As a highly skilled, extensively trained Master Cosmetologist with over twenty years of experience behind the chair, Lakia Diggs’s, of The Kia Xperience, LLC, takes her passion for hair far beyond creating innovative styles for her recurring clientele in New York, the DMV area, and Atlanta. Her work has been featured in New York Fashion Week, Baltimore Fashion Week, for media like Vogue and Vogue Italia, and for brands like Roberto Cavalli, Oscar de la Renta, and Jeremy Scott to name a few. Using innovative techniques for weave installation, precision cutting, and advanced custom coloring, Lakia is well versed in the styling and care of all hair types and textures. Yet, she also works continuously to perfect her craft through continuing education coursework, discovering new ways to empower women through haircare products and services.
With an inside-out approach to healthy hair, she is a certified Pravana Colorist and is aspiring to complete her certification in Trichology, making her a specialist in the health and treatment of hair and scalp conditions. Ever the entrepreneur, she used this knowledge to develop the TKX Hair Follicle Stimulant Drops, her own line of premium hair extensions named Bundles From Mary that feature a diverse assortment of human hair textures and densities from a variety of origins that blend flawlessly with many hair types, and her wig unit line entitled The Peruca Collection.
As an advocate for business owners and the cosmetology industry as a whole, Lakia is an instructor for burgeoning hairstylists, educating them on the levels of hair care, business management, client retention, state board exam refreshing, and branding. Additionally, she serves as a member and State Captain of the Maryland branch of the Professional Beauty Association. Lakia also works to improve her community through philanthropic endeavors like her annual school supply drive and prom drive, during which she donates gowns, hair, and nail services to students who display strong academic leadership. Through additional partnerships with non-profit organizations, Lakia works year round to provide the underprivileged youth in her community with the tools they need to have successful school years. Through her commitment to the artistry of cosmetology, her benevolence, and strong business acumen, Lakia Diggs continues to grow as a leader in the industry.
A crowd of people sat in silence and awe at a dance performance that was beautiful, captivating and fluid to the accompaniment of music provided by the talented musician, Yo-Yo Ma. Though there weren’t many if any, people of color in the crowd as this was in Beijing, China, what mattered was the headliner was a young Black man from Memphis, Tennessee named Lil’ Buck.
It was a thing of beauty – a man doing what he loves and performing art for the world to see. His performance was something that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. would be proud of, a young man being seen for his talent and not just his color. In a world where Black men are vilified, subjected to toxic masculinity and seen on the wrong side of police brutality, it was refreshing to see a glimpse into a world that could exist without racism or discrimination.
When asked about his performance, Lil’ Buck stated, “I never really thought about my performance in that way. For me it wasn’t about performing for the audience, I’m trying to make them feel a certain way. I think that’s why a lot of people gravitate towards me because they don’t see anything else because I don’t. When I’m performing, I am doing my best to become music. It’s a real thing for me. Especially to music that has a story already in it, like the Swan. You can hear the story within it. For me, I can visually see the journey in that song. I don’t come up with anything to impress people, I just feel the music and bring people into my imagination.”
Lil’ Buck performing during the documentary Lil’Buck: Real Swan. (Photo provided by Tribeca Film Festival)
The video is a snippet from the documentary “Lil’ Buck: Real Swan” that world premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival; it was also the part that stuck out the most to me. To be honest, it made me misty-eyed because it’s what every person wants, or at least what every human being should want — to be able to live in peace and love freely. About the documentary, Andrea Passafiume wrote, “In this exuberant documentary, director Louis Wallecan takes an in-depth look at this extraordinary artist whose passion, drive, discipline, and talent have blazed a unique new path in the world of dance that has included performing all over the world, touring with Madonna, mentoring young dance students, and becoming a passionate advocate for arts education.”
Lil’ Buck: A Young Man From Memphis
Growing up in the Memphis skating scene, particularly at Crystal Palace Roller Rink, was the big thing for youth to keep them entertained and off the streets. Once the skates were taken off and the rink was open for dancing, that’s when the main fun began and people were able to show off their new jookin moves. Jookin is a popular dance style in Memphis for all ages that stems from breakdancing and the gangsta walk. This is how the film, Lil’ Buck: Real Swan, starts to chronicle the life of Lil’ Buck.
“I was born in Chicago and my family moved to Memphis when I was eight. Even back in Chicago, I can remember seeing footwork in indigenous street dancing.” – Lil Buck explained about his roots in dancing and upbringing.
Charles “Lil’ Buck” Riley developed a passion for jookin and dance at the young age of 12. From there he had the desire to become the best dancer he could be. He became so impressed with the length of time that ballerinas could stay on their toes that he decided to take up ballet.
“Growing up I always thought these dancers in videos were making all this money, we literally thought they were rich. All these dancers are next to celebrities like Lil’ Wayne, Madonna, and all these people. Some were not as good as my friends and I, so we would be like, “How the f*ck are they on TV?” We would ask this question every day and tell ourselves that’s where we needed to be.” – Lil’ Buck
Lil’ Buck said that in the beginning, he just wanted to be in videos and put jookin on the map. To be able to reach where he is now. Thinking about how small his dreams were, it just inspires him to dream larger and tell others to do the same. He further explained to not be afraid to dream big and to go after it! It’s not enough just to dream, its the work you put into it. He remembers when he experienced bloody toes and toenails falling off, trying to stand on his toes in his sneakers. Lil’ Buck reminisced, “Imagine walking around all day in school on your toes because you want to build that strength and to be on the level where you surpass ballerinas. It was painful but worth it!”
With some dancers, their goal is to tour with a different artist but not too many dancers see themselves as the artist that has the same strength and power as a singer or actor. They can make a good living for themselves and their family, creating generational wealth. Dancers like Lil’Buck, don’t always have that platform but their art is just as captivating. A lot of kids today are gravitating towards this instant success instead of really investing in themselves and really building themselves, enjoying that journey towards their goal. Lil’ Buck hopes to be a good example of enduring and enjoying the journey.
Lil’ Buck being interviewed by Felipe Patterson (aka Dapper Dr Feel) of Taji Mag at the Roxy hotel during the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. (Video by William Baldon)
Lil’Buck discussed that his inspirations are Earl “Snake Hips” Tucker, the Nicholas Brothers, Little Buck, Buck and Bubbles, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and Michael Jackson. He explained the way they combined film and dance was inspiring to him. The way they combined storytelling and dance was amazing to him. He remembers that Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, always called his music videos short films.
“Those that inspire me are my peers, Daniel Price, G-Nerd, Jah Quincey, Caviar Taylor (On My Toes), BoBo and all the rappers like 3×6 Mafia, DJ Squeaky, they created what I’m into.” – Lil Buck talking about others that inspire him.
Bruce Lee was one of his biggest inspirations because of his philosophy on life. Not isolating yourself mentally to learning only one thing. He was open to learning and putting together different forms of martial arts. He’s always into strengthening himself and thinking outside the box.
The doc starts off with smooth jookin moves, that impressed me and reminded me of the great dancing films like Breakin’. I wasn’t sure what the aim of the film was but this direction definitely kept me engaged. It didn’t feel corny or fake like the multiple Step Up films that lack the originality of dancers in this film. Every one of them passionate about their craft and every move.
The film was amazing and well done down the other performers describing their love of jookin and their performance that followed to the storytelling of a young Buck’s evolution of aspiring background dancer to a headlining performer. The ending of the film is creative as it has a dancing Lil’ Buck transitioning from background to foreground and left of the screen to the opposite side, representing the journey the project has taken you on.
It’s a film that everyone should see, especially the little boys of color, to show them that they should follow their heart and that they can truly be what they want to be in life.
Thank you Lil’ Buck and Lois Wallecan for the great film about such an inspiring young black man!
Tamara Shogaolu and Dapper Dr. Feel aka Felipe Patterson. (Photo by William Baldon)
Love is hard to find in this world, so image finding a bond with someone so deeply that you can’t stand being away from them. Now imagine having to hide that relationship, restricted from fully exploring it in fear that you will be disowned, harmed physically, or killed. So you escape with your partner, leaving behind family friends and a life within a community, to have emotional and relationship freedom. That is the case for the two women in the virtual reality (VR) immersive, Another Dream, by Tamara Shogaolu.
Another Dream started out as a collection of interviews that were collected by Tamara and journalist Nada ElKouny over two years in Egypt. They interviewed many women, ethnic minorities, and people of the LGBTQ community about their experiences.
These stories needed to be heard because their relationships, in the eyes of some people in Egypt, are seen as immoral; having the livelihood and lives of people in the LGBTQ community threaten due to aggressive homophobia.
“After the Revolution, people became very open and started to reimagine what Egypt could be. What stood out to me about the experience was a lot of the queer voices and stories had optimism that things were going to change,” Tamara Shogaolu explained about her interviews.
Another Dream has more themes of discrimination within the project than that of the LGBTQ. When it came to explaining this Tamara stated, “For me, it’s not only about the LGBTQ community in Egypt, it’s also about when the characters come to Europe they face racism. You leave one form of discrimination to another form of discrimination. I think that is a global issue of how we create our own empathy and compassion so that we can all be better humans.” She then added, “With this project, the intersectionality of their identity goes that they are LGBTQ but they are also people of color, and even within the LGBTQ they face discrimination.”
Tamara mentions that the word refugee is misinterpreted, elaborating, “The word refugee has been highly politicized. If you really think about it, it’s someone that is forced from their home and I think people forget that. It means we don’t want you here and there are people that have whole lives, like the characters in our story. One is an engineer and the other is a medical professional. They have to leave that and start from scratch. They are doing well, back in school re-studying the occupation that they were doing, in another language, while only being there for two years. That’s amazing.”
FYI: There are some cases where authorities in Egypt have stepped in opposition to the LGBTQ community. In this case, eight men were jailed after their gay wedding video went viral showing two men kissing.
The Another Dream VR Experience
Dapper Dr. Feel experiencing the VR immersive Another Dream (Photo by: William Baldon)
Another Dream is a virtual reality immersive that pulls you into a world where two lesbian lovers have their relationship and love tested through many challenges. Two lovers are first introduced to you with their dog while sitting on a couch. As their story begins, the environment changes to match the narration of the two. The colors and visuals evoked emotions that allowed us to sympathize more with the couple telling the story.
The experience is very interactive, having intermissions where I had to use a laser pointer (almost a like a lightsaber from Star Wars, so I was geeked!) to trace positive Arabic words. Upon completion, I moved on to the next part of the story.
The most beautiful scene was that of the city; it’s a mix of colorful hues and sounds of the environment that are highlighted by the dark of night. I found myself floating as if I were on a magic carpet ride from Aladdin when exploring the area. It’s definitely amazing work by the VR and sound team.
During the journey, I got to a part of the story where the two lovers escape to Europe overnight because their love for each other is not accepted and one of them was set to wed in an arranged marriage. At this point, I felt the cold and dark of night, the fear of being captured by those in search of the two or just any random stranger that could harm the women on their search for refuge.
When the characters arrive in Europe, you feel the eyes of judgment and unfamiliarity of them being women of color as characters shop at the local grocery.
Eventually, they become comfortable in the fact that the only thing that matters is their love for one another. By the end of the experience, I felt happy for the two coming to the revelation that they were safe and although they are starting their lives together, they can do it happily together.
FYI: Another Dream is part of an animated transmedia series, Queer in a Time of Forced Migration. The first part of the series began with the first short Half A Life.
Who is Tamara Shogaolu?
Tamara Shogaolu and Dapper Dr. Feel aka Felipe Patterson. (Photo by William Baldon)
Tamara Shogaolu is a talented director/creator/artist from a multifaceted cultural background. While studying economics at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA, she was convinced by a professor to study film after creatively using it in her economics research projects.
From there she earned her MFA from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts and her previous work, Half-Life, is a short film that has garnered many awards. Not only has her work has been featured all over the world in galleries and festivals, but she also is the creative director for Ado Ato Pictures.
Seeing Through It All
I didn’t know what to expect when I first put on the VR gear but I am glad I went to the experience with an open mind and with no expectation. This experience is a learning tool that may help others understand that love shouldn’t only be celebrated and hindered.
With the work that Tamara and her crew have put into this project, I am happy to say they have achieved the goal of both creativeness, experience, and informing the audience. Hopefully, Another Dream will touch enough people that it will allow people to safely and openly love whomever they want without any hindrance.
If you’re looking for positive vibes and dope lyrics over a smooth groove… you’re welcome.
Pure Love released May 2019 via Majestic Sound Works Records
Video produced by Lewi London
Keep It Royal UK tour May 2019 – Written and produced by Royal Sounds Additional horns by Patrixx Aba. Original Mix by Gyasi Crosdale, Mastered by Luis Bonilla @ Old Street Studios UK, Published by Copyright Control 2019
Special thanks to: Visions Club (Dalston, London UK), Mellow Mix (London UK)
“I didn’t dream about being a director. I didn’t know I wanted to do something with film until the summer between my sophomore and junior years at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.” – Spike Lee. Spike Lee may have spent his early years in college discovering his talent but there was a young director who has spent his first years in college winning awards for produced work. Juggling press junkets, red carpets, interviews, all while finishing his college exams. That was the case for the 19-year old director, Phillip Youmans, who became the youngest and first African American to win the Founders Award (Best Narrative Award) category for his creative and introspective film Burning Cane.
About the Film: Burning Cane is Phillip Youmans’ first film that stars the talented Wendell Pierce, Karen Kaia Livers, Dominique McClellan, and Braelyn Kelly. It explores relationships of a Southern Protestant church, toxic masculinity, gender/family roles within the small African American community, and toxic cultures that can plague families.
The Louisiana native discussed with Taji Mag the film’s origin. Youmans had put time and energy into a screenplay titled, Brothers and Sisters, that he is looking to produce next. His focus changed after a teacher suggested he put more energy into the Burning Cane realizing its potential upon reading the draft.
Inspiration for Burning Cane
Mostly inspired by his upbringing and questions about the southern Black church culture/spirituality, Youmans explained that the film was a form of therapy for him. Youmans went more in-depth about the film stating, “The biggest inspiration for Burning Cane was my upbringing and childhood in the Southern Baptist church, a lot of the hypocrisy and fallacies that I recognized early on in my childhood in the church. These were questions I had about the church that I was able to work through while making the film.”
Lessons of Life In Film
There are many topics that Youmans addresses in the film – one being toxic masculinity. Particularly when the film focuses on the character Daniel Wayne, played by Dominique McClellan. When asked about toxic masculinity, Youmans said, “In terms of toxic masculinity, there is a lot of danger in trying to uphold traditional gender roles. I think a lot of that is indirectly upheld through the Southern Baptist church. Especially in the fundamentalist Protestant communities. I did want to touch on it and it’s a pretty glaring issue. It’s a part of the fabric of American culture, world culture.”The struggle of religious practice was also a player in the film, having the various characters learn their moral identity. Helen Wayne, the main character played by Karen Kaia Livers, struggles with it the most as she faces decisions that push her to make impactful choices.
When it comes to exploring his thoughts on religion in the film, Youmans explained, “Growing up, I was able to extrapolate life lessons from religious doctrine. For instance, there’s a sermon about how relationships are more important than material possessions, that’s a valuable lesson regardless of age or experience.”
Phillip Youmans on Directing
Wendell Pierce in Burning Cane
Making the film, Youmans didn’t have any issues directing the cast and crew to bring his vision to life, even working with well-known talents like Wendell Pierce. “Wendell is dope! Working with him was incredible!” Youmans said excitingly. “This dude is a talented actor and he approached the script with so much excitement that it was a dream come true! Mel, my producer, knows that Wendell is a hometown hero in New Orleans – working with him was insane,” Youmans added.
Youmans said that the production went really smooth for all involved in Burning Cane. He further explained that “the camera is like neutralize and since we are all students of the craft, that age or experience doesn’t matter, we are all just trying to make something cool. In truth, it went really smooth, I think what was great about all of the actors was that there wasn’t any placed or forced upon hierarchy because there was such a respect for the material. By the time we showed up on set, it was about implementing the project. There were never any conversations about talking down.”
With the passing of the virtuous John Singleton, who himself created a film masterpiece at a young age titled Boyz n the Hood, we can only hope that Phillip Youmans continues his success in developing amazing films that add to the legacy of Black filmmakers.
Directed by: Phillip Youmans
Starring: Wendell Pierce, Karen Kaia Livers, Dominique McClellan, and Braelyn Kelly
Production: Denizen Pictures
Release Jun 7 2019 | Vol19 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Loc Livin! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of influences and models Keisha Charmaine & Chris NV. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick on Angel Kaba Teaching Afro’Dance at the Infamous Alvin Ailey Extension; our Community Spotlight on loctician Thando Kafele; our highlighted Hair Feature, Ele Jane of Naturalz Salon in Atlanta; “Solo Travel: What We’re Not Gonna Do – Travel Edition” by D. Carrie; “Holistic Destruction” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “When Your Body Turns Against You – the Black Woman’s Health Plight” by Melissa Lamarre; “Black Hair in Schools” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 19 theme “Loc Livin;” our Fitness Feature; Vegan Fun with Delliz the Chef – Tikka Masala; Black Business Grant Winner: Precious Bartending, LLC; “#BlackLoveConvo: “Tarsha Hamilton: Ready To Become a Beacon of Change” by Dapper Dr. Feel;” The Styling of Zayaswardrobe; Featured art piece by Will Focus; Must Have Graphic Novel: “The Legend of Yukmouth” by B. Van Randall; Black Business Highlights; Taji Mag Model Contest Winners; and more!!
Taji Mag is the epitome of the positive Black experience – elevating Black brands, narratives, and imagery. We embody the traditional and modern royalty of Pan-African people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.
“Everyone is doing it (sex) but nobody is talking about it.” I hear Vontrese Warren, nurse practitioner and fellow Louisville Central High school alum, explain. As a writer covering self-love and seeing sex as a part of that, I felt it important that Vontrese shares her story and the importance of sexual/reproductive health. Besides being a credible resource on the topic, Vontrese also co-owns her own healthcare practice (with Cynthia Parker) in west Louisville, KY. Their Black-owned healthcare practice focuses on reproductive health and education. West Louisville is not known to have many Black-owned healthcare businesses, especially not considering its population demographics.
Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What made you become a nurse practitioner?
Vontrese Warren (VW): I have always wanted to be in the health field since I was a child, I really wanted to be a neurosurgeon. I attended Moorhead State University as a pre-med/chemistry major but realized it wasn’t for me and changed my major. That’s when I decided I wanted to be an obstetrician and went to nursing school. Once I completed the nursing bachelor’s program, I got a job working at UK (University of Kentucky) hospital in the labor and delivery department. For the next ten years, I held jobs at UK hospital, Medical University of North Carolina, and Baptist Health Louisville.
“I early conceived a liking for and sought every opportunity to relieve the sufferings of others.” – Rebecca Lee Crumpler (The first African American Woman to earn a medical degree)
FYI: Crumpler, like Like Vontrese Warren, was a nurse for 10 years before she furthered her education and practice.
DDF: What made you go into reproductive education?
VW: After being on call on holidays during the summer and spring break when most families are on vacation and realized I’m missing out on family events like some of my sons’ events, I decided that I didn’t like the current lifestyle/schedule. I decided to go in another direction. It was at this point I decided to get my master’s in nursing at the University of Cincinnati. While studying nursing, I also studied sex counseling.
When you put yourself in a specialty, you put yourself in a bubble, like, a family nurse practitioner can get a job anywhere. However, I knew what I wanted to do and I didn’t want a job just anywhere.
It was difficult finding a job that fit me. Job after job, I searched and they were either already taken or not a good fit for me. I finally found a job at a doctors office where we performed aesthetic care which included weight loss management and reproductive care. This was right up my alley but it still didn’t work out.
After two years looking to find a job, I thought, if I can’t find a job I am going to make a job. So that’s what I did.
“…somewhere in your life, there has to be a passion. There has to be some desire to go forward. If not, why live?” –Alexa Canady (The first African American Neurosurgeon)
DDF: What is the importance of sexual health education, outside of just grade school?
VW: As I mentioned, everybody is doing it but nobody wants to talk about it. When people are talking about it, they are not discussing correct information. Like my son is in second grade, you have kids in third grade and up talking about sex but what are they saying?
Even when it comes to the parents or grandparents sharing old wives tales about sex, these aren’t backed with education or studies. So, I like to inform people to give them the direction to go. If you are doing it the right way and have a good knowledge base, then you are better off in any relationship with your own sexual health and whomever your partner is.
“Talk to her about sex, and start early. It will probably be a bit awkward, but it is necessary.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
DDF: Do you have male patients as well?
Both women and men are patients, but I have more women patients because I provide more for women. It just depends on the type of venue.
DDF: How important is sexual health and sex education to self-love?
If you are unhealthy in any aspect, you have to take some accountability on why you are like that. Why aren’t you as healthy as you can be? You know what can be done and/or can seek the resources to help yourself.
DDF: What are your goals, both short term and long term?
VW: My goal both short and long term is to educate the community on reproductive health and let people know that there are resources out there. Here in West Louisville, there are not too many businesses, let alone healthcare, but that’s why I have my services here.
If you are in the Kentucky area, visit Vontrese at her business:
Warren & Williams Health C.A.R.E., PLLC
2600 West Broadway, Suite 208, Louisville, Kentucky 40211, United States
Recently nominated “Best Leading Actress” for her role as a high powered attorney in the movie “Pure Justice,” actress Lunden De’Leon is no newcomer to television and film. “There’s nothing more exciting than developing a strong character and taking her from script to screen,” says De’Leon. “I’ve had the opportunity to portray some very powerful women throughout my career and for that I am grateful.” De’Leon has worked alongside some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Her list of credits includes the blockbuster comedy “We’re the Millers,” Vital Signs,” “Sweet Home Carolina,” “Somebody’s Child” and, just recently, the police drama “The Carson Brothers” as well as the thriller “Angels Prayer.”
In “The Carson Brothers,” De’Leon portrays Captain Dillan, a hard-boiled police captain overseeing a team of police officers and investigators. “We filmed the show in the North Carolina mountains,” claims De’Leon. “It will be hitting the small screen later this year so I’m super excited.”
De’Leon goes from playing a cop in “The Carson Brothers” to being the wife of a slain cop in the upcoming film “Angels Prayer,” a thriller about a police officer who goes through a traumatic experience when his partner is killed. De’Leon plays the role of Patricia. “Angels Prayer” is produced by G! It’s Entertainment, a film production company based in Los Angeles and South Carolina with films airing on Lifetime and Hallmark.
In the past year, I took this leap. I invested several hours of research, had a business plan, paperwork filed, and was ready to open for business. I promoted and waited, but business didn’t boom as I expected! What do I do? I reached in my bag for my secret weapon… my squad of girlfriends. Here’s why you should too.
Your Squad Will Encourage You
All entrepreneurs experience occasional self-doubt and those nagging questions of “what if I’m not successful?” or “what I am doing wrong?” Your squad will remind you that you’re amazing. Remember, you’ve already done the hardest part by simply getting started. Your support system will provide the encouraging words you need to move forward during the toughest of times. In my lowest moments of the process of launching my business, I knew that I could always rely on my close friends, and even some acquaintances, to let me know that they were proud of me. That support alone has kept me going and tenacious when facing the daily challenges of entrepreneurship
Your Squad Will Send You Referrals
Whether you’re selling a product or offering a service, getting the word out about your business to your target audience is paramount. While you can pay for marketing services, it’s even better to get it for free via word of mouth. Who better to tell the world about your business than your squad? They will spread the word to their networks, simply because they love you and believe in you – no marketing budget required.
Your Squad Has Different Skills
Let’s say that you recently decided to start your own catering business. You’ve always been an amazing chef, and you love serving people. Great! Does that mean you aware best equipped to build a website or manage your finances? Not likely. You started your business because you’re an expert on your product or service. You don’t have to master every single aspect of running your business to be successful. This is where your squad comes in!
I hired one of my oldest friends to be my photographer and another friend to build my website. This freed up my time to focus on my other work. Now, EVERYTHING is top-quality.
Whenever you need feedback, a shoulder to lean on, or to perform some essential part of your business where you lack expertise, don’t just try to get through it yourself! Your squad is there to help you get through…and can take your business further than you’ve ever imagined! They’re literally your business’ secret to success…
Anthony Trucks is currently one of the few football players to complete an American Ninja Warrior gauntlet. At 225lbs he really wasn’t expected to complete the gauntlet because the people that are normally able to complete these obstacles are around 160lbs. He approached the obstacles at the event like he approaches life, looking to only to do his best and nothing more. Taji Mag was able to talk to the competitor and former NFL athlete about the importance of self-love, life shifts, and overcoming obstacles as a current self-help coach, influencer, and inspirational speaker.
“Sometimes it takes years to really grasp what has happened to your life.” – Wilma Rudolph
Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What is an Identity Shift?
Anthony Trucks (AT): “We have a lot of things that vastly change in life, things like relationships, income, family, and self-image. Along with that is what we desire to change and that change comes from not only our mindset and habits but our identity as well. When our identity becomes dialed into where you want it to be, the mindset and habits will fall into place smoothly. I believe that when you have identity anchors in place, life becomes easier and smooth.
We as individuals want more. More love, more freedom, more time, etc. But we want these things without changing our routines or schedule. Life doesn’t work that way. I think the desire for change came through the desire to want.
I’m always looking back at my life to evaluate my desire for that certain period and time. At that point I was thinking about why I wanted to close my gym, why I didn’t do anymore consulting or guest speaking. Well, about two years ago I decided that the last thing I want to be on my deathbed is the person I could’ve been.
DDF: What gave you the strength you needed during your childhood?
AT: Being a kid, you know no other option. For me, I started to grow into my conscious mind as a young fostered child. I knew no better nor examined the difference between my self and other kids until I was exposed to more things. It is then I began to question “Why don’t I have new clothes or why are there holes in my shoes?” I was lucky enough to have a caring foster family to get me through difficult times in my life. The other thing that helped was that I had people outside of my family who helped facilitate me into programs and spoke positivity into me.
“Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.” -Muhammad Ali
DDF: What allowed you to move into your calling and current position after your career ending injury?
AT: The change from my NFL life was one of the big identity teachers for me, I think it’s a good teacher for anybody. I think what we do is what we become, much like if a person at a young age swings a bat every day, often times they become a baseball player. This happens to athletes and some people in the military. When you are an athlete, you base your sense of self-worth and guidance on this thing you do, but when the thing you do (career or activity) is no more, you don’t know who you are.
I was smart enough to know that there may be an asterisk on the future of my football career, so I took care of my academics and made sure I graduated. When I came home, I started to figure out who I was because my life went from everyone wanting to talk to me and have me sign stuff to not even knowing my name because I didn’t play anymore due to my injury. That is definitely a difficult transition.
I had to find a way to re-direct my energy into finding that new thing that made me feel as if I mattered. It helps me more when I find things that will help other people.
“We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.” – Maya Angelou
DDF: Where did this re-directing of energy take you?
AT: I decided that I wanted to use my kinesiology degree to open a gym. There was a drawback, however. I became hyper-focused on the gym. At the same time, I had a family – wife and kids – but I neglected them all with my focus being to maintain and build this gym. Thinking that if I had this thriving business then it would be best for my kids but all they wanted was quality time with me, money or not.
DDF: How do you use self-love to be the best version of yourself?
AD: The reason that I am able to serve at a high level is that I love me. When you love someone, you not only tell them that you love them but you love them with action. You don’t want to let that person that you love down, no matter who it is. Yet, we don’t take this same perspective and reflect it internally.
We eat a crappy meal during a diet, we miss a workout, we don’t make phone calls to people to help ourselves, or we don’t chase a dream. It is during these times that you are not doing actions of love to the person you need to do it for the most and therefore you don’t show up. That makes you feel like you are not deserving and when you feel that way, you don’t put things out into the world. Self-love affects your service for sure.
DDF: You have a wonderful family and of course you are full of good advice. What advice do you give your children?
AT: It’s a daily conversation with my kids. As children get into their teens, they seek freedom, they seek autonomy. Freedom is like value. It’s like giving a kid $20 million dollars, if you don’t have experience then you will burn through it.
In regards to adults, freedom is you get to make the choices you want to make but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about responsible decisions.
I teach my kids how to be responsible and, with that, explain how this approach will allow them to attain any goal.
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