Empowering Single Mothers to Live Their Healthiest Lives

The balm skincare tribe met Shaniqua Garvin at the Healthy Brand Showcase in NYC this spring. She was the perfect combination of someone brimming with life and an overcoming spirit.

Shaniqua’s life, in her own words, has been a road of constant change. Not only did she lose her husband to a long health battle a few years ago, she’s also a single mother to her 7 year old son, DJ. She’s owned her own company, inspired many with her blog, and went on a weight loss journey with Oprah this past year. Yes, Oprah! You read that right! Our marketing leader, Katie, spoke with Shaniqua recently to gain some much needed inspiration….and the details on meeting Oprah of course:

Katie Schacht (Ks): I’m so excited to get to meet you! I unfortunately missed the NYC event, but my team told me all about you!

Shaniqua Garvin (Sg): Yes, that event was great and I really enjoyed meeting balm. The company is really doing something wonderful that I want to support.

Ks: We love that you think so, thanks! I know you received your sample products because you gave us a great shout-out on your Instagram account (thanks by the way)! How was your experience with the regimen?

Sg: I really liked it! I loved it, I wanted to use more! I was surprised that I got the same results I would’ve expected from a traditional skincare regimen with something that was completely raw and natural. I loved the way it all worked together in combination also. The cleanser +  buffing grains worked great for me because I need extra care around my nose especially, so I was thankful you had an exfoliating step. I liked that the toner removed even more dirt than I thought I had on my skin too. Even after cleansing I used the toner and I still saw dirt on my cotton ball, so it took a few wipes for my skin to get completely clean – so glad I had it take care of that for me! I loved the way my skin looked after the toning water in particular. I felt like my skin was so clean and really luminous. My favorite step was the moisturizer. It felt SO good. It gave my skin the balance it needed and felt so fresh. I absolutely loved it.

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Ks: Aw, thank you, we’re so glad you liked it! So, tell me, I know that you’ve had a great journey as a blogger and then this amazing Oprah opportunity came into your life where you were featured on an Oprah Magazine cover this year, so you have to tell me how this happened for you!

Sg: Yeah it’s been a crazy ride. So, I actually was a party planner for children’s birthday parties for awhile, while my husband was sick. To get out of my own head and not focus on my life's stressors I began my parenting and lifestyle blog, Brown Media Mama. I also started going back to school, and I was working full time, all while raising my son, DJ. In juggling so many hats I would often over eat and consume a lot of alcohol. I started putting on a lot of weight, and I was at the heaviest I had ever been when my husband passed away. Losing my husband, and my doctors' advice catapulted me into a desire to lose weight and be healthy. It's funny in early January 2016 I remember hearing that Oprah had partnered with Weight Watchers, and I thought to myself "wow she is going on a health journey too so I need to go on it with her." As my luck would have it my friend Danielle asked me if I had seen the open casting call for Oprah Magazine's weight loss journey feature; it was seeking women that had a desire of losing weight after a loss, a break up, etc. I emailed the casting director about being a single mom/widow and my story, along with why I had a desire to lose weight. I immediately got a call back to audition, and after the audition I got the booking the next day! I was chosen to share my story!

Ks: That is an amazing story. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. I became a mom this year and I couldn’t even imagine doing what you do as a single mom. I respect it so much.

Sg: Thank you. I never imagined going from a married woman with a family to a single mom. It's not easy but I am so glad to have been blessed with so many wonderful opportunities that have allowed me to grow and heal. 

Ks: I love that. You know at balm we believe that everyone has a story also. That’s how we talk about our brand, that’s how we want people to learn about us, through our story with our families’ cancer battles and everything; so I love that you found your way to Oprah through your story as well. Everyone should share their stories more often, right?!

Sg: Yes well it certainly worked out for me. O magazine selected me to be a part of the weight loss feature, journaling my progress over the course of a year. 

I will never forget the moment Oprah walked into the magazine's photoshoot, and that's when we found out she would be in the pictures with us. As an added surprise, as Oprah was leaving that day she told us we would be on the cover, and that she was going through the weight loss challenge with us...I balled my eyes out. 

Ks: That would’ve been so crazy! So what went through your mind at that point?

Sg: I was frozen in shock at first but so elated.  You won’t believe this, but the photoshoot took place just days before the anniversary of my husband’s death, and the magazine came out the month of my wedding anniversary so it really gave me something to distract me from grieving (which I was grateful for). I believe that all of this has been my husband’s way of giving me the comfort I needed. It was as if he said “think about this, focus over here and on all of these good things. Get healthy.” 

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Ks: I cannot believe all that! That’s so awesome, I have chills. How confirming for you that must have been.

Sg: Yes it certainly was.

Ks: So tell me, I know you’re healthier now and the challenge is over but what was that like for you? How did you lose this weight?

Sg: Well immediately O Magazine provided us with a year gym membership at Equinox, as well as an Up band. Other companies reach out to me too, so I personally have protein powder supplied by 22 Days Nutrition, and my full training regimen was supported by TMPL Gym. TMPL gave me a nutritionist, trainer and membership along with a metabolic screening to track my progress.

Ks: Exercising the old fashioned way! What side of that equation was hardest for you? The gym or the diet?

Sg: It’s definitely the diet. Like I said, I emotionally eat and so I had to break that habit. Now when I’m feeling triggered I try to focus my efforts on journaling or something rather than on eating for example. I’m learning ways to work with my body instead of against it.

Ks: That’s a great tip. I’m so glad that you found that method that works for you. And that you’re feeling great of course.

Sg: Yes, thank you! I got all the numbers that my doctors were warning me about back down to healthy levels so I’m feeling good, and now it’s more about the cosmetic side of the journey. Like now that I’m healthy I need to tone up and decide how I want to look and everything.

Ks: So to keep that weight off (which you will) are you focusing on a certain diet?

Sg: I believe in balance. You can’t be 100%, 100% of the time. But I’m just trying to eat clean as much as possible, and use natural and healthy products. 

Ks: And have you changed your son’s eating and exercise habits as a result of all of this that you’ve learned?

Sg: Yes so he’s 7 and he understands all of this fully. He has seen my struggle and my changes. He is predisposed to everything that his father passed away from so it’s scary. The doctors looked at me and said he was in a sense destined for his father’s fate if we didn’t take control of his health - so that’s what we’re doing. We eat clean, whole foods. He no longer complains when we only have veggies for dinner, or when I switch his French Fries to sweet potato fries…he’s on board. I believe that I can help curb his risks with better lifestyle habits, and that’s a gift I want to give him. I really learned from Oprah and this challenge that you can avoid many of these medications by just making better lifestyle choices. You don’t necessarily have to be on medication – there are natural lifestyle changes that can be made to work for you! It’s really empowering to understand that.

Ks: I LOVE that you said that, I completely agree. You know, my mom had cancer twice and we did a lot of research and sought alternative treatments through that process. We learned so much; I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve seen that happen in my personal life, and of course balm as a company agrees with you. That’s where we really want to come alongside our customers - to help them find those ways to live healthier and more natural lives. There’s a lot of overwhelming choices out there when you’re trying to do it! We want to help!

Sg: Yes it’s so needed! I agree with you, that’s what I want to do from my standpoint as a single mother also. I’m working now on turning my blog toward healthier lifestyle choices, and I’m working with brands and companies to keep me motivated personally in that vein, but I also want to inspire and inform others, specifically widows and single moms. I feel that single mothers have a hard road. It’s one that not many understand and it’s very isolating. If I can be vulnerable and put my story out there for others, and if it can reach someone out there and inspire her to live a healthier life – that will make me happy.

Ks: That is a beautiful goal. I don’t know of many “healthy ambassadors” specifically for single mothers so I would imagine this would be a welcomed presence in their lives. Yours is an incredible story for all mothers, let alone widows who have been in your shoes. Speaking of incredible things, you have to tell me….what was Oprah like!? What did you learn from her?

Sg: Haha! She was wonderful, just normal and lovely. She also taught me an appreciation for balance in your diet. She even shared a recipe with me for mashed cauliflower + one potato to make "healthier" mashed potatoes. She's also the most high energy person I've ever met.

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Ks: That sounds awesome! I’d love to have an Oprah recipe! Well that’s so great. I am so glad we got to chat and I was able to learn your story. You really have my heart. I’m so inspired by you. Know that you’re doing amazing things and that you’re on to bigger and better accomplishments every day for you and your son. I'm also so glad to know that there are other women out there that, like us at balm skincare, want to empower others to live a naturally healthy lifestyle. It's so good to connect!

Sg: Thank you! I agree, and if there’s one thing I can leave your readers with it would be that you should be transparent about your experiences in life, and let people in on your journey. That’s what I’m working on with regard to my blog right now. As I transition into a healthier lifestyle personally post-weightloss-challenge, my blog readers will do that with me. So, I’m being really open and honest about it all – the good, the bad and the ugly. I’m telling my audience when I don’t want to eat kale, and why I almost binged, and how I avoid my triggers. It’s my hope that this transparency will connect us all, especially widows and single mothers, and that we can all help each other as we journey toward leading our healthiest lives. I want to pull those women out of the shadows they may be living in, and inspire them to get the information they need to make big changes.

Ks: You’re doing an amazing job. Please keep up this amazing work. Tell DJ we say hello!

Sg: Will do. Thank you I certainly will.  

To keep up with Shaniqua subscribe to her blog at ShaniquaGarvin.com.

Shaniqua was kind enough to share the behind the scenes footage from the O Magazine cover photoshoot; you can get the details here. To see all the updates on the challenge and the participants' amazing results, click here.