Living as a young black woman can sometimes seem like I am a walking threat. I am automatically "too much" for most when I walk into a room before I even speak a word. My existence alone is seen as intimidating. With all of that weight on my shoulders, it makes it extremely hard to show up and even harder to take up space.
To take up space is to acknowledge and accept your right to be, to exist, to have an opinion, to speak up, to simply be a body no matter what that looks like. But how can I live in all of that when I am inundated with society's definition of who I am? It's not easy but the defining factor is your choice to just be. My mom always told me, "Never dim your light for others because it's shining in their eyes." She didn't know it but she was telling me to take up space.
To take up space to some degree also means that you make room for others; by letting your light shine you empower others to do the same. The creatives on this list have made themselves responsible for telling our stories while also building more tables and more seats for others.
Ebonee Davis, Model & Activist
This top model has chosen to use her platform to be an unapologetic black girl which is no small feat in fashion. Ebonee Davis is a strong believer that fashion artists and creatives are the literal embodiment of free speech and they have a responsibility to use it wisely. In her powerful essay for Harper's Bazaar, she revealed some raw details about her upbringing. Being raised by drug addicts was one of the toughest things she had to overcome:
"Seeing my parents struggle pushed me to live beyond the status quo. Instead of living out my life as a product of my environment, I decided it was my job to break the chains of poverty, addiction and abuse; to rewrite my family history and live according to my own narrative. When I look back on my time in fashion, I realize that if it were not for my mistreatment as a Black model, I would not have the platform to inspire other young women of color to be their authentic selves, and to love themselves despite living in a society that constantly reaffirms our inadequacy."
When you see Ebonee on any red carpet or prime time event, she is representing the culture in ways little black girls must see. She had a wake up call in 2016 that catapulted her vision as a model. She started rocking her natural hair once she sat with herself and realized she had some subconscious beliefs tied to eurocentric beauty norms.
In a conversation with ESSENCE, she said:
"It just changed the way that I moved through spaces and now that I have access to spaces that aren't typically occupied by people who look like me, I feel like I have a duty to be outspoken. I am opening the door and I am leaving it open for people that are coming after me."
Kerby Jean-Raymond, Fashion Designer & Founder of Pyer Moss
Kerby Jean-Raymond founded the ultra-stylish and wildly woke brand, Pyer Moss, in 2013 as an art project. Little did he know that his art project would blossom into one of the biggest, most thought-provoking fashion houses in the game. With collections produced in New York, Italy and Portugal, Pyer Moss aims to use its voice and platform to challenge social narratives and evoke dialogue.
Noted for his "They Have Names" shirt featured on Colin Kaepernick, his "Stop Calling 911 on The Culture" design during the SS19 collection debuted at one of the country's first free black communities and every single moment during the SS20 collection at King's Theater this past September.
If you aren't hip to his magical designs and productions, then I am sure you may have recently seen his read on a major fashion publication. Business of Fashion has been naming 500 of the most innovative creatives for the past seven years and, this year, while the Haitian-American designer was a part of the list, he wasn't here for BoF's tomfoolery after a long list of hell nahs. Kerby took to Medium to pen a thoughtful yet truthful letter to the world.
My favorite excerpt:
"In short, fuck that list and fuck that publication. I take no ownership of choirs, Christianity or curating safe spaces for black people. That's a 'We' thing. Homage without empathy and representation is appropriation. Instead, explore your own culture, religion and origins. By replicating ours and excluding us — you prove to us that you see us as a trend. Like, we gonna die black, are you?"
Our boy could teach a whole class on taking up space because not only does he create spaces to tell our stories but he corrects those who frame it as such but only want to keep the culture as a fad.
Lindsey Peoples-Wagner, Editor-In-Chief of Teen Vogue
It's no secret I am obsessed with this human. Not many Editor-In-Chiefs have made it their business to show up for many underrepresented communities. At 29 years young, she is the youngest EIC at a major publication and that fact isn't lost on her as she continues to bring new and fresh perspectives to fashion.
Last year, we had the amazing opportunity to chop it up with her and she shared that she never thought that she would evolve from an assistant to an EIC. "I never thought it would happen but I'm so grateful that I am! I am really passionate about what I do, and I'm looking forward to using this platform to further conversations on inclusivity, diversity, and the future of fashion." Lindsay has always been a proponent of having larger conversations in fashion and not just focusing on trend reports.
In our exclusive interview she also shared, "I was always interested in fashion and beauty, but I think as a Black woman it just took time for me to really develop the lens in which I talk about those things. I've had a lot of conversations with mentors over the past couple years about who I want to be when I 'grow up', and I realized there were bits and pieces of a lot of different people and career paths that I wanted to mold into one, even if it didn't exist already."
Lindsay has always been open about what it means to have a seat at the table because it's more than pretty clothes. She believes that if you're at the fashion table, it's your obligation to move past the "gratitude" and move into the capacity to speak up and be the voice for those who have not yet made it to the table.
Melina Matsoukas, Visionary
Some call her the provocateur behind Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Issa Rae since she is responsible for some of our favorite visuals like "Formation", "We Found Love" and episodes of her hit show Insecure. Traditionally, Melina holds titles as a director of music videos and television shows. She began her journey snapping photos of her friends decked out in African garb. That led her to study film at New York University and cinematography in the graduate program at the American Film Institute. Her full circle moment happened this year when she was awarded the Franklin J. Schaffner Alumni Medal from AFI.
Most recently, with the talented Lena Waithe, she produced Queen & Slim, a film chronicling the journey of a black couple who go on the run after killing a police officer in self-defense. She told Variety.
"It's a story that I'm excited to tell because it challenges the idea of black love as well as the status quo. Lena and I hope that it sparks a dialogue and challenges people's views. I couldn't have made it through this process without Lena. On 'Master of None,' she trusted me with her personal story. Now I get to do this film with her — my soul sister."
As a creator, Melina finds power in documenting our stories in the most authentic ways. Most of all, her work is true to life. She never squanders an opportunity to bring light to injustices. For example, during the ELLE 2019 Women in Hollywood event, she dedicated her speech to Atatiana Jefferson by saying:
"I was up late last night trying to write my speech, trying to show my appreciation for the opportunities and the love and support I've been given."
"Trying to use my breath and my voice to create change and inspire on this stage today, but all I could think of were those whose breath was taken from us. All I could think of were my sisters who are not here, who could no longer speak, love, or thrive solely because of their existence as black woman. [Jefferson] was killed in her own bedroom, which is meant to be a safe haven for a person. She was murdered by someone meant to protect and to serve her. She was murdered because she was black."
Candace Marie, Social at Prada
She's the unapologetic black AF force behind Prada's social media and a constant street style killa. During an exclusive interview with us, she told us about her thoughts on inclusivity in fashion, "They can do way better. So much is hidden and deep-rooted that they don't realize what it is. I could be sitting in a board meeting and I question why am I the only black person out of 45 people that are here?"
She went on to say that she doesn't want to be the Bible for all things black but also realizes that there needs to be a shift and a change. "I honestly noticed it more as I started to travel and go to Fashion Weeks. You're not seeing any other women of color at the shows especially going into the luxury space. I remember a photographer told me he was shooting me because he wanted to make the street style some type of diverse. It's not their fault. Women of color are not being invited to these shows therefore you can't capture what's not there so it's like this domino effect."
That's why the Arkansas native pops out at international fashion weeks. To show up and take up space in her best cultured getups and hairstyles. She's leaving her foot print all over the fashion industry and we love that she's not afraid to be the first that looks like her to bring up topics and conversations outside of fabrics and designs.
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Featured image by Creative Lab / Shutterstock.com
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Joce Blake is a womanist who loves fashion, Beyonce and Hot Cheetos. The sophistiratchet enthusiast is based in Brooklyn, NY but has southern belle roots as she was born and raised in Memphis, TN. Keep up with her on Instagram @joce_blake and on Twitter @SaraJessicaBee.
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Deanna Robinson, a health and wellness advocate and professional based in the Washington D.C. area has been helping Black and brown women reach their fitness goals for more than a decade. And with her brand of self-love and faith, she's redefining just what "fitness" means when it comes to women of all shapes and sizes.
There's definitely a need for women like Robinson, especially since recent research shows that between 47% and 55% of Black consumers' needs "are not being met" in the wellness space, and the U.S. fitness industry hit $32 billion last year and that it's important for Black women to see themselves prominently in the space.
As a health and wellness programming expert, licensed nutritionist, mom, wife, and former all-women's gym owner, Robinson has built up a body of experience that has culminated into doing something she loves via the FabBody Retreat, an experience for women ages 30-60 to be enriched via group activities, good food, and connection in the backdrop of tropical peace and tranquility.
This year's retreat was held in Grenada, with special guest and TV host icon Free Marie (BET's 106 & Park). Next year's event will be held in St. Maarten with plenty of opportunities to enjoy beach vibes, authentic and healthy dishes, and all the pleasures of being among other fabulous Black women seeking holistic wellness in paradise.
"My God-given purpose is to help serve, connect, and heal Black and Brown women," she said, taking her experiences serving corporate and individual clients via projects like the NFL's "Fuel Up To Play 60" initiative and the Nike Training Club live experience, to do just that.
xoNecole caught up with her to talk about why she chose the fitness industry, her success in launching and running the FabBody Factory, and how she's pivoted to use her skills to build impact on a larger scale in health and wellness.
xoNecole: What sparked your interest in a career in health and wellness?
Deanna Robinson: I have always been involved in sports, always been active in cheerleading, dance, [and] gymnastics. In my college career, I was a competitive cheerleader at the University of Maryland, College Park, and I've just always been passionate about physical activity, health, and fitness. I double-majored in kinesiology and public and community health, and it's always been a passion for me about others being well.
Out of college, I wanted to be a personal trainer, and I interviewed at a big-chain gym. I was really excited about getting this job, but when I had the interview, they informed me of what the split was—what the client paid, what I'd get as a personal trainer, and what the gym got. And I just thought it was a ridiculous split. I've always been into entrepreneurship as well, and doing things on my own terms, so I actually opened up my own gym in the community I grew up in called the FabBody Factory, an all-female gym in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
I was able to hire several trainers, offer group classes and personal training, and one of the things I was always a big proponent of is making sure that they got a better cut than they would get at larger chains.
xoN: Talk a bit more about that in terms of starting a gym, especially one that caters to women. What was the process and motivation?
DR: I have worked out in big-box gyms before and just never felt comfortable. It was always really uncomfortable working out in a huge gym where men would be gawking at you or try to get your number when you're trying to focus on yourself in that moment. So I always wanted the FabBody Factory would be a safe haven where we didn't have to worry about our titties flopping when we're doing jumping jacks, it was just for us by us, and we could just [be] comfortable making ourselves a priority.
I was almost talked out of doing something like that because people would say, "You're cutting off half of your potential clientele," but I never had an issue. Women flocked to the gym, and I'd sometimes have to split classes. I might have to do part one of a class at one time and a second another time. It was majorly successful. Ladies loved it. And on top of this being all-women, it was all Black and brown women.
Culturally, we get each other, so it was a big social thing for us, too. We were able to fellowship with each other and get fit at the same time.
xoN: Your brand includes the concept of a 'Fab Body.' What does that mean for you---and just wellness---in general, for Black and brown women?
DR: FabBody in itself is not a look at all. It's more of a mindset and a willingness to invest in your mental, spiritual, and physical self. In promoting the FabBody Retreat, I actually had someone DM me and ask me, "Do you have to have a 'Fab Body' to come on the retreat?" and my response to her was that you do have a 'Fab Body.' Everyone has a Fab Body. It's more of a state of being—a sound, healthy mind, body, and spirit. It's not about aesthetics at all but about overall improvement.
xoN: You decided to pivot from owning a gym, which you ran successfully for more than a decade, to your current role in health and wellness programming and launching the FabBody Retreat. How did this come about?
DR: My gym closed last year, and the reason was because of where I saw myself going and where I wanted to be in the next 10 years. A lot of my time at the gym was selling and getting people to register for classes, and it wasn't as lucrative and fulfilling for me as it had been in the beginning.
Now I'm doing more consulting work with larger companies. One of my passions is programming, and that is where I see my future going. I'm moving more toward passive income, coming from my being able to use the knowledge I have from years in this industry and putting together programming that can reach the masses versus individuals.
xoN: What can people expect from the FabBody Retreat next year, and how does this venture continue your love for advocating for health and wellness among Black and brown women?
DR: One of the things that really sets this event apart from so many other retreats is that I have married everything that is important to me: wellness, my faith, and my community. God is a huge part of all of the events we do, and all are interwoven with faith-filled, intentional activities, and I think that's what makes it different. On Sunday, we do a service on the beach, and we always have a guest speaker—someone you can relate to where you don't feel like you're being preached to. It's an awesome experience, unlike any retreat I've seen.
It's definitely rooted in faith, but at the same time, there's a balance. We'll get on a boat and have a cocktail with an umbrella in it, and then we'll go back to wellness. There's a healthy balance.
Find out more about Deanna Robinson via Instagram @deannarobinsonfit and more on the FabBody Retreat via the website.
Featured image courtesy