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Achea Redd's Crusade

Holly Zachariah
hzachariah@dispatch.com
Achea Redd

Achea Redd props four or five fluffy pillows behind her, burrows in under her bed’s thick down comforter and makes sure her ever-present steaming cup of coffee is within reach. Then she sets up her laptop for some Zoom calls and an afternoon of relaxation before she picks up her two kids from school.

It’s a busy time for Redd. Tomorrow, she needs to squeeze in another round of interviews to promote her latest book, “Authentic You: A Girl’s Guide to Growing Up Fearless and True.” Plus, she faces sinus surgery in a few days, and there’s her usual whirlwind schedule of guest appearances preaching her gospel of mental-health awareness, self-care, self-love, self-affirmation and empowerment.

With all that on her plate, she recognizes the importance of snuggling in a little me-time on this rainy November afternoon. Admitting that, she often tells others, is not a weakness but a sign of strength. “Being really open and learning to be vulnerable can be taxing,” says Redd, who has spent the past four years coming to terms with her diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder following a mental health crisis in 2016. Since then, she has shared her journey with the world to inspire a sisterhood of healing, particularly in the Black community where the stigma associated with seeking mental health care is even more real and access to care is often hindered.

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“I am so blessed that so many other people along the way share their stories every day with me,” she says. “But it’s emotionally draining to be  Achea Redd.” She balances it all by making sure to fill her emotional cup with family and friends. “Then, what overflows from that cup goes to everyone else,” she says.

***

To outsiders, the 40-year-old Redd appears to have it all: A successful and happy 14-year marriage to retired NBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist Michael Redd and the two children (10-year-old Ardyn and Michael Jr., who is 13) they are raising on their secluded, nearly 5-acre, custom-designed, $4 million New Albany estate.

Born and raised in Columbus and a graduate of Harvest Prep Academy (then World Harvest Christian Academy) and Ohio Dominican University, Redd blogs through her Real Girls F.A.R.T. movement (Fearless. Authentic. Rescuers. Trailblazers), has authored two books and is planning a third. Her latest philanthropy effort—the Real Girls Foundation—aims to foster peer-to-peer mentoring and help girls in minority and underserved communities bloom where they are planted. 

But for too long, all that good fortune felt unsteady to her, like wisps of sea foam lathered on a beach. One bad decision, one untended moment of crisis and everything could disappear, she thought. She’d spent too long carrying first the weight of her upbringing—she’s a PK, a “preacher’s kid”—and then the pressure of being the perfect NBA wife in a glamourous world where even her own imperfections can land her husband as the top story on TMZ.

So she soldiered on.

“I saw my mom being very submissive when I was a kid, the dutiful preacher’s wife. I’d always been groomed to ssssshhhhssssshhhhssssshhhh,’” Redd says as she taps a finger to her lips. “Black women were raised that man is king and that your job is to serve your man. Very unempowering identities were all I’d ever known. I’ve had a lot to relearn as an adult.” 

And that’s where her husband comes in. “This is a ‘we’ thing more than a ‘her’ thing,” says Michael, who retired from the NBA in 2013. “At the end of the day I’ve been going through this journey with her. Achea is not alone in how she is having to navigate anything. We all had to learn as a family. I think more than anything when the world inside you changes, the world around you changes. And she has had an internal metamorphosis. It’s been a beautiful thing to watch.” 

Redd—having just come from a long walk with her mother because daily exercise is an important part of her self-care—settles herself in a living-room easy chair for a wide-ranging interview by the fireplace. Wearing a sweatshirt that reads “Going to therapy is cool,” she leans her head back and smiles when asked about the husband she knew as a childhood friend but married in 2006 after they reconnected as adults. 

Achea Redd with her family