In 2003 after experiencing a life altering event, a debilitating back injury to be exact, it took several years to rebound. Learning how to walk, sit, sleep was my full time job. As I began to recover and move forward, I thought, “now what?” Having a 15 plus year career spanning from an oil & gas liaison, disability advocate, to advanced case management, I decide to take a leap and start my own business to educate others on occupational risk management. In 2005 I spent every waking moment researching and developing my business. September 2009 I founded the Advancement of Injured Workers-DisABLED. It is a preventative education training firm developing and conducting programs relative to Occupational Wellness, Return to Work, and DisABILITY Advocacy Training.
In 2009 during the election watching Barack H. Obama make a hallmark name for himself, I felt anything is possible! I went so far as to snail-mail a letter to the White House to introduce myself and my new business. Of course I didn’t expect a response, but 3 months later I did!
To this day I still look at the letter to draw inspiration. Feeling the rise of the White House seal beneath my fingers reminds me “all things are possible.” When I attended the 2009 Inauguration. I volunteered at President George W. Bush “Texas Black Tie & Boots Ball.” It was exhilarating meeting celebrities and congressional members. As President Barack H. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walked down Pennsylvania Ave. I had a front row seat excitedly watching like a little child! They were waving and winking. I felt the winks were for me!
After the inauguration I felt truly hopeful! I began accepting all social invitations and attending anything that crossed my inbox. Back in 2007 I was honored by the American Heart Association as a “Stroke Survivor Hero”. I survived a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) stroke at 19. Unfortunately, 10 years later I lost my mother to a Cerebral Hemorrhage stroke. She was only 47. Supporting educational initiatives to stave off needless suffering due to cardiovascular disease, is my personal crusade. I began diligently serving the American Heart Association.
In addition to volunteering with various organizations, I was aggressively networking. When asked what is it I do, I would respond, “I’m building my new business in occupational wellness and disability advocacy as I serve various organizations.” “Oh you’re a philanthropist!”, they replied. This coming from multimillionaire benefactors, truly inspired me.
As I continued building my business I’ve had the honor of engaging everyone from local celebrities, doctors, educators, war heroes, basketball & football legends, national journalists, to congressional representatives, to name a few.
My service at the Black Tie & Boots Gala, garnered an invitation to the 2013 Inauguration of President Barack H. Obama. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend. But I remained inspired.
I would introduce myself to nonprofits. Hey, they are always in need of innovative trainings. In 2010 I returned to the organization MHMRA, that blessed me with my first professional job as a Sr. Case Manager/ Family Advocate. I was asked by the Practice Manager if I would be the keynote speaker for an upcoming business leader breakfast. “Sure!”, I replied. I viewed this as an opportunity to present myself before some of the largest business leaders in town. More like country! There would be representation from the top oil & gas companies, aviation, universities, and other large nonprofits. I was winning! I accepted the request and told them it would be an honor to be the keynote speaker, and it’s my gift to the place that gave me my voice. That day forged my place in history as a sought out business woman.
I presented my 45 minute speech on “Raising the Profile and Increasing the Awareness of Qualified Employees with disAbilities in the Workforce.” I received a standing ovation.
Once the breakfast concluded a stampede of attendees made a direct beeline towards me. I met executive directors, human resource managers, disability trainers & advocates, etc. My head was swirling with excitement. Each person congratulated me, handed me their business card and began telling me how I must speak at their next event. I thought there’s no stopping me know! The next thing I knew I was receiving a plethora of request to be a keynote speaker on a weekly basis. But when I inquired as to whom do I address my invoice, the enthusiasm quickly ended. To my chagrin, other nonprofits that attended the breakfast discovered I spoke non-gratis. They valued my presence but not enough to compensate me. Yet, I took the offers. Again trying to build my presence in the small business community. But after several speaking engagements I felt used vs. utilized.
One engagement was for a large entity. The coordinator heard about my speeches, and in her words, “I heard your speeches are life changing, you must speak at our event!” She inquired if I would be interested in an upcoming anniversary luncheon. I was beyond excited. But when I inquired about compensation she replied, “oh we don’t have any money left, we spent it all on food, beverages and gifts for attendees. Yes, she actually told me my 55-60 minute speech wasn’t as valuable as a cake. I was floored. I felt bad but declined. If I don’t place a value on my time, just how valuable is it?
Future contracts came but were equally challenging. Yes, I was compensated, but I blame myself for accepting less than full value. Which is when you settle for less, you receive far less than you settled for. Feeling used vs. utilized was more often than not. I did several segments on a local tv show, but nothing came of it. I was introduced to various decision makers, didn’t pan out. Despite raising 3 young daughters on half a previous salary was daunting yet, I continued to press through. Inwardly I began to feel that I no longer wanted to be my former self.
When I was 18, I discovered the misspelling of my first name. But out of respect for my family I didn’t have it corrected. As I was reinventing myself I decide to correct my name. In 2014 I discovered an estranged family member and had it corrected. No more Montrice, I’m now Monîtrice. Monîtrice is French, “teacher”, “midwife”, and “comforter of those in distress.” I’m finally walking in my true name and calling. Being an under-dog I always had a great passion for the most vulnerable and marginalized of our society.
By 2015 I needed a boost. As fate would have it I was invited by the Commissioner of the largest State rehabilitation agency in Texas to join the public policy/government liaison team. The role was to serve the citizens of Texas and work directly with the Governors office. It was the answer to a prayer I hadn’t prayed.
I left my family behind to move to another city to add to my wheelhouse. Unfortunately, it was not the desirable opportunity I had perceived. I never imagined I would return home battered and bruised (literally and figuratively), less than 2 years. Due to not participating in bigotry and indifference towards our consumers, I experienced severe workplace harassment & bullying.
By 2017 I was completely frazzled. I just stopped. I felt I’ve done all I can do, done all the networking, done all the volunteering. I’m done, done! By late 2018 I was in a dark place. Life was going on without me. But something quite odd began to happen. For years, 30 to be exact, I’m approached and complimented about my silver hair.
I’m always humbled and openly share my story of going gray. Many are perplexed with my silver hair, due to not having the physical features of someone associated with gray/silver hair. As I’m questioned if my hair is real, or did I dye my hair, my witty retort, “I earned everyone of these stripes!” The women are shocked and inspired to begin the transition. But by the end of 2018 something shifted. I’m approached by makeup artist, employees at beauty businesses and talent agents. Each inquire if I ever considered gray hair modeling? Me? No? But, then again why not? I always joked my looks won’t pay my bills! Perhaps they could? I recently read how Vera Wang’s desire was to be a US Olympic figure skater but didn’t make the team. Eventually she found herself in the fashion world. At 40 she opened her own bridal boutique in upscale New York City. That was her “happy accident.”
Well here I am 52, with a floundering business, losses on top of losses, thinking my life in business was over. I had fallen to the utter bottom. But recently I’ve fallen into my “happy accident”. I’m taking another step of faith and dreaming again. I’m venturing into the world of entertainment as a classic/lifestyle model. The idea of dreaming again is exciting, thrilling and a bit frightening. My objective is to earn a successful living while educating and encouraging women to embrace “aged vs. old”. No one ever ordered an “old” steak or “dated” wine? A well aged steak, cheese or wine is the most coveted, so is ones “Gray”. Well, here I go entering life again on my terms. Wish me luck! ??