We have an interesting relationship with beauty pageants. While in recent times these events have been criticized for exacerbating stereotypes about womanly beauty, beauty pageants remain to be reflective of America’s complicated and ever-changing concept of womanhood. Hilary Levey Friedman has spent a lifetime’s career unlocking this less-studied subject. A sociologist at Brown University, Hilary merged her mother’s past experience as Miss America in 1970 with her own experience as pageant judge and a mentor to Miss America 2018. Her conversation with Dr. Diane Hamilton is a deep dive into the intersections between beauty pageants, sociology and feminism that encourages us to take a good, hard second look at what would initially appear to be a frivolous enterprise.
You don’t have to be in Miss Olympia to be a strong woman, but you can certainly learn a thing or two from one who is. Winning the title at 55 years old, Sheryl Grant realized from her experience that her transforming her body began with transforming her mind. With her company, SGE, she uses her signature product, FIT for Business, to empower millions of women around the world to break their self-imposed barriers and develop the tenacity to take what they deserve in life. It is Sheryl’s mission to reach 50 million women all over the globe with her powerful message. Join her as she drops one value bomb after the other in this insightful chat with Dr. Diane Hamilton.
We have Hilary Levey Friedman and Sheryl Grant here. Hilary is a sociologist at Brown University and the author of Here She Is, which is about the complicated reign of the beauty pageants in America. Sheryl Grant is the Founder and CEO of SGE and she’s a former Miss Olympia. We are going to be looking at beauty inside and out.
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The Sociology Of Beauty Pageants With Hilary Levey Friedman
I am with Hilary Levey Friedman, who is the author of Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America. She’s a sociologist at Brown University where she’s taught a popular course titled Beauty Pageants in American Society. She’s a leading researcher in pageantry, merging her mother’s past experience as Miss America in 1970 with her interest as a glitz and glamor-loving sometime pageant judge and a mentor to Miss America 2018. She’s also served as the President of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women and her first book was Playing to Win, focusing on children’s competitive afterschool activities. It’s so nice to have you here, Hilary.
Thanks for having me.
I was looking forward to this. When I was a kid, we all had to watch the Miss America pageant. It was my dad’s thing. We loved it. It was Bert Parks and we all had to pick who we thought was going to win. It was a big deal. Back then, you had 2 or 3 stations and whatever was the big thing, that was huge. I’m curious what got you so interested in it. You said your mother had one. I’m curious about what that experience has done. Can you give me a backstory on you?
For me, Miss America was a must-watch TV every single year. I grew up in Michigan in the suburbs of Detroit, and my mom had been Miss Michigan. That’s the state she represented when she won Miss America. I grew up in a house where there were crowns on the bookshelves, which captures some of the difference between me and my mom. Pageants were part of my life. I thought everybody knew what a beauty pageant was. That was interesting for me as I got older. I’ve always been a bit more academic. I started to see beauty and brains as two things that were mutually exclusive, as opposed to being things that could co-exist in the same person. I feel like this book is a story of my journey to make sense of all of that. Also, I’m active in the organized feminist movement. For me to make sense of what is the relationship between beauty pageants and feminism and how are they connected.
It is an interesting crossover. I probably watched your mother be crowned because I was watching that timeframe. That’s when we were all into this. Was there a difference of what your mom’s experience was back then and what it is like now?
A hundred percent. There’s the number of the viewers, the ratings, and when she won, it was a top ten show for the year in America. Throughout the ‘70s, that continued to be a top ten show. The reach of the program, the power that came with the title of being Miss America. I do think even in my mom’s day in the 1970s, the title of Miss America was in some ways more important than the individual who had that title for the year, but the title had a lot of power. She traveled around the country pretty much in a different state every single day. She was on multiple USO tours. That part of it was much different. Everywhere she went, it was a new story. Forget about the pandemic. She still doesn’t have that same power to command media attention every single day, no matter where she is. I think that’s partly a result of my mom. She was crowned in 1969. Title nine comes out three years later in 1972. It takes a few years, but it changed the landscape of what’s possible for women to do. As the media landscape opened up too, people have so many different options to find what works for them best.
Was your mom Pamela Anne Eldred?
Yes. People might know because she crowned Phyllis George. Phyllis George is a well-known person.
Mary Ann Mobley, there are a few that I would recognize off the top of my head.
Vanessa Williams, Gretchen Carlson probably.
It was a different time and a different setting. You now have written this book, Here She Is. I’m curious what led to your interest in writing that and what’s the message behind it?
Growing up, I thought beauty and brains are mutually exclusive. It was interesting for me because I went away to college. I left Michigan and I moved to New England, and I discovered this field of sociology. It was a word I’d never even heard before I got to college. Starting my sophomore year of college for a course, we had to do a research project that lasted the whole semester. Many of my classmates were interested in tackling topics of what was happening on campus. This was shortly after the murder of JonBenét Ramsey. I got interested in why mothers enrolled their young daughters in child beauty pageants. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but I’m sure that was a way for me to stay connected to my mom and think about all of those things, but that put my life on a totally different trajectory.
I discovered I love doing research. I discovered there was a possibility to do that as your career. In a way I’ve been working on this project for a long time. My senior thesis was on this question of child beauty pageants. I’ve been thinking about childhood and beauty and womanhood for so many years, even in the book, I was able to go back and find many of those mothers and interview their daughters who are now young women. That’s a unique part of the book and that captures a unique perspective that I have. I’m an insider, but I’m an outsider. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I want people to understand that beauty pageants are deeply embedded in American society and we shouldn’t dismiss them as something that’s frivolous. We should take them seriously because they tell us something about American womanhood.
Did your mom want you to go in her steps? Was she anything like Patsy, JonBenét’s mother or anything like that? Was this something completely different than which Patsy was like?
She was the opposite of Patsy Ramsey. When I was around nine years old, she was judging a child beauty pageant. I tagged along with her. I was raised by a single mom, so I was with her all the time. I remember looking at the contestants and what they did. I said to her after, “I think I could do this.” She gave me what I think was the best advice she ever gave me, which was, “You need to find your own path because you could do this and deserve to win and win but people will say you only won because you’re my daughter, or you could deserve to win and not win because you’re my daughter.” I took that to heart. If I had said, “I want to be Miss America and I want to compete. If I had driven that bus as I got older, that would have been different,” yet here I am, and I’ve written a book about it.
It’s an interesting look at from a sociological standpoint. My brother got his degree in Sociology. That was my introduction to sociology. I study a lot of psychology-based things and that tie into sociology and different aspects in my research. I find this fascinating of what a big part it played, how it’s changed and who’s been involved in different pageants from Trump to different people. I have the Bert Parks mindset of what it was like. I haven’t watched it since I was a kid. I enjoyed it but it doesn’t have that same power that it seemed to have. Do you think it does?
I don’t think it does, but I think beauty pageant culture still does and it’s transformed. If you think about The Bachelor and Chris Harrison, it’s the new Bert Park and The Bachelor is a new version of Miss America. You even have evening gown when they hand out the roses. They’re often wearing swimsuits. Chris Harrison hosted Miss America for several years. The creator of The Bachelor had judged a Miss America pageant and a few years later, he ended up marrying the Miss America that was selected from the judge’s panel that he was on. It’s not called Miss America and Miss America itself might not have as much power, but this notion of how you look matters and all of these other things matter about you too, but your looks are important. It’s still deep in our culture.
I’m interested in that because my father was born legally blind, but he could see enough that he saw 2%. He was so focused on what you look like. That was a high priority for him. I could get A’s, and everything wouldn’t matter, but if you look good, that was important. I always thought that was twisted in a way. Do you think we put too much focus on what people look like and is this making it worse? Where does that stand in your mind?Miss America is reflective of the complicated state of American womanhood. Click To Tweet
The focuses of society in terms of their preferences change over time. It used to be you were great if you were a curvaceous person, and we were into the super skinny. I think those things change over time, but the idea that you’re fit and healthy and your hair looks healthy and your skin is clear because of all the things, those indicate like fertility, for example. Those are hard to change. They’re hardwired into us, the animal side of us as human beings. It can indicate something about someone, but it’s not the only thing. Interestingly, Miss America has changed as women’s opportunities have opened. The Miss USA pageant, which is happening on November 2020, it was born out of the Miss America pageant with a focus on how you look, how you look in a bathing suit and how you look dressed up.
Catalina, which had been the swimsuits sponsor of Miss America at the time, got upset that in the 1950s that Miss America didn’t want to do appearances in her bathing suit anymore. The scholarship portion had started and the talent portion had started. They went and they started their own pageant, which became Miss Universe and Miss USA, which doesn’t have the talent portion and doesn’t have the scholarship portion. Miss America, over the years, has continued to add these different elements of the competition and to take some away. They’ve added what used to be called the platform issue. Now, it’s called the social impact initiative but at some cause that you’re dedicated to in your community. Years ago, this made headlines that they took the swimsuit competition out of Miss America. I do think that is reflective of the complicated state of American womanhood. We give girls all kinds of mixed messages, to be competitive in the classroom but do it with a smile, look good but still be engaged in your community, and all of those things. Oddly, Miss America represents that confusion.
It’s interesting that they got rid of certain things like the bathing suit and that type of swimsuit thing. I’m married to a plastic surgeon, so I find the needing to look good thing is probably a focus that I wonder how much this influences young girls. They want to get implants or they want to be so thin that they get bulimic. Do you touch on that at all?
When you were talking about watching Miss America, it was a particular body type. Everyone was white. Pretty much everyone was Christian and there was presumed heterosexuality. That was powerful. Bert Parks sang that song, “Miss America. There she is, your ideal,” I do think that had a lot of consequences for young women, especially those who felt like, “I don’t recognize myself. I don’t see myself there. I’m not represented.” What does that mean if that’s the ideal? The question of eating disorders is complicated and it’s certainly something that the modeling industry has struggled with and entertainment more broadly. The causality isn’t so easy to prove, but we’re seeing this with Instagram. You can change the way your own body looks, forget about Photoshop, but the way you look every day. I think that definitely has consequences for young girls, as their bodies are changing and they’re settling into their identities. It’s not unique to pageants. For some people, pageants could exacerbate that.
I’ve heard a lot of the tips when you mentioned Photoshop. I was thinking some of the things you read, some of the things they do. Do they put Preparation H on their eyes and do whatever you hear to make the swelling go down? Are there things that are done traditionally to Photoshop in real life, make you look better?
Some people do that. There’s the infamous butt glue. When you do compete in a bathing suit, you have to put that on to make sure your bathing suit doesn’t ride up as you walk and show anything. This doesn’t happen so often anymore, but the Vaseline on the lips, because you’re supposed to keep smiling and your mouth gets dry. That is one thing growing up, the daughter of a Miss America. I haven’t done any of those, but I learned other little tricks over the years that she taught me. I joke that I know how to tease my hair and do big hair because my mom was Miss America 1970.
I loved big hair. I wish it would come back. I’ve kept it around and I don’t care if it goes away. It’s interesting to see if these children, like the JonBenét Ramseys, do they turn into the next Miss USA, Miss America contestants, do they play it out in childhood and that’s it, or do they tend to go onto the next level?
It does not happen often that someone gets one of these major national titles who has been active in child beauty pageants. It has happened, but it doesn’t happen that often. I think these issues around perceptions of how you look, and your appearance are much more acute for the child beauty pageants. As an example, for a three-year-old to do these glitzy pageants, they’re wearing fake teeth, false eyelashes, hair false and their skin is tanned. When you tell those young girls, “You’re so beautiful. You look amazing,” they don’t even recognize themselves in the mirror. They look so different. What is the lasting impact of that? We know that children are supposed to recognize themselves at that age. What do they think about themselves when they don’t have all that stuff on? Does that mean you’re not beautiful or not worthy of attention? The issue is much more acute. At that age probably less about weight and the body, but as girls approach puberty and all of that, that becomes much more of an issue.
I was thinking when my daughter, Toni was young, she saw this thing when we were at the mall where they were looking for actresses for little kids to audition. She said she wanted to do it. She was so obsessed. She was 8 or 7. She was little, maybe even younger. She talked me into getting in the line to rehearse or to say whatever they wanted her to say to see if she can make it. She got up to the front line and dead cold couldn’t say or do anything. That was it. That was the end of her career. I was glad because I didn’t want her to do that, but I didn’t want to hold her back. I’m thinking of movies like Little Miss Sunshine that focus on some of the good and the bad of the kid pageants. What did you think of that movie, first of all?
They used actual child beauty pageant contestants. It wasn’t a real child beauty pageant, but that was true to life. I think that movie is a good example and it’s something I learned in my first book, which was looking at kids’ competitive afterschool activities, not pageants, but chess and dance and soccer. Certainly, kids want to please their parents, but it’s hard to force your child to do something if they don’t want to do it. That’s been reinforced to me as I’ve had my own kids. Kids can self-sabotage in all kinds of ways. When parents are spending so much time and so much money, if your child is not engaged and doesn’t want to do it or goes on stage and cries, you’re probably not going to stick with doing that. Some kids have different personality types and wants to please their parents. They might be more compliant or go along with it, even if they don’t like it as much, but still it’s hard to force your child to work hard and practice if they don’t want to do it.
It’s interesting to see the differences. I would have thought more of these younger pageants would have led to more Miss Americas and Miss USAs. We talked about some of the people who have been part of these contests. You said something and you wrote me about these contests being a vehicle for men like PT Barnum and Donald Trump. I’m curious what you mean by that.
PT Barnum, he held the first commercial beauty contest in the United States in the 1850s. Donald Trump used to own the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageant for about twenty years in the mid-1990s to right before he became president. They had a particular view of showmanship and you can think of Donald Trump and The Apprentice and reality TV. That was a lot of what PT Barnum was too, the circus and the showmanship. PT Barnum went on to have a political career later in life as well. Both of those men were focused on how women looked and using that to profit off of. Miss USA and Miss Universe is a for-profit pageant, whereas Miss America is a nonprofit.
It is not to say that people don’t make money off of it, but it’s organized differently. Those things have real lasting implications. He admitted it that all the contestants, even many who support him, said he would go backstage and inspect the contestants and separate them into the hot or not groups. He went backstage at Miss Teen USA. All those girls were underaged and saw some of them changing. That’s particularly problematic and fulfills all of these bad stereotypes, which again, the stereotypes are sometimes rooted in reality but that we can have about men and beauty pageants.
Did your mom share with you what was not so glamorous of what she thought it would be and what it was? I remember going to events around the Oscars or different things and you get there and you go, “This isn’t so great when you’re here as it looks on television.” Is there a different idea? Is it our perception as the public different than what the reality is?
Miss America and Miss USA are a 2 to 3-hour show, one time a year that people see, but if you win, it’s a job 365 days a year. In that respect, that’s not so glamorous. There’s not someone traveling with the winners. It wasn’t in the `70s and there’s not today to do their hair and makeup. You’re traveling with two suitcases. You have to mail things back and things mailed to you. My mom definitely felt a lot of pressure to live up to that ideal. This is a good example. She’s allergic to strawberries and she was making an appearance as Miss America and strawberries were involved. It was a strawberry festival or something. They gave her strawberries to eat for the photoshoot and all of that. Instead of saying, “I’m allergic,” she ate them. That’s different today. Before, some women were much less likely to speak up. When you think you have to live up to a title, that can be difficult for some people.
What do you say to somebody like Gloria Steinem, I’m not sure what her opinion is on this but I’m guessing? What do you say to the people who see this as a negative thing?
Gloria Steinem competed in a beauty pageant in her native Ohio when she was young. She talks about the ways in which, especially at that time, beauty pageants were a vehicle for those who grew up in a small town and all of that to get out and get a title and get experience. It is interesting to think about particularly for Miss America, where there are the scholarships for higher education, the way in which beauty pageants can be used as a tool of social mobility. You think about Vanessa Williams, Miss America helped launch her career for example. It’s different today because if you’re a good singer, like Carrie Underwood competed in Miss Oklahoma and didn’t do particularly well, she went and auditioned for American Idol and there you go. Reality TV has changed that potential. It certainly is a way for some women to advance themselves. I think one of the things the feminist movement has learned is it’s okay to criticize the institutions and the societal expectations that make women feel like they have to behave a particular way. It’s not so good to criticize the individual women because we don’t know what’s happening in their personal lives that they need to make that choice.
Back in the Bert Parks time, there wasn’t the YouTube postings of things where people can say, “Look at that and look how awful this is.” It’s a different time. It’s got to be hard for these women who get criticized in the reviews.Everything is a choice and it comes with the price of tenacity. Click To Tweet
One of the worst parts of pageants, which exists in some other things, but I would say it’s unique to the pageant world, since the internet has started, this has been a subculture in a lot of places. These message boards where you can be anonymous, which gives people a license to say whatever they want. It’s not even like Facebook where you have an account, or someone can trace it back to you or whatever. That is a bad and harmful and unpleasant part, not just of child beauty pageants, but the Miss pageants as well. You always hear, “Don’t read the comments.” That would be true here.
Was Bert Parks a good or a bad guy?
I did get to meet him when I was around nine years old when it was the 70th anniversary of Miss America.
My mom met him too. What did you think?
I idolized the man because I had watched this video of my mom winning and I thought of him as like a fairy godfather. I met him when he came back for the 70th and it was the first time he had gone back since he had been fired in the late 1970s. I was disappointed because he asked me if I wanted to be Miss America like my mom. A lot of people had been asking me that. I already had an answer ready, but I was annoyed that he asked me that. I said, “No, I’m going to be the first female president.” That’s not going to happen probably now. That whole notion that that was the only thing he could think that I wanted to do, I found frustrating, but he was much older. He passed away a few months after that.
There are a lot of good things behind a lot of these pageants. Intention-wise, scholarship and that type of thing, it would be interesting to study. I think this is a fascinating book and I hope people take some time to read it. How can they find you or your book? Do you have a link or something you’d like to share?
I’m at www.HilaryLeveyFriedman.com. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram, @HLeveyFriedman. There’s lots of information on my website too about how you can order the book, all these usual places, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, all the independent bookstores as well, IndieBound and all of that bookshop. If you want to get a signed copy, and with the holidays coming up and they’re unusual this year, a personalized gift might be great. You can use my local independent bookstore, Books On the Square to request a particular inscription.
I haven’t heard about Books On the Square. I’ll look that up. It’s so nice of you to do the show, Hilary. This was interesting and I think your mother was beautiful. I looked her up before this and congratulations to her for winning and for you for all your work in this area.
Thank you so much.
Getting FIT For Business With Sheryl Grant
I am here with Sheryl Grant, who is the Founder and CEO of SGE, a company focused on transformation from the inside out. She helps executives, entrepreneurs, and ambitious women of color achieve more. After winning Miss Olympia over the age of 55, she realized transforming her body began with transforming her mind. It’s so nice to have you here, Sheryl.
Thank you so much. I excited to be here too, Dr. Hamilton.
You’re welcome. First of all, I’ve watched a video of you and I’m thinking, “What is she, maybe 20 or 30?” You go, “When I was 55,” and I’m like, “What?”
Try this on for size. I’m actually 58 and I’ll be 59. When I went through my fitness journey and I won the title of Miss Olympia, I was 55. That was in 2017.
Good for you. You have the most beautiful skin. I didn’t even think about your age until you said that and I couldn’t believe it. You have kept in shape and done some amazing things. I’m interested in talking to you about this. You’ve got this flagship product, FIT for Business, which particularly interests me because you have this acronym of FIT. Do you want to tell us what that stands for?
FIT is a play on words, if you will. Because of my fitness journey, I do believe that fitness is important. It is an important part of my life but fit for me is about a mental construct. FIT stands for Face, Intuition and Tenacity.
I was watching one of your interviews and a lot of what you’re talking about ties in my research of curiosity. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to look at any of the things I’ve done, but I did this assessment that tells people what keeps them from being curious. There are four things. My acronym is FATE, which stands for Fear, Assumptions, Technology, and Environment. The assumptions part is what you talk about, that self-dialogue. I want to get into that because I think that is such a critical thing that a lot of people don’t talk about. Let’s dive into that. How does that hold us back?
Here is the thing, and I love how you came up with the word FATE. One of the things that I have learned over my lifetime, I know it started as early as when I was a child and how I was raised as a child. I was raised in the church. There were certain things that my grandmother put parameters around me that led to building a strong foundation in terms of how I looked at the world. When I speak of faith, although it is a biblical and spiritual term, faith is applied to everything in your life. It’s all about a mental construct. Whatever you believe is possible is possible. Whether you believe you can or you believe you cannot, either way you’re right.Anything is possible when you believe. Click To Tweet
You have the opportunity to choose in this lifetime what you believe. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. Faith is your ability to believe in something you can’t see. Faith is your ability to believe in yourself, your dreams and your goals even if you haven’t seen evidence of them in your life. You go back to the intuition and that’s truly about your ability to trust your inner guidance. There’s an inner spirit within each of us that speaks to us all the time. Most of us are so busy doing and less times spending being that we don’t tap into that intuition. That intuition, that subtlety that when you sense danger in a situation, that’s your intuition talking to you.
When you’re in a conversation with somebody and something about that conversation is not aligning with your spirit, not aligning with your truth or your values. What happens to that is everything. When you’re walking down the path of a career that’s no longer serving you, but somehow in your mind, you feel that you have to be in the space of not being happy. Everything is a choice, and it comes with the price of tenacity. Tenacity is your ability to get it done and your ability to take the actions and the steps towards the vision and the intuition that’s talking to you in your life.
You bring up some important points. I was thinking of somebody who came to mind who works for a company. She loves her job, but she doesn’t love the way they treat her there and breaking through what she tells herself of why she stays. I think there are a lot of people like that, don’t you think? They’ll continue to take bad behaviors and bad situations because they tell themselves certain things.
We, a lot of times, constrict ourselves based upon past beliefs of what we think we can and we can’t do. Everything stems from your ability to have faith. We don’t have to walk in pain. We have to walk in fear. Fear is false evidence appearing real because you like your job intuitively. If you love your job, but it’s toxic to your spirit mentally, emotionally, then it’s going to stop your ability to soar as high as you could possibly soar. At some point, it’s going to take hold of you. They say that you are the sum total of the people that you associate yourself with. When you’re in a toxic environment, whether it be at work or at home, your friendships, relationships, or family for that matter, there has to come a point where you have to start to look at, I recommend people, living your best life. It’s to be able to look at yourself and say, “Is this serving me?”
If it is, you continue on. If not, you pivot and adjust as best you can. If it gets to the point where it’s not serving your highest good, you have to ask yourself the question, “What are my next options?” There are always options. That’s how I got to this journey because I was working in Corporate America. I loved what I did. I loved everything about my job. I was in the top 1%. I was making my numbers. I was in sales. I’d love my customers. I’m a people person, but the environment was no longer serving me as an individual. It got to the point where I started questioning and doubting myself like, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I pierce through what most call a glass ceiling and what I call a brick wall?”
I could not peer through that brick wall. It started eating at my mental, my emotional, my spiritual. It started spilling over into other areas of my life. That’s when I went on this physical journey to become Miss Olympia. Through that journey, I realize that I was only limited by my thinking. My thinking is what had me believing that I could not break what we call the glass ceiling, or I say for black women or African-American women, the brick wall. I then launched my company. I tell you, it was one of the most freeing and life-transforming things that I’ve ever done in my life besides winning Miss Olympia. That was a journey too.
You’ve done some amazing things. As you’re talking about that, I’m thinking about people who have told me they’ve stayed in jobs because their work ethic, their family situation taught them you do not quit. That shows a sign of weakness. Even if they’re treating you badly, you’re giving up. It’s a hard thing to argue when people have different perceptions of what’s considered quitting or what’s considered giving up.
You’re talking to me and so many women around the country, but there’s a new paradigm shift. For those who are ready, we can jump on that paradigm shift. You have capitalism, which is about me, my and I. You have what I consider to be the new world order as we come out of this pandemic and all the things that we’re addressing in our country right now that as we come out, there’s a new cultural currency that’s happening too. That cultural currency is called community. When I speak about community and those people that are in those roles that they no longer like, it’s about going back to understanding that we weren’t meant to be a certain way forever.
We are fluid. We are energy. It’s all about being in flow. How do you get in flow? I’m a firm believer of being around people like yourself that are thought leaders, that are truly about breaking paradigms and truly about shiftable societal norms and helping us to truly live our most vibrant life. It’s important that we do start looking at the world through the lens of anything is possible when you believe. That’s not a cliché. That is a fact. Anything is possible when you believe. We multitask but we take great pride and we’re not apologetic. We’re unapologetic for it. Our power resides in understanding as a woman, as a leader, your strengths as it comes. It comes in my ability to be able to share valuable information that may be able to impact someone’s life and change their lives for the better.
I think you brought in so many great points which tie into the I of the FIT part. I want to talk about that because you talk about intuition and intuition is listening to your internal GPS. What if your internal GPS isn’t directing you in a way because you haven’t had the experiences? As you said, you are some of the people you know. Sometimes people surround themselves with people who aren’t even as successful as they are. How can we make sure our GPS is telling us the right thing?
Your intuition never lies to you. It is your GPS. It is the navigation system. It always speaks to you. The question is, do you listen?
In the last example, her gut tells her, “My family values say quitting would be a failure.” If that’s what her gut is telling her, then is that a limiting thing? How does she recognize the right thing to do?
You’ll hear those two things. Is her gut telling her that or is it her emotions? What are you tied to? Your emotions are fleeing. We’re in the moment, but when you’re listening to your gut, it will tell her, “This is no longer serving me. I’m not happy here.” What is the energy that’s surrounding that decision? Is that energy lifting you up or is it pulling you down? I can understand that from the standpoint. I too have had to deal with certain issues. To give you an example, I was married for 28 years. I made a promise to my grandmother. I started off earlier saying I was brought up in a spiritual home. Divorce was something you didn’t do under any circumstances.
I knew early on that I no longer wanted to be married but as a mother of two African-American sons, I felt it was imperative that I provide them with as a solid of a foundation as I possibly could. Both of my sons are college graduates. My youngest son is from Cal-Berkeley, All-American. My oldest son graduated from Menlo College in Atherton. With that said, I knew in my spirit that it wasn’t serving me, and I had to come to a decision at one point, do I hold true? My grandmother, before she passed, made me make her a promise. That promise was deep-rooted in my spirit and in my soul. I promised her I would not divorce, but I knew I wasn’t happy.
When I go back to, “Your gut never lies to you,” I knew I wasn’t happy, but I had made a promise. Which one am I pulling towards, the promise or me being happy? No one can make you happy. No one can give you happiness. You have to give it to yourself, but you have to be willing to take the risks and to take the chances to trust yourself. I can tell you it wasn’t an easy journey, but nothing worth having ever is. I can tell you that I’m the best of friends with my ex-husband. I can tell you, in addition to me becoming Miss Olympia, it was another life-transforming event for me, because I had to let go of everything that was true to me. When you’re married for 28 years, there are so many things that are true to you and your identity is tied to. To be able to cut that is a hard thing. When you go back to, “She’s listening to her intuition, but she has certain values,” your intuition never lies to you. Check your energy. Do an energy check.
How do you do that?
One of my greatest tools, and I can’t say this enough to people, is to learn to get silent. Some people, meditation is one of the greatest tools that we could have ever have. It is cutting out the noise, cutting off the television, and learning how to quiet the mind, because the mind is always so busy with chatter. It’s always filling us up with things that are limiting thoughts about what you can’t do and why you can’t do it. It’s never been done. You have thoughts about comparing yourself to others or the Impostor Syndrome, trying to be more than. All of these things are going in. Your ability to quiet your mind is how you tap into your intuition. You break through the barriers of those self-limiting beliefs. Not everything you’re taught always aligns with what’s good for you.
Coming from a family that taught me a few things, I sometimes use the example I was taught of how not to be in my ethics courses I teach. Sometimes you have to listen. That ties into the E of my assessment for curiosity, the Environment. Who you’ve been around, what they’ve told you, and that can overlap with the voice in your head because you’re hearing these things. I want to touch on the T of Tenacity because I think that that’s a huge thing. I’ve taught so many courses for so many years to students that I see a lot of people lack that tenacity, “Just do it, don’t give up,” type of personality. I’m like the Terminator. I’ll be hanging by an eyeball to finish something. If that’s all that’s left in me, I’ll continue. How do you get people to be tenacious?What do you want and what are you willing to do to get it? Click To Tweet
Tenacity is a word that aligns with action. It’s like the word love. Love is an action word. You have to be in action. To say to you, “Diane, I want to lose 10 pounds,” and to continue to do things that move me further away from the goal that I tell you that I want. Eating things that necessarily are not good for me at the time that I’m eating them. All of those come into play. We have to be in alignment with our words. If I say to you that I want to lose weight, first and foremost, I need to start looking at what it is that I’m eating that’s contributing to that. What am I willing to shift in order to get closer to that goal? Am I willing to work out? I don’t have to necessarily go out to a gym and you don’t have to become Miss Olympia or competition, but will you work? Are you willing to walk? Are you willing to walk a mile a day? Are you willing to do the things that you say that you want? They say the definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing but want different results. I say to that individual that’s out there, what do you want and what are you willing to do to get it?
You’re helping a lot of people. You’ve got this digital mentorship platform. I want to talk about how you’re helping. You want to reach more than 50 million women to empower, educate, and lift them through this. Give me more information about your digital mentorship platform because I find that interesting.
I started this platform as an entrepreneur but it applies to anybody anywhere. There are three things that entrepreneurs or women need to be successful, especially in the entrepreneurial space. The first one is mentorship. The second one is access to resources and training. The third one is access to funding. I came across this because in my journey, I found it difficult to find people who look like me, who were in roles that I aspire to be, and that can help me to get there. This platform is a way to provide that level of expertise to let’s say a person like you, Diane. Not everybody knows you. How do they get access? You can only be in so many places at one time. My platform gives individuals access to a library of professionals. My programs are not even gender specifics. The techniques can be applied by anybody. I tend to focus primarily on women or women of color because in my realm, I never had that. I wanted to make sure that they did. This platform is truly about creating digital content that people can access to get the training and mentorship that they need. It’s a single place that you can come in order to get that mentorship.
Where is that and what do you call your platform?
The digital mentorship platform that I’m creating is a technology company that I’m launching called Kinectdots. You can find it on my website at www.SherylGrant.com/kinectdots.
You have a goal to reach 50 million. How did you come up with that number?
When I looked at the demographics of the audience that I wanted to choose, I wanted to make sure that I was able to touch, educate, empower, and inspire. The number 50 million, it made the most sense to me given the demographics of the audience that I’m going after. That is a global number.
You have a lot of experience with a lot of this mentorship stuff. I saw that you served as Executive Director for the Global Women’s Leadership Network, which graduated over 200 women social entrepreneurs from over 30 countries. I was looking at some of your other past experiences. You are a professional speaker, but you’re a member of the Athletes Influence network. What is that exactly?
I had the opportunity through my business advisor, his name is Dan Hughes, to align with professional athletes and go on tour to share my story and to help me to not only have introductions to individuals who could potentially help me to reach my goal by providing financial resources for me to do that, as well as to help get my message out. That’s his goal. Through him, I’ve been introduced to the family offices. I’ve been introduced to these amazing athletes, Antonio Davis, Devean George, a three-time NBA player for the Lakers. Warrick Dunn, who is part owner of the Atlanta Falcons. The list is long. I am so honored to have had the connection with Dan to continue that work. I continue to work with them, and it truly is a family.
We did an interview with another young lady who is by the name of Santia Deck, who signed a multimillion-dollar contract to become the face for the women’s NFL. I get introduced to Sheryl Swoopes. These are amazing athletes who are also out in the world, doing things to make a social impact and a change. We’re at a crucial time where those kinds of resources are so needed. It’s such an honor for me to be on that platform with these amazing individuals. In addition to that, you mentioned about the Global Women Leadership Network. I’m all about empowerment and women are the most amazing individuals. Men, you’re amazing too. We don’t want to bash them in. That’s not a good thing. We need you too. There’s something that is so powerful when we come together for a common cause or common goal that we wouldn’t do shiftings and would change the world. It gives me such inspiration to do that.
There’s a picture on my website too, these women from literally all over the world, from over 30 different countries. These women came with the sole purpose of seeing their dreams come to a realization and bring it to manifestation. To be a part of that journey, to help those women, to believe in themselves that come from places that don’t even have as many of the resources and tools that we have, but yet feel they traveled across the country, continent, Lagos, Nigeria, they came from and care out to them and the things that are going on there. They came from Tanzania, Greece. When I say all over the world, I mean literally all over the world and you see that. That is the tenacity piece, you willing to leave. You have less than your financial resources are not that great, but you’re willing to travel across a continent to get the education and training you need to go back to your country to be the best you. I have a mentorship platform where they don’t have to do that. I can provide it to them online.
I could see that your work is so important. A lot of people are going to want to check out what you’ve done. I gave a talk to the Center for Women’s Leadership at the Forbes School of Business. I can see that this is something that groups like that would find so useful. If anybody’s looking for more information, they could go to SherylGrant.com
Thank you, Sheryl. This has been such a great inspiration to me. Thank you for being on the show.
Diane, thank you for doing the work that you do and thank you for creating the platform so that I could share my story. We need you. I want you to know I appreciate this opportunity. Thank you to your audience as well.
Thanks. I appreciate that.
I’d like to thank Hilary and Sheryl for being my guests. We get so many great guests on the show. If you missed any past episode, please go to DrDianeHamilton.com. There’s so much information about curiosity, perception, speaking, training. Everything you need to know is on my site. I hope you enjoyed this episode. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
- Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America
- Playing to Win
- Twitter – Hilary Levey Friedman
- @HLeveyFriedman – Instagram
- FIT for Business
- Athletes Influence
- YouTube – Sheryl Grant
- Instagram – Sheryl Grant
About Hilary Levey Friedman
Prof. Hilary Levey Friedman is a sociologist and expert on beauty pageants, childhood and parenting, competitive afterschool activities, and popular culture who teaches courses in the Department of Education at Brown University. She holds degrees from Harvard University, Princeton University, and the University of Cambridge.
In August 2020 Beacon Press released her new book, Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America, which uses beauty pageants to trace the arc of American feminism from the 1840s to the present. Click to find out more— including how to purchase a signed copy!
Her first book, Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture followed families with elementary school-age children involved in chess, dance, and soccer covering the history of the activities, what they mean to parents and children, and implications for inequality and gender in the educational system. She often speaks to parent groups on this topic.
Prof. Levey Friedman is the President of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women (RI NOW). She also is a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).
About Sheryl Grant
Sheryl Grant helps executives, entrepreneurs, and ambitious women to achieve more! After winning Ms. Olympia over the age of 50, Sheryl realized transforming her body began with transforming her mind. She since has developed and launched a proprietary program FIT for Business’ that helps leaders and get more out of their business, career, and life.
Sheryl is the Founder and CEO of Sheryl Grant Enterprises, a company focused on transformation from the inside out through its flagship product F.I.T. for Business, which is launching a global tour that includes stops in Atlanta, Toronto, Charlotte, London, Kuwait, Philadelphia, Oakland, and Cairo in 2019. Previously Sheryl served as the Executive Director for The Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN), which has graduated over 200 women from over 30 countries and delivered Transformational Leadership Training Programs that focus on creating gender equality and economic empowerment for women and girls around the globe. Sheryl currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce.
Sheryl has also served as the President of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., Oakland/BayArea Chapter where she wrote the curriculum for the Positive Steps Girls Program (girls 12-17) which focuses on mentoring, leadership development and mentorship in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). In this leadership role she raised over a $500K to support the organization’s advocacy work around women and girls which included Positive Steps, Sistah’s Getting Real About HIV/AIDS andFinancial Literacy Awareness. These programs helped to promote and pass legislation to support the rights of women and girls of color nationwide.
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