A Beautiful Journey

Jada Jackson uses her roles as model, counselor and communicator to help others unlock hope.
by Belinda Elliott

She wowed audiences as a model on runways around the world — including the apex Ebony Fashion Fair. Now she is helping television viewers take charge of their lives. As a licensed mental health counselor, author and speaker, Jada Jackson ’10 (Psychology & Counseling) may appear to have the perfect life, but the counselor and TV host wasn’t always the confident woman people see today. As she says herself, Jackson has been on “quite a journey” — one in which she is quick to credit God’s faithfulness and always thinking big in fulfilling her calling.

Jackson grew up in a home filled with alcoholism and abuse, which led to insecurities that would take years to overcome. Outside the home, her life resembled that of any other pre-teen girl.

At age 12, friends and family told Jackson she should pursue modeling because she was tall. Though she was initially more interested in trying her hand at basketball, the modeling world soon captured her attention when she was invited to model for a Macy’s shoot. “I jumped in and started modeling, and the rest is history,” she says.

Later, while with an agency in Atlanta, a colleague suggested she audition for the Ebony Fashion Fair — a prestigious traveling fashion show that was holding auditions in Chicago. She auditioned, was offered a position and began a 10-year career with them.

This offer to travel the world meant putting her studies on hold. At the time, she was enrolled at Emerson University pursuing her bachelor’s degree in communication. She excitedly traded the college halls of Boston for runways in Paris and Rome. Soon, she was offered the position of commentator and spokesmodel for the Fashion Fair, a position that allowed her to use her brilliant communication skills and engaged her in the world of entertainment that she had admired since early childhood.

“I always wanted to be on television,” Jackson recalls. “I always said, ‘I’m going to be the next Oprah.’ It was so fascinating to me that someone would have the ability to communicate wisdom and knowledge in that way and help people.”

As she was enjoying her new career, she decided to finish her communication degree. After researching various online programs, Jackson chose Regent because of its strong academics and commitment to Christian values. In addition, the online classes fit her hectic schedule.

While juggling classes and her career she also discovered another passion — counseling. She often found herself ministering to other young women while touring and was able to draw from her experiences to help them. As she reflects on this time in her life, Jackson sees how God was preparing her for the future.

“During that time I just always knew God had given me a gift,” she explains. “It’s a gift that people trust me. The girls trusted me, and they valued my opinion. God gave me compassion and wisdom to walk them through whatever situations they were facing at the time, and He even led some of them to salvation.”

When Jackson decided to pursue formal training in counseling, she turned to Regent again and chose the M.A. in Human Services Counseling program. “I loved the integration of Christian values that were really wrapped tightly in a strong academic degree,” she says. “I felt completely academically prepared to go out and help people, but I also had that very foundational core belief system that was strengthened unbelievably.”

Jada CollinsFollowing her education at Regent, she pursued an M.S. in Mental Health Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. Now a counselor at Total Life Counseling in Orlando, Florida, Jackson counsels individuals, families and teens but feels especially drawn to helping women. She is also a domestic violence advocate, but says it took her years to get to the point where she was comfortable discussing her own experiences, which she writes about in her book Be-you-tiful.

The book started with her therapist’s suggestion that she keep a journal. It began a long journey of self-evaluation in which she realized she needed to forgive herself and her parents and let go of her anger — something she had held onto since the domestic abuse of her childhood. “It was about confronting those who I felt had done me an injustice, but at the same time being compassionate enough to forgive.”

Now she feels compelled to use her experiences and her faith to help other women, whether they are dealing with domestic violence, relationship troubles or insecurities. Her degrees, combined with her experience as a professional counselor, made her the perfect fit when television producers with Mojo Brands Media were looking for hosts for a new psychology-driven show. They reached out to Jackson as they were developing Emotional MoJo, a show that combines psychology, personal development and life coaching to help viewers change their lives.

Jackson and two other hosts dish out advice and inspiration every weekday morning on the show that airs on the WE tv network. Each episode features a life-change countdown clock. “During the time of the show we want to challenge our viewers to make a change, even if it is just a small change,” Jackson explains.

Topics range from confronting life changes like divorce and job transitions, to dealing with relationship issues, forgiveness or stress. “We offer a fun, light-hearted twist, but also very real, applicable solutions for common, everyday life problems,” she says.

Juggling her full-time counseling job with TV tapings doesn’t leave a lot of free time. Her hectic schedule starts at 5 a.m., but it’s a small sacrifice to do what she loves. “This is an opportunity for me to reach more people. It’s fun living out my television aspirations in a positive way.”

It’s also been interesting, she says, working in a profession that is sometimes at odds with her Christian beliefs. Some respect her faith, but others are quick to bring on ungracious comments and jabs.

“It’s all fair game,” she insists. “I still believe in the calling of my life to be a beacon of light in the midst of darkness.”

This strong foundation is what drives Jackson, whether she is engaged in private counseling or speaking to television viewers. As a cognitive behavioral therapist, she bases her approach to therapy on the biblical principle found in Romans of renewing the mind.

“On the show, I may talk about reframing or how to change negative thoughts,” she explains. “The reality is that there is a biblical principle behind that.”

Jackson credits Regent with equipping her to live out her faith in a secular environment. She fondly remembers the encouragement she received from Regent’s founder and chancellor, Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson after she was introduced to him through an appearance on The 700 Club.

“He was a very strong mentor. He inspired me beyond measure,” she says. “He encouraged me and said, ‘You can do anything, and you can do it for God. You can be in the midst of an environment in a secular industry and let your light shine.’”

She plans to let that light shine well into the future. Currently, Jackson is working on her doctorate through Argosy University. Though she occasionally teaches college classes and hopes to one day retire as a professor, she is most focused on how God will continue using her in the entertainment industry.

“I love entertainment and being able to reach people on a large scale,” she says. “My prayer is that God will open more doors later on in my career. I’m thinking big,” she quips. “Maybe I’ll move to New York and have my own show.”

Wherever God takes her next, Jackson’s mission remains the same. “I’ve worked in very secular arenas, and God has given me strength, wisdom and power to continue to believe in Him and to share His Word. I will continue to do that whenever I can.”

“During that time I just always knew God had given me a gift.”

“I always said, ‘I’m going to be the next Oprah.’ It was so fascinating to me that someone would have the ability to communicate wisdom and knowledge in that way and help people.”

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