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Meet Jennifer Ogunsola

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Ogunsola.

Jennifer, before we jump into specific questions about your work, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I remember putting magazines together as early as elementary school. I would look through Ebony, Essence, and Jet, and try to copy their format. I would create a cover, stories about my family and friends throughout the book, and I even had a table of contents page. I have always loved to write. Never knew that it would turn into my “when I grow up” thing to do, but it just came natural to me.

BET used to have a show called “Teen Summit.” I applied, got a callback, and my grandmother drove me to Washington, DC for my audition. I didn’t make it on the show, but I later learned that my trip to DC for “Teen Summit” was not about me making it. I learned three very important things during my “Teen Summit” experience that have pushed me beyond my wildest dreams.
1. Go after everything you want. If you don’t get what you want, you will get something better—exactly what you need.
2. My family will support me through everything, and whether I am scoring or not, they’ll be on the sidelines cheering and screaming louder than a black family at graduation who was told to hold their applause until the end.
3. Whether I was winning or losing, being acknowledged or ignored, or being criticized or praised, I was in love with journalism. I discovered this after I was notified that I didn’t make the cut. Of course, I was disappointed, but I never once thought about giving up. That smile in my heart for writing, telling stories, and just communications in general never left, even in my disappointment.

These three lessons gave impetus to my unwavering courage to go after everything that I have ever wanted, and not just professionally, but also personally.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Not at all, but I have no interest in smooth-only roads. I would not know my strength without the hardships that I have endured along my journey.

On October 23, 1992, at just seven years old, my hero, my best friend, my daddy was taken away from me and my family and deported to his home country, Nigeria. This day represents death, brokenness, solitude, family destruction, failure, regret, hopelessness, and pain so extreme and deep that it would still feel new 27 years later.

My dad was there for my birth, the first words that I spoke, the time that I took my first steps and my first day of school. But, he missed all of my graduations and every other memory since. Going off to college was especially bittersweet because my dad wasn’t there to drop me off and help me set up my dorm room. When I published my first article, I couldn’t run to him and show him, and on November 5, 2011, when the doctor walked into my hospital room and said to me, “Well, we’ve figured out what’s wrong with you. You have multiple sclerosis,” he couldn’t be there for me, and I believe that hurt more than hearing the doctor’s words.

No, my dad could not heal me, but his presence would have comforted me in a way that no one else could. They say the bond between a father and daughter is unbreakable. And even through all we’ve endured, it may have bent, but it never broke. The love we have still runs deep.

Living with this disease is stressful, challenging, and at times, forces me into a space where I question everything. I’ve had to learn how to walk again, suffered from temporary speech problems, my memory is shot, and there was a time that I could not even bathe myself. I even stopped writing for seven years.

Yet, through these rugged roads that I’ve traveled on, I’ve learned that life is going to live, but you have to decide that no matter how difficult it gets, you will do your best to push through. Pushing through does not mean that you won’t want to give up. It just means, despite it all, you chose to live until your very last breath. And one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned in pushing through my struggles is that there is immense power in what once rendered me powerless.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
My business is me, JO Writer, LLC, which includes my passion and my purpose. My passion is my writing. I truly love the art of writing—everything from the process to the finished piece. Whether it’s my story or the next person’s, I come to life when I get to tell stories.

For the longest time, I thought that writing was my purpose; however, I’ve recently discovered that it is my passion. My purpose is to tell stories in various formats —print, television, audio, etc.—to help others. Today, I’m getting a little more comfortable in my purpose walk.

What were you like growing up?
According to my mother, I was very inquisitive, a super planner, and I loved to make everyone happy. From an extremely young age, I valued friendships. Making new friends was something that I absolutely loved, and still, do. My mother says that as a young girl I would give my toys away, and when she asked me about them, I would say that I gave them to my new friends. She would then make me go back and get them. While I don’t give my toys away anymore [lol], if there is something that I have that one of my friends may need, I don’t hesitate to give.

As an inquisitive child, I asked a lot of questions and I observed everything. That’s still me. I was also a prissy little girl, never wanting to kneel and mess up my knees or do anything that would make me feel or look dirty. And I absolutely loved dressing up and was very meticulous about what I was wearing—all my colors had to match and my accessories had to be right.

And way before there were social media, I was obsessed with taking pictures. I get that from my dad. He loved photography, always taking photos and rarely in them. And just to share a little secret, I am the same exact person today that I was growing up minus the prissy part. I don’t think that I’m prissy at all.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
@_yoShann — Shan Wallace
@CubanSoulPics — Manuel Casado
@ledoox2 — Isaiah Jones
@candacehowe_ —Candace Howe

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