Everyone makes mistakes, I made one too which led me to spend 48 months of my life in incarceration. My identity was reduced to the number 02539095. In prison I was reduced to nothing, the sound of shackles clicking, clanking, and having a US marshal beside me, defined me as nobody. I was simply a number, a roll call, and a prisoner. I was sent to jail due to 1.3 million bank fraud.

Yes, that number still makes my skin crawl. Back then, I was young and foolish, chasing a billionaire dream a little too aggressively. The loneliness was suffocating having no one by your side was painful. All my friends vanished like the smoke signals in the wind. Except for my mom, there was no one by my side during my tough time. Her rock-solid support and belief in my ability to rise from the ashes kept the flicker of my hope alive in the desolate place. My mom was there throughout the entire process, the good and bad. It’s funny how when you make one mistake all your loved ones- friends and family leave no stone unturned to cast you out. I am a mother myself and I can see why my mother did all those good things for me. Because of love, true love, the kind a mother has for her child that’s the one thing that never abandons you, no matter how low you fall. It is a love that burns brighter than any mistake a love that whispers, “Get up darling, you’re worthy, you can rise again”.

Jail was not punishment, it was isolation. The constant threat of violence, overcrowded cells, and soul-crushing boredom tears you up, it actually kills you from the inside. After being abandoned by my people my defiance turned to anger, then cold, until a hard truth settled that I had built a house on the foundation of lies. That was the wake-up call, and I needed to change every aspect of myself. It was the time when I said to myself “You’re better than this. Get up Calandra”. The fire that once fueled my rashness began to morph, it took shape into a relentless pursuit to rebuild, not just myself but the lives of people around me. This sparked the idea for my company “iamcalandra”. IamCalandra is not just a brand, it is a battle cry. It is a coaching program for those trapped in their personal prisons, activewear that is not just about looking good but about the strength it takes to get back up every day, and skincare that is a testament to my love for myself.

My story is raw and real, and I don’t shy away from my past mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, I made one too, and I wear it like a badge of honor. The most important lesson I learned was not from my penthouse window it was from staring down the bars of my cell. It’s the view that reminds me you can rise from anything, maybe undoing your wrongs is not possible, but it’s okay, you can still carve a better life for yourself. My empire is built on the ashes of my spectacular mistake, it is a battle scar, and I am proud of it. I AM CALANDRA AND I CAN RISE AGAIN.


Guest Writer: Calandra Robinson