Discipline is a huge factor in success and when you observe your weaknesses in a situation of adversity, you can use the opportunity to build up a new skill set. Setting a regular schedule to wake up around 7:00a.m. to do a full body groom in a public bathroom in no more than 8 minutes, then do a 15 to 30 minute workout at the park, then go to the public library to read, write, and research for my books helped me learn how not to wear the despair of losing my old life, but enjoy the building of a new one.

Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashanti Altovese Griffin.

Ashanti Altovese Griffin is a Creative Artist with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, IL. She has professional career experience as a product and business developer for Eastman Kodak in Rochester, NY, Kraft Foods in Glenview, IL, and Fonterra USA in Rosemont, IL. Now, Ashanti Altovese is credited as a published model, self-published author/writer/poet, award winning fashion designer and competitive bikini bodybuilder, plus a professional dancer in the genres of Latin and Burlesque while competing, performing, and instructing in these and other disciplines of dance and fitness.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I’m a creative artist that has a college education in chemical engineering with a passion for the arts in fashion and fragrance as well as dance and fitness. I was a choreographer for my college dance team called Nous Danson and joined a dance studio called Latin Street Dancing in Chicago, IL. After graduating and getting my first job in Rochester, NY with Kodak, I was an instructor with another company called RocSalsa. Dancing was a fun activity outside of work that later became a professional career. I trained in Belly dance at the Arabesque studio in Chicago once I started working for Kraft in Glenview, IL. Pole dancing with the S Factor was another training platform. Inspired by my love for dance, I began my first entrepreneurial endeavor with a fragrance line called Danscents!. I created five scents with a private label company called Your Brand Name Fragrance in Florida. My line included scents called Salsalicious, Belly Empress, Pole Goddess, Prima Ballerina, and Ballroom Belle. I created the Salsalicious scent from an original formula and offered it in a lead crystal bottle that changed from light pink, purple, to blue. The other scents came in large vials for traveling. After selling, gifting, and donating the 500 bottles of fragrance, I ended the venture and moved on to designing clothes for dancing and dresses for modeling.)

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

The most interesting story I learned from my career was that the length of time you have been doing something doesn’t equate to the level of success that you will have in said activity. I feel that I immediately became successful as a dancer and model once I started offering my services. Dancing provided me a way to earn extra income, meet new people, and gain confidence in my performing and instruction skills. As a promotional model with One Magnificent Model in Chicago, I was booked frequently to work with major brands in the alcoholic beverage industry, sports, and financial services even though I never did pageants or acting as a child. My body structure was a natural fit for bikini bodybuilding, so competing in the sport immediately led to top placings in the natural category with self-coaching in weight training, cardio, core-work, and stretching. Practice after work made all the difference in the world towards my success.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I believe what makes my brand stand out is that I marry art, science, erotica, and the esoteric in my product and service offerings. As an author, I wrote poetry books called The Vampire Vixen: Tainted Blood — A Dark Tale of Supernatural Sex, Love, and Power; The Vampire Vixen: Peace of War — A Dark Tale of Sex, Science, and Spirituality; and The Sacred Peach: My Secret to Immortality Science. All these book are creatively intellectual but sexy at the same time. I’m fearless when it comes to expression and don’t mind the judgement that comes with including the sensual themes of lesbianism and bisexuality, with quantum physics and high magic. For me, life is more interesting when you take risks. Ultimately, anyone who has read my books highly recommends them and enjoys the subject matter. All my books are available on Amazon and Kindle.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’m grateful to all those who support my endeavors through likes, comments, shares, and product and service purchases. Without these patrons, clients, and customers, I don’t have an audience for my message. I have two mentors that provide guidance in their field of expertise, one is the Director of Entrepreneurship at IIT in Chicago, IL and the other is a volunteer with the S.C.O.R.E. organization in Walnut Creek, CA. They have been a major blessing during my journey as a creative artist.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

I define resilience as the inner desire to move forward towards a goal regardless of the outside circumstances. Resilient people are those with the traits of courage under fire, the ability to adapt quickly, self-awareness, self-reflection, and the ability to see a vision completed despite the circumstances being negative. Resilience also requires patience. It takes time to learn, grow, and implement a plan for execution. When you consistently work towards the creation of an internal vision, it has no choice but to manifest into physical reality. Resilient people also see themselves as victors and not victims no matter how unfair life has treated them. They always find a way, they don’t find an excuse.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

I feel that in order to be resilient you need to be courageous first. Resilience is the ability to be courageous for an extended period of time. When you have a strong sense of courage, you are willing to stand out and resilience allows you to continue to stand even if it’s alone.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

When I think of resilience, I imagine the slaves that became free through traversing the Underground Railroad and those that worked and died in servitude. The Native American peoples of the numerous tribes of North America that were moved off their land also comes to mind. Colonialism, slavery, and reservation resettling all came with disease and violence from a foreign party to these peoples. I am a descendant of African slaves and have Blackfoot Indian ancestry that flows through my blood. My DNA has the courage of people that faced difficult circumstances and overcame amazing odds. No matter what I’m going through, I feel like there is no excuse of why I can’t accomplish my goals and dreams in the richest country in the world.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

I have had many different people communicate to me that what I was doing wasn’t that hard, or inventive, creative, or anything special from my days working as an engineer, to my dance career, to my modeling photos, to my original fashion designs and my bodybuilding competitions. I’ve been criticized for my looks, how I well I speak, for being too diverse in my talents and skill set, plus I have been called a man and the derogatory n-word. Friendships have crumbled as a learned to stand up for myself and follow my own eccentric path. People that I invited into my home to work and build partnerships with have turned around and spoken negatively over my work and personal character. Now, I choose to work alone and focus on my God-given gifts and talents. I enjoy taking care of cats and kittens, I donate food and feed the homeless, plus I recycle by cleaning up cans and bottles on my neighborhood sidewalks during my walks outside. No matter what you do that contributes to the good in this world, people will find a reason to dislike you. No one is perfect or without fault, but I have been the target of many who feel I’m not good enough for whatever reason.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

My greatest setback happened during the last quarter of 2019. I had just finished working as a co-promoter for a Mixed Martial Arts event in the Napa area. I was a ring card model and was asked by the owner to assist with contracts based on my business background. I ended up working full-time for the event which I did in addition to preparing for a runway fashion show in Paris scheduled for 2021. Health issues with the Shingles Virus also presented itself at that time and I worked while suffering from nerve pain in my lower back to both legs, feet, and toes. The Napa/Sonoma area was experiencing fires at the time but we persevered through the threat. The day after our cage fighting event, the building venue we used was set up for temporary housing, medical, and relief for displaced families of the fires. The attendee count didn’t reach our desired quota and therefore the event was not profitable in the end. I decided to stop promoting for MMA to focus solely on my fashion design career and worked to raise donations and sponsorships for my show in October 2020. In the end, the pandemic shutdown postponed the show and all funds were forfeited and no additional donations came in. I pivoted by designing and selling face masks but needed to stop as it was no longer a cost advantage to do so. I started a TikTok channel and wrote poetry to express my creativity. My living situation changed several times and eventually I focused on my writing and modeling to get me through.

How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

My childhood was filled with less than desirable circumstances. Although I was a high achiever with top grades throughout my academic career, athletic abilities in dance, track, and other sports, plus had natural talent in the arts, specifically drawing, painting, and airbrushing, I grew up in a household with several other extended family members where financial resources were lacking. My upbringing was very strict to the point of being borderline abusive and I made it a point to focus my efforts on getting into college for engineering to have a better life for myself. I was bullied for being poor as my classmates had funds and parental support to go on field trips, supplies for school, and enjoy normal childhood events like birthday parties and school dances. I was made fun of constantly by my peers because the clothes I wore to school were hand me downs, thrift store items, and my hair was always done in a way that either unflattering, awkward, or infantile. Even in college I dealt with the same experiences as I needed to pay my way through school by working as a teaching assistant, office manager, and gym admin. A majority of the students there were well off or had wealthy parents and a few of my classmates couldn’t stand to share classroom space with a black female they felt was inferior. I have experienced racism, sexism, physical and emotional abuse throughout my life. This has been a never-ending journey to build my self-confidence, self-love and self-acceptance, life skills very necessary to overcome obstacles and accomplish goals.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

(Five steps that someone can take to become more resilient:

  1. Put yourself in a position of perceived disadvantage
  2. Minimize the amount of resources you have to accomplish a goal
  3. Become disciplined in a particular area that you are not well versed in
  4. Discover new traits, skills, and abilities that you possess under constraint
  5. Offer and provide aid to other individuals, groups, or animals in a similar or worse situation

When you put yourself in a position of perceived disadvantage, like being a homeless person living in your car for example, you learn that your circumstances can change at any moment, but that you still have everything you need to survive within you based on your level of intelligence, creativity, courage, and surrender to the situation.

Minimizing the amount of resources you have to accomplish a goal, like giving yourself 10 dollars per day to eat, maintain your personal hygiene, drive to the post office, bank, or grocery store, makes you more aware of how much you use or waste terms of the basic modern day comforts of life and what you can live without to survive.

Discipline is a huge factor in success and when you observe your weaknesses in a situation of adversity, you can use the opportunity to build up a new skill set. Setting a regular schedule to wake up around 7:00a.m. to do a full body groom in a public bathroom in no more than 8 minutes, then do a 15 to 30 minute workout at the park, then go to the public library to read, write, and research for my books helped me learn how not to wear the despair of losing my old life, but enjoy the building of a new one.

Constraint forces you to use what you have and then grow! For example, I scheduled a photoshoot at a marina location I had never been. The windy weather and presence of the moment allowed for the creation of artistic photos that ended up being published in a popular fashion magazine. I did another shoot with the same photographer and this time I created a skirt, top, arm bands, wrist cuffs, and neck collar all from aluminum mesh bought at Home Depot. I made the outfit while outdoors at a picnic table at the public park and it was something I had never done before.

To offer and provide assistance to others who are in a similar or worse situation than you is the greatest form of gratitude and helps you attract more of what you want in the form of reaping and sowing. I would often go to the park lake that was close to where I stayed in my car to feed the birds small amounts of bread or rice, or whatever food that I had. Being in nature was healing and watching the birds compete for food helped me to see that all life forms must become adaptable to succeed in survival.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

After my California Car Camper experience that lasted almost two years, I would love to inspire a movement in the United States where students, young adults, and corporations trained their employees in the art of “street survivor skill acquisition”. People have lots of ideas about what being homeless is all about, but once you experience it for yourself, you discover your own strengths, weaknesses, and how society operates from the outside fringe looking into the inside acceptable. Learning how to obtain food, water, public facilities, and safety resources, all while maintaining creativity, mental, emotional and physical health plus positive morale on less than 10 dollars a day can transform how humans live for future generations.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I would appreciate a private meal with archeologist and author Andrew Collins to discuss new developments in archeology related to ancient megalithic sites in Egypt, Turkey, and elsewhere throughout the world. Ancient civilizations were able to create buildings of immense stature with a form of technology that modern humans do not currently possess and cannot reproduce today. I would like to pick his brain and trade theories about who our ancient ancestors were and how they created buildings and monuments that still stand after many thousands of years.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow me on Instagram at AshantiAltovese333 or on my website a www.ashantialtovese.com.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.