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Sherrell Duncan doesn’t think she has a great memory.

That’s why it puzzles Sherrell – founder of The Good Thick and co-host of the popular Friends Who Smash Podcast – why she can recall one particular conversation from her childhood with pinpoint accuracy. The Washington, D.C.-born, Riverdale, MD-raised entrepreneur was 9-years-old at the time, having a conversation with a family member. In many ways Sherrell’s family member, a functioning heroin addict, had become an example of what not do in life. In this particular conversation, however, her relative’s advice was spot on, and it would change the direction of her life. “She was like, ‘I’m going to tell you like this. When you grow up, don’t be scared of noyhing or nobody, and you tell your story the way you want to tell your story. That way no one can take it from you,’” Sherrell recalled. “I was 9-years-old. I’ll never, ever forget her telling me that.” To this day, that conversation has stuck with her. And whether Sherrell has created a successful fitness brand, relationships podcast or poplar speaking series, that platform has always been built on transparency and authenticity. “I think it comes from me seeing my family – my older aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents – holding secrets and living in silence, and not being free and not living out their dreams,” Sherrell said. “I could tell there were so many secrets. The older generation never really talked about anything. Everything was to stay in the house. You don’t tell your business. I just felt like that was a toxic way of living. I decided when I was older and I got to go out into the world, that I would share my story.”

THE GOOD THICK

Around 2013, life hit rock bottom for Sherrell. She had post-partum depression and was in an unhealthy relationship. She turned to food and alcohol – and lots of both – to cope with the pain and depression. “I was drinking from sun up to sun down,” she said. “I would have a 12-inch steak-and-cheese with pizza and wings, and I’d eat that in my car and then go home and make a huge dinner and dessert. I could drink a full bottle of Vodka with no problem.” She topped over 300 pounds, and she started experiencing health effects from the alcohol consumption. “One day at work, I passed out and they had to rush me to the hospital,” Duncan said. “I had to stay there for two weeks. My organs were shutting down on me, because I had done so much damage.” A family friend whom Sherrell had known since birth came to the hospital in Baltimore and called an intervention. He replaced the alcohol in her home with energy-boosting smoothies, and worked out with Sherrell on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. In a matter of months, Sherrell had lost 50 pounds.  She used the he hashtag #TheGoodThick at some point during the fitness journey, and the catchy name just stuck. She quit her old job on a Thursday, and advertised a workout in a park on the following Saturday. Over 40 women showed up. “I wasn’t even certified yet,” Sherrell said. “They just believed in me, because of my journey. From there, I was like, ‘Oh bet! This is what I’m about to do then! I’m about to help women, because if these women went through anything like what I went through, then I know they need my help.’” Sherrell’s journey has turned into a popular and profitable fitness brand. And, of course, it’s rooted in authenticity. “The Good Thick is what I call my soulmate business,” Sherrell said. “I can always depend on The Good Thick to get me where I need to be financially, emotionally, spiritually and emotionally. Whenever something’s not going right, The Good Thick is always there.”

FOREVER DUNCAN

When Sherrell agreed to help judge a local comedy show, she had no idea that one of the other judges, Alfred Duncan, would be her future husband. Or that their wedding would go viral. On October 1st, 2016, Alfred proposed to Sherrell. What happened next is the stuff of legend. Alfred had a surprise wedding planned for later that same night. It was all captured on social media under the #ForeverDuncan hashtag. “He did something that will always be top tier,” Sherrell said. “He set that bar, because of his love for me. And I’ll always cherish that. That’s one of the things that helps me remember our love. #ForeverDuncan was huge.” Also, there was a reason Alfred opted for the surprise wedding. “He knows how stressed I get, and how my anxiety flares up when I have to plan an event,” Sherrell said. “I just wanted to go to the justice of the peace, because I knew how stressful it would be. So for him taking the stress off of me – and setting the bar high just because he loved me and wanted to spend his life with me – that is unexplainable. I don’t have the words. Almost six years later, and I still don’t have the words.” Interview request came in immediately after the wedding. “Talk shows were e-mailing us that night to fly us to LA the next day,” Sherrell said. The whirlwind tour included appearances on Inside Edition, Good Morning America and The T.D. Jakes Show among others. Soon, however, the Duncans learned that fame had a cost. “For a whole year, we didn’t even get to process that we were married,” Sherrell said. “We were under this microscope being in the public eye. Our first anniversary, I broke a bone in my knee. We were supposed to go out of town, but I couldn’t travel. We ended up getting a hotel in Virginia. All we did was sit in a hotel room and play cards.” During the alone time, it dawned on them that they were ready to step out of the limelight. “We both looked at each other like, ‘Enough is enough. We need to focus on this marriage, or we’re going to lose ourselves in the entertainment industry,” Sherrell said. “We were just pressured to deliver the next big thing, and we didn’t have time with the kids.  And that wasn’t who we were. Separately and collectively, we love family. We love making memories. We love making bonds. We love love, period.”

FRIENDS WHO SMASH

Although the Duncans’ wedding had a made-for-Hollywood feel, Alfred and Sherrell rejected several lucrative offers to turn their story into something it’s not. Instead, they tell their own story their own way, one episode at a time on the Friends Who Smash Podcast. “When we got married, people were pulling on us to be relationship experts,” Sherrell said. “I’m like, we’re not experts. We’re relationship case studies. All we know is that we grow through. And all we know is how we get through it.” So they decided to create an internet radio show based on transparency in relationships. “We were like, ‘Look, if we feel like this, there’s a bunch of other people who feel like this, that have way worse problems,’” Sherrell said. “Friends Who Smash is like our own self-healing therapy. People want to hear that they are not the only ones going through this thing. It’s easier for people to relate to us, because we get on the podcast and we’re ourselves. We’re not like a celebrity couple. We have real issues and problems. The podcast is a way to bring hope to the hopeless.”

“DEAR SELF” BUNCH

In 2018 – shortly after tragically losing a baby – Sherrell started a series of talks called Dear Self Brunch. “It helps women who are afraid to be free and vulnerable,” she said. “It’s a speaking event where I bring women who I’ve researched and followed on social media - women that are not afraid to tell their stories boldly and honestly – and I bring them to the brunch.” She’s held five Dear Self Brunches, and is currently planning the next one. The first five have all had over 100 women in attendance. “I’ve had women fly in from Texas, Miami, Chicago and Washington state – from all over – come to Dear Self Bruch here in the DMV to experience it,” Sherrell said. “It’s a room that any woman that feels like she needs healing or answers to relationships, finances, business, Jesus, marriage, dating, sexuality, spirituality – anything you could need answers to – you can find it at Dear Self Brunch.”

CHANGING THE NARRATIVE

The family member who pleaded with 9-year-old Sherrell to tell her story would certainly be pleased now. She is using her platforms to show her own vulnerability and help others do the same. “I’ve helped set so many people free, and I’m proud of myself for doing that,” said Sherrell, a huge advocate for therapy. “My ultimate goal is for people to be healed, or start their healing process.”