Conversations Magazine Special Issue

Conversations Magazine Special Issue
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Saturday, January 11, 2020

[To You, From Me] Why Your Story Matters

We've all heard the saying that "Everyone has a story". I have definitely found that to be true.

This special edition of Conversations Magazine, our first issue of 2020 really sets the stage for what I hope will be another inspiring year for you, our reader. We want you to know that everyone---yourself included---has a story that deserves to be told.

I loved putting together this issue as it showcases that no matter where we come from or how others might see us, there is so much we have to offer the world. I look at my life, the highs and the lows, and realize that it all has helped me to be the person I am today.

I know what it's like to feel invisible. I know what it's like to not realize that my voice mattered. When I was able to embrace my power, however, and start sharing with the world it changed everything for me. The same can be true for you, too.

As you go through this magazine think about yourself. Try to see yourself in the stories of those that we profile. That is sure to encourage you to realize that your story is just as valuable. All you have to do is recognize that and then take the steps necessary to share it.

Lots of great things are happening for Conversations this year, for our radio show, the magazine, book club and other projects. Stay connected with us along the way, and please feel free to share with us how you are going to make 2020 the year that you let your voice be heard.



Cyrus Webb, Editor-In-Chief
Conversations Magazine
www.cyruswebb.com

Author Donjala Smith-Thomas: Letting Go of the Pain through Words

by Cyrus Webb

It's not easy to move past events in our life that have been traumatic and left a scar of any kind, but with her book NEVER LET THEM SEE YOU SWEAT author Donjala Smith-Thomas shows that it can be done.

First she is able to honestly and openly share the mistakes she made in life and relationships, and then we are able to see how she has been able to move forward, not to allow the mistakes of the past to define her. This book is not just her testimony but also an opportunity for the reader to add their own journey to its pages. This forms a connection with Donjala and a way for others not feel alone in their experiences.

If you are looking for an example of what is possible and how you can move forward past your pain, then this inspiring book is for you.

I had a chance to talk with Donjala on Conversations LIVE the radio show about the book and her journey. Here is a part of our conversation.

Donjala, thanks for the time. What has it been like for you to see the way people have responded to the book? 
It has been an amazing experience just to see how many lives I have touched. You never know who's hurting and who's bottling up their feelings and emotions within.

I am glad I read the book. It really gives us some great motivation for ourselves but also insight into your own life and life lessons. Did you know going into writing the book knowing you were going to share so much about yourself? 
When I first started writing I didn't really think I would be so transparent and honest until I really got into it. Tears were rolling down my face. I knew that in order to help someone and inspire someone, you must be honest with yourself. It makes no sense to put out something that's not really true, because it won't help anyone. The more you can help and inspire someone you can also heal yourself.

One of the things that you're able to share is what you were able to see in your own home for over a decade when it came to the treatment of your mother. How did that impact you, Donjala? What was it like for you to reflect on that abuse and the impact it had on you?
Well, I must say this first. My book was not intended to bash my mother or my father. It was just the fact of what actually happened to me. Initially growing up, I never wanted to be like my mother, because I saw that she didn't love herself. And as I grew up, I ended up almost becoming like her and following the same footsteps. But I had to realize that I had to step back a minute and reflect on what my past was in order to not follow the same footsteps. I knew there was something missing. It was self love. You have to love yourself first, because if you truly don't love yourself, you're going to go out there and try to find love with someone else who might not love you.

How has that helped you to realize the importance of you and taking that time for yourself? 
When it comes to self love I struggled with it for years. It's very important to take time with yourself and not just doing things as far as work and hanging out. I mean really getting to know who you are. This could be through practicing meditation or writing. Just getting near a peaceful place to actually think about yourself and listen to yourself. Look in the mirror. Mirror talks are necessary and amazing. You have to really get to know yourself, because people are out here walking around and living life not knowing who they actually are. How can you love someone else when you don't love yourself? 

Last thing I want to talk with you about is forgiveness. How important has forgiveness been for you? 
Forgiveness is very important. It's not for the person that treated you wrong. It's for yourself. At the end of the day, if you're holding on to who's hurt you, they still have control over you. You have to let that hurt go. Let it go. Forgive, not saying forget it, but just forgive and release that negative energy and just to be a peacefully.

Stay connected with Donjala at www.thomasdiaries.com.

Actor (and now Author) William Sanderson: A Man with a Story to Tell

by Cyrus Webb

When I began reading William Sanderson's book YES, I'M THAT GUY I couldn't help but think of that tagline from a popular show that said "You think you know, but you have no idea..." There was so much about his life and career that I DIDN'T know that he opens up about, giving us a look at how he became the man we all have felt as though we know and love---and the journey to getting there.

In 2019 I also had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Sanderson on Conversations LIVE the radio show. I asked him about the writing of the book and sharing his life with the world.  "I had some sleepless nights," he told me about writing and publishing the book. "I had some feelings of inadequacy, because I'm not a real writer. I had put down about 900 pages or so, and then I realized it's not very organized. I had to get some external help, a young man in Hollywood. I found I could talk with him and get my story out that way. My wife Sharon also helped me. It was also fun to get my words down there. It might be the stupidest thing I've ever done. It could be self sabotage. I get to thank people. I get to clarify a few things. So we'll see."

The book takes you into the moments that meant a lot to him growing up, especially the impact and growth of Elvis Presley---and the way he was drawn into the entertainment world and began working in the industry while fighting his own personal demons. In talking about Elvis he told me "When I was around him I'd keep my distance, but I loved his music. We all thought we knew Elvis, or we all think we know people, right? We find out later that we probably didn't know them as well as we thought. The saying is it's better not to meet your heroes, but I had a bunch of them. I got to meet a few of them, and most of them didn't let me down."

Sanderson shares openly about the danger he was to himself and though there have been amazing highs there have been some devastating lows that have accompanied him as well. "I still don't know the wisdom of it," he told me when it comes to sharing some of his darker moments. "What I was thinking is, my goodness, you got so many second chances it's a little bit of a minor miracle to do those things. But if you don't put something in a book that's disgraceful then you're probably lying."

When talking about readers of the book being inspired by his story he shared this: "Well, I don't think I was that noble at first, but after talking with a couple of people I think I can help someone. I want them to know that your dreams can come true. If you work hard and you have a little luck it pays off. It does take some guts. You will take a lot of rejection. It's a little scary." At the end of the day, though, he is thankful for the road. "What I feel great gratitude," he told me. "I'm just a character actor." 

At the end of the book you're able to see the body of work he has amassed, the stories that go along with it as well as the lessons he has learned that he is now able to impart to others. At times humorous, reflective and completely candid, this is the kind of book that anyone who wants to make an impact in the world should read. It reminds you of the importance of not just discovering your passion but learning yourself---and that can sometimes be the best reward.

Follow William Sanderson on Instagram at www.instagram.com/actor_william_sanderson. Get the book YES, I'M THAT GUY on Amazon.

All Sports Head Gear's Robert Helm: From Idea to a New Innovative Brand


by Cyrus Webb

There is nothing like having a vision and then doing the work necessary to turn it into a reality. That is exactly what Robert Helm has been able to do, and now he is able to share it literally with the world.

Robert and I have never met each other in person, but we connected on social media several years ago. He's an individual who likes to inspire and to educate others. He's now also celebrating a great entrepreneurial venture called All Sports Head Gear, a revolutionary product that allow you to stay comfortable during work and play at an affordable price. In this conversation we discuss his journey.

Robert, this is a big year for you with All Sport Head Gear. Let's talk about that for a moment and then we're going to go back to your journey. How does it feel to have had an idea and now to be able to have it available for the world to have?
Well I have to say it is very exciting. I've kind of coined myself as an inventor since I was a young person, always looking for solutions to problems, and I feel like I really hit it big this time because I have developed a product that is really simple yet sophisticated.

One of the things that everyone I think knows is of course of your passion for young people, being able to inspire them and to educate them. You mentioned being an inventor. Have you always known that you had something that you were supposed to share with others?
I have to say as I got older, got married and had children, I think that's the point when I started to realize that I had a purpose in life that was bigger than me. From there, just going through the roles of parenting and marriage and things like that, I realized that having a positive relationship with my wife and building a strong relationship with my kids could be beneficial for other people. And that kind of started my journey off into wanting to help motivate and encourage others.

That's exactly what you've been able to do. I like the fact that you mentioned, Robert, their being bigger than you. I think a lot of times people don't realize that that the gifts that they have are not just for them. Of course it is to benefit other people. So when you see the work that you've been able to do, Robert, being able to do just that—to benefit other individuals, as I mentioned, either through inspiring them, through educating them, through motivating them—does that make you feel then along this path you're doing exactly what you're supposed to be doing?
Yes, but it seems like my life just continues to evolve, and I continue to find things. As I say, my kind of natural instinct is always to look for solutions to problems.

I think the other thing is that people will find out about you, Robert, is that you kind of approach the world with eyes wide open. And what I mean by that is a lot of times we get so focused on our stuff that we miss out on opportunities. You and I had a great conversation where you kind of were talking to me about the inspiration for All Sports Head Gear. Share that with our audience.
With the All Sports Head Gear it was one of those things that was kind of like a fluke. I was sitting with a really, really good friend of mine who's actually a custom clothing designer. We were sitting and talking and I think I was watching YouTube or one of those online video streaming sites, and I happened to see Steph Curry sitting on the sideline with a towel over his head. It kind of pushed me back to my younger days when I played sports. I started thinking why people did that, put a towel over their heads. Some people do it to keep their bodies warm. Some people do it if they're embarrassed or whatever and you don't want to be bothered with looking at other people or other people seeing them.

From that point something just triggered. I grabbed an old towel out of my linen closet, took a permanent marker and started drawing on this cloth. It was kind of like an epiphany moment. My friend the designer grabbed a pair of scissors and started cutting out what I did and within a matter of 15 minutes we had a prototype that had both of us like “Wow. This can be a really amazing thing”.

Actually before this interview I was just reflecting on that and watching the videos, cause I had documented it all through video and through pictures. It was just reliving that experience all over again. There's times, as you said, if you have your eyes wide open and you're always looking for opportunities. It’s about trying to put possibilities into perspective. It is the little things sometime that have the greatest impact. That's what I really see:  the idea for head gear as being a really simple thing, like I said, that becomes a sophisticated product that can have a major impact on athletes around the world. I'm really excited about that.

Thanks for sharing that! Really an inspiring story. Lots in there for our audience to get value from. One things you talked about, though, that is definitely important is being able to cooperate with others. What was it like for you to have people in your circle, Robert, who can be able to compliment the skills and the talents that you have?
Oh, I think it's a God-send for sure. When you are the kind of person who is always looking to solve problems in that process, you realize either you don't have money or you don't have skills sometimes to do things. There’s nothing like having a network of people that you can lean on who believe in you and who care for you in a way that they're willing to contribute to your efforts. And I think most entrepreneurs that we talk to, successful entrepreneurs especially, will be able to share that same type of attitude.

I know when I first started out as an entrepreneur, you know, it was like, “I gotta do this”. I got an idea, and I wanted to keep it secret, keep it to myself so nobody would steal it. What I found is that that's really counterproductive, because as an entrepreneur one of the most valuable things that you can receive is feedback from your peers and from the consumer market. Those things can really help get you over the hurdles that you will encounter trying to do everything yourself.

Social media has been a big part of your marketing. One of the things you were able to share on social media are individuals wearing All Sports. How does that feel to see something that began in your head now on somebody else's head?
it's heart-warming, and it's encouraging and inspiring.  Being able to see people using the product, people enjoying the product, and in some cases people identifying uses for the product I hadn't even considered is great. It just really makes me feel encouraged and wanting to continue developing more products.

You mentioned the uses for the All Sports Head Gear. What are some of the other things you've been seeing and even being able to share with people, Robert, that they can use the all sports hit gear for?
It's funny. I created the product, but then I talked to other people about how they thought the product could be used. I also turned to the internet, googling how people were using towels for different applications. I spoke to one individual that told me that he thought it was great for sports and athletics and all that, but he also thought it would be good for people who go to football games sitting outside in the sun and are sweating. Even good for when it was cold outside or raining.  It was made for all of that. And we even took it a step further by adding a pouch in the neck area of the product so that if you know it was hot outside, you could put an ice pack in there, and it could help keep you cool.

So excited for you, Robert. I know this is going to be a great year for All Sports Head Gear and you. Last thing I want to ask is your advice. What do you hope our audience realizes about the importance of acting on our gifts. What would you say to them about the importance of acting on it and walking in line with that gift?
As you said, we all have gifts and there's no doubt I think one of the biggest struggles in life is identifying what that gift is. The only way to find out what that gift is in my mind is to act on every opportunity that is revealed or presented to you. And through that process you can begin to either develop your gifts or find the gifts and then you should certainly act on that gift without hesitation. Some people live and die with ideas, and they never have an opportunity to manifest into the world. My belief is the more ideas and concepts that you are able to unfold and manifest into this world, it has a greater possibility and greater potential to be able to help generations to come.

Discover the world of All Sports Head Gear at www.allsportsheadgear.com

LaWanna Bradford: Building A Business and Brand One Day at a Time

by Cyrus Webb

I've known LaWanna Bradford now for over a decade, and it's been great to see not just the ways she has grown her business but also empowered others along the way. As the founder of The Bradford Group and through her work  with the Celebrate You community, she displays through example what happens when you work hard, push forward and inspire along the way. One of her latest projects has been to add bestselling author to her name, having taken part in two anthologies, the most recent being 31 WAYS OF INFLUENCE.

In this conversation we discuss her work up to this point and what she hopes others realize about what they can achieve. 

LaWanna, it’s great to catch up with you again. You have been able to find your own path when it comes to entrepreneurship and success. Why has it been so important for you to help others, in particularly women to do the same?  
I have always enjoyed helping others, particularly women who are navigating their careers and developing their businesses. I understand the struggles of both the professional and entrepreneur, and have personally navigated many turbulent waters in both of these areas. As such, I believe that I have acquired a wealth of experience that can serve to guide and support women so that they are positioned to avoid the mistakes that I made and achieve their respective goals with minimal pain.

My mindset is rooted in the following advice from my mother, which is to “learn from the mistakes of others because you cannot live long enough to make them all yourself.” I hope that at the end of the day women are able to learn and grow from my experiences and my challenges

Have you always known that you were meant to be a leader? When did it become the clearest to you?
I believe that everyone is a leader in some context of their life. Some have a higher call that has them at the forefront addressing issues and leading causes.  Leadership as you know, extends far beyond the official title or position that one may hold. When I look back on my life, I have always been one to influence, inspire, and be a voice to those who feel they do not have a voice. In recent years I think things started to become clearer and my leadership path more defined as I began to revel in my authenticity and my truth.

Today in my leadership roles as a chapter leader of a national women’s organization and founder of the Celebrate You Women Embracing Wellness & Life movement, I pray that my leadership character is demonstrative in my service, humility, self-control, humor, and positive attitude toward life and others.

Who are some of the leaders you have been inspired by? 
There are several from whom I received inspiration. The ones that immediately come to mind are Shirley Chisholm, Nelson Mandela, Gloria Steinem, and Oprah.  What these four all have in common is their global fight for women’s rights and for those who are disenfranchised.  One of the quotes that I love from Nelson Mandela is, “Freedom cannot be achieved unless the women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression.”

In 2019 you definitely brought women together to inspire, motivate and empower them. What has it been like to have these offline events? 
It has been quite exciting to have people who are willing to come offline and engage in a face-to-face platform.  I have found that through this type of interaction, women are allowing themselves to be more vulnerable and more authentic than on a social platform. These groups take the spotlight off of them, if you will, and creates a level of intimacy that allows transparency and trust to blossom.

Through our Celebrate You offline events, I have found that the notion of “sisterhood” is one that is not only expressed, but felt and experienced by those who participate.

We have talked about fear before on the radio show. It’s one of those things that stop so many from pursuing their own goals and dreams. Tell our readers what has helped you to not given in to it?
Many of us have heard the saying that fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. We tend to fear that which has not yet happened. We have placed ourselves in the seat of anticipation that doom and gloom is around the next corner. In reference to goals and dreams, it is an interesting paradox that individuals often find themselves in a dichotomy whereby they fear failure as equally as they fear success.

Most would nod and say that they understand the fear of failing because we are often concerned about how we are being perceived and what other’s think about us. Often we use the opinion of others as a barometer to evaluate our self-worth and value. This, unfortunately, should never be the case, but we have all been there at one point in our lives wondering what people are thinking. This brings me to a truism that I heard a couple of years ago that made me smile. When we are in our 20s and 30s, we worry about what other people think. In our 40s and 50s, you stop worrying about what other people think. Finally in your 60s and 70s, you realize that they were never thinking about you in the first place.

Now today, when I look back over my life, the things that I “feared” were the unknown: the unknown outcome, the unknown players, the unknown reactions or expectations. However, I learned to quickly trust myself and realize that the opposite of fear is FAITH: For All Things I Trust Him. Therefore, if I truly trust GOD, then I have to lean on Him and trust that where my step is ordered, there will be guidance, wisdom, support and encouragement along the way. When I rest in that knowledge, I rest in a state of peace where fear cannot reside.

Love that. LaWanna, you and I connected online. In fact at the time of this discussion we haven’t met in person, but I know it’s coming. How has social media helped you to rally the troops as it were and bring like-minded individuals together? 
Yes, our face-to-face is coming soon! Social media has helped me to establish a presence and a reach in an exponential manner that would have taken much longer to achieve using traditional methods of face-to-face networking or warm/cold calls. Through the channels that I most often use at this time, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, I have been able to tailor messages that cross the globe. I have been able to have meaningful engagement in an open format where I allow the audience or my tribe, if you will, to see my humanity, which at times includes my frailties. Basically it is a platform that allows me to create improved reality.

You are now a published author. I know we both are big readers as well, LaWanna. What is a title or two that has impacted you that you want to share with others?
I just completed The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha, which is about how you can live a happier life in your time, your career, your relationships and your family.  It is an easy and great introspective read. Another book that I read is called The Answer by John Assaraf that addresses scientifically how our minds are connected to the world through our subconscious and that we have the power to change the results that we are getting. I have read this book before, but it is one of those books that as life transitions and as I mature in different areas, I like to pick it up again to see what new nuggets fall from the pages.

Though we try to enjoy the moment we both have so many things that we’re looking forward to. What should our readers expect next from you? 
We have several great events and initiatives planned for 2020. With The Bradford Group (TBG), we are going to expand more into the commercial markets for lending.  The one thing that we are focused on with TBG is developing a training webinar series and soon to be event that are designed exclusively for novice and intermediate women investors. As a serial entrepreneur, I will be expanding my training within the Art of Strategic Planning, and will continue my speaking engagements in this area with the upcoming It Takes Money Honey Women Empowerment Cruise in March 2020. We will also begin the launch of our online Art of Strategic Planning Webinar second quarter 2020.

Thanks so much for this time, LaWanna. Continued success to you. How can our readers stay connected with you? 
My website is www.bradfordgroupmtg.com. My email is lawanna@bradfordgroupmtg.com. i can also be reached by phone at 404-618-2824. Thank you so very much, Cyrus. I enjoyed the interview, and I wish you nothing but life’s best.


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Model/Actor Thai Edwards: Reaping the Reward From Doing the Work

by Cyrus Webb

There are few people I know who work as hard as Thai Edwards. He's a model, fitness expert and actor that has been able to make a name for himself doing work that he loves---and the world is taking notice. We first connected about 6 years ago. We both finished 2019 on a high note, with my celebrating now 16 years of hosting Conversations LIVE the radio show and him landing a role on the hit show SISTAS on BET and winning Actor of the Year at the Mayan Industry Awards. In this chat we discuss his career, the year that is 2019 and what it's been like to see all the hard work pay off.

You and I had a chance to sit down when we were in Los Angeles recently for an episode of Cyrus Webb Presents. It goes without saying you've had a very busy 2019. What has it been like for you to reflect on this year and all the great things that have happened for you?
You know what? It's funny you say that, because I've been in LA 12 years. I've just been working. Working with my head down. I really can't stop to appreciate all the things that have been happening. It was just recently when I took a step back and was like, 'Wait a minute. You really are doing this thing, and you're doing it in a really big way.' So, it's been a journey, man. It's been a journey. I'm blessed.

You definitely have been blessed, and you are an example for a lot of different reasons. One, I think the resilience that you've been able to have. The consistency is definitely important. But I think what I found out, and you and I had talked about already before, is that you have not always had an easy. You've gone through your challenges. You've gone through your dark spots. I guess an obvious question would be for people out there that are just now getting to know more about your story is what do you think kept you from giving up? 
It's the fear of failure that has been something that always frightened me. When you've been told that you weren't going to be anything or you know, everybody always counting you out, the thing that resonated with me the most is proving them wrong. Even in my darkest hour I've overcome so much in my life. How could I give up now? So I just keep pushing and that's pretty much what it is, man. I'm not comfortable with just being okay. I wanted to be better than okay, I deserve a good life. In spite of all that I've gone through and conquered. Now that I've met the finish line I might as well cross it. That's my mindset.

And I think along the way you've been able to build this amazing tribe around yourself. Of course people online have gotten to know you, and a big part of what you've been able to do is to inspire and motivate. How important is that for you to be able to be yourself, to have fun, but also to let people know what they can do with their lives, too?
Man, at the end of the day it's about touching people and impacting people. I mean, although I love what I do: making movies, being on television. Above all I love being able to influence someone or make somebody else's day. Everybody is going through something, and you just never know what someone may need from you. The thing that I appreciate most and what I've been concentrating most on as far as my brand is getting a foothold in this industry. At the end of the day you have to be yourself, and no one is one way all the time.

Part of the double edge sword that you'd been a part of is social media, Thai. That's how you and I have stayed connected. That's how this conversation actually happened. You talk about the importance of keeping it real. What do you think has kept you grounded along the way?
I just don't know how to be anything other than authentic. I'm from Chicago, the south side of town. That's just the hood. I just can't find myself being anything other than me. If people don't like you for who you are, those are the people that aren't supposed to be in your life. I think also the older I get, the more I don't care about fitting in. I mean I've always stood out, but even more so the older you get you really just start developing and knowing who you are as an individual. And you don't need a lot of approval.

I thank God that I had a hard life, because I'm able to connect with so many people who find it hard, those trying to get through whatever they're going through. I don't look like none of the things that I told you about me. I'm okay, and if I can do it, you can do it too. So that's pretty much how I go about doing things, man. That's my goal. If I can touch somebody, if I can make someone smile, if I can make someone feel a certain way, I've done my job. That's a wonderful feeling to me.

Another big highlight for you this year was sharing the screen with Shamar Moore on the show S.W.A.T.  He did a great video on March 7th on your Instagram. You've done a lot of projects before S.W.A.T., but what was that experience like for you?
It's beyond words. There are still some people who see what I'm doing and don't understand. When I was there with Shamar it became real to them. For me to be there with him it was proof of what I am doing. He gave me a bunch of support. We had a really good time. I would love to do it again if they bring my character back. If they do it's going to be trouble. (smile)

When people do recognize you, when people do see you and recognize what you bring to the table, is that a form of validation of the path that you've on?
Absolutely. I don't ever do this for the notoriety or to get credit. I do it because I love acting. I love the job. I love being outside of my normal self, but when I get recognized for it, yeah,it feels good.

An obvious question would be with the buzz that you're getting this year, with all the great things happening with you, what does success look like for you now?
Man, you know what? I am so open. I am so open to whatever God has for me. I hope to do more acting and modeling. I really do want to start switching my gears on doing a whole lot more public speaking. I will be working on my book, on my life story. It's just so many things that I want to do. Everything I'm doing is all for people. It's for the community. I just want to be able to completely use my platform to go into whatever endeavor possible.

Stay connected with Thai on Instagram at www.instagram.com/officialthaiedwards.