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MEET TONYA LEWIS LEE

I come from incredibly strong, resilient people... so I’m empowered by their strength and by the notion I better do something with this life because they worked very hard for me to get where I am.
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Sometimes I forget I’m a woman, but then you come up against something, and I realize I have to deal with this being female ‘stuff.’
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Either you’re a humanist or you’re not. Either you care about all people or you don’t.
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I love clothes that fit really well. I’m a curvy girl, so having a good cut is critical for me.
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Our body is everything. I think of my body as this multimillion dollar machine that’s got to get me through this life.
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I love a good heel, but when I’m running around, I like my Doc Marten boots.
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FROM ATTORNEY TO AUTHOR, FILM PRODUCER, ENTREPRENEUR & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, HEALTHY YOU NOW

By Brenda Coffee content editorial director Mark Grischke photographer Noel Sutherland

Tonya Lewis Lee is an accomplished woman on many fronts. She’s an attorney; an advocate for gender and race equality; a film producer; author of three children’s books; an entrepreneur and founder of HealthyYouNow, a site designed to help women make good healthy choices. She’s also a mother and the wife of Spike Lee.

Women need to be talking and sharing what we learn along the way with one another.

In 2007 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of Mortality Health asked Tonya to be the spokesperson for their “A Healthy Baby Begins with You” infant mortality awareness campaign.

“We’re really talking about the health of a woman, because if she’s healthy, she has a healthy baby,” said Tonya. “As I traveled around the country, it became clear that when it comes to women’s health, we’re not doing as good a job as we should be doing. Initially we were primarily focused on women of color, but when you talk about infant mortality in this country… Even if you take black women out, we’re not doing very well. I wanted to get information to women in a way that wasn’t clinical or governmental. I would say women of color are our baseline, because they are underserved, but we all need to be talking and sharing what we learn along the way with one another.”

Tonya has joined forces with Movita, manufacturers of organic vitamins created for today’s woman. “We’re coming out with an organic vitamin and following up with a prenatal,” said Tonya. “We’re putting their business sense and my style and love of all things women’s health into it. For me it’s about understanding multivitamins. Do we really need vitamins, and what does it mean when you take vitamins as opposed to vitamins your body doesn’t absorb?”

Tonya has several book adaptation projects she’s producing. “One is a New York Times bestselling novel and National Book Award nominee called Monster by Walter Dean Myers. Another is the Gallagher Girls based on a book series which we’ve got setup at Paramount and have a team of writers working on. I’m trying to get all of these up and going. It always comes down to raising money. Sometimes I forget I’m a woman, but then you come up against something, and I realize I have to deal with this being female ‘stuff.’ It’s frustrating, but it’s why we all need to support one another.”

Women need to be talking and sharing what we learn along the way with one another.

–MEET TONYA LEWIS LEE

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Q and A with MEET TONYA LEWIS LEE

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DIFFERENCE NOW VERSUS 20 YEARS AGO

I was always entrepreneurial so I still have that drive. I’m more confident now, a little more patient. The notion of women having it all and doing it all is so crazy. We struggle about when to have children… whether we work. I’m blessed because Spike has always been supportive, so I’ve had choices and options, but it’s never been easy.

When we got married I was a lawyer, and I swear, 20 years ago, being a parent was different. I was the only one of our friends with a baby. I was the boring one in the group, but it’s the most powerful thing any human being can do. My baby is now a Freshman in college… They’re amazing people so that makes me feel competent, and that feels good.

MOST IMPORTANT SURVIVAL SKILL

Being physically fit. Our body is everything. I think of my body as this multimillion dollar machine that’s got to get me through this life.

WHAT EMPOWERS YOU

My ancestors. I come from incredibly strong, resilient people. Since a young age, I’ve felt really connected and knew they struggled and thought about me in the future. I owe them a great deal, so I’m empowered by their strength and by the notion I better do something with this life because they worked very hard for me to get where I am.

WHAT’S NOT WORTH IT ANYMORE

Pettiness and some of the stuff that goes on in the world bothers me. I don’t have a lot of tolerance for that. Either you’re a humanist or you’re not. Either you care about all people or you don’t. We’re all connected and affect one another.

HOW’S YOUR STYLE DIFFERENT

Twenty years ago I was more bohemian. I’m mostly casual because that’s the life I live. I produce, and I work on the website, so I like to feel comfortable, but I also like to feel finished and love a jacket and a hat. I love a good heel, but when I’m running around, I like my Doc Marten boots. I love clothes that fit really well. I’m a curvy girl, so having a good cut is critical for me. I’ve discovered as I get older that if you try to compensate for your curves by going bigger, it can make you sloppy. I like to feel neat.

FAVORITE DESIGNERS

If I did have an indulgence, it would be my clothes. I love Byron Lars, Dolche & Gabbana, Stella McCartney, Victoria Beckham and Balmain for certain things.

MISSING FROM YOUR CLOSET

Jewelry is something that’s not been my thing. I find pieces I like, and I wear them out. I don’t switch them out. I don’t like to shop, so I shop online. I can buy it all and send it all back which is great. I’ve tried a personal stylist or a shopper, but they don’t understand my style, so I do it myself, but I don’t like it.


12 Comments

  • Reply Jennifer July 26, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Fascinating lady! She’s so right, we can’t
    be, or do it all! The days of thinking we can are blessedly over. Great interview.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace July 30, 2016 at 9:28 am

      Jennifer,
      Yes, it’s refreshing to now here women admit we can’t do it all.
      XOXO,
      Brenda

  • Reply Jen Lawrence July 26, 2016 at 10:47 am

    What a great interview. I love hearing the voices of powerful women.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace July 30, 2016 at 9:28 am

      Jen,
      I think Tonya Lewis Lee is definitely a powerful force and a champion of women.
      XOXO,
      Brenda

  • Reply Helene Cohen Bludman July 26, 2016 at 10:59 am

    I enjoyed learning about this fascinating and accomplished woman. Great interview.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace July 30, 2016 at 9:29 am

      Thank Helene! She’s an interesting woman.

  • Reply Esther Zimmer July 26, 2016 at 11:05 am

    What an interesting woman! Great interview and very inspirational. Like Jen, I love powerful women like Tonya. Essie xx

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace July 30, 2016 at 9:30 am

      Essie,
      Tonya is a 1010PP kind of woman, that’s for sure. I enjoyed meeting her.
      XOXOX,
      Brenda

  • Reply Karen @BakingInATornado July 26, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    So much strength and self confidence. I think we should all take the time to look back at who we were and celebrate who we’ve become as we walk forward.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace July 30, 2016 at 9:32 am

      Karen,
      What a great exercise! I think we’d have more self-respect if we viewed ourselves in light of how far we’ve come. Love this idea!!
      Brenda

  • Reply Donna O'Klock July 27, 2016 at 9:45 am

    What an inspiring interview with a talented and multi-faceted woman!

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace July 30, 2016 at 9:33 am

      Donna,
      I have a hunch we only scratched the surface in getting to know Tonya. She is an amazing woman.
      XOXO,
      Brenda

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