How the god­dess got her groove back

A pro wrestler, YouTube and a yoga mat helped this suc­cess­ful Woonsocket busi­ness­woman over­come ill­ness and de­pres­sion

Woonsocket Call - - FRONT PAGE - By RUSS OLIVO ro­[email protected]­et­call.com

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.

Ernest A. Brown photo

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.

Ernest A. Brown photo

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.

Ernest A. Brown photo

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.

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