Motherhood, Marijuana and Mental Health with Been Milky

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Been Milky stands in front of a beautiful classic car as she poses for a photo.
Been Milky stands in front of a beautiful classic car as she poses for a photo.  (Aylin)


Kate Dash, aka Been Milky, is one of the coolest mothers you'll ever meet.

She likes to bomb down huge San Francisco hills on a skateboard, she notoriously dyes her hair bright colors, she's a cannabis connoisseur and she's on the verge of launching a shop called MiLKY WORLD.

Been Milky, whose name honors the fact that mothers have the ability to feed all of humankind, sees mothers as the most important beings walking this earth. And since she's a photographer, she can show us exactly what she sees.

Her photography captures vivid images of her friends, many of them moms, and of course, her own kids.

Been Milky's daughters smile and pose for a photo on a grassy hillside.
Been Milky's daughters smile and pose for a photo on a grassy hillside. (Been Milky)

When Been Milky and I talked two years ago at Jessica Buera's Concrete Rose Salon in downtown San Francisco, the conversation was largely focused on her approach to motherhood and photography.

This week, we get an update on the photographer who was born in the Philippines and raised in the South Bay.  We discuss her growth as an artist, her embrace of marijuana, and her new approach to getting help with mental issues.

Below are lightly edited excerpts of my conversation with Been Milky.

Been Milky: Towards the middle of the pandemic, I just started going back to where I started, like shooting my family, my kids, my daughters. So vacations, get-togethers, them being themselves. And then I got a jobby job, and now I'm doing media for them…

Pen: I want to get to the jobby job, but stay on the photos first... your children, are they growing frustrated or irritated with you pointing the camera at them?

Been Milky: Oh, sometimes. They will let me know. They will let me know all the time, like, ‘Momma not right now!’.... I'm like damn, I’m tryna get the moment!

Pen: I know how it is! My daughter is just like, ‘Come on, dad, I want to play! Stop taking pictures!”…. Ok, the jobby job. Tell us about it, what does it entail?

Been Milky: So I'm back in the weed game, in the retail sense. I started volunteering at a dispensary out in San Jose when I was 18. I'm 30 now and I'm back… I just wanted a job where I get to practice things that I want to do for myself. They're getting me on Premiere, doing social media, and everything that I already do for myself, but now it's a structure.

Pen: Nice, nice, into the cannabis industry… It's becoming, how do you say, less taboo to talk about casually and I'm thinking about an article where I read about suburban soccer moms being involved in marijuana. How do you look at your involvement in the marijuana industry as a mom?

Been Milky: So I started at 18, I was volunteering 18 to like 20. And then I moved out of the city and then I got pregnant. I moved back to my parent's house… My parents, I mean, now they're starting to try to accept weed...[but] when I was pregnant with Akari, my second, my dad actually was like, ‘I'm not driving you to work’ and he wouldn't watch Isis or take care of Isis. And I was like, damn, what do I do?... And then the manager -- I've known him since elementary -- he was like, bring her. So I brought her to work with me. And I have photos: I was pregnant with Akari and I had Isis in a little carrier. And I was just rolling joints! Luckily, this club's not around, so I could talk about it.

Been Milky: I look at it like this plant is super healing. I really shifted my perspective, from I'm doing something bad into like…. I actually really fuck with this plant, like, in a deeper way, not just getting high. It's healing in so many different ways… anxiety, trying to eat, you know, like all the things. The plant itself is super strong. I think we still use it for boats and stuff, little ropes, paper, American history...

Pen: You're right though. It’s literally intertwined with our country. Other check in stuff… Anything else that the world should know about what you got going on right now?

Been Milky: I mean, I'm just really taking care of myself: What brings me joy? What can I do to better myself? And how can I be here for myself and ultimately my daughters?

Pen: You have to boil it down to its essence, like what really matters and then start to rebuild from there.

Been Milky: Well, I mean, to go even deeper, I actually checked myself into the mental facility... It was like a choice. It was like wisdom came through cuz I was like, OK, you know what? I don't really want to leave. I got so much to do. What's something that I haven't done for myself? And that's the hospital route… I was in there for 6 days willingly, really excited to be there because I'm like, OK, this is the change in my life. Like I'm gonna know myself on a deeper level. It was an experience for sure, to like really, ask for help, get help, and then be open to the support. And try new things like pharmaceuticals, they got me on certain things. I'm like, I've never tried it, so how can I say something about it? That's where I'm at right now.

Been Milky: I was working at Barbary Coast Sunset while I went to the inpatient program and coming back to work… I always say this to the owner. I'm like, ‘yo, this space, this culture you have in this dispensary.’ I feel safe. I feel supported. I don't feel judged, like, I can be myself, I dance at work!

Pen: That’s important. Congrats, congrats on the progress and the growth.

Been Milky: Thank you, thank you.

Rightnowish is an arts and culture podcast produced at KQED. Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts or click the play button at the top of this page and subscribe to the show on NPR One, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.

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