Updated: Mar 27, 2019
“Surrender to Your Mess”
When you sit down with Natasha Freeman Hemmingway, you hear a woman who proclaims life is yours to live.
Born in Maryland, Natasha was just two-months-old when her father passed away. While weathering the storm of significant loss, a new mom and young widow found the fortitude to move her baby daughter close to her late husband’s family in Anderson, South Carolina. “Like me, my mother is an only child with very few living family members. When she was a freshman in college, she lost her mother to breast cancer and then relocated us to Anderson to ensure that I had a family and a close community in my childhood.” Before Natasha’s father passed, he embraced his role as a counselor for Upward Bound at Georgetown University. The program is a federally funded educational program that benefits high school students as they quest for higher education. Never knowing her dad, the most important role model in her life became her mother, a nurse practitioner. She modeled for Natasha how to live life fully while managing an emotional wound. “Watching my mother model what pain management looks like set in motion the wheels that have delivered me to my calling! With her mother as inspiration, family support, and her soaring spirit, Natasha is transforming points-of-view and lives with a genuine message and real-life antidotes.
People of CLT brings you Natasha’s answers to our questions. We especially enjoy those on the art of surrender as a vehicle to reaching both professional and personal life achievements.
You lost your father when you were only two months old. Did your mother share memories of your father with you?
Yes, she shared that he was a peaceful human being who was full of love for people. He was both a deep thinker and a leader in the community. She said that dad was a unique balance of confidence and compassion, which created this commanding person who led by example. Piecing him together in my mind, I envision him moving gracefully in the world. A man always present in the moment. Relatives love to share how excited he was to meet me. Right after I was born ,he nicknamed me, “His Star!” Grinning, he would point to his new baby girl and ask had they met his shining star?
What is it like growing up hearing memories of your father instead of making them?
It was tough. A particularly poignant memory is when I was seven-years-old. While waiting at the YMCA after school program to be picked up by my mom, I noticed the dads coming to take their kids home. My dad never came. The loss doesn’t get easier. Milestones in life remind me of how much I miss him. I wish he could be here on earth to share my joys.
After finishing high school in Anderson, did you go off to college?
College was a given in our household. Loving biology and influenced by my mother’s career as a nurse practitioner, I enrolled at Anderson University to study biology. I thought I wanted to be an OBGYN. I was ready to deliver babies for a living! Then, staring down ten years of higher education, an undergraduate degree in biology looked just fine to me. So in December of 2000, I earned my degree and set my next goal, a graduate degree in physical therapy. Working a series of part-time jobs like waiting tables, teaching gymnastics, and working at the hospital as a physical therapy aid, I was on a mission to help my mom pay for college. It was a transitional time for me, working while waiting to hear back on my acceptance into graduate school. It was going to be a challenge to leap back into education while working several jobs. At this time I paused and went to my go to, God. I asked, “What does my future look like?” The answer: sales! Yes, that is right. Specifically, a pharmaceutical sales role where my love of biology was a perfect fit. A family friend paved the way for an interview and I did the rest. It was a time when there were few African Americans working in a pharmaceutical sales role, so it meant so much to win the position. And I am here to declare that in 2000, I was a perfectionist. Well, I have really been one my entire life. There was only one way that this gift to prove myself as a professional and as a dark-skinned woman was going to go and that was up! Determined and excited to take on the world, I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. I met my husband Artis Hemmingway in 2007 and married him in 2011. Thank you Charlotte!!
Hold on, you were a perfectionist?
Yes, the Webster’s darn definition of one. As early as I can remember, satisfaction came from things being in order. Literally, I needed to line them up in my life. There were was no messiness!
Your brand is "Mess into a Message" and now messiness comes into the conversation. What does a mess mean exactly?
Literally, it means I love a clean house. Conceptually, it refers to obstacles that test our spirit. Topics like loss of loved ones, navigating grief, a life-altering health diagnosis, divorce, or feeling like you have no self-worth are just some of those that I tackle as a motivational speaker. All of these challenges, I promise you, are conquered every day, 365 days of the year!
How can you preach to accept your mess yet you proclaim a perfectionist approach to life? Doesn’t perfectionism get in the way?
Not anymore. I created my own brand of rehab for perfectionism! You see, I am in a constant state of recovery. Softening my edges, as I call it, is an ongoing process. I am here to teach that life is a work in progress. You need to acknowledge your mess, own it, and be open to growth. This is the clarity I bring to others.
Please assure us that we should not expect life to be perfect.
Be assured! Believe it from a recovering perfectionist that we are imperfect beings. Internalizing this concept leads us to look outside of ourselves for insight. In my world looking outside myself means that I seek the insight of my family, friends, and from God. By accepting imperfection, which means surrendering control over life, we stay humble. This paves the way for the necessary growth to be the best version of ourselves. Surrender to the mess is in my motivational message because it is the necessary beginning!
Who are the people in your life that support your motivational mission?
My mother and my husband, Artis Hemmingway. After proving myself worthy in my first position out of college, my experience took me to the next level: a role working for a medical device company as a territory manager. It afforded me the opportunity to support the medical community to improve patients’ lives in a refreshing and challenging way. Although I was excited with my new assignment, after five years a questioning voice began to whisper in my ear. Then, a child came into our lives. His name was Kase. He would have been five years old on March 13th. We brought him into the world on March 13, 2013 and he passed away on March 18, 2013. Four months after the farewell memorial service for Kase, I became pregnant with our second son Kash. Kash was born May 9, 2014. It sounds crazy for me to think that it was a hard time to be blessed with a second child just four months after we lost Kase. But, it was hard, really hard. Knowing that God doesn’t put more on you than you can bare offered some comfort but not peace.
This unimaginable time in your life. Is it the mess that became the catalyst for motivational speaking?
Not yet. I wasn’t ready. When a tragedy strikes, you survive by living second by second.
"Time metamorphoses into grains of sand falling in slow motion to the other side of today. You want tomorrow to come but you long for yesterday."
Overcome by desperate feelings to be with the son lost to me, Kase, I questioned my own existence on earth. It occurred to me that success would not come at anything else in my life until I forgave myself for failing to bring a baby into this world. Struggling with this emotion that I never asked for, pain. I realized I needed to get myself to therapy. Girl, let me tell you I didn’t just walk I ran the whole way there! Therapy helped me get emotionally centered on reality. With a renewed outlook on my life, that divine whispering that I heard not too long before and after the birth of my precious, second son Kash returned. It moved me to sit down with my husband, asking for his thoughts on what my next professional move looked like. I will always be thankful for his words. “I just want you to be happy” he encouraged me. His endorsement, the key that unlocked the door to the next phase in our lives, lead me to made the decision after my career in medical device sales ended, to take a leap of faith into entrepreneurial ship in November of 2016.
So after your career in medical device sales ended, you launched into your own business? What did that look like?
Well, my first effort was not motivational speaking. Instead after four months of detailed market research, I signed on with an organization called Beachbody as a health and wellness coach. It was there that I met Karly Wood Kelly, coach and my future business partner. In the snap of a finger, we clicked! With a strategic plan and tactical goals set, I was ready to make it happen! Well people, instead of happening, I banked a mountain of effort to come close but just short of reaching my goals. I am the girl who strives to exceed expectations in all I do. But, the truth is, I wasn’t where I wanted to be. By August 2017, I just knew in my gut that my time as a wellness coach was coming to an end.
You mean it wasn’t a success?
Oh no, it was absolutely a success found in those people who I helped coach to their health goals! Also, it was such a rewarding experience found in the wealth of the community I shared. But, success to a full-time career path… no. So I revisited my direction, asking myself and God about my true calling. Reflection is the most important and scariest exercise for us. So with a spiritual nudge, I made a hard right turn toward my calling!
You have an affinity for God. How does your spirituality weave into the fabric of your humanness?
I authentically know that I am not alone.
Before you embraced this knowledge that has become wisdom, do you recall feeling lonely?
Yes, ma’am! Like it was yesterday. Middle school was not a fun time in my childhood. It was a lonely time. I was teased and bullied because of silly stuff like I was an African American girl who knew how to swim.
Yep, I remember my blue speedo swim cap that I wore during every swim lesson. You see, my mom made sure that I was free to choose the experiences that interested me no matter the color of my skin. Like competitive gymnastics, swimming, water skiing, and traveling. African Americans for the longest time didn’t have access to swimming pools due to segregation. So there is this historical fear of the water. Certain kids at school, a school by the way which was predominantly African American, felt uncomfortable around a kid like me. I was teased about participating in activities that they didn’t feel right about. You know, it is that age when all kids want to be included. So they pushed me away because I felt different to them.
"This early experience taught me not to judge, because judgement is a dream crusher for the crusher and for the one being crushed! "
And now, you are in the business of motivating women and teen girls to reach for their dreams. Don’t keep us in suspense any longer! Tell us when motivational speaking called you.
Exactly ten months into my new career as a coach, while meeting with one of my close friends, I poured out my feelings of intense fear about failure. Thankfully she was ready with a challenge. She looked at me and instinctively asked, “Why are you playing God that small?” I had no answer for her. Hands white knuckled on the steering wheel, I drove home from our meeting focused on her question. Almost to my driveway, I heard the word, surrender in my head. All that I had overcome up until this point paved the road to clarity. “Surrender Natasha to your purpose.” In November 2017, I did just that. Karly and I came together to form our faithful partnership and business. I am so excited for our future!
Tell us about your future! What professional projects are you most excited to complete this year?
The future is now! My partner Karly and I are most excited about a speaking engagement at the Shine Live Conference in Kelowna, Canada, in both June and October 2018. It will be a raw story-telling and challenging experience for the women in attendance. Our talk will be titled, “Woman, Own your Mess.” Also, a women’s empowerment cruise that we will lead in September 2018. We set sail on Lake Norman, North Carolina!
What community causes get your motivational home fires burning?
Present Age Ministries, a local organization that supports girls who have been victims of human sex trafficking. The organization has become a part of my heart. It is an effort lead by humble and faith-filled people who nurture a holistic, individualized and caring approach to the victims that they serve.
Looking back on your life, what wisdom would you choose to share with others?
We are never finished with life. No matter what mess it throws our way, we have to evolve and grow through it. What is the bottom line people? You have to keep showing up for yourself and for the people who love you!
At this point in your career is there anyone you would like to thank?
I want to shout out my husband and my mom. They just keep delivering the encouragement through all of my leaps of faith. God, I am blessed!
What metaphor is the best comparison to your life?
My life is like a tree. I am always pruning.
Author Note: Natasha’s exuberant energy lights up the room!