By Tonnisha English
When Morgan A. Owens enters the room, you can’t help but to be drawn to her confidence, smile, and kind demeanor. Despite what many people may believe, it hasn’t always been easy for Morgan to exude the obvious self-love she has now. In fact, it was only in the last few years that she began to embrace the beauty she had on the outside, and truly feel it on the inside.
As the baby of the family, Morgan always felt love and comfort in her home. It was when she was at school that she questioned if all of the affirmations she received from her mother and father were real, or if they just said it because as parents, it was their job to make her feel good.
The beginning of grade school was when the shift started to happen for Morgan. In kindergarten, she came home from school crying to her father because a girl in class didn’t want to play with her. She told her father, “I want blonde hair and blue eyes.” When he asked why, she told him that a girl said she didn’t want to play with her because she was brown. Her father then told her, “God picked a special color for you.” Her response was, “Even though that girl was mean to me, she’s still my friend.”
This interaction gives just a glimpse into Morgan’s character. Whether you’re a naysayer or supporter, she always treats people kind and respective, even if they are mean to her.
While she wasn’t quite interested in boys just yet, in fourth grade she began to notice that she did not get nearly as much attention from them as the other girls in class.
In sixth-grade, the “boys have cooties” mentality faded away, and Morgan took fancy to one classmate in particular. When he was asked if he liked her, too, his response was: “She’s pretty, but she would be prettier if she wasn’t fat.” For the first time, Morgan had heard the word “fat” associated with her appearance. From this point forward, the uncertainty began to sink in.
In high school she was cheerleader, so being active resulted in her losing a lot of weight. Morgan was finally starting to feel more confident in her appearance. Those positive thoughts about her body were quickly tarnished when her coach told her she should lose some weight. Morgan was aware that her teammates were thinner, and often times wished she could wear some of the things they did, but at home she was praised and embraced for having thick thighs, as most Black girls have, so she was confused as to why she was shamed for it at school.
By tenth grade, the bullying had ended, but Morgan was still bothered by the lack of attention of boys, and the obvious size difference between herself and other girls in school. Her feelings of self-doubt quickly escalated to the point that Morgan no longer wanted to live. Morgan believed that the bullying she faced in the past, and her feelings of lack of self love was her own fault. She thought that if she could just somehow be different, all of the bad would disappear.
If you don’t know this already, Morgan is resilient. Despite being called “fat,’’ having a classmate not wanting to play with her because her skin color was different, feeling ashamed of her body, and even being bullied by the small percentage of African Americans in her predominately White school, Morgan’s kind spirit was not completely broken and a fresh start was on the horizon; college.
In 2005, Morgan attended college at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) where she would later obtain her Bachelors of Arts in English and Creative Writing. This felt like a fresh start for Morgan. It was an opportunity to meet new people, and create the life she always wanted.
Morgan was finally starting to embrace her body, but still didn’t feel the self-love she was searching for. The constant battle she was having with herself led to bad relationships, and low-confidence led to partying and attracting the wrong attention. One day she came to realization that she was accepting the minimum because she still did not love herself the way she needed to. Morgan had made a lot of progress by the time college ended, but she knew there was something more she was called to do.
Post-graduate life initially meant working four jobs trying to figure it all out. After multiple interviews and a lot of “no’s,” she landed her first real job as marketing communications coordinator at Cincinnati State.
Morgan was naturally a hustler and completely self-driven and motivated., so sitting still at a desk was never an option. Working the 9-5 was not fulfilling and she believed that she could make a major impact on the world.
After a friend gifted her a zumba class for a wedding, she enjoyed it so much and thought, “I could do this!” In 2014, Curvy Cardio was born and she began to share her journey to self love with the world. The mission of Curvy Cardio is to empower and inspire other women to understand that no matter what they look like, they should love themselves and be happy for the skin they’re in.
Getting Curvy Cardio off the ground was no easy feat. After Morgan lost 40 pounds, she decided to get vulnerable and transparent by posted before and after pictures online to show her progress. People were impressed by how she transformed her life and immediately began to embrace her and wanted to know more about her experience.
Seeing Curvy Cardio come into fruition reminded Morgan that if you have self love, you can do anything you want. She also knew she wouldn’t have the confidence to follow her dreams if she did not love herself first.
From there she got serious about her business and got a logo, started a retail line, and began to fully build her brand. She preaches support and lifting one another up and her loyal Curvy Cardio attendees have built a comradery in class and outside of class.
As Morgan began to grow in her professional career, she noticed there were not a lot of women who looked like her in the corporate world. Having launched a powerful brand like Curvy Cardio and seeing it continuously grow, she realized there was more she could do to empower the women in her community. After speaking with her mentor, Jan-Michelle Lemon Kearny, publisher of “The Cincinnati Herald,’’ she knew it was time for a new venture.
In June 2016, the Morgan A. Owens Brand was born to uplift women of color who have a desire to become more marketable in their corporate careers, as well as grow their entrepreneurial skills. With the mission that women can be “powerful and pretty,’’ Morgan created a Werkbook that is in the hands of over 500 women across the country, webinars, events, and digital downloads for women to grow their dreams in their own time.
Morgan has been able to travel the country spreading her message to cities like Chicago, Columbus, Miami, and her hometown of Cincinnati. She has earned many accolades, including 2017 YMCA Adult and Latino Adult Career Achiever, 2017 Black Career Women’s Network Millennial Entrepreneur of the Year, and 2017 YWCA Rising Star. In May 2018, she will launch her first Professional Pretty conference that will touch on topics such as career building, public relations, trademarks, email marketing and more.
As Morgan continues to grow both of her businesses, she hasn’t forgotten her ultimate life’s mission: to lift, as she climbs. Every chance Morgan gets to tee up another woman for success, she does just that. With Curvy Cardio, Morgan has implemented Monday’s with Morgan and she is getting other instructors ready to teach. For The Morgan A. Owens Brand, she continues to bring powerful events to women across the nation to build their businesses. Her most recent Babes in Bizness event was themed Powerful in Pink and the proceeds of the event were matched and donated to breast cancer awareness and research, and she recently began an initiative titled 100 Werking Women which consists of dynamic women displaying their professional skill set and fierce personalities across the Tri-state area.
Her mission doesn’t end with the small business woman. Morgan makes it a point to give back and speak to students every chance she gets. Curvy Cardio offers four classes a week, online based challenges and partners with Project Grad by participating in their after school program at Ethel Taylor Elementary; teaching young girls the importance of having a healthy self-esteem and body image. The MAO Brand has given over 100 Werkbooks to students in variety of local high schools.
Morgan enjoys speaking with young girls and is purposeful in being transparent with them because she remembers what it’s like to walk the halls and feel like everyone is staring at you for the wrong reasons. She remembers being in that dark place where she no longer wanted to live, and the guilt she felt hiding these feelings from her parents as to not disappoint them. She is still unsure why she hated herself and her life, but she wants the young girls she speaks with to know that they are not alone and this moment they are in will not last forever.
Morgan is the perfect example of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Today when you look at Morgan you see a beautiful, successful, and confident woman. There is no perfect upbringing that ensures you will not face any challenges or struggles. She is aware of how important it is to share her story, even if recounting it multiple times brings her unwanted memories. She understands her story is bigger than herself, and, in order to remind the next young girl that she is beautiful and worthy of success, her story must be told.
The woman behind the brand is no longer that kindergartner who couldn’t get a playmate, or the sixth-grader who was “too fat” to be pretty, she’s not even the tenth-grade girl who hated herself, or the college student who struggled to love who she was on the inside. The woman behind the brand is strong, powerful, and continues to stretch her hand back to bring other women to the top along with her. The woman behind the brand is a confident woman with the fight of a lion, and a genuine heart that strives to help other women become their best selves when it comes to their mind, body, and business. The woman behind the brand is Morgan A. Owens, a force to be reckoned with.