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Despite life’s obstacles, Monique Johnson continues to inspire others

Monique Johnson poses with her hand-painted portrait of Kobe Bryant. Dispite being born with dystrophic dyslpasia, Johnson has made it her life’s mission to inspire others.

Despite life’s obstacles, Monique Johnson continues to inspire others
March 19
10:29 2020

Her entire life, Monique Johnson has been proving people wrong. Born with dystrophic dysplasia, a form of dwarfism, doctors only gave her six years to live. Thirty-three years later, she has accomplished goals that quite frankly, some can only dream of, and uses her life’s obstacles to inspire others.

Despite only being two feet tall, Johnson is a law school graduate, entrepreneur, a published author, and a dynamic artist. “I wear a lot of hats – I like to stay busy,” Johnson laughed while chatting with The Chronicle. “But to me, having all those accolades really helps in my mission to show people that you can overcome any obstacle, that you can achieve your dreams and you can achieve great things … It’s really not about having the accolades, it’s more about the impact it can have on others and how others can be inspired by that.” 

A graduate of Glenn High School, Johnson went on to attend NC A&T State University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration. After undergrad, Johnson went on to earn her law degree from Elon University School of Law. And that’s also where Johnson said she found her true calling. 

She said after her story aired on the NBC Nightly News with Katie Couric, she starting receiving calls to speak and fell in love with it. “I fell in love with seeing people’s lives change right before my eyes,” Johnson said. She went on to discuss one particular time when she was speaking at a high school and a student came up to her in tears and told her how much she inspired him. 

“I went to speak to a JROTC group and I mean he literally was in the back of the class and he looked disinterested, he looked like he didn’t want to be there, and afterwards he came up to me in tears,” she continued. “I could see the tears in his eyes and I knew that he had seen someone who had given him hope, and to be able to see his life transform right before my eyes helped me understand how I could impact others.” 

Johnson’s success as a motivational speaker led to her becoming a published author. In her first book, “Soaring: 7 Lessons to Help You Soar Into the Life You Were Meant to Live,” Johnson shares the principles that have guided her through life. 

While studying law, traveling the country speaking at schools, colleges, and countless other places and events, and writing books, Johnson still finds time to practice painting, something she’s enjoyed doing all her life. She said although it’s something she’s always loved to do, it wasn’t until recently that she saw it as a way to make a living. What Johnson enjoys most about painting is the opportunity to take a blank canvass and turn it into something beautiful. She said she also enjoys seeing the reaction on people’s faces when they see her work. “I love seeing the reactions of the people when they see the work because a lot of the time my paintings are large, they’re larger than I am.”

Recently Johnson painted a three-foot portrait of Kobe Bryant that caught the attention of thousands of people online. The largest painting Johnson has even done was six feet by four feet. 

“People see that work, then they see little Mo, and then they look at the work and they’re like ‘Nah,’” she laughed. “But again, that’s just another motivational tool. All these things are puzzle pieces that I believe God has blessed me with that come together and make a beautiful picture.”

When asked if she ever gets upset or angry at her situation, Johnson said although she is a strong person, there are times when having to rely on someone else can get frustrating. She said there are things that a lot of people take for granted. As an example, she mentioned her routine to prepare for the day. “Let’s say I want to sleep in for a little while longer because I know I can jump up real quick, hop in the shower and run. That’s not the case with me. I have to plan, I have to make sure someone is there to help, and I can only go as fast as the person assisting me.

“Your time and your schedule has to coincide with someone else’s and while I’m 33 years old, a lot of agencies and a lot of people who look at my situation from the outside in, see that I have an aide and they treat my situation as if I’m 60-something, as if I’m just getting up reading the newspaper, but that isn’t the case. When I get up, I’m ready to go to Wal-Mart, go to Target, you know, and that can sometimes be difficult if I don’t the have the adequate help right then and there,” she continued. “Does it sometimes slow me down? Sometime I feel like it does. I spent the majority of my time in Winston, but I still got that New York state-of-mind, that hustle and bustle, I’m ready to get up and go. That’s how my mind works, but having all these other things to deal with is a challenge and those are the things people take for granted, and some of the things I have to worry about.” 

As you can see, despite her challenges, Johnson has never let anything stop her from achieving her goals. When discussing her journey and her will to overcome obstacles, Johnson credits her upbringing. She said her mother kept her informed about her disability and equally informed about her God-given skills and talents. 

“My parents, especially my mother, come from a long line of strong African American women. My mom kept me informed about my condition, but equally informed about what skill I had and what gifts I had and how important it was to utilize those gifts,” Johnson continued. “I think that had a large part in me understanding my worth, my value, and not succumbing to things such as I’m different, I can’t achieve this. I think it also has to do with my personality. With my parents pushing me and helping me understand who I was gave me the confidence to truly show my personality.” 

Before wrapping up our interview, I asked Johnson what advice she would give to a young person or anyone who is facing obstacles in life and don’t feel like they’ll ever reach their end goal. Johnson said she would tell them to take the time to find out what their purpose is and drown out anyone and anything that can stop you from reaching that goal. 

“When you know why you’ve been created, that gives you direction. There are a lot of people who are aimlessly wander life trying to figure why am I here, and when you don’t know why you’ve been created, it’s easy to fall into what society says about you. It’s easy to fall into what your mind says about you that may be erroneous,” Johnson said.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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