There is an African proverb that states “if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go with others.”
Laguna Beach resident Ruth Chiedza McDonald has aspirations to go far, but the Zimbabwe native has been going alone in her quest to further her education in the United States and promote her book “What Your Mom Didn’t Tell You: Life, Men, Love, Dating, Sex and Relationships.”
McDonald wrote the book under her given name, Chiedza Mavangira. She says her goal is to give voice to being a black woman, share stories not often heard and maybe inspire someone.
Before one can achieve self-actualization, one must first survive, and McDonald is a survivor. Her story begins with overcoming a third-world country’s harsh political and economic climate.
“I was born and raised in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe,” she says. “At the age of 16, my father committed suicide, leaving me to grow up overnight and to start fending for myself and my family. I had nothing except the courage of my own convictions. Zimbabwe was on the verge of societal and economic collapse, and there were two choices before me: succumb to an arranged marriage or take a fleeting chance and build my own future.”
At the age of 18, McDonald met a man who left her with a son. Three years later, a friend of her father’s gave her enough money for a plane ticket, and with nothing more than the clothes on her back, McDonald landed at San Francisco International Airport, having left all she knew, including her son, behind.
“From that moment, I would stake my future on chance, the benevolent hearts of strangers, and the blessings of God,” she states. “I learned my first valuable lesson: no one rescues you, you have to save yourself. I walked through the airport asking strangers for a job. I was blessed to meet a woman who had visited my country with the Peace Corps, and she offered me a job as an au-pair. I learned to have courage and to realize that no matter how dim a situation looks, it can only get better.”
When McDonald was 24, she obtained her second job working in the fashion industry.
“I met my ex-husband during this time but unfortunately, it ended in abuse. I did not give up, and instead, I poured myself into working very hard and raising my young son.”
“I have experienced heartache,” she continued. “When you are a woman in a foreign country, you meet predators. I was completely clueless when I went through these experiences, but I thought it must mean something so I used it as an opportunity to learn what people thought of me as a black woman.”
McDonald persevered, and continued onward—and upward. After working with celebrity stylists she discovered a talent as a red carpet correspondent and a writer. She won an award as a research analyst working on a documentary for the Discovery Channel. She also produced over 100 web series segments.
“I never forgot the words of Malcolm X, who said that ‘education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.’ Living in Los Angeles as a single mom was very expensive but I juggled paying bills and school. I looked after my son and my mentally ill brother, and other family members who had joined me in the U.S. as they worked on getting their green cards.”
McDonald completed her AA degree at Santa Monica College and Irvine Valley College, and then applied to Chapman University’s Dodge Film School, one of the top-rated film schools in the country.
“I was honored to be admitted and receive the Founders Scholarship for outstanding academic and personal achievement. I am also honored and humbled to be a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, which is more than just a symbol of academic achievement, it is a distinction of honor. Less than 10 percent of all eligible scholars are selected every year.”
During the pandemic, McDonald wrote her book “What Your Mom Didn’t Tell You,” which is available on amazon.com. The cover artwork is by artist Richard Bell, who suffered a spinal cord injury that left him a quadriplegic yet also resulted in him becoming an accomplished artist whose work is on display in galleries and private residences internationally.
She self-promoted the book on her social media platforms.
“I trended as a first-time author, and I’m currently five-star rated,” she says proudly.
Now, McDonald is pursuing a BFA in Creative Producing with a minor in PR Entertainment at Chapman University.
“That would allow me to continue my academic journey after all these years of never giving up. It would let me use my gift to tell stories as an African woman to inspire women worldwide to go against all impossible odds and make their dreams come true.”
But McDonald knows that “it takes a village to raise a child and a community to make a dream come true,” so she has started a Go Fund Me account to help with her school expenses.
In the meantime, McDonald plans to arrange book signings at local libraries and bookstores. She plans to donate 10 percent of her proceeds back to the Gen Next Foundation of Newport Beach, a nonprofit organization that works to create opportunities and confront challenges that face future generations in the areas of education, economic opportunity, and global security.
“This foundation resonates with me because of its innovative approach to tackling the most pressing global issues today,” says McDonald. “I am inspired by fighting for global social justice through my work.”
McDonald is already working on her next book, an autobiography titled “Born Without Borders,” as well as a series of children’s books that she says will probably be published under the pen name Nini Black.