As a 14-year veteran of sunlamp giant Wolff System Technology Corp., Cheri Mullenix has become well-known in the indoor tanning community. Whether she’s educating salon professionals about Wolff sunlamps or sharing expertise in her long-standing “Ask Wolff” column in ist Magazine, she’s known for translating high-tech sunlamp info into easily-understood terms. But there’s much more to Cheri than just cathodes, phosphors and wattages. She began a quest for peace of mind and personal fulfillment during her twenties, and this journey continues to have a profound effect upon her life today. So, what is the secret to the inner happiness she’s found? ist Magazine had to find out!
By looking deeply inward, Cheri Mullenix created a better life for herself… and found fulfillment and inner peace along the way.
When Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” he might has well have been talking about Cheri Mullenix. Though not a student of ancient Greek philosophy, she did take a three-year escape from the hustle and bustle of the modern world to reflect upon herself and her life’s path. At the end of that time, she was ready to reenter the world a happier, more centered person. Since then, Cheri has set about finding the things that make her happy, which includes being a part of the industry she calls home.
Cheri was born to Mona Hughes and David Mullenix on May 18, 1961 in Tuscaloosa, AL. Even before that fateful day, it seems the die that would make her a unique person had already been cast. “My father loved chocolate-covered cherries – they were his favorite treat,” said Cheri. “In fact, he loved them so much that my mom said they should name their first female child ‘Cherry.’” David agreed, but when it came time to spell their daughter’s name, Mona decided to get creative. When Cheri and her brother,
Wayne, were still children, the family relocated to Baton Rouge, LA, where she grew up and eventually graduated from Louisiana State University.
While some people spend their entire lives seeking a sense of enlightenment, Cheri’s spiritual awakening happened in her late twenties. “I began working in the hotel industry and it was one, never-ending party,” Cheri said. “One day, I realized that I wanted more out of life, so I decided to live in an ashram in Pennsylvania. For three years, I studied yoga, meditation and Eastern philosophy, and the experience changed my viewpoint on life. It helped me realize that our outer selves are always a reflection of the inner. I began letting go of negative beliefs, focusing more on the positive and being grateful for what I had.”
All of life has its own rhythm, and Cheri’s heartbeat matches the catchy tempo that can only be found in Zydeco music. This unique musical style originated in Louisiana’s Creole culture, and is known for its distinct, noticeable rhythm. “Back in 1996, a friend asked me to take some Cajun dancing lessons with him, and I didn’t want to; but, he said I would think it was fun if I tried it,” she said. “After the lesson was over, the dance instructor put on some Zydeco music, and I fell in love with it right then and there. It had some kind of hypnotic hold on me and still does today!” Through her continued involvement in this hobby, Cheri quickly became a Zydeco dancing instructor, and has travelled to California, Oregon and Washington, D.C. to teach classes. “I recently went to a Zydeco festival in Long Beach, CA and it was fun catching up with my West Coast friends,” she said.
While Cheri’s early years had her looking inward to find peace, she’s recently been projecting compassion outward. “My mother was in a terrible car accident and it’s been very difficult for me because of the extent of her injuries,” she said. “She used to walk three miles every other day and was in great shape, but now has to have six hours of physical therapy each week to regain the use of her legs and hands. Things like this really make you appreciate life more because you realize that it can change in the blink of an eye.” Fortunately for Cheri’s mother, her husband Bennie Hughes has been very supportive, and the experience has strengthened her relationship with Cheri.
Although her life has slowed down a bit these days, Cheri says it’s a good thing. “I really have a very simple outlook – I plan to savor life as much as possible by enjoying the people and activities that make me happy,” she said. “In addition to dancing, I love taking day hikes. There’s something so relaxing and calming about nature. You can’t help but be in the moment and soak up the healing energy of the earth when you’re sitting on a big rock next to a waterfall. I also plan to continue enjoying the friendships I’ve made with people from every sector of the tanning industry – they’re all so wonderful and I admire the passion that they have for their businesses.”
If anything can be learned from the life story of Cheri Mullenix, it’s that finding inner peace is the key to true happiness. For her, the process began with recognizing that she needed a change, then undergoing the transformation. With that journey underway, she continues to enjoy the fulfilling life that she’s created for herself. Hopefully, her story can be an inspiration to everyone because, at the end of the day, aren’t most of us seeking what she’s already found?
A 14-year industry veteran, John "Ribby" Ribner has written hundreds of
articles for IST Magazine and, as Director of Editorial Content, has also
helped guide the publication's evolution. Ribby is a graduate of Central
Michigan University's journalism program and has brought many years of newspaper reporting experience to his position of Head Writer. He is also the author of three novels, "Legacy of the Bear," "Prophecy of the Bear" and "World So Dark."
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