It's a Guy Thing

Finding Her Purpose

Photography by Arthur St. John – @arthurstjohn

Hair and Makeup by Taylor Jazz – @taylor_jazz

Meet this month’s cover star, Aleen Johnson. She’s more than just a beautiful face having strived and survived through hardships to come out as a thriving and successful young woman. Here, Aleen shares more about who she is, what she’s about and how she’s turned everything around to come out on top! 

It’s really awesome to have you Aleen, could you tell our readers a little bit more about your background and how it’s come to inspire others? My name is Aleen N. Johnson (Aly) and I am THEFITPIZZAGIRL. Now that my days are over in the U.S. Air Force, I have never been more hungry and determined for my future fitness and modeling career to launch. My main purpose is using fitness and health to promote mental health awareness and body positivity empowerment. Due to certain circumstances and childhood trauma… my future decisions, actions and attitude could have led me to a lifetime of endless misery and self-harm but throughout the years I have tried my hardest to push through by not only sharing my experiences with others but by promoting a healthy lifestyle mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. 

Growing up, I was sexually assaulted multiple times and as the notorious ‘new girl’ I was bullied by several students throughout middle school and high school. Due to the multiple sexual assaults at the age of 6, I became very promiscuous and was continuously judged and ridiculed by my family and others; leaving me feeling out of place, confused and unworthy. Due to my depression and anxiety, I started self-harming and isolating at the age of 13. At the age of 15, I attempted my first suicide due to years of continuous bullying, verbal abuse and harassment from other students. Instead of seeking help, I kept it all inside because I did not feel like anyone would actively take the proper routes of helping me on a personal level. I did not feel like I had a purpose. I did not feel worthy. At that time in my life, I felt like there was nothing left for me here. Before my senior year of high school, my family had moved to a different school district and that was my chance at redemption. 

2012 was the year I stopped going by the name of Aleen. I was now Aly and all I wanted was to be completely invisible. My mission was to graduate and make a life for myself somewhere else. During this time, I decided that I was going to serve my country. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I had no idea what branch I wanted to join. All I knew was that if I was going to live in this country, I was going to serve it! Within a few months of graduation, I signed a contract to the U.S Air Force and shipped out on the 19th of August 2013 from Pittsburgh, PA. I told myself that once I joined, my past wouldn’t follow me, but you can’t hide from your own darkness. The shadow follows you and no matter how hard you want to get help, it doesn’t take away the stigma behind mental illnesses. 20 to 22 veterans commit suicide every single day and yet we still feel ‘uncomfortable’ or make people feel uncomfortable when they talk about their problems. So many of us suffer from battle wounds called PTSD, depression, anxiety, etc. and yet changes aren’t made because of the unfortunate invisibility of these wounds. 

As service members we hide our pain behind temporary satisfactions because taking care of our mental health could not only target us as incapable and unreliable in our work environment but it could affect future TDYs, PCS locations and deployments. As service members, a lot of us feel helpless because we aren’t given the chance to ‘prove’ our stability. Instead, we are given codes and holds on our careers for a certain timeline and it is all based on another service member’s personal judgment about our heart-wrenching and unique situations. We are treated like a checklist and the only way to get out of the ‘mandatory’ leadership check-ins… is have to ‘prove’ our sanity yet again. On the 13th of July 2017, I attempted my second suicide. Throughout the experience I felt numb, comforted by some, abandoned by others, scared and relieved; all at the same time. I did not plan my suicide attempt and I cringe when people assume there’s always signs and a ‘perfect plan’ because sometimes you just snap. 

We invest so much time into people that make us feel good in the moment and then burn a hole into our souls. I was not meaningless but I was filling my life with meaningless actions and temporary people. I snapped. Physical pain was more appealing to me than getting help for my mental or emotional pain. I never wanted to be anyone’s problem so I pleaded and I begged the person who had pulled me away from the ledge. I begged them to let me jump. I screamed at the top of my lungs in a burst of tears, “LET ME DIE! I WANT TO F*CKING DIE, WHY WON’T YOU JUST LET ME DIE!?” 

Within hours, I was driven to the ER asking everyone “why am I being hospitalized? There’s nothing wrong with me!” I did not think that the situation at hand was serious, because my life at that point, did not matter to me. I did not matter to me. Within 24 hours I was checked in to Ft. Belvoir Psychiatric Center and spent the next few days frustrated and once again isolated physically and mentally. 

Days later I stepped out of those hospital doors and I was embarrassed. I felt like I had an arrow pointed down at me screaming “FAILURE!” – Failure at life, failure at making others happy, failure at making myself happy and failure at killing myself because I had no idea how I would ever recover from this. You go from caring about too much to driving yourself into a state of mind where nothing else matters. I cried every day until I built up the strength to say, “If I’m going to live… it won’t be like this.” It took more than a week and it took more than a month but I stopped lying to myself. I stopped allowing others to claim my worth. It has not been easy, it is not easy, and I know it won’t get easier as the years go by, but I don’t want it to be. I will say that being a high-functioning individual with mental illnesses can be a blessing and a curse. We are expected to ‘have it all together’ therefore we tell ourselves that not feeling anything at all; pain or happiness is better than reliving our traumas, but I don’t believe that to be true. You spend your whole life trying to build indestructible walls for your ‘house’ (life) so that no one can see your pain but you forget to build an indestructible foundation and a reliable roof. 

January of 2018 I began to use fitness as my outlet. I had never worked out with a barbell in my life but I knew that I needed a change, I knew I needed to make a change, and I was willing to take risks. During this time I was growing my brand on Instagram and gained 60k followers in 6 months. I was not only dedicated to my fitness and health but promoting body positivity and self-love through my various photoshoots. At times I have not always received the most supportive comments throughout this journey online but it hasn’t stopped me. I’ve been called multiple names, I’ve been accused of selling porn by others and I’ve received awful comments about my body, but one thing I always remind myself is that only the insecure will judge you. They don’t love themselves, they aren’t happy with themselves and therefore it will always be easier for them to reflect their own personal judgments on someone else. Life is not easy by any means, but if we learn, grow and accept the pain, the wounds, and ourselves… we will begin to appreciate the beauty that is.


What do you love most about your career? What I love most about my career is having the opportunity to express myself in any way, shape or form. Although I am thankful to have served my country in the United States Air Force, there were certain regulations when it came to how I could express myself. Now that I am a veteran, I get to finally sit back and ask “who does Aleen want to be?” and I think that’s such a powerful question to ask yourself when you live in a world that expects you to conform.

What’s the most challenging thing about your career? My biggest challenge and a challenge I believe a lot of individuals face, is the constant pollution of negative comments and threads on social media. Growing up, I was very self-conscious due to years of bullying and harassment from others. I know first-hand what it feels like to be told that I am not skinny enough or pretty enough for my current career. I’ve also been told that I am no longer a good influence on others or well respected due to the amount of clothing I choose to wear – or not to wear. This hits home for me because no one should ever feel or be told that they are not good enough because of a career choice that does not harm themselves or anyone else.

What motivates you to work hard? Those supporting me. Honestly, I could not have done any of this without the unconditional love and support of others and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. On July the 13th, 2017, I had a suicide attempt. Like many others, I struggle with invisible wounds called PTSD, depression, and anxiety. If it wasn’t for those by my side, I would have never believed in my own worth. I told myself “if I’m going to live, it won’t be like this” and therefore I make it a point to speak up and reach out to those around me! We are all worthy of love and need to be reminded of this daily.

Who is your hero? Donald Watson

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? My perspective. I tend to be impulsively pessimistic due to my past and I know it has held me back a lot. Thankfully, this is something that I can work on and I do my best to work on it daily!

What really makes you angry? Slow drivers in the fast lane!

What is the one thing that will always make you smile? Meeting open-minded individuals like myself who are willing to seek and accept other people’s perspectives and ways of life. 

How would your friends describe you? Unapologetically fearless. 

Who knows you best? My German Shepherd, her name is Zella. When I came back from my deployment in 2017, I knew I needed a companion and she’s been by my side ever since; I really don’t know what I would do without her.

What is your favorite family tradition? Watching A Christmas Story on Christmas Eve. It’s my absolute favorite Christmas movie to recite! 

What are your hobbies? Working out and eating carbs.

Favorite place to go on vacation? Mora’s Pizza in Wynwood, FL. Every time I travel to Miami, I make it a point to visit Mora and his shop. Nothing but positive vibes and delicious food. Last time I visited, we both went to work in the kitchen and he taught me a few tricks!

Favorite item of clothing? To be honest, I absolutely despise clothes. They never fit quite right and they don’t fold themselves, so they are basically useless!

Favorite food? Plant-based pizza.

What is the most daring thing you have ever done? Getting my face tattooed! A lot of people hope it’s fake or ask me how I’m ever going to get a job, but I assure you it is 100% real and I’ve had no problem paying my bills. My favorite quote is “if the whole world was blind, how many people would you impress?” and this speaks volumes because naturally a lot of us judge based on looks. I agree, it isn’t easy to resist, but I also believe that if we were all a little more open-minded and willing to look beyond those outward appearances, the experiences and potential wisdom obtained from others would be worth it.

What is the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of love? I had gotten married after a month of dating someone – lmao. It didn’t work out, which is more than likely to be expected but I also learned a lot about myself!

Do you collect anything? Beer koozies and stickers.

If you had a warning label, what would it say? Don’t come home without snacks!

What is the one thing you will never do again? I will never drink Captain Morgan again, need I say more? 

What three things do you do most of each day? I work out 4 to 6 times a week, sit on my recliner chair watching Netflix in my underwear, and constantly remind my dog to stop chasing the cats.


Be sure to follow Aleen’s adventures on Instagram @thefitpizzagirl for all her latest content and story updates!