NACOGDOCHES, Texas — It’s a simple necklace, nothing too fancy. The triangular shape and blue stone may go unnoticed by most, but for Dr. Nina Ellis-Hervey, director of Stephen F. Austin State University’s School Psychology Assessment Center and associate professor, it’s a reminder of what she stands for: strength, confidence and power.
While she admits she doesn’t wear the necklace every day, Ellis-Hervey always tries to include blue in her wardrobe.
“Blue is a color often associated with males, but for me, it’s a symbol of confidence and power,” Ellis-Hervey said.
As an associate professor and center director, Ellis-Hervey has the power to change student lives every day, and she also doubles as a video blogger who inspires millions of viewers worldwide.
Life as an associate professor
Psychology wasn’t always the plan for Ellis-Hervey. As an undergraduate at Truman State University, she entered college as a biology major with hopes of becoming an OB-GYN.
“My uncle was one of the most prominent people in my family, and he was an OB-GYN. I shadowed him and thought, ‘I don’t like this because you don’t really get to talk to people,’” she said. “I wanted to affect people’s lives. A lot of people in my family hadn’t been successful, so of course I was thinking of a career in terms of money.”
In college, Ellis-Hervey enrolled in a behavior modification course with a well-known psychologist who changed her outlook on life and encouraged her to pursue psychology.
Now, she is a licensed psychologist, nationally certified school psychologist, licensed specialist in school psychology in Texas, certified professional life coach and soon-to-be certified personal trainer.
In 2011, she became a certified online instructor for the Department of Human Services at SFA. Since then, she has advanced to associate professor and director of the School Psychology Assessment Center, which she helped establish in 2014. The center is a clinical and research resource for students and serves the SFA and Nacogdoches communities. She teaches psychological assessment courses and adolescent psychopathology while overseeing students working in the center. The allure of a new program drew her to SFA.
“I wanted to be a part of something that was growing. I didn’t want to be in a carved-out place or just a warm body fulfilling someone else’s purpose,” Ellis-Hervey said. “I wanted the experience of starting a center and something that needed guidance.”
SFA was a perfect fit for Ellis-Hervey, and during her time amid the pines, she has impacted hundreds of students.
“My students feel very comfortable with me because I know how to correspond with them. I really care about their agenda and how they will be as real-world practitioners and psychologists,” Ellis-Hervey said.
Ellis-Hervey has worked with many students to further their careers and become certified licensed psychologists. She has traveled with students to conferences and has had her work published with her student’s work in academic journals.
Life as a video blogger
Known as “Dr. Nina” both in the classroom and online, Ellis-Hervey’s rise to internet fame was an accident.
Years ago, Ellis-Hervey lost more than 100 pounds and began learning how to live a holistic, healthy life.
“I had attempted weight loss many times, and I would always laugh and say I’d go on a diet for six hours,” Ellis-Hervey said. “This time, I decided I wanted to go on a journey.”
With a determined attitude, she created her own weight loss program by purchasing two fitness and weight loss books online. After a year, she reached her goal of living a healthier lifestyle, but her journey didn’t end with the weight loss. Her friend encouraged her to share her experience on YouTube.
“I thought nobody wants to see me talk about weight loss; most want to see people lose weight on camera,” she recalled.
Regardless of her initial skepticism, Ellis-Hervey decided to give it a shot and recorded her story with pictures of her transformation and posted it on YouTube. Months later, she checked her video and realized it had thousands of views and comments.
“It was raw and real, which is why I think it got the views it did. I think people thought, ‘She’s just like me. She’s not scared of talking about this,’” Ellis-Hervey said. “I took power in my own story.”
Soon, Ellis-Hervey began posting regular videos on YouTube. Many of her videos are tutorials for health and beauty tips and others focus on her life. She now has 600,000 YouTube subscribers and more than 36 million video views on her channel BeautifulBrwnBabyDol.
“My blog name represents three Bs and one D — a three-dimensional person who is spiritually, physically, and emotionally sound and well,” she said. “Also, dolls are made to tell a story, and I have a story to tell. Dolls are passed down through generations. They might get messed up, but they can always be fixed, and a transformation can occur.”
Buzzfeed named her YouTube channel a top 10 natural hair blog, and she has been featured in magazines and television shows, including People, Essence, Ebony, HLN News Live, the Jeff Probst Show, Inside Edition, Extra, The Grio, Refinery29 and more. Additionally, she has served as a guest speaker at various universities and participated in a TED Talk.
The next step
Since she was a child, Ellis-Hervey has had the “gift of gab,” and she plans to launch her new Dr. Nina Ellis-Hervey website to share her story and continue inspiring and educating others on holistic health and self-empowerment.
Through her new site, she will offer video courses and weekly newsletters. Her goals are to self-publish mini eBooks and eventually publish a book.
She splits her time between Houston and Nacogdoches to juggle life as a professor and blogger. For her, time management is key, and she says she makes use of every moment.
“I live life like I could die tomorrow. If I had to look back on my life now, I can say I know I’ve done it. I’ve done everything I want to do,” Ellis-Hervey said, as she held back tears. “Some could say I’m not a mother or a wife yet, but that will come with time, and here’s the thing, look at what I’ve done.”