Meet Kali Red, our Professional of the month! Every month we highlight a Black professional in the Greater New Orleans area. Learn more about this non-profit founder who created Kali Red’s Initiative: “Take Your Life Back” Foundation, an organization that she started 2 years ago that provides (H.O.P.E.).
The first time I saw her was at a local celebrity basketball game in 2009.
“She’s probably a rapper’s girlfriend or something,” is what I thought to myself. Cute face, nice waist but it was her hair that stole the spotlight. Bright, the kind of hue you would see on a candied apple. Little did I know several years later I’d be writing the survival story of one of the most genuine, dedicated loyal women I’ve ever met.
Born and raised in New Orleans, Hollygrove to be exact, Yana Sutton was the quiet shy type. Relocating to Texarkana, Texas due to Hurricane Katrina, she attended Texarkana College where she received several honors and named, Among Students in American Universities & Colleges… All while keeping her nails on point!
Sutton grew very close to her Texarkana nail Tech, who went by the name “Cali Red” (short for California Red, because she relocated to Texarkana due to emergency circumstances). Cali and Sutton grew very close over the years due to their “city-girl” backgrounds. During her many appointments they would share stories of family, love, the many hardships of adjusting to Texas.
Sutton would read out loud to Cali, the newest best-selling books (her ultimate favorite was “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” which was read to her three times in a row), or any type of media literature that she wanted to inquire about. Although Cali was much older, she could not read, and wrote on an elementary level, so she would need Sutton’s help in filling out/completing important documentation for herself, and her children.
Cali believed she was cursed because the majority of her relationships in her lifetime were abusive, some near fatal. Little did Sutton realize, that she would soon be an abusive relationship that would almost cost her her life.
“What attracted me to him was this initial approach. He wanted to be a helpful friend, get me adjusted to life in Texarkana,” says Sutton about her ex-boyfriend. “His tone, that heavy country accent and how he would quote Bible verses and invite me to church.” It wasn’t until the second year of the relationship when things started to change. He would say things like, “I don’t understand why you’re built so thick! Especially at the bottom. I never dated a girl your size.” From mental abuse came physical; pinching, light biting and pulling of hair. Next was isolation from family and friends by dictating who she could, or could not talk to or hangout with in the town.
The last straw was the day Sutton’s ex literally had her life in his hands. As Sutton recalls, “The last thing I remembered seeing, as I was no longer able to breathe, losing control of my arms/hands as they became flimsy not being able to push him off, and vision began to fade out, I saw our pit bull charging/jumping up on, and heard her growling at my ex.” She explained that he kept trying to kick the dog, to shoo her away from him, at the same time he was still in the process of strangling her. She said as her eyes began to roll up to the back of her head, “I remember seeing the dog take one more leap at him, before she blacked-out, and that leap forced him to stop the strangulation act, and he fled out the front door of the house.” To this day, Sutton says she’s indebted to her dog (Diamond-Ice aka “Big Baby”) for saving her life.
Eventually the cops were called and Sutton was taken to the hospital. While still enrolled at Texas A&M, Sutton remained at the top of her class and eventually graduated. Shortly after, with her dog and a few belongings, Sutton hit the road for New Orleans and never looked back.
Sutton wanted to put her Business Marketing skills to use, and wanted to create something that New Orleans never had. So she decided to become the City’s first official Socialite. Like Amber Rose, Kim Kardashian and other celebrities, she wanted the spotlight but with a twist.
She strategically developed her image, to become “Kali’ Red” a “Socialite for Society.” Over time, Red dedicated herself, and her image to be utilized for good and promote peace and positivity in her home town. Whether it’s volunteering with local organizations like NOBP, hosting parties with celebrities, making special appearances, working hand in hand with the City, becoming a member of (DVAC) the Mayor’s Domestic Violence Advisory Committee, teaming up with the NOLA Health Department, or even hosting her annual “Feed the Homeless” birthday event, Red firmly lives by her motto, “Loyalty, Love, and Support.”
Nowadays, Sutton’s passion lies in the, Kali Red’s Initiative: “Take Your Life Back” Foundation, an organization that she started 2 years ago that provides help, options, protection, and empowerment (H.O.PE.) to victims of domestic violence. It helps those financially dependent on their abusers, get back on their feet by guiding/connecting them to the proper resources, with the key component of her Socialite image, “Is to show anyone in the midst of being, or feeling broken that it doesn’t last forever.”
Google+: Kali Red Initiative