Mimi G shares her story of sexual abuse, domestic violence and homelessness with PEOPLE Chica, helping others overcome past traumas and find their passion.
Sewing has always been therapeutic for Puerto Rican influencer, blogger and podcast host Mimi G. The founder of the online fashion design school Sew It Academy has found healing in her passion for making clothes. “My aunt was a seamstress. She made wedding gowns and evening dresses. During the summers when mami would send me to Puerto Rico, I would spend the summer in her little studio creating. Around 12, I got really interested in what she was doing and my dad bought me a sewing machine. I was really excited and I started to take apart my own clothes,” she recalls with a laugh. “My mom was like, ‘Niña, what are you doing?’ I was taking my clothes apart to put them back together in new designs.” Sewing was also her oasis, the safe place she would go to when she was “trying to escape pain and anguish” later in her life.
Mimi’s creative eye and work as a fashion and lifestyle blogger has made her internationally famous, becoming a mentor for young designers on Project Runway. However, her story is not all rose-colored — she had to overcome sexual abuse, domestic violence and homelessness to get to live her best life at 42.
The newlywed just tied the knot to her soulmate and business partner Norris Danta Ford in June. “It felt like the first time I had ever been married,” the fashionista, born Mimi Goodwin, who has been married three times, says. “That day for me was magical. I had never had a wedding, I had never been in a dress,” she recalls of her dream wedding.
Getting there took some heartbreak. Her first marriage was at age 19, and she divorced her husband after two years because he was violent. “I really felt like I was going to die. The fight first starts with a push, then it’s a slap in the face, and then it’s a punch, so it progressively got worse,” she says. “The final day for me was one day that I was tired and had been working, and he started to hit me and I went into the kitchen and grabbed a knife. I stood there and I said, ‘If you come near me again, I’m going to kill you.’ I don’t know that I meant it, but I was so afraid that I felt that it was either me or him at this point. That was it, he backed off. I grabbed my things and left. I called a friend of mine and she and her husband took me in,” she recalls.
Mimi got married for the second time at age 27. “Although I was married for 10 years to a very decent man, I didn’t know who I was. I grew up in that marriage and grew out of that marriage,” she admits. “I learned the value of myself in my second marriage. He was very Christian and treated me differently. Unfortunately in that relationship I was damaged goods, and wasn’t ready for that level of commitment.”
Mimi recognizes that being sexually abused as a child left a lasting emotional scar. “It made me afraid of other men and unsure of myself,” she admits. “I was sexually abused by my grandfather and then again by my uncle. My mom believed me because I found out years later that my grandpa had done that to my mom too when she was young,” she says. “They talked about it but nothing was done, things were brushed under the rug. I felt unsafe. I still had to go to my grandparents’ house to visit abuela and he was there. It taught me that when people do bad things to you that it’s OK, and it wasn’t until many years later that I realized that what my uncle did to me was rape. The earliest memory I have of that is when I was 7. He was a young uncle, he was four years older than me. He was like my friend, we hung out. I didn’t understand what was happening until much later on in my early teens.”
Her teens were also painful years, and she ran away from home in Chicago at 15. “My mom got into a relationship with someone who was abusive and the house was in turmoil, so I decided to leave,” she recalls. She first followed a boyfriend and his family to California, but he ended up being abusive. He is the father of her oldest daughter Chastity, whom she had at age 17. “I went from one abusive family to another abusive family,” she recognizes. Her teen boyfriend was abusive to her while she was pregnant with her daughter. “It was harmful and hurtful,” she says, so she left him and after a while ended up being homeless in Los Angeles. “I went from couch to couch and then ended up sleeping on park benches and in an apartment complex that was being condemned,” she recalls. “I was living with no electricity, no running water, I was panhandling to feed Chastity.”
Then her mother — who had left her abusive partner and moved to Seattle — visited her and took her infant granddaughter until Mimi was able to get back on her feet and could take her baby home. “We have a wonderful relationship but she has her beliefs. She is Christian and she forgives. I have a different perspective,” she says about her mom, who chose to still have a relationship with her dad and brother after Mimi told her about their sexual abuse to her as a child. “I forgave them because heartbreak does more damage to you if you don’t forgive, but that doesn’t mean I need to be around you or bring my children around you,” she says.
After going to therapy and having a massive breakdown, Mimi says she has been able to heal. “I was able to deal with the emotions of all the things that happened to me and now just see them as moments in my life, which all have led to where I am today. It gives me compassion and empathy for people,” she reflects. Getting to know and love herself deeply allowed her to finally have a happy relationship. “When I met my current husband I was completely myself,” she says about Norris. “When you are in that space you are able to love fully. We became friends, lovers and now husband and wife.”
She is grateful for her present. “I used to fear the 40s, but I’m living my best life in my 40s. You grow, you mature. I’m in a much more successful place in my life, where the things I worried about in my 20s don’t worry me now,” she reflects. The mom of four — who has three daughters and a son — also has a happy home life now. “I enjoy every moment that they are here, when my oldest daughters come home and we cook and laugh together. Those are really important moments for me because I want to give them things I didn’t have,” she says.
Her goal of growing Sew It Academy is rooted in helping others. “We are trying to increase the visibility to help communities that don’t get access to sewing machines and fashion design classes. That’s our priority right now,” she adds. Her fashion blog, making clothes and tutorials brought prosperity to her life and she is a guiding light to others now. “I have taught thousands of people how to sew and so many of them go on to start their own side hustles, providing extra income for their families and developing their own fashion lines. That’s what drives me.”
Mimi’s story has inspired many to fight for their own happy ending. “When I look back at my life, it is a testimony that no matter what your current circumstance is you can always change the direction of your life. You have to have enough resilience to be able to move beyond that,” she concludes. “If someone were to tell me when I was 17 that my life now was going to happen, I would have never believed it.”