Julie Roberts discovered early in life that her dreams were big. Sadly, when Julie reached those big dreams, she abruptly lost them. When so much of her life was out of her control, she did the only thing she knew how to do – find another way to get those big dreams back. She might still be fighting, and facing new battles along the way, but she’s not giving up, and she sure-as-hell ain’t skeerd.
Julie is a recording artist, known for her incredible voice, but she is also an activist, dog-lover, newlywed, and creator of Ain’t Skeerd Records. She is the author of “Beauty in the Breakdown,” a title that plays off her first and most popular album and song to date, “Break Down Here.” Her book follows the highs and lows of her career and life, the personal struggles she’s endured, the lessons she’s learned, and her sense of purpose as she rebuilds her singing career.
Despite the darkness of domestic violence in their home, Julie’s mother, her sisters, and herself, found solace in one another. Julie has addressed it served a major purpose in her story. It made her familiar with keeping secrets, but it also strengthened the bond between mother and daughter. It was from those hardships difficulties that Julie formed her biggest dream: To create a life where she could take care of her mother the way her mother had taken care of her.
“Country music saved our lives,” Julie admits. As a little girl she would pray, “Dear God, please give me a record deal so I can buy mama a happy home.” Many years later, Julie moved her mother to a townhome in Bellevue. But 2010 had all but happy plans for the city of Nashville. “We lost everything in the flood,” Julie recalls. “We were rescued by a boat; our dogs were rescued by a boat, our cars floated away.” Feeling like there was nothing left to lose, Julie felt the strength and absolute necessity to reveal a secret she had been keeping for five years. Flares brought on by the many current stresses, Julie’s multiple sclerosis showed symptoms again. Her fans accepted her news and supported her just the same; however, the music industry did not. All in one week, Julie lost her home and her record deal; the two things in life she had worked and prayed for relentlessly.
Julie is quick to remind me that MS symptoms are different for everyone. But on a stage in Asheville, she discovered her own. “In the middle of the show my vision went blurry and my right hand, holding the microphone, went numb and weak. I switched to the left hand and it has lost feeling too.” She sat the mic on the upright stand and sang blindly. She says, “I called mama that night. She was the only one that knew, besides the dogs… and they were going to tell anybody.” She went home and was sent straight to a neurologist but left the appointment holding onto her secret in fear. When symptoms arose after the flood, she visited the doctor again. She told them, “I’m sorry I didn’t read any of the pamphlets you gave me. They are floating in the Harpeth River with everything else I own.” Apparently, being rescued by boat had given Julie the outlook she needed to rescue herself.
Once she was open about her disease, it was difficult to work in the industry due to people thinking she was fragile or sickly or likely to bail on a contract. The underlying issue is the stereotype or misinformation surrounding MS. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. There are a range of levels that result in a range of signs and symptoms. There is no known cure, but Julie says, “I can live with this by taking care of myself,” and the National MS Society agrees. More research than ever has shown that diet and exercise positively influence effects, although, everyone’s circumstances are different.
Julie is no stranger to battling with health. In fact, it wasn’t until her days at Belmont University that the required health classes opened her eyes to the world of fitness. Unfortunately, her first record label also required a certain “health,” expecting Julie to attend boot camp and begin a calorie-restricted diet. Her determination to please the music industry meant two and sometimes three workouts a day. The idea that her health meant looking a specific size forced Julie’s outlook on fitness to change. “That’s why I choose to do things I enjoy now. Back then, there was no balance and I wasn’t happy,” she states.
“Fitness has always been the one constant in my life – good, bad, or ugly. More recently it has been the constant thing I look forward to.” She has always turned to fitness for whatever reason. “It helps me get rid of everything that keeps me up at night,” she says.
But things aren’t keeping her up at night quite like they used to, not since she decided her mind and faith would take the lead. Being honest with herself, her disease, and her community directed her to accept her diagnosis and therapy to manage the disease. When so much was out of her control – an industry holding her back, a disease that had no cure, a fear of losing it all, and the need to stay safe in her shell – she decided to be honest, control her outlook, and every now and then, raise her voice.