How the goddess got her groove back
A pro wrestler, YouTube and a yoga mat helped this successful Woonsocket businesswoman overcome illness and depression
NWOONSOCKET obody has to tell Jennifer Jolicoeur that sex sells. With scores of sales representatives in 43 states, her “pleasure devices” home party company, Athena’s Home Novelties, grossed more than $4 million in 2018.
But after she pulled a blood-fattened tick out of her neck a few days before Thanksgiving in 2014, she thought she might lose it all.
Within a week, she was blind in one eye.
“Here I am I own a multi million-dollar company that requires me to read reports, and things like that, I’m always on the go and now I’m half-blind,” recalls Jolicoeur. “I started getting depressed. As the owner of Athena’s and a leader, I thought, ‘Who’s going to want to follow someone who’s half-blind?’ That was a big part of it.”
Jolicoeur’s eyesight has never been fully restored. But she did get her motivational groove back, becoming a mini-YouTube sensation in the process with an inspirational video about being a strong, healthy woman on the cusp of 50 years old.
Jolicoeur says she owes it all to Diamond Dallas Page, a World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Famer who was nearly crippled from wrestling-related back and joint injuries in his 40s. Now 62 and all but retired from wrestling, Page, also known as DDP, has reinvented himself as the chief pitchman for his own brand of healing exercise – DDP Yoga – a mix of traditional yoga,
calisthenics and physical therapy routines.
Jolicoeur met Page in 2015 at one of his yoga workshops during a WrestleMania event in New Jersey. He wound up tuning into Jolicoeur’s Facebook page, where she religiously logged her progress with DDP Yoga in time-lapse video from nearly two years worth of DDP workouts.
Page was so impressed with her results he invited Jolicoeur to the DDP Yoga headquarters in Georgia last summer to videotape a testimonial for the recovery exercise technique. “Of course,” she says, “I was honored to do that.” Jolicoeur is not paid for the testimonial, which was purely voluntary. DDP Yoga owns all the rights to the video.
Since the video was released on New Year’s Day, it has garnered more than 111,000 views on YouTube.
Many of the DDP Yoga testimonials are from practitioners who have lost a lot of weight as a result. Jolicoeur did that, dropping from size 12 and 150 pounds to a lithe 134-pound, size 4. With teenage giddiness, she says in the testimonial that it’s been a thrill to hear her husband say she’s shrinking back to her pre-marriage body.
But Jolicoeur credits DDP Yoga not just with helping her shape up, but restoring the self-confidence and drive she lost when her left eye blanked out.
“I was not an obese person, but I was out of shape,” she says. “Now I can do thirty push-ups. I was a woman in her late 40s and this showed me you can still be healthy and health-conscious in your late 40s.”
Jolicoeur initially found out about DDP Yoga the same way millions of others have – through another testimonial video that rocketed DDP Yoga’s company profile into the stratosphere. It featured the travails of Arthur Boorman, a paratrooper in the first Persian Gulf war whose back was injured from too many jumps. Unable to walk, he grew morbidly obese after he was discharged.
YouTube currently charts Boorman for more than 16 million views, and the clock is still ticking.
Before Jolicoeur drew on Boor- man for inspiration, he, too, chronicled his grueling road to recovery via DDP Yoga on a YouTube video edited down from many months of regular workouts. In the beginning, a rotund Boorman repeatedly loses his balance, toppling over during simple yoga positions or trying to walk without his crutches and leg brace. By the end of the video he’s lost 140 pounds and he’s not just walking – he’s sprinting without his crutches.
“Never underestimate what you can accomplish when you believe in yourself,” Boorman memes in the video. “Never give up. Never.”
Jolicoeur was in her depressed phase when she first saw the video, which prompted her to learn more about Page Joseph Falkinburg – aka Diamond Dallas Page. She learned the story of how DDP, at the top of his game at the age of 42, had been offered a $3 million professional wrestling contract he feared he’d never be able to fulfill because he’d been hobbled by a back injury.
Accompanied by his YouTube testimonial star – Boorman – Page recalled his journey on TV’s popular Shark Tank, where entrepreneurs have a few minutes to make a pitch for venture capital cash. Page was looking for $200,000 to turn DDP Yoga from a DVD business to a mobile app, but not one of the five celebrity bankrollers on the show would bite.
——— UNEXPECTEDLY ARTICULATE for a man who’d made – and broke – his bones in the body-slamming business, Page explained how he’d initially viewed yoga as a less than macho form of exercise, but in the end he embraced it because it was all he was physically capable of for exercise. Along the way he began working in old-fashioned resistance exercises – no weightlifting – with some of the maneuvers his therapists had put him through.
By accident, he invented a new brand of yoga that yields a cardiovascular workout and builds core body strength without causing joint damage.
“You see folks,” he told the judges, “DDP Yoga – it’s not your mama’s yoga.”
After doing her homework on Page, Joliceour and her son met him at the WrestleMania event in New Jersey and attended one of his workshops.
Page, she said, was “charismatic, motivating and inspiring.”
“I was hooked,” she said. “I had no upper body strength at all. I was not a physically fit person. It was very, very challenging. I got a set of his DVDs, took it home and started doing it.”
In addition to helping her get in shape, the routine gave her something other than her problems to focus on and made her feel better psychologically, says Jolicoeur.
Today she has about 30 percent of normal vision in her left eye. She has no peripheral vision and has lost the ability to see colors accurately. “They’re muted,” she says.
Officially, she was diagnosed with optical neuritis – a swelling of the optic nerve. But doctors were never able to tell her whether it was the tick bite or the megadose of preventive antibiotics she was given to stanch a possible Lyme infection that caused the neuropathy.
Jolicoeur was in her office at the Winter Street headquarters of Athena’s Home Novelties when she discovered the tick, embedded directly in her jugular vein, a few days before Thanksgiving in 2014. While her eyesight will never be normal again, she’s over being depressed about it and is learning to live and work with the irreversible impairment.
Jolicoeur, who founded Athena’s in 1998, bills the company as a “romance home party business.” With sales representatives dubbed “goddesses” – most are women – Athena’s sells everything from traditional spa products to “body flavorings,” lubricants and sex toys, or “pleasure devices” as Jolicoeur calls them.
But the company may be known as much for its marketing strategy as the products its sells, borrowing from another homegrown corporate legend – Tupperware.
In its heyday, most of the household plasticware company’s goods were distributed via Tupperware parties – home gatherings arranged by a single sales rep who demonstrated the goods in the comfort of her own living room or kitchen.
It works for lubricants and sex toys, too. This weekend, for example, Athena’s goddesses were converging from all over the country for a gathering in Newport to claim a $20,000 prize for being one of the company’s top sales representatives of 2018.
Even in the depths of Jolicoeur’s despair, Athena’s pleasure train never slowed down.
“I still managed to keep it all rolling even when I was feeling that low,” says Jolicoeur.
Jennifer Jolicoeur, owner of Athena’s Home Novelties in Woonsocket, attributes her well-being to a yoga regimen which she started after seeing a video about an innovative new kind of yoga program invented by a former professional wrestler.
Jennifer Jolicoeur, owner of Athena’s Home Novelties, in Woonsocket, is back in fine form after beginning the healing exercise DDP Yoga — which she calls a mix of traditional yoga, calisthenics and physical therapy routines, created by Diamond Dallas Page, a former professional wrestler. She had suffered a debilitating illness after a tick bite back in 2014.
Jennifer Jolicoeur, owner of Athena’s Home Novelties, in Woonsocket, is back in fine form after beginning the healing exercise DDP Yoga — which she calls a mix of traditional yoga, calisthenics and physical therapy routines, created by Diamond Dallas Page, a former professional wrestler.