The Finding Ashley Stewart finale on Sept. 14, 2019, was the day that changed Addlia Edwards’ life forever. As a loving mother and hairstylist from Rex, Georgia, Edwards had always dreamed of sharing her story to help others in her community and empower fellow women.
After being crowned as the 2019 brand ambassador for Ashley Stewart, Edwards has been doing just that — spending her year-long reign by giving back to the community and meeting young girls and women all around the nation (both in-person, and now virtually) to inspire them to follow their dreams, stay true to who they are, and strive for success just as she did.
From the life struggles that shaped her can-do attitude to receiving her crown, Edwards’ inspiring journey is representative of all that Ashley Stewart stands for — confidence, female empowerment, body positivity, and so much more. Black Enterprise connected with Edwards to discuss how her boundless resilience and positive mindset led her to win the crown at the Finding Ashley Stewart finale last September and what she plans to do next.
What prompted you to enter the 2019 Finding Ashley Stewart search?
Each year, Ashley Stewart, the leading inclusive lifestyle, fashion, and social commerce brand, hosts its annual nationwide Finding Ashley Stewart tour in search of the brand’s next ambassador—a woman who effortlessly embodies what Ashley Stewart stands for: kindness, resilience, confidence, leadership and, of course, fashion.
I’ve always supported the empowering movement, but never imagined that things would turn out as they did. After trying to get some of my other friends to enter, I joked with a friend and told her that I might enter. She said, ‘You really should.’ I told her, ‘There’s no way I would be chosen out of all those thousands of beautiful women.’ And she asked a great question, ‘What do you have to lose?’ I had absolutely nothing to lose! I had already lost it all! I had been praying for something new and exciting to happen in my life and I decided to take a leap of faith to see if this was the answer to my prayer.
How has your background influenced how you carried out your role as Ashley Stewart’s brand ambassador?
I’m no stranger to struggle and hardships. Throughout my life, I had no one to rely on other than myself. My strength and my self-confidence are what I fell back on time and time again to overcome my fair share of adversities, including homelessness and chronic illness. I am a fighter, but through it all, it has always been my passion to lift others up that continues to drive me to seize the next day ahead, and ultimately help and encourage others to fight and to embrace each and every day.
I think my positive outlook and effervescent personality always persevered and gave me the unwavering strength to keep moving forward. I am naturally hospitable. It was embedded in me to treat people kindly, the way I would want people to treat me, and to always be a positive influence no matter the circumstance.
How do you give back to your community? How has your platform helped you empower women across the country?
I’ve always been passionate about helping others and giving back to women who come from similar backgrounds. As a hairstylist, I provide hair services in women’s shelters and to underprivileged young girls.
I try to use the skills and life lessons I’ve learned through the years to spread positivity and confidence to fellow women and spread the message that they, too, can accomplish anything.
I speak to women in homeless shelters. I feed the homeless. I volunteer at my high school alma mater. I speak at different conferences and events, whether it be a mental health conference or women’s empowerment conference. I share my story with other single moms and future hairstylists!
As a part of my winnings, I get an allowance every month to shop at Ashley Stewart. I just recently started taking a portion of that allowance to randomly be a blessing to someone else. While in the Ashley Stewart Stonecrest location one day, there was a customer who was shopping for her birthday and another who had come in[to] the store for the very first time. I secretly took care of both of their purchases. It wasn’t what I did for them that was memorable, but it was their reaction that will forever stay with me.
I have big plans for the future and what I would like to accomplish as Ashley Stewart’s brand ambassador and beyond. I am working on a book and a women’s empowerment brunch. COVID-19 has made its entrance, but I will continue to be a light during this uncertain time. And I will continue to empower others, speak life into others, serve others, and do it fashionably while leaving a little sparkle wherever I go!