Antoine Ward, Jr. (@antoinewardjr) is the founder of WardBody, a lifestyle brand that focuses on taking control of your life through self-reflection and progressive work within oneself. Through his book, An Organic Guide To Living Happier & Healthier, Antoine highlights moments in his life that stirred the need to change and live beyond circumstances.
I find your book to be quite unique. What prompted you to want to share your story in this format – providing advice and turning the scope not only to see your life as a recording of experiences but as lessons to be learned?
Antoine Ward, Jr.: I always knew I wanted to write a book – I want to write four of them, actually. I was working on an eBook for my website, antoineward.com, and I legit asked myself, why am I stopping here? Why don’t I just crank out my first actual book, to publish and sell?
I knew I wanted to write and share my teenage and young adult stories simply because I inspired myself, and a small piece of why I shared my story in this format was because of the feedback I would get from posting on my website.
Furthermore, when I sit back and think about some of the things that I have been through and overcome, it inspires me, and I wanted to read that story.
In your introduction, “Rescue yourself, first.” is listed as the starting piece of advice. What would you challenge someone to do if they’re not able to see a way of rescuing themselves?
Antoine Ward, Jr.: Rescue yourself, first, was inspired during a time when no one thought to look after or for me. In other words, when I wrote about rescuing myself, it was because it was the only way I would survive.
I want to mention the circumstances for those who haven’t read my book, to simply clear up the fact that I am not telling people to be selfish (with ego) and walk around with a chip on your shoulder. However, I would challenge someone to spend a significant amount of time being alone, dating themselves.
Offering oneself what one needs, affection, love, and support. There is so much to gain when you fall back into yourself and try loving the parts of you that have been caught up in unfortunate circumstances.
So much has taken place that could have set you on a track towards a negative path. In hindsight, what is the pivotal moment that changed your course and set you on a journey to living happier and healthier?
Antoine Ward, Jr.: Oddly enough, it was when my mother passed away in 2011. I was 19, and as you could imagine, it was the most painful thing a child could ever experience in life. It was more painful because I didn’t have anyone there to hold my hand and make sure I got the help that I needed.
It helped me out so much, and this experience is a big part of why I do not believe in excuses. Furthermore, at that moment, I learned the lesson of letting go and moving on with life.
Sometimes we think caring for others is holding ourselves in a space where we have to cry and be down and out constantly, but my mom’s death did the complete opposite to me.
I felt free, and I no longer had to value or hold myself in the space of tradition, and I think that is what keeps a lot of people in a depressive state and uncertain about how to truly live a life that’s fulfilling for them.
I believe there’s something toxic about subscribing to a particular tradition or lifestyle – because “We do this every year.” or “This is what you are supposed to be.”
You spoke a lot about self-awareness and accomplished this understanding even during much turmoil. Do you believe that self-awareness is the valid key towards change, or is it a mix of other skills?
Antoine Ward, Jr.: YES! YES! YES! YES! Do you know how many people do not know themselves yet are clinging to a made-up persona that was help created through television, music, and film and are telling themselves, “This is just my personality.”?
The moment I sat down with myself, which took me five years, to completely unlearn, deprogram, undoing what was taught to me, and what has been given to me as my truth. I learned that I am IT (without ego).
There is nothing I seek outside of myself. There’s nothing I need to prove. I don’t need to yell; I don’t need to scream and raise my voice to win an argument. I don’t need to do anything other than sitting inside of myself and have some coffee.
Once you are aware of who you are, you see things as they are and not what they appear to be. Once you become self-aware, you realize what you are living for – you operate differently. You learn that you can write a book, you can do whatever you want, and people feel it.
“I’ve fallen in love with my ruin.”, “Pain isn’t really what we believe it to be.”, and “Pain lies between where you are and where you want to be.” are powerful statements! What pains do you face in your life now? How do you celebrate them as an appreciation of growth?
Antoine Ward, Jr.: I no longer look at pain as pain. I understand what my success looks like, and I am just going with it — allowing it to flow with and through me simply.
One thing I am dealing with that bothers me is the lack of family interactions. I am not close to my family. I miss them a lot, but because we come from such a toxic environment, the projects, “the ghetto,” there are still behaviors there that I do not appreciate.
Being someone who moved out of their little town and away from what was, I see it. I chose not to be in that space. Not right now. I feel that many in my family blame me for moving away to recreate myself, and that’s unfair.
You mentioned Kimora Lee Simmons as an inspiration to you. What experience in her life do you take as a lesson to remind you to remain true to yourself? Is there a specific experience that you’ve had in recent years that connects you to this?
Antoine Ward, Jr.: Earlier I mentioned that people create themselves with the help of television and music. Kimora and her television persona were that for me. Back when “Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane” was on, I legit felt like I found myself.
I pretended to be loud and outspoken, but it didn’t last long. It was so draining, and instead of trying to be just like her, I simply allowed myself to be inspired by her. Kimora was the first person I have ever really looked up to. Someone I saw and went, “Yes, I want to do that.”
In an interview, Kimora mentioned that there was a market missing, and it wasn’t being tapped into, so she created it. She saw that no one was appealing to the Ghetto-Chic, aka Black women from the projects, so she jumped on it. I held on to that for years, “If you want to be a part of it, create it.” Simple, and so I am.
In your book, you spoke about Intuition vs. Ego and related it to a coffee shop scene. This made me think back to a portion of the book where you had a conversation with your father. He felt you were acting out of a self-centered mindset by not being monetary support to your family.
He later retracted his statements and realized you had to make strategic decisions for yourself to create a change in your life. Presently, in the areas of your life where your intuition speaks to you, how do you shut out the “noise” to come to a full realization that you are deserving of what you ask for?
Antoine Ward, Jr.: I no longer fight with myself. There’s never noise, ever, because I now know that my intuition is so strong and that my gut is always right. I don’t try to fight it anymore. I don’t take advice; I’ve never taken advice. Mainly because there’s been no one there to give it, but I don’t open the floor up to people to discuss my problems and tell me what they would have done or will do.
From listening to myself, even when a problem occurs, or “pain” arises, I am okay with it because I am aware of the decisions I made. So, in any situation good, bad, or ugly, I don’t go with logic, nor do I lead with emotions. I do what my gut tells me to do. Hence, writing a book.
You touched upon many aspirations and goals as it relates to Entrepreneurship. Do you still have some of those passions on your list to pursue? What are you working on currently that we can expect in the future?
Antoine Ward, Jr.: I rather not say. Just know we are just getting started!