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Meet Denisha Maxey-Estes: An Arduous Life Journey Helped Her Find Her Calling

Denisha Maxey-Estes

Denisha Maxey-Estes recently celebrated her first anniversary with the love of her life, Tee Estes. Now, she’s adding to that list of new beginnings she has accomplished as a woman who has had many evolutionary milestones. Denisha is a person who prefers to stay in the background, but for Women’s History Month, her story is offered as an example of the constant uphill battle that many women experience as they struggle to find their joy and peace.

Denisha works at the International Better Business Bureau and has been an active advocate for women and LGBTQ people across the Houston metropolitan area. Her story, though, is about so much more than her work and advocacy; it is about how eliminating stigmas can bring a better life, no matter how serious life’s challenges may be.

At 15, Denisha was pregnant with her first of six children. A single parent while still in high school, she was also battling with finding a language for her sexual identity. While paralyzed by the stigma of being a teenage mother, she nonetheless would not make the choice to abort her child. Though leaning on her mother and other family members for support, she also took jobs to meet the financial demands of taking care of her offspring, not fully realizing the great burden of that responsibility.

“At 15, you’re still a child,” she says, “and it is difficult because your decisions will affect someone else. Over time, though, it has kept me humble knowing that you are only one decision away from becoming a statistic.”

As a pregnant teenager and a Black woman, Denisha was more likely to experience maternal mortality. But even after surviving the birth of her children, the possibilities for creating a sustainable life were dim. With social, structural, and political issues working against her as a Black woman, it would be hard to find a way to attain any sense of normalcy in her life. Or so she thought.

“God always puts people in your path that see something in you that you don’t see in yourself,” she says.
In her early twenties, Denisha found a job that provided health insurance for her and her children, and a salary sufficient to provide for their necessities. For her, this was good enough. Her manager, however, observed her commitment to the job, work ethic, and overall personality, and began to groom her for a better role. In short order, this young mother of six was in school earning an undergraduate degree.

“‘I see more in you’ is what she would tell me,” Denisha says, “and that was all the fuel I needed to see more for myself.”

Today, having earned a Master of Business Administration degree, Denisha is a grandmother. Her children have graduated high school, and one has completed her undergraduate degree. Denisha’s journey is a testament to what they can achieve, and her humility helps to keep her entire family close. Her mother died two years ago, and since her children’s other grandparents aren’t alive, Denisha has become the matriarch and fabric that holds the family together. She uses her experiences to uplift each family member and empower them to keep going.

“Things come up when you are growing up with your children. I have a child navigating being married and a parent, a child who is living with HIV, a child who is getting out of prison, and a child who I am navigating conversations about PrEP with. My job as a parent is to be there and use my experiences—not to tell them what to do, but to ensure they have options and a soft landing.”

Denisha extends that help with soft landings to others in her advocacy for women and LGBTQ issues as a volunteer for the Houston Area Women’s Center, as well as serving as vice chair of The Normal Anomaly Initiative’s board of directors. This work allows her to continue her journey to uplift, understand, and empower marginalized people by using her life experiences and work.

During Women’s History Month, we celebrate people like Denisha—those who may not have a visible story of triumph written in the history books, but who have such an important role in making our world a better place.

Today, Denisha has her eyes on an even bigger future as she becomes a newlywed empty-nester. “One thing that comes from having a child at 15 is the shame attached to it. You always see yourself as a 15-year-old pregnant girl. You chase those things that will take you away from your shame, but until you learn to embrace the 15-year-old girl, you won’t be able to be fully present in the moment. Now, I’m in a place where I can be picky. Passion is my journey now.”

Keep up with Denisha Maxey-Esteson Instagram @msdreamzchaser.

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Ian Haddock

Ian L. Haddock aspires to be a conduit of joy in all things activism and art. He is a published author and writer and leads a team of nontraditional activists at The Normal Anomaly Initiative, Inc.
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