I knocked nervously on the door of the high-rise condo.
I was late, to my dismay, despite leaving 45 minutes prior to our scheduled interview to drive the 12 miles from Hollywood to Santa Monica — a reminder from L.A. traffic that leaving on time means you're already late. But my tensions quickly subsided when the door opened and a smiling Garrain Jones, decked out in full Herbalife paraphernalia, pulled me into a tight hug as if we were old friends before giving me a tour of his $3 million home, just steps away from the beach.
“You can't live in your car for two and a half years and not care whether you live or die, and four years later be a millionaire and part of the two percent wealthiest in the world as an African-American man by accident," he says to me before getting settled at the dining room table.
And just like that, I'm reminded that I'm not just here for an interview, I'm also here for my own breakthrough.
Photo Credit: Kiah McBride
Growing up Garrain had an idea of what he wanted to do, and it wasn't working a typical nine to five job. He had a passion for running, something that started when his legs carried him from a walk into a full-blown dash at seven-months-old. He loved the arts, whether he was singing to himself in the mirror or sketching in his notepad. And he had this knack for giving great advice even at seven-years-old, though he wasn't quite sure at the time what that meant in regards to his future. But before he had the chance to turn those passions into paychecks, he stopped listening to his instincts, and started feeding into the idea that he needed a more stable career.
"I would hear people say, 'go get a real job,' so I'm listening to what everybody else is saying but myself," he says. "I stopped running. I stopped doing my art. I stopped singing. I stopped giving people advice, and I stopped giving. So in the act of doing all of that, now I'm just trying to do what everyone else is doing. Meanwhile, I have something on the inside of me saying, 'no, do this!'"
Like many, Jones spent his younger years conforming to an environment that didn't motivate or uplift him. His father — a drug dealer living in the 3rd ward of Houston, TX — was murdered when he was 12. His mother, taking on the role of mother and father, lacked the affection needed for her two sons. So Garrain turned to a life of petty crime — breaking into cars and houses, even doing a stint in stripping at the age of 17. The following year he found himself in a prison in France for drug smuggling with a twelve-year sentence hanging over his head. He didn't think he was getting out, but life had another plan for him.
His consulate handed him the The Power of Positive Thinking, which he studied intensely and began applying the principles to his own life. Before long, he was getting back to doing the things that he loved as a kid: running, sketching, singing, inspiring. "All of a sudden the other prisoners started running. I didn't know I was adding value, but there was nobody smoking, there was nobody stabbing each other, there was nobody fighting, so I didn't know that by doing what I love, I was bringing joy and adding value to an environment."
Photo Credit: Kiah McBride
"I didn't know that by doing what I love, I was bringing joy and adding value to an environment."
Bringing joy to those battling their own emotional demons gave him a sense of purpose, and eventually convinced the powers that be that he was worthy of a second chance. Two years into his sentence, he was released. The drugs that he was caught smuggling turned out to be fake. "I'd seen the test," says Jones, his brown eyes wide as if still in disbelief. "“They tested it three times; I saw the paper. But all of a sudden when I'm positive — despite what was going on in my life; despite not feeling like I'm ever going to get out — I still chose positivity."
While in prison, he had made a promise to himself and to his half-brother — comedian DeRay Davis — that when he got out, he would go hard for his music. “DeRay was like, you want to do music right? So you'll have all of your bills paid for, rent free, I'll get you some clothes, food, everything paid for. Only don't come home unless you have a song."
With no connections to the industry, he got to work with hitting up producers on MySpace for records. By the end of 30 days he had enough music to make an album, and he was on his way to L.A.
It was just five years ago that Jones — who then went by “Steph" — was one of the R&B crooners next up to blow. After a chance meeting with Disturbing tha Peace (DTP) label owner, Ludacris, he secured a recording contract with the record company and began penning tracks for big artists, all while maintaining a public relationship with American Idol winner Jordin Sparks. But in private, the very thing that he thought he wanted became the source of his suffering. The contracts he signed (and didn't sign) kept him from padding his pockets, and after his departure from the label for creative differences, he was left with the car that he purchased with his advance money and $357,000 of debt.
“People thought I was doing really well, and I was good at fronting like I was doing really well. Meanwhile, I was dying on the inside. So I still had stuff going on that made it look like things were popping, and I hated my life."
As if things couldn't get any worse, he was pulled over by a cop for having a suspended license and expired registration, just steps away from the courthouse. They took his car and left him and his five white trash bags full of clothes on the side of the road, despite that he was on his way to pay for said parking tickets. "In that moment I asked, 'God, why am I here? All of these people think I'm something and I'm just lying through my teeth.'" He says as he leans forward and looks at me intently. "I was so good at making things seem like everything was all peachy, but deep down inside when nobody was around and I looked in the mirror and the truth showed up, I wasn't good."
“I was so good at making things seem like everything was all peachy, but deep down inside when nobody was around and I looked in the mirror and the truth showed up, I wasn't good."
His mom wired him the money to get his car back, and that same day someone broke into it. "I remember that night I laid down in the middle of the road, and I wished that a car would run me over," he says. "I prayed for a car to run me over."
Instead of letting suicide be the end of his story, he got up, drove to the parking lot of the Mail and More on the corner of Hollywood and La Brea, and broke down in prayer. "I'd always been focused on what I didn't want, and when you focus on what you don't want, you'll attract that in your life. And I never said exactly what I wanted, but this time I did something different."
He threw his hands in the air and screamed out animatedly the specifics of his prayer: happiness, healthiness, positivity, inspiration, and getting paid to do something he'd do for free. "Silence," he says, finishing with a dramatic pause. "I'd never cried out like I'd cried before. And I gave everything in crying out."
He didn't hear from God that day, but a week later while at the gas station he ran into a homeless guy peddling for change who said to him "change your mindset, change your life" before walking away.
It's the same words that are now artistically framed on his living room wall, and that inspired the title of his forthcoming book. "I never had a set of words stop me in my tracks. Everything I'd ever learned — all the stuff that my mom taught me and my dad taught me — it stopped everything that I'd learned in it's tracks. It interrupted my thought process and made me think, so if I do the opposite of everything that I normally do, my life will change."
Photo Credit: Kiah McBride
He did an overhaul on his life, from his mentality to his poor decision-making with relationships. He started getting back to the things that he loved as a kid, that he was once told weren't realistic enough to pursue as a career. To this day, he believes that it's what we're taught from childhood that prevents us from living the life that we're destined for. He details, "Imagine a world full of people that are stuck in their patterns because of how they're raised — because every adult that you've come in contact with, every decision that they make and everything that they do, the way their life is played out is based on a set of decisions that they made when they were five or six-years-old that manifested in who they are today. I, in that moment, decided to break all of those agreements and do something different."
Photo Credit: Kiah McBride
It was while exercising his mental shift that he came across Herbalife, a multi-level marketing corporation that recruits “coaches" to sell nutrition and weight loss products. It wasn't quite the answer he was looking for when he shouted his prayer in the Mail and More parking lot, but it turned out to be just what he needed to take his motivational message of positivity and empowerment — and, of course, health and fitness — to a broader audience. Suddenly, the guy who had hardly two pennies to rub together was raking it in by the thousands.
"I would attract other people that were already in my life that just wanted to live a better quality of life, those people that wanted to be a part of my business that already had all of this money in the world but they didn't have themselves. When they saw me genuinely happy, genuinely able to make a difference in my personal friends and family's lives, that was a different conversation. From there, I was able to build massive successful leaders, not just in the company, but in their communities, based off of the philosophies and principals that I would learn from what I was reading."
Today, Jones is traveling the world sharing his story of going from homeless to Herbalife, and inspiring even the youngest of listeners to not allow their childhood dreams to be deferred by their circumstances or the people in their lives.
"This is a three-year-old of someone I didn't know but I had affected. I built a relationship with a complete stranger and their entire family in Virginia," says Garrain, picking up his iPhone. He scrolls through his photo album for a minute before stopping on a video of a blond-haired little girl named Calli. "I went to visit them and stayed two weeks in Virginia, just spending time with the family and everything, and their daughter comes into my room at five in the morning, saying something that I taught her mom, so it's also affecting children."
In the video Garrain asks Calli what she says to herself before going to bed every night. With just a moment of hesitation she goes into her monologue. "I'm a champion. I'm a winner. I'm powerful. I'm strong…I'm a winner. I make things happen. That's what I say when I go to bed," she says, proudly fingering her curls.
Garrain looks back at me with a knowing smile. "God is like, you've found your sweet spot just keep going. And I have all of these gifts that I give away." He stretches his arms out wide. "I'm stimulated everyday just from watching people change their lives. I wake up at 4:30 every single morning, and I'm just on fire for life knowing that I'm in purpose — on purpose — teaching other people how to be able to harness their gifts and their skills and give that away. It's like the most beautiful thing watching somebody transform into something that their soul has literally had the platform for since the day that they were born."
"I'm a transformation collector," he continues. "That's my thing, and for some reason God is like you get it my son, here's more. You need money to do this? Here are more opportunities; have as much money as you want. I just want to show people that they can have that if they want it."
At the end of our interview he goes into his kitchen, which looks like a personal Herbalife store, and makes me a cookies and cream shake. "Drink this," he says, placing the cup in front of me.
But after hearing his story and soaking up his words of wisdom, I'm already full.
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Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Have you ever been in a relationship with someone and felt so deeply connected to them? Everything about the relationship was intense – good or bad? Then you might be in a part of a soul tie.
The concept of a soul tie binds individuals on a level beyond a relationship's physical and emotional aspects; it’s more than a mere connection. You can form a soul tie with anyone – lover, friend, colleague, etc.- but we are discussing romantic partners for this article. Think of you and your partner as an intensely burning flame. The flame can burn passionately to light the relationship’s way or chaotically burn everything in its path. Either way, it leaves an indelible mark on the souls involved.
A soul tie should not be confused with the term “soulmate.” The main difference is that a soul tie can be positive or negative, while a soulmate is a mutual, harmonious connection. Unlike a soul tie, a soulmate relationship is generally characterized by mutual understanding, support, and shared values.
However, the more we learn about soul ties, the more it becomes evident that they are not monolithic; they vary in nature and intensity. As someone who has experienced a negative soul tie, it is crucial to discern whether they contribute positively to personal growth or hinder you from flourishing.
If Your Soul Tie Is Positive
A positive soul tie creates a deep and affirming connection between individuals. One key indicator of a positive soul tie is effective communication. If you’re experiencing a positive soul tie, a shared understanding fosters open and honest dialogue, contributing to a sense of connection and support.
Mutual growth is another hallmark of a positive soul tie. When individuals in a relationship encourage each other's personal development and evolution, it signifies a positive and uplifting connection. This mutual support leads to an environment where both parties can thrive individually and together, contributing to the overall health of the soul tie.
Emotional security is a crucial element in identifying a positive soul tie. In such connections, individuals feel a deep sense of trust and comfort with each other. This emotional security forms a stable foundation for the relationship, allowing both parties to express vulnerability and foster a strong, positive bond. These three indicators—effective communication, mutual growth, and emotional security—underscore the positivity inherent in a healthy and affirming soul tie.
If Your Soul Tie Is Negative
A negative soul tie manifests as a detrimental and draining connection between individuals. One clear sign of a negative soul tie is the presence of emotional turmoilwithin the relationship. When the connection becomes a source of constant distress, causing emotional upheaval and hindering personal development, it indicates a negative soul tie.
Codependency is another red flag for a negative soul tie. In such connections, individuals may become overly reliant on each other, impeding their ability to thrive independently. Codependency often leads to unhealthy dependencies and can result in a toxic dynamic that hinders both individuals' growth and well-being.
A lack of effective communication is a third indicator of a negative soul tie. When there is a breakdown in communication, misunderstandings and unresolved issues can fester, contributing to a strained and unhealthy connection. In negative soul ties, the absence of open and honest dialogue can perpetuate a cycle of negativity and prevent the resolution of underlying issues. These three indicators—emotional turmoil, codependency, and poor communication—point to the negativity associated with an unhealthy soul tie.
Putting Out The Fires And Breaking Your Soul Tie
Unfortunately, my deep, intense connection only caused destruction. And despite the obvious red flags, it took a minute before I broke the connection. Why? Because I was addicted to the relationship, we both were. But it is possible to break a soul tie if and when you are ready because if you are not, pretending you are when you are not is a waste of your time.
Breaking a soul tie requires intentional and purposeful actions. Establishing clear and firm boundaries is a fundamental step in severing the connection. By limiting contact and emotional engagement with the person involved, individuals can gradually weaken the tie and create space for personal growth.
Seeking professional support is another effective strategy to break a soul tie. Guidance from therapists or counselors provides valuable insights and coping strategies. Professional assistance can help individuals navigate the emotional challenges associated with breaking a soul tie, offering a structured and supportive environment for healing.
Redirecting energy toward personal growth is important in breaking free from a soul tie. Engaging in activities that promote individual well-being and create a sense of independence allows individuals to refocus their attention on their own growth and development. This redirection of energy is essential for breaking the emotional bonds of a soul tie and moving towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.
The last step I advise everyone to go through is the mourning period. My partner and I did our song and dance for years before I walked away. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that I mourned our relationship while I healed.
Recognizing the presence and nature of a soul tie in your relationship is crucial to understanding its impact on your well-being. Whether positive or negative, the intensity of a soul tie can shape the course of your personal growth and happiness. Breaking free from a negative soul tie demands intentional efforts, from setting clear boundaries to seeking professional support. Redirecting energy toward personal growth and allowing oneself a necessary mourning period are vital steps toward healing and liberation from the intricate ties that bind.
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