As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.
This is Maya's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
Neptune illusion. My Venus was opposing my Neptune in my chart--that's how it started. If you're into astrology, then you know what this means. If not, it's another way of saying, "I didn't listen." I was seeing my relationship with rose-colored glasses. Sometimes we see people with the good energy we have and we try to project that onto them, energy that they don't have by the way. But it's all a lie.
2016. What a terrible year. I was in such a bad head space in life. My energy was always drained, and I was having confidence issues. I never felt good in my own skin or in my abilities.
And why? I was in a toxic relationship.Giphy
It all started when my boyfriend and I planned to attend an event catered to rappers, singers, creatives, artists, influencers, and more, in LA. And because we had all the same friends, we decided to go as a group. I actually planned to meet everyone there because I had some things to take care of first, so I came about 30 minutes after our group did. When I arrived, I texted him to let him know I was there but he didn't respond. In fact, no one in our group was responding.
In their defense, the cell phone reception was terrible, I couldn't get through, and no one was answering. This particular event was massive; there was no way I was going to just run into them, so I decided to go in and see if I knew anyone else. Roughly an hour later, I got in contact with one of the people in the group, and linked up with them. Finally, right? Hm.
I see my boyfriend and we hug and greet each other the way we usually do and we all decide to walk around. The event was a vibe, I loved everything about it. We were taking pictures, meeting people, chatting with other artists and celebs--just really getting involved in the mix of things.
But unbeknownst to me, during the time I was lost, he met this girl. Let's call her 'Ashley.'
Ashley was an artist; a singer. Actually kind of popular, you may know her. She does her thing out here, not gonna lie, very beautiful woman as well. Anyway, my boyfriend met this girl, and what he told me was it wasn't on a flirty tip or anything, just a networking vibe, which I respected. The event was over and we went back to our relationship bliss, literally living our best lives together because we had what I thought was a great relationship.
He started doing subtle things--things like getting real funky about his phone. But I would always write it off as me being paranoid because he just did all this great stuff for me, or because 'we had a great Valentine's Day' or whatever the case may be. But it wasn't right, y'all, something just wasn't right. And it slowly started to eat away at me. I tried to ignore it, y'all, I tried.
Additionally, during that time, I was exploring and becoming more in tune with my spirituality, and I had just got my first deck of tarot cards. Now, I'm flipping cards all day long, but at that time, I remember I was nervous pulling the cards--almost scared (I grew up in a Christian household, and there's a lot of things they tell you about magic and divination, as such I had to release those belief systems and fear around those things). But anyway, I remember I started asking the cards and asking my intuition to speak through me and basically tell me what's going on.
Is he cheating on me? Card: Yes.
Is he cheating on me? Card: Yes.
Is he cheating on me? Card: Girl, yes.
Y'all, I asked multiple, multiple, multiple times. And the answer always came up as 'yes.' But wait, this can't be right. Am I doing something wrong? Am I pulling my own thoughts into the reading? I would have dreams about him cheating, are these dreams infiltrating my thoughts? Am I denying my intuition?
It was time to go see my psychic.Giphy
I went to one of my favorite psychics that I always go to, and I basically straight up asked him. I didn't sugar coat it at all, I needed the truth and I knew he would give it to me (which sidebar: if your psychic doesn't give it to you raw and uncut, then you need to find a new one).
He told me that my boyfriend wasn't physically cheating on me yet, that he wasn't having sex with anyone, but that eventually he would and he gave me a time frame.
He told me he was going to meet this girl soon and when he does, it's not good, it's not pretty. I was devastated. I was disappointed. This was my soulmate. What am I supposed to do? What would you do?
It never occurred to me that the process had already started.
One morning, I had to get up early and when my alarm went off, I went for his phone to set the timer for a few more minutes. When I tell you he woke up out of his sleep and snatched his phone back so fast, like...I couldn't believe it. I knew exactly what it was. He went back to sleep and I grabbed his phone and began to go through it, and there it all was. Him and Ashley flirting, going back and forth, discussing being in a relationship, and more. They were planning to link up the next day to do their thing and all.
As for me, it was my first heartbreak.
My mind was going crazy. I woke him up, told him to leave, and that was it. I was done.
I tell my story for this reason, ladies: red flags are real. I had all the signs, I had all the confirmations, I had the answer I was looking for all along. My spirit was frickin yelling at me and I was stuck in this Neptune delusion. Society teaches us that we can't trust psychics or that it's magic crap that we cannot apply to our lives, and that's simply not true. Trust your psychics. Your divine feminine energy is your gift.
I think back to this relationship, and realized I was so insecure at this time, which basically determined why and how I behaved or accepted other's behaviors towards me. It took me a long time to bounce back and to really find myself. So, always listen to your divine intuition, always listen to what your heart is telling you. Your angels will speak, your Gods will speak, and most importantly, your higher self will speak to you and guide you as they should.
And a good psychic, too.
Jaelyn is a spiritual guru who specializes in helping women awaken their inner goddess. Her mission is to bring the world content that uplifts, enlightens and makes people laugh too. Follow her on Instagram @itsbabyj.
Featured image via Jaelyn/@itsbabyj
As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.
This is Maya's story, written by Charmin Michelle.
I know this may come to a surprise so many, but here we are. Yes, I got a BBL. If you aren't aware, a BBL is a Brazilian Butt Lift, a cosmetic surgery process where the doctor uses a combination of liposuction and fat-grafting, transfers the fat into the butt, resulting in added volume, defined curves, and a lift. It is technically lipo and a fat transfer. But yeah girl, this has been on my to-do list for a while. And now that I am able to afford it, I went for it.
This was a really personal decision for me to get one, and I also went back and forth on whether I would share. In the end, I am in a position to share what I know, so I decided to do so. It could help other women who are considering the surgery make a more informed decision. So, here we go:
Why, sis? Why did you get a BBL?
For my surgery, I got 360 lipo, meaning the doctor took fat from my entire abdomen, my love handles, my entire back, my arms, and my sides. I got a fat transfer which means my doctor just took that fat, and put it somewhere else. The fat was then injected into my hips and my butt, creating the hourglass shape I was going for.
I am actually not one of those people who got a BBL to get a fat butt, to be twerking, as someone looking for clout, or whatever. To be honest, I didn't even do this for my career. I got a BBL specifically to have a more feminine look about my body. I wanted an hourglass shape, being that that's not something I was born with. And like most women, I've always have body issues, or things I didn't like, so the things this surgery did for me, I could not have gotten in anybody's gym. Plain and simple. I have been super, super, super fit before—working out, eating clean, all of that—and I had no curves whatsoever. Like...none.
So my decisions had nothing to do with anyone else—my friends, my family, my man. I wanted to look more feminine in my clothing and I just wanted to be happy with myself when no one was in the room but me and Jesus.
And I have been considering this for years. I know it's easy to say that I got one because it's trendy or popular, or whatever the case may be, but I have been researching this for a long time. This is nothing new, ladies. There is nothing new about it. And I had been researching BBLs hard.
Let's talk numbers:
If you are familiar with BBLs, or if you've been doing your research, then you are familiar with Dr. Fisher in Miami, who conducted my surgery. His prices are on the expensive side, my entire BBL surgery—minus the arms—cost $8,000. I added my arms for another thousand, totaling $9,000. This price includes the surgery, my post-op care, the first five massages at his facility afterwards, and more.
A little BBL preparation insight:
OK, so 30 days leading up to my surgery, I had to stop taking all my vitamins, I couldn't drink alcohol, no drugs, and no medications. I tried to eat clean because doctors advise you to be close to your goal weight before having the surgery to avoid trying to lose weight after (and potentially alter results). You have to get blood work done, and have approved labs prior as well. Sidebar: I was on keto but had to get off because they messed up my labs. Once I began eating food from all food groups, my levels were good to go for surgery.
Obviously, because of the times, I had to take a COVID test as well. You will also need excess fat for the procedure, which is another reason I chose not to lose weight before surgery. You will need a BMI of 32 or less.
Dr. Fisher took 4,000 ccs, the maximum amount of fat you can transfer, and put almost took exactly 2,000 cc's in each butt cheeks and hips.
How is the healing process for a BBL?
The healing process is...something. You learn the tips and tricks of many things that you've never even thought of before. Things like wearing foam boards under your shapewear to tighten skin, or drains, or placing a marble in your belly button to prevent the skin from hanging too low. I had on waist trainers (and more) all the time. The scars are everywhere your lipo entry points are for both removing fat, as well as taking it out. I couldn't take a bath, couldn't get in the pool for six weeks. And using the bathroom is a new normal (and super uncomfortable).
Everything is uncomfortable. Everything.
The bulk of healing or recovery comes from your lipo areas, not even your butt or hips. You can't sit down until three weeks after surgery, but when that period is over, it's important to ease into it to begin the softening process because you'll notice that it's not soft like a normal booty for a while. The sooner you start to sit, the faster it gets soft. Please keep in mind that doctors cannot change your genetics and they can only work with what you have. This is why BBLs look different on everyone.
I wore four foam boards in my faja (shapewear), and a triangle on my back to create the dip. It's important to note that you're not fully healed, or won't see full results, until six months later despite feeling normal immediately, or not feeling sick.
Also, there is no maintenance for BBLs, which is a perk.
Having the BBL surgery is something that is extremely personal for me. I did something to improve myself and this is a part of my self-love journey and it's all about loving on yourself, regardless of what that looks like for you.
Financially, I was more than OK, I made this choice when it was a good time for me.
Spiritually, I was a mess. I prayed to God that this was the right thing to do. Every little sign where I questioned if getting a BBL was a part of my story, I paid attention to. He and I talked a LOT. But he gave me the confirmation I needed to move forward, which is why I did.
And honestly, not everyone understands this. Many people questioned my integrity, or somehow thought I was above having cosmetic surgery, and it's so hard for me to rationalize why people were shocked. But, listen, I am a woman with her own personal body issues at the end of the day. I feel like, of all the things to discuss about my experience in having a BBL, that that isn't one that I should have to explain. This is a reflection of something I've been going through my whole life with my body, and it was a choice I made, that I'm super happy about.
This was self-love for me. I loved myself enough to get myself out of that negative space that I felt about myself and my body.
Maya is a social media influencer and has a beauty channel on YouTube where she sometimes blogs about her daily life. Follow her on Instagram @maya_galore.
Featured image via Maya Galore/Instagram
As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.
This is Bianca Golden's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
Representation is so important. And it actually created the trajectory of my life. I grew up in a very traditional West Indian household. My mom is from Turks and Caicos and I spent a good amount of my early childhood actually in Turks and Caicos. Education was the most important thing, and hard work followed directly behind that to support your education. My mother never cared about beauty or any worldly stuff. All we knew was 'be a doctor' and 'make your family proud.'
Although I was a very shy child, as I got older I began to question society more, which completely went against the West Indian values I was raised in. But I was curious, and I wanted to know, "Why?" I pushed boundaries, and stressed my mom and family out a lot by simply asking, why.
Why is this taught this way?
Why did that happen?
I was always tall, and did things my way, which got me in trouble at home, and I didn't fit in anywhere. Home, school. It was a weird dynamic: "You're West Indian but you're in America, but you're not American, you're West Indian."
I just didn't fit in.
One day I saw Tyra (Banks) do an interview when she was younger where she expressed the same feelings, and I just gravitated towards her. She gave me something to aspire for instantly. So, I decided then and there that I was going to be a model.
And then, America's Next Top Model came along.
Much of it was a blur, in a good and bad way, of course. Keep in mind, this was a time before the Kardashians and before Instagram or most social media was even a thing. We worked hard, with no recognition for that hard work, and because of that, it's difficult for me to call ANTM a memory at all, simply because I didn't live in the moment. I just wanted to be a model, I wanted to be considered good enough. I was just happy to make it on the show to be honest. All I knew was I had a goal, and that goal was to win, simple as that. And honestly, with being so young (18), I don't even think I knew at that moment what that meant.
Even today, I'm asked about about ANTM: do I keep in contact with cast members or Tyra, or if I feel Tyra owes any of the girls apologies for how they were treated or any stereotypes that may have been perpetuated by the judges. Yes, I keep in contact with many of the ladies (Angelea, Isis, Laura, and Lisa, who will all be at my upcoming wedding) and, no, I don't feel Tyra owes anyone an apology. Were some moments insensitive? Possibly. But at the time, we were not where we are as a society today. We have evolved.
Why are we holding her accountable for something that was acceptable at the time? It's just now in our evolution in society that we're able to say, 'Hmmm, maybe you could have taken a different route about that.' I think it's unfair to hold people to a standard that was not even around.
The only time we should hold someone accountable, is if they don't evolve with society or with time. If another season of Top Model comes out, and the same happens, then we can have the conversation. Right? Right.
Ultimately, I’ve learned that everyone is experiencing life the best way they know how. Everyone is doing the best with what they have—including Tyra. I was deemed a bitch. I was called evil. Just, a lot of disgusting names. And to be honest, I was really hard on myself as well, like, I am being myself, why is everyone mad at me?
Towards the end of my career, I started feeling like modeling wasn't for me, my jobs started slowing down, I started missing my family. I went maybe a year without booking any modeling jobs. It was time to live out a new calling. I left my agency and moved back home, which was really hard for me. I felt like a failure.
I didn't know what I was going to do. I was 25 years old and I was retired. So, I did what all Black people do when you need answers: I talked to Jesus.
I started a ministry at my church for young girls and it really opened my eyes to a new life, a new purpose; it gave me purpose. And I loved it. I went back to school and entered education. Best decision I ever made.
My students know my background, they know I was on reality television. They just don't care. At the beginning of every school year, I introduce myself to my students and I think it's extremely important for me to do so; to stand in front of them and say, "I am a woman who is flawed, who comes from where you may come from, who makes a lot of mistakes." I tell them I was on the show and I was a hot mess and from here they typically Google me and return with questions or tell me I'm famous or something, but ultimately they're still kids. They still miss assignments, or roll their eyes when they're having a bad day or whatever the case may be. None of my previous career affects our relationship.
I love my students, I want them to question everything and not buy into everything society feeds them. Check on your teacher friends, though. We are drowning. We don't know where the state of education is going after what we've just experienced (pandemic remote learning), and it's taking its toll.
Ultimately, ladies, do I have any regrets? My immediate answer is 'no', I try to live as authentically as possible. But in reality, we all have them. Sometimes I wonder what could have happened had I taken modeling more seriously; I never worked out, I didn't care what I ate. I didn't really study my craft. I was just kind of tall and skinny and it worked in my favor.
Sometimes, I wonder, what if? What if I put that extra time in?
Fortunately, I can quickly cut that thought off and remind myself that everything happens for a reason and I wasn't supposed to be a supermodel, but it does cross my mind. In the end, I know I was only supposed to have those experiences so I could come back and pour into young kids who I teach. I want to leverage those moments and be remembered as someone who never gave up, instead. Someone who challenged the system and urged others to do the same.
The founder of Spiked Spin--her name is Bri--she has this saying: "Insult the standard." That's what I want my legacy to be. I want to be known as someone who did that. I want to be known as someone who encouraged others to do that.
Walk in purpose. Even if it isn’t pretty for everyone else.
Bianca is currently in nuptial mode as she is marrying her partner of 13 years. She is an avid advocate for the culture and fulfilling her life's purpose, one student at a time. Follow her on Instagram @biancagolden to keep up with where her journey takes her next.
Feature image courtesy of Bianca Golden/Instagram
This is Stephanie's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
So, before I open up this conversation, let me say that I don't think I am an unattractive girl. I know I am attractive in some ways, and I understand as a Black woman, that we are all beautiful. I am not discussing this for pity. And I am not discussing this to be dismissed. I simply want to have a conversation about what it means to have pretty privilege. This conversation has been swirling around the social media-sphere for much of 2021, and I have always had opposing experiences from those who usually actually have the conversation—or those who are pretty.
Celebrities such as Saweetie have opened up about her experiences with whether she does or doesn't benefit from this type of leverage, and there's a multitude of videos on TikTok floating around on the subject of pretty privilege as well.
But this is my story, and what my mental health has personally struggled with for some time. And, well, I want to be honest about it. I just want to be honest. That's all. Please don't dilute my story with yours. This is my truth about the difficulties of not having pretty privilege in an image-based society.
OK. Here we go. *sigh*
Growing up, I always knew that 'pretty privilege' existed. I always knew people, specifically women, could use their looks as a form of currency as they move through a patriarchal society and that they could use it to get better mates, or they can use it to get better jobs that "regular-looking" women couldn't get. I was aware that this type of privilege is out there.
And I also knew that I didn't have it.
For anyone who doesn't know the concept of pretty privilege, it's when you basically get treated better in life due to how attractive you are. It never really bothered me until I got a little older and began to take stock of different things I didn't have in my life, which honestly, is natural as we all often compare ourselves to other people.
I started to just think about all the things in my life that probably would have been a little bit easier if I had some pretty privilege. But pretty privilege is not something that you, yourself, can decide that you have. It's something that society just gives you based on what the systems of society already are.
I began noticing subtle changes in behavior toward me and then toward my girlfriends. For example, for my most recent birthday, a few friends and I decided to go out and celebrate, which was a huge deal for me. It was monumental. I was never that girl who went out or that participated in the stereotypical rituals of partying, dressing up, or anything that most young, millennial women take part in. And sadly, this was because at a very young age, I realized I was the girl at the bar paying for my own drinks or never being approached by any men. I created a defense mechanism to where I would only go to places where I knew no one there would be anyone I was attracted to. I was roughly 22 years old.
But anyway, for whatever reason, this particular birthday, I decided, "You know what, sis, you've been watching YouTube tutorials, you are poppin' AF, go out and have a good time." I felt so pretty that night and I remember walking into the restaurant like I was a star. I felt like I was on top of the world and if anyone was going to notice me, it was going to be tonight!
But I walked in, and not a single person made eye contact with me. No one even budged, actually.
And what's wild, is my friend walks in to meet me, and the entire place shifts towards her beautiful light skin and effortless aura that I just do not possess. I went home, after such an amazing night out with friends, hurt. I felt I did all the things that women are supposed to do, and most importantly, I was confident. I was happy. But it just wasn't good enough.
I realized I will always be invisible, even if I try.
Another time, I was at the airport and crossed paths with a guy a few times as we were on the same flight. We stood near each other much of the boarding process, and didn't speak, no eye contact or engagement at all. We were offered to sit near each other but he chose to sit elsewhere (which in hindsight, it didn’t dawn on me why he chose the other seat until we sat down) so when we began to board, I went to my seat, and he went to his. He was near another woman, who was Indian or Latina. And within two minutes, she knew his name, where he worked, they connected on social media, and she was invited to a party in the Hollywood Hills.
And it sucks because for me, the guys that usually approach me are those who have minimal ambition or aren't equally yolked career-wise (not that I make a million dollars), therefore my dating experiences are limited. Like, I always make sure I'm even employed before I begin to date. Let's just say this is never the case for me, as successful men often look for a certain “type" of woman.
This is why women like Lori Harvey, or Ciara, or Cassie aren't role models for me, and never were. Women often ask Ciara what was her prayer for her husband and this conversation isn't even in the scope of my life as I can sit up here all day in a convent and pray and it won't work like that for me.
Ciara is not a regular, degular, smegular girl. She is beautiful, talented, and has a career all her own. No matter how much people try to dress it up, Russell Wilson was attracted to her because of that first. This is how pretty privilege works.
And it's the same with work. I have to work for people to think of me positively. Be more, have better, or seem stronger. It's exhausting.
But ladies, I say all of this to say, as superficial as this all may sound, it's real. The thing that hurts the most about not having pretty privilege is that I feel like I get left out of the amazing, beautiful things about being a woman.
Something did dawn on me, however: even without pretty privilege, I won't look like this forever. I thought to myself, 'You're missing out on the parade of life.' I may not be a pageant queen on a float, but I'm still here. And it's my job to adorn myself, the way I see fit.
Even though traffic may never stop when I go outside or I may have to pay for my own drinks at a bar, I can still make an effort to make myself be a reflection of how I feel about myself. And even if no one ever turns their head when you walk in the room, or if they never buy you a drink, when a picture is taken, and you go back and look at it years later and think, 'Wow, I can tell she loved herself,' that is all that matters.
Society may not feel that you have pretty privilege, but if you feel you have it, then you're going to reflect that back into the world.
And at the end of the day, that's all that matters too.
Feature image courtesy of Instagram/ohstephco
This is Elease and Ra's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
They say love comes unexpectedly...well that saying doesn't suffice when summarizing the love story of my fiancee Ra and I. 'Unexpectedly' doesn't even begin to describe the journey of our union. Here's a story of how I found everything I needed, in the most unexpected person.
Meeting An Unknown Lover
Ra and I met during a weekend trip to Atlanta. She came with our mutual friend, who is also my line sister, and a group of others as I was visiting Atlanta with my best friend and a few of her friends. One drunken night led to me arriving at their Airbnb, briefly meeting Ra, and eventually ending the night at the ever-famous Waffle House with friends. We each returned home with no further thoughts, other than a great time and plenty of laughs. We never thought romantically of each other at this time, so I resumed working and casually dating.
Ra went back to Nashville working and still entangled in a previous relationship.
At the time, she had been involved in same-sex relationships for the greater part of her adult life and I, on the other hand, had zero experiences. I grew up a preacher's kid and full Southern Baptist. No other explanation needed there, however, I had my own thoughts and feelings in regards to same-sex unions. I had tons of friends near and dear who identify as LGBTQ and I supported them in all ways.
A year passed and our friends planned an adventure-filled weekend in Nashville, including hiking to a waterfall and renting a boat for a day party. Unbeknownst to me, this was also Ra's birthday weekend. The most contact we had during the weekend was Ra, at my request, taking a picture of me near the Titan Stadium Bridge. It was at that point numbers were exchanged, with zero romantic notions. I was just a girl wanting a picture on the newest iPhone to post on her feed.
While in Nashville, Ra played a song that I loved but I could not pinpoint the title. Days later, I thought to text her to find out the title of this mystery song. "God is a Woman" by Ariana Grande turned out to be the title. From that text sparked a routine of daily conversations about music. After a few weeks, music conversations shifted to life in general.
Bonding over music unlocked in me the ability to see Ra for simply who she is; a soul. Her gender did not matter to me.
Even though this was foreign to me, the smile I got when her messages came in and the anticipation that grew to meet in person, it all overshadowed any doubt and fear on embarking on this journey of discovery with her. Eventually, I admitted to Ra that I enjoyed where this is going but I couldn't understand it. All of my previous relationships have all been heterosexual and had lasted years--what was happening? Ultimately, I quit caring, and we decided to begin dating exclusively.
Life In An Unfamiliar Territory
Our relationship was beautiful, we were inseparable. But unfortunately, we were also long-distance. I began to slow down how fast I was falling for her for my own protection.
A straight girl, out of the blue, dating a woman and being genuinely all in? This in itself was worth apprehension. She asked for time to sort things out and we did just that.
When the holidays arrived, we had our annual friend gathering for Christmas. After exchanging gifts and playing games, Ra got down on one knee, to the surprise of everyone, and asked me to be her girlfriend. She presented me with a promise ring and it was official. We continued long-distance, burning the highway up back and forth, until I decided to move to Nashville and move in with Ra.
And we've been together ever since.
Lessons And Blessings
Listen ladies, I have no coming out story to share. I've never been romantically attracted to women or have had an secret rendezvous, and growing up, I had witnessed a lot in the marriage of my parents and the breakdown of their relationship. But I didn't care. I was happy and welcomed people to share in my joy. I was fully transparent with no qualms. Some people may think, oh that's something you had to have considered or repressed, but it honestly was not.
I even remember having internal battles with myself in regards to my relationship with God. There was a minute where it felt like everything that could go wrong with my life, job and finances were going wrong. I questioned if this was due to my relationship with Ra.
Was I being punished?
But ultimately, it takes more than love. Love is a solid foundation but it cannot sustain a relationship alone.
Ra does not belong to me, she's simply chosen to share her life with me and I have chosen to share my life with her. We maintain our happiness by respecting what makes us unique with freedom to be open, honest and by genuinely enjoying each other's company.
We are not perfect nor do we try to portray ourselves to be but what we are is real. The acceptance of the public didn't matter.
Who cares what they think, you know? Who cares?
Two years and a dog later, here we are: engaged and in love. Has the journey been perfect? Absolutely not. But has it been worth it? 100 percent. Find someone who accepts that and is still willing to go on the journey with you. You won't always get it right but love, respect, and friendship will get you through it all. I cannot wait to see our journey continue to unfold. Give that girl a try sis, she may be everything you want and need.
The future Mrs. Dozier
Elease and Ra have a YouTube channel where you can keep up with their adventures. You may also follow them on Instagram at @icametoslay and @radigha.
Featured image courtesy of Elease and Ra
As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer. If you have a story you'd like to share but aren't sure about how to put it into words, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "As Told To" for your story to be featured.
This is Chelsea Woody's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
I'm a black woman with a full afro, and I surf.
I wanted to learn to surf since I was a teenager after seeing Kate Bosworth in the movie Blue Crush. I was enamored with everything about the movie: the surfer lifestyle, living in beach environments, how freeing the act of surfing made her feel.
As a teen, we're more enamored by the idea of just becoming a surfer or spending carefree summers along the beach. In reality, the lack of representation takes its toll, and you realize how differences can sometimes make it difficult to relate to anyone on the journey or break into surfing.
The more I reflect, the more I realized that Kate inspired me because she was the only example that I had of female surfers—despite looking nothing like me.
I didn't grow up in a coastal town, so I wasn't raised around surfing. I didn't actually learn to surf until much later in my life. It was always in the back of my mind, but whenever I found myself on vacation in places such as Hawaii, I could never convince myself to try out of fear of what those consequences might mean for my melanated features and my hair.
Courtesy of Chelsea Kungkagam
As crazy as it may sound (to others), we know that hair is a major excuse as to why many black women choose not to participate in any water sport. The need to maintain unrealistic hairstyle upkeep, combined with the fear of the open ocean, and a necessary strength in swimming, means when I look around, I don't see many people—male or female—that look like me. These are also major reasons as to why we represent less than 1% of any water sport.
Access to outdoor spaces and having family members or friends to pass down traditions also contributes to the lack of diversity.
It's unfortunate, but the facts. So, how do we weaken the stigma? How can we spark the interest in black families to encourage them to add surfing to the list of what we can do?
We can give our community positive examples and resources to help them feel more comfortable in the ocean. Through representation hopefully we can encourage more black families to get out in the surf lineup and know that we belong in these spaces. Then we can see the generational growth in outdoor spaces. When we see more folks that look like us, it begins to normalize what should already be normal.
A few years into my marriage, my husband and I decided to take a break from corporate life, quit our jobs, and travel abroad for a year and a half. I figured this was as good as time as any to finally learn to surf. We posted up in Indonesia for a few months and both committed ourselves to learning. We would hit the water everyday for a month; it became a part of our daily routine.
Initially, when I first started surfing, I was a bit insecure about not fitting the typical surfer stereotype. In Indonesia, although the majority of the population shared my skin tone, there weren't many Indonesian women who surfed, and there certainly weren't any black women. Additionally, swimsuit options didn't fit my athletic body type the same, and my protective braided hairstyles made me stand out.
Refusing to be discouraged, I didn't allow my outward appearance to be indicative of my interests. But oftentimes, when people have the similar interests, there's a tendency to want to fit a certain mold to make sure people know that you belong to that group. I quickly realized that my surf style wasn't at risk of emulating anyone, my flavor was a little different. And I really learned to embrace that.
I didn't need to try to fit into a space that didn't have people like me in mind at all, allowing me to be unapologetically myself. That was one of my most liberating realizations in my surfing. But I still had more work to do.
You know how, as a black or brown person in a "particular" room, you see another sister or brother, and suddenly you're immediately connected? That's similar to how my surf sisters bonded over our relationship with the ocean. Certain experiences we have surfing just don't need explanation, they understand and can relate. It has been such a blessing finding these women. The ladies and I would regularly discuss the lack of diversity, what the sport considers marketable, and how that impacts surfing for future generations who are both free surfers and competitive. We collectively knew there had to be more black and brown girls who are interested in surfing; those who surf and are unapologetically who they are. And in the slight chance that there weren't any, we knew the importance of showing examples of what we didn't have when we got started
Soon, our community, Textured Waves, was born. We're just four African American female surfers who wanted to create a space for women of all shades who surf. We support each other through sisterly camaraderie and creative outlets related to surfing, and we aim to change the narrative of who is a surfer through imagery and representation. We're even working on a few short film projects that showcase the beauty of African-American female surfers. If you can believe it, nothing like this exists.
It's all full-circle moment, and why I fight so hard to promote diversity in the sport.
Here in the States, we are a lot further behind other countries in terms of representation in the surf world. That has a lot to do with the history of this country: slavery, Jim Crow, segregation at beaches and in swimming pools, I could go on and on. But I hope black women reclaim their place in the sea, and eventually we get to see a 'Serena Williams' of surfing, representing us on a competitive world stage. I hope in the future we begin to see more diversity in aquatics and beach life as a whole.
As often as I can, I try to surf. I am happiest and feel most beautiful when I'm gliding up and down on a wave in my flow. Carving my own lines on the wave feels like dancing on water to me. No matter what it looks like to anyone else, I know what it feels like to me and that is the most beautiful feeling.
That feeling, will forever be unexplainable.
This year, we are no longer accepting representation to only be limited to what we're shown. We have to expound our interests to go beyond and visualize our wildest dreams. Women who go against the grain inspire me.
So in essence, I'm inspired by my sea sisters who work to challenge the visual we see on the daily.
To keep up with Chelsea's journey, you may follow her on Instagram @chel.bythe.sea. Also, to learn how you can join the movement, you can visit Textured Waves' website for more information.
Featured image courtesy of Chelsea Woody
Originally published February 4, 2020