Discussing her strategy for re-developing herself, her mind, body, lifestyle and career.
Monarch magazine: Tell us about your journey of re-invention and share what your life was like before you began?
Kenya Parham: If someone would have asked me, in the summer of 2017, “Kenya, could you survive a nearly 3 year period of isolation?” My response would have undoubtedly been the swiftest “absolutely not!” — yet here I am in the Spring of 2020 having done just that.
Let those who know me best tell it, and they’d say I was built for leadership. As a young political expert, I was at the top of my game having invested the proverbial 10,000+ hours Malcolm Gladwell touts as essential for greatness in any field. I lived and breathed politics, in all of its forms. It fueled me, invigorated me, gave me purpose, it gave me life. Running over 60 campaigns, raising more than $20 million for candidates and social-justice causes, and creating two successful businesses made me feel invincible, like I was truly soaring into my destiny. I was literally everywhere — on TV, on the radio, at fundraisers, traveling across the country on an average of two flights a week and making international trips as well.
Monarch magazine: That sounds like a great life. How did a brilliant young professional like you lose your footing and unravel personally and professionally?
Kenya Parham: The very real crises of my failing physical health (I weighed 330 pounds), my lack of sustainable lifestyle practices, and the election of a “leader” who embodied every threat to my existence as a young Black woman in America finally forced me to adopt the philosophy I spoke about across the country for years: Self care and self love, especially for those entrusted to lead.
Monarch magazine: Were there other contributing factors that led to your downfall?
Kenya Parham: To understand my journey, is to take it back to the beginning. Sometimes, even to a fault, we do as we are taught. Many members of my family are participatory pillars of public service across multiple sectors, with impacts that ripple from our local community across the nation and the world. So, when it came time for me to think about what I wanted to “do with my life” and career, it was a natural step for me leap into a life of work for the greater good, because “doing well” has always looked like service to me. I now understand the fundamental disconnect I had between doing well [output] and being (living) well [input].
Monarch magazine: Can you share any major realizations that helped you strengthen?
Kenya Parham: As I’ve been learning, when you lead without prioritizing your personal wellness, fatigue and burnout is imminent. My breakdown (and the various symptoms thereof) wasn’t a product of a lack of access or resources, but instead was a result of a lack of confidence, self-love and self-worth. I had become conditioned to believe, through a combination of the American refrain and those who influenced me, that the most honorable service is self sacrifice. Through it all I’ve learned two invaluable lessons 1) Self sacrifice is antithetical to leadership and 2) Many of us, if we are honest with ourselves, are standing in the way of our own ascension.
Monarch magazine: Are there other “take-aways” you can share?
Kenya Parham: I’ve been confronted with crisis in different forms my entire life. And also, like many of us, I have discerned that crisis in a post-Obama world hits a little bit differently than it used to. Over the past three years I’ve been confronted with the actualization of some of my biggest fears — literally losing my sense of self, seeing my health decline, walking away from my political career, enduring a heartbreaking end to my long-term relationship, and shuddering my two businesses. Such consistent confrontations with loss informed my need to pivot, regroup and adapt. My responses to these scenarios taught me that my acts of letting go and accepting what is were much more effective at helping me achieve equilibrium in the most “unstable” of moments, than a vice-grip approach to holding on to what was.
Monarch magazine: What specific steps did you take back then and are there any practices you employ today that help sustain you?
Kenya Parham: Just as the act of being under construction reveals “a beautiful mess” in the process, rebuilding or renovating one’s life is indeed artful. At the foundation of my journey of renovation to reinvention were a series of small decisions; seemingly simple, subconsciously brave and affirmative choices that have altered the trajectory of my life for the best, and helped me begin uncovering my highest, truest self. Reinvention wasn’t promised to me, nor was it even in my purview — in all honesty, everything in me was focused on moment-to-moment survival. But along the way, I developed a rubric of things that helped me regain my footing and strength in rebuilding and reinventing myself:
• I unplugged from public life
• I forgave myself and others, releasing traumas from my past
• I adjusted my work life balance
• I committed to a plant-based lifestyle
• I prioritized exercise into my daily life
• I changed my to-do lists, shifting my macro goals into micro goals
• I transformed my relationship with food, from self-medication to sustainable fuel
• I underwent a “Soul Edit” of sorts to make room for my blessings. I cleared out my spiritual storehouse akin to what my favorite organizers from The Home Edit advise. Just like an iPhone storage when it gets too full and you can’t receive critical software updates anymore, or update your favorite apps, or maneuver without delay — I had to get rid unnecessary “stuff” that was overloading me, quickly assessing what was currently being used; asking myself “is this worth the space it consumes?”; deleting and purging everything not vital to my most important task at hand (i.e. capturing this moment that I’ll “never get again”)
Monarch magazine: Are there any victories or accomplishments that have resulted from your “Soul Edit” ?
Kenya Parham: While I’m absolutely still a work in progress, and I’m always actively striving to become my best self, but I’m pleased with my results thus far. To date, I’ve shed more than 100 pounds and have kept it off. I’m now the CEO of a successful, state-of-the-art, Athletic Engineering company, Game Ready Performance, having grown the business at a rate of nearly 500% in the past three years. I’ve parlayed my skillset as a political consultant and fundraiser for elected officials and nonprofits into management of select professional athletes, and senior marketing consultancy for social-justice related major motion pictures.
Monarch magazine: What has your journey of reinvention taught you and how does it inform your life today?
Kenya Parham: I’ve learned that my personal journey to wellness has just begun and it will never end, it will transform again and again. Much of what I observe in our society today reminds me of the crossroads I found myself at in the summer of 2017. Our imminent success and ability to thrive depends on our future steps being informed by the lessons we are stepping through at this very moment. America, in being the longest standing free republic next to Rome, has also come to a moment of political, environmental, biological, societal, moral, and economic reckoning. The question she must face, as I had to three years ago: Is she courageous enough to reinvent herself, her systems and processes, and emerge as the masterpiece she was destined to be?
You can follow me at www.heykenya.com or @kenyatparham