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“Nobody wins when the family feuds,” says philosopher, Shawn Carter. 

I live for popular Hip-Hop quotes. That quote is one of my most favorite. 

So, while standing inside of Richmond’s newest tea room, Queen Bee & Co, I noticed a lyric graphic on the wall with a quote from The Notorious B.I.G, “To all the ladies in the place with style and grace,” I instantly knew that the owner was my kind of girl. 

The owner is Heather Marie Van Cleave. A self-proclaimed “Jane of all trades.” 

If you’re “in the know,” you know about Heather Marie Van Cleave. A quintessential “it girl,” Heather is often spotted donning the latest fashions while sitting front row at RVA Fashion Week, eating dinner at Lemaire, or enjoying a cocktail on the rooftop at Common House. 

Queen Bee & Co is just as opulent as it’s owner. The elegant yet comfortable furnishings fill the space that is enclosed by Tiffany blue walls and gold trimmings. Views of the iconic Jefferson Hotel, located just across the street, sit perfectly within the frames of the floor to ceiling windows. Her tea room is suffused in light. 

The luxurious decor is matched by the selection of the finest teas. Shipped in from London’s famous tea room, Fortnum & Mason, the teas are appointed by none other than the Queen of England.

But Heather isn’t just a beautiful Richmond socialite with a tea room. She’s been a motivational speaker since 2009, fearlessly sharing her story all across the world. 

And Heather certainly has a story worth sharing.

As the daughter of two broadway actors, Heather was born ready for showtime. Her home was filled with the joys of singing, dancing, and entertainment. But her parents’ marriage was short-lived. And after their divorce, while most children spent their summers at band camp, Heather was catching flights to her second home in London to visit her father. It was a lavish lifestyle of sorts. But it was also marred with the grief of losing loved ones to suicide, enduring childhood sexual abuse from a family friend, and surviving rape as a teenager. It was through these experiences that Heather learned the catastrophic effects of depression and anxiety. 

In a 2019 article with Spinning Through Life, Heather shares her story. “Because of these occurrences early in life, I learned how to fake being confident and ended up in one bad relationship after the next seeking love from all of the wrong men.”

Heather struggled with faux confidence well into her adult years. From the outside, Heather seemed to have it all – a ritzy lifestyle with a family in entertainment and bi-continental trips from one home to the next. However, things were completely dysfunctional at home. 

Routinely blinded by love, Heather found herself smitten by men who appeared to be the answers to her prayers. But instead, they were broken and abusive. Her relationship with her second husband was so volatile that she had to go into hiding with her children while she filed for divorce. 

Heather shares, “I ended up being locked in rooms and given a black eye. Under his controlling abuse, we had two daughters together. He had sexual addictions and was a narcissist with anger issues that left bruises on me regularly as well as constant emotional abuse.”

After being single and swearing to never get married again, she gave love another try.  Yet, the cycle of abuse continued. 

One evening in April of 2019, Heather was tossed around the room like a rag doll as her husband tried to strangle her to death. 

Over tea, Heather shared with me what it felt like to have the hands of her husband around her neck, taking the life from her. 

“He had gone into a fit of rage and completely lost his mind. He had never been abusive before. He cheated and lied but that night he lost his mind and almost killed me.  He had unattended mental illness & addictions and didn’t want to seek the help he needed to live a healthy lifestyle or be a faithful husband.” 

And that was Heather’s final straw. It was this marriage that served as her tipping point. 

“I was given a protective order and knew that was it. I had to let go of another failed marriage and get the help I needed to truly heal on my own so that I could break the cycle and be a voice for other women who have struggled in a pattern of abusive relationships, too.”

Heather has done just that. Today, Heather is an expert mental health advocate, providing confidential consultations to celebrities and other notables throughout the country. In 2020, Heather returned to her own platform, Heather Marie Speaks, after serving as the spokeswoman for the mental health awareness non-profit, Runway 2 Life. On Heather Marie Speaks, Heather shares her story and the importance of mental health awareness with a little bit of fashion infused. 

“I’ve noticed that a lot of people were looking at my outside shell,” says Heather. “If I’m going to capture their attention, I might as well give them something of substance.” 

And Heather is full of substance. She’s host of the Heather Marie Speaks talk show as a radio personality with On the Mic with Mike on 100.5/92.7FM, hosts Community Spotlights on her YouTube channel, a singer, a songwriter, and a fashion model. 

Queen Bee & Co is Heather’s most recent entrepreneurial endeavor. Formerly known as Simply Tea, Heather collaborated with the owner to purchase the petite tea room and rebranded it to fit her taste. 

“When I heard the shop was going to close down, I met with the owner to figure out how I could help her and buy it. I didn’t want it to close.”

One thing’s for sure, Heather is definitely a “lady in the place with style and grace.” Not to mention, Heather is also the Fashion Director and Spokeswoman for VA Style Magazine. 

She really is a Jane of all trades with an amazing story of resilience to share. Which is why everyone listens when Heather Marie Speaks.