There's a true solace and awakening in silence, especially for ambitious women who are constantly tasked with leading households, teams, and companies. When I was recently given the opportunity to experience stillness and tranquility at Tingalay's Retreat, a Caribbean oasis in the West End region of Negril, Jamaica, I was outwardly excited but could feel the twinge of fear and skepticism rising from my gut.
See, I've never been a fan of total silence. It has been an enemy to me for many years now.
I'd always been afraid of total quiet, especially into my early years, because it meant that either I was alone (something I hated to be) or that something treacherous was brewing in our household that hadn't quite yet erupted. I'd developed a habit of always having the TV on or music playing, even when sleeping, and I'd always try to fill up awkward silences in conversations with laughter or a joke.
So, I decided to challenge myself, welcoming silence as a friend and facing my fears of realization and conviction that could come of doing so, with this trip to Tingalaya's. Here's all I learned about the healing power of silence and the importance of taking time to be totally alone and quiet:
1. It's super freeing to sit in silence in an environment that truly accommodates it.
The whole vibe of the 4.5-acre property embraces you like a hug from your favorite person in the world. The expansive grounds feature rich, beautiful plant life and trees, from palms to willows. The cabins are filled with warm tones of oranges, red, greens, and blues---all hues that have been proven to evoke feelings of calm, peace, and safety.
There are thoughtful touches within each space, like antiques made from organic materials, African, Middle Eastern and Jamaican art, a private patio with a hammock, and the absence of TVs, so you actually have no choice but to delight in the energy of it all. The landscaping enveloping each structure offers a bit of privacy perfect for simply enjoying your own company.
After being greeted by the host, Sophia (who welcomes all guests and cooks both American and Jamaican staples for breakfast), and spending just one hour in my cabin, I really didn't miss the sound of some reality TV rerun or a classic film. And I didn't feel the need to take out my laptop to stream Netflix, either. (Yes, there's WIFI, which, for some, compensates for the exclusion of TVs in each space.)
I found that just enjoying the island breeze while listening to the birds and property's dogs conversing to be super freeing and a welcome start to my silent stay. I swung on my private patio swing, did a bit of journaling, and then took a walk, passing by the on-site kitchen (where I was told guests could cook and share their own meals).
2. Silence can facilitate the best damn sleep of my life.
Typically I only sleep well when I've done something physically or mentally grueling (i.e. working out, finishing up a super busy day, or decompressing after a super stressful experience.) Before the trip, I'd also been experiencing insomnia due to the rigors of balancing multiple client deliverables at once while trying to lose a few pounds and meet a fitness goal by a certain date. The worry and anxiety had gotten the best of me, affecting my sleep.
During my stay at Tingalaya's Retreat, I got the best sleep of my life. By the time evening hit, the calming atmosphere I'd enjoyed throughout the day was literally like taking a sleeping pill.
After taking a steamy shower in my ensuite bathroom, which also had antique touches, included lemongrass-scented toiletries, and featured a somewhat open-air vibe, I allowed myself to fully enjoy the massive bed, enveloped in soft cotton sheets and an embroidered quilt. At night, it was eerily quiet (and dark) which added a bit more allure to the experience. I found that if I challenged myself to become one with my surroundings and trusted God in placing and protecting me at that moment, I'd find better peace to sleep, and it worked.
I am no stranger to Negril's West End, having stayed at Airbnbs and hotels there on many occasions. The area is oftentimes filled with the noise of parties and cliff-diving at Rick's Cafe, motorcycles and cars taking tourists to and from Seven Mile Beach, and the everyday sounds of hardworking people just trying to survive and thrive, but this retreat seemed to insulate me from hearing any of it, providing comfort in true stillness and tranquility.
3. Enjoying extensive quiet moments can tremendously boost my confidence in self.
After having a breakfast of callaloo, plantain, fruit, and Blue Mountain coffee (Jamaica's world-renowned brand) alone in their open-air dining room, I decided to take a walk to their man-made beach and cliff area to enjoy the salt-water pool.
I walked around a bit, admiring the pastel-colored cottages (which guests can also book to have a seaside view from their rooms), touring the chic white bar and lounge area (which made me fantasize about the day when my long-distance bae and I finally tie the knot), checking out more of the landscaping filled with the lushness of local flora. I then ventured to the pool, which I had all to myself, to take in the breeze and think about what I'm thankful for.
The whole view of the sea and the rhythmic way it filled up the pool for my enjoyment just reminded me of the wonders of the Earth, the endless possibilities of man, and how important it is to appreciate the good in life through reflection.
4. Silence helps strengthen my ability to think creatively and without limits.
I spent several days going from the quiet of my room to the beach and pool area, and in those times, I brainstormed ideas centered on self-improvement and impact. Those were key things I wanted to focus on in the new year and I'd made a point to be strategic and more deliberate in reaching my goals in those regards.
One particular thing I wanted to do is finally upgrade my social media presence, particularly on Instagram, and since I'd brought my tripod for the trip, I decided to take a few shots of myself, in a bikini---something I'd been avoiding since gaining weight. I thought, 'Janell, the best way to better engage with people is to be yourself, unapologetically, no matter what transitions or changes you're going through. People can relate to that when it's real.' I got a chance to capture true moments of solace and confidence, and I was super-proud walking back to my cabin later that afternoon.
I was also able to come up with the prototype for a special project that I'm excited to finish and release in the next year---a dream that I'd sat on for more than a decade but could no longer do so once I had the time to truly enjoy the benefits of silence for an extended period of time.
My stay at Tingalaya's Retreat did my body and soul an extreme amount of good, and it reaffirmed why others have deemed it the perfect spot to host yoga groups, small family reunions, and solo sabbaticals. It offered me the chance to truly connect with the best parts of myself, unapologetically and uninterrupted---a peaceful place of enlightenment that I plan to revisit for years to come.
For more on Tingalaya's Retreat, visit their website or follow them on Instagram @TingalayasRetreat.
Featured image by Janell Hazelwood/xoNecole
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For many, education is the key that unlocks the doors of opportunity, empowering individuals to reach their full potential in any field they choose to pursue.
Because of that advantage and the possibility of wanting to learn a different profession, a handful of celebrities have chosen to go back to school to earn a college degree after obtaining success within the entertainment industry.
With that information, xoNecole lists ten celebrities, ranging from actress Yara Shahidi to Oprah Winfrey, that have pursued higher education after fame.
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Model and entrepreneur Sabrina Dhowre Elba is well known for her collaborative projects with her husband, Idris Elba, including the couple's humanitarian efforts, genderless skincare brand S'ABLE Labs, and their Coupledom podcast.
In addition to her professional achievements, Elba is also a college-educated woman. Elba attended Howard University and graduated with a bachelor's degree in philosophy. Although the timeline of when Elba graduated is unclear, the star revealed in a past interview that she was planning on going to law school when she met her husband in 2017 through a chance encounter.
However, in a recent interview with The Break podcast, the model shared that she was going back to school. “I think I wanna do my masters and then my phD, so I’m starting that in September,” she said.
Yara Shahidi got her start in the entertainment industry as a child star and landed a few modeling and acting opportunities in commercials, television shows, and films.
The actress ultimately landed her big break when she portrayed Zoey Johnson in ABC's hit show black-ish, a series about a Black father struggling with his cultural identity as he and his wife raise their children in a predominately white neighborhood. black-ish also stars Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laurence Fishburne, Jenifer Lewis, Marsai Martin, Miles Brown, and Marcus Scribner.
Over the years, while filming black-ish and the show's spinoff grown-ish, Shahidi, who was homeschooled, attended Dwight Global Online School and graduated in 2017.
That same year, The Sun is also a Star alum, announced that she was accepted into Harvard University and began attending the Ivy League in 2018 after taking a gap year. According to a past cover story in Vogue Magazine, as an undergrad, Shahidi studied at Harvard University's social studies and African American departments, focusing on "Black political thought under a neocolonial landscape."
Shahidi graduated from Harvard in May 2022. Since receiving her degree, Shahidi has kept busy with work and is starring in the sixth and final season of grown-ish.
Photo by David Livingston/ Getty Images
The next celebrity on the list is actress and singer Raven Symoné.
Symoné, who has been involved in the industry for over three decades, has starred in various hit shows and films over the years, including The Cosby Show, Hanging with Mr. Cooper, Doctor Dolittle and Doctor Dolittle 2, That's So Raven, College Road Trip, and Raven's Home to name a few.
In addition to having a successful acting career, Symoné pursued music, and by 2013, the star announced that she was briefly retiring from the industry to focus on other passions.
During that time, Symoné enrolled at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California, to major in fine arts. Three years later, The Cheetah Girls alum obtained her associate's degree and returned to the spotlight for her co-hosting gig on The View, which lasted until December 2016.
When asked in an interview with Oprah Winfrey why she decided to go back to school at what appeared to be the height of her career, Symoné shared that she wanted to break the common stereotypes about celebrities.
"I'm going to college. It's giving me a new lease on life," she told Winfrey on the Where Are They Now series. "[I'm taking] art. I want to take jewelry. I want to take sculpting. I want to take printmaking. I want to take finger drawing. I want to turn over that stereotype of what I can become, and to me, it's just an extension of when I was younger."
Although past reports claimed that Symoné would be pursuing a bachelor's degree in arts, it is unclear if she completed that goal.
Actress and entrepreneur Tia Mowry is widely recognized for her various roles in Sister, Sister alongside her twin sister Tamera Mowry, The Game, and Netflix's Family Reunion.
But many may not know that following Sister, Sister's cancellation in 1999, Mowry attended Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. During undergrad, Mowry studied psychology and ultimately earned her bachelor's degree.
Since then, Mowry, who shares two children with ex-husband Cory Hardrict, has continued to expand her empire by showcasing her culinary skills on her cooking show Tia Mowry's Quick Fix, and releasing a cookbook, The Quick Fix Kitchen. In addition to her culinary endeavors, Mowry has created a hair care brand, 4 U by Tia.
Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images
Tamera Mowry-Housley has been involved in the entertainment industry for over 30 years, just as long as her twin sister Tia Mowry. Mowry and her sister landed their big break in 1994 with the hit series Sister, Sister.
The show --which aired on numerous networks, including ABC and The WB, now known as The CW- lasted six seasons and was ultimately canceled in 1999. After Sister, Sister's cancelation, Mowry took a break from acting to focus on her studies at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. While attending the university, Mowry also majored in psychology, just like her sister, and earned her bachelor's degree.
In addition to earning her degree, Mowry also met her husband, former journalist Adam Housley after her college professor set the pair up. The couple has since welcomed two children. To date, Mowry has returned to acting and starred in various films and television shows, most recently Hallmark's Dreams Moms. Mowry is also the co-owner of Housley Napa Valley, a winery in Napa, California.
Actress Storm Reid, whose career spans over a decade, rose to fame in 2014 following her breakout role in Disney's A Wrinkle in Time. Reid's success only continued from there. In 2019, Reid portrayed Gia Bennett in HBO's hit Euphoria, and a few years later, she also starred in the show The Last of Us.
Over the years, throughout her career, Reid was homeschooled and after graduating high school, the model attended the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California. The 20-year-old, who is currently a sophomore, is majoring in acting and African American studies.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for ESSENCE
Oprah Winfrey, the well-renown television host, actress, producer, and mogul, once attended college before making a name for herself in the entertainment industry.
Winfrey attended Tennessee State University in the 1970s and majored in Communications. Still, by 1975, the star, who was one credit shy of graduating, dropped out of college to pursue her career in broadcast journalism. A decade later, in 1986, Winfrey returned to Tennessee State University and earned her bachelor's degree in Communications and Performing Arts.
When Winfrey is not running her television network, OWN, and Oprah's Book Club site and newsletter, the star is working on films. Winfrey's most recent work is the highly anticipated musical adaptation of The Color Purple.
Megan Thee Stallion
The seventh individual on the list is rapper Megan Pete also known as Megan Thee Stallion. Pete burst into the rap scene in 2019 following the release of her mixtape Tina Show, which included the hit song "Big Ole Freak."
Since then, Pete's career has only skyrocketed from there, having released two studio albums, Good News and Traumazine, and earning various awards, including three Grammys.
But prior to Pete's fame, the Texas native attended public school and graduated from Pearland High School in 2013. That same year, the "Savage" emcee briefly attended Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas. Shortly after, Pete dropped out when her rapping videos went viral online and gradually built her fan base.
Despite obtaining the accolades years later, Pete decided to pursue her bachelor's degree in health administration, this time by studying at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. Pete ultimately graduated in December 2021.
Keshia Knight Pulliam
Keshia Knight Pulliam
Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images for BET
Actress Keshia Knight Pulliam became a household name in the early 1980s after starring as Rudy Huxtable in the hit sitcom The Cosby Show.
The Cosby Show aired on NBC for eight seasons and ended in 1992. Immediately after the series ended, Pulliam and her family moved to Virginia, where she attended Potomac School and Foxcroft School. In 1997, Pulliam graduated from high school and later attended Spelman College, where she studied sociology.
The star ultimately earned her bachelor's degree in 2001. Since then, Pulliam has continued to act in various films and television shows and is currently married to actor Brad James. The couple are also raising their blended family together.
Jamira "Cuban Link" Haines
The last person on the list is Jamira "Cuban Link" Haines. Haines, who is recognized for her work as a model and fitness trainer, is currently dating mogul Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson.
Aside from showcasing the pair's bond on Instagram and promoting her work, Haines is an aspiring attorney. Haines reportedly graduated from Rutgers University in 2020 and received a bachelor's degree in law.
Following her graduation, it was unclear when Haines would continue her education and attend law school, but that all changed in July 2023. In an Instagram post, Haines revealed she had started law school while sharing images from a photoshoot.
"The winner plots one step ahead of the opposition and plays her trump card just after they play theirs," she wrote. "It's about making sure you surprise them, and they don't surprise you. Let the journey begin #lawschool #lawgirls."
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