In NewsWhistle’s weekly question-and-answer series, Clara Morgan speaks with some of the world’s top influencers and finds out more about their lives and careers.
This week, Clara speaks with author, speaker, TV personality and mental health advocate Gwen Boyd Moss who is currently starring in WE tv’s hit reality show Selling it in the ATL, in which she showcases her skills as an experienced realtor.
Gwen is a native New Yorker who made Atlanta her home in 2002. Her true pride is as mother of three incredible sons, Justin (Jo Jo, above middle), Damon (above right) and Brandon (above left). Justin was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3 and with schizophrenia at the age of 14. With passion and purpose, Gwen seeks to help others experiencing challenges with a family member or loved one with a mental illness.
As a motivational speaker and author, Gwen seeks to inspire, motivate, and bring awareness to the area of mental health. My Big Brother Jo Jo & His Friend Schizophrenia is her first book released in the series My Special Friend. This series of children’s books focuses on characteristics of children with special needs, and seeks to assist their peers in understanding their developmental differences and to encourage meaningful friendships.
Gwen’s personal journey has been one of triumph and struggle. She is a professional licensed realtor of 16 years in Georgia, and has now added Reality TV personality to her resume. Besides a number of magazine features, Gwen has also appeared on Daytime TV, ABC 7 New York, FOX 45 Morning News, Good Day Charlotte, Atl & Co. 11/Alive Atlanta, Indy Style and on News 12 The Bronx.
Gwen Boyd Moss
1. Gwen, you combine being an author, speaker, TV personality, and mental health advocate with being a mother of three. How do you find the time? And what has driven you to pursue these different avenues in your career?
I currently dedicate almost 19 hours of my day to working. This at times can be a challenge, as I am taking on more now than I ever have before. How do I do it all? Well that’s a very good question – let’s just say that I am a woman on a mission! That’s what it is all about; hard work and determination, combined with what I feel I am purposed and called to do. I truly believe that I am purposed and called to do exactly what I am doing at this time in my life. What drives me are my life experiences, my fears, tears, challenges, and triumphs. I believe that my challenges, such as having a child with a mental illness, happened for a reason, and that reason is to help others that may be going through the same challenges. This is why mental health awareness and helping other parents is so very important to me. I have been where they are and still go through some of the same things that they go through every day.
2. You have been a professional licensed realtor for 16 years. What are some key takeaways from your substantial experience in the real estate industry? What should buyers and sellers think about? Should people buy or rent?
Making the decision to purchase a home is one of the biggest choices you will make in life; it is up there alongside getting married, having a child, or purchasing a new vehicle. It is a major commitment financially and emotionally. Because of this, I advise buyers to think long term and carefully consider things such as location, growth of family, and most importantly, affordability.
As for my sellers, it is simply about taking a realistic approach to selling your home. Take into account the preparation that it takes to get your homes ready for the market and don’t panic! Set a realistic sales price that it is competitive in your neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods.
Buying or renting honestly is an individual preference that depends on the lifestyle of the persons, but of course as a realtor I am going to say, “BUY, BUY, BUY!”
3. You star in hit reality TV show Selling it in the ATL on WE tv. How do you balance your personal life with your television career? Is it difficult sometimes to separate the two?
When you are filming, you are doing just that. What most people don’t realize – because they only see a snippet out of the total hours of footage – is that it is really hard work, crazy schedules and long filming days, but at the same time it can be very fun and rewarding. For me it was a wonderful platform for my real estate business as well as a great opportunity to create more awareness around mental health issues.
I think the only difficult part is that people don’t always get to see the full picture of who you are, and that would be impossible as there just isn’t enough time or enough episodes to display that. Some people can be very critical and judgmental, not understanding all of the dynamics of your story line. Believe it or not, I am a very private person, and I know that sounds crazy because I am on a reality TV show, but there are some aspects of my life that I would like to keep private. When you become a public figure that privacy goes away.
4. Can you tell us about an especially memorable episode or incident in Selling it in the ATL? What is it that makes it memorable?
I would have to say the episode Belt Line Tour Bus Ride, in which the drama hit the roof. I remember just wanting to get off on any corner and catch a cab (LOL). There was so much that wasn’t shown due to edits but the catfights and arguments were crazy! There was so much tension that day that I think set the tone for the season.
5. What inspired you to write the children’s book My Big Brother Jo Jo & His Friend Schizophrenia? Why do you think it is so important to raise awareness of mental health issues from an early age?
My Big Brother Jo Jo & His Friend Schizophrenia was inspired by my eldest son Justin, who we call Jo Jo. Justin was diagnosed with autism at age 3 and then schizophrenia at age 14, after years of watching his interaction with other children, or rather, their lack of interaction with him. I thought it was important to create a series that could be used as a teachable tool for younger children about their peers with special needs. Something that is fun and delicate, yet descriptive, to help them build a better relationship with their peers who have mental illnesses. The My Special Friends series includes 4 books; the additional books are Mr Autism, Can Andrew Come Play, The Bipolar Bandit Has Captured Ben, and Angelina and The ADHD Fairy. It is a great way to open up a conversation with younger children about a serious topic.
6. Tell us something that people do not know about you. (It can be a habit, an interest…anything really!)
I think that most people have a first impression that I am a very serious person – and when it comes to business I am – so people don’t realize that I am a very silly person, always clowning, pranking, and joking. I have been told that my laugh is a very contagious yet goofy laugh that most people don’t expect to come from me. Also, I am a true goody girl always snacking on something, I absolutely love to eat!
7. How would you define your style? Where do you find inspiration (e.g., magazines, celebrities, friends)?
Like most women, I love to shop and I don’t really have one particular style, I love to mix it up. Like J. Lo who is from the Bronx, NY, like myself, I can go from business to formal to “Gwennie from the Block,” wearing Timberlands and ripped jeans.
8. What is the best international dining experience you have had? What was your favorite dish? What about the meal made it so special?
There is a place here in Atlanta called Imperial Fez, which serves authentic Moroccan food. I love the fact that when you come in you take off your shoes, sit on the floor, and enjoy the food while being entertained by belly dancers who dance from table to table.
9. Your favorite vacation spot and hotel? Where was it? Where did you stay? What made the vacation so special?
I love vacationing with my children at the Atlantis Cove Hotel on Nassau Paradise Island, Bahamas. It’s a great place to take your family because everyone, no matter what age, can find something to do right there on the grounds, and if you have small children they offer great day activities so that the grownups can go off and do grown up adventures.
10. Which three items must you always have in your purse and why?
Oh my, I am such a pack rat when it comes to what is in my purse. I am that friend that you can depend on to have absolutely everything in their purse. Even though I don’t have small children anymore, I keep baby wipes in my purse, because baby wipes are good for almost anything; they are a hand sanitizer, make up remover, and a stain remover all in one. Mac Studio Fix powder and a good lip gloss are also a must in the purse.
11. What song can you listen to on repeat? Why?
Right now the song “Here” by Alessia Cara. I absolutely love this song, which I feel describes my personality to some degree, as I like to keep life very simple and drama free.
12. If you could meet anyone in the world, who would you want to meet? And why?
Definitely Oprah, I am very inspired by the things she has overcome, her determination, and her ability to become the mogul that she is today. Her journey is remarkable and you can see her passion in everything she does – whether it is highlighting entrepreneurs, educating girls in Africa, inspiring others, or televising shows like Fix Your Life. She is a purposeful woman on so many levels.
13. Lastly, where will we find Gwen Boyd Moss in five years? What are your dreams and goals?
Gwen Boyd Moss is building a legacy, one that I hope when I am gone to glory will continue to empower and help others. Growing my nonprofit organization My Special Friendz is high on my list, as is more books, motivational speaking, and a possible spin-off show. Stay tuned!
For more information on Gwen, visit http://gwenboydmoss.com/
For more information on Selling it in the ATL, visit http://www.wetv.com/shows/selling-it-in-the-atl
You can follow Gwen on social media @gwenboydmoss
Images Courtesy of Gwen Boyd Moss and Brian at On-Site Fotos