Genma Holmes is her own force of nature. Her laugh alone can completely change the mood of anyone around her, as her enthusiasm is completely infectious! And in case you run into Genma, her name is pronounced Jon-ma. But she’ll answer to any pronunciation, with a smile and a laugh. Find out more about this writer, radio host, entrepreneur, actor, model, volunteer, mother, grandmother and more!
How did you make your way to Nashville?
I was 18 and in Mississippi … an old maid there! [she says with a hearty laugh] So, how did I get here? GIVE ME A HUSBAND! Ha! As my grandmother said about my hometown, Fayette, “Don’t marry anyone around here … he could be your cousin!” I attended Mississippi State and Tennessee State. There was only one order I followed when I got to Nashville, also proclaimed by my grandmother: “Don’t date a man without a watch. A man with no watch on has no place to go, and if he did, he would be late.” My first question to any man back then? It was, “Can you tell me what time it is?” [more laughter!]
What did you do once you moved here?
What didn’t I do?! I worked like a dog. I was in school, modeling, acting … I was working like I was looking for a job in the country music business, but I wasn’t! I loved Nashville, and I still love Nashville. I love cowboys and anything western, and Nashville was just a perfect fit.
You still wear many hats. Tell us about your main job, Holmes Pest Control. How did that come about?
My husband graduated with an engineering degree and went to work at Anheuser-Busch in middle management, just out of college. They were updating the plant and having trouble with the rats eating the conveyor belts. I asked him why the pest control company wasn’t getting rid of them, and he just replied that they come in and leave. I couldn’t believe that the expectations were so low … and they still got paid. I started researching pest control companies and saw the money potential, and I told my husband that he was on the wrong side of this business. He said, “But I have a 401K plan, insurance …” [laughs]. I told him he just needed to be able to make enough to buy those things himself! So that’s how my husband and I ended up in the bug business with Holmes Pest Control. Oh, it’s not glamorous. But we enjoy the people we service. Really, we just love our customers and ended up in this business because we saw the need. We do business from Memphis to Shelbyville and everywhere in between.
Did you have a defining moment in your life that made you ambitious with career and volunteer work?
Oh, honey, yes! Fayette, MS, used to be a place where people coming into their own lived. It was bustling. But then poverty took over. The town used to have two stoplights, which are now stop signs. My family used to joke that the town got so poor it couldn’t afford to pay the light bill, so the red lights had to go. Can you imagine?! Well, one day I read somewhere that “nothing good ever comes out of Fayette,” and I asked my grandfather about that. He said, “You prove them wrong.” I did not want someone else defining me this way, and I’m proud to say many great people have come out of Fayette. But that was a character-building moment. A defining moment.
Tell us about your radio show each Saturday morning.
Carpe Diem is what happened. I was asked many times to be a guest on different radio shows or to guest host. But if you are a guest, you have maybe five or six minutes, at the most, to talk. And if you are a guest host, you are there to add some laughter, some jokes. I like topics where I can spread out the time, go deeper. So when I was asked to host a show, I seized the moment! It’s been bumped around a bit, but now you can find me in Nashville on 760 AM from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturday mornings. My main audience is veterans and the military, but the conversations are mainstream. Their community is our community, and our community is their community. While the conversations aren’t necessarily about military life, I may bring up a few times that the person I’m interviewing is a veteran. That type of thing. But I make sure the hour is interesting and that I use military terminology … I speak their language, and I always focus on the positive.
I also got to interview Perry Wallace on my show about his life as told in Strong Inside by Andrew Maraniss. I was his first interview, and I told him then that his book was going to be a New York Times bestseller. And it was. My series on Strong Inside was also nominated for a Peabody Award.
Do you have family members that are in the military?
My middle child is a Marine, and many others in my family are in the military. Many people have military family members, but I have to say, when you’ve carried a child for nine months and they end up in the military, you have a mixture of extreme pride and queasiness, as well. Ask any military mama; she’ll tell you the same thing.
Tell me about your work with The Frist for military families.
I started a fund to provide active duty military families free memberships to The Frist. It’s actually one of the proudest things that I’ve ever been a part of. And the Frist Veterans, that’s what we call them, you wouldn’t believe how many veterans come to The Frist. It’s not a formal gathering, but on Mondays, you’ll see a lot of them there, and with the jazz on Thursdays and Fridays, you’ll see many there, as well. World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afganistan … and they get to talk and enjoy the arts … building relationships, one generation to another. The Frist will tell you that every exhibit finds its own audience. Well, the military members find each other there, as well. The Martin ArtQuest Gallery is a hands-on interactive art space that can change an entire family, especially one that’s been through wartime. Their time together at The Frist heals. Art is therapy. I go to the bases and have a great relationship with Fort Campbell to promote the museum. We get the word out about the fund and let the families know so that they can come and experience The Frist. It’s wonderful. I see people literally change before my eyes.
Do you have a mentor?
Yes, my grandmother. I still try to talk to her every day.
Where is your favorite place to eat out in Nashville?
Preferably a restaurant that I service [another hearty laugh]. Really, I support the businesses that support me. That’s important to me as a small company.
Do you have any advice that you lean on?
I share this often, “Let no one’s ‘no’ determine your destiny in life.” I don’t allow anyone’s “no” to determine my steps on my journey.
What are three lighthearted things you can’t live without:
- My moisturizer! 40 Carrots. Let me tell you something, this is youth dew in a tube! I buy it on closeout at T.J. Maxx.
- My razor. I’m getting hairy as I get older! No one told me this would happen!
- My journal. I like those little ones that fit in your purse. You wouldn’t believe some of the crazy stuff I see and hear! I need to write it down, and it’s usually funny as all hell! And when these politicians or famous people do and say stuff … well, I realize that they are just like me! So I write it down.
Have I left anything out?
There is so much more we could talk about, but if your readers don’t know about the Oasis Center, and they have teenagers, they need to. The counseling they provide … you can’t do it on your own! I spent seven years on Ms. Betty’s couch there! Don’t internalize the problems … let them help you!
Thank you, Genma!
For more of Genma’s wisdom and conversation, read GenmaSpeaks, her insightful blog. And if you would like to donate to The Frist Fund for Military Families, simply call and let them know: (615) 744-4927.
And thank you to Ashley Hylbert for today’s beautiful photographs. See more of her work at ashleyhylbert.com.