Meet Shay Johnson, aka Grace & Grit. Raised in Dorchester but educated in Needham, she grew up experiencing two different worlds. That duality has given her a unique perspective, informing her priorities in life: relationships with her family, friends, God, her community, and her relationship with herself.
We talked to Shay about her life experience and how she came to name herself Grace & Grit in this week’s Lovers & Fighters blog post…
YORK: Where are you from?
SHAY: I was raised in Dorchester, MA and educated in Needham. At an early age, I was introduced to these two different worlds that would help form who I am.
YORK: You're a self-described fitness addict. Where does your passion for fitness come from?
SHAY: I’ve always had an active lifestyle. I played lacrosse and tennis in high school. When I was in my early 20’s, my uncle passed away from cancer and that was a huge eye-opening experience for me. That’s when I decided to make changes in my lifestyle; I began spinning and doing Pilates to become the healthiest and happiest version of myself.
YORK: Were there obstacles you had to overcome to get where you are?
SHAY: Becoming a student of myself has been the most important class I have ever taken. It starts with knowing your pattern. Imagine if a farmer didn’t understand the concept of seasons -- not only would there be no foresight, but there would be constant disappointment. I have learned that you don't have to be upset with the ground (or yourself) for not producing what it’s not supposed to. You have to learn pattern recognition and know yourself, which for me has been, and still remains, a huge obstacle.
YORK: You describe yourself as a mixture of Grace & Grit. How did that come about?
SHAY: For the past few years, I have been trying to figure out my brand, who am I, and what I stand for. On social media, we find lots of cute posts with flowers and beautiful typeface that read: “On the grind,” “girl power,” “work hard,” and “failure is not an option.” These kinds of quotes are great and I do believe in them, but it wasn’t something I was completely akin to. So I asked myself: “What is your mantra? What has been consistent in your life? And what are the words that can describe that?” I thought about Grace. Grace is the unmerited, undeserved kindness and favor of God. Grace has showed up in every aspect of my life, from my career to personal growth to my friends and family. And then I thought about Grit, and how in the face of every obstacle and challenge in my life, I have made sure that I stand firm in my character, which is an unshakable spirit that perseveres and is fueled by a passion to be successful.
YORK: We talk about our brand ambassadors being fighters in that they understand that hard work and hustle (#lovethehustle) are what make things happen. How do you relate to the word fighter and what motivates/drives your hustle?
SHAY: Fighting is part of life. Anything you get without a fight, you will not value. However, fighting has to be strategic. I have realized that it is much easier to fight if you know who you are and what you’re actually fighting for.
YORK: What is the most personally rewarding thing you have ever done?
SHAY: Serving at Hillsong Conference held at the Barclay Center. Mahatma Gandhi was right when he said: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” I was stretched in so many ways: two 15-hour days, on my feet for the majority of the time, and making sure that people had the best experience was not easy. However, watching the smiles and excitement on people’s faces brought an unexplainable joy that I’ve never experienced before and will continue to chase.
YORK: Is there a book/podcast/video/movie that you've read/seen lately that inspired you?
SHAY: “Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People.”
Rich Roll Podcast [vegan ultra-endurance athlete and former entertainment attorney turned FT wellness and plant-based nutrition advocate]
Elevation Church – sermons from Pastor Steven Furtick
YORK: Is there a person in your life who inspires you, whether it’s a friend, family member, someone you work with, a client, or even someone well known (alive or dead)?
SHAY: Jesus, James Baldwin, Oprah, Queen Elizabeth I, and Toni Morrison. These people are all special to me because they were all “savages” in the sense that they didn’t allow the chatter of the world to deter them from living a life of purpose and what they were called to be. They impacted the way I think and see the world and myself.
YORK: Do you have a quote that really resonates with you?
SHAY: “I am what time, circumstances, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also much more than that. So are we all.” – James Baldwin
YORK: What is it about YORK Athletics that resonates with you?
SHAY: YORK Athletics has done an amazing job of honing in on who their customers are and what stories and lifestyle those customers relate to. They have found a great pathway to relate to their diverse consumers: highlighting the everyday individual and redefining what an athlete or fitness enthusiast is. We’re all athletes, whether or not we are all professional. YORK makes it clear that’s okay.
To keep following Shay Johnson's journey, follow her on Instagram: