From its lush cover featuring a dark-skinned Black woman with natural hair, down to its title, when readers pick up a copy of Black Girls Must Have It All, it's unapologetic in who the intended audience is. Author Jayne Allen has delivered a series, starting with Black Girls Must Die Exhausted, that is written for Black women, about Black women, by a Black woman.
Over the course of three books, Allen navigates the complexities of race and relationships in corporate America, the realities of Black maternal health, and the dynamics of love and partnerships, and she wraps it in a story built around sisterhood and family.
In this latest release, readers, along with the main protagonist, Tabitha Walker, are forced to reexamine what it means to “have it all” and question the life society has ingrained in us as acceptable.
xoNecole spoke to author Jayne Allen about Black Girls Must Have it All, her trilogy that has sparked debates, side-eyes, and “Girl….no he didn’t” moments and has inspired conversations and laughs for book clubs and readers across the world.
Courtesy of Jayne Allen
xoNecole: Let’s start at the beginning. Walk us through how Tabitha and her story 'Black Girls Must Die Exhausted' was formed.
Jayne Allen: I wrote this book by necessity. I came up with the idea around 2016, and that was a very vitriolic environment for Black and brown people, and combining that with being a Black woman, I just felt this weight.
It made me take a look at my life and what I was carrying with no sweat. This is a story about the day-to-day of navigating these layers of challenges and still being the incredible Black women that I've seen around me and that I try to be. We need to understand her daily journey, the struggles, and the triumphs, and we need to celebrate that. So I thought, if nobody's telling this story and nobody sees our worth in this way, then I'm going to do it. I'm going to celebrate Black women.
xoN: In bookstores we still don’t see a major selection of books that center Black women. Walk us through your journey and what you experienced as a writer in getting this story told.
JA: The feedback I got was: "This character is not relatable. We don't like her, but we love her grandmother, who is white." It was very interesting to feel the weight of race-based bias. Agents wanted to try and hide the characters with a different title. I said, "No, I’m [not] going to apologize for having a Black protagonist. This book is not going to hide Blackness or cater to acceptability with a different cover."
I was intentional, from day one, that I wanted this to be a celebration of Black women. I wanted readers, even non-Black readers, to come to this book and come to it as a book about a Black woman, with the knowledge and understanding that this is a story about a human being. Yes, you can relate to this person, and she has something to teach that's valuable, she has something to say that's valuable, and she is valuable.
"Agents wanted to try and hide the characters with a different title. I said, 'No, I’m [not] going to apologize for having a Black protagonist. This book is not going to hide Blackness or cater to acceptability with a different cover.' I was intentional, from day one, that I wanted this to be a celebration of Black women."
xoN: How do you think readers are going to react to this final book, 'Black Girls Must Have It All' and the closing of Tabitha’s story?
JA: I hope they have this moment of just being happy for their girl. That's how I felt when I wrote the last words of the book. Maybe it’s not a conventional happy ending in the way that we're conditioned to believe they're supposed to be. But, I think it's a very happy ending that’s hopeful and progressive. I wanted to give that feeling where you know your girl is gonna be alright. But she still has a long way to go.
xoN: Tabitha’s journey to motherhood started off in a very poignant and unexpected moment. Let’s discuss her journey on the other side of the delivery room.
JA: We don't talk about actual motherhood very often, and I wanted to examine the different experiences we face. We just talk about the various issues of Black maternal health and statistics but in, Black Girls Must Have It All, I wanted to see what that journey looked like for a Black woman because it looks different than what we see in something like Bridget Jones’s Baby.
There's been a societal vilification of Black single motherhood and the cultural perspective on traditional relationships to contend with. It was important to see Tabby navigate those things on top of the already stressful experience of being a new mother.
xoN: Readers are now three books in with Tabitha and her crew… what else can they expect in this latest book?
JA: The big thing in the third book is this theme of motherhood, but it's not just motherhood in the traditional sense. It's about nurturing and it's about how we nurture ourselves and how we mother our dreams. Some people are making choices not to pursue conventional motherhood, but that doesn't mean that the nurturing part of us doesn't get to shine.
We see Laila as an entrepreneur with her company, essentially her baby, and her friends in turn celebrating, nurturing her and her goals---going back to the theme of friendship, that nurturing of each other and ourselves---so that theme of motherhood and seeing the various perspectives on it. It was an important theme for the third book and not just traditional motherhood.
"It's about nurturing and it's about how we nurture ourselves and how we mother our dreams. Some people are making choices not to pursue conventional motherhood, but that doesn't mean that the nurturing part of us doesn't get to shine."
xoN: What readers can really appreciate about this series is your ability to give us pieces of so many different characters that at the end, we’re just as invested in the sisterhood of Lexi and Laila, Tabby’s mom, grandmom, her sisters, and Ms. Gretchen as we are in Tabitha. How did those storylines shape Tabby?
JA: I was speaking for myself as a Black woman. I am so much a reflection and a product of the people in my life. Close family ties are part of our culture. That's why you see multiple generations in the book. You have these multiple generations in your life that are influential to you, that matter, that your family matters. I couldn’t create Tabby’s character without showing the people who make her who she is.
Sisterhood is important for us as Black women in particular. Compared to our parents' generation, we get married later in life, especially when you're in a career. So your soulmate, a lot of times… is your girls. Friendship is the support structure that keeps Tabitha Walker standing, and we got to see and meet these people. I was really happy to see their story progress and mature, and the characters mature.
Friendship is self-care.
xoN: This series also brought up allyship and how that impacts Black women in corporate America. How did that come about?
JA: I wanted to examine allyship in the book because it's very much a part of the Black journey in corporate America, because we're still in very much predominantly white spaces. In the new release Black Girls Must Have It All, there's a scene where Tabby questions her coworker Lisa and asks, “Why are you trying to help me?”
I thought that was such an important question that felt authentic to Tabitha’s journey. Here you have this ally, and because of the nature of how Black women are treated in corporate America, you question when there's someone who seems to be friendly to you—who seems to be advocating for you because it doesn't happen enough.
Then you see another relationship with her boss, Chris Perkins. I wanted to show the diverse types of allies, advocates, and mentors that you experience in corporate America. There's a big difference between having someone who's going to make sure you're in the room and that you have a seat at the table. So, Tabby's got these different models of mentorship, and she has to navigate which one is going to serve her best.
xoN: In book three, 'Black Girls Must Have It All' we gain a new perspective into Tabitha’s love interest, Marc and his journey. Let’s discuss the layers that were revealed.
JA: Marc is a really important character to me. On paper, he's a person that you want to date. You would want him without really asking yourself the more important questions like, 'Who is this person behind being handsome, the success, and the Porsche? [How] is he showing up as a partner?'
I examine Marc's humanity and get behind that facade and see who's there, how he grows and evolves. I wanted to give him the opportunity to mature. I wanted the readers to see his journey, and I wanted to see what Tabby was going to do with it and how she was going to grow with him.
xoN: How do you respond to the criticism that the Black male characters in the book were not shown in the best light?
JA: It's not representative of all men or all Black men. It is representative of Tabby's choices, which start with her dad. And then her dad’s choices started with his dad, and you get to read all about that in the book. It's not a characterization of Black men. It's just these particular men, by virtue of who Tabby is attracted to, by virtue of who her father is, and how that came to be, which has a lot to do with racism. It’s a very specific story that intentionally speaks to generational legacies and how that affects women and our choices. I hope readers are asking themselves those questions.
xoN: In your journey as a writer, what do you hope to see differently when it comes to telling Black stories and centering Black characters?
JA: Often, we see pieces of our story told by somebody else, or we see just pieces of ourselves, but to see an actual book about us and about people that we know and people that look like us. That's very important, something that we don't see in the publishing industry, especially when reading women's fiction and contemporary fiction.
I would read stories where there is a Black sidekick, and she has kinky hair and this spunky attitude. She's the one that everybody leans on, and I'm like, 'This is a caricature. Why are you telling me this character is Black without showing me the humanity of this person? Where's her story?' So that was my intention.
It's not meant to be representative of all Black people and not every Black experience, but the culture is there, and there's enough there that should hopefully allow readers to feel seen and be celebrated in a way that hasn't been so common.
xoN: What’s next for Tabitha and the characters in the 'Black Girls Must Die Exhausted' series?
JA: Tabitha is headed to television! A series is in development, we have a writer and showrunner, no roles have been casted, but it’s moving along! There have been some major developments that I can’t say just yet, but it's very good!
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Featured image courtesy of Jayne Allen
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.
The Fall Equinox begins on September 23, 2023, and it’s time to embrace abundance, gain clarity, and know that you are worthy of your desires. The Fall Equinox marks the beginning of fall and the end of summer and is a turning point of the year, where things settle in and come to fruition. The energy that fall brings is one of harvest, but it is also one of release, letting go, and finding your ground. Coming from a summer of intensity, drama in love, and overall moving through a space of deep spiritual growth- now that fall is here, we are ready to decompress, dream, and enjoy that which we have created for ourselves.
What Is the Energy of the Fall Equinox 2023?
The energy this fall is opening up new doors of abundance and is a time of reaping your rewards in life. Fall begins at the same time as Libra Season, and a lot of these blessings have to do with love and the relationship developments that will be taking place over the next few months. With a New Moon Solar Eclipse in Libra occurring a few weeks after fall begins on October 14th, something enchanting is happening in romance right now. The scales are coming into balance, new beginnings are occurring, and clarity prevails.
Relationships over the next few months are about focusing on the gifts and gratitude you find in them and accepting where things need to change as well.
By the time winter begins, most of the planets that are currently in retrograde will be direct, and this signifies the change of pace that fall is bringing. This fall highlights Eclipse Season overall, and the Full Moon Lunar Eclipse in Taurus on October 28th will be a time of creating boundaries, honoring your values and energy, and closing a chapter in your life that doesn’t align. Financial worlds are growing and finding new ground, but with Jupiter still in retrograde in Taurus until December 30th, patience is needed here.
Over the next few months, give yourself the space to gain some new perspectives, make room for love, and grow in abundance.
Your guidance this fall is to take those first steps toward the goals you have been pondering over this year. There is a Full Moon in your sign a week after fall begins, and you get the opportunity to enter this season with less baggage and more closure. You will possibly be starting a new position or working in a new field, and you need all the good energy to back you right now. Know that you can count on your skills and talents to move you further in life and that help will be there when you least expect it. This is a fall of abundance for you, Aries, claim it.
Your lucky days this fall are: Sep. 29, Oct. 13, Nov. 13, Nov. 21
Patience, patience, patience, Taurus. You are creating something beautiful in the world right now, and the time it’s taken to get you here will all be worthwhile. Your guidance this fall is to nurture your world and your dreams and to bring more love and compassion to your life. You are preparing for a new reality but need some more time to dream it up and define that which you want for yourself and your future. The Full Lunar Eclipse happening this fall is occurring in your sign, and you are moving through some major closures in your life right now. This is a creative time for you, Taurus.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 28, Oct. 29, Nov. 6, Nov. 20
This fall is all about taking care of yourself and valuing your time and energy, Gemini. The way you see yourself and your life are coming up for review right now, and you are being urged to look at yourself in a better light. Your ruling planet, Mercury, goes retrograde for the last time this year on December 13th, just before fall ends, and this time is all about taking what you have learned and choosing better for yourself. You may be tested to be more confident or true to yourself right now and over the next few months, and it’s about owning your part in this life and standing up for what you want.
Your lucky days this fall are: Sep. 25, Oct. 21, Nov. 20, Dec. 12
This is an abundant fall for you, Cancer. You have worked diligently on claiming the opportunities and new doors that have been opening for you, and you are feeling free to be your successful self. You are encouraged in your independence right now, and you have proven to yourself just how talented you are and how much you have grown. No major aspects are happening in your sign this fall, giving you the space to breathe, create, and receive your rewards. Happiness fills your world, and even though you still feel like you are just getting started in a sense, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the gifts that are presenting themselves today.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 13, Oct. 15, Nov. 12, Nov. 13
This fall is a turning point for you in love, Leo. New developments are taking place in your relationships, and you are being received especially favorably. This is the time to open your heart to growth and new possibilities and to get creative with what you are looking for right now. The Last Quarter Moon happening in your sign on November 5th will be a turning point for you this fall. Your unique charm and charisma are enough, and you attract many to you through your natural energy and love for life. Your ship is coming in this fall, and your heart is fulfilled.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 1, Oct. 31, Nov. 5, Nov. 14
Virgo, this fall is a blessing for the heart space. You are feeling in tune emotionally, and there is positive energy coming your way and into your love life. You have spent a lot of this year healing, forgiving, and finding your voice, and over the next few months, you will be creating the spaces you have been looking to enter in your life. Venus enters your sign for a month on October 8th, and there are some pleasant surprises in store for you during this time. Fresh starts are coming in for you, and spiritually, you are awakening to the gifts within you and in your heart. Your beauty is showing, and love is coming in for you this fall.
Your lucky days this fall are: Sep. 25, Oct. 22, Nov. 5, Nov. 20
This fall is a new beginning for your financial world, Libra. Autumn begins the same day Libra Season does, and you have some extra motivation and energy within you right now. You are ready to put the action behind the intentions you have been setting for yourself financially, and this is a time of plans coming together and falling through to success. The more you stay focused and diligent, the more opportunities that can come for you right now. The first month of fall, the Sun is in your sign, and this is really the time to get things moving in your life, especially with a New Moon Eclipse in Libra on October 14th happening as well.
Your lucky days this fall are: Sep. 27, Oct. 14, Oct. 30, Nov. 20
It’s all about the vision for you right now, Scorpio. You are focused on the future, your path ahead, and manifesting your dreams, and there is something passionate about the next few months for you. You may be taking some risks this fall as you test the boundaries on how far you want to go with something and what worlds are opening up to you now. Mars is in your sign from October 12th until November 24th, and life is exciting for you right now. You have your eyes on the prize and are ready to move forward toward the things that are lighting you up right now.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 12, Oct. 13, Nov. 6, Nov. 13,
This fall is about taking a leap of faith, Sagittarius. Your guidance over the next few months is to do the things that you would do if you knew you would be supported in doing them. Less self-doubt is needed now, as you are walking on new ground. You are moving towards personal healing you have been wary of from the beginning, and you are ready to let go of some energy that has been holding you back. Trust that once you decide on something, the universe instantly begins to make it happen for you. Your season begins on November 22nd, and it’s time to put yourself first more. Have courage in yourself this fall.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 8, Nov. 22, Nov. 24, Dec. 12
This fall is all about clarity for you, Capricorn. You are a wise soul, and you are owning this energy about yourself right now. Over the next few months, you will be developing spiritually, helping those who need your sound advice, and evolving in life. You have found a new sense of enlightenment and are enjoying the clear perspective that has been gained. Mercury goes retrograde in your sign on December 13th, right before fall ends, and this is when you will be feeling more tested to take the lead in your life and use your voice. Overall, fall 2023 is your time to surrender to the good within you and in your life, Capricorn.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 10, Oct. 23, Nov. 4, Dec. 1
Things are moving fast for you this fall, Aquarius. This is a successful, harmonious, and passionate time for you, as many opportunities come your way at once. It will be hard to settle down with all the energy flowing through your life over the next few months, as you have so much to do and so many people to see. Overall, however, this is positive energy that you have been looking forward to in your life, and everything is coming together and moving forward where it was once stagnant. Fall is giving you the closure and the opportunity to reinvent yourself and start on new, solid ground in your life.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 30, Oct. 31, Nov. 20, Nov. 28
Your guidance for fall is to have balance in your life. There is a lot of new coming in for you, but you are also working on letting go of what has fallen. You have grown in many ways this year, and financially, you have seen growth as well but may be feeling the weight of responsibilities this has come with now. To move through this season with the most grace, give yourself more time to rest, to be, and allow things to fall into place on their own. Saturn has been retrograde in your sign since June and goes direct this fall on November 4th, Pisces. This is your opportunity to see things more clearly, protect your energy, and feel more in tune with your internal guidance system.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 22, Nov. 4, Nov. 6, Dec. 12
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