“Who gets excited about a journal?” laughs Dr. Sagashus Levingston
“But when I actually started going through these exercises in this new journal, I was really in awe,” she continues. “I’ve been behind the scenes since about June 2020 during the pandemic. I’ve been a little MIA while I have been working on this and other things. So I was really happy to get it done. I’m really excited about this. I hope that with this journal women can develop strategies and are more mindful of what freedom looks like for them … in addition to bettering their overall health and wellness.”
Levingston, the founder of Infamous Mothers, LLC, is putting the finishing touches on her latest project which will be officially launched in early March, but can be pre-ordered here. She describes Covet: The ‘Disrespectful’ Health and Wellness Journal as a “robust, guided, three-month journal that invites you to check in with your entire self: self-confidence, self-value, goals, habits and more.”
Created for women by women, this journal will ask its readers important questions that are not often asked and will make them be honest with themselves like only a personal journal can.
“It asks who are your support systems? Not who do you want to be your support systems … but who are your actual support systems? The journal will ask you to think about things that we’re often not asked to think about,” says Levingston, an author, entrepreneur, educator, speaker, and mother of six who completed a doctorate in English from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “My hope is that in doing that we’re able to carve out paths for ourselves that will help us fulfill the things we are aspiring to … whether it be mentally, physically, spiritually, or emotionally.”
Here’s an excerpt from COVET explaining its vision:
In a society that still encourages us to engage in respectability politics — even at the cost of our self-esteem, mental health, and physical wellbeing — we’ve carved out a space for you to vent about “daily sh*t.” This journal makes room for all of your “mess” — for you to show up vulnerable, angry, loud and imperfect— so that your health and wellness experience can be authentically yours, clearing a path that truly honors you.
Covet: The “Disrespectful” Health and Wellness Journal was the result of some “unfinished business” within the “Infamous Mothers” movement, which Levingston launched five years ago and that started with her “Infamous Mothers” book that highlights the incredible, true stories of 20 marginalized African-American women who “went through the belly of hell and brought something good back.” The book would become a popular play and then Infamous Mothers, LLC, an education, media and technology company for “badass moms.”
“In hindsight, I realized that there are some things that I would have done differently,” Levingston tells Madison365 in a Zoom interview. “The whole reason that the Infamous Mothers brand existed was that we wanted to be the heroes in our own stories. We wanted to tell our own stories. I often say that we are like the deadpool of the mothering world … we are the anti-heroes. We’re not clean-cut like Clark Kent. We’re the bad girls of the mothering world. So how do we tell our stories?”
Levingston says that she absolutely loved every story in the “Infamous Mothers” book, but she realized after watching the play, in particular, that she would question if the brand was really doing what it set out to originally do.
“We did this for representation and inspiration. But I had to question how much inspiration was our target woman getting from hearing these stories about other women’s histories,” she says. “She was getting the representation piece … but how much inspiration was she getting?”
Levingston spent some time after the Infamous Mothers book and play to really figure out “What does inspiration look like?” And that brought her to the invention of the COVET journal which is purposely meant to be untraditional as it expands the face and voice of health and wellness.
“During COVID, we were building out the Infamous Mothers Third Space Virtual Co-working Space. As an amenity, we had what we called COVET Health and Wellness, which is our health and wellness program,” Levingston remembers. “We ran a pilot series and what we found is that our women were showing up and putting in the work, but they couldn’t remember what their goals were; they couldn’t remember why they were doing what they were doing.
“And, over time, they would lose the inspiration because it would be like, ‘I’m just showin’ up and showin’ up… but the scale is not necessarily moving.’ That’s one of the reasons why we call it The ‘Disrespectful’ Health and Wellness Journal. One of the things that people talk about is that the scale is so disrespectful,” Levingston says. “So what can we do to have these women show up and to honor their journey and help them to remember?”
The woman on the cover of the COVET Journal was originally drawn skinny – but Levingston quickly said, “Un-unh”
“You will get me stoned to death if I put the skinny woman on the cover of a book whose primary audience was Black women,” Levingston laughs. “That was very important to me … this idea of who has the right to be the face and figure of what health and wellness can be. Right? That was a challenge to get it how I wanted. And she has puffs in her head. Red lipstick. What is this? I love it, though.”
The COVET Journal says, “We live in a beautiful world that is riddled with tough realities and unjust systems that have an impact on our bodies, as well as influence what happens in them. Covet recognizes this through its respective monthly themes, gratitude prompts and ‘dirty word’ quotes.”
Levingston realized that there is a mind/body connection that has historically been missing that this journal could supply.
“They needed to see themselves in the pages of the journal and they needed to feel as if this journal was taking them into account because a lot of our women have had children and doctors are telling them they are morbidly obese. They are facing infant mortality and their own mortality. This idea of health and wellness is not a fad. It’s not a luxury. It’s literally a matter of life and death,” she says.
“Often, we associate health and wellness for Black women as poor dieting and poor choices on our part, but what we’ve found through the research is that so much of our health struggles are because of the stress that’s around us and the environments we are living in,” Levingston adds. “That’s part of the reason why we combine a health and wellness piece with our co-working space. It was a way for our women to be able to build health alongside their health.”
And the women absolutely loved it. “They were showing up. But they needed a little bit more. And this journal is bringing them a little bit more,” Levingston says.
Originally, the COVET Journal was going to be for the women in the program.
“But once we created the journal and I saw how much it mattered to me and the changes it was bringing to my life, I realized that this is something that needs to be shared,” Levingston says. “I was able to experience the impact. And that’s what the Infamous Mothers brand has always been about. How do we inspire? How do we shake the ecosystem? How do we build community?”
As the COVET journal gets set to launch, Infamous Mothers is also launching a campaign called “Bad Girl Fit.”
“From the COVET health and wellness program, we realized that all of our women ended up having these really amazing results in terms of self-esteem and confidence,” Levingston says. “People who would have normally quit their health and wellness journey within three months … they have stuck this program out for 12-months-plus. And the one thing that they said was the key was that they are doing the work on their health and wellness journey inside of a community. They realized that their showing up was important for another woman’s health – for some women it could be life and death. Their success was tied to another woman’s success.
“From there, we identified Bad Girl Fit as a way for us to bring this piece of what we learned to the community and the nation,” Levingston continues. “I feel the same way about the COVET Journal – people will show up for their goals but they don’t remember their ‘why’ … they don’t remember their day-to-day stuff. The journal is the piece that helps make that mind/body connection.”
What ages is the COVET Journal for? Levingston says that a lot of people that she works with are between the ages of 30-50, but the journal is for women of all ages. The journal is much more than writing – there are graphs, exercises, things you have to shade in, scales where you can check in yourself around self-esteem.
“There are all these other things in there that warrant a more personal experience,” Levingston says.
“Part of the reason I’ve been able to do everything that I’ve done — finishing the PhD. and creating the Infamous Mothers brand and dealing with all of these kids — was because everything I did I wrote down,” she continues. “It was very intentional for me. It was about re-writing my own narrative. It was about having access to stories that I’ve written about myself that is very different than what other people would say about me. The journaling process, for me, was not just about picking up this book and writing … it’s about a space where I could recreate who I am and a space where I can establish a vision for myself and draw out the strategies that I need.”
Initially, Levingston says, she didn’t trust herself to reach her health and wellness goals. But that would change by putting in the time and by asking herself the very hard and uncomfortable questions.
“There were things that I normally wouldn’t be truthful about in regular conversations,” Levingston says. “But sitting there privately, when there was no one to listen to me and it was just me and that page, I answered from a place of honesty. And it was at that moment that I was able to overcome the challenge I had been facing.”
Levingston’s challenge was trying to do things the way she had done in the past without burning out, and her own personal journal helped her meet herself right where she was in the present and to build a plan based upon where she is now. “And a plan that honors me,” she says.
Before she came up with COVET Journal, Levingston researched 20-30 different journals and “none of them on the market were like this one,” she says. “You can’t open a journal and see images of Black women inside of a writing space.”
COVET, she adds, makes room for all of your mess — for you to show up vulnerable, angry, loud, and imperfect — so that your health and wellness experience can be authentically yours.
“Can you imagine people who have been told their whole life who they are? They’ve been characterized a certain way by the media and on television…. Can you imagine them saying, ‘No, this is who I am. I am stating who I am,'” she says. “Every day for 30 days there’s a new exercise on declaring ourselves and what I absolutely love about that section is that there are so many examples and inspiring lines from women in Hip-Hop.
“This journal is a whole-being experience. It’s not that you just walk away 10 pounds lighter or in better physical health. I’m hoping that something internal happens … a sense of empowerment. I hope that when women are done with this 3-month journal that they are walking away describing themselves differently and they place a different value on things that matter to them and that they have a different idea of what freedom looks like.”