When I first saw Nicole, I was immediately taken by the aura of self-confidence and down-to-earth grace she carried in her posture, even if she were simply sitting on a bar stool, typing on her laptop. Tall and willowy, but also toned and tough, Nicole personified the model of a woman who is healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally. She could also wear blue like the Caribbean Sea under a sapphire sky.
I’m hesitant to bother people. People with headphone buds in their ears, people with gazes burning into their laptops, or people enclosed within a circle of conversation—I’m not intent on interrupting them, a sentiment perhaps formed by an overreach of the perception that I’d be a nuisance. This hesitation is also what creates a mystique of inaccessibility around those people. It is a barrier that keeps me, a negligible factor sitting in the same space, from them—people with purpose.
So, although I had seen Nicole a few times, I had not really approached her until later. That waiting was my loss. Nicole’s optimism, determination, and open-mindedness instantly put me at ease. Her healthy dash of cynicism, which keeps her grounded in reality, demonstrates a keen understanding of societies and people around her, and helps her manage life’s many adversities. She is as amazing as I had suspected her to be, but she is also a human being who worked very hard and long to overcome past hardships. Even now, she continues to drive herself and her daughter forward, unfettered.
With great enthusiasm, I invite you to the story of Nicole Bold, our January Woman of the Month.
MB: Let’s begin with where you were born and where you grew up. What was home like for you, and who did you grow up with?
NB: I was born in Washington, D.C. but moved away when I was 4 months old. We moved around every few months to couple years, so I would say I grew up in the west and south United States. My influence is mostly Californian, even though I never lived in California, because my family is from there.
MB: What were the reasons for moving, and how did you feel about moving so often? Did you have anyone you kept in touch with in all the places you’ve lived?
NB: Mostly, it was my mom’s choices. She loves to move. I didn’t like moving when I was younger. My friends were nice and hard to replace. As I got older, we become more impoverished when my mom married a man in the Texas prison system (which isolated us in the community), and I ended up looking forward to moving to escape the regular tortures of middle school. This was all before social media or the internet, so if I kept in contact through letters to anyone (sometimes we didn’t have a phone turned on), usually the relationship would end after a year or two with all the address and phone number changes. Since I became an adult, I’ve kept people in my life, but it is easier today thanks to social media and staying in the same area since I was eighteen. I have been able to find friends from various places through Facebook. It’s been fun to reconnect. The internet is an amazing tool.
MB: While you were growing up, was it just you and your mom?
NB: I also had a sister. My sister and I are very different. Sometimes, you can love someone so much, but your core values and beliefs are so different that it’s better not to have a relationship. She’s an amazing woman and deserves to be around people who support her and love her with the views she holds true to herself, the way my friends support and love me for my truths. I will always be here for her if she needs me.
MB: How was your relationship with your mother?
NB: I idolized my mom when I was young. At eight, things got financially worse, and at ten, she married Johnny, who had been in prison my entire life. I was excited when she married him because I was just ten and thought of things as a fairy tale. I couldn’t understand the implications of that. For years in my adulthood, we didn’t talk. Now, we have a good relationship. My daughter doesn’t know my mom is remarried, so now that her husband is out of prison after thirty-two years, it’s hard.
MB: Tell me a little more about how difficult it was during middle school.
NB: Getting jumped, being made fun of, etc. We went from good neighborhoods where we were the poor ones to bad neighborhoods where everyone was poor. Socioeconomics make for big cultural changes.
MB: I’ve experienced some of my worst years in middle school, mainly with grief from other kids, but I can’t imagine how it might have been for you. What are some specific examples of what you had to go through, and how did you cope?
NB: Most people experience their worst years in middle school. Interestingly enough, that’s a good thing. How the child brain develops is around that age you start needing acceptance from your peers more than your family and then you rebel in order to create your own identity.
I coped by selling things. I was always selling candy or making buttons from magazine clippings and selling them. Or anything I could do for money. I read business books that were so unhelpful because they didn’t understand that four dollars is a lot of money. I also started a snow cone stand around middle school. If you aren’t going to be popular and you know it, create a business and buy a billboard with your face on it later. I didn’t really think through that with moving so much, people don’t actually remember your face! And that when I was older, they wouldn’t matter anyway. I listened to CDs I had on repeat (*NSYNC and Destiny’s Child). I still do that. Music is a great escape. It shows so much emotion that you can feel yours.
I also learned how to fight in boxing. That helped.
MB: Tell me a bit about boxing. How did you get started? Do you still box?
NB: Boxing started after I got jumped for the first time. I would love to still box, but I have a cyst in my wrist that prevents me from doing so. Aside from boxing, another coping thing from my childhood is that I had teachers who helped me. They saw me. They believed in me.
MB: I’m glad to hear that. Was there a particular teacher who stood out, and how did that teacher help you?
NB: I had two teachers that stood out: Mrs. Frazier and Mrs. Holland. Mrs. Frazier believed in me so much that when she heard I dropped out, she paid for me to go to summer school. Unfortunately, I didn’t believe in myself, so I didn’t show up. I had dinner with her about eight years ago to thank her. Just having someone believe in you and support you so much as to spend their own money—wow! And she loved my writing when I was in her class. She made me feel good at a time I wasn’t even eating regularly. I’ll never forget her.
Mrs. Holland was the DECA teacher in ninth grade. She gave me her clothes when she cleaned her closet. She cared for me when I didn’t think I was worth caring for. I tried to find her, but she got a divorce and went back to her maiden name. No one at Tascosa High School remembers her. She may have only taught that one year.
MB: We need all those spaces where we can escape to, like into music and to teachers or friends who can help us, but you also didn’t simply retreat. You were an industrious entrepreneur out on the streets, fighting for your place in a hostile environment. That’s amazing.
NB: My family is made up of entrepreneurs. My Uncle Geoff, the light of my life, motivated me in many ways. He was very kind and very successful. He was what every man dreams of being and every woman dreams of marrying. Even my mom and my dad are entrepreneur-spirited, they just aren’t as good at it. Entrepreneurship was bred into me.
MB: Although you moved a lot, were you able to stay in touch with your uncle? What did he do for a living, and what was one of the main things you learned from him?
NB: Every summer from when I was four-ish to ten-ish, we went to California and visited. We always saw my uncle a day or two. Always. He was a very good businessman but he loved thrift-store shopping. He would always take my sister and I. He taught us how to negotiate at thrift shops and, sometimes, would take us to business lunches. He started a company that was called Global Games. He made location-based Monopoly games. After he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, he got into a franchised business so he could spend more time with his kids before passing. His mom died of the same thing when he was seven. I idolized him so much even though we didn’t spend that much time with him. I always wanted to wait to call him because I wanted to make something of myself to make him proud, so then I usually just called him when I needed advice. [laughs] He was a light to the world.
MB: Your uncle’s story really warms my heart! I can see how he was a positive and guiding influence. So you were finally able to settle in the area when you were eighteen. How did that come about, and how do you feel about it here?
NB: I love it here. It’s the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere. I’ve reinvented myself several times here, and this is a city that believes in reinvention. It believes in community and people. This is home.
MB: Like your uncle adjusting to life after his diagnosis, you adjusted–reinvented–yourself many times in the city. What was it like when you first arrived?
NB: Well, when I moved down here, I didn’t have a lot of planning on what to do. So I just immediately started working and figuring it out. But I wouldn’t call what I did then a reinvention. I just called it moving, not reinventing, until I found out I was pregnant. I think that was my first major reinvention.
MB: Can you back up a little bit, to before your pregnancy?
NB: Yeah. My ex-husband—I ended up marrying my daughter’s father—he was more of a placeholder boyfriend that people have when they are young and afraid of saying they are single. We didn’t have a lot in common. While I was planning on waiting for marriage, a chain of events occurred, and I ended up losing my virginity. Suddenly, I was unmarried and pregnant by somebody who I didn’t share a lot of core values, beliefs, and goals with.
I got into a car accident the same week that I found out that I was pregnant from losing my virginity, and two days later my Uncle Geoff, who I needed advice from, unexpectedly passed. It was a six day period.
MB: Oh, no.
NB: And, also, I had put all of my money into starting a new business. I put all of my money into it, it was getting built out, and I got into the car accident, and I couldn’t work. I was depressed. Obviously, there was a lot going on. So I just lost everything all at once. It was pretty intense, and that brought about a reinvention.
MB: After you broke up with your ex, were you living by yourself? Were you dealing with all of this all alone?
NB: I was. I was living by myself. I had an apartment in Deep Ellum. It was very beautiful.
MB: Your website shares how you got started in your massage therapy business. After the car accident, you tried visiting doctors, but they couldn’t help you.
NB: I was a massage therapist, but I didn’t understand the medical aspects of massage until that happened. I don’t know where I’d be had I not found chiropractic. I just don’t even know where I would be physically or professionally.
MB: Did you start as a massage therapist before or after you got here?
NB: It was a year after I got here. I initially did condo conversions but went to massage school to support myself through college. I decided that I liked massage.
MB: What is one particular thing you like about it?
NB: I get to help people. You can really change people’s lives. You can change people’s lives if you know what you are doing as a massage therapist. You can change lives in multiple ways. If your body is messed up, then your mind becomes messed up. Right?
NB: Because pain, it has a cumulative effect. So when you’re first in pain, it sucks and you get grouchy. But, over time, you just become a jerk. You are not yourself. You’re not being able to be productive. You’re combative with your family. You’re combative with your friends. You get depressed. Because that’s what pain does to all of us.
A lot of times in western medicine—particularly, thirteen years ago before it was more integrated than it is now, when I started—doctors weren’t nearly as educated and helpful about alternative therapy as they are today. Pain would be ruining your life, and there weren’t really a lot of answers. Doctors could only give pills that covered the problem.
It is rewarding to see people not just change in their body but change in their mind. When you first get to know them, they’re crabby and in pain. Some, even skeptical and negative. Then, before long, they’re super happy positive people who are always happy to see you.
And that’s when you, as a massage therapist, know you’re not just improving their pain level, you’re improving their entire life. Then your life is affected by the work that you do. That’s why I love what I do.
MB: There is definitely a connection between health and positive thinking, right?
NB: Right. There is also a connection between not being healthy and negative thinking. I think people highlight positive body experience, but they don’t do the contrast. The negativity. There is a lot of focus on the positive mind and body, which is true. But a lot of people don’t acknowledge the comparison.
MB: I love that you look at the other side, too—that side that people don’t usually want to look at. Maybe if you aren’t particularly happy, it’s not because of an outside factor. It might be because of you—your body. You might have something that you need to address.
NB: A lot of times that’s it. So, if you’re feeling miserable, I can promise you if you look at your thoughts, your physical body, diet, and the situations in your life, something is negative. Something is not right and has to change. Feeling miserable is no one’s natural state, it is no one’s baseline. Pain is not a normal part of the aging process.
Also, for example, people think that massages or self-care in general is luxurious and, therefore, selfish. And, if they’re going through a lot, it means taking time to get a massage is selfish, or they don’t have time for it, or money for it. But the reality is that if you want to get through a lot, if you want to go far and take care of the people you need to, you’ve got to take care of yourself.
MB: So there’s that stereotype, that people think a massage is only a treat for yourself. But there are health benefits of a massage, too.
NB: I think that it’s thought of as a luxury, not a necessity, and that it’s only for rich people. The reality is that a lot of insurance companies are now starting to cover massage. You must get your prescription and there’s reimbursement and stuff. Insurance companies pay for massage because there are huge health benefits, and they save money in the long run. They know that.
MB: Do you prefer the term “massage therapist,” or do you prefer “masseuse”?
NB: You know, to me it doesn’t matter. But I know a lot of people who’ve been called a masseuse, they think that is being called a sex worker instead of a healer or body worker, and I guess they get offended. I really don’t care. I know what I am. I am a healer. People may not know the correct terminology based on our field because they aren’t in our field. People have called me body worker, massage therapist, masseuse, Helga, Miracle Worker. That one’s great, too. I love that one.
MB: Absolutely! Your clients come in for a variety of medical, healing, and revitalization reasons. They’re all sorts of people from all walks of life. Tell me a bit about the kinds of clients you get.
NB: Yeah, I usually work with professional athletes, CEOs, high stress performance individuals. I’ve had people who are minimum-wage workers that save up to see me. I have weekend warriors, people who have been in car accidents. A lot of people that I see are in shape, but some of them aren’t. I do have such a wide variety of people. Pain does not care who you are. The one thing all my clients have in common is that they all have in common is wanting to feel better.
With the type of work that I do, it’s not a “feel good” massage. It’s a “feel better” massage. It’s work for you, too. With a lot of massages, that’s not what it is. With a lot of massages, it is relaxation. That’s not where I chose to put my energy.
MB: You give out homework, right?
NB: I do, I give out homework. Depending on what I feel on the body, there are stretches and strength exercises. I refer people to chiropractors, or doctors, or physical therapists. It’s a team effort. This is not, “I’m going to work and everything is hunky-dory.” It’s work. Just like anything in life that’s worth having.
MB: That’s really amazing on your part. It’s not just a drop-in-and-out, one-time meeting. It’s a continuation of maintaining your health.
NB: Right, if you want to be your best. Don’t get me wrong, I have people that come in once a year when they tweak themselves. But they’re not going to have the highest quality of life that they can. And that is their choice. They are choosing to make that decision, and I’ll proceed to work with them.
For people to get the best results, it’s going to be something that we can go onto a maintenance schedule, or you do things at home, like yoga and foam rolling. A lot of times, people are short-term in their thinking with that.
Nicole Bold rose from her tough childhood by not giving up and by being proactive. Join us next week for Part II, where Nicole shares more about entrepreneurship, her interests, and the future she looks forward to with her daughter.