Influencer Merlyn Oliver Honors Brooklyn—and her Health

Learn how this creative professional gets high-coverage insurance at a low cost.


Maven may mean expert, but don’t let the name Bklyn Mavens (@bklynmavens) lead you to believe its creators claim to know everything about the city. In fact, Merlyn Oliver and her creative partner, Lauren Riley, say their 50,000 followers are Brooklyn experts, too.

Friends since high school, Oliver and Riley created a social media platform to promote their borough. They highlight business owners, promote events, and share tips and insights into their favorite spots, like Hibiscus Brew, a Jamaican-owned smoothie shop loved for its natural products. Oliver, who was born in Jamaica, says there aren’t a lot of healthy food and beverage options in Black communities.

The health-conscious creative professional is mindful of her physical and mental well-being, which includes ensuring that she has health care coverage. As a self-employed content producer, Oliver says independent creative professionals like herself don’t always feel like they can afford health insurance. But her mother was a health care professional, and both of her parents have diabetes and other health conditions that require regular monitoring, so insurance has long been a priority. Oliver became a MetroPlusHealth member when she lost her job during the pandemic, and she says her coverage gives her the peace of mind to focus on her career.

“Having health insurance is amazing because I can afford it.” She says the savings from having low-cost insurance allows her to “use that money towards other things like my camera, some apps that I need to download for editing, and also for travel. It makes my life a little less stressful knowing that I can worry about other things, such as clients and making sure I’m meeting my deadlines.” Here’s more on Oliver.


Storytelling in Brooklyn

Oliver grew up in East Flatbush and left New York after high school to attend Penn State. Upon graduation, she moved to Atlanta, where her sister was already established. Though she had a marketing job, Oliver missed New York. A lot.

“There’s no place like New York. It’s home,” she says.

She missed the hustle and bustle of the city, Caribbean food, and the diverse neighborhoods of her borough.

Brooklyn is the best borough. It’s a whole vibe here.

“Brooklyn is the best borough,” she says. “It’s a whole vibe here.”

She moved back, and upon her return, she and Riley created their platform to focus on fashion. But as it evolved, they started noticing the gentrification of their neighborhood. More independent businesses were being replaced by big chains like Target. Rents were rising, and the landscape was changing. At the same time, new independent businesses were also sprouting and Oliver was prompted to document it all through their platform because no one else was doing it.

“We saw that there needed to be a platform that talked about the whole Brooklyn, but through the eyes of true Brooklynites” she says.

As she met more business owners, Oliver wanted to share their stories so that others would know and support them, too.


Feeling Protected

Oliver meticulously updates her schedule on a giant whiteboard and manages her responsibilities down to the smallest detail. She also prioritizes her health coverage.

“I feel like I should take care of myself as a young adult,” she says. “There are a lot of things that can go wrong, especially when you’re going through your late 20s, early 30s.”

She noticed several MetroPlusHealth locations throughout her neighborhood but never considered it as a health care option until she was laid off during the pandemic.

With MetroPlusHealth, Oliver easily found a Black doctor and likes that her plan also includes vision care.

With MetroPlusHealth, Oliver easily found a Black doctor and likes that her plan also includes vision care. She says creative professionals like herself often worry about the cost of health care, as well as about saving for retirement. And while many of her peers opt to just roll the dice without coverage only to have sticker shock once something does happen that requires treatment, her mother’s experience as a health care worker instilled in her the importance of being insured.

Her family medical history also motivates her to take care of herself. She is mindful of her diet, exercises, and never neglects her annual checkups.

Health insurance is one of those things that I’m happy to have.

“Both of my parents have diabetes, and my mom has high blood pressure, so because I know I can get that in my future, I’m always making sure that I’m eating healthy,” she says. “Health insurance is one of those things that I’m happy to have.”

Learn more about the benefits of health coverage with MetroPlusHealth plans.

last updated: December 13, 2023

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