A lot of people think that Aoma Herbals is an acronym for Aomachemical Products, or AOMAChemicals.
But there is actually much more to the company.
We spoke with the CEO, a woman who works in the product development department, about her journey to becoming the brand’s “first woman of color.”
(This interview has been edited for clarity.)
Q: So you’re from Texas?
A: Yeah, I was born and raised in Austin, Texas.
But my family moved to Austin when I was six years old.
My dad was an attorney, so he was the lawyer for the big Texas law firm.
But he moved to Seattle to pursue a career as a corporate lawyer.
My mother was an accountant, so she was in the financial services industry.
My mom is still here.
So, I’m actually from Austin, but my family was from the Northeast, so I was raised in Manhattan, New York City.
Q: What were some of your childhood experiences growing up in Austin?
A: My dad moved to California in the late ’80s.
So I was always raised in New York, where my mom worked.
So we went to the theater, but we were very much out of the mainstream.
We went to theater, we went for the dance, we played sports, we rode our bikes.
But, my dad and I were a little out of sync.
We were still a little kids’ club, but our parents were very involved in our upbringing.
We still had a very big family and we didn’t really have a lot of time for ourselves.
So you’ve lived a pretty big life and lived on a small island for a lot longer than your siblings and your parents did?
Yeah, my mom is a very, very busy person, so, she has to be very, extremely, extremely meticulous in everything that she does.
But I had a lot more time for myself and my friends, so we spent a lot less time with each other.
Q.: Did you ever wonder what it was like growing up with no siblings or your mother and dad?
My family was very close.
We all grew up with the same father.
I was the only one who really knew what it meant to be a boy.
I had my father’s permission to be an adolescent boy, so my mother was my primary source of social validation.
I knew that I was a boy and that I had to be the best, the smartest boy in the neighborhood, because I was really the only girl in the house.
Q.; So your parents were the ones who were really trying to get you into the right mindset?
A.; No, they were not.
My parents didn’t want me to be in the wrong mindset.
We did have a very strict social upbringing.
And, as a child, I did not have a sense of self.
My first impression of myself was when I saw myself on the outside.
I would just see myself in pictures.
I didn’t think about my gender.
So my first impression is that I’m kind of a girl in a boy’s body.
Q; And you think that’s why you were so obsessed with dolls?
A; I just think that it’s very important to be authentic.
When I was growing up, I would sit and talk to my mother and she would make dolls, and my sisters would be like, “Oh, I don’t know, I just want to make these for you,” so, I had the feeling that I didn´t belong in the world, and that wasn’t healthy for me.
Q.–I remember the first time I got my hands on a doll and I was like, this is so cool.
It’s so cute.
It has this big nose.
This big mouth.
I´m like, I´ll never get a chance to play with it.
I want to do that with my own dolls.
So that was a very powerful experience.
Q.-I grew up in an upper-middle-class family.
Were you always aware of your privilege?
A.–No, I didn�t really realize my privilege until later in life.
My father was a lawyer and I lived with him, and I grew up very close with him.
And he would tell me stories about how he was raised, and how his father worked hard and was always around, but he was never considered a boy, which is how my family felt.
I grew to appreciate this difference in perspective.
Q–And did you feel that you didn�re getting enough love for your work?
A–I was lucky to have a supportive family and to have someone who believed in me, who believed that I could do anything.
Q.: How did you decide to get involved with herbal medicine?
I started doing research on herbs.
I got into it when I heard about the AOMA products, and then, when I started