There are many of us who are on the search for purpose.
Some people overlook it, choosing to take “safer" routes in hopes of having stability or because the idea of dreams becoming a reality can sometimes feel overwhelming. Others dive deeper into their seemingly foolish fantasies, and find that the very thing they've been commissioned to do was rooted inside of them since birth. Take celebrity home interior designer Nikki Chu, for instance, who, during the cold winters in Toronto, would retreat to her mother's craft room filled with everything from fabrics to glue guns to create her own unique works of art.
It was a place where her imagination could run wild and where her confidence in her art was developed as she spent hours cutting, sewing, and pasting together clothing and topiaries, and drew award winning designs that placed in her school art shows and county fairs. They were small confirmations that, even at a young age, told her that she had something special—something exceptional.
“If you talk to somebody who's a singer they would say I was born to sing; I know I was born to design," says Chu. “Every childhood picture I have scissors and crayons in my hand and it was all that I did all of my life."
In an industry where brown faces are few and far between, celebrity home interior designer Nikki Chu is challenging the norm. The lifestyle and design connoisseur has graced the television screens from HGTV to E!, dishing out her top notch expertise on transforming spaces from drab to fab, and has become a go-to designer for Hollywood's elite. And while it was certainly an innate eye for design that helped her climb her way to the top, Chu likes to credit education to being the catalyst to her career.
At George Brown College in Toronto she studied graphic design where she dived into courses on color theory, patterns, and illustration while simultaneously being trained on design programs such as Photoshop and InDesign. “It honed in my design skill abilities. It gave me a focus. And it taught me how to do it on the computer, and all of the programs that now I use every single day of my life," says Chu.
It also gave her an edge up on her competition when instead of turning in paper portfolios she would submit them digitally through e-mail or send them on a disk. By graduation she had turned down four other job offers to pursue a career in advertising at Miami-based agency Tinsley Advertising. She excelled in her role as Creative Director, earning two of the industry's coveted ADDY Awards during her five-year stint while picking up skills in brand building, which would later come in handy when launching her own luxury lifestyle brand.
Looking to expand her expertise, Chu began developing an idea for an art-based magazine at the age of 23, and was introduced to two investors that she hoped would become solid business partners. But after convincing her to move out to California just three years later, the deal went sour, leaving Chu with two options—go back to corporate or bet on herself by creating her own opportunities.
“I didn't really want to work in the corporate setting anymore. It was a great experience, but when I moved to California I realized it wasn't for me."
Tapping into her love for all things vintage and design, she began repurposing old décor items and selling them, as well as working as a freelance designer. Around the same time she met Tisha Campbell through her then fiancé, and upon returning from a trip to Miami the actress requested Chu to design her dressing room on the set of My Wife and Kids to reflect the décor of the then popular South Bleach nightclub, B.E.D.
“All of a sudden Damon Wayans came in and all of these celebs came in and they were like who the hell did this? And she's like Nikki Chu," recalls Chu, who soon attracted other notable clientele including Gabrielle Union and Tyra Banks. After premiering on the makeover segments of The Tyra Show, the television opportunities came pouring in.
“I didn't really see that happening," she says. “I knew I was really good at it but I didn't realize that would the direction and it happened simultaneously."
Despite not having an interior design background, Chu soon became the go-to person for upgrading homes, though she admits that starting out there was a lot of pro bono work and discounted rates in order to build her portfolio, not to mention having a strong work ethic helped her become a staple in the industry.
“Showing up on time, not overspending someone's budget, looking professional, being reliable…this type of career boils down to character on top of talent, so it's not just being a great designer, somebody's paying you to put up for your crap. There are too many talented people. Just like if you're a singer and you don't show up and do studio time and you have a bad attitude they'll go get the next singer. That is the difference in the people who work a lot and get recommended a lot versus people who are talented and really don't get the job all the time."
“They knew how much effort and work that I put in in the middle of the night when everybody else was at home sleeping."
It's also about sacrifice, because let's be real, there's no reward without putting in the work. There are days when Chu works beyond her 14-hour television show schedule just to make sure that her work is top notch. She recalls having to sleep in her trailer while filming for Lifetime show Girlfriend Intervention, to ensure that her makeover reveals were perfect. “They knew how much effort and work that I put in in the middle of the night when everybody else was at home sleeping. But my reveals on the show were phenomenal. People were crying; my takeaway from my reel with all of the makeovers were exceptional. I was proud of the work. You've go to do what it takes and a lot of people just don't have that."
While Chu is becoming a staple name in the industry—even picking up licensing deals for her home décor line, Nikki Chu Home—there's still and underwhelming number of women of color pursuing interior design as a career.
The Nikki Chu Home collection.
“What I do for a living is not mainstream, it's very dominated by middle-aged white women and gay, white men. Most black minority people, they don't know how to get into it because it's not a common career that you would typically see people in."
Though Chu has a large minority fan base on her Instagram page, she says that many of her followers don't quite know where to start. “A lot of people look at what I'm doing and they go holy cow, but what they don't realize is going to school learning graphics, working in advertising and understanding branding, working in television and understanding poise and professionalism, working with celebrities and having to be accountable and professional and having my business be word of mouth, all of those things lead up to where I am now and why I am at the level success that I have."
She also says that although having a niche is good, being able to design with a bunch of different styles will take you further. But before anyone considers interior design as a career path, they have to be honest with themselves about what they're willing to forgo to build a name big enough to attract brands such as NIKE, Disney and major television networks. The glitzy side includes trips to Paris for design shows, but the not so glamorous aspect means that sometimes personal takes a backseat to the professional.
"You can have it all. I just think there's a time and a place and you have to space it out accordingly."
“I think you can have it all. I just think there's a time and a place and you have to space it out accordingly," says Chu. “I love my life. What was required of me to get to a place of where I am now I probably couldn't have done it if I had a kid because you're spread a little thinner. I was able to pour everything into what I do. I have friends that I went to college with and they all came out of design school and had two or three kids and none of them are designers on the level that I am. And I'm not saying you can't be with kids, but it just takes even more effort and more support."
Does she have any regrets for pressing pause on marriage and motherhood? Hardly. She's living the life that she started creating years ago as a little girl playing in her mother's craft room in Canada. Seeing that come to fruition and being a pioneer for women of color in an often times elitist profession, well, that's the ultimate reward for Nikki Chu.
For more of Nikki Chu, follow her on Instagram.
Originally published January 23, 2017.
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.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masturdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masturdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masturdating All About?
Masturdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masturdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masturdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masturdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masturdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masturdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masturdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masturdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masturdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
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