Aventer Gray is known to the world as John Gray’s wife. It’s hard for people to see you outside of the way you were introduced and this is how Aventer came into national prominence. Now, she wants to share her story as a woman, outside of the just John’s wife and the First Lady of Relentless church. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Gray about her podcast, her reputation as the clapback queen and her response to people who believe that she blamed the woman for her husband’s inappropriate relationship.
What influenced your decision to launch the podcast?
I was thinking about what I felt like God had for me next. Because I think that a lot of what people feel they know about me just comes with me directly lined with my husband. And in an effort to allow people to get to know me for me, in a way that is fun, it’s inviting and it’s conversational. And it’s definitely women’s empowerment.
A lot of the misunderstandings between what people know about you and the actual you is that they just haven’t had the opportunity to have time with you. I am an individual. I am a woman and a huge advocate for women and what we represent as stand alones.
Av Unfiltered is really about getting to know me away from his wife, away from the church. I’m a mom. I have two children. I’m managing my home and my vision of the Aventer Gray Co. brand is celebratory of everything that is the beauty of a woman. I love harmony and I feel like the Harmony Reign brand under Aventer Co. just leads women into understanding that before they do anything, they’re worthy.
So my podcast, you get the real, raw, unfiltered version of Aventer. Not the “first lady” Aventer. I feel like there’s a lot of grace in transparency. There’s a lot of misunderstanding of the things that may need to be cleared up. [The podcast] is not for that specifically but I really would love for people to know how I see things, how I process things. I’m really for that realization of just being cool with who you are, because I definitely am aside from being on a platform or a pulpit serving the church.
I start off with my inaugural episode of “Ave at Last” because it’s always ‘John and Aventer,’ ‘John and Aventer.’ It’s never just Aventer. So I speak with one of my amazing friends, her name is Devi Brown. A couple years back, she was like, ‘Ave, some of the conversations we’ve had, you really should so something with them.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah girl, okay’ and just never thought about it and continue to serve my home and church. I’ve been super content with playing the background or side—whatever serves the purpose of our family legacy. And I woke up one day and was just like, ‘Dev, I’m going to do a podcast.’ And I felt like nobody greater than to have my first episode with her because it kind of introduces you to what you will be experiencing through my conversations with different types of women, ages, ethnicities, beliefs, all of those different things. Lots of humor, lots of candid conversations. They go the distance. So I’m excited about what God will do with it. Whatever He does with it, I’m grateful because I will have had the opportunity for people to have “Ave at Last.”
I could not imagine being a First Lady. It seems like you’re constantly being watched, people expect unrealistic levels of perfection from you because you’re in leadership. So I was wondering do you find or have you ever found that the position has been stifling for you in some cases?
I’m so glad you brought that up because it was never a desire of mine to be a “first lady.” In fact, I was very real about being apprehensive about it and kind of unsure after my husband was asked to take on a senior pastoral role. It’s one thing to be an associate pastor’s wife. It’s another thing to be thee pastor’s wife. I know from what I grew up believing that people look at pastors as if they’re not just regular people that have a calling to preach the word of the Lord, to get the word of the Lord out of them. Not realizing that just because you have the information doesn’t necessarily mean you know exactly how to implement it yourself, for you. That’s a very real thing.
People believe that pastors and leaders are literally perfect. And that’s the expectation people have. [My hesitancy] wasn’t about being perfect. Mine was about ‘Are people going to be comfortable with the me that I am? Because I’m uncomfortable becoming something else. Who you are is absolutely enough for the people you are to do life with and the people you are to realize purpose with.
If everybody is in love with you, there is a huge problem because you’re probably being a chameleon to transform into whatever suits the room. I’m uninterested in that.
I’m just me. I’m very cut to the chase. I’m very transparent. I have tattoos. I love the wigs. I love cute clothes, fashion. I love conversations that may be a little bit controversial, only in an effort to hear another person’s point of view besides my own. I feel like we don’t have enough conversations that actually challenge us to understand people more.
And that might not be the nice church people’s way because they want to rebuke people and tell them ‘That’s wrong! You should not do that.’ And of course, I’m not talking about stealing and killing. I’m talking about other ways of living your life out loud and bold. I think about different generations and with my mother it was like, ‘There’s some things you don’t say.’ And my grandmother it was like, ‘Whew, you don’t reference that at all. That never happened.’ They have killed themselves, given themselves cancer and heart attacks for keeping things inside of them that did not agree with their body. I’m a firm believer that we hold so much inside of you that will make you physically sick. In an effort of that type of healing and that type of reclamation of your womenhood is why I’m endeavoring to have that type of conversation.
I saw you and your husband on “Red Table Talk” and you were speaking about how people only see you in relation to the role you play in their life. Wife, mother of your children. But you’re not seeing me as the woman I was when I came into that relationship. How have you and your husband navigated seeing each other as people before you fulfill any role?
The truth is that whatever role is the most prominent or most important to you is the one that the person you’re in relationship with is going to filter you through that lens. I think it is super necessary for peace, for harmony, for just living a fully authentic life is looking at the person you are connected to, whether it is a husband, boyfriend, fiancé, a wife, a friendship, and seeing the value that God has placed on their life outside of any title that they may have acquired.
What I was trying to share with my husband for a little while is, ‘Hey yes, I am your wife. I understand what standing alongside you and running a race means. I understand that.’ As of April of 2012, I became someone’s mother, I will never not be a mother any more in my life. But at the end of the day, the Lord created me with two chromosomes that look alike so I am fully female. And some of the things that are inside of me and the way that I express myself is very valid, raw and natural, aside from being mom. When I’m chilling I’m just Ave.
I need you to try to see me as who God created me which was just a woman who had worth before I did any of the things that you know me for. And I think when you go back to that original state, there would be a lot of compassion and a lot more understanding of how people function in their titles because you understood who they were without them. So that’s where that comes from for me.
Taking the necessary time to just process and be cool with you being good with whether you become divorced tomorrow. If you don’t have that as a defining sentence, what’s next? We kind of get hostage to what we’re doing and what we’re trying to become that we forget to be married to who we actually are first.
You mentioned that you wanted to use the podcast to clear up come misconceptions about you. What is the biggest misconception you’ve heard about yourself?
I honestly don’t know what the biggest one is. But what I do know is that it’s really hard to be misunderstood and when you are attached to somebody who is as well-known as my husband, people are left to believe what they want if you don’t speak about it. It’s not that I’m trying to answer questions that nobody has asked. I’m sure there multiple ways that I’m perceived both positively and influential, in ways that are great for people and all the same on the other side and what you think you know about me, based on the chapter of my life you happen to walk in on.
It gives me great heartache for people to believe that I’m somehow this person that I’m always the clapback queen. I don’t really understand why this term exists. Most of my friends who are popular, have had to take a moment and just say “for the record…” or “this is just to inform you that what’s being said is not true.” I don’t understand how that’s a clapback but I’ve heard that a lot about me.
The truth is you’re not going to change people’s mind when they already have their preconceived perceptions of you. It’s just a way to make peace with me. This is who I really am.
Speaking of misconceptions, there was a moment where you and your husband had acknowledged an inappropriate relationship he had and people felt that your response to it was putting blame on the woman as opposed to putting blame on your husband. I just wanted to know if you’d heard that and if that was something that bothered you.
Yes! There’s been so many but that one was a huge one. And if I can speak to what I believe you’re speaking about part of a sermon where I was on the platform and saying something to the effect of, ‘The devil don’t want it with you.’ And people were saying that I was calling a woman a devil. That’s not what was happening. I’ve never had the opportunity to speak to it cuz it was going all around with nobody having the whole situation in front of them to see what I was talking about.
First of all, let’s just get this out of the way. My husband got it from me. When I tell you, I was in no way defending his ignorance at all. I just know where it came from. And there will come a time when we will get the opportunity to speak about our relationship on platforms that we create—we just haven’t had enough time to explain what it was.
I am speaking to the fact that there are triggers. There are necessary places in all of our lives that if they are touched, you might react or you might go down a path that you never expected that you would go whether you’re a doctor, lawyer, a pastor, any title that you have, male or a female.
What I was stating about this woman is that she spoke to an un-reconciled manhood, a void place inside of my husband that had nothing to do with me. And I’m like, ‘I see you devil. I get it.’ He knows where you’re weak that’s what I’m saying. The devil knows where you’re weak. I didn’t say the women knew where he was weak. She was being used for whatever her motivation was and he was feeding into it based on that place of non-reconciliation that he had as a teenager that didn’t get the girl that he wanted all the time. So when you’re a man and there’s a part of your life that hasn’t been reconciled, oh it’s coming because God is going to get the glory from that part being shined a light on so that he can expose it and then elevate you to the next level.
I was in no way blaming her. I was saying the devil don’t want it with a praying wife who can actually spot and see that this had nothing to do with me. This had something to do with stuff well before I was even thought about. This is something that was inside of him that needed to be handled and reconciled back to God. I was saying the devil don’t want it with you, as a praying wife—speaking of myself.
And she [the woman] doesn’t want it with you [Aventer] either because it’s going to cause her to have to look inside herself as to why she as a knowing participant knew that [John] was married anyway.
So it’s two different things happening, not that I’m shifting blame on her. What I was doing was exposing the lie of the enemy that you can continue to move forward without touching those places that need to be healed so that you can fully be who God is calling you to be. That’s why if they rewind in that same clip, I say, I can’t get in the way of what God is doing. She spoke to a 16-year-old John that didn’t even know was in there. That has nothing to do with me but it wasn’t going to come out until he was faced with the person he was called to do life with.
And a lot of times in our marriages, we think we’re great. I’m sure he thought he was amazing and fantastic. And I thought I was good until I had to come face to face with him and realize there were some flaws in me that had nothing to do with him. And if you’re a solid woman who took a vow—I’m not saying stay and get battered and bruised. I’m not saying stay getting verbally abused and cheated on every day of your life because he can’t figure out whatever—I’m saying I took a vow. Better or worse. We’ve lived in better. Here is a glimpse of worse. And not only is it a “worse” but you’re a senior pastor who just stepped into this role. It’s a worse that I wasn’t expecting that came out of nowhere and would be a thing. Now, I have a decision to make. And my decision is ‘God, do I run at the first sign of worse? When I told you I was going to be there and figure it out? Or do I pray and ask that God get the glory for whatever this part of the story is so that we can get back to the business and the work of the purpose that we’re supposed to flow in with each other.
So the biggest misconception in that is that I was placing blame on her. No, I was not placing blame on her or calling her the devil. She knows who she is without me or anyone else having to call her out. And my husband knows exactly who he is and who he was in that moment and who he had not reconciled yet. But the part of the story that is so hilarious is that we were past that. It wasn’t fresh. We were already past it. But it was resurrected as if it was something we were currently walking through. But it was teachable moment that got distorted. And while people are doing their addition, subtraction and multiplications of what we were going through, they had no clue that we had identified through counseling and therapy that we both had places in our childhood that had stayed with us until we had to face them with another person, head on.
There’s no way you can walk out everything you need to realize about another person in premarital counseling. Pre-marital counseling would last the length of the marriage. Some things are only going to come up when you get married and you start walking out purpose.
Given that things can be misinterpreted so easily, are you ever hesitant or afraid of sharing things transparently?
I am not afraid. I feel like this is my platform. I have gotten a certain level of comfortability in everybody not being okay with me. This is my outlet. I think every woman needs to embrace that everybody is not going to like you, you’re not going to be everybody’s cup of tea. But the people whose cup of tea that you are, they’re going to ride with you and it’s going to be a great time.
You can listen to Aventer Gray’s podcast “Ave Unfiltered” on Saturday, May 23 on all platforms, including YouTube, SoundCloud and on Aventer Gray’s Instagram page.
Future guests include LeToya Luckett-Walker, Ayesha Curry, Iyanla Vanzant and more.
You can you learn more about Aventer Gray at IamAventerGray.com