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 Cherisse Jamison's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
I found out I was adopted when I was 12 years old—which sucked.
But my parents never treated me any differently from my siblings. I lived in a two-parent home, something not very common were I'm from. My dad has six kids, none of which graduated from high school. Because of this, people expected me to fail, or get pregnant early, and drop out of school. It was crazy.
When I turned 21, my curiosity got the best of me and I made the decision to look into obtaining my adoption records. I always had the urge to find out who I was, and was met with road blocks when searching before. One day out of the blue, while at home for the summer, I randomly received my adoption records in the mail. Oh my goodness, I remember being so excited.
I'm finally going to be able to meet my biological family!
I literally could not open it fast enough. Once I finished ripping open the envelope, I was instantly devastated to see the agency literally marked out all names, all addresses. Basically, all the important information that could lead me to finding my biological family.
I immediately began scrambling to find my original birth certificate, which listed my biological name before it was changed. I also found small details that had descriptions of my parents and grandparents, my two siblings which I learned both lived in my same state. And...a church.
First, I decided to call the hospital. The hospital no longer had any record, being that it was many years ago, so I decided to switch my attention to the church. I came across a YouTube channel, which belonged to a young musician who was also a member of this church. I eventually found him on Facebook, sent him a message, and he responded almost immediately. Initially, he thought it was a joke or a scam, but I ended up convincing him to give me a call.
His name was J—we were only four years apart. He told me that we, biologically, had the same last name and that 90% of that church would be my family if this were true. We all hopped on a call with his grandmother, where he explained the situation as she listened to the same details I gave J. Hesitant, she told him to reach out to his mom, which he did.
Moments later, it was confirmed. He called me back crying, and saying that his mom admitted to him being my brother.
The crazy part of all of this is the fact that this all happened in the same day. Me receiving a letter from the agency, and by 10:00 that night, finding my birth mother.
I met them in person and as time passed, we kept in contact until I graduated college. I decided to move closer to them for what was supposed to be only a summer, permanently. Admittedly, during this time, I was warned from my other siblings about my mom. But me, desperately wanting to foster a relationship with that side of my identity, didn't listen.
This is my biological mother. Nothing is going to stop me from being near her.
I decided to move in with her. And it wasn't long after that, that everything changed.
She became very narcissistic. A scammer. Neglectful to my younger brother. I witnessed multiple men come in and out in a week. And as a grown ass woman, it was a lot for me to take in. I never witnessed a "mother" move in the matter she did. Every attempt I made to get closer to her, she denied. There were times where I would get off work around 10pm every night and she would let me walk from the store to her house. Never bothered to come get me or even made sure I made it home. One day, I overheard a phone conversation she was having and during the call she was discussing me:
"I never came looking for her, she was looking for me."
"I wish she would go back to the people she came from."
I don't think there's a word for how hurt I was. I moved away from everything that I ever knew to build a relationship with her, and I was rejected in every way.
Soon, I ended up meeting a guy named [redacted] at work (for the sake of the story, let's call him Abusive Andy). Like a fragile child, that in hindsight I truly was, I instantly fell for his charm basically due to me being insecure, depressed, and now, homesick. I spent about two weeks with him, going back and forth. I would literally only go to my mom's house to get clothes and leave. He would pick me up and take me to work and treated me what seemed, at the time, like royalty. One day, while I was at Abusive Andy's house, I received a message from my biological mom saying I had three days to packs my things and return her key. She never gave me an explanation, nor did she bother to care where I would go. I spent a week living in a hotel while I figured out what I would do. Returning home was no longer an option, and my parents had no idea what was even going on.
Andy suggested I move in with him. And after only a month of knowing him, I moved in.
At first, everything was great and I felt protected. But like my mother, a couple weeks later, everything changed. He became very controlling, loud, and angry. It seemed like everything I did, or didn't do, made him upset. He once slapped me for not folding clothes the way he liked, which, of course, he apologized for and I brushed it off as him having a bad day. But still, we would fight every single day. He made me cut off all my friends and I became very isolated from everyone. I became even more depressed, very quiet, I gained a lot of weight as well.
And the thing about it is, Abusive Andy knew I had no family or anyone that I could call on for help. He preyed on it.
I kept protecting him because I loved him and I knew I had nowhere else to go. But the final straw came when I witnessed him fight his mother in front of me. Who would put their hands on their own mother?
He then turned and started beating me, and his mom did nothing and said nothing.
It was time to go. After a final fight, I picked myself up, filed a retraining order, and got the hell away from it all.
Thankfully, even through the pain, the hustle in me was never affected. I began to throw myself into work. In college, I would write songs for local artists, blog, and more. One day, I received a message on Instagram from Party Hardly, over at Hip Hop Weekly. He said he heard a lot about me and wanted to know if I was interested in interviewing for the platform, which of course, I was. My reputation and personal brand took off and eventually, I began receiving media invites for award shows, movie premieres, and all things red carpet. I revamped my brand to 'Keeping Up With Kells', opening myself to more diverse markets. Soon after, I covered the VMAs, The Grammys, Black Girls Rock, BET Hip Hop Awards, Soul Train, and more.
And now, I represent and work with multiple celebrities, independent artists, and entrepreneurs as a publicist. Everything I learned over the years was self-taught. I had no role models, I had no internships, or mentors. I did, however, have a lot of heartache, a lot of pain.
And so many of us are walking around with the same. So many of us create paths, while simultaneously carrying around our brokenness. But God is keeping us, ladies. He's not allowing us to be broken, He didn't allow me to be broken. I succeeded anyway.
So often, I sit back a reflect on my journey. How I'm where I am in life, why I'm where I am in life. Even now, this very story I'm telling, is a highlight for me, because I'm always in the game of pleasing my clients and making sure their stories are told, never mine.
Even currently, I'm writing a self-discovery book to unpack my thoughts (which I don't have a title yet, but I can say it's going to give complete transparency of my life from childhood to womanhood) and also, I'll drop a few tips that helped me become successful--you know, the do's and the don'ts of the industry; the secrets we won't say out loud. In the meantime, I will continue my journey, in my happiness.
My skin is clear, I'm not frustrated, and I feel genuinely loved by my partner. Just being completely comfortable and confident in me.
Cherisse is currently working on a few projects, with creating a resource for aspiring publicists being one. Follow her in Instagram @keepingupwithkellsonline for more information.
Feature image courtesy of KZW Capturing Essence
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Over the last few years, the upkeep of my nails has become a top priority. I’ve explored different lengths, tested out a range of designs and colors, and have gone from gel-x to acrylic and, currently, Russian manicures. As assured as I am about my signature nail look, one thing that I will always be open to is a new trend that sparks inner confidence — and the “black nail theory” is the latest to do just that.
If you’ve been on TikTok lately, you may have noticed that manicure lovers are putting new concepts surrounding their nails to the test. Last fall, the “red nail theory” took the internet by storm with promises to evoke male attention, compliments, and even a date or two on a subconscious level. And now, just a year later, a deeper and more mystic hue is being spotlighted for its alluring appeal.
#blacknails💅 #boldyblooming #blackspiritualists
What Is “Black Nail Theory”?
The concept of “black nail theory” is centered on the idea that applying black nail polish can significantly influence an individual's inner confidence and overall lure. Black nails are thought to possess a distinctive quality that communicates a sensual and captivating energy, bringing forth boldness and mystery. On a psychological level, black is said to be symbolic of “power, elegance, and sophistication.”
Personally, red has never quite been my color; so when I saw the black nail theory making its rounds, I immediately knew it could be an internet trend that I could get behind and try for myself.
Testing Out The Theory
Deciding on the approach that I would take with my black nails came fairly easy. I’m a French tip girl to my core, so if I was going to commit to such a bold color like black, I’d have to take it gradually, and not commit to a fully blacked-out nail look.
Leaving the nail salon with my new set, I instantly felt myself channel my inner baddie. The black French tip complimented my complexion perfectly, and I was even able to test the theory out while on a date later that evening.
Throughout the night, I was complimented by both my date and the waitress on my nails, and I felt an inward motivation to share just enough about myself while leaving more to be discovered.
The following week, my friend and I went out to a party with the sole purpose of being cute and having fun, only to find a handful of men stopping to get my name and make conversation. One even went as far as to take my hand and examine nails that were adorned with gold rings.
On a more personal level, my time with black nails has been my handy reminder to trust my intuition and enter every room with confidence. Having my nails done naturally gives me an extra boost of confidence, but with the added touch of having them painted black, I’ve seen myself tap into the sultry and captivating "dark feminine" energy that I desire to embody.
Would I Try This Again?
If all it took was a change in my nail color in order to attract love and confidence into myself, I would probably be married by now. But testing out black nail theory has been insightful to explore interpersonally.
How I present myself to the world and what I feel like I deserve all matters, and that doesn’t just start or end when my nails are freshly done.
Confidence is a full-package deal that comes wrapped in self-care, self-concept, and self-esteem. I get my nails done because that’s what makes me feel good, and whatever attention that draws in, I know that it’s a part of what I’m putting out into the world.
If I’m feeling fiery, I’ll test out a red design. If I’m in a girly mood, I’ll test out pink or ask for painted bows. And if I’m going for something more standout, I’ll let my nail tech take an idea and freestyle from there. All in all, nails are just another form of self-expression and should be a chance to showcase your inner world on the outside.
So yes, if red nails are the flashy antidote to drawing in attention, then black nails are the look to channel a “quiet” confidence that keeps them wanting more.
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Featured image by Andreas Kuehn/Getty Images