Crime, Time & Testimony: An Interview with the Triumphant Ayana Bean

Boston, MA native Ayana Bean, has lead a life worthy of a movie, with a preview of her story being shared through her episode of Black Entertainment Television’s reboot of the highly acclaimed American Gangster series. Her hustle spanned from the streets of Boston to the entire country as she became a vital music presence in Boston and worked as the regional liaison for several major record labels including Def Jam, Sony, Eone formerly Koch Records, Interscope to name a few. However, the battles in her personal life–which consisted of raising 2 young sons, and the disease of drug addiction in the home led her down a path of fiscal ruin. After serving time on state & Federal convictions for fraud, Ayana chose to become an advocate for at-risk women and gives talks to those in or transitioning from prison. Ayana’s life is chronicled on the American Gangster: Trap Queens series on BET. Her career in music, crimes against the government, and ultimate redemption will be told to the world in the series and in her new book A Year And A Day.

First, we must just say that your story is AMAZING!!! We appreciate your strength and transparency to share with us. — Please take us back to the beginning. What was life like as a little girl? Where were you born and raised?

Thank you for this interview! Life for me growing up as a little girl in Boston was bitter-sweet. I was an only child until I was 5 years old, a spoiled Daddy’s girl for as long as I could be. We lived in a few different housing projects in Boston. To me, life was good for a little bit.

How and when did you first get into the entertainment network, or become interested in music/the business?

In or around 2003 I started learning the music business by networking at different industry workshops and events. A school I worked at, at the time was one of the most popular urban college stations and I met alot of people networking there as well.

What were some of your initial plans and strategies, prior to your involvement with any crime life?

My initial plan before the criminal activity was to gain an opportunity within the music industry that would lead me to be a successful executive with my own independent artist management company.

Can you share with us when you think the shift began; when you knew you would cross that line and get involved with illegal strategies?

The shift began when I felt trapped between a rock and hard place because I didn’t have the money to pay my rent. I had 2 small children at the time and not having a place to live wasn’t an option. I was struggling with what I wanted to do and the basic necessities of life. The temptation was there and I gave myself the reasons as to why it was ok to steal and how I would make it ok to do it.

What was your emotional and mental state like at that time? Was it difficult to adjust to the demand of the things you began to do?

I was happy and I was afraid at the same time. Having money gave me the confidence and means I needed but each day hanging over my head was the wrong that I was doing to have it. Deep down I knew it would be temporary, but I had hoped that it would be a long way from now temporary.

When you say you were “addicted to being broke”, can you explain this feeling and thought process?

When I say “addicted to not being broke” I literally had panic attacks thinking of not having enough money. I needed money to pay my bills and I wanted money to have the freedom it provided. Without it, I felt panic and anxiety.

How did the authorities discover what was happening and did you have a plan in place for your children or artists in the event you were caught?

I was depositing checks into my own personal bank account. This is all a paper trail and was not in the least a wise plan at all. I had no plan for getting caught because I talked myself into thinking I was doing this in a way where it would be impossible for me to get caught. When doing wrong most people give themselves reasons why it’s right. I wasn’t concerned about artists or colleagues. I didn’t imagine that it would affect my children.

How much time did you serve in prison and what was that experience like?

My most recent prison sentence in 2014 was Federal Prison time of 1 year and 1 day with 3 years probation.

What lead to a second conviction? And what did you learn from that whole process?

My circumstances never changed. I was still living in a household of dysfunction, mental and physical abuse, a partner who had substance addiction. The walls never stopped closing in on and me. My mental health, depression, and anxiety was never acknowledged or treated.

Did you meet other women in prison that inspired you to change and move differently?

Yes, I met so many women that inspired me in prison and it’s because I saw a part of myself in each of them. I knew the minute I entered Federal Prison that my life would be a complete change before my release.

What was your support system like at home? And how did your children hold up while you were away?

My support system at home is always great. I have my mom, sisters, and other family members that are always there for me. My children were graduated from high school, working and in college during my Federal prison sentence. It wasn’t easy for them not having me there for this important time in their lives but they remained focus and supportive of each other.

Were you hard on yourself about your mistakes?

Absolutely hard on myself about my mistakes and that hasn’t stopped yet. I’m working on forgiving myself still. You can never get the time you missed back with your children but you can move forward and cherish the time given to you.

What made you decide to open up publicly about your story, and how do you stay motivated through dealing with people who may pass judgement about your choices?

When I received the call from BET to share my story I was definitely not the most willing participant, I still had friends that had no idea I was even in prison. I don’t pay attention to judgement of my past at all and I have seen many mean and disrespectful comments but I’m so solid with myself and God I’m not hurt by it. I lived through it and still living through it.

How does it make you feel to look back full circle, and see what you have decided to do with your testimony?

I’m proud of myself. I was ashamed of myself and ashamed for my family. Today I’m stronger for us all.

What is the best advice you have for women looking to get into the music industry/start their own label from scratch?

My advice is to do your research, learn all you can, and don’t stop.

Are there any updates or news from your platform that you would like to share with our readers? What’s Next for you!?

Next is my author debut with my memoir A YEAR AND A DAY available in November directly through my websites I have also started a nonprofit organization A YEAR AND A DAY Foundation more information about that coming soon. So much more coming up that I’m unable to disclose but please stay tuned I will be around for quite some time.