Meet my very good friend Sylvia. She's an absolute "ledge"!!! Each week I do one of these blog posts and I think how incredibly blessed I am to know so many wonderful women. It's a privilege to be able to call Sylvia one of my closest friends and she's one of a handful of women with which I could trust my deepest darkest secrets... and have done!
She touches my heart continually with her own huge heart and I do doff my hat to her being a single mum to Reiss and Levi who, to her credit are little gentlemen! She's a business woman, striving to continually better herself and provide a secure and safe life for her boys. May I introduce you to the Officially Fabulous Sylvia Johnstone....
Sylvia, you’re a Zumba instructor in the Watford/Harrow area. You also teach Booiaka. Anything else and what is your preferred class to teach? Why do you do what you?
Hey Zoe, yup I am Licenced ZIN Zumba instructor and I'm also trained/licenced to teach Booiaka, Fight Klub (Beat Box) and Mash It Up (Dancehall). I mainly teach in Harrow, Northolt, Greenford and Watford. Humm what do I prefer to teach? Gosh, that's a hard one. TBH I love teaching dance and if I'm totally honest although the the concepts I teach are fitness based that's not my main focus. Fitness is not what I'm all about. I believe in working on the inside out, your soul needs to be happy for you to function in your everyday life.
You can really move, you dance with such ease and coupled with your easy going down to earth nature, people are really drawn to you. What is your ethos when teaching and when dealing with people in general?
I became a Zumba dance fitness instructor in September 2009 and have never looked back. Dance is not just my job - it is my life and my passion. My Ethos is "It's not about the money, I just want see the world dance". It's the best feeling seeing so many come to classes and events, social occasions, with big smiles on faces, having fun and loving each other. I feel honoured and very blessed to be a part of making a difference to so many people’s lives in so many different ways, by doing what I love to do best... to dance and stay active.... it's just AMAZING!
My classes are more than just a dance fitness class... They are what I like to call a "Love Affair with Your Mind, Body & Soul". Looking after these three key areas and you will Love Life and Enjoy Life to it's fullest, no matter who you are or what you have or don't have!
My aim/my goal is to deliver Empowering, Inspiring, Motivating, Energising Workouts and ultimately help women escape from their daily routines, troubles or sorrows and be whoever their Alter Egos want to be in that moment. For that hour's class I aim to always give my self completely and allow you to be free to express yourself in ways you may not do in your normal every day life. We become a family, united through the love of dance & fitness. Together we learn to open our hearts, mind and soul to a new way of being. We encourage, support and respect each other, build new friendships and learn to love each other and love ourselves because we are worth it!
I believe in promoting and giving out Love, Happiness & PMA each and everyday! If everyone in the world Loved & Encourage each other and Built each other up... IMAGINE what wonderful place it would be!
You were recently asked to warm up the runners at the Colour Run events all around the UK. What was that like?
Oh my gosh, it has to have been the most amazing experience to date! Now I know what you feel like, Zoe, presenting on stage to thousands of people!
The biggest crowd was over 10'000 people just crazy. I had the best time. The first one I was soooo nervous, so out of my comfort zone. I don't use a mic when I teach and I don't talk much I use hand signals. But for this with tat amount of people I had to use a head mic and talk and get them going. I was thrown in the deep in lol but I did it and if I say so myself I totally smashed it... Yes I did...I rock whoop hahaha (can't believe I'm actually saying that about myself) :-)
The feeling up on stage with thousands of people watching you and following your every step was so cool, crazy, surreal, fun and unbelievable. Seeing a sea of smiles and giggles and people singing and dancing was amazing and the feedback on social media so heart warming.
It was really a lovely experience and boosted my confidence and belief in myself that I am good enough to present on stage to a mass crowd of people. I'm not as crap as I've always felt I was and what some have told me I'm not good enough to be on stage. I proved them and most importantly myself wrong. I can do it if I really want to. And I have to thanks Lyna Mourcou for recommending me and getting me the Job in the first place. Believing in me enough and trusting I would deliver. No one has done that before or even thought of me for an opportunity like that. So grateful to Lyna for that. It opened me up to a new side of me which I'd not seen before.
In fact this year seems to have been a lot of journeys and opportunities that are pushing me to believe in myself and I'm enjoying it so much so far. It's been a great year :-) beats the last 3yrs for sure!
I think you’re Super-Mum. I don’t know how you do it. You’re a single parent to 2 gorgeous boys, you run 2 business and you always seem to be helping other people out. You’re so generous with your time. Do you find that you suffer because of your kind hearted nature?
Oh my I could talk about this all day. I try not to get bitter and I try not to bitch. But I have to admit over the years when I look back at the hundreds of people I have helped and supported with their dreams, their ventures, their personal life if I had a £1 for each one I'd be a very rich lady right now lol. On a serious note just the past year or since I turned the big 4 0 I started to look back at my life and I suddenly realised the impact it has had on me giving so much of my time to others. My heart is good and I love to support and help and raise others up whenever I can. However, as a result of doing this which I do naturally, not for any self gain or ego boost, what has happened is people get so used to it they start to take my kindness for granted and abuse it. My time was been taken up by everyone and anyone and I was having less and less time for myself and my children and my own businesses. Every weekend for years I'd be out supporting/teaching at someone else's event for free and missing out on quality time with my kids. I found I was pushing everyone else forward and they were rising up the ladder and I myself was falling further down. I became overwhelmed with messages at all times of day and night, which was impacting on my personal life. My social media was constantly been used to promote others' work and not my own. I remember one day I noticed my FB was covered in posts from other people that had tagged me in their posts for their business! It was so crazy and no one ever asks if it's ok because I've never said it wasn't. However I tried that once and you know I got told off for it and asked not to do it again and I never have. The biggest blow is when I started to change things and say "no more, I can't help" and not do as much for free, people stopped talking to me. I was left to feel I was no longer useful to them so I got forgotten until of course they needed me for something. When I started to focus on my businesses more and I asked these same people for support guess what they told me... NO, too busy, don't have time! Others simply ignored me completely or gave me a lame excuses brushing me off. I've given a lot of my time, my life to a lot of people and let me tell you, it's been out of love and not for money! I don't get paid for promoting other people or anything like that. End result is I could be much further on in life if I'd been wiser and not devoted my self to others so much, lesson learned. I know my worth now and I'm working on myself to not feel guilty for saying NO and helping myself instead.
Does your Christian faith play a large role in your life?
My faith plays a big role in my life. As I've got older I'm reaching out to it more. I kick myself because when I lose faith and forget that's when life turns to crap. When I believe and trust in God things start to move in the right direction. It's been proven to me so many times not just in work but in my personal life. I need to remember this more and keep believing. I find it hard cause I've let what others think feel and say to me impact my life and dictate my decisions instead of trusting my own instincts. Past experiences also creep in and stop me from moving forward. I really struggle with this always have but again I am working on believing in myself more and trusting my own instincts/judgment (because usually it is right) instead of seeking the answers from others.
You've had your fair share of heartbreak - tell me as much or as little as you want about that and what would you do differently if you could relive your life?
Ok I got stories but we'd be here all day lol. I've had a lot of reflection of my life for a while now. When it comes to relationships I've not had much luck. I've asked myself "why?" so many times.
My first proper love well I thought was love denied me in public because I was black and he was white and back in day, it was still a bit of a taboo to see a white guy with a black girl. Believe it or not I was with him for 9yrs and in that time he had several white girlfriends he could take home to the parents. But silly me I loved him - yeah right, SMH (shake my head*). This relationship messed me up and set me up to falling in to other dysfunctional relationships. Relationship number 2 was a guy who couldn't do enough for me showed me off to everyone and anyone and bought me whatever I wanted - "yay" you say.... Nope. With that came controlling, physical and verbal abuse and 5yrs of pure hell TBH! Relationship number 3... Well I thought I found my soul mate he was the one so I married him.... Now we are divorced after 8yrs of marriage, we were separated for 4yrs. This relationship included affairs and the ultimate slap in the face was the affair with my then best friend. Despite it all I was married and believed in trying to make it work and forgiving, blah blah, but no, I'm standing here a single parent of two, with no support.
Without boring you with every detail I'm not blaming any of these men. I have to take responsibility for my part. I didn't love myself or respect myself at all so I allowed these things to happen to me. I let them take everything ounce of feeling love etc from me and crush self worth cause I didn't believe in it anyway. As a result of the beat downs I've carried that into other areas of my life. I see that now.
Now I am stronger and know myself more this won't happen again. Speak up and be truthful even if it's gonna hurt. If you don't like it say. If you want something say it. If I could go back I wouldn't have stayed with any of them for as long as I did. No way. I'd of walked away if it couldn't be fixed.
You’ve got 2 gorgeous boys, Reiss and Levi- tell me about them.
Yup, two boys Riece- 8 and Levi- 4. Both crazy and very active boys. Riece is so like me very sensitive and always seeking approval from those around him. He can be so loving and gentle and other times can drive me up the wall with his teenage attitude lol. Levi is so independent, a happy child and full of confidence. Both are really good natured and love people and they are hilarious, especially Levi. He's the family joker for sure. And he adores his big brother so much. I love them both so much and I get so frustrated that I don't have enough time with them being a single parent, I have to work double as hard to support them and keep a roof over their head. I don't get any financial support from their dad or anywhere else it's just me and me only.
You not only teach dance but you are also a YOUnique representative. Since you started to sell these products I’ve notice you begin to take more care of your appearance. How else has the addition of this business affected your life?
Oh yes, I joined YOUnique December 2014. Joining YOUnique means I can now help many women not just feel good but also look good with Younique's amazing product range! This is exactly what it has done for me. I've never been one for make up always been a plain Jane to be honest, I just didn't know how to apply it, make up scared me although I've always loved seeing how some girls are so creative with it. Younique has really helped boast my confidence in so many ways. I'm learning to love looking at myself and I mean really look at myself in the mirror and appreciate all my flaws and recognise my own unique beauty. I've been pushed out my comfort zone taking selfies (which I've always hated and no good at) all part of the job! And yes I'm taking more care of the way I look now. I don't wear loads of make up but I'm using just enough to enhance my own features and I've noticed it's getting me more noticed lol I'm turning a few male heads hahahaha! It's been a while since that happened :-) I feel gorgeous... (Ummm did I just say that lol) feeling this way has given me so much confidence and uplifted me which is helping me to believe in my own unique beauty and the talents I have to offer that no one else has! There's only one of me, right? :-) The added bonus is I am actually making some good extra income which is improving my financial affairs. I.e the extra income allows me to drop some classes to free up some time and letting me indulge in some little luxuries like a holiday with my boys, yaaay! I've made some really good friends with some inspiring women all over the place who are so supportive and opened my eyes to a lot of things. I love being a part of it, it's fun and the best part is it's all about uplifting, empowering and motivating women. As a company we donate a percentage of every sale to support women of childhood sexual abuse get back on their feet which really touches my heart!
There will be young single mums reading this who need inspiration. How do you manage to organise your time to choreograph routines, teach your classes, market your businesses, keep track of people’s orders and still have time to spend with the boys?
Well TBH I find this a big big challenge. Single parenting and working/running a business is not easy. And if you have very limited support with childcare it can seem impossible. I have days I am so frustrated that I don't have time to chill with my kids, time out for me or time out with friends. I feel I have stolen time slots which are so limited and I have for so long stayed up so so late into the night/ early hours of the morning to get work done.
Now I am reorganising and scheduling set days and times to do the things that need doing and leaning new ways to handle things like marketing/social networking that can save me heaps of time. Something simple as pre-scheduling posts once a month in advance on my FB business pages saves me so many hours. Dedicating a day or two in the week to do my admin and learn choreography really helps and I try to do this when the kids aren't with me or are occupied. I do the same with housework one day dedicated to household chores. I have to do the same with spending time with the boys schedule in time to do something with them like the cinema or the park. I use my diary always to keep track of things. Don't let things or people distract you from your plans/schedule. The minute you do this before you know it you have a massive to do list and you become overwhelmed, frustrated and racing to catch up. And this can cause problems in your personal life. Especially if you're with someone. They can become frustrated that your not spending time with them cause your to busy catching up on stuff that should have been done ages ago.
Stay on top of things best you can if you have important stuff to do, do it don't put it off. And if something or someone tries to take you away from that be strong and don't let it happen because trust me, you suffer in the long run.
What is next for you? I know you’ve mentioned you would like to start blogging.
Yes I really want to start blogging. I've thought about this for sooooo long just not sure where to start. I used to write a diary many years ago religiously. Burnt them all long ago wish I hadn't now. It would be interesting to to look back now. But yeah I figured doing a blog about my life etc like a diary and sharing stuff which may inspire/help others and for me would be self help. I always found writing things down really helps me to put them into perspective and seeing others' opinions sometimes can open your eyes or confirm you're not nuts, lol!
I've decided I need to focus on me, my dreams and my family so my big task is to brand myself, just me, not under anyone else's brand/dream. I've been there, done that and it's got me nowhere and brought nothing but disappointment, wasted a lot of my time and money. I'm not looking to come up with my own fitness concept or anything like that. I'm am me and my passion is to use what I am good at to help others. I want to build my own community of people who love what I do and build my new business with YOUnique. In fact Miss Fabulous Zoe, I would love to YOUnique you up with our make up and do a vlog and maybe even Periscope it! You game??
Heck Yeah!! What advice would you have for your teenage self?
Stay way from the boys!!!! Until you at least know, love and respect yourself and know what you want!!
What advice do you have for women both in the fitness industry and in general?
Keep it real. Stop putting pressure on yourself to be like everyone else, to look like everyone else! You are you and you are unique. Find your talent and your passion and use it to do good. Don't look at what others are doing. If it feels right to you do it! Your dreams are your dreams don't let ANYONE tell you you can't. Don't let anyone put you down and tell you you're no good. Don't let anyone make you feel worthless, not pretty enough, not cool enough. If you have people around you that make you feel bad in any shape or form detach yourself from them. If it don't feel right in your soul move on. Doesn't mean these people are bad people, just means these people are not meant for you.
Thank you for such an open and honest interview! Truly inspiring. Any readers out there who can relate to Sylvia's story, PLEASE SHARE AND COMMENT BELOW or contact Sylvia here to order YOUnique products or find out about her classes. xxx