Portia Smith Shares Her Story of Hope and Never Giving Up
Portia Smith is a children’s book author, a counselor, an entrepreneur, and a mother of two beautiful children. Following the tragic loss of her two spouses at an early age — the first in 2004 to lung cancer and the second in 2015 following a cardiac arrest — Portia went through a difficult period of depression and anxiety. She began utilizing affirmations as part of her daily routine to help reduce the depression and cope with the pain. Portia also began saying affirmations with her children. Observing the positive change in their lives, Portia decided to create a children’s book containing affirmations. In 2019, she launched Imagine Me Creative Book Publishing and published her first book, “I Know Who I Am,” in 2020. The mission is to create and publish children’s books featuring diverse characters and books that promote positive self-esteem and confidence.
Recently, Portia Smith was named to the Forbes Next 1000 list, and is nominated as one of Woman Entrepreneur Magazine’s Most Influential Women Entrepreneurs of 2021. Portia has also been featured in Black Parents Magazine and chosen as the winner of Exposure TV’s book contest in 2021.
She enjoys arts and crafts in her spare time. Additionally, Portia enjoys working within her community as she is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
If someone were to ask you who is Portia Smith, what would your reply be?
Portia: I would start by telling them that Portia Smith is the exception…the exception to the rule. I say this in a humorous manner because I hear it so often. They say I’m very extra and different regarding the way I act, inspire others, and have a strong work ethic. This always amuses me because I can be pretty naive to what others consider extra when it comes to behavior, goals, and work. What they think is extra, I think is common. However, I do consider myself a person who doesn’t give up easily because despite the challenges life has presented to me on my journey, I have survived, and I have used my experiences to help others who may be facing the same problems.
Additionally, I would tell them that Portia is a great mother! Her children are the light of her life. She enjoys reading, arts and crafts, karaoke (a personal favorite), and traveling with her children. She is also shy (although no one else thinks I am). She is nontraditional, quirky, corny, a little insecure at times, fun, caring, and a great friend.
When you found out that you would be listed as Forbes Next 1000. What was your reaction?
Portia: I called my mom! It was the first thing I did. It felt surreal. I told her that I couldn’t believe it was happening. The funny thing about this is that maybe a month or two months prior to finding out, I told my sister that I wanted to be in Forbes one day, and when it happened shortly after that, I was shocked. It doesn’t feel real. Even to this day, it has not fully sunk in.
What have been some other memorable moments in your career so far?
Portia: My daughter has always loved books. When she was three years old, she would carry stacks of books inside her little arms from the living room to the kitchen and sit in front of the refrigerator as if it were a mirror. Occasionally, she would tell me that she was writing a book and would be so excited to share it with me. Seeing her love of reading is a joy.
So, for me, one of the most memorable moments has been watching my daughter, who is now eight years old, publish her first children’s book with my company. Her book is currently being illustrated, and it will be published later this year. I am also inspired by the photos and videos other parents send me of their children reading my books. It is truly moving.
What experiences have made you the woman that you are today?
Portia: As a 22-year-old senior in my last semester of college, I was unemployed, had just given birth to a son, and found out my son’s father had stage 4 lung cancer. Talk about growing up fast! Life hit me like a whirlwind, and I was not prepared for it at all. While I thought my life would be one way, God had other plans. My husband passed away shortly after we learned that he had cancer. That was the turning point in my life. Following this experience, I was determined to be the best parent and provider I could be for my son. However, life was not easy.
A few years later, at the age of 33, I had remarried, held the best job I ever thought I would have as a crisis counselor, and had a one-year-old daughter and a ten-year-old son. Everything was going well, and then my second husband suffered a seizure and went into cardiac arrest while he slept. It was a traumatic experience. I didn’t think I could or would make it after that. I was ready to give up, but I had to keep going for my children and myself. These experiences taught me the importance of love, family, faith, gratitude, and perseverance.
It has been challenging raising two children on my own, both with disabilities-one autistic, the other with hydrocephalus, epilepsy, and cerebral palsy. But I did it with the grace of God. I made it. In spite of my struggles, my children are thriving and happy; I earned three college degrees and three counseling licenses, bought my first home on my own at the age of 22, kept food on the table, established a business, and moved up in my career field.
What is a quote that you live by?
Portia: My favorite quote is, “God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers.”
I also love the Bible scripture that says, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary, and they shall walk, and not faint.”
When you think of women empowerment, what comes to mind?
Portia: When I think of women empowerment, what comes to my mind is women celebrating each other’s uniqueness and supporting, encouraging, and uplifting one another.
What do you want your legacy to look like?
Portia: I want to leave a legacy of hope and faith that all things are possible.
What else would you like our readers to know about you?
Portia: I am very easygoing, and they can always reach out to me with questions or ideas. Everyone has a story, and I would love to hear theirs.
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