Knightdale resident and Brooklyn native Journonya Harris-Rayner is focused on helping others maintain a healthy weight.
Q: You grew up in New York but live in Knightdale. How did someone who grew up in Brooklyn find their way South?
Well, I did grow up in New York – I lived in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens – at different times, but I had family in North Carolina. My mother and my grandparents were from Asheville so I have been coming here since I was a baby – holidays, summer camps. I would even come down here to get my hair cut. I attended school at N.C. A&T University in Greensboro and met my husband there. After we got married, we moved to New York.
Q: So what brought you back down South?
I have lived in North Carolina the past 19 years. Of those, the last 10 or so in Knightdale. The reason we moved back was, well, basically, we had a son and I saw that as an opportunity to move to North Carolina. My husband and I both agreed that we wanted him to play baseball in a field – not stickball in the street. This was the place we wanted to raise our son. I am proud of him. He did well in high school and got a scholarship to High Point University.
Q: Is there anything you miss about New York? What was your biggest adjustment to full-time Southern living?
There really wasn’t any big adjustment. Things close earlier down here. Probably one adjustment I had to make was when your car breaks down. In New York, your car breaks down, you can ride the buses or the subway. I do love the weather here, and the people are awesome. The summers up there are so short and then you go straight to cold weather. I would much rather put up with the hot than the cold. I do go back and visit, but after a few days, I am ready to come back home.
Q: You have a business, Party Pleasers, but you have sort of put that on the back burner for a new passion?
I still do event planning but not like I used to. I do have something else I am concentrating on now. Weight loss is now my focus. I am a counselor for Slimmer and Loving It! What started the journey to that was my husband passed away in 2003. After that, I started eating a lot. I got up to 245 lbs. In August of 2011, I was told they were going to put me on a pre-diabetic medication. I asked the nurses that if I lost some weight, could we wait on starting the medicine. They said I could and I ended up losing 90 pounds. The whole experience just totally transformed my life. I now live and breathe working out and all I really want to focus on now is trying to help others. A lot of days, you can find me at the gym (laughing). I have also started a meet-up, Triangle Healthy Living and Weight Loss.
Q: Any hobbies?
Well, working out obviously, but I do go to a lot of game nights where we play board and card games. I also like sports – football and basketball. But I grew up in the North and pro teams are big up there so I really don’t have a favorite college sports team like most of the people around here.
Q: You have an unusual name. There must be an interesting story behind that – is it a family name?
My mom made it up the day I was born (laughing). I didn’t know that until I became pregnant with my son and we were discussing names. She liked the French language and she thought it sounded French. “Jour” means day and “non” means no so she kinda put it together. That is my name’s story (laughing).
Correspondent Dena Coward