just by speaking with Coco and observing her within a few minutes of meeting her. They say you can tell a thing or two about someone’s character within minutes of first meeting that person and if I ever was a skeptic and needed proof this was it.
After we purchased white hot chocolate with whip cream with cinnamon sprinkled on top as well as lattes, we headed back to the brown comfy couch. Before we sat down Coco asked if I minded sitting nearer the back of the coffee shop.
“Oh, I did not realize that the coffee shop extended further back. It seems so small from the front,” I said, surprised.
“Yes, there is more room at the back,” she said. I took it she had been here before.
“No, I do not mind at all,” I said. “I understand the couch is too close to the main door which makes it a bit colder than the rest of the shop.”
“No, it’s just that the door will keep opening and closing while we chat,” she replied.
“No problem,” I said. Coco quickly gathered her very long, black and much padded warm winter coat with the black and white faux fur around the neck while I gathered my short, tan and brown fury winter coat and followed Coco toward the back of the shop. Coco found two black modern wing chairs with an artistic design of black, white, yellow and red on them. They resembled chairs from IKEA and gave the shop a contemporary feel. We sat down and got comfy a couple of feet away from two young men who were surfing the Net on their laptops.
“At first, I wanted to become a professional actress. I soon realized I was an actress acting out my own stories.”
“So what questions do you want to ask me?” She asked.
“You’re ready to just jump right into this, eh?” I responded.
She then smiled. “Oh, I’m just curious and excited at the same time,” she stated. That was my cue–I jumped right into my sit-down with the warm and fury Coco.
While she spoke I took both mental and manual notes. Coco had a way of telling her narratives. Even while she was speaking she was quite the entertainer. She would make funny facial expressions and act out different roles, changing her voice to do different impressions. She even started speaking in different accents. At one point, she was telling me about one of her speaking engagements at which she went into her comedic mode and started to speak like a British person. I was not at that session, but I bet it got the audience’s attention, all right. It sure got mine because I burst out laughing in the coffee shop. I then noticed a couple of patrons looking over at me and their faces said it all: “Would you be quiet?” I took the hint and I composed myself while Coco continued to talk.
Coco spoke frankly about how Inspired By Coco Stories began. Going into the account she enlightened me by painting a picture of her past. She disclosed that she was a high school dropout and a teenage mother at the age of 18-years-old with a history of abuse. She said, “I was asked by a public health nurse to speak to high school students about being a teenage mom during a high school pregnancy prevention workshop. I was shocked and I was not sure what I would say to the students. I was very nervous but I spoke from the heart and I told the truth about my experiences as a teenage mom. In the end, I was well received by the students and it made me feel very good and inspired.” Coco professed that from there she got a revelation or an epiphany if you will or what Oprah would call an ‘aha’ moment. She continued, “I then realized this is what I want to do. This is my destiny and I decided to walk in it.”
Inspired by Coco Stories was birthed in 2001 and it originated from her life experiences as a young teenage mother and a high school dropout with a history of abuse. The organization specializes in facilitating educational presentations and artistic workshops by using creative approaches to engage, educate and equip children and youth to address the challenges they are facing. The organization’s mission is to inspire children and youth to strive for emotional and mental health and wellness.
Coco ventures to elementary schools, high schools and churches to tell her stories with the goal of teaching the children and youth how to face and overcome challenges. Coco remembers being described as the ‘funny lady.’ “I became known as the up-beat dramatist and motivational and inspirational speaker but more well known as the ‘funny lady.’” Coco would include and engage the children and youth by pulling volunteers from the audience to do improv. She candidly remembers one of her first improvs at a school. “It was around Black History month and I was speaking at a school. I was nervous and I could not remember how I was going to deliver my story. It then hit me to do an improv based on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. I started pulling students from the audience and got them to slightly dress like these past world-changers to make it fun and entertaining. Needless to say, the students loved it. They loved it not only because it was entertaining but because it was educational and served a purpose. From there, I decided to use the arts and blend it with my stories at speaking engagements.”
She continued on to say that incorporating the arts in her speaking engagements was also due to her wanting to become an actress. “My dream was to become an actress and I thought what better way to get my teachings across than to act them out through improv to tell a dynamic story. And I did just that,” She energetically confessed. By having no shame in speaking the truth she would tell her stories for the purpose of helping, educating and inspiring children and youth to face and overcome their problems no matter the circumstance.
“I became known as the ‘funny lady.’”
Coco has a love for people in general but a natural love and an effortless connection to children and youth in particular. She admitted that she has a good connection with them because she understands them and for the most part all they want is someone to talk to, to take an interest in them, to love and to care. Coco understands how vital it is to have a good connection with children and youth. She added, “It definitely helps when children and youth have someone they can relate to. It helps them to have a balanced outlook on things, to make healthy choices.”
Coco believes that for the majority of the time the children and youth who are struggling with one or more issues are in fact missing the love, care and acceptance they need to have good mental health, wellness and success. Accordingly, if these are not given feelings of anger and hostility are created. As a result, they find it challenging to express their feelings and trounce those negative feelings. Inevitably, they make poor choices that are not good for their mental stability. Coco explained why this is. She professed, “Some children and youth are like cells in the human body. They require love, care and guidance to have good health. If, however, they do not get love, care and guidance when faced with challenges, they may become self-destructive. In essence, what they are lacking is the proper nutrients (antioxidants) to properly function.” Coco explained about the the antioxidants in cocoa beans to further explain the cells’ behavior. “Cocoa beans carry- a lot of antioxidants that help rid the body of free radicals; that cause cellular damage. In order to prevent free radical damage the body has this a defense system of antioxidants. Cocoa is a good source of calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. If the cells’ are not getting these antioxidants they become unbalanced and may be destroyed.” So, essentially, Inspired By Coco Stories organization will equip children and youth with the proper tools they need to rid themselves of free radicals by teaching them how to face and overcome issues such as abuse, low self-esteem, violence, etcetera in order to have and maintain good mental health which in turn will assist them in successfully functioning within society.
No doubt I learned a lot from Inspired By Coco Stories. I was undeniably schooled about the way free radicals interact with antioxidants. For a minute, I really thought I was taking a brief course in Physiology and Chemistry 101. Nonetheless, I sat back, sat up and listened keenly to Coco’s teachings.
Coco casually talked about two other programs developed by Inspired By Coco Stories called I Am BELLA and I Am REAL. First, BELLA stands for Beautiful, Educated, Loving, Liberated, Able. I Am BELLA’s mission is to inspire young women to strive for mental and emotional health. The project’s goal is to engage and educate at-risk girls and equip them with the life skills they need to deal with emotional and mental health issues such as low self-esteem. Second, REAL stands for Respected, Educated, Authentic, Liberated. This program challenges young men to address sensitive issues they are being faced with. The goal is to challenge them to become REAL men with values.
Several sips of white hot chocolate and lattes later, I asked Coco what’s next for her. She candidly talked about who she is today. She said, “I’m getting to know me a little better, enjoying life and having fun while doing it. But, I am taking it day by day.”
I then pronounced, “Is there something else you would like to get across to everyone?”
She gladly replied, “Everyone is a Coco; everyone has a Coco story to tell about experiencing a challenging situation in his or her life at some point. We all have faced difficult situations but we
overcame and have inspiring stories to tell that may encourage and motivate children, youths and adults.”
It’s just that simple folks.
For more information on Inspired By Coco Stories, please visit: www.wix.com/in0203/cocostories