Toni Lewis-Noble, 57, is originally from Los Angeles.
“Life was good in LA,” she said. “My dad owned a construction company, and we spent a lot of time at the beach and Disneyland.”
Toni said as a child it was a great life but became harder as an adult.
“LA is so expensive. People used to ask me if I missed that lifestyle and I would always say yeah when my parents were paying for it,” she said laughing. “It’s a great city, but to me, you have to have a certain amount of money to enjoy everything that LA has to offer. Otherwise, you’re just a hamster on a wheel, and to me, that’s not living, that’s just existing.”
the NASHVILLE MOVE
In 2005, Toni and her now ex-husband moved to Nashville.
“We didn’t have any thoughts about Nashville or any ideas. We’d never even been here, so when we came I was like, ‘Wait where are we going?’” she said. “Looking back, it was a good change of pace from LA. A lot of changes along the way, but most of those were great.”
Toni liked Nashville from the get-go and always thought it was a cool place to live but said she didn’t start to appreciate it until about seven years ago. Before, she only went to work, to church, to the gym and then home.
“Being in a city that’s fairly new and growing has given me a new lease on life. You see all the opportunities and the excitement here. Nashville helps to keep me motivated.”
She said seeing the creativity of the people that live here in music, visual artists, and entrepreneurship inspired her to get out and do new things.
“I have a lot of friends who are entrepreneurs so being around people who are constantly changing, growing, motivating themselves sparked some things in me,” she said.
Toni started getting out more and seeing what the city had to offer. Now, she makes a list of all the things she hasn’t done yet and tries to get as much done as she can every summer.
“I still feel very much like a tourist even though I’ve been here for 12 years, and I love that,” she said.
Today, Toni is a personal assistant for gospel music singer Benjamin “BeBe” Winans.
Friends for 20 years, she’s been working with him for about nine. The two first met each other at church in Los Angeles, when they would sit next to each other and crack jokes.
Her ex-husband was once on a plane with BeBe, and he was telling him how he needed an assistant. Toni’s ex-husband suggested her, and that got the ball rolling.
“The first thing I did for him was a temporary assignment to see how I would handle it,” she said. “He was working with Oprah and putting on the 80th birthday celebration for Maya Angelou. We were responsible for bringing in artists and getting the show laid out for a three-day event. Our day was Sunday, and we did a gospel brunch with Fred Hammond, Marvin and Cece Winans, and the Park sisters. When it was over, he told me I did a great job and the position was mine.”
Toni said she laughs about it now because who knew they would end up working together and living in the same city.
“You meet a person, and you never know what purpose they’re going to serve in your life later on down the road,” she said. “It’s been an unexpected journey.”
She said working with a gospel music singer has been a great experience, but it certainly has its challenges.
“It’s been exciting,” she said. “I’ve gotten to travel to a lot of places that I never thought I’d get to see. No two days are the same,” she said.
Toni said she could go from folding T-shirts and dealing with the accountants to being with Oprah and everything in between.
One of the best things about the job, she said is traveling to places like South Africa and seeing the differences in cultures are some of the coolest things about the job. Toni recognized the response from the fans are much more intense over there than in the U.S. and sometimes things can get crazy.
“In the U.S., we have so much more access to things compared to in South Africa, so we don’t appreciate our artists as much. To me, they’re more passionate about music and how they feel about the artists,” she said. “Those are things that are the highlights because you come back and you’re in awe of how they live their lives and the things we take for granted.”
Taking the good with the bad, she said the downsides of working with a gospel music singer is dealing with the media.
“I was reading an article, and someone had said they’ve spoken to me and they didn’t,” she said. “That let me see the other side. Now I know first hand that you can’t believe everything that you read.”
BeBe told her that was something she had to learn to roll off her back.
Toni said for the most part, having perimeters to holding her tongue isn’t too difficult but said having safe places where she can freely vent helps.
“With social media, I feel like we put too much out there so then you have to show some restraint because you can’t just put every moment or every thought out there,” she said. “Sometimes you may offend people. I have friends from all walks of life, so I’m also very careful about that.”
WELLNESS in HER FUTURE
In the future, Toni plans on still working for BeBe but also hopes to meet some of her own personal goals.
“I’m working on a 31-day interactive wellness devotional,” she said. “I want it to be interactive where it’s tied to a scripture, and it’s either dealing with how we eat, care for our bodies, and our mental healthiness. I want to do it where say at the end of each chapter there’s either a link to an exercise or a recipe to try.”
When she was younger she struggled with her weight.
Years ago, she was sitting in church during praise and worship, and in her mind was going through all the bad habits and addictions she didn’t have anymore.
“It was so clear. God told me no, I just traded one addiction for another, and now I was eating myself to death,” she said. “Here I was feeling good about myself, but He told me I had done nothing. That was the beginning for me.”
Toni started reading and doing research. She said when she tried everything she really tried everything. Then seventeen years ago, she made a choice to become a vegetarian.
“It’s changed my life. The physical change was wonderful, but it did something for me mentally, especially with exercising,” she said. “My mom told me I’m so much nicer now that I work out.”
She said when she’s in control of what she puts in her body and how she treats her health, it gives her control over more areas in her life. Toni said she still feels like she’s on the journey and that there are always areas where she can improve.
Toni said her ultimate goal would be to have a complete wellness center that offers nutritional advice and other things.
“I’m passionate about helping people get healthy and be healthy.”
“Even though it’s a need all across the board, I feel like especially in our black churches. We teach people to spiritual fit, but we ignore the physical part of it. We’ve got to be able to marry the two together.”
She said she’s not saying everyone should be a size two but said Christians have to be a better representation of Christ.
“It breaks my heart when I see people struggling when there are solutions to bring some balance into our lives,” she said.
Toni said her faith helps to keep her centered, balanced, and deal with challenges that come her way.
“We all go through struggles. We all lose love ones, and things happen out of our control,” she said. “Knowing that I can pray and my prayers are heard, means the most. I know at the end of the day my life is in God’s hands and there aren’t any mistakes.”
COMMUNITY AND CONCERNS
Coming from Los Angeles, Toni said she loves the changes and growth the city has seen over the last several years.
“LA was already big and blown up, so I didn’t get to experience it,” she said. “With Nashville, I feel like I’ve been able to watch the city evolve. I love it. It’s exciting.”
Like many others, Toni said traffic and crime are some of her top concerns.
“And I do hear a lot about crime and that does concern me. I feel like I hear about more home invasions, robberies and shootings now. Even though I know it has happened before, I didn’t hear about it that much,” she said. “The growth without the problems – it’s unfortunate that you can’t get one without the other.”
Toni said when it all comes down to it. The community is what really matters.
“A community is about working together, no matter the color of our skin and our background. It’s not about me, me, me. It’s about what can I do to help someone else,” she said. “I feel like if there’s enough for all of us, me helping you doesn’t take away anything from what I’m doing for myself.”
She said it’s about being able to lend a helping hand without thinking at what cost and to whom.
“If one person wins, we all win.”
“None of us live individually,” she said. “We’re here to live as a community, the way God intended us to be. When we separate ourselves we cut ourselves off from our life source.”
Toni said being a part of a community keeps her motivated to do her part.
“I want to die empty. I want to have touched every person I was supposed to, do everything I was supposed to and experience everything I was supposed to. I want to do that through contributing to the success and wellness of Nashville.”
Thanks for reading Nashville!