Established in 2011 by Marnell Small, the D.I.V.A. Movement Association focuses its mission on empowering women through health and wellness both mentally and physically. Marnell’s passion for service and sisterhood stem from her days as a student at Bennett College in Greensboro, NC one of the two historically black, all-female schools. Dealing with her own ups and downs Marnell’s drive grew from something within all of us-the desire for sisterly support through shared experiences.
You’ve been very open with your weight loss journey and you look fantastic, as always, so we have to ask what’s the latest?
Yes my weight loss journey has been ongoing since 2012. I was 317lbs, and I lost 78lbs through diet and exercise. I was teaching Zumba classes 7 days a week, and the weight just fell off. I got married in 2014, and somewhere along the way I picked all of my weight back up. In 2016, I had a procedure called VSG (Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy), and this tool has aided me, along with clean eating and even more exercise, to get back on the right track. I’m now down 81lbs, and was able to reach my first short term goal, which isto get under 200lbs, and I’m so excited because I now know it’s totally attainable.so excited because I now know it’s totally attainable.
We understand you have had an especially tough year. Do you want to share?
My goodness! 2017-2018 was extremely difficult. I’m known for being a woman on the go, but even more was added onto my plate and my life changed drastically in July 2017 when my mom unexpectedly had to undergo heart surgery. I literally had to drop everything and get to North Carolina, where she was living and taking care of my sister, who was also sick. Needless to say, when I got there I was taking care of them both. Mom recovered very well from her heart surgery and came back home to Maryland in August, but unfortunately, in October 2017 I lost my sister to complications from diabetes. This was truly devastating, as she died on her birthday. I received the news while vacationing in Aruba with my husband. After learning of this news and attempting to bounce back, realizing that I’m now my mom’s only child, I had to dig down deep and tap into my inner strength. I am so glad I took on this attitude, because little did I know, my mom would become a double amputee shortly after this.
So yes, it seemed as if the blows just kept coming. It has only been through GRACE OF GOD, and the support of my husband and family, that I have been able to handle all that’s been thrown my way this year. Through it all, I’m thankful that God has allowed me to be there for my mom during this time and to help her remain positive. She is the one who showed me what inner strength is all about. She has been such an inspiration to me, so much so that I decided to share her strength with others. The words of encouragement and positive affirmations sent from others have all been helpful in her journey.
You credit so much of your success to your foundation at Bennett College. What is the current situation facing your beloved alma mater?
Bennett College for women has played an instrumental role in the woman that I’ve become today. Our beloved Bennett College has, and continues to provide an exceptional educational experience for many women who have attended. Speaking as an alum, I couldn’t have asked for anything more than the values, standards, and morals that were instilled in me to know I can be whatever I desire to be in this world.
Unfortunately, today Bennett College, which is one of only two historically black colleges for women, is on the verge of losing accreditation. Bennett is one of many HBCUs who are experiencing financial hardships due to lack of support and or enrollment. The most heartbreaking part is how important Bennett is to the classes of 2019, 2021, and 2022, who are on campus today. We have and ALWAYS will be rich in sisterhood, which means we MUST continue to fight for them and #STANDWITHBENNETT. Bennett’s legacy must be upheld.
For more information and to show your support, please visit: bennett.edu/standwithbennett
On the bright side we heard you celebrated a big birthday in 2018? How do you feel about this?
Oh wow, Chapter 42. I’m truly excited about Chapter 42. It isn’t considered a “milestone” birthday to some, but I learned that each year I’m given an opportunity to re-invent myself and become a better version of me, and I don’t take that lightly. In the past year alone, I’ve learned SO MUCH about myself and that I am stronger than I think I am. I often ask GOD for strength to help me through, but he continues to show me that he’s ALREADY given me strength, so maybe I should start asking for something else (LOL).
I’m learning the importance of balance in my life. Being responsible for a lot, like being a wife, mother, and now caregiver, has caused me to chase balance like my life depends on it. So when people see me continuing to serve the community, continuing to teach dance fitness and attending events, I want to them to know that this is my balance. This gives me comfort in knowing I am serving MYSELF as well, unapologetically.
What’s the newest good news with D.I.V.A Movement?
I am so excited to announce that D.I.V.A. Movement has hit the five year mark and will be hosting our very first Gala on March 29, 2019 to celebrate this important milestone. Our anniversary event has always served as our organization’s biggest fundraiser. Typically, we use our anniversary to honor other women in service, but this year will be a little different. This time around, we will be celebrating us, the Diva Movement. For over five years, this small group of women has served our community with Excellence. We’ve had many Divas come and go, but I’ve always said: “Once a DIVA always a DIVA”. We are truly looking forward to celebrating them all and their contributions to the organization and to the community. We will also keep the tradition of crowning one of our Young Divas as our 2019 Prom Queen. Tickets for our five year anniversary event can be purchased through Eventbrite: eventbrite.com/e/a-night-of-elegance-diva-movement-association-inc-tickets-52723257683?aff=ebdssbdestsearch
How can the community get involved?
If you would like to show your support to the D.I.V.A. Movement, as we strive to continue to serve our community throughout the next year and many years to come, please visit our website at divamovementassociationinc.com.
Financial contributions help us to be able to continue our work within the community and with our Young Divas. Our next initiative is our Annual Prom Queen Makeover for 2019. The goal is to raise $5,000 in efforts to provide five deserving young ladies with full prom makeovers.