Jessi Roberts 

On success, second chances and how "happiness ain't a side hustle"

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Caitlin Copple Massingill

The title of Jessi Roberts' new autobiography, Backroads Boss Lady, is saucy enough. But her life story—at least her life so far—is better summed up in the subtitle, Happiness Ain't a Side Hustle, Straight Talk on Creating the Life You Deserve. A mother of four and a survivor of poverty and domestic abuse, Roberts' path toward founding Cheeky's, one of the nation's fastest-growing brands, was paved by what she calls "FRBR." That's "For Rural, By Rural." Today, she's "country cool," even though her life hasn't always been that way.

What started out as a dream and a savings of only a few thousand dollars has seen her tiny storefront boutique in the small Payette County town of Fruitland blossom into a business that today employs nearly 30 women, boasts more than 2 million Facebook engagements per week and offers a clothing/accessories brand carried in more than 4,500 stores.

"It takes hard work. It takes smart work," said Roberts. "It takes staying true to your values and never giving in."

Her book, which details her highest highs and lowest lows (particularly regarding a bruising legal battle with her ex-husband), is certain to turn a few heads. And in a conversation with Boise Weekly just a few days before it was scheduled to hit the shelves, Roberts was equally candid.

I must begin by telling you that this was not the book I was expecting to read.

I hope that's a good thing.

It's compelling and incredibly personal. There are the equivalent of 10 lifetimes in your story.

It's also a rebirth for me—quite scary, but also very liberating.

You've had many crossroads.

And sometimes I took the wrong turn. But I'll have a million more.

You go into great detail about how your life has been dogged by rumors and falsehoods, particularly with your ex. And, as I was reading, I thought 'Well, this can't get much worse.' But then it does.

This book sat in the hands of our legal team for about six months.

There's a scene in your book when you're sitting in your car, outside the school of one of your children...

And I'm crying my eyes out. At the time, I had joint custody of my kids. There's not a happy ending to that right now. One of my twins lives with his dad and one lives with me now. And they're identical twins.

Did your ex see an advance copy of this book?

No. He and his wife told me that they wouldn't waste their time or money on my book.

All that said, once this book hits the shelves, it's permanent.

I told him, "You're not going to gain any fans in this book, but I had to be honest." The relationship that he and I had was violent and ugly. It was awful. My message to other women is that they can make it, even if they're broken.

You're remarried now. How did you meet your current husband?

We were working at a car dealership. I worked in the financing department and Justin worked in the service department. And when he walked out of my office one day, I turned to a coworker and said, "I could eat him with a fork. He's so freakin' cute." One day, I needed to call him in the service department for a favor, and when we were done, he asked, "Do you need anything else?" I said, "Yeah, a freakin' drink. I get off at 5:30." At the time, I wore a wedding ring to work, because I didn't want anyone to know I had just had babies and I was single. Well, Justin asked me, "So, is some big dude going to come in here and whip my a** because I'm drinking a beer with his wife?" I told him that I wasn't married and had two brand-new babies. He said, "I love babies." He was so sweet. He didn't even kiss me on that first date.

But he kissed you on the second date.

I told him that I really didn't want our first kiss to be inside a bar. So, a couple of days later, we're at a bar—it was the 44 Club, here in Boise—and a woman walks up to me and kisses me. She said, "Some guy just dared me to come over and kiss you." So, I got kissed in a bar, but my first kiss with Justin wasn't inside the bar. It was outside.

And then there was another kiss, soon thereafter, at the airport.

I had to fly to Texas and he said, "Well, just make sure you come back." I told him, "Just so you know, if I die on this plane, you were loved." He said, "I love you too."

How long after that were you engaged?

As soon as I came back. I told him, "I can't live with a man that I'm not married to."

I want to make sure that we talk about your Grandma Dee.

Her name is Dorinda, but everybody calls her Grandma Dee.

She used to tell you, "Be pretty." I know some women may push back against that, but it seems she was talking about a lot more than your physical appearance.

She would say, "Put your makeup on. Make yourself look good. Be the better person." Look, women divorce, separate, get cheated on, all of that. But I would give the same advice to a man. There's nothing wrong with caring about how you present yourself. Make yourself attractive, not just body-wise, but in how you talk. Be pretty, whether it's your marriage, whether it's your boss, whether it's your best friend. Get the positive stuff out there. That's what Grandma Dee meant by "be pretty."

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