Brooke Obie is xoNecole’s new editor-in-chief, and this sister has the career receipts that prove that she’s set to take the platform to the next level. Let’s start with the proof of real skin in the media game: She is an award-winning journalist, whose work has been featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Essence, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, and many more.
The Hampton University and Mercer University School of Law graduate has served as the co-editor of Roxane Gay’s The Audacity, the deputy director of Refinery29 Unbothered, Ebony.com’s first editor-at-large, and as managing editor for Shadow & Act. She is also a TV and film critic who has a voice and perspective to be reckoned with.
Her smart and thought-provoking film and TV insights and cultural criticism have had a viral allure, which is not surprising. (Just go read her telling commentary on the “zombification” of Whitney Houston, and you’ll see why.) Her critiques have enhanced the cultural conversations of shows and panels including NPR’s 1A Movie Club.
She also took her writing passions further with her debut novel Book of Addis: Cradled Embers, which was honored with the 2018 Accra International Book Festival Awards’ Independent Writer’s Award, the 2017 Phillis Wheatley Book Award for First Fiction, and the 2017 Black Caucus of the American Library Association Award for self-published Fiction.
“What began as a way to pay my bills while I finished grad school and my debut novel turned into the most fulfilling career I never could’ve imagined for myself,” Brooke said of her start in journalism in an interview with xoNecole.
Courtesy of Brooke Obie
In 2019, she was named one of The Root 100’s most influential African Americans in 2019 for her viral and exclusive interview with the family of Dr. Donald Shirley, “How ‘Green Book’ And the Hollywood Machine Swallowed Donald Shirley Whole." And she has interviewed icons of entertainment and media, from Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Maya Angelou to Ava DuVernay and Aretha Franklin.
Now that's she's adding xoNecole's EIC to her resume, we sat down with Brooke to ask five key questions about her career passions and the impact she expects to have in her new role. The multi-hyphenate gives insight into her hope for all Black millennial women:
1. How did you first find your purpose and passion in journalism?
"I’ve always been a writer and loved storytelling, but it wasn’t until I graduated from law school and began a career crafting other people’s messages and stories that I felt an overwhelming urge to find my own voice and help tell Black women’s stories. I started a blog about my life in D.C., which won a few awards and led to me being a contributor for the newly-launched Ebony.com. My first professional editing job came by chance when I filled in for my editor when she went on maternity leave and I’ve been an editor, writing and helping other Black writers craft their stories ever since!"
2. What do you wish to accomplish during your xoNecole tenure?
"My goal is to build upon the legacy of sisterhood and community Necole Kane and the xoNecole team have diligently created. I’m blessed to be among such phenomenal Black women and I want to continue to cultivate an environment where our audience and our internal team feel seen, heard, and empowered."
3. We talk a lot about self-care and work-life balance. How do you create that for yourself?
"I have a hard stop time every day and I reserve my weekends for myself and my personal projects. I respect other people’s work-life balance as well and make sure to schedule emails instead of sending them during times when I know people are offline. I also schedule breaks in between meetings so I can decompress. Prioritizing outdoor time is also huge for me. I hike on the weekends and jog or walk during the week to make sure I’m getting vitamin D. And I am in daily contact with the people I love and who love me.
"I believe in Audre Lorde’s definition of self-care as a community effort that works when we can all experience rest and take care of ourselves. I’m always looking for ways we as a community can help shoulder each other’s burdens so we can all be well."
4. How has where you've been in your career led you to where you are now?
"I’ve had many different careers and have worn many different hats over the years, but the one constant in all of them is storytelling. I started off in journalism as a freelance contributor and have worked every journalism job on the way to editor-in-chief. But what I believe led me here is beyond journalism skill and experience. My heart is for Black people and our stories—one of the most powerful tools we possess for our liberation. I’ve been so blessed to spend my career in Black media, amplifying our stories, cultivating emerging writers, and providing space for us to be challenged, to grow and expand in our imagining of what’s possible."
5. What do you think is missing in this space for Black women, and how do you seek to fill that gap?
"The beautiful thing about a community of Black women is how diverse we are. I want to create more spaces for Black women across the Diaspora, across sexualities, across sizes and shades, and beyond the binary to share their stories and experiences. I’m excited to create content and curate experiences for us to all learn from each other, understand each other better and grow together.
"More than anything, I want Black millennial women to be free and well. I hope that we seek out ways to get free and to free each other; to be well and lead each other to wellness; to love each other and love ourselves, every day. We deserve it all."
Featured image courtesy of Brooke Obie
Unapologetically, Chlöe: The R&B Star On Finding Love, Self-Acceptance & Boldly Using Her Voice
On set inside of a mid-city Los Angeles studio, it’s all eyes on Chlöe. She slightly shifts her body against a dark backdrop amidst camera clicks and whirs, giving a seductive pout here, and piercing eye contact there. Her chocolate locs are adorned with a few jewels that she requested to spice up the look, and on her shoulders rests a jeweled piece that she asked to be turned around to better showcase her neck (“I feel a bit old,” she said of the original direction). Her shapely figure is tucked into a strapless bodysuit with a deep v-neck that complements her décolletage.
Though subtle, her quiet wardrobe directives give the air of a woman who’s been here before, and certainly knows what she’s doing. At 24 years young, she’s a “Bossy” chick in training— one who’s politely unapologetic and learning the power of her own voice.
“I'm hesitant sometimes to truly speak my mind and speak up for myself and what I believe,” she later confessed to me a couple of weeks after the photoshoot. “It's always scary for me, but now I'm realizing that I have to, in order to gain respect as a Black woman— a young Black woman— who's still navigating who she is. And you know, I'm realizing that closed mouths don't get fed. And if I keep my mouth shut just because I'm afraid of what people's opinions of me will be or turn into, then that's not any way to live.”
For Chlöe, the journey into womanhood is about embracing who she is, without succumbing to the perceptions of what others think of her. From the waist up she’s everything you’d imagine. A gorgeous goddess with the kind of sex appeal that some work hard to embrace but fail to exude. But unbeknownst to anyone not on set, her bottom half is covered by a white robe, surprising coming from the girl who boasts “'Cause my booty so big, Lord, have mercy” on her first hit single “Have Mercy.”
But that’s the beauty of Chlöe. There’s more to her than meets the eye. More than what a few sensual photos sprinkled throughout an Instagram feed could ever tell you. Just like the photo-framing illusion of her portrayed from the waist up, what we know about the songstress is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more beneath the surface.
Some hours later Chlöe leans back in a high chair as her locs are transformed from a formal updo to a seemingly Basquiat-inspired one. It’s pure art, and at her request, no wigs are a part of the day’s ensemble. She’s fully embracing her natural hair, a decision that wasn’t always a socially accepted one.
In the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, (Mableton, to be exact) Chlöe began to explore the foundation of her self-image. At an early age she and her younger sister, Halle, demonstrated a vocal prowess and knack for being in front of the camera that caught their parents’ attention. Soon after, they were sent on a parade of local talent shows and auditions, and eventually broke into the digital space with song covers on YouTube.
It was during these early years that Chlöe first learned that the entertainment industry could be unforgiving to those who didn’t fit a particular beauty standard. Despite the then three-year-old snagging a role as the younger version of Beyoncé’s character, Lilly, in Fighting Temptations, casting agents requested that her natural locs be exchanged for more Eurocentric tresses. Ironic, considering that growing up Chlöe saw her hair as no different than that of her peers. “I remember specifically in pre-K we had to do self-portraits and I drew myself with a regular straight ponytail, like how I would put my locs in a ponytail,” she says. “I just never saw myself any different.”
Chlöe would also learn the true meaning of a phrase that would later become an affirmation posted on her bedroom mirror: “Don’t Let the World Dim Your Light.” After attempting to wear wigs to fit in, the Bailey sisters instead chose to rock their locs with pride, which undoubtedly cost them casting roles. Yet they would have the last laugh when making headlines as the “Teen Dreadlocked Duo” who landed a million-dollar contract with Parkwood Entertainment, and the coveted opportunity to be groomed under the tutelage of a world-renowned superstar.
Credit: Derek Blanks
While that could be the end of a beautiful fairytale of self-empowerment, the reality is that it’s just the beginning of the story of her evolution. For most girls, the transition into womanhood takes place in the comfort of their own worlds, often limited to the number of people they allow to have access to them. But for Chlöe, it’s happening in front of millions of critiquing eyes just waiting for an opportunity to either uplift or dissect her through unwarranted commentary.
Many in her position wouldn’t be able to take that kind of pressure. But Chlöe is handling it with grace. “I feel like all of us as humans, we have the right to interpret things how we want,” she says. “I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
Chlöe isn’t the first artist to receive criticism for her carnal content, and she certainly won’t be the last. In 2010, Ciara writhed and rode her way to banishment on BET when the then 24-year-old released her video for “Ride.” In 2006, 25-year-old Beyoncé received backlash for “Déjà Vu."
"I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
So much so that over 5,000 fans signed an online petition demanding that her label re-shoot the video because it was “too sexual.” Even 27-year-old Janet didn’t escape critical headlines when she shed her image of innocence for a more risqué appearance with the 1993 release of janet.
It’s almost as if public reproach is a rite of passage for young Black women R&B singers on the road to stardom. Good girls seemingly “go bad” whenever they embrace the depths of their femininity, and fans only like you on top figuratively. But Chlöe has learned not to bow down to other people’s opinions, but to boss up and control the narrative. As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. If sex appeal is her weapon, she wields it well.
On set, Chlöe exudes the energy of Aphrodite in an apple red, off-shoulder dress with a sexy high split. In between shots, she mouths the lyrics to Yebba’s “Boomerang” as it echoes throughout the space in steady repetition at my recommendation. The hour grows late, yet Chlöe is heating things up as eyes stare in deep mesmerization of the girl on fire.
Credit: Derek Blanks
Through music, she explores the depths of her being, a journey that seems to be, at its foundation, rooted in self-discovery. Whereas their debut album The Kids Are Alright (2018) boasts a young Chloe x Halle empowering their generation to embrace who they are while finding their place in the world, their second album Ungodly Hour (2020) shows the Bailey sisters shedding the veil of innocence for a more unapologetic bravado.
What fans looked forward to seeing is who Chlöe shows herself to be on her debut solo album In Pieces. In an interview with PEOPLE, she confesses that releasing her first project without her sister was “scary.” "It was a moment of self-doubt where I was like, 'Can I do this without my sister?’”
Chlöe has never been shy about sharing her insecurities or her vulnerabilities, all of which are laced throughout the 14-track album. “I want people to have fun when they listen to it and to just realize that they're not alone and it's okay to be vulnerable and raw and open because none of us are perfect; we're all far from it. And I think it's healing when we all admit to that instead of putting up a facade.”
The gift of time has given the self-professed “big lover girl” more encounters with romance and heartbreak. Love songs once sung for their beautiful riffs and melodies become more than just abstract lyrics and are replaced by real-life experiences, which she tells me is definitely in the music.
In her single “Pray It Away,” for example, she contemplates going to God for healing instead of going at her ex-lover for revenge for his infidelities. “With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable,” she says. “I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
Has Chlöe been in love? That still remains to be said. Of course, she’s been linked to a few potential baes, but dating in the digital age isn’t as easy as a double tap or drop of a heart-eyes emoji. It requires a level of trust and vulnerability that’s hard to earn, and easy to mishandle. To let her guard down means to potentially set herself up for disappointment. “It’s difficult dating right now, honestly, because you really have to kind of keep your guard up and pay attention to who's really there for you. And you know, I'm such an affectionate person and I love hard.
"So when I meet the one person that I really, really am into, it's hard for me to see any others and I get attached pretty easily. And you know, I don't know, it's…it's a scary thing.”
Credit: Derek Blanks
“With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable. I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
While broken hearts yield good music (queue Adele), what’s in Chlöe’s prayer is the desire to be happy. What does that look like? Well, she’s still figuring that out herself. “Honestly, I'm the type of person who I don't truly learn unless I experience it. So it's like I can view and watch my parents and watch the loving relationships that I see in my life and be like, ‘Oh, I want that. I would love to have that.’ But then I also have to experience [love] on my own and see what my flaws or my faults might be or see what my good things about myself are. I feel like it's really all about self-reflection. And even though our base is our family and that's our foundation, we are still our own individuals and we have to find out specifically the things about ourselves that may be different from what we saw from our parents when we were growing up.”
Her ideal beau, she tells me, is someone she can feel safe to be her fun, goofy self with, but who also gives her the space to be the boss chick chasing her dreams. A man who understands that just because the world compliments her doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to hear those words from his lips or feel it in his touch. A bonus if he shows up on set after a long hard day of work with vegan cinnamon rolls. You know, the basic necessities. “I like whoever I'm with to constantly tell me they love me and that I look beautiful because I do the same. I am a very mushy person, and if I see something or you look good, I will never shy away from saying it out loud. And I want whoever I'm with to do the same, be very vocal. Tell me that you love me. Tell me what you love about me because I'm doing the same for you because that's just the person I am.”
Until she meets her match she’s married to the game, and for now, that seems to be perfect matrimony.
Credit: Derek Blanks
On stage at the 2021 American Music Awards, Chlöe solidified her position as a force to be reckoned with. It was a full-circle moment. In 2012, bright-eyed and baby-faced Chloe and Halle would walk onto the set of The Ellen Degeneres Show and blow the audience away as they bellowed out their future mentor’s song. Ellen would present the sisters with tickets to attend the AMAs, assuring them that they would be back and had a promising future. Nine years later, Chlöe descends from the sky cloaked in a snow-white cape and matching midriff-baring bodysuit for her debut performance. It’s the first time she’s graced the stage of the very award show that she was once an audience member of.
As she shakes and shimmies and boom kack kacks out her eight counts, it’s clear that she’s in her element. Just like her VMA performance a couple of months prior, and the many more stages she’ll continue to grace, she brings an energy that has earned her comparisons to the beloved Queen Bey herself. An honorable statement, considering few R&B songstresses are getting accolades for their entertainment capabilities. It’s on these very stages, in front of hundreds of astonished eyes and millions more glued to their televisions at home, that she tells me she feels most sexy. Powerful, even.
But off stage, it’s a different story.
It’s more than just the commentary about her image and media-flamed rumors that get to her. Mentally, she’s in competition with herself. The desire to be the best burns at the back of her mind with every performance, every production, and every time she steps into the booth. Before, she could share the weight of this burden with her sister. Being a part of a duo meant she could turn to Halle for quiet confirmation and encouragement without a word being exchanged. But lately stepping on the stage means stepping out on her own. And despite being a breathtaking, five-time Grammy-nominated star, Chlöe doesn’t escape the reality that sometimes we can be our own worst critics.
Over the last year, she’s been coming to terms with who she is on her own while overcoming the fear of failing to become who she’s destined to be. While the world waits to see how Chlöe wins, the real triumph is in every day that she chooses herself and continues to walk in her purpose. “I don't really have anything all figured out, honestly. But what I try to do, a lot of prayer. I talk to God more and I just try to do things that calm my mind down and just breathe.”
To whom much is given, much will be required. She’s been chosen to walk this path for a reason. Once she fully embraces that everything she’s meant to be is already inside of her, she’ll be an unstoppable force. “My grandma, Elizabeth, she just passed away and my middle name is her [first] name. So I feel like I truly have a responsibility to live up to her legacy that she's left on this earth. I hope I can do that.”
There’s no doubt that she will. With a role in The Fighting Temptations at three years old, a million-dollar record deal, a main role on five seasons of Grown-ish, five Grammy nominations, a number one solo record in Urban and Rhythmic Radio, a debut solo album, and starring roles in recently released movies Praise Thisand Swarm (just to name a few), Chlöe’s certainly already made her mark, and she’s just getting started.
Photographer & Creative Director: Derek Blanks
Executive Producer: Necole Kane
Co-Executive Producer: EJ Jamele
Producer: Erica Turnbull
Digitech: Chris Keller
DP: Alex Nikishin
Gaffer: Simeon Mihaylov
Photo Assistant: Chris Paschal
2nd Photo Assistant: Tyler Umprey
Features Editor: Kiah McBride
Special Projects: Tyeal Howell
Hair: Malcolm Marquez
Makeup: Yolonda Frederick
Fashion Styling: Ashley Sean Thomas
For More: Cover Story: Issa Rae Comes Full Circle
Exclusive: Woody McClain Is Still Adjusting To Fame And Has This To Say About Dating
If you’re tapped in at all to the culture’s current movies and TV shows, then there’s no way you’re unfamiliar with Woody McClain. The breakout talent started as a content creator on Vine known as “Woody the Great” and a background dancer who toured with Chris Brown, and now he’s killing the acting game. He gave us such a genuine and human glimpse into the emotional and triumphant world of Bobby Brown in BET’s The New Edition Story and The Bobby Brown Story.
And now, a lot of us tune in every week to see him play the ruthless but alluring Cane Tejada on Starz’s Power Book II: Ghost. These roles were both so major that I wasn’t sure what to expect when he hopped on Zoom. But after a few exchanges, I realized that not only was he super humble and down to earth, but this was going to be a fun experience.
We started the interview by chatting about our mutual love for music and marching bands. Random fact, he played the tuba in high school and college and credits the experience for his level of discipline. “I had no filter or structure before. I was just running around wild until I got into the band,” Woody says to xoNecole. “Shoutout to Mr. Jenkins, my high school band director, who was like a father figure to a lot of people in our class. Every program I’ve done, from high school band and college band to the dance crew, has been about structure.”
Photo courtesy of Woody McClain
But as a disciplined HBCU man who came from a traditional family and loves his peace, he’s still adjusting to the “celebrity” element of his reality. “I was blessed to work a 9 to 5 until 23. So, I experienced the real world. But once you’re on TV, people don’t see you as a real person,” he explains. “I think that’s where it’s strange for me. Because you can be like at the airport, and someone can come up and grab you, and I’d just never do that. It can get really tricky; I’m still adjusting.”
Although a lot can come with the lifestyle, it’s clear he’s enjoying what he’s doing, and he’s not letting anything get in his way – or anyone. When I asked about his dating life, he was very clear on where he stood. “I love dating my career and my craft. That’s my boo thang,” he says concisely with a smile.
But while he didn’t give xoNecole too many deets on that, it was obvious his love of family is very prevalent in his life. In fact, he shares that trait with his character, Cane. “Cane does everything in the best interest of his family. That’s how I am in real life,” he explains. “I’m trying to make sure my family is okay. That’s the only thing we have in alignment, but of course, he goes over the top.”
Once we jumped into the “Power Universe,” it was only right to get his thoughts on some of the toxicity of the characters we love to hate (IYKYK). This led us to the start of it all and how Woody admired Omari Hardwick’s performance, who played Ghost in the original series. “In my opinion, he doesn’t always get the credit he deserves. Without Omari, I don’t think any of the universes would exist right now,” he admits. “He set the bar so high and did such a great job at setting a foundation. Now we’re just trying to build off what he’s created."
"Without Omari, I don’t think any of the universes would exist right now. He set the bar so high and did such a great job at setting a foundation. Now we’re just trying to build off what he’s created."
xoMan Woody McClain Opens Up About Healthy RelationshipsSubscribe to our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/xonecoleTVGet more xoNecole: Website: https://www.xonecole.com/Instagram: https://www.instagram.c...
But when we returned to the present, I had to be honest and tell him that I constantly side-eye his character Cane and the crazy decisions he makes. But he responded in a very human way, saying, “All he [Cane] knows is broken love. Monae (played by Mary J. Blige) is a horrible mother. Nobody ever talks about the root, and I think that’s very important for a show like this. It's very essential when people have kids to be careful about the information they feed to them because it definitely affects how they are when they’re older.”
He went on to explain that he saw many examples of healthy love from his grandparents and parents. In fact, he’s named after his grandfather and father and plans to keep the tradition going. “My grandfather was a reverend, radio host, and a community activist. He did everything to provide for his eight kids, and I always try to model myself and how I move after him,” he says.
I genuinely enjoyed this conversation because his story is such a clear example of an authentic person putting in the work to create a dream-worthy life. In ten years, he sees himself producing his own film, TV, and music projects and creating opportunities for his friends. At the core, he’s still Woody the Great. He wants to work with his tribe and make people laugh. When he needs to escape the craziness of the industry, he goes bowling with friends, makes investments, produces music (something he’s passionate about), and works on his golf swing (we see you, Black man, smile).
The difference between him and so many others is his intense level of discipline that he continues to hold on to, his natural-born leadership skills – which he feels he’s always had, and his trust in God. “Faith has been a part of the entire journey. I wouldn’t be here without God opening up certain doors for me. Every door led me to where I am right now. I never question anything; I just follow it.”
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Feature image courtesy of Woody McClain