As a cast member on VH1’s Black Ink Crew Chicago, Jenn Johnson is making her presence known by being a voice for the strong black woman. Johnson was originally introduced to the show as the longtime girlfriend to lead cast member, Van Johnson. And since then, she has opened her personal world up to her fans which includes her relationship issues with Van, being a single mother to a young teenager, and the overall challenges of being a strong black woman. Currently, she is gearing up to launch her women-centric fashion brand, Nubile University, and partnership with the nonprofit, A Knock at Midnight. Jenn opened up with me and shared a more in-depth look at her relationship with co-cast member Van and why she doesn’t want women to sell themselves short when it comes to their happiness.

What has been the most difficult part of your relationship with Van?

The most difficult part about my relationship with Van is our relationship is in the public eye. It makes it difficult to process and resolve issues naturally. Everyone is constantly involved with our big decisions, the pressure of our peer’s opinions usually heightens the reaction to most situations – positive or negative.

Why do you feel you have endured this journey with Van this long?

Van and I met in my early 20’s and he was my first experience with building a long-lasting romantic relationship. Just the overall way we interacted with one another eventually set me up mentally to prepare myself to be with him forever. I began consciously making life decisions with OUR best interest in mind. From the very start of our relationship, I was truly invested.

What has this experience taught you about putting yourself first?

It took time for me to grow to learn that I need to be more selfish with me. The experience taught me that no one’s happiness should overshadow my own.

Why do you feel so many women allow themselves to become a rehabilitation center for broken men?

As women, we have been held to this standard of being nurturers by nature. Being so loving and caring can be the gateway to manipulation especially when we fall in love with a man’s potential. Most of us as women (including some men) are guilty of it, especially for a person we love.

What are some important key factors that you will be striving to teach your daughter about love?

That’s it’s okay to let love find you. When you have taken out the time with loving yourself starting from the “inside out,” you begin exuding happiness and confidence within, that starves for growth and progression in life and baby ain’t nothing sexier than a confident woman!

How did you feel after Van showed up intoxicated at the altar?

Van showing up at the altar intoxicated surfaced a lot of unanswered questions pertaining to our relationship: Where do we stand? What are we doing? What direction is our relationship going? Having to be at the altar and seeing him in that state really developed those non-visited issues.

What was your relationship like with your father?

Insightful. He paved the way to encourage me to be the bold, outspoken, loving, wise, selfless, sensitive gangster that I am today.

What are some things that help make you such an amazing mother & a powerful Black Queen?

Well, the first and key thing is that I am relatable. We all have that person in our life that you may love, but they’ll tell you how dirty and funky your draws really are. I don’t want to be kept in the dark, and I don’t want to hear the watered down truth on anything anymore.  I want to uplift, and encourage my people that it’s never too late to make a difference no matter where you are or who you are, the journey to brighter days begins with you. When you are told something about you repeatedly, you eventually start believing it. I want the world to know, I’m here and whether you like it or not, we’re going to make some positive changes. PERIOD!

What do you want women to learn from your experiences with toxic relationships?

Once you’ve realized you’ve done all you could do, and the relationship is lost, don’t stick around and lose yourself too.

What changes is Jenn making for her better good in 2019?

I’m striving to be the best “ME” I am the focus for 2019. It’s all about self-care and becoming more self-reliant in every aspect of my life. I’m in the beginning stages of developing my own clothing brand, I’ve attached myself to a nonprofit called, A Knock at Midnight, and I’m currently looking into more ways that I could be a beacon of light for my community.

In moving forward, what new standards have you set in place for yourself when it comes to the love life?

New standards I’ve developed is not be so willing to compromise my values and morals for what someone else may want to gain from me.  I am a strong believer and advocate that the person God sends and who is assigned to enter into my life, will not only test my great qualities but to encourage me to strive for something more that may have yet to be developed.

Salute to Jenn for taking the time to share her story and for being the example of a strong black woman who is not easily defeated or hindered by the everyday lessons we tend to encounter from toxic relations!

On behalf of Sheen Magazine, Happy Birthday Jenn!

Keep up with Jenn Johnson on social media!

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

All images by Nick Skillz & Chris Reavley of @crcollection