We had the good fortune of connecting with Carmen Martinez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Carmen, how does your business help the community?
In 2011, I lost my best friend due to suicide. She was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, a few years prior. This was a heartbreaking time for me to had lost her at the young age of 32, because we were inseparable. During this painful experience I began to volunteer, and I found NAMI GH (National Alliance on Mental Illness-Greater Houston) the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for millions of Americans affected by mental illness. After her passing, I realized I was not educated, nor was I aware of all the support and free resources NAMI Greater Houston provided for our community. Mental Illness is something not talked about in the LatinX and Black communities, so it became a passion and mission of mine to spread awareness, reduce the stigma by sharing my story and increase public understanding of mental illness in the hopes to help others in need. After four years as a volunteer, I became a teacher facilitator for one of their free core educational programs -Family-to-Family for family, caregivers and friends of individuals living with mental illness. I am now the Director of Development for NAMI Greater Houston managing our community events, yearly campaigns and our annual NAMIWalks Your Way, that will be held virtually on May 22, 2021, one of the top mental health walk series in the country.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. So, it makes sense that mental health, just like physical health, needs to be taken care of, talked about and maintained. We are living in hard times right now and one way we can all support each other is through building a community of hope. For me I feel blessed and honored to be part of NAMI. This community provides three beneficial aspects: feeling of belonging, feeling supported, and providing compassion and hope.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Since I was 16, my creative hobby was modeling. It was not until my college years that I became passionate about the craft and saw it as a business. I was fortunate enough to work in this industry in top markets including LA and New York. After I graduated from the University of Houston with a concentration in Business Management and Marketing, I started my career and worked in the experiential marketing field expanding my skills in event planning, team building and public speaking but always modeled on the side. It was not till the last few years where I have had the opportunity teaching at Neal Hamil Center to young teens and adults and share my experiences about the modeling, fashion and the commercial industries. I think what sets me apart from others is my ability to build relationships and connect with people. Teaching my students about the industry is more than just the mechanics of it, but it is about making them aware of the importance of confidence, their value and worth and prioritizing self-care. The industry can be very harsh at times, and you can create self-doubt in your mind from rejections and setbacks. But one thing I teach them is to persevere and continue to always strive forward and follow their passion. My road has not been easy, but I would have to say the industry is also very fulfilling and rewarding. I tell my students to never give up, to strive and always be a better version of themselves and as long as you stay true to you and are 100% in with your passion, that is all that matters long term.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I grew up in Louisiana, but I am proud to say living in Houston for over 20 years and now consider myself a Houstonian, this amazing city gives you so many diverse options in activities and places to visit. Houston’s multicultural demographic brings so many cultures together in food, entertainment and arts. If I had a friend in town, I would definitely take them to eat traditional Mexican Food and BBQ. You can’t come to Houston and not have these staple dishes. My favorite go to restaurants are Hugo’s and Emma’s Mexican grill on Broadway and for BBQ I would have to say Killen’s BBQ in Pearland, although my mother is obsessed with Pappas BBQ wings. If you are new to the city and are only here for a week, you must visit: Space Center Houston, a must-see attraction, the amazing museum district with over 19 museums residing in the beautiful area of downtown, explore the Houston murals scattered around the city, and I am a big fan of arts so you must explore our historical hotels, landmarks and architecture surrounding the city. I would say China town is a must place to visit and try so many dishes ranging from pho to dim sum and shop in the infamous Harwin discount stores if you are on a budget. But best time to really get the spirit of the city is to visit during Houston Livestock and Rodeo. We Houstonians love this time of year!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would have to say the people and volunteers I have met at NAMI Greater Houston have helped me become even more passionate about mental health, because it affects all of us and I realize the much-needed work we still need to do to raise the awareness. Unfortunately, it took my friend’s suicide to recognize the importance of it and the much-needed conversations we need to have as a community to help break the stigma Since Covid, we as a nation are struggling together.
I want to dedicate this shoutout to all the wonderful volunteers and friends that support me and that give their time to advocate on mental health. They not only provide a sense of unity but deliver a message of hope and recovery to all those suffering in silent. I am mostly proud to now be part of this amazing community. For those that continue to reach out to me and seek help, keep doing it! There is nothing to be ashamed of! #youarenotalone
Modeling Instagram: @carmsacharm
Work: @carmenita_htx_ @namigreaterhouston
Tommy Chung Photography Copyright