Joy Fennell

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Let’s be real. Life was already interesting enough and then life shifted. Go ahead, you can scream. I sure did. I was moved to write this post because I’ve had more than a few important reflections over the last year-and-a-half. Get your tissues ready because I needed them a lot while writing this, and you’re going to need them, too. (JK, but not really). 


Now that we’re halfway through 2021 (What? Where did the time go?), I finally feel ready to talk about what I’ve learned recently on this journey called life. I hope what I’ve written here helps someone. Anyone. If it does then I’m happy. Mission accomplished. 


Let’s start with Winter 2020, which was undeniably one of the lowest and saddest seasons of my life. I finally started feeling the effects of 2020. I call it the “What the F@ck Year.” At the end of most years, like I’ve always done in the past, I took some time to look back and reflect on what I accomplished. Though I had a lot of wins (you can read more about that in my welcome letter), I also had a lot of tremendous losses. And I could not shake the sadness that came as a result of the losses. This sadness was kicking my ass. Real talk. 

Let’s start at the beginning of this story. March 13, 2020 to be exact – my last day working as a professional, fashion makeup artist on an actual live, in-person photoshoot. There were rumblings of a possible shut down, but I didn’t believe it. I thought people were overreacting and then – BOOM. My livelihood was snatched from under my feet. The career that I had known for almost twenty years was dead in the water. And guess what ladies and gentlemen: I had no backup plan. None. Zero. Zilch. But what came out of that scary period of time was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. 

I, like most people during that time, was living in the upside-down (you Stranger Things fans will totally get what I mean). My livelihood and home were destabilized and my general sense of well-being was rocked to the core. The rest of the year was a blur. Spring, Summer and Fall came and went. Then Winter came and hit like a f*cking mack truck. I’m already someone that gets really low during the winter months. But I was not prepared at all for the sh*t storm tornado that was about to crash into my soul like the house that landed on the Wicked Witch of the East. 


Let me set this up for you: 2021 finally came around with a bang. Yay! New Year full of hope and newness to wash off the stank of last year – but nope. Not so fast. On February 27th I lost one of my dearest friends (the day after her birthday) to Covid. I’ve lost close family members before, but this death hit me differently. Erica Faye Watson was that friend, the one you call and tell the good news to, the one that you stay on the phone for hours with, the one that encouraged you along the way. The one that could and would cuss you out one day and be your staunchest supporter the next. I am willing to bet that we all have that friend and Erica was mine. 

Friends, close friends, best friends can leave this realm and it can feel like one of those middle of the night California earthquakes. These friends are our chosen family and sometimes can even be closer to you than your own family. Erica Faye Watson was that for me. We went through our ups and downs but that didn’t take away our love for each other. She was my sister friend and I was hurt. To the bone hurt and I didn’t even know it. It was the final straw that broke my mental health back. I was now in the throes of a deep depression. There was no coming out of this one without my deep-rooted faith and my wonderful therapist. I had lost my hope. 


My self-esteem took a major hit. I was unmotivated. I was stuck. I was crying all the time. It was way too much. I didn’t know what I was going through. I’ve gone through hard times before, but not like that. This was new to my constitution. I questioned God. Yup, I did. My faith was tested. I asked why so much was being taken from me and the world as I had known it. Everything was gone. In my deepest and darkest hours I prayed a prayer asking, begging, pleading with God to guide me through this grief storm. I had never prayed like that before. And then one day I looked up and realized I’d made it through – wounded, but through. Thank God. 


One thing about uncertainty is that you’re certainly going to have to deal with it one day. It can make you feel like you’re in a cage trying to tame a lion. Who’s going to make it out? It’s like that cliffhanger at the end of a soap opera or Telenovela. You just don’t know what is coming around that corner no matter how much you prepare. Preparation is great, but do the work to build your internal armor too through self-care. Get to that therapist, invest in that meditation app, or plan out a staycation (like a trip to Washington, DC and visit the Eaton DC) that puts you and your needs (mental and physical) front and center. That’s just as important as building your outside amour. 

 Through all of these life changes, what I came to realize is that laughter needs to be included in one’s self-care regimen. Even though I was going through it, I laughed. I had to lean into it. I had to give myself a chance to giggle while talking to my friend Jennifer Fleming, or belly laugh while I watched my friend Bradford Knight bake during his weekly IG Live baking show, or turn on a funny ass TV series like Southside. I had to totally disconnect from social media because when you’re going through something, it can be challenging to be on those platforms because you start to unconsciously compare yourself to other people. You might not even mean to but you do. So I shut out all the noise and turned off the “doom scrolling” to find my JOY again. I can’t stress this enough, but laughter is the key to finding your way back to yourself. 

Life is full circle. I want you to keep in mind if you ever find yourself in the eye of a storm. Just know that sunshine and blue skies are right around the corner. If you find yourself in the middle of your own downpour, there’s no shame in getting advice and/or help. Gone are the days of suffering through for the sake of suffering through. In the meantime, go out and get some sun, pick some flowers, go for a walk, get some fresh air, and be in community. And if you don’t have a community, go out and make one doing what you love or on or Clubhouse.  


So there you have it: the blueprint that I’m using (because the journey hasn’t stopped) to get out of my own way. If you find yourself on a journey similar to mine or even a journey that’s totally different, you can always lean into these four elements to help you get through:


  • Faith – Your faith doesn’t have to look like mine. I believe in God, but that doesn’t mean that your faith shows up the same way and that’s okay. I truly believe that the important takeaway is to go outside of yourself to give yourself some breathing room. 


  • Self-Care – I cannot stress enough just how important this is in your personal journey. You have to take care of yourself. That’s not an option. You have to take time out of your life to re-center and refocus and the only way to do that is to spend time on and with yourself. Speak to a therapist, go to a spa, take yourself on a vacation, or even just read a book by candlelight while you take a luxurious bath. Whatever you dream of, do it!


  • Laughter – This is key. You may have feelings of hopelessness, but if you can laugh then you are still connecting to emotions that make you smile. That’s a good sign. Laughter can awaken or reawaken your spirit. It is healing. Use it all the time. You can’t laugh too much. 


  • Community – Do not overlook this aspect of healing. If you are surrounded by people that do not mean you any good, then create a community that will hold you to your higher self and help you get back to you. I was lucky enough to have another sister-friend Karen in my life. She has my back and sides and provided me with a safe zone to feel all my feelings without judgement. If you look around and your community isn’t doing that for you then it’s time to reconsider and rework your circle. There are literally billions of people on this Earth. Your people are out there. Find them. 


Lastly, just know that you are not alone. There are plenty of people fighting battles that we don’t know about. Give grace and that grace will come back to you tenfold. Empathy, real empathy can go a long way. 


Below are a few resources that you can use just in case you need them. You don’t even have to leave your house to try them. No more suffering in silence: 


Online Counseling Options: 




Mobile Apps: 

If you need a pick me up, use this amazing app – “I AM”

Insight Timer



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I’m Joy and I’m here to let you know that you are perfect and whole just the way you are. Come journey with me as we explore what beauty, true beauty, really means! Let’s lift each other while having fun and making new discoveries. Sounds like a good time to me so.. Let’s Stay in Touch! 

All Black Everything summit 




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