For context, Smith --who rose to fame as a model and participated in the hit comedy game show Wild 'N' Out for five seasons-- tragically passed away on May 31 at the age of 32 in Miami, Florida. Although Smith's official cause of death has yet to be determined, TMZ reported that the entrepreneur was in town to undergo a cosmetic procedure known as a "mommy makeover."
As the news about Smith's passing was officially confirmed by family and on Wild 'N' Out's social media pages, a magnitude of people, from fans to the couple's close friends and colleagues such as B.Simone, Jessie Woo, Vena "Pretty Vee" Excell, Lauren "Lolo" Wood, Odell Beckham Jr., Cedric the Entertainer, D.L. Hughley, and so many others offered their condolences while honoring the mother of three.
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Two days after Smith's death, Whitfield released a public statement to People magazine thanking everyone for their "well-wishes" and asking for "privacy during this difficult time."
The following week on June 8, Whitfield paid tribute to Smith by sharing a post on Instagram that featured various photos and videos of the pair and their children, daughters Nova Whitfield,6, Nala Whitefield,2, and a son, who was born in July 2022, named Prince Whitfield.
In addition to the upload, Whitfield revealed that he waited a while to post this because he wanted the tragic event "to be a dream." The 31-year-old would add that as the days go by following Smith's passing, he's "reminded of" the reality that she's no longer here, and he wanted to make sure to commemorate her in a "proper manner." Further into the post, Whitfield praised Smith for being the "greatest mother" and human being.
"I wasn't in no rush to post this because I wanted it to be a dream so bad, but every hour, I'm reminded of reality, so I wanna make sure I applaud you in the proper manner,” he said. “You are the GREATEST MOTHER I KNOW your soul was beautiful. You always wanted the best for others, and I admired how our family love each other!!! Never had to worry about our kids loving each other cause you were on top of Dat!!!"
Whitfield would disclose that although he may not understand Smith's untimely passing, however, because he and their family are "God-fearing" people and "grounded by the spirit," they aren't questioning "the higher power" but rather rolling "with the punches," while holding on to their faith during this tragedy.
The Almost Christmas star went on to say that the pair's "strong" children will constantly be reminded of how great of a person Smith was, "especially a great mother."
Whitfield would wrap up the upload by mentioning how much he loved Smith and that, even though everyone is hurting right now, they would be okay because God covers them.
"The QUEEN of my children will always have a spot in my heart and the paradise (You gon get me for Dat but it's true). LOVE YOU FOREVER. Just know we going harder than ever, and GOD is in control, and he got us covered," he stated.
In light of Smith's death, xoNecole takes a look back at her relationship with Whitfield and the love they shared over the years.
DC Young Fly And Jacky Oh's Relationship History
Whitfield and Smith met in 2015 in a hotel lobby while working together at Wild 'N' Out.
At the time, Whitfield became a recurring cast member during the show's seventh season while Smith was one of the Wild 'N' Out girls. Whitfield and Smith would become an item shortly after the season seven taping of Wild 'N' Out wrapped.
In 2016, after dating for a year and a half, the couple welcomed their oldest daughter Nova. In addition to expanding their family, Smith and Whitfield would give fans a closer look into their lives through social media and the model's YouTube page, which instantly became a hit.
Smith and Whitfield would ultimately become couple goals because people enjoyed their honesty, interactions with each other, and their family life.
Jacky Oh On What Makes Her Relationship With DC Young Fly Work
In a 2017 interview with DJ Smallz Eyes, Smith shared that her relationship with Whitfield works reasonably well because they aren't afraid to have an open line of communication and are willing to address any situation head-on.
"I think communication, I know it sounds really cliche, but just communicate with each other. I think getting things off of your chest in a nice, calm way. You don't always have to be confrontational with the person. But letting a person know how you feel about something so they don't carry on doing it for the next three, four, five months, years later on down the line."
Smith added that another factor that plays a part in the couple's relationship being so successful is her selectively picking her battles and choosing to address the situation in a timely manner.
Jacky Oh On The Pair's Humble Beginnings As A Couple
In 2019, during a Q&A session on Smith's YouTube page, the couple opened up about their humble beginnings as they addressed the wild rumors that she was using Whitfield for financial reasons.
While responding to the remarks, Smith clarified that when she met Whitfield, he didn't have money "like that."
"He had no money. It's not like he didn't have any money because he was broke, but he didn't have no money like that," she said.
Following Smith's comments, Whitfield jumped in and said he was "up" $40,000 and still living with family members with the occasional "hotel" stays, to which she interjected and corrected the comedian by saying that the pair were staying at "motels" early on in their relationship.
"We didn't stay at hotels, get it right. We stayed at motels. Talking about hotels, hotels are nice," she stated. "We stayed at motels that the bed stunk... You know I really like love him. Like it was dirty."
Whitfield would add that although they stayed at motels several times, Smith "thugged it out" with him because she loved him. Smith also shared that due to Whitfield rarely being home due to his profession, the couple slept on his sister's couch and his niece's room.
But as Smith and Whitfield's careers took off respectively within the entertainment industry and the beauty world, with the star launching her eyelash and lip gloss brand J Nova Collection, they would ultimately settle down and purchase a home.
Years later, in addition to their professional success, Smith and Whitfield's family would expand even more following the birth of their second daughter Nala Whitfield in 2020 and their son Prince Whitfield last July.
Although it is reported that the couple never married after eight years together, their love seemed stronger than ever, especially following Smith's Mother's Day post back in May, which featured images of the couple and their family.
All of us at xoNecole would like to send our condolences to everyone affected by this tragedy. Rest In Peace, Ms. Jacky Oh!
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One can say that entrepreneur Tanya Sam checks all the boxes: Beautiful. Eloquent. Quirky. Fashionable. Her impact and interests transcend reality TV (though many of us loved watching her on The Real Housewives of Atlanta for sure), and she has the smarts that she's using to empower women entrepreneurs through The Ambition Fund. It's an investment company she founded that has worked to level the playing field for women and minorities to access resources like mentorship, investment capital, and funding.
Oh, there's more. She's an expert in the Web3 and NFT spaces, has served as director of Partnerships at TechSquare Labs, mentoring more than 60 companies founded by women and minority entrepreneurs, and has served as host of the influential Money Moves podcast powered by the Greenwood platform.
And through her work, she has made valuable investments, helping businesses generate more than $100 million in revenue. Add to that her hosting gig on "Making of a Mogul," a TV series focusing on the success stories of entrepreneurs in Black and Brown communities.
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She's been the queen of taking up space across diverse interests and passions, so beyond tech and entrepreneurship, she also has a robust social following and has built a diverse community centered on a love of books via the Tanya Time Book Club, a virtual space that will soon host its first in-person meet up in London.
I caught up with her after our first conversation, pre-Covid, to talk more about how things have been going with The Ambition Fund, her continued pursuit of advocating for women and minority entrepreneurs through actual investment (i.e., putting your money where your mouth is), and how she's been able to lean totally into multiple things she loves while building community:
xoNecole: We spoke almost three years ago, and you talked about all the awesome things you've done with the Ambition Fund. Talk a bit more about the success and impact of your work since then with BuiltxWomen and Ascend 2020.
Tanya Sam: That was just when we were going into the pandemic, perhaps, and that's so crazy! A lot has gone on from there and changed. The Ambition Fund is a fund I started to help underrepresented founders and early-stage entrepreneurs grow, scale, and educate themselves on how to build scalable businesses. A lot of that came from the work I did with TechSquare Labs, BuiltxWomen, and Ascend 2020.
[There was] a little bit of influence from my time at Real Housewives of Atlanta when I was exposed to a much bigger audience. I was constantly being inundated by women, in particular, who were building businesses outside of this smaller tech silo but had credible businesses that they were looking to scale, whether they were in hospitality, beauty---just so many people.
I feel like the pandemic grew this as well, where people were looking for different ways they could make their businesses successful---make their dreams come true.
Courtesy of Tanya Sam
That's where the Ambition Fund [came in.] Prior to that, I was investing in hydro-scalable companies, trying to find an avenue for some of these smaller businesses to help them grow and scale and have profitable enterprises.
Since then, I've done several more investments. In the entrepreneur world, it takes time. One of the things people are always asking is, 'Have you cashed out?' or 'Are you living on an island right now?' A lot of us founders have gone on to raise Series A from either the investment check I wrote---Series A [first major round of funding] or B [second major round]. They've increased their number of employees, which is always important to me, to grow and scale and hire more people and create more avenues for families to grow.
Some of those businesses, sadly, did not survive. They're starting another business based on the learning and pivots they've had to do. I look at that in all sorts of growth because there's a learning lesson for it all.
xoN: You really know your tech and business. What led you to pivot into tech, especially from your background in STEM and what you studied in school? Were you always a tech and business geek?
TS: My background is in healthcare and medicine. I did a degree in genetics and cell biology and then went back and did another bachelor's degree so I could study nursing. I [spent] most of my career in bone marrow transplant and oncology. So when I really was exposed to tech and the idea of it, I was dating my partner at the time. He was instrumental and was a serial entrepreneur starting a cybersecurity company. I knew nothing about cybersecurity, technology, or entrepreneurship at the time.
I really grew up in a family that was very medical-focused. The idea of starting a business and raising a round was completely foreign to me. But, there's all these ideas I sort of noodled on myself and how I wanted to approach entrepreneurship.
There are so many people out there that have this idea, and they're faced with this dreamer's dilemma. Do I take a chance on myself and build my own business to solve a problem that I'm passionate about, or do I keep doing what I'm doing, get my paycheck and live life out as we've been taught?"
[That's the case] for most of our generations----take the safe route. Work the corporate ladder. I did both. I like to say that because there was a time when I was working 12-hour shifts in the hospital but at the same time, I was running my own business and working in startups and tech, learning everything I could. I had people around me that were instrumental in helping me combat the imposter syndrome I think everybody has when it comes to navigating and making those career shifts to go from what they know---what is safe--to risking it all and trying something new.
xoN: You spoke about 'generations' and being taught to go the 'safe' career route, and I know you're Ghanaian-Canadian. There are many friends and family I know who are first-generation immigrants, with lineage from Africa and the Caribbean, who have been told the same. How has your upbringing played a role personally for you in your diverse career journey?
TS: My dad came to Canada on a med school scholarship back in the early '60s. Canada had a very small Black population, so it was a huge deal that he was awarded a scholarship to go to Canada to study medicine, which really changed the trajectory of so many people in our family. One of the main tenants that I think Africans have when you go overseas to study is that there are like five professions you go into. And so, I decided to pursue nursing, and even that, it was like, 'Oh, I'm not sure. You should go be a doctor.'
To branch out and do entrepreneurship in the U.S. was a big point of contention in my family, however, I say all that to say that most Africans---and it's very commonplace---have so many jobs.
When I think back to my aunts who stayed in Ghana, they ran businesses---shops, kitchens, clothing businesses. The idea that I could be a multi-hyphenate and that I could do all these things and wear multiple hats---that part is in my blood.
xoN: What is your advice for other women who have a passion for careers considered 'safe' but also want to branch out and fully lean into businesses or other careers?
TS: You've gotta just go for it. Oftentimes, we're our own worst enemy, and we talk ourselves out of it. We want to wait until the timing is right. I've heard this over and over again. The timing is never right, and you just have to go for it.
My second piece of advice is done is better than perfect. I say this often as well. I came from a background of life-or-death decisions, but most decisions you're going to make in building your business are not going to be life or death. I feel like we have to let go of that idea that everything has to be perfect. [We think] we have to go back to school to study business or get that MBA.
There's so much information available online that can help you scale a business, how to market, how to do operations, so done is better than perfect. Just launch it, and you will always---if you're committed to it---be able to reiterate and grow from that. You will be able to make the best decision possible based on getting your business out there.
And last, access your resources. The best resources are right there under your nose. It's vertical resources and horizontal. It might be people in your mastermind group or others who have built businesses and can help you when you hit roadblocks. Others can help you raise money.
There are people out there who are willing to help you. You just have to ask.
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