In 2015-2016 there was a reality TV show that aired on FYI titled #BlackLove. It followed five intelligent, beautiful, and professional Black women in New York as they searched for love. The participants in this original series received advice and guidance from a team of professionals who helped them via love-themed workshops and various assignments. One of the participants was Cynthia Branch, a proud Afro-Latina who shared her truth as she navigated re-entering the world of dating. Since the show, Cynthia has been staying busy with her work as a psychotherapist and with the special events she hosts for women.
Check out our conversation below. We talk love, identity, therapy and reality TV. Also, check out her special offer for our readers at the end of the interview!
Where did you grow up?
Until the age of 13, the Bronx. I had a lot of challenges due to my mother having substance abuse issues, so right before my 14th birthday my father took me to Italy. I was there almost 3 years, then I went to Panama where I graduated from HS and started college. Came back to the Bronx at 19.
When you think of the word identity, what comes to mind?
There was a time when I would think of things like–race, gender, or titles such as mother, daughter… OR HAIR. When I went natural I realized just how much of my identity was wrapped up in my hair! But more and more lately, I think of identity in terms of spirituality–thinking of myself as separate from titles and something far greater. That being said it is still hard to define. But to stay within the context of race and ethnicity I’ll say that I, with much pride, identify as a black or Afro-Latina.
Why are you a proud Afro-Latina?
My mother was born in Puerto Rico. My dad was born here in NYC to Puerto Rican parents. I was born in the Bronx and am a proud Nuyerican. I was not always aware of my blackness. Latinos can be very ignorant and it wasn’t until my teenage years that I started to realize that my complexion had implications I hadn’t been aware of. The more conscious of my blackness I became the more I loved myself, my skin, my hair, etc. That being said, I have always loved my ethnicity and Puerto Rican/Latin culture as well–our food, our music, our sensuality. How could I not be a proud AFRO-Latina?
What inspired you to become a therapist and launch a career in counseling?
To put it simply I wanted to help people… like me. I had a rough childhood and through many struggles, and obstacles, I evolved. I became happier, I identified internal issues, released old grudges and became free and I wanted that for others. I believe when we find our way we are obligated to come back and get others and help them find their way too. My first choice was to be a lawyer. The more I thought about it and asked myself in what field I’d be most productive… I was eventually led to the field I’m in. I am a licensed psychotherapist with degrees in Social Work.
Seeking professional help when we struggle with mental health issues can be taboo, what would you share with someone who is considering talk therapy, but reluctant?
Therapy is good for everyone. You don’t have to have a mental health diagnosis to receive therapy. We all deal with life on life’s terms and we have to cope. Some of us find healthy ways of doing that and some of us find unhealthy ways. Connecting with a good therapist is healthy. We all need to vent, and receive unbiased feedback. We all also have a blind side and need someone to help us catch the parts of ourselves we miss or that need improvement. Therapy is all about self-improvement. I’ll add that there are also so many people with undiagnosed and untreated depression, anxiety and other disorders simply because they are concerned with what others might think. No one has to suffer in silence.
What words of advice would you give to women who are beginning their journey to wholeness?
Be brave! Recognize that we all can be better. Forgive yourself for mistakes you’ve made and for the things you have allowed. Each day is filled with so much love, grace and opportunity. Be real with yourself and give yourself permission to be free.
What was the experience like being a participant in FYI’s #BlackLove show? Viewers witnessed some tough moments for you on the show, from your transition to dating after marriage, to being in the hot seat as you worked with other experts.
The hardest part of the show was that everything gets edited and after you spend hours and hours filming and sharing your thoughts, only a few seconds of what you said gets aired and… usually out of context. That part sucked for real! The show was a great experience though. I had to allow myself to be vulnerable especially during such a difficult and transitional time. I feared I’d be judged but knew I had to be brave enough to be my authentic self. I made great friends. Every woman on that show is real and all of us wanted to portray black women well, even if that meant we didn’t get a season 2. [Another difficult] part of the show was not being a therapist, trying to turn that switch off (impossible! LOL). I would have done great as one of the “experts” but sitting in the seat of the “client” was tough, but I knew I had to remain open.
Would you participate in a reality show again?
Maybe. It depends on the show/network etc. I’d never compromise my dignity though.
What has been the most important lesson you learned from your divorce?
Wow. There have been so many lessons. I learned more about myself through marriage and divorce than ever before. I learned that people are imperfect and we have to accept them as they are and yet, help and encourage them to grow. I also learned that when someone refuses to grow you have to leave. If it costs you your peace, it’s too expensive. I think I prefer married life over single life though. Not to that person but to the right person. I enjoyed marriage and still believe in the institution of marriage. Our culture is too instantaneous–we want everything right away and don’t want to work for anything; sadly that includes love. Love is beautiful but maintaining it involves work and sacrifice. When it’s the right person it’s worth every minute of it.
Complete the sentence… LOVE IS_____.
The only thing that heals. Love is everything.
What are your other interests/hobbies?
I love to read. I often read too many books at a time so it takes me a little longer to finish them. I can read a whole novel, biography or autobiography in a day though.
What’s next for Cynthia Branch?
In addition to providing psychotherapy at a NY Hospital I have my private practice. I will continue to grow my practice and provide therapeutic and educational workshops for women (and eventually men as well). My website is www.cynthiabranch.com
Our readers who rock natural hair would love to know, do you have a favorite go to hair product?
I used to obsess about hair and hair products. When I first went natural I bought so many products and wasted so much money. Now, my go-to products are pretty much Creme of Nature’s lemongrass and rosemary leave-in or Cantu leave-in, coconut oil and Jane Carter curl defining cream. On occasion I use Eco styling gel but very very little. I usually air dry but if it’s too cold out I diffuse with my blow dryer.
You can follow Cynthia Branch on social media at the channels below. Also, she wants our readers to know that “anyone who references this interview or BoriquaChicks.com will receive a 25% discount off an individual or couples session.”
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