Tonya Lewis Lee wants me to take my vitamins. Specifically, she wants me to take her vitamins, which is why a month’s supply of multivitamins from her company, Movita Organics, sits on my desk. The glass bottle boasts that they are made with organic fruit, vegetables and herbs, whole-food vitamins and minerals, and are gluten-free, non-GMO and allergen-free for shellfish and nuts. But for me, the biggest selling point was that I could take them on an empty stomach, which I have been, every morning for the past two weeks.
How do I feel? Pretty damn good, for someone who averages five hours of sleep per night.
I’m guessing this proprietary blend must be where Tonya Lewis Lee gets the energy to keep so many balls in the air—and look great doing it. After all, the attorney, film and television producer, writer, health advocate, public speaker, blogger and now vitamin entrepreneur is also mother to two grown children and has been married to prolific and legendary director Spike Lee since 1993.
And Movita isn’t even her only current project: Aside from her own writing projects, her production company, Tonik Productions, is currently in distribution talks for its critically acclaimed film Monster, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and stars Jeffrey Wright and Jennifer Hudson. It’s just one of multiple film and television projects the company has pending; and then, of course, she’s also executive producer (and rumored inspiration) for Netflix’s successful serial reboot of her husband’s first feature film, She’s Gotta Have It.
Add to that her health-and-wellness blog, Healthy You Now, and her numerous speaking engagements around the country on issues of women’s and infant health, and you’ve got one very full, very multifaceted life. Here at The Glow Up, all we want to know is: How does she do it? Lewis Lee graciously took time out from her busy schedule to tell us:
You know, it’s funny, because I think sometimes for people it can sound like, “Oh, she has so many different things.” But for me, they all come out of the same place, meaning that they come from a place of really wanting to ultimately tell stories around who we are as a people—and particularly black people—but also, black people living in an integrated world.
And the health piece to me is so clear because I believe that we’re all here for a purpose and a reason, and you can’t really fulfill your purpose or your reason if you don’t have your health. And so, for me, the vitamins are a way to continue the conversation with women around how to live your best life, how to be as healthy as you possibly can be, and to keep those conversations and stories going, as well.
Lewis Lee’s recent venture into the vitamin market is part of advancing that conversation. Movita Organics launched with its women’s multivitamin (which retails at a competitive $39.95 per bottle for a incomparable list of benefits), but has several other products ready for market, including a prenatal vitamin, B3 and B12, as well as a hair, skin and nails formulation we can’t wait to get our hands on.
But if a high-end multivitamin seems a trivial pursuit in comparison with the real health crises facing our communities, Lewis Lee is well-versed on those issues as well, traveling the country to engage with and inform women of all backgrounds about ways to achieve optimal health for themselves, their families and their communities:
One of the things I’ve done when I have gone and spoken at different outlets is to bring together people from that particular community to talk about the issues; about what are the barriers to optimal health in their communities, and how can we seek to make the situation better? ... Because I do think that when you share information—even if what’s happening in my community is a little different [from] what’s going on in yours—that shared information can be helpful.
Again, because it’s not just an individual choice; it is about our community as well, and getting our communities to support healthy lifestyles, especially in this onslaught that we are dealing with our government right now. So I hope to go offline as well, and bring people together to have these conversations and try to make our communities as healthy as they can be.
Now that she’s moving into making health-based products, Lewis Lee is garnering obvious comparisons to other lifestyle mavens—her blog has even been called “the black Goop.” But Lewis Lee is clear that her mission is to create and cultivate a healthy lifestyle culture made for us, by us:
When I initially started my blog, Healthy You Now, the idea was to provide a platform that was creating content that would help women find answers and ... ways to live a better, healthier lifestyle. And we also were trying to create a community of women, because I think that a lot of times we feel like we’re out here on our own, trying to figure these issues out. But when you hear other people’s journeys, it’s helpful to know that you’re not alone ...
It is about a community of women with tools to help them live their best lives. And as women of color, we certainly deserve and need space for ourselves as well ...
It’s an ambitious undertaking, but clearly, Lewis Lee is no stranger to ambition. Neither is she the prototypical “Hollywood wife”; even during the years she focused on raising her family in her native New York, she always kept her own career at what she calls a “simmer.” But while it would be easy to assume that she’s gotta have it all, Lewis Lee chuckles at the concept:
You know, I’m a believer that you can have it all, but not necessarily all at the same time. And it’s hard; I am very fortunate in that I married someone who was able to provide while we were raising our children. I did keep working, but ... I made the choice that my children were going to come first, and I was able to work around what worked for them.
[But] I always had a vision that by the time my son—who’s my youngest—graduated from high school, I’d still be a relatively young woman, and I could really go hard in my career. ... I was able to do that, and once they were out of the house, I was then able to shift gears and go really hard, which is really amazing. And I am so grateful to be able to be in that position.
So I would say to women: You have to make choices that work for your family. You have to make your choices, but I do believe as women, no matter what your circumstances, you have to have something for yourself. And even if you have to keep it at simmer—if you can’t do it 100 percent—you should do something so that when the time comes ... you can shift gears and go 100 percent...
I think that for our own self-esteem, we do have to be engaged in working at something other than our children, so that when they do grow up—and they do grow up faster than we think—you’ve got something for yourself.
Lewis Lee credits great partnerships in every area of her life with her ability to juggle it all, as well as the ability to pivot when things aren’t working out. But most of all, she thinks the secret to her ongoing motivation and success is figuring out what she loves to do, and continuing to do it:
As I said to a friend of mine: “If someone said to me, ‘If you get up every day and you do this one thing, at the end of 10 years, you’ll have a $100 million in the bank,’ I bet you’d get up and do that thing every day, right?”
I don’t know that I’ll have $100 million in the bank at the end of this, but I will tell you, I really enjoy what I do. I love creating things and bringing the people together to actually make it happen, and watching it happen ...
None of them happen overnight. You gotta stick with it and keep at it, and eventually—if you never give up—I think they finally come to fruition.