Motivational speaker and author Lakesha Collins has an amazing life story where she faces many different types of adversity and overcomes some tremendous odds. She has captured it all in her new book “Against All Odds: Accomplishing the Impossible” that she hopes will have the power to help so many women like her who have gone through extremely hard times and emerged stronger.
“The book took me a minute to write. I feel like I had writers’ block for awhile. But I had always known that I wanted to write a book,” Collins tells Madsion365. “Literally, I had so many different versions from when I started writing the book to when I actually finished it. It started with me noting and jotting things down and progressed to me actually taking the effort to sit there and think about what I wanted to write about and how I wanted to say it.”
Collins has faced tremendous adversity in her young life. She has spent time in foster care and ran away from home and has been involved in drug sales and prostitution. She’s been a victim of domestic violence and has survived a horrific car accident. “Against All Odds: Accomplishing the Impossible,” which is now available on Amazon, is not meant to bring you down, but aims to uplift the reader instead.
“I’m born and raised in Chicago and I am a mother of three,” says Collins, who was the 12th of 12 children. “I talk about a lot of the typical things that our generation goes through with domestic violence, sexual abuse, running away from home. I wrote about my experiences and how I was able to get through those experiences. That’s why I named it ‘Against All Odds’ because, despite all of those odds that I was going up against, I was able to make it through.”
The way Collins was able to make it through it all was with the help of music in her life.
“Every chapter in my book is based upon a song. There’s a song for every different type of mood and feeling – I think everyone can relate to that,” Collins says. “And it helped me get through whatever problem there may have been at that moment in time.
“Music was my outlet during some very tough times and I figured it could be someone else’s too,” she continues. “And I know that just telling my story can help someone else.
The book has seven different chapters and seven different songs. “I wrote what it helped me get through, how it helped me get through it, what I thought the lyrics meant and how it can help someone else,” Collins says.
The genesis for the book came when Collins first met Dr. Jasmine Zapata, a Madison-area author, pediatrician, public health strategist, youth empowerment specialist and community leader, through the Dane County Community Restorative Courts where Zapata would become here mentor.
“It started with me giving her a copy of my book ‘Beyond Beautiful: A Girl’s Guide to Unlocking the Power of Inner Beauty, Self Esteem, Resilience, and Courage’ and I poured the message into her that despite her past and despite how the outside world might look at her, she is so powerful and courageous and beautiful on the inside and she can reach any dream that she sets her minds to,” Zapata tells Madison365.
Collins let Zapata know right away that her dream was to become a motivational speaker and to use her life stories to impact lives.
“I told her that ‘you need to write a book!’ and she said that she had been dreaming of writing a book, as well,” Zapata remembers. “I put my book in her hands and told her that she needed to write a book, as well.”
Zapata’s publishing company – Motivational MD Publishing – teamed up with Collins to help her with the book.
“She started with being a mentor and a therapist to me and literally after our first meeting, I had told her how I had been contemplating writing a book but I couldn’t finish it – I didn’t know what to say or what to do,” Collins says. “Literally, she gave me the spark to start the fire. It made me feel like I was in high school all over again – like I was writing an essay.”
But Collins was writing much more than an essay.
“It was day or two later – I kid you not – and I had finished writing the book. I totally surprised Dr. Jasmine. It surprised me, too,” Collins remembers. “There was a point where I would never think something like this was possible … but to hold the book in front of me and then to also see me on Amazon … that blew me away.
“As Lakesha went through the process, it was just a transformative journey to watch her go from me meeting her in a situation through CRC to now doing her first professional photoshoot with [community photographer] Hedi Rudd for her new book. That was the first time she ever had a photoshoot in her life,” Zapata says. “And then to watch her go from that photoshoot to being an author on Amazon, doing radio interviews and already having some speaking gigs for her motivational speaking career. I’m so incredibly proud of her. Despite adversity and despite so many tough things life has thrown at her, she didn’t give up and she’s continuing to move forward. She’s so inspirational. It’s the greatest treasure to have worked with her to get her book out.”
The Dane County Community Restorative Courts were happy to be working with Collins too. The CRC works with 17-25-year-olds who have either a citation in municipal court or a low-level misdemeanor or a felony through the district attorney’s office, says Jackie Hammond, program leader for the Dane County Community Restorative Courts.
“What we do is we support our respondents. The program is victim-based but its respondent supported and it’s community-driven. So there is a ripple effect when something happens in the community,” Hammond tells Madison365. “The community comes into the circle – with the respondent, who is Lakesha, and myself, the staff person – and talks to her about what happened, who was harmed and how the harm can be repaired.”
They also talk about what could be a possible support or resource to help her move forward.
“We’re really hoping that the entire justice system moves this way, especially after the recent events we have been seeing,” Hammond says. “We are really hoping that people can see the power of restorative justice.
“I’m so proud of Lakesha. The great thing is that when I talk to her and when she talks to Dr. Zapata that despite everything she has been through, she has been so resilient and so genuine,” Hammond continues. “She’s so open, despite everything that has happened, to tell her story and to help other people tell her story.
“I am excited to see Lakesha again so she can sign a copy of her book for me. She has an amazing story to tell and I am so glad that she and Dr. Jasmine connected so that she could do it.”
Perhaps the biggest obstacle Collins faced that she talks about in “Against All Odds” was the terrible car accident she was involved in on Highway 33 in Dodge County on June 6, 2013.
“I feel blessed to tell my story. I almost lost my life and I almost lost my son. A semi truck smacked us into five other cars. Everyone was thrown out the window. My friend, who was driving, died on the scene,” Collins says. “Somebody else’s vehicle we hit died as well. My son Tyler who was only 1 was thrown 50 feet into a ditch. I was only 18 and I was thrown 40 feet into the middle of an expressway.
“Tyler was released from the children’s hospital a day or two later with just a fractured leg. I was in a coma for two weeks and when I woke up, they told me that I wouldn’t be able to walk,” she continues. “I had a shattered femur bone, a torn ACL. My spleen was removed, my collarbone is still broke and I had damage to my brain.”
“To be able to make it through something like that, I feel like I had to tell my story as a whole. That’s what made me want to write this book. Against all odds, I’m here to tell that story.”
It is Collins’ goal that beyond the book, she will share her inspirational story with women all over Madison, Wisconsin, and beyond.
Collins remembers when she first lived in the DAIS shelter on Fordem Ave. when she came to Madison. “I hope that I would be able to speak at DAIS or any other type of women’s shelter about my new book,” she says. “That would be great. That’s what I really want to do.
“This book is for everybody but I feel like women can really relate to the book more. But, yes, I hope there is something in the book that everybody can take something away from,” she adds. “I hope that they get the belief that they can beat any odds held against them in their lives.”