Boutte teen turning tragic secret into way to help self, others

Her makeup business will help raise money to help sexually assaulted

July 05 at 5:00 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Boutte teen turning  tragic secret into  way to help self, others
Alexus Brennan was struggling in her troubled life when her mother became determined to get her daughter a project that might ease her despair - and she found it.

At only age 13 at the time, Brennan began working on a movie as a makeup artist. It was a low-budget zombie flick called “The Z Effect” being filmed in Louisiana that she did at no charge to get the experience, but it also spurred a new direction that would guide the Boutte resident to meaning in her life, and help cope with her trauma.

“I think one day I just sat down and thought, ‘I can’t let this control me because if I let this ruin my life there’s no point to living,’” said Brennan, who worked with the movie for nearly a year in 2015. “I have PTSD and sometimes I have these urges to hurt myself when I’m having flashbacks.”

The movie producer observed her struggle, too, and encouraged her to work through these feelings with something she liked to do – makeup.

It was a critical moment for a teen who had been grappling with the trauma of a dark secret just a year earlier.After months of refusing to discuss her problem, Brennan finally revealed to her mother, Misty Vercher, that she’d been sexually assaulted by the boyfriend of a family member since she was 9 years old. Charges were filed and the case is under investigation.

But Brennan had started cutting and burning herself, as well as starving herself because she was unable to cope with it. When her condition escalated to the point of attempting suicide, Vercher said they had her hospitalized.

“We got her into counseling,” she said. “She would see a psychiatrist every other week, and she was on so many different medications it was hard to keep up.”Brennan said she just couldn’t bring herself to discuss what had happened until she couldn’t keep it inside anymore.

“For a long time, I didn’t tell (mom),” she said. “She would constantly ask me what was wrong, but I was scared to tell her and I was embarrassed.”

Vercher said she had been trying to get her daughter to talk about what caused such behavior for at least a year.

“I found no matter how much I prepared her and talked to her she wasn’t able to talk to anyone after her assault - not even me,” she said. “She suffered in silence and alone for a year.”

By 2015, Vercher found her daughter an outlet and found “The Z Effect.”

The answer, she decided like the producer, was to help her pursue what she loved – makeup.

“I had to move on,” Brennan said. “And I didn’t want anyone to feel the way I felt and wanted people to have a way to cope, too.”

Brennan knew firsthand the heavy burden of her situation.

“I felt very alone and I don’t want anyone to feel that alone,” she said. “That’s when I started self-harming. I think it was a cry for help because I went to the hospital and was getting help, but didn’t get the coping skills so I did makeup.”

Brennan also decided it was time to tell her story, as well as the story of all who are sexually assaulted, including her mother.

Vercher, who knew the pain of it herself, recognized her daughter’s need for a release.

“I started to notice how much she enjoyed making costumes and creating crazy, scary makeup,” she said. “Then I watched her grow with some of the most beautiful makeup I have ever seen.”

Then came the day when her daughter pitched her business idea.

“She is so passionate and strong willed,” her mother said.  “When she told me she wanted to start this cosmetic line I told her I would back her. I would do whatever I could to make this happen.”

Vercher told Brennan to come up with a plan, a name and a purpose.

This is when the concept of Purpose Cosmetics came together.Brennan said she wanted to help others who had been through what she and her mother had been through.  She wanted to teach parents and guardians the signs of abuse and how to talk to their children, as well as to teach children how to talk to their parents and guardians.

“This is very close to both our hearts,” Vercher said. “As she did, I turned to self-destruction after my assaults. I was molested for as long as I could remember. I was raped as a teen while making bad choices due to not knowing how to cope.”

Vercher said she threw herself into drugs and promiscuity to cope.  

“This led me down a spiral that almost cost me my life,” she said. “I never want to see another child go through what we have been through. I want to give them hope, show them they aren’t alone, show them they mean something to someone and show them they are the only ones who determine how their life will turn out.”

Brennan was ready for it.

She said they have makeup formulas, all natural and cruelty-free, and packaging designs for the products. Brennan expects to launch her first product – a rose water spray or toner – by late summer.

She has someone who saw her concept on Instagram and volunteered to help promote her products to an audience of more than 200,000 people, as well as is working on lining up a manufacturer for her makeup line.

When her startup begins making a profit, Brennan has dedicated 5 percent of it to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) and its sexual assault hotline, which averages 23,500 calls a day.

“It’s very important to me,” she said. “My group of supporters know why I’m doing this. I see the business going a long way. They like what the business is about. It’s raising awareness with people.”

Brennan wants to educate the public about the warning signs of sexual abuse such as self-harming through mutilation, drug and alcohol abuse.

She also wants to do what she can to help stop future sexual assaults.

“I want to be able to help people that have been victimized,” Brennan said. “There are ways to cope and not hurt themselves. I want to give people the same outlet I found with makeup.”

View other articles written Anna Thibodeaux

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