What Success Looks Like: Monique Jacques, “Lovely”
Georgia was my farthest road trip I took last summer for this interview series, and definitely the most rewarding. I was in awe of both the city of Athens and Monique Jacques. We met in her cozy home, which melted any nervousness or awkward first impressions.
After our conversation, she took me on a tour of the city — with a quick stop at TJ.Maxx to dress shop — and then to a little home-in-the-wall restaurant that was to die for. Let’s just say the combination of my time in Athens had me begging my parents to let me go to the University of Georgia when I got home (although my attempts were unsuccessful).
Monique had a humble childhood in Georgia with her parents and younger brother. Because neither of her parents went to college, they made a point to teach her that hard work and dedication — not just education — can bring success. As a child, she was encouraged by her family to explore her interests and hobbies to figure out what she loved. Monique shared that because her parents had experienced difficult childhoods, they really tried to make their home a “safe haven and always an environment of love.”
Like most of us, Monique had a rough time in high school — which, at its core, is basically a whirlwind mixture of high estrogen levels and low self-esteem no matter what your overall experience. I associate closely with her story because I didn’t have really great friends for most of my high school experience. Monique was blessed to find an escape through music and drama. The arts opened her mind to new possibilities and boosted her confidence.
Her time in college brought about a new love for food and coffee, which only further enhanced her journey of self-awareness. Over time, she found friends who didn’t fight against one another but worked together to lift each other up — I personally imagine this experience to be something like an adult version of The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants. She encouraged me to surround myself with people who celebrate the good in me even when I can’t see it myself.
Monique and I discussed female role models and their influence on our personal and professional lives. She firmly believes that women can be supportive, funny, and beautiful while also being confident, strong, and consistent — it’s about finding the perfect blend of the nurturer and the strong woman. Monique has tried to live her life as what she calls a “servant leader,” and I for one think she’s doing a great job. She sees female competition in many areas of her life and believes that success personally is shallow without that success also lifting others.
Basically, the goal of these interviews was for me to witness how successful women viewed other women and learn how they’ve navigated life. So when I asked her if there had been any events that changed her view of women, Monique shared this story with me:
In college she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life — she had so many interests it was hard to figure out what she really wanted to focus on. Her aunt suggested that she look into public relations because Monique was good at both negotiating and writing.
She contacted a firm about an internship and the woman she spoke to said they were currently in the middle of their biggest event of the year. “My aunt told me to volunteer for her event—so I did and the event got rained out! I hung around and carried a couple of soda boxes that were soggy and she offered me a job. I was there. I showed up and I served so she offered me a job.”
She explained that the woman who had hired her had trouble keeping staff because of her blunt personality. Monique said she saw this as a challenge and was determined to win her boss over. “I just kind of served her, worked hard, and wasn’t afraid of her. I saw her change with her attitude toward me. Slowly but surely she became lovely; she became so kind.”
This experience taught her to view other people as works in progress — not everything is so black and white and not everyone’s bad or good.
What I Learned From Monique
Monique poetically explained that her greatest accomplishment wasn’t a single thing but a realization of process — the ongoing discovery of who she was and what she wanted to explore next.
She ended our interview with a beautiful quote from one of her favorite books, Bittersweet: “There’s a season of wildness, and there’s a season of settledness, and this is neither; this is a season of becoming.” I think that as we navigate through life most of us are always looking for the next step instead of enjoying where we are right now.
This quote, to me, says that there are different times that we have all been through and will all go through but right now we are in a time of exploration, knowledge, enjoyment, and self-discovery — and there’s no place I’d rather be.
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