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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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
There’s nothing quite as humbling as navigating adulthood with no instruction manual. Since the turn of the decade, it seems like everything in our society that could go wrong has, inevitably, gone wrong. From the global pandemic, our crippling student debt problem, the loneliness crisis, layoffs, global warming, recession, and not to mention figuring out what to eat for dinner every night. This constant state of uncertainty has many of us wondering, when are the grown-ups coming to fix all of this?
But the catch is, we are the new grown-ups.
As if it happened without our permission, we became the new adults. We are the members of society who are paying taxes, having children, getting married, and keeping our communities afloat, one iced latte at a time. Still, there’s something about doing all these grown-up duties that feel unnaturally grown-up. Enter the #teenagegirlinher20s.
If there’s one hashtag to give you the state of the next cohort of adults, it’s this one. Of the videos that have garnered over 3.9M views, you’ll find a collection of users who are overwhelmed by life’s pressing existential responsibilities, clung to nostalgia, and reminiscent of the days when their mom and dad took care of their insurance plans.
no like i cant explain to her why i had to buy multiple tank air dupes from aritzia #teenagegirlinher20s #fyp
The concept of being a 20-something or 30-something teenager is linked to the sentiment of not feeling “grown up enough” to do grown-up things while feeling underprepared and even nihilistic about whether that preparation even matters.
It’s our generation’s version of when we ask our grandmothers how old they are and they simply reply with, “I still feel 45,” all while being every bit of 76 years old. In this, we share a warped concept of time while clinging to a desire for infantilization.
Granted, the pandemic did a number on our concept of time. Many of us who started the pandemic in our early or mid-20s missed out on three fundamental years of socialization, career development, and personal milestones that traditionally help to mark our growth.
Our time to figure out and plan our next steps through fumbling yet active participation was put on pause indefinitely and then resumed provisionally. This in turn has left many of us hanging in the balance of uncertainty as we try to make sense of the disconnect between our minds and bodies in this missing gap of time.
Because we’re all still figuring out what the ramifications of being locked away and frozen in time by a global pandemic will have on us as a society, there really is no “right” way of making up for lost time. Feeling unprepared for any new chapter of life is a natural rite of passage, pandemic or not. However, it’s important to not stay stuck in the last age or period of life that made sense to us because self-growth is the truest evidence of personal progress.
So whether you’re leaning on your inner child, teenager, or 20-something for guidance as you fill the gap between your real age and pandemic age, know that it’s okay to grieve the person you thought you would be and the milestones you thought you’d hit before you ever knew what a pandemic was. If there’s anything that the pandemic taught us, it’s that we have the power to reimagine a better world and life for ourselves. And if we tap into our inner teenager as a compass, we can piece together our next chapter with a fresh outlook.
Sure, we’ve lost a couple of years, but there are still some really amazing ones ahead.
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