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Joe Ray

Your name/about yourself?

My name is Joe Ray, I’m a 28-year-old wife and mother to a pretty cool kid, though I may be a tad biased there. I was born and raised in the Philadelphia area but I currently live just outside of Asheville, North Carolina. Currently, I am studying fire safety engineering technology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and have been in the emergency services since later 2006. You can find me on Instagram @joe_lizzzzzz_yoga and @illuminatedbyu

What do you do?

I am a social media influencer with my yoga platform (@joe_lizzzzzz_yoga) and co-founder of a mental health platform (@illuminatedbyu) that aims to bring awareness and reduce the stigma.

How did you get it started?

I got interested in yoga classes 4 years ago when I was depressed, overweight, and out of shape. I found a yoga challenge on Instagram and have been doing yoga ever since. Eventually my social media following grew and I started working with brands that I am passionate about and have cultivated long term relationships with and that has expanded over time.

I co-founded Illuminated By U January 1st of this year with a very good, long-term friend of mine when we realized we spent so much time supporting each other in our own journeys with mental illness that we should expand that support to those who also were looking for a safe environment and someone they could relate to. I personally suffer from PTSD, anxiety, and depression and have found by opening up myself, more people than I ever could have imagined have since reached out to me with their own stories or in seeking support and someone to talk to.

Name 3 words to describe you best?

Passionate, thoughtful, energetic

Which female(s) influence you the most?

Without a doubt, my mother. From as far back as I can remember she filled my world with magic and my heart with love. She taught me to be strong, independent, and fearless. She has always been my biggest support system, standing by me even in the moments I wouldn’t have stood beside myself. She taught me how to be an extraordinary woman and mother.

What struggles have you overcome and how?

Being a double-digit size in a world that so many people assume is meant for people much thinner has presented many struggles. The first yoga studio I ever stepped into two girls made fun of my weight and I left crying and didn’t try going to another studio class for years after that. Because my weight and depression brought me to yoga, I really struggle with it the first two years of my practice. And then one day I woke up and realized that my body is amazing. It’s given birth, it’s endured burning buildings, it’s saved lives. Now, I’m empowered by my body’s abilities not discouraged by its imperfections.

How do you stay positive and focused?

Surprisingly, I spend a lot of time away from social media. While I love it, and I love the connections I’ve made there, in order for me to stay positive and focused, it’s really important that I stay present. My priority is always to spend time with my family, especially my son, and I know that he is only little once, and I feel like just yesterday I blinked and he aged 5 years over night. Being “offline” is such a luxury these days, and it’s one that I certainly enjoy and always make time for.

Any words of advice for future girl bosses following in your footsteps?

If you’re passionate about it, if it calls to you, if it lights your soul on fire, go for it. There will always be someone there telling you it’s impossible, it’s a bad decision, you “can’t”. It’s not their dream, it’s not their life, it’s not their passion; at the end of the day it’s simply just not about them. If you must fight for it, fight hard. If you have to fail, and fail again before you success, then fail and dust yourself off and try again. The only way you won’t see success, progress, growth in life is if you quit before you ever even start because you let someone else’s opinion dictate your path

What is one quote you stand by?

“So far you’ve survived 100% of your worst days. You’re doing great.”