Tawanya Norwood is a 27 year old and from a low- income, crime- ridden neighborhood in Miami, FL known as Liberty City. Her dream is to become a motivational speaker to athletes, women, and kids who come from neighborhoods like she did.
The goal Tawanya is striving toward right now is to become a Nike endorsed athlete/model so people will be inclined to listen to her as a speaker. She has been taking and editing her own inspirational fitness pictures with her iPad for a year now — Tawanya posts them to her Instagram account with the intent of catching the attention of someone from Nike.
What ignited your interest in fitness?
TN: My passion for fitness started as a passion for sports. I ran track in high school (2003-2007) and that’s what first got me into sports. When I got to college my passion for sports increased as I began to notice its deeper role in society and impact on people. In particular, I noticed how playing sports made the athletes on campus very popular. Eventually I began to do research on sports in society and I stumbled upon a motivational speaker who used sports as an analogy for life. I really liked his speeches and after listening to them I decided that I wanted to do something similar to what he did. His perspective showed me how sports can teach life lessons and eventually I developed a passion and appreciation for fitness in general.
What inspired your decision to ‘dream big’ and seek out a collaboration with Nike?
TN: I was inspired to ‘dream big’ by that speaker, Eric Thomas. He went from being homeless to having a PhD and speaking to NBA and NFL teams about his journey. Seeing what he accomplished coming from where he came from inspired me to believe I could do the same. I didn’t chose to be a speaker to copy him however. I chose it because it exactly involved all the things I was good at and passionate about.
I was inspired to seek a collaboration with Nike after something Eric Thomas said in a speech once. He addressed those in the audience wanting to be a speaker and said “What qualifies you to stand before an athlete who’s a 7 time NBA champion?” That made me realize that I needed to accomplish something more in life than what I had if I wanted to gain the ear and respect of the athletes and people I wanted to listen to me. I thought about what I could do and Nike came to mind.
“Never give up. Great things take time.”
I chose Nike in particular because I’m a big fan of their products. I like the way Nike blends fashion, athleticism, and inspirational messages. Some people ask me if I’m in it for the free stuff and that’s not true. I chose to pursue modeling for Nike because there are a lot of cool things you can do working in that aspect for their brand, such as travel to different countries for photo shoots and go to training groups and events with Nike trainers and celebrities. It’s all really fun and to me it’s also a route to a better life. In many ways I’ve grown up and away from the little girl I was in Liberty City, but in some ways I’m still her. I still haven’t seen the world, still haven’t attained financial stability. I would say the biggest reason I’m pursuing Nike and my dream is because I’m trying to create a better life for myself (and my family) and this is the path that I believe will take me there.
Who inspires you?
TN: Eric Thomas inspires me but also Beyoncé. Beyoncé inspires me because she’s successful, creative, confident, ambitious, strong, talented, beautiful, hard- working and genuine. I see a lot of myself in Beyoncé and to me she shows me how great I can be, women can be.
Tawanya currently lives in Gainesville, FL where she graduated from college at the University of Florida in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. Follow Tawanya’s fitness journey on Instagram: @th33besticanbe.