Virality, the rapid and wide circulation of digital content across the Internet, is what makes social media go round. Without it, we’d be deprived of Michelle Obama spittin’ bars about going to college, the comedic legend known as #ThanksgivingWithBlackFamilies and this heartwarming video of a beautiful, smart little Black girl defending herself against bullies. Viral content creates a kind of magic that makes us obsessively refresh our phones in search of the latest thrill. We often laugh, cry, think and feel. So when the video of award-winning singer and actress Jill Scott comforting Danielle Nash in Walgreens went viral, our hearts soaked up its magic and poured that love all over our newsfeeds and inboxes. A small act of kindness inspired the masses while instantly turning Nash into an overnight sensation.
A Boston native, Nash, 38, started her day as she normally would have, only on the morning of December 1, 2015, she was experiencing a case of hopelessness. The married mother of three had gone through a series of tumultuous months and used her train ride into work to reflect over her life. The thought of ongoing marital issues and impending medical bills while grieving as her oldest two children started college broke her down. Despite being teary-eyed and emotionally spent, she still went to work in hopes of helping someone else. What she didn’t know was that she’d be helped in a way that would surely change her life forever.
The short video shows a piece of Nash and Scott’s encounter.
So, here I am, having the worst day of my life… I put on my smile for the world every day. It makes me happy to make others happy. But today was bad. And I decided “fuck it, face it anyways Dani. Don’t call out and crawl under your rock of depression until you recover like you always do. Go to work with your sad face on and be vulnerable. Don’t hide today and nurse your wounds, don’t wear the happy mask. Make this day better. Your steps are ordered by the Lord.” My beautiful sister/cousin came to my house to get her gels done this morning and, let’s just say she unfortunately had to mediate some Bullshit (let’s not give that no glory)… and we went on with our days determined that it would still be a good (rainy day) and parted ways. Then my friend EnaMichelle Stevens had to talk me out of a nervous breakdown… I was like “this is Not the Dani I want the world to see” but she stayed on the phone and tried to calm me as I walked into my job. Now yall know how they treat “us” up in there but so I was like if the manager starts with me, I’m outtie. As I’m walking up the stairs, I see a familiar face…she says “hello” and smiles (I was staring at her like I saw a ghost, and I did not have on my winged eyeliner or any lipstick so I was pretty scary )… I was still crying and started telling her about my horrible day… and pouring it out like a faucet (I kept telling her I promise I won’t make a scene) and she was more patient than my therapist, and ain’t nobody as patient as Denise Jones . She listened. I told her that my cousin loves her and I just did her nails because she is going to see her tonight and I don’t wanna take a picture with her cause of the obvious but I want to call my cousin (she didn’t answer )and take a pic for her. She said “no, you are gonna take it with me, as a matter of fact give me your phone, we gonna take a video”: Miss #JillScott
Posted by Dani Ruelas Jones-Nash on Tuesday, December 1, 2015
While it gave the world another reason to love girlfriend-in-our-head Jilly from Philly a little bit more, I couldn’t stop thinking about Danielle Nash, who was visibly hurting deep and reeling from pain. I saw myself in her as she boldly cried in front of the world and I desperately needed to know her story, the reason behind her emotions. After my third time watching the viral video, I reached out to Nash for a conversation about her life. Here’s what she had to say.
Tell me about your home life.
I’m 38 years young, an Aquarius! I’m on my second marriage to an asphalt paver and mother to three children, ages 18, 21 and 12. My two daughters are in college and my son is in middle school. I live in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston and work in downtown Boston at the infamous Walgreens in the Look Boutique. I’m a part-time nail tech at SpaDay Boston, but I have a mobile manicure business, Popup Mani by Dani, that I plan to turn into my primary source of income. I’m a regular person who does a lot of other things. There are really good people in my circle and I love my friends and family.
Are you in a career that you love?
I love people. I love helping people. I love being creative and working with my hands. I work in the beauty industry as a nail technician and anyone in the beauty field knows we often double as a therapist. Though I haven’t accomplished much of what I want to do yet, more goals, I’m grateful to love what I’m doing because it’s very fulfilling.
When I started working at my Walgreens, it was on the premise that it was prestige beauty and I loved that. The concept was new to Walgreens and Boston. Unfortunately, that concept of having prestige beauty and services in a drugstore wasn’t understood by my colleagues with a solely retail background. They weren’t familiar with the beauty and service industry, which made it challenging for our department to feel supported. That took a toll on morale and affected my enthusiasm for something I’m passionate about. So, the one place that I used to escape from personal issues soon became a huge contributor to my stress. The day I met Jill Scott was no different. In fact, I felt like I was going from the frying pan right into the fire.
Why were you so emotional that day?
That day was a buildup of many days. We’re at the end of the year – and it has been a very trying one; very challenging.
I’ve been married for almost 3 years; my anniversary was December 12th. We married after being on and off for more than a decade. Our relationship was already a struggle, but marriage brought on a lot of expectations and changes, both good and not-so-good.
When you have unmet expectations in a relationship, coupled with unresolved issues, you will have disappointment. That’s where we’ve been in our relationship all year – it’s been up and down. To add to that, my husband sustained an injury in May which resulted in him being hospitalized for 3 months and having his left leg amputated above the knee. This was life changing and it happened around the time my two daughters, Dejia, 21, and Sequoia, 18, were graduating high school and preparing for college. There was a lot of loss for me and no time to really process it, not even in therapy.
None of this slowed down me and my husband’s daily responsibilities. That pressure and those issues further disconnected us and we argued a lot. We love each other, but we’d both been suppressing things all along, so that day, December 1, 2015, just wasn’t a good day. I was on the train, reflecting on my way to work, and hurting. I remember being really young and in love with small children and now, all of a sudden, my daughters are adults who are living their own lives. My son, Jaydon, 12, is still home and is a pre-teen. But in my relationship, we’re going through the motions and I often wonder ‘where did the time go?’ and ‘how did it come to this?’ I was in a lonely place that day and couldn’t stop crying – it was just coming out. I felt alone.
After being comforted by Jill Scott, how did the rest of your day go?
Though I was on time and hadn’t clocked in yet, I didn’t stay at work. I was still very emotional, so I waited upstairs for the store manager who was unaware of who I was standing there talking to – Jill Scott! I explained to him that I had an urgent matter and wasn’t in any condition to work. After leaving, I went to my grandmother’s house. We had tea, cheese and crackers, my favorite cookies that come in those tin cans and spent quality time. My grandmother is the best. She said, “I don’t know exactly who Jill Scott is, but I’m gonna Google her because she comforted my granddaughter in her time of need. I want to have her over for tea, too!”
Why was Jill Scott in town?
She was performing at the Orpheum Theater. I wasn’t able to go, but my cousin, Nakia (the one Jill shouted out) was going. I actually did her nails for the show!
Did she say anything to you off-camera that resonated with you just as much as her recorded words?
She did! I almost appreciate those words more because they were just for me. She shared a story about someone whom she admired that was in a situation similar to mine. Her advice [to me] was to take a page out of that person’s book and do what I need to do. I intend to do just that.
Do you think any other celebrity would have had that kind of impact over you? Do you think they would have asked, ‘Are you okay’?
I don’t believe in coincidence. We are all a part of a whole. When you’re connected to your source, God will put opportunities in your path to be the light. Jill Scott proved herself to be aligned and her light was shining that day. I forgot that she was a celebrity, honestly. After the fact, I thought, ‘Man, I was so messed up that I didn’t get to fully enjoy the fact that I met the Jill Scott!’
I wasn’t star struck, but I will say that she is beautifully human and I’m happy the experience blessed so many people. I hope all celebrities take a page out of her book. We’re not only fans, but fellow humans.
Self-care is often a neglected topic among women of color. Is it a priority in your life?
Self-care is very important and I wish I would’ve understood that sooner in life. Thankfully, I came to that awareness and made mental health and wellbeing a top priority. I have a therapist who started out as our family therapist, but is now mine individually. She knows our family dynamic, so I’m very comfortable with her.
How do you maintain self-care?
I’m surrounded by amazing women. I have a spiritual foundation. I read a lot of articles and books; lots of self-help, psychology and spiritual reading. Before I became a nail technician, I was a bank teller for 15 years. It was unnecessarily stressful. Unfortunately, I was laid off in 2010, but I stepped out on faith and enrolled in nail school. Nail care or social work was something that I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl. Now, I kind of do both, so a part of my self-care is helping others.
How has that magical, now viral moment changed your life?
The word ‘synchronicity’ keeps coming up in conversations I have lately. This encounter has changed my life in that it has broadened my understanding that coincidence is an illusion. I believe that if you move in the direction of what it is you desire and believe that you can manifest those desires, it will be. Jill Scott is an icon, a legend and a powerfully successful woman. She’s manifesting her dreams. She’s talented and beautiful, but she is also human and genuine. She is so real!
If I’d walked away with anything, it’s the confirmation that good people are still out there and God will send them. The same source of Jill Scott’s blessings is available to me, and to us all. We’re blessed to be a blessing. I have a quote from Dr. Mike Murdock that says, “You are one conversation away from your next season.” This wasn’t by chance. It was divinely ordained.
You can tell that by how many people [the video] reached and how it affected them. This is bigger than us. Jill Scott was in the moment. She could’ve said, ‘have a better day’, took a picture and went on her way. I could’ve been a crazy person to her, but this happened and it’s amazing to be able to positively impact so many people in one random event. Amazing!
What do you want people to know about you? What more do you want Jill’s fans to know about her?
I want people to know I’m okay. I had a bad day, but I am overall a happy person. I am a person that’s learning and still growing and very grateful to everyone that taught me how being transparent has helped, encouraged and inspired them. So many people commented and sent messages – it made me so happy that I cried again! Having that many people wishing me well felt good. I believe Jill Scott’s fans have a new found love for her as a person. We love her as an artist, how could we not? But to everyday people, she’s now like our friend. She is so beautiful, so real.
What advice would you give to women like you experiencing difficult days like you did? What would you want someone to say to you?
Talk about it. Find a professional. Pray. Cry. Take care of yourself. Daily affirmations help. Never suppress it. Don’t be too proud to reach out for help. When you are struggling, say so. Sometimes your immediate family and friends may not be the ones to talk to, so find someone you can trust. Believe that you can overcome. Also, take responsibility for what is happening and where you are. Sometimes we believe life is happening to us, and so we act defeated but we can create a better day. As soon as we make a decision, the universe will most definitely conspire with us to make it happen, especially for our good.
Ariel C. Williams is the Editor-in-Chief of Slay Culture and author of The Girl Talk Chronicles (Amazon). Sound parenting, storytelling without bounds, and providing a space where Black women and Black boys (like she and her son) are celebrated for their greatness are things that keep her going. Tweet her @ArielSaysNow.