Shawn Johnson Opens Up About Sharing Her Heartbreak — & Becoming A Full-Blown Momfluencer
The Olympic gymnast tells Scary Mommy that getting vulnerable about her pregnancy loss in 2017 kickstarted a career she never saw coming.
At 25, Johnson decided to share their story on social media — hoping to relate to and find healing from other people's journeys. Five years later, the 20-minute video has been watched by nearly 4 million people — and The East Family has 1.4 million YouTube subscribers, 3.6 million Instagram followers, and 35.4 million likes on TikTok.
"That video, specifically, was the one to kind of change our entire career," Johnson tells Scary Mommy. "When that happened, we had filmed all of it, and it was just something that we wanted to be able to remember for ourselves and not for anyone else. And I was the one that felt compelled to post it because I felt so broken at the time. I didn't know how to communicate with my husband or my family. I didn't know what questions to ask my doctor — nothing. I just felt like I had to hold it all inside and figure out how to heal."
Johnson says that after the video started circulating, she "sat there for hours crying and reading comments."
"I wasn't the only person going through it, and I know other people just made me feel like I had a community of followers and women who could hold my hand and help me."
Now, Johnson and East are parents to nearly 3-year-old daughter Drew Hazel and 1-year-old son Jett James, and consistently share their relatable parenting experiences with their audience. The Nashville-based family authentically shows the ups and downs of life with toddlers while effortlessly maintaining their jobs as influencers.
"Never in a million years did I think this is what I would be doing or that I would be showing every inch of my life on social media," Johnson admits. "But we found an outlet for a community that felt real and like our own family, and we just loved living in that space and making people not feel so isolated. And we just have continued with it."
Johnson, 30, and East, 31, had to train themselves to be more vulnerable, she says, admitting that their respective careers in professional athletics — East is a former footballer — led them to be very "polished" online.
"We went through the messaging of 'here's what you can say, and here's what you can't say,' and 'here's what you can wear,' and it was almost like the old school way of filtering things," she explains. "When social media and YouTube started taking off, we kind of saw an outlet where we could finally be ourselves and not have these teams of people saying, 'Be this and not that.' So we ran as far into the real and authentic in such a scary way because we lived that, I don't want to say fake life, but filtered life for so long."
The East family shares everything from sleep training to marriage woes, viral challenges to home decor on their socials and in their podcast, Couple Things — and is currently promoting the renovation of their new business headquarters for their brand FamilyMade Media.
Johnson and East bought a house and renovated it with their contractor dads, creating a cozy, home-like hub where they and other content creators in the Nashville area could work out of.
"We were trying to do everything around our kids and just really couldn't figure out the work-life balance," Johnson says. "We thought, 'OK, let all worlds collide.' Buy a house, renovate it with our dads, film it, show the process and then have a space where we can work outside of the home but have it still feel like home."
And that's just what they did. They reconstructed an old brick structure into what they've dubbed "The Content House" and designed their own home office on the premises. They worked with Sunbrella to craft family-friendly, comfortable, and durable indoor and outdoor spaces.
"I love the feeling and the comfort of working from home. I love being able to cuddle up on a couch or at your dining room table or in comfy chairs. So when we were building this particular office, we wanted it to feel like a home-y space for people to come work," Johnson says, mentioning that former Bachelorette star and Off the Vine podcast host Kaitlyn Bristowe was currently working from the space.
"I wanted them to feel like they could come cozy up, use the kitchen or whatever and still be able to work. So we definitely went for the cottage vibe."
Johnson admits it's weird having a quiet place to work in again after spending so much time at home with her kids during the pandemic. But even though the mom guilt is real, their residence is thankfully right down the street.
"I learned first-hand that having all of us around and trying to work is just not possible. I'm not capable of being a mom and being the work person at the same time; I have to be one or the other. And so it definitely makes work life more efficient being able to come here," she says.
As for how Johnson and East make time for each other, the gold medalist admits it's all about separating the different "sides" of her husband.
"We were spending too much undesignated time together, and we had a really hard time differentiating in any specific moment, 'Am I talking to my business partner or my [spouse]?' So I think the cottage and the office has helped a lot because when we're here, we know that we're business partners, and when we go home, we truly go home and we become husband and wife, which has been awesome."
Johnson says they have date night every Thursday — with a babysitter booked each week — and that it's very important for them to make sure they're each other's priority.
"If we can do that, we will be the best parents possible for our kids," she says.
Johnson is toying with the idea of adding to her brood — "I go hot and cold every day" — but for now is trying to bask in this special phase of parenthood. "For us, it's just about laughing it off," she says of those long days with two kids under three. "We do exactly what all the memes say: We'll get overwhelmed, put them to sleep, and then start crying because we miss them too much."
"But they are the greatest things of our life," Johnson adds. "They keep us on our toes, they challenge us, terrify us. And it's fun. It's a wild ride!"