Monica Johnson joined me live on The I Love CVille Show and shared her inspiring journey from Charlottesville’s Prospect Neighborhood to a second place finish in the US Nationals Strongman Corporation competition this past weekend.
As Monica was training for 12 weeks prior to US Nationals, her 23-year-old sister, River, unexpectedly died one week before the competition while her mother suffered with failing health issues. Monica, who will soon be a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), discussed how she managed her grief while successfully competing at US Nationals.
“A piece of me died inside when River passed,” Monica explained. “I’m in the gym sobbing, dead-lifting and just sobbing because I knew my sister would not be with me anymore.”
Monica was born into an unstable family in the Prospect Neighborhood. She eventually earned an invitation to Quaker-based Tandem Friends School, where she started as a sixth grader and matriculated through graduation as the only person of color in her entire grade.
“It was a journey for all of us. A lot of my classmates had to think of race in context of ‘Monica.’ I had to face a lot of racial and identity issues early on in life [at Tandem Friends],” she said. “Often times, people, including my family and friends, would tell me that I sounded ‘white.’ That was really hard for me to hear. I didn’t understand what that concept meant. I had to do a lot of self exploration early on.”
Upon graduating from college, Monica, who saw her weight surpass 300 pounds, realized she had to focus on her health because she “wanted to live to 100 years old and get around on a scooter one day.” As a result, she discovered a Charlottesville-based gym and started focusing on exercising and working out. With the help of others, she realized she had incredible strength and then, as she said, “Strongman found me.”
Today, Monica is a nationally recognized Strongman Professional, an evangelist for empowering women of all shapes and sizes, an advocate for prioritizing mental health and comfortably secure with her body type and image.
“I am who I am. I’m just Monica,” she said. “I want my life to speak the language of love. I want to be there for people. I want people to love themselves. I want to be a positive light in a world that can be so dark at times.”
The I Love CVille Show airs Monday – Friday from 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm on The I Love CVille Network!
Listen to the full show as an iTunes Podcast here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/nationally-recognized-strongman-pro-monica-johnson/id1473278344?i=1000453043939
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