Two weeks after her release from prison, Cyntoia Brown is sharing what’s she’s been enjoying the most about her freedom: the simple things.
In an exclusive statement to NBC News, Brown-Long (shortly after being granted clemency, she married singer Jamie “J.” Long of the group Pretty Ricky), said she’s been relishing being able to get a manicure or running out to the store to pick up cooking supplies.
“Being able to cook for myself and decide how I want to spend my day feels amazing,” Brown-Long said. “Those simple pleasures that people take for granted are what I looked forward to when I sat in prison dreaming of freedom.”
Brown-Long, 31, was imprisoned at the age of 16 for shooting and killing Johnny Mitchell Allen in 2004. A victim of child sex-trafficking, Allen paid Brown-Long for sex. According to NBC, Brown-Long says she shot Allen out of self-defense, fearing for her life “when she saw him reaching for what she believed was a gun while they were in bed at his home.”
Thanks to criminal justice advocates and a 2011 documentary, Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story, Brown-Long’s case began gaining nationwide attention, with many—including high-profile celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian—calling for her release.
While former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam granted Brown-Long clemency before leaving office earlier this year, she wasn’t released until Aug. 7. Brown-Long will soon get to tell her side of the story at length. Her memoir, Free Cyntoia, which focuses on her time in prison, is slated for a fall publishing date. Images of the cover were released this week.
“Every day I find myself thanking God for yet another experience I haven’t had my whole adult life,” Brown-Long said in the statement to NBC News. She highlighted the night of her release, which she celebrated with friends, family, “everyone who’d made a difference in my life over the last 15 years.”
“I wasn’t presenting myself as a 16-year-old heading to prison and needing help. I was a grown woman with my calling from God,” she said. “This was my coming out party.”