Ep 35 – The “Ah-Ha” Moment with The Rebel MT Allison Denney

Woman with tattoos pointing to the word "Bold" on her T-shirt

Allison Denney, The Rebel MT, joins the podcast to give us insight into what it means to be a rebel. From starting her wildly popular YouTube channel, to creating her own products, to building a brand, Allison lives up to the “believe in yourself” mantra. Her mission is to give MTs the tools to create their own paths and have the power to speak their voices.

Author Images: 
Allison Denney, The Rebel MT
Author Bio: 

Allison Denney is a certified massage therapist and certified YouTuber. You can find her massage tutorials at YouTube.com/RebelMassage. She is also passionate about creating products that are kind, simple, and productive for therapists to use in their practices. Her products, along with access to her blog and CE opportunities, can be found at RebelMassage.com.


This episode sponsored by Anatomy Trains.

Full Transcript: 

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01:00 Darren Buford: Welcome the ABMP podcast. My name is Darren Buford. I'm the editor-in-chief of Massage and Bodywork Magazine, and Senior Director of Communications for ABMP. I'm joined by my co-host, Kristen Coverly, licensed massage therapist and Director of Professional Education for ABMP. Our goal is to connect with luminaries and experts in and around the massage, bodywork and wellness profession in order to talk about the topics, trends and techniques that affect our listeners' practices. Our guest today is Allison Denney. Allison is a certified massage therapist and certified YouTuber. You can find her massage tutorials at youtube.com/rebelmassage. She is also passionate about creating products that are kind, simple and productive for therapists to use in their practices. Her products, along with her access to her blog and CE opportunities can be found at rebelmassage.com. Hello?

01:47 Allison Denney: Hello.

01:48 KC: Welcome, Allison. We're so happy to have you here.

01:51 AD: Thank you so much for having me. I'm beyond honored and excited.

01:55 KC: Well, great. We're gonna dive right in. We've got so many great questions for you today. We're gonna start, though, at the very beginning, a very good place to start. Sorry, I couldn't help the reference.

02:04 AD: I know, that's odd.


02:07 KC: So you came to take on the name The Rebel MT. We love it. But we know there has to be a story there. Where did that come from?

02:16 AD: Yeah, there is. I think that I've always been a rebel of some sort, but what's really interesting is that when I adopted that name, a lot of people were like, "Why? That seems abrasive or offensive or something." And I had to really think about what my definition of rebel was and what that meant to me and why I felt like I had this rebellious nature. So if you look up the word rebel online, it has roots, and I think old middle English that means like war or bringing up a war or something like that. And then if you go to look at the actual Urban Dictionary definition, which I think is a little more apt to today's society, I feel like or the younger generation has a new, a whole new vernacular and a whole new level of definitions for everything, it really just talks about somebody defining their own path. It really just talks about a rebel being somebody who can speak their own voice, and that is something that I believe in so deeply and so profoundly, and I think it speaks to a lot of massage therapists.

03:21 AD: And so my whole purpose, my whole mantra about my business is not really making everybody know what I know, but giving everybody tools to create their own path and be their own rebel and be their own voice and have their own story. And I feel like that's the most powerful thing you can give to somebody. So rebel for me is about knowing your voice, hearing your own voice, speaking it out and being whoever you can be in your best moments.

03:51 DB: I love it. There's a rebel MT. There's a massage sloth, a massage nerd. I feel like I need my own nickname out here. Kristen, you and I need nicknames. I would come up with them for each other.

04:01 KC: We sure do. Before we get to the next question, I just wanna pop in and say, "I love that explanation. I'm so glad we asked because we wouldn't have thought of that at just the surface level." So it's so much deeper, and I think I was nodding my head as I was listening to you, I'm sure the listeners are too, really resonating with that idea of your own path and your own way and your own journey. So thank you for that. That's great.

04:24 AD: Yeah, I know that I got into massage therapy partially because I love the work and I love the anatomy and all the communication and connection. But also because I wanted to be my own boss. And I think a lot of people get into it for that reason. I wanted my own autonomy, and so this felt like it kind of grooved with that whole theme and felt perfect for me. [chuckle]

04:48 DB: All right, let's dive in even deeper to that rebel massage, rebel MT world. And my question, I went back and looked at your columns for Massage and Bodywork Magazine, we have been fortunate enough to host you as a columnist in our publication now over the past year. But one of the things I was really drawn to was you talk about having an Oprah-like aha moment in your life that changed everything for you professionally. Can you tell us about that and how it was impactful and what exactly changed?

05:19 AD: Yeah, I mean, it was a vivid moment. There are so many changes that happen through our lives that feel like they're just a slow shift, and all of a sudden you look back and you, "Wait a minute. 10 years ago, I used to be this person, and now I'm this person. And how did that happen?" But this was a defining moment in my life that completely grabbed me by the shoulders and was like, "You better go." [chuckle] So it was interesting. So I was teaching... The story is this. I was teaching and I was in my classroom and I was trying to motivate my students and they were all kind of just feeling a little bit lackluster and kind of questioning what they could do with this career and questioning how much they could make and where they could work and all that kind of stuff, and talking about the average... I think it's the...

06:08 AD: Well, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics is saying that the average income for a massage therapist is about 40,000 a year or something like that. And I was trying to impress on them that just like everything else in life, this career is going to be what you put into it, so you're gonna get out of it what you put into it. Hands down, just like everything else, if you put your all into it, you will get so much out of it, you will get all of it out of it. And I was really preaching this on so many levels. I was kind of like, "I know all of these therapists who are doing all these amazing things, and they work with all these really unbelievable people. And they've made all these incredible connections, and they're often running and doing all of this stuff." And I had this big conversation with all these students, and then I went home that day. And I remember I had stairs going up to my apartment complex or going up to my apartment, and I stopped in the middle platform that went up to the second level of steps.

07:09 AD: And I stopped, and I was like, "When are you gonna apply this to yourself, Allison? You are preaching, and when are you going to walk the talk?" And I think that's the expression. And I just realized on some profoundly deep level, on some cellular level that I wasn't really putting my all into it. I was thinking I was, and I was telling people I was, but there's always a deeper level to access. [chuckle] And that's kind of like another big layer that I talk about with clients and I talk about with students all the time. There's always a deeper level to access, and so I did. I just kind of stopped, and I was like, "Allison, you need to start believing in yourself, and you need to start believing that you can do so much more with this." And then it became about... It was just a simple decision. It was literally... It was a decision, not about doing all the things that I do, but it was a decision about believing in myself, which I think is the bigger decision that can spark so much change.

08:09 AD: So I just decided quite literally that I was gonna stop doubting myself, and that I knew I wanted... I was like, "I think I could a YouTube channel." And so I literally just threw a video on there and was like, [chuckle] "We'll see where this goes." And it became about not trying to impress anybody else, but it became about me wanting to put out there what I wanted to get back. And so I just put happiness out there. I put funny out there. I put creativity out there. I put all the things that I loved and appreciated and saw on other people that I respected, and I just went with it. [chuckle] I just went with it, and it became this huge snowball, and here I am.

08:47 KC: I'm just like, "Wow." I'm just soaking it in. [chuckle] So I had a moment of nothing verbal coming out of my mouth. I love so much about that, things that I think will really resonate for people listening is 'cause it resonates with me. Listen, when you get that intuitive hit, when you get that moment that pops into your head, like you had walked the talk on the mid-landing. I love that. It happens in the most random place, moment, time, unexpected, and then believe in yourself. So often, I think people get that inkling. They get the nudge. They get the message and immediately push it away, push it down because, "Oh, I couldn't possibly."

09:26 AD: Exactly. We are raised to doubt ourselves. We just are. We are constantly, through every single aspect of our childhood, we are told and asked, "Here's all the things you need to worry about, and here's why you maybe can't do that, and you maybe need to think about... You need to have fear around this stuff." And it's a preventative measure, but it ends up backfiring. And I think what we don't do is take the risk, and understandably risks are scary. And especially as a parent raising my children, I always wanna be like, "Look at all the risks." But when you can put the risks side and just be your best self and live authentically and just do, what comes back to you is so much bigger than financial gain or credibility or blow the clients like it just becomes so much more full and real and whole.

10:23 KC: And you absolutely after that moment started living authentically and just doing. And may I say, you started just doing a lot. You launched a YouTube channel, which you've referenced, but you've also started creating products. You started teaching CE. You opened a massage school, and that is just the beginning of a list, Allison. So these are dreams for so many bodyworkers. Can you talk to us about how you took those ideas, took that inspiration and then made those dreams become reality for yourself. What was your journey with that? How can other people learn from your journey?

10:56 AD: I think exactly what you just said, Kristen. What resonates with you is often what resonates with everybody else, and so I found myself kind of going, looking at massage therapy videos that were out there. So I was teaching and I had a lot of students who were like, "You should just record what you are demoing in class, and I would watch it at home." And I was listening to that and then I was googling what was already out there. And there's some great content out there, but it wasn't... I kept thinking in my own head, "I would do this differently, and this is what I would do. And this is what I wanted to see, and why aren't I seeing more of whatever, A, B and C?" And so I just started to realize that I could do it.

11:40 AD: And same thing with the body butter. I just was working with all of the stuff, and I had tried all these products that I was just not happy with. And I thought to myself, "If I'm not happy, I am sure there are so many other massage therapists who have the same problem." And so, I just started to play around with my own stuff, and I was like, [chuckle] "I've finally found something that I genuinely like and I genuinely can stand behind. And if I like it this much, other people have got to like it." So what was resonating with me and what felt like so true in my gut became my starting point for everything that I did.

12:17 DB: Let's take a short break to hear a word from our sponsors.

12:20 KC: Connect with your massage community and leaders in the profession online at the 2020 ABMP CE Summit. This virtual education experience addresses a wide variety of topics to share timely and valuable information to enrich your practice and life. Don't miss this opportunity to interact with the presenters live online, learn tools to help navigate this unique time, and connect virtually with your massage and bodywork community. This event, including eight-and-a-half hours of CE is free for everyone in the profession. Learn more and register today at abmp.com/summit.

13:00 DB: Now, let's get back to the podcast. I know a lot of MTs would definitely have questions with regards to the YouTube channel like, "Production-wise, how did you know how to do that? How did you learn how to do that?" I can just hear massage therapists asking like, "That's so much of a leap, I can't imagine shooting myself or shooting a video of myself and producing this. How are you getting all this done?"

13:24 AD: Yeah, well, if you go back and look at my first videos, [chuckle] they're really bad. And in fact, I had a whole channel before this one, that it was so bad that I just deleted the whole channel. But I think that's part of the process. I think first and foremost, if anybody is wondering how to go about starting anything, starting a YouTube channel, starting a product, starting a business on any level, you've gotta die in and realize that your first go is not gonna be perfect. Ever, ever, ever. I guess the expression is, it takes 10 years to make an overnight success or something like that. I failed a lot and I googled a lot and I YouTubed a lot and I did a lot of research. I literally spent so much time on YouTube like, "Okay, what's the best camera? What's best mic? And how do I upload? And how long should the video be? And how do you edit? And I just took my time with it and I made a lot of mistakes. And so the first videos that I did were horrible but I just threw them out there and I was just like, "I'm not gonna care what anybody thinks. I'm just gonna throw it out there and let it be my own learning experience."

14:33 AD: So when I decided to scrap that channel and started Rebel Massage, even my first video is a mess. I look back on now, I'm like... I just embarrassed. But it is what it is and I'm fine that they're up there. But I'm still always learning and I think that's the other part of it. I think there is always this feeling, we wanna wait until we're ready to do something and we're never ready. We're never ready and we're always learning and even as a massage therapist, I'm still to this day, 20-some years and learning and understanding things differently and growing and wish I knew then what I know now but that's impossible so just dive in, be you, make mistakes, Google everything, YouTube everything and you can figure out what works best for you.

15:19 DB: You could totally be talking about this podcast as in the... Kristen and I learning on the fly. One of my favorite things in the world is watching people break out of whatever box they've created for themselves. And they're so, "I can't do that, I can't do that." And the box just gets smaller and smaller, until somebody's like, "Yeah you can. You should just try it and get out." I get to be a manager to a crew of people here at ABMP and my favorite thing is watching people become themselves. And it's the coolest thing when they like... The light bulb or the light bulb goes on where they just, "I can do that?" Yeah, you can do that. Do it, there is no rule. There are no rules, break the rules, right?

16:09 AD: Rebel, you're are rebel Darren. Exactly. But it's exactly the truth. It becomes about figuring out who you are, figuring out what your voice is and then allowing yourself, gifting yourself the permission to try and fail and just go. It's so simple, I've had this mantra my whole life that, life is simple just not easy. And I think that's the truth of it. It's hard, it's hard to do it. And I am the first to admit that all of this is hard. It's hard on the live level. It's like, I sleep a lot less than I used to. I don't have a lot of time to myself. I constantly worry about what the next thing is gonna be or I'm constantly researching and I'm constantly wanting to be better. But it's simple. The concept is simple. Stop denying yourself. Stop convincing yourself that you can't and just go, just go. Just try. Like you said, Darren, breaking through that box. It's such an amazing thing to see and it's part of why I teach as well. Listening to people, watching the students grow and you having them have that moment or getting emails from people from across the... Literally across the globe who are like, "I didn't know that I could think this way and I didn't know that I had permission to work in this way," and I just... That's my favorite thing ever, 'cause I feel like that's the thing that makes the world a happier place.

17:35 KC: And picking up that word; permission, give yourself the permission to be yourself. Don't get in your own way.

17:44 AD: All those little cliches are so true.

17:45 KC: I know. And they're very soothing, we need them in our minds as little mantras when we have the fear and doubt, yeah. So let's look a little more deeply. We talked about YouTube a little bit more under the microscope. Let's do that same thing for your product sales. Now you create your own product and sell. We have therapists who are interested in doing that but also that are interested in just becoming more of a product sales person to their clients. What did you learn along that road, along that journey?

18:14 AD: For me, it became about a brand. What's really funny is that after I created my products and after I got my website up and after I had my YouTube channel, a lot of people who are in business would say to me, "You've created a brand and that's a really hard thing to do. A lot of people are trying to create a brand but they get muffled along the way or get confused or it does not link together. And a lot of comments, a lot of feedback that I've gotten is that I've created what seems to be a cohesive brand. And so I think that is a really good way to start however you wanna launch into something like that.

18:51 AD: So if you're trying to sell a product or you're trying to sell or create something that is going to give you an extra income or something else that you can do in your office for your clients on whatever level, keep it coming back to the idea that you are this person that that client came to. So for whatever reason, this client has walked into your office and chosen you as a therapist and there's something about you that they really connect with. Figure out what that is and then go from there. For me, again, I remember the moment that I was like, "I know exactly what I'm gonna call these letters, I know exactly how I'm gonna name all this stuff. I knew I wanted to make it organic, I knew I wanted to include essential oils, but I knew I wanted it to be quirky and funny."

19:35 AD: 'Cause that's like... I don't think we should take anything too seriously. But I think that's why a lot of people resonate with my work, 'cause it's serious but it's not that serious and I think there's a lot of people out there who maybe can relate better, or clients relate to them because maybe they really can understand trauma well or they really felt heard or they really, whatever it is. And I think if you can figure out what that is, then you launch whatever you're gonna do from there and keep that whole branding, marketing circle in the same scope.

20:11 KC: Yes. Big capital letters yes to that. And I'm so glad you mentioned the names, because if you hadn't, I absolutely would have because I love looking at your website and looking at those names. So you've gotta share a few of your product names with us and the audience, please.

20:28 AD: Yes, yes. Well, the two, I think the two biggest ones that sell are the Inflammation Highway and the Sore Loser, which are just like... [chuckle] Yeah, it just Sore Muscles, Sore Loser and Inflammation, and I wanted it to be as funny and just keeping it light and real. My seasonal butter that I just launched, I'm gonna toot my own horn for one second, is the BODYWORKERS BREW. It's on October 1. It smells like pumpkin fries 'cause I love everything pumpkiny. But BODYWORKERS BREW is like a... It's not a witches brew, it's a bodyworkers brew. But anything that feel like Game of Bones is one of my favorites. And I don't know, I just wanted to pull from something that felt a little lighter than... There's so many... What was already saturated out there was calming, breathing, lotions and oils. And I just felt like, "Yes, yes. That's all there." I wanted to do something different. So yeah, my names are a little bit smarty pants. [chuckle]

21:35 DB: This is such a healthy, just awesome conversation because Kristen and I are lucky enough to work for multiple associations, and one of the other associations we work for is ASCP, Associated Skin Care Professionals. And estheticians usually can't wait to create their own product. So a lot of times you'll see hesitancy in the massage world where estheticians are all about grabbing that as quickly as they can, and it is that all-encompassing branding of themselves. And I think about that a lot with massage therapist, with regards to, "You're the expert, and I'm the client coming to you and I'm seeking your expertise. And that includes if I've received a service or if I've received some type of body work, that does include at the end of the service, recommending things that can continue the longevity of that service until our next appointment." And products do that. You see hair stylists do this all the time. They're very comfortable, and you're like, "I wanna recreate that look or that feeling." And I can see that extension happening in the bodywork world, and I'd love to see more MTs embrace that.

22:39 AD: Yeah, it's a great way to bring in an extra income. I think that the place that massage therapists struggle is that we are givers. We are, at our core, givers. And it feels really weird to be like, "Give me more of your money. I wanna take more from you because I have this thing that you should buy. And maybe there's there's other stuff out there, but you should by mine." And it feels hard to self-promote, 'cause it doesn't really align with that completely whole giving, "let me just let you be who you are" mentality. But I think what I wanna say to that is what you just touched on there, and there's this confidence that comes when you kind of know exactly who you are. And I think once you get that confidence as a massage therapist, as a bodyworker, that's the thing that clients want more than anything. Really, truly, more than anything, if somebody comes into my office and there's any hesitation about what I stand for and who I am and what I know and what I believe, they feel it and the session is off completely off. And so, being who I am and being confident about what I make, what I do, what I know, all of those things, it's not about just selfishly marketing yourself. It's about developing the confidence that expresses to your client, they are in good hands, which I think is just the bottom line, again and again and again.

24:11 DB: One of the things you're known for on the YouTube channel and in the webinar that you have done with ABMP is painting the body. And I wanna know a little bit more about that, how that happened, and why that is valuable for MTs to see that.

24:26 AD: Oh my gosh, yes. It's huge. It has been way bigger than I thought it was gonna be, which is really, really fun. It's so fun. I, in my search for how I wanted to make my YouTube channel be mine, I watched a lot of YouTube videos like I said. And there was a couple of channels that I really loved, and one of them was this body painter. And this woman who made her face looked like all these crazy characters and just completely distorted her face with paint, and I was astounded by it. And I loved the way she was doing the video. I was looking at her editing, and I was looking at her way of speaking and being very natural. But she did this one video where she painted her whole face to look like muscles, and I was like... [chuckle] I wish you could see me. My jaw was dropping. I was just like, ding ding, light bulbs all over my head. And I thought to myself, "I could do it." So again, taking away the veil of, "I can't do this." I was just kind of like, "I'm just gonna try it." [chuckle] And so my poor son, who was the guinea pig for my butter [chuckle] and the guinea pig for my body paint. All of this stuff, sometimes my kids are just like, "Oh god, mom, not again." But I laid my son on the ground and I took his calf and I tried the Gastrox on his leg, and I was like, "Oh, I did it. I totally did that."

25:44 AD: And it looked okay. It look decent, and so I decided that I could do it. And just the more I did it, the more reactions I got from it. And I think what's really helpful is that we as massage therapists are very kinesthetic learners where we need to kind of see and look and understand things on all the different parts of our learning brains. And to look at a book and try to think about a muscle theoretically is very hard. And so to be able to see a muscle on the body, where it is, where it inserts, where it attaches or generates all the actions is a profoundly new way to understand a muscle and to understand how it articulates with the stranding tissues and how it moves joints and moves bones. And just to be able to see that became something that I got an amazingly big reaction from, and I think it's been super fun ever since. I'm kind of always thinking about the next month who I wanna paint.

26:40 DB: I wanna thank our guest today, the rebel MT, Allison Denney. Where can our listeners find out more information about you?


26:48 AD: Www.rebelmassage.com. All the information is there: Links to everything, information on classes, information on products, and even just a place if you just wanna say hi. Drop me a line, say, "Hi. Love it." [chuckle]


27:02 DB: Excellent. Thank you, Allison and Kristen.

27:04 AD: Thank you so much.

27:05 KC: Thank you. So great to have you here. Appreciate you.

27:08 AD: Oh my gosh. Such is my honor and I just thank you guys so much for everything you do, so my biggest pleasure. Thank you so much.

27:17 Speaker 4: This has been a production of Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. ABMP is the leading association for massage therapists and bodywork professionals in the United States and beyond. From liability insurance to professional advocacy, award-winning publications to the world's largest continuing education library for massage, to this podcast, no organization provides more for its members and the profession than ABMP. ABMP works for you.


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