I have been following Shalena D.I.V.A. for the past three months online, and she inspires me daily! She is one sister who is uplifting and empowering women, and allowing us to share in her journey with her as she goes from being an everyday Philly girl from a rough neighborhood to an empowered and determined CEO of her own enterprise, please enjoy the story and wisdom of Ms. Shalena D.I.V.A.: The Purpose Driven DIVA
RR: Is there a motto you live by? Or something that motivates you daily?
SD: “I am large. I contain multitude.” –Walt Whitman. I just always thought I was larger than myself and my circumstances. That’s what propelled me to live out my dreams. Also, I do a daily prayer call at 5am (eastern time) and that keeps me motivated every day.”
RR: Tell Me About Yourself
SD: “I grew up in South Philadelphia in a drug infested and rough neighborhood. I saw family members and friends killed. My father got hooked on drugs, and contracted HIV, and my stepfather was a drug dealer. Drugs destroyed my family. One night I actually witnessed my stepfather being kidnapped. They eventually freed him, and almost killed my little brother and I saw my life flash before me. The FBI came through my house, and his reign came to an end. Through all of this I still had a strong desire to graduate from high school and go to college.
I use to walk over crack viles, but I was determined. I was awarded a scholarship to UPenn, an Ivy League school, and my family did not support my vision to go to Duke University. I knew I didn’t want to stay in Philadelphia. I was determined to be whatever I wanted to be in life. I was a loner, and I said to myself “I will do this alone if I have to.” It also foreshadowed me to start working for an insurance company which was so boring. I envisioned helping people and I left that job in 2006. I took a gamble, and went against the grain again. It was a rocky road. To me my happiness was more important.
So, after that I got engaged and had my son in December 2008…I was living the perfect life on the outside. But, I hit rock bottom in 2009. I felt like something was missing. I connected more with myself spiritually, and I started to go back to GOD; shortly after I started www.shalenadiva.com to empower women.”
RR: Why did you start www.shalenadiva.com?
SD: “I started it to help women become clear about who and where they are. I trademarked Shalena DIVA as a brand, and made it into a corporation. The DIVA stands for: Discover, Invest, Value, and Appreciate your God given talents”
RR: What types of events, services, or products do you offer to empower women?
SD: “Currently, people can write for the website and give themselves a voice. I also co-created a women’s empowerment online camp called, Passion Academy with Aprille Franks-Hunte. I am starting to move to more off-line events such as my book launch! One of my mentors said you need a book with your work, and you’re going to have a launch. I just had my first event on August 25, 2012 in Philadelphia. I wanted it to be my first off-line event…it just had to be different. It was me combining my musical and acting background with my empowerment background! I am also a new co-host of an online show called, Smooches. I do the mind, body, soul section of the show.
I want to do “100 Dresses: Let’s Bring Classy Back” again which is to give dresses to 100 women as a call to action…let’s bring classy back and be sexy. I will start teaching healthy hair classes on Powhow. It is interactive and paid classes. I want to empower black women especially to take care of their hair. It helped me take care of my body better and manage my time better. I also want to empower mothers and daughters because imparting to our little girls how to take care of their hair will increase them telling their family and friends about how to take care their hair.”
RR: I saw that you wrote an e-book, tell us more and where we can buy this item?
SD: “I wrote an E-Book called, Fire Your Friends: A Woman’s Guide to Becoming Her Own Best Friend. I thought of a creative way of imparting life lessons along the way to my followers. What better way than through their girlfriends? I’ve learned that you have to be your own best friend. There will be different personalities you need in your life. Wow, what would K.I.M. (keep it moving) say in a certain situation. Kim is like “look I don’t have time for this” if anybody gets in your way. Kim doesn’t take BS. I believe everyone has an inner Oprah also known as an inner genius. Genius is based around your natural gifts leading your heart. You have to be mentally strong and prepared. Trust that God is only going to remove what he needs to. It’s going to be okay.
Then there is, Pearl (she is your sweetheart who never judges you and shows you how to dig deep. Shows you how to use your gifts and talents to take “grits of sand”) People love Pearl. She shows you how to write your own story. L.Y.L.A (Living In Life Affirmative) she is your inner cheerleader and is fun, and believes in you no matter what.) She’s the one who does the “I AM” Factor.
Then there is Failure, she is your girlfriend from back in the day, and ya’ll use to go to Kindergarten together…every now and then you see her and she knows when something is wrong with you. Failure is to disarm the notion that you are her best friend. She shows you how to re-seek your plans and I think she reminds me of a “Queen Latifah” character. She would sound like, “Girl, if you don’t stop playing.” I wanted people to see failure differently in my book.”
“Those characters are girlfriends! People go home and call their girlfriends! But, what about the woman who doesn’t have girlfriends or family? If you have family you are blessed. But, we have to look inside, and stop looking for other people to validate us. These girlfriends can help you do that. We need to check ourselves a little bit more. For followers unable to afford my coaching they can still get my ideas through my e-book. This book is available for purchase NOW”
RR: What has been the most rewarding/challenging part of starting www.shalenadiva.com?
SD: “Rewarding is really helping women to see how great they really are, and helping them move beyond their past. I tell them that now you can inspire other women who have been where you have been. Challenging…expanding and growing and needing help now. I can’t do everything by myself anymore. Also being consistent.”
RR: How has starting www.shalenadiva.com changed your life personally and professionally?
SD: “Professionally…it has helped me become the women that God created me to be.”
RR: What advice would you give to “Twentysomething” women of color?
SD: “Listen to your intuition….we hear a voice inside of us. God gave it to us for a reason. If you feel that a person isn’t for you. That intuition could save you from anything. Be aware of emotional abuse…if you’re in a relationship or with people or put you down or complain for example that you like to look nice. If they find ways to constantly put you down…then get out of the relationship or distance yourself if they are a family member. You don’t want to be 40 dealing with something from when you were 20.” Don’t even tolerate it!”
RR: Where do you see www.shalenadiva.com and yourself in 5 years? Explain your idea of the “I AM factor.”
SD: “I see myself as a household brand to be reckoned with. I want to have a nationally syndicated radio show, online TV show, or be on TV, and be a highly sought after coach. Bestseller a few times over, and be married! Diversify my brand (Shalena DIVA Shoes, perfume, clothing, etc). I’m going to be in your house. I always dreamed of being on my local WHYY…that’s going to be me on there. Internationally, traveling the world and helping women unleash their inner DIVA. I got the “I AM” factor from Donald Lawrence’s sermon. I listened to it and it resonated with me because it showed me that we have more control over our lives then we think we do. What we put out in the atmosphere will come follow you and chase you down—positive and negative. In the song he says, “Confess that I am, I am.” He told a congregation, “Let the weak say I’m strong, and they were like what? We’re are not strong. And he said believe that you are strong. Say I am.” So I started doing it…it is amazing how well it works! If you are fearful don’t say “I am not afraid.” Say “I am courageous.” “I can do all things.” “I am a radio host. I am a TV host.” Before I learned about this I didn’t have people asking for interviews. Now look at where I am. I spoke at UPenn and was referred to speak at LaSalle University in August. I was asked to be a co-host, and Powhow picked me to be a Healthy Hair Instructor even though it is really competitive to get selected. I also am starting my own hair line. I am currently working on the conditioner.”
RR: Where can readers find more info and resources from you?
SD: Visit: www.shalenadiva.com can sign up to receive my weekly e-mail newsletter. “Like” my Facebook: www. facebook.com/shalenadiva.
RR: When you think of the word regal what comes to mind?
SD: “Royalty. Purple. Royal. Regal woman that has great posture stands up tall, walks in and embodies everything GOD has intended for you. Fabulous. Beautiful without apology.”
RR: When you think of the word real what comes to mind?
SD: “Someone who can laugh, cry, and is in touch with their feelings and with themselves. Spiritually centered. Love themselves. Because they love themselves. Because their cup is overflowing. Not taking life to serious and you being you and loving who you are.”
RR: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
SD: “I am proud of young women like you who are giving people a voice. You are shining a light, and believe it or not giving people an invitation.”