In the Limelight: Kim-Lee Wentzel Ricketts- sparking change and positivity- seamlessly juggling her roles as industrial psychologist, public speaker, artist manager, fashioner innovator and mentor
|Kim-Lee Wentzel Ricketts |
Cape Town based Kim-Lee Wentzel Ricketts is a multi-skilled Renaissance wonder woman. She seamlessly juggles her roles as industrial psychologist, public speaker, artist manager, fashioner innovator, mentor and wife and partner to singer Jared Ricketts. Growing up in a community, riddled with poverty and gangsterism, she transcended multiple challenges. Core to her life purpose is community upliftment – inspiring people- and making a difference through projects which she has established. Here biggest motivator is her late grandmother – who passed away in her 90s and who instilled the importance of work and purpose in life. Read on for more:
Mental health- you cannot pour from an empty cup
October is Mental Health Month. You set the tone for the month on Instagram [October 2, 2022] when you speak the need for self-care. You are multi-skilled and involved in many areas – including industrial psychologist, fashion designer [your own brand), motivational speaker and wife. How do you do it all and what is your secret for de-stressing?
Kim-Lee Wentzel Ricketts: We now find ourselves in an age where having a multi-skilled approach has become the ‘new normal’. We have learnt and seen that you can now completely break the mould and do and become anything your heart desires. The idea that you have to specialise is slowly becoming a thing of the past, and I have personally used business as a means to push myself, learn more, and pioneer exciting new spaces.
For me, it is so exciting that I get to wear different hats each and every day, fulfilling various parts of my passion, profession, and interests. I have always been of the opinion that we do not have to limit ourselves, instead we can now redefine what do we and most importantly, how we do it. Not only is having various avenues to explore feeding your soul, but it also increases your offering and expands your networks. Since initiating my various ventures, I have been afforded many seats at new and exciting tables and spaces, where I am able to contribute at an academic and creative level.
Time management is key in turning any idea into a successful opportunity. I ensure that I can spread myself reasonably, including taking time out to re-energise and distress. I have also identified a routine that works for me. I wake early and spend some quiet time in prayer and setting my intention for that day.
Whether it is going for a massage, or simply taking time to meditate …it is of utmost importance that you take care of yourself, because you cannot pour from an empty cup.
You grew up on the Cape Flats. Can you talk about your journey, your family and how you shaped your own path?
Kim-Lee Wentzel Ricketts: Growing up I always understood that education is the vehicle to changing your narrative and that you can build your own path to living the life you want to live. Each and every day presented challenges that caused me to reinforce this in my life. When you grow up with communities around you that are deeply poverty stricken, it certainly changes how you see the world, and I soon understood that in order for me to ‘get out’, it became imperative that I have to stay focused and apply myself.
As a child and young adult on the Cape Flats, my daily experiences included hearing gun shots in the distance or being told by gangsters to stay indoors and lay low because they are about to go into a ‘gang war’. Most cases it would be followed by the news that someone you know, a family friend or child, was shot and killed by stray bullets. This happened so often that we became hardened and immune to this kind of activity.
Teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, and gangsterism also formed part of the tapestry of the society I navigated through. I witnessed peers falling prey to these types of elements, and saw first-hand the struggles and challenges young South Africans on the Cape Flats have to work through to survive on a daily basis …where something as simple as walking to and from school is and was a life threatening activity.
Having been an athlete, it was sport and academics that became my playground and escape. This allowed me the safe space and freedom to dream big and push myself further. It taught me the discipline and responsibility to persevere and remain focused on my goal. It saw me acquire important life skills that I could translate in my daily life and equip myself to create the kind of focus and path that would lead me to my career.
I was also actively involved in church and was a youth leader in the community which grounded me and provided me with the foundation of knowing that no matter what it is that you are facing, God’s got you…With and through Him, all things are possible. This further shaped my view of the world that I am here for a reason and have a purpose to step into my God-given light, to empower, inspire, and live the change that I want to see and the legacy that I know I can be.
Moment which sparked career and self-awareness
Did something happen specifically – or did you witness something – which made you think ‘okay- I am not going to go down that road’?
Kim-Lee Wentzel Ricketts: It was not one isolated situation that caused me to set my path, but rather a culmination of everything I witnessed growing up that coaxed me into the mind frame that I need to not be part of the problem, but rather that I need to become a solution. I felt the weight of the youth from my community on my shoulders, and soon understood that I am not just persevering and building for myself, but I also have to be a tangible example of what is possible. I wanted to be a benchmark that encourages anyone and everyone who feels that they are stuck in an environment that does not show promise, that they have the power to determine how far they can go despite their perceived realities.
Passion for community
You are passionate about community upliftment and development. Through your, fashion range, The Ricketts’ by Kim, you support other female-owned businesses with design and manufacturing. Khanyisa Worx is the non-profit organization that you established to develop and upskill women through workshops and mentorship. Who was your biggest motivator/mentor?
Kim-Lee Wentzel Ricketts: My first mentor and biggest motivator was my grandmother. Her journey and story started out in a farm town called Elim, where she then made the move to Cape Town to work as a domestic worker on the pursuit of opportunity to carve a better life. She then met my grandfather and they had 11 children and 27 grandchildren. She passed away at the age of 94. What stands out for me through her journey and life story and continues to motivate me is her drive and zest for life.
She had this caring nature and passion for community, making sure that not only her family was taken care of but that her home was one filled with love and compassion for all. She never completed her schooling but embarked on a journey at a young age to do more with what she had. She also ensured that her children completed their schooling as she believed education was the key to unlock many opportunities. Through her sacrifice of looking after her and the community children, and supporting my grandfather whilst he worked, she was able to lay the foundation for us as a family to set goals, dream big, and live out our full potential. She never got to fully see and appreciate the fruits of her labour, but she laid the foundation for the next generation, enabling us to live out our full potential in becoming the best versions of ourselves.
Another motivator and mentor is my husband. I cannot miss the opportunity to say that his support (cheerleading), heart, quiet confidence, and perseverance, motivates me to become the best version of me each and every day. His drive, determination, and boundary-less view of the world encourages and inspires me to unlock every aspect of my passion in living and being my authentic self.
Parenting research- changing narratives
You have an MA in industrial psychology and now you are doing a PhD in parenting. What is your thesis on and why parenting? Is it because of what you saw when you were growing up – around you – and perhaps parents battling to hold it together?
Kim-Lee Wentzel Ricketts: My PhD thesis focuses on ‘The development of a parenting programme through the lived experiences of parents and learners within a matric community engagement programme in Paarl between 2016 to 2019’. The aim of this study is to develop and assess the feasibility of a comprehensive adolescent parenting programme exploring the lived experiences of matric learners and parents, within a community engagement programme in Paarl, between 2016 to 2019, which will equip parents to assist their children to make better career choices.
As much as the saying rings true that it takes a village to raise a child …we are now in a tune where the village itself is so consumed by social ills. Parents in these communities are struggling because they do not have the tools to comprehend or even assist their children and navigating and making the ‘right’ choices to further themselves as young adults/scholars and break cycles. When you throw all the social ills we see into the mix, you are dealing with a society that cannot see a way out.
I would like to create a programme that provides the necessary tools that bridge the gap and allow parents and children to definite a communication stream that can see them both become equipped enough to navigate efficiently and change narratives. My dream is also to create an empowered community where there is lifelong learning and growth in different life stages that set the foundation for these young minds as they navigate the world to become empowered, informed and liberated adults and parents of the future.
✳ This interview has been marginally edited. Images supplied.