iva ballou


Transformational Speaker, Confidence Coach &

Cleft Lip Advocate

Iva’s Story

Iva Ballou is a transformational speaker, confidence coach and cleft lip survivor who uses her gift of speaking as a tool against bullies. Born and raised in Jacksonville,Fl, Iva’s public speaking journey began at the early age of four when she was constantly bullied due to her bilateral cleft palate and lip and Peter’s Anomaly, which left her blind in her left eye and resulted in her having over 30 corrective surgeries. 

Despite all of this, Iva appeared happy, outgoing and became known as “having it all together.” She was often described as “confident, determined, and self-assured.” Iva’s secret weapon to beating her bullies was to use her voice as a tool to advocate for herself. She may have had a disability, but her disability did not have her. 

On Iva’s 14th birthday, her confidence dropped drastically after the sudden loss of her father to his second battle with cancer. Her father’s death caused a major shift in her path. The girl who was once confident in herself became her own “inner bully.”

After an intense process of self-discovery and self-healing, Iva has embraced her life’s trajectory as her newfound mission and launched a company to represent her values. Real Sophisticated Joy seeks to equip teens and young adults with the necessary life skills to make positive life changes. This is accomplished by providing unique confidence-building training and coaching that challenges and supports them through their journey.

When Iva is not in work mode, you can find her traveling the world with friends. A proud graduate of Howard University, Iva uses her degree in her role as a Program Coordinator with Empowerment Resources, Inc. She’s also the vice president of her Toastmasters club. Toastmasters is an international club that promotes communication and public speaking skills. It was her influence and pushed the club to be charted.

Iva’s Thoughts on Life

 “Traveling helped me overcome my fear people only seeing my deformity.”

In adulthood, Iva heavily desired to make positive changes in her life and to add value to the world. At one point, Iva said that she was wandering through life, trying to find herself while simultaneously running away from herself.

At this time, she began taking several trips abroad, which enabled her to speak to various people and have different conversations which broadened her worldview. Also, it forced her to get over her fear of people only noticing her deformity.

For a long time, Iva would do things to shrink herself or hide such as wearing exaggerated bangs, large sunglasses, holding her head down, being overly aggressive, and many other tricks she could think of. She later found that she could not do any of those things while traveling. Without her shields of protection, Iva was forced to walk tall and take it all in.

With the power of a positive mindset and self-love, Iva formed the life she wanted and the joy she needed. She later realized the key to making herself feel confident was having her outward image reflect her inward image.

To start the process of her transformation, she began to speak life over her life through daily affirmations. 

Iva took an oath to do the following:

  • Think only of the best
  • To expect only the best
  • To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as she is about her own
  • To learn from the past and press on to the achievements of the future
  • To wear a cheerful countenance and give everyone she meets a smile. 
  • To count every win, no matter how big or small
  • To sow a seed of Joy every day!

These commitments helped birth her platform, Real Sophisticated Joy. By sharing her story, Iva seeks to equip teens and young adults with necessary life skills to make positive changes and impact on their lives and communities. Since then, Iva has spoken to numerous civic groups, church organizations, and community women empowerment events to help fulfill her mission.