In ancient Ethiopia (Kush) the title “Candace” (pronounced kan-DAH-say) referred to a powerful line of queens who ruled the African city of Meroe. One of those ruling Black women were even mentioned in the Bible’s Book of Acts. Candace (pronounced KAN-dass) Strother is all about that queen life, devoting much of her personal and professional time to providing powerful acts of her own to awaken girls and women alike to the powerful queen that resides in each of them.
Strother founded the organization QueenLyfe Inc. to build an empowered community of women and girls through promoting health and wellness, financial responsibility and mentorship. However, it was born out of her own personal journey to move out of depression and towards her purpose by living the mantra “Love Yourself First Everyday;” or LYFE. Because of her heart for service and her professional prowess to boot, Strother was recognized as a 2019 Houston Business Journal “40 Under 40” member.
The pandemic has placed QueenLyfe activities on a brief hiatus, but nothing has slowed down Strother from sharing her royal presence with the world. The Defender caught up with the QueenLyfe CEO to learn more about the organization and its founder.
DEFENDER: What was behind the founding of QueenLyfe and what was it seeking to accomplish?
CANDACE: I was in the banking industry for going on 10 years but felt like that was not my calling. I was rejected by jobs that I applied for that I felt like I was sometimes overqualified for. But I could never get that alignment with a position. Fast forward, I did some inner work and realized that the rejection I was facing put me in a space of depression. I realized the core of what I needed was self-love. And it felt like that message was so powerful. It came to me as I meditated, as I visualized, as I devoted more of my time to journaling to figure out my purpose and passion. “Love Yourself First Everyday” kept coming to mine, kept resonating with my spirit. That was like the beginning of my healing journey, realizing that I needed to do more self-love. And I thought the message was so powerful, I decided to incorporate it into an organization. I didn’t necessarily know where that was going to lead, but I knew that was the type of energy, the type of friendships that I needed to continue my healing journey.
That was a part of the platform, the foundation. But I wanted to do events that created community for women of all ages, because I felt like when we come together collectively, we were stronger and we share so many of the same stories and desires. And that little bit of lack of self-love was a common thread amongst all of us. That was the humble beginning of QueenLyfe. Like, “Hey, I’m going to create a nonprofit and give back and do mentorship and all these things and create shirts,” which happened, right. But, that’s kind of where the idea of the energy came from, just knowing that I needed to reconnect to myself.
DEFENDER: What about your youth-focused activities?
CANDACE: A song by Jazmine Sullivan, “Mona Lisa,” talked about, “You’re the masterpiece, every part of me is beautiful. And I finally see the masterpiece.” I thought, “If I saw the masterpiece in me earlier in this journey, where would I be?” So, I decided to create Project Mona Lisa which was about creating and discovery the masterpiece within. Young ladies did a self-portrait, creating themselves in the image of a queen. At YEP Prep we worked with 9th graders. At Dulles Middle School it was 6th – 8th graders. At the Boys and Girls Club we worked with all ages. And we brought in women to talk about their career paths: surgeons, orthodontists, mental health therapists; a wide range of great women committed to pouring into these young ladies.
DEFENDER: You’re from Denver. What brought you to Houston?
CANDACE: My mom is from Port Arthur. So, our roots are Port Arthur, Houston. We would come there every summer. I would record songs from the radio because we weren’t playing the songs y’all were playing back then in Denver. That’s when 97 and Majic 102 were popping back in the day. So that’s my memories. I always had love for Houston.
DEFENDER: That reminds me. I read somewhere where you wanted to be in the hip hop game.
CANDACE: Totally wanted to be a rapper. I love hip-hop. I’m in love with everything Black culture, but I especially love hip hop. I totally wanted to be a rapper. I was influenced by MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Moni Love.
DEFENDER: How did it feel to be acknowledged by the Houston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40?
CANDACE: Amazing. You know, some days you’re wondering “Is this work in vain,” because you work so hard. So much goes on behind the scenes, between board members and people promising this and that, and it doesn’t come to fruition. People don’t see the tears in building a business. They see the glam on social media. But to be acknowledged was everything. And it doesn’t always equate to money, but the acknowledgement and the impact, that’s so fulfilling.
DEFENDER: What advice would you give young women or young girls seeking to discover their purpose?
CANDACE: Make yourself a priority. Focus on your emotional wellness. Sit with yourself sometime and really think about “What do I like to do? What are the things that excite me, that give me passion? What are some areas that I need to heal? Do I fully accept myself or am I doing things to gain acceptance from family, friends, love interest?” Just really get clear on their being as an individual away from society’s expectations or away from programming, but like who are you? And never be afraid to speak up.
YouTube: Queen Lyfe