Interview With Natasha Singh, Mother, Business Owner and Cannabis Advocate
My Name is Natasha Amrita Singh known as @hennabynatasha on Instagram. I’m a licensed cosmetologist in both Los Angeles, CA & Seattle, WA specializing in henna and lash extensions, a mother to my beautiful daughter Amritha who is turning 3 this year, a sister and a part-time model. I’m also an advocate for many things, one of them being cannabis for the people of my community (Fiji-Indian) to help educate and break the stigma attached to it. I micro-dose with cannabis to treat severe PTSD and it’s the only effective natural medicine that’s worked for my body. Cannabis saved my life in many ways.
Can you tell us when you started consuming cannabis and why?
My first interaction with cannabis was similar to most people: to see what it was like, but I later found out its benefits as a replacement for the prescription drugs I was taking.
At the time, a close cousin of mine was also taking pharmaceuticals prescribed by therapists. We both were working on our mental health and wanted to find healthy tools to help us live better. We both suffered severe trauma growing up and she started using cannabis and told me how much it helped her. I tried it too and used it for many years before ever going public with it. Right when I began smoking I found a creative side in me that I never knew existed. This is what actually started my journey as a henna artist. Prior to smoking cannabis I’d never drawn in my life! If I didn’t smoke I would never be a cosmetologist today.
What is it like to be an Indian woman, a mother and a cannabis advocate at the same time? Are there any cultural barriers and expectations from people that hear you?
There is a belief in my culture that cannabis is terrible; that people who consume it are lazy, unproductive members of society (even though Lord Shiva claimed it through the Hindu religion as one of his 5 favorite foods.) I first started sharing my stories about PTSD and why I use cannabis almost two years ago and got a very negative response. I still lose followers daily posting about cannabis, but I don’t care. I receive rude messages and comments about being a terrible mom, how I’m a disgrace to the “SINGH” name, our culture and much more. I think this idea that moms who use cannabis are just high around their kids all day is ridiculous. Who better to shape my child’s views on the plant than someone who didn’t use it at first, but later found a need for it to help a medical condition?Thankfully I was built strong; my brothers nicknamed me “beast” for a reason. I was hurt by feedback at first and even questioned if what I was doing was OK because of social media and my family and friends. Instead I fought through it, and I continue to fight this stigma daily. I proudly call myself the world’s first Fiji Indian cannabis advocate. I’m enormously proud to have been recognized by some of the biggest cannabis social media outlets in the world like Leafly, Cannabisnow, Weedmaps, Herb, and Hightimesmagaizine. I even made it on Huffington Post by sharing stories about treating severe PTSD with henna art, my culture and photography.
Why did you decide to be an advocate for cannabis?
I was diagnosed with PTSD and (like many others) given a prescription for drugs like Sertraline, Adderall, Lamictal, Lithium and unfortunately many others. In my community this was perfectly normal and almost encouraged. I find it so interesting we can look down on a plant because of widespread, untrue beliefs, but are so quick to take a pill because so many of our aunts, uncles, cousins and parents are doctors. For me it got to the point that the pharmaceutical cocktails I was being prescribed left me feeling numb both physically and emotionally. I had lost my drive, it was difficult to stay focused at times, I felt my response time to questions get slower. It was a horrible experience to feel trapped inside myself because I couldn’t feel anything. I even had thoughts of suicide and almost attempted to take my life. This is when my cousin (who I mentioned earlier) became my true bridge to the plant. Because at this time medical cannabis was really big here in Washington state, it was considered a legitimate alternative. I didn’t really have any other options at the time but I knew I didn’t like how I felt on what I was already taking. I started to understand the medical benefits of cannabis and started with small amounts. I found out what strains helped me specifically and I stuck with those as I transitioned out of pills and went full plant.
What was it like to open up to your family about cannabis use? Do they endorse it?
What’s funny is I was almost pushed to do it. I was getting tired of coming up with excuses to go outside, go to the store with my cousin, or whatever else I used to say to go smoke. I felt confident in being able to tell them because of the success I was having as a business owner. They wouldn’t be able to call me lazy, unproductive or look at me as a drug addict because my business was growing. Really letting them know one of the main reasons I was able to move forward and past my PTSD was because of cannabis, so because of that I think they were a little more receptive. Now don’t get me wrong, they weren’t exactly thrilled about it, but I’m fortunate enough to have parents that will at least try to listen. They really believe that as long as it helps and doesn’t hurt you or others, you should do what makes you happy.
Being a mother and a business owner should take a lot of time and energy. How do you combine the daily hustle with cannabis? Do you have favorite strains that help keep you going throughout the day?
Well I don’t really prioritize cannabis the same way that I do other things. Being a mother comes first because that doesn’t have a closing time. Being a business owner is pretty much the same way as you’re always on from a little before opening to a little after closing. Luckily I have a team of people and an incredible business partner to manage a lot of the day to day stuff for me. I try to find pockets of time for cannabis when I’m free: maybe during a lunch break, but really I only have time in the morning and at night.
Two of my favorite hybrid and sativa strains are Jack Herer and Clementine. Night time regimen is usually 1-2 puffs of an indica strain and 5-10mg of an edible to help with night terrors and teeth grinding.
How did you become Henna artist? Are there any strains that have especially sparked up your creativity?
I’m a self-taught henna artist via YouTube videos, sketches, and cannabis. I was working in a call center at BECU when I started to doodle for fun and wanted henna art on my hands since I hadn’t been to an Indian wedding in a while. One day kind of out of the blue I decided to pick up a cone from a local grocery store, try it myself, got obsessed and never put the cones down since. That’s when I decided to quit my job and go to cosmetology school. It took years of practice to get to the point I’m at now, but I would say I took to it pretty naturally.
I love using only sativa strains to spark creativity unless I’m having a stressful day. Then I’ll stick with a hybrid to help me stay calm and focused.
What advice would you give to women who would love to consume openly but are afraid to do so?
Just like you using it, don’t do it until you’re ready. I wouldn’t encourage someone to do something that they aren’t comfortable doing, cannabis included. I can only speak of my own experience and for me it was freeing.
I think before trying to break the stigma publicly you should do it within the walls of your own home. Family is most important and needs to comes first. When you have the support of family, what the world says doesn’t hurt. Speaking about it publicly lifted the weight off of my shoulders that came from hiding something that I was actually proud to talk about. There’s some anxiety in using cannabis, but it feels worse when you’re hiding it and trying to heal at the same time.
I think a lot of us care too much about what others think, and it can be in a number of ways. If you feel you can be the best version of yourself with the help of cannabis, don’t be ashamed of that. Be proud of who you are and share that when you’re ready.
And as far as finding the right product or “strain” for your body, first know cannabis is not for everyone. Be patient and know that finding the right cannabis strain is like finding the right birth control for your body. Don’t be turned off by one brand. Also don’t think that consuming it by smoking it is the only way it will work for you. Some will do great with a THC or CBD topical, drops from an oil, some will like micro-dosing with edibles, or CBD-only products.
First time users, I’d say stay away from vape pens and the thought of just getting high. Educate yourself: talk to a doctor, try therapy first or at the same time. Cannabis alone won’t cure your problems, but cannabis alongside life tools from a professional worked incredibly for me. It’s also important to know where your flower is being grown and by whom. Is it pesticide free and what’s the harvest date? Do your research and learn THC percentages and your own tolerance. I say this all the time, one puff is enough for many of us.