They say that pain can either kill you or make you stronger. Whether it’s emotional or physical, pain is something that we are bound to deal with as living and breathing human beings. There is no way to avoid it, so what are the best ways to live with it?
Many of us bury our pain and never take the time to heal from it. When this happens, our pain begins to manifest and create negative psychological patterns and thoughts. You may or may not be aware of how your past painful life experiences have shaped who you are today, but trust us they did not just disappear into thin air.
As a platform that is all for the betterment and empowerment of real women bosses and entrepreneurs, we decided to sit down with Radio One veteran, Jillian “JJ” Simmons. JJ has a very interesting relationship with pain. From being verbally abused by her mother to being in a domestically abusive relationship with a sociopath, JJ has purposefully pivoted every negative situation in her life into a positive.
Instead of burying her pain and leaving it in Pandora’s box, the now author, philanthropist, host, and entrepreneur has ultimately, “Turned Her Pain Into Purpose And A Paycheck”.
As of recently, JJ resigned from her high-profile job as the midday personality at Houston, Texas’ #1 Hip Hop & R&B station 97.9 The Box to focus on her self-made platforms. Knowingly or unknowingly, JJ has turned every negative life experience that could have broken her into a platform that is now building not only herself but other women and young girls.
In this 3 part exclusive interview, we discuss JJ’s life experiences, the signs of being in an emotionally abusive relationship, the benefits of therapy, how you too can turn your pain into purpose and a paycheck, and much more.
Part 1: Hurting To Healing
You grew up with your mother who was bipolar and a Playboy Bunny. How was that experience like for you growing up? How has your upbringing had an impact on your life now that you have reached adulthood?
JJ: My mother being a Playboy Bunny meant “beauty” was very important in our household. There was a desire for perfection all the time. (she wasn’t diagnosed as bipolar. By looking at her behavior, most therapists may categorize her as borderline personality) This means at times she had unstable emotions, irrational behavior to the smallest things. My upbringing has caused me to notice the importance of a taking care of your mental health and how it can affect so many different aspects of your life.
While working in radio you fell in love with a DJ who turned out to be a sociopath which lead to a mentally and emotionally abusive relationship. Can you talk to us about how that situation lead you into being the author of your Amazon best-selling book, Without Bruises?
JJ: After coming out of this abusive relationship and spending a few years in therapy, I realized that there must be other women and MEN who are in psychologically abusive relationships and don’t even know. Sometimes we grow up in households where our parents were abusive so this is our norm and sometimes we just try to see the best in people so we deal with their foul behavior. The book is to help people identify the often missed signs of mental and emotional abuse. Not only that but how to get out and heal.
From your experience, how can a woman tell if she is in an unhealthy relationship?
JJ: A man who really truly loves you will speak LIFE into you! If someone is belittling you, blaming you, making you feel less than or controlling you…that is not loved. It’s time to go. Sometimes we feel like we can’t-do any better and that is not true. YOU DESERVE BETTER. And “Better” is out there waiting on you but you have to clear the way for him to arrive.
Therapy is a taboo topic amongst African-American’s and you mention it in your book, how did that help you heal from your rough relationship?
JJ: Therapy saved my life. I was on 6 pills a day for depression, anxiety, paranoia, insomnia and more. I didn’t know that sitting on a little gray loveseat and talking to a complete stranger would change my entire world. I was able to trace back my issues with men to my relationship with my mother. I was able to learn so much about me. I was able to grow and heal. It took time though. Almost 3 years of consistent therapy to heal from the relationship with Stacey.
Lastly, what advice do you have for women who wish to share their stories and put their situations out on the forefront like you did?
JJ: Make sure you have healed before you open those wounds back up. Even during my book tour, I felt a little heavy while talking about certain things in my past. My therapist told me that speaking about the past can sometimes make it present again. Before I launched my book, I read it 10 times in one weekend. It was draining.Everyone is different. Just make sure you aren’t rushing to do something. Take your time. Everyone has a story to tell, not everyone is meant to write a book. Be intentional with WHY you are writing the story. Maybe it’s better to speak at a women’s group rather than write a book. It’s not for everyone.
Part 2: Single Motherhood To Mentorship
How did having your daughter Alani change your life for the better as a single mother?
JJ: Alani is a constant reminder that unconditional love exists. I had a mother who suggested I tattoo over my vitiligo, I had a boyfriend who talked me into doing the same but I will never forget the day I was in my bathroom changing clothes and Alani came in. She looked at me with a sad face and said: “I wish I had those!” I said “What?” She pointed at the white spots on my body. My eyes started to tear up when she said: “Why don’t I have that?” I tried to explain to her that God makes every one unique. In my mind, all I could think was “WOW!” What some people look at as a flaw, someone else looks at as beauty. My daughter helps me to see the beauty in the world.
You took being a single mother and turned it into a brand with SingleMomsRock.com. How did this all come about and what can a single mom learn from this platform?
JJ: I realized being a single mom isn’t easy. Sometimes we need some extra motivation! I remember getting into a debate with a married friend who wanted me to take a trip out of town. She said “You make good money! Why are you so frugal with your money?” I asked her if she paid for her mortgage. She said “No. My Husband does.” I said, “Do you pay childcare?” She said, “Oh ok, I get it.” In actuality, she still doesn’t really get it. That is just the financial part. Raising another human being alone in a city where you have no family is tough. There are some things that married moms just don’t understand. It’s not to say that one’s life is harder than the other but we just have different experiences. SingleMomsRock.com provides high quality, helpful content for single moms: travel, fitness tips, time management tools, recipes, product reviews, entertainment and more!
What do you teach your daughter about being a female boss and go-getter?
JJ: Oh yes! She is a published author and has her own T-shirt line and lemonade sold locally! Alani also has her own YouTube page ALANI ROCKS where she teaches other kids Mandarin Chinese words. She put together a business plan and has learned how to save, spend and give! Her website is ALANIROCKS.COM She is a super kid! I promise I’m not saying that because she is mine! LOL
It is important for young girls to have positive role models in their life and through your nonprofit you show young girls in low poverty areas that they can be great no matter where they come from. Can you tell us more about your JJ’s I’m Me Foundation?
JJ: We have an 8-week program in middle and high schools called JJ’s I’m Me Tour that is designed to give young ladies the tools they need to challenge themselves in all areas of their lives! Sessions on Health/Fitness, Beauty/Style, Goal Setting, Etiquette and more! We have kicked off our first ever COLLEGE EDITION of the I’m Me Tour this fall at Prairie View University for 300 Freshman Girls with 14 workshops and a Munch & Mingle! We’ve taken our middle and high school tour and put it on steroids! We added a few relationship sessions, financial literacy and more! These girls will walk out of the tour feeling empowered and ready to kick ass! IMMETOUR.COM
Can you share a special testimony or encounter that you had with a young girl that gave you the confirmation that this program is beneficial for the youth?
JJ: One girl wrote me this letter to me that talked about how she suffers from eczema. She said people use to make fun of her and her skin so she always wore long sleeves. She said after hearing my story about having Vitiligo, she now has more confidence and stopped caring what other people had to say. She started wearing short sleeves to become more confident in who she is.
In your book Without Bruises, you talk about leaving Clark Atlanta University. Why did you drop out of college, can you elaborate on that and your college experience?
JJ: I left CAU because I ran out of money. I came back home and attended Wright State University and then the University of Cincinnati. I realized I was racking up all of these student loans! I was in school to become a radio personality but I had been a radio personality since I was 16. I was already working full-time while in college and making great money. It just didn’t make sense for me to stay. I had never had any radio station ask me if I had a degree either. So I decided to follow my dreams and move to NYC where I ended doing radio at WBLS. My show came on right after Wendy Williams. My experience is something I could have never gained in a classroom and my experience took me pretty far. Maybe one day I will go back. I don’t know.
Part 3: No Job? No Problem!
Many would have killed to be in your position as a radio host in the Top Ten market. How did you gain the confidence to let go of something so secure?
JJ: I asked the question a long time ago…”What do you want to wake up doing for the rest of your life that would make you smile?” Radio wasn’t it. I spent two days in the hospital prior to resigning and that was the push for me. I was stressed. Nothing is worth sitting in the hospital for two days unless I am giving birth! God whispered, “It’s time.” I said “Uhm. Lord. I was thinking in 5 years.” He said, “No, today is the day.” I was very confident in my decision. I don’t regret it at all.
You’ve mentioned having anxiety and physically getting anxiety attacks at work due to the stresses and pressures of the industry? Can you talk more about that?
JJ: Some people are about that nightlife. I’m not. Unless it is a special occasion, I don’t want to be out. Understand I’ve been in the club since I was 16 so I was worn out on that life. On top of that, I have to come to work and talk about topics I could care less about like reality tv shows or Chris Brown fighting Souljia Boy. I just don’t care. Doing something you don’t want to do can be super stressful.
You started a youtube series, entitled I Quit My Job to document your journey after quitting radio. How is life now as a full-time entrepreneur? What have you learned about yourself and entrepreneurship?
JJ: LIFE IS SO GOOD! The peace of mind is amazing. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m nervous! But I’m so happy. I learned that when we are obedient, God will open doors that we didn’t see coming. Entrepreneurship is a beast! It is not all butterflies and rainbows but it’s so much more rewarding. Being in control of your own destiny is incredible.
What advice do you have for anyone who is contemplating quitting their full-time job?
JJ: Think about why you want to quit. Did you maximize being there? Are there still a few more things you could learn before you leave? Few more people you could connect with that could help you in your business? Listen to GOD! When He says go…go!
As an entrepreneur and influencer can you share some tips on how to make money using your social media?
JJ: Being a brand ambassador is a big way to make money. Maybe start locally. You will need to have a decent following but people think you need to have a million followers and you really don’t. If you have 300 followers and every time you post a shirt from a certain store, 5-10 people go and buy it. That is huge! It’s not about a number of followers, it’s about engagement and if your followers move when you say move!
I am sure a lot of people told you that you were crazy for leaving radio. How important is it to surround yourself with positive and supportive people while on this journey?
JJ: A community is EVERYTHING! The people around you need to have the same mindset. Imagine people around people who were DOERS! People who have good hearts and speak positive words! YOUR world will begin to change. Leaving radio was just that! Leaving an environment that was toxic to me. Energy is everything. My friends pray for me, inspire me, motivate me and I do the same for them too. It is very true that birds of a feather flock together. What’s up with your flock bro?!
What does the phrase: “Turning your pain into a paycheck mean to you”?
JJ: People want knowledge and they will pay for it! Guess what? We all have some experience that we have gone through and learned from that could be something someone will pay for! Tips, experience, be the plug! My pain as a single mom led to SingleMomsRock.com, my pain from abuse let to a book and a speaking career.
Lastly, anything else that you would like to share with our Live Civil audience?
JJ: This may not have anything to do with anything but I just want to say “STOP BELIEVING WHAT YOU SEE ON THE GRAM!” Instagram is an illusion that can throw you off your game! Stop comparing yourself to other people whether physically or when it comes to what another person has or even business envy! DO YOU! No one is sharing the tough parts, the struggles, the I WANNA QUIT DAYS! Just don’t believe the hype.
To keep up with Jillian Simmons be sure to follow the following on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook: