Interview with Jillian Bullock
Who is Jillian Bullock?
A: I am the CEO of Jillian Bullock Enterprises, LLC, based in PA. Through my company I work as a fitness and wellness expert, award winning independent filmmaker, empowerment speaker, and professional life coach. I am a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal, and currently freelance for on-line publications. I write and speak about Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), fitness, health, empowerment, women’s issues (rape, sexual assault, domestic violence), and personal and professional development. I am a certified personal trainer and certified group fitness instructor. A former competitive martial artist, I hold two black belts, one in Tae Kwon Do and the other in Wing Chun. I currently train in Muay Thai and boxing.
I am also the author of the memoir, HERE I STAND, which tells of my upbringing as a young, African-American girl, raised by my white stepfather, who was a member of the Italian Mafia.
Jillian, I’ve read your book, and as I am sure many who have read your memoir, wonder, it took a great deal of mental strength to get from point A to point B, does your strength have a pause button? Is there a time now, where you wonder how you will get through something?
A: It took me ten years to write my life story because it was very difficult to do. There were things that happened in my life while growing up that still hit a nerve at times, which is another reason why it took me so long to complete it. At times, I had to put the writing aside to clear my head. But to have completed the book is in a sense how I now live my life.
There are going to be tough times, but I gather the strength to endure, push through, and come out on the other side a much stronger person. I call this my “fighting spirit.”
If a young MMA fighter came up to you today and asked, what’s it like to be you? How would you answer that question?
A: I would answer, I am the kind of person who continues to strive every day to be a better person. I’m still a work in progress. I work diligently to live a good life, a happy life, a productive and fulfilled life. Being happy is the most difficult thing to do, but it’s the most important. And despite all the things I have accomplished, it took me a long time to figure out how to be happy and a peace.
Tell us what it was like to take that first punch to someone when you were in the ring.
A: Taking a punch or giving a punch feels the same way to me. Obviously, taking it does hurt, but I also know landing a punch to my opponent also hurts. My first punch to an opponent felt good. It meant I overcame my fear and challenged myself. But I also learned during my amateur boxing career, that we, females, are warriors when we enter the ring. The thing is, standing in that ring with another female, I know the hard work we both endured to get to that point. Most times, female fighters are mothers, many times single mothers, or wives, working women, who have a lot on our plates, but we still must find time to train, to diet, and to balance our lives. I had the upmost respect for any women who was my opponent even when we were smashing each other with blows.
Why do you think we idolize sport players?
A: I can’t say because I don’t idolize any sport players. But if I had to form an opinion, I guess it would be because people see sport players as something they’re not, bigger than life, with extraordinary or gifted talent.
Are you still as health conscious today as when you were training for a fight?
A: No, not even. Training for a fight was a job, well, in my case a second job or third, if you count raising kids. I used to train six days a week, two-three hours a day and the diet was so strict. However, I will be filming my first fitness video this year, so I have to start training and eating a clean diet in order to look my best. This in a sense is like preparing for a fight. In six months, I’ll look on the level of how Michael B. Jordan did in the movie “Creed.”
Women and men look at you as an empowered woman, do you think crying is a sign of weakness or strength?
A: It’s a sign of strength. You cleanse your soul when you cry. You let go of pain or you rejoice in the wonders of life when you let it out. However, I believe crying does need to be done in private at times. Crying at an award show when you receive an Oscar or when you see your child being born is one thing, but crying in front of your employees because things are going crazy and you’re frustrated and stressed, is not cool, especially if you’re a woman. You don’t want people, especially men, to have any reason to think you can’t do a powerful job or a difficult task because you’re too emotional. Sad to say, but that’s the world we live in.
If you could go back in time and tell a younger version of yourself one thing, what would you tell?
A: I would tell my younger self this: “Listen girl, do not have children or get married until later in life, so you can completely focus on building your multi-million dollar empire.”
I know many women who have had cancer scares, myself included, but you have actually battled cancer, can you speak on that a little?
A: In my early 30’s I had ovarian cancer. As a result I had a hysterectomy, along with treatment. It was a scary time because I was a single mother of three children. My oldest son, Clinton, was in high school and he was about to go to Venezuela as an exchange student, so he wasn’t around to help. I basically struggled to figure out what would happen if I were to die. It was a difficult time even after I went into remission. I became depressed and couldn’t work for a while. But like other difficult periods in my life, I put on my ‘fighting spirit’ attitude and sucked it up. I got back to living and actually started training again, not only in boxing, but mixed martial arts and wrestling. I trained at WXW Wrestling camp in Allentown, PA. The owner, Afa Anoa’i, was a WWE tag team champion with his brother Sika Anoa’i in the 70’s and 80’s. Afa is also the uncle of many WWE superstars, including Rikishi and The Rock.
What does your joy look like today, Jillian?
A: Quiet is a joy to me. When I am up at 4 a.m. writing a book, or script or article, and the birds are chirping, and my house is still, it’s the best. I’ve found I can’t be creative if I have craziness in my life. And for so long, my life was filled with chaos, but I pushed all the negativity, (people, places and things), away so I could enjoy peace and quiet. It’s a wonderful thing.
If someone wanted to know how would five years from now matter, what would you tell them?
A: I will have accomplished my goal of building my multi-million dollar empire, which is an entertainment and empowerment company. In do so, I will have also built my own movie sound stage and production studio in order to continue to produce books, movies and TV shows. This in turn, will allow me to employee hundreds of people. I plan to also have an internship program for teenagers, and especially teen mothers. They need mentors and that’s what I will supply for them. In addition, I plan to have my non-profit organization, “Let’s Get On It,” to award scholarships for college to children of military veterans, firefighters, and paramedics. Through my Fighting Spirit Warriors: Fitness for Self-Defense program, I will continue my mission to train girls and women so they don’t become victims of rape, sexual assault or domestic violence. Giving back and leaving an amazing legacy is what is should be all about if one is in a position of power and wealth.
As a screenwriter, tell us about what you have worked on and what projects you are working on right now.
A: In my career so far, I have sold two scripts, “Scar Across My Heart” and “The Champion Inside.” I have produced short films, a documentary, “A Filmmaker’s Personal Journey,” and a feature film entitled “Spirit.” Currently, I am in production on “A Sense of Purpose: Fighting For Our Lives,” which I wrote and will direct. The film deals with military veterans and post-traumatic stress disorder. In development is “Listen To What The Dead Are Saying,” which focuses on a female forensic police officer in Philadelphia. After that I will concentrate on getting my memoir, HERE I STAND, turned into a feature film.
Does there come a time in the day that you need to quiet the voices in your head, as a writer? What do you do if so?
A: No, I like the voices in my head. It helps me develop characters, especially for the novel I’m currently writing, “Sunny Days and Bloody Nights.” It’s an erotic thriller, lots of sex and murder. Good stuff.
What advice do you give someone who wants to turn their book into a screenplay?
A: As a screenwriting judge for the Set in Philadelphia Screenwriting Contest, which is sponsored annually by the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, I read tons of scrips and not being truly knowledgeable about how a screenplay is constructed is the reason so many scripts are bad. Take the time to study, study and study, which means reading lots of scripts, taking classes, going to workshops, watching movies, not for enjoyment, but to study. It takes a lot of work to become a great screenwriter, not just in how to structure a script, but how to develop characters, dialogue, pacing, and so much more. Turning a book into a screenplay is even more difficult because you must shrink a book of 300, 400 pages into a script of no more than 120 pages, which is a two hour movie. That takes skill to do and to do well. So, first learn how to write a great script, then take more time to learn how to turn a book into a screenplay. It takes time, dedication, hard work, and a tough skin to do it right.
If you could go anywhere in the world for a weekend, where would you go, and why?
A: Any place near water, where it’s quiet, and I can write and read books.
What are some of your simple pleasures?
A: Cooking. Lately, I’ve gotten into cooking different dishes. I plan to take some cooking classes and buy all these wonderful cooking equipment and gadgets.
What three questions do you wish you knew the answers to?
A: Who really shot JFK? Where is Jimmy Hoffa’s body buried? What does God look like?
Do you have any political aspirations?
A: Like I said as this time in my life I enjoy a peaceful and quiet life and politics is anything but that. I would be stressed all the time. No thanks.
What do you think society can do without?
A: People who are just downright mean and evil.
Tell me about, I HIT BACK?
A: I HIT BACK is a movement, a call to action. For all people, males and females, politicians, celebrities, athletes, businessmen, religious leaders, and the general public, it requires everyone to join in the movement and to pledge to speak out against the violence that plagues females. This movement is a way to change the way people think and talk about rape, sexual assault, or domestic violence, human trafficking, stalking, discrimination, and inequity, and help make changes in the laws that govern the way girls and women are treated in the United States and other countries around the world. My goal is to make I HIT BACK an international movement.
A woman walks up to you and says, “You are my hero.” Are you embarrassed, humbled, or do you feel on top of the world? How would you feel, or has this happened already?
A: This has actually happened to me, especially after my memoir, HERE I STAND, came out. When it first happened I was taken aback. I had no idea my book would touch people’s lives in such a profound way. But I guess considering everything I’ve endured, especially when I was growing up, readers who are, or have, gone through their own struggles can relate. From government officials to people in correctional facilities, so many people have contacted me to ask two main questions: “How did you turn your life around?” “Can you help me do the same?”
Whose life have you had the greatest impact on?
A: I would hope that’s my children, Clinton, Andre, and Floricia. As a single parent, I am happy that I was able to instill certain qualities in them, like hard work, don’t quit, and never give up on their dreams. All three children are productive and successful adults now. My main impact on the world would be that I was able to raise children to become adults who aren’t a burden on me or society. They all left home at 18 and went out into the world to do great things.
You have the screenplay, Here I Stand, your memoir, all ready to go, who do you want to play you in the movie, if you could have anyone?
A: It will probably be an unknown actress because my character is featured from 14 to 20. I thought about Quvenzhané Wallis (“Anne,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild”). Depending on when the movie goes into production, she would be the right age and perfect for the role.
Cyrus Webb wrote a review on Here I Stand, on one part of his review he states, “For Jillian Bullock she has been able to deal with horrible challenges in her life all to move forward and still succeed. Part of her journey is chronicled in her book HERE I STAND. It takes you through not only the lack of love and respect she was shown, but how she was able to make the most of difficult times and difficult decisions.” Did he hit the mark and put into words exactly what your readers may get from your story?
A: My book is a rough read, meant for people over the age of 18 due to graphic situations, like when I was raped, when I was homeless and had to resort to drugs and prostitution as a way to survive. Or even when I witnessed my first Mob hit, (my stepfather was a member of the Philadelphia Italian Mafia), when I was nine. Plus, so much more. Yes, radio interviewer Cyrus Webb said it correct. I had to overcome tremendous obstacles and find a way to pull myself up by my bootstraps and push on. It’s been a long, hard journey, but one that has put me in the position as an empowerment speaker to help others.
It’s twenty years in the future, your grandchildren are watching your story on video stream. When they ask you, are you happy? What do you expect your older self to say?
A: Absolutely. I’ve build a legacy I’m proud of by helping others. My kids and grandkids are healthy and happy. I’m healthy and in great shape physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I’m writing in my home, by the lake, where it’s quiet or I’m whipping up a fabulous exotic meal in my kitchen. I’m happy and at peace.
It has been an honor, and a priviledge getting to know Jillian Bullock, the empowered woman.
Please fill free to ask Ms. Bullock questions.
Jillian Bullock, Here I Stand