What Self-Care Looks Like To Chronic Illness Warrior Devri Velazquez
In xoNecole's Finding Balance, we profile boss women making boss moves in the world and in their respective industries. We talk to them about their business, their life, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.
Devri Velazquez was diagnosed with Takayasu's Arteritis in 2011.
At a time when most women come into their womanhood and blossom into adults, Devri was was struggling with the effects of a rare and invisible autoimmune disease that caused inflammation in her large blood vessels and could ultimately lead to heart failure or stroke. One thing Devri never forgot was that no person or sickness could steal what God had in store for her life. An illness that would have stopped many women in their tracks ended up being a catalyst for the now 28-year-old content creator's success.
Editor of NaturallyCurly and self-identified health advocate Devri Velazquez recently chatted with xoNecole for this installment of our Finding Balance series to share how her chronic illness allowed her to discover the power of self-care and why it's her mission to share this knowledge with women around the world.
Between pharmacy visits, a chaotic work life, and finding time to nurture personal relationships, Devri is often tasked with staying on top of a very intense schedule. Despite her obligations to the rest of the world, her illness taught her that it is impossible to fill from an empty cup. She opened up to us about what "Finding Balance" means in terms of her own lifestyle.
What's been the driving force behind all of the hats that you wear these days?
I enjoy the feeling like I have total control of my time and sustaining a career that is grounded in a divine cause.
What is a typical day in the life of Devri Velazquez?
Most of my days start with the same routine: me grabbing a latte at the neighborhood coffee shop, answering emails and sending pitches for about 2 or 3 hours. I like to go for 30-minute walks with my dog to give myself mental breaks throughout the day, making sure I am writing or creating for about two hours until my partner gets home from work in the evening. On random occasions, I like to meet up with fellow creative entrepreneurs and freelancers to bounce off some inspiration, whether that involves discussing a potential project to collaborate on, or simply venting about our current creative process woes. I also have to manage a chronic illness (which is a full-time job in and of itself), so I have lots of appointments, pharmacy visits, and much more that get sprinkled in my workweeks.
When you have a busy week, what's the most hectic part of it?
I have to allow myself time and space to breathe. I take my alone time and inner peace seriously. I don't like feeling like I'm losing control or unraveling, so it's important to me to keep everything grounded in my faith that everything will work itself out, and that there is no need to stress about every little thing. If I don't get something done on today's agenda, it moves over to tomorrow's list. I try to affirm to myself that I am doing the best I can.
You are a huge health advocate, is that rooted in your own perseverance in living with a chronic illness?
I have Takayasu's Arteritis, which is an inflammation of my large blood vessels. I got diagnosed in 2011 when I was 20, so right when I was really coming into my own as a young woman. It was the biggest blessing I could've had, because it put a lot of things in perspective for me about the essence of time and love. My illness affects me physically on so many levels: some days my pain is so unbearable that it's hard to focus. I have a lot of things that don't work in my body the way they're supposed to as a result of it, so I have to be my biggest advocate all the time, especially since the world can't see with the naked eye what's going on. I've learned how to communicate how I'm feeling no matter what type of setting I'm in or who I am around. It has helped me become more fearless and unapologetic about proclaiming exactly what I need.
Do you practice self-care? What does that look like for you?
My whole well-being is centered around self-care. I try to live by that phrase and truly honor my mind, body, and soul's needs at every moment of the day. With an unpredictable health condition like mine, it is more important than ever to stay present and hyper-aware of what my body is asking for.
How do you find balance with:
I tend to have friends that treat their time seriously as I do. Because of this, I try to find something for us to connect on that could be mutually beneficial. That way we both don't end up feeling like we just passed the time without getting anything accomplished.
It's easy when I have just one person that I've focused on for 2 years now so that I can stay focused on building up my career and keeping as healthy of a work-life balance as possible.
I walk at least 2 miles a day (I live in New York City so it's inevitable) and I also practice mindful yoga and meditation. I don't do anything strenuous due to my physical limitations, but I do miss doing cardio!
I write, write, write. I have been writing every day of my life since I was a little girl and I never stopped. This has always helped me stay connected with my inner self, whether it is to admire and affirm her growth or release her from past traumas and painful memories. Journaling is like drinking water to me.
When do you feel most beautiful? And what are some traits about yourself that you immediately think of with love?
I feel most beautiful when I have awesome second-day hair. Of course, that's a rare occasion but when it happens, I cherish it -- any natural knows what's up! I've always appreciated my facial features, how they display both of the races I come from so uniquely, Black and Mexican. I love what God has done and continues to do for me, and when I stop to think about it, I feel beautiful and blessed.
I'm such a fan of your freedom in the way you move through life, what does freedom mean to you?
Freedom means letting go of toxicity and understanding that no matter how disappointing or painful a relationship, place, memory, ailment or anything can be, it will pass. Freedom also means that I choose to not be afflicted or oppressed by my circumstances but empowered by them.
Do you ever detox?
I do a social media detox for maybe 5 days at a time every month. It feels so good when I come back, it's so necessary for my mental health. I kind of touched on this earlier, but I also do a makeup detox at least a few days a week to let my skin breathe.
When you are going through a bout of uncertainty or feeling stuck, how do you handle it?
I take frequent "self-care" breaks throughout the day by going outside, getting some fresh air, and praying or meditating to calm myself down and re-focus. It works every time but it's always work to actually get to that good place. I just keep going until I get there. Or if I'm really going through a mental breakdown, I call my mom and she usually gives me a virtual slap to let me know it's all going to be OK.
What does success mean to you?
Success is feeling so accomplished that if something happens and I'm gone tomorrow, I will have a smile on my face in the afterlife because I know that I went out working on the legacy. I literally can't go to sleep at night without knowing that I did something, no matter how small it was, to fulfill the vision I have for my future children and their children. The ambition makes me feel successful already -- but I have a long way to go!
What is something you think others forget when it comes to finding balance?
I know for me in the past, it was neglecting my relationships and being so selfish that I was cutting people off without realizing it. We all need those people who are going to tell us if we're looking a hot mess, or if we could've done this instead of that -- but do it from a place of love, of course. Not everyone is going to have the best intentions for someone, so I've learned to maintain the balance by nourishing my relationships and staying rooted in love.
For more Devri, follow her on Instagram or check out her blog. Take a look back at past Finding Balance features here.
Taylor "Pretty" Honore is a spiritually centered and equally provocative rapper from Baton Rouge, Louisiana with a love for people and storytelling. You can probably find me planting herbs in your local community garden, blasting "Back That Thang Up" from my mini speaker. Let's get to know each other: @prettyhonore.
Chief Mom Officer: 23 Quotes From Working Moms Finding Their Balance
The truth is, Black moms create magic every single day. Whether we're juggling motherhood with a busy 9-5, a thriving business, or staying at home to run a household, no day is short of amazing when you're managing life as a mommy. This Mother's Day, xoNecole is giving flowers to CMOs (Chief Mom Officers) in business who exemplify the strength it takes to balance work with motherhood.
We've commissioned these ladies, who are pillars in their respective industries, for tidbits of advice to get you through the best and worst days of mothering. Here, they share their "secret sauce" and advice for other moms trying to find their rhythm.
Emmelie De La Cruz, Chief Strategist at One Day CMO
"My mom friends and I all laugh and agree: Motherhood is the ghettoest thing you will ever do. It's beautiful and hard all at the same time, but one day you will wake up and feel like 'I got this' and you will get the hang of it. After 4 months, I finally felt like I found my footing to keep my kid and myself alive, but it took vulnerability to take off the cape and be honest about the areas that I didn't have it all together. The healing (physically and emotionally) truly does happen in community - whatever and whoever that looks like for you."
Alizè V. Garcia, Director Of Social & Community Impact at Nike
"I would tell a new mom or a prospective mother that they must give themselves grace, understand and remember there is no right way to do this thing and have fun! When I had my daughter three and a half years ago, I was petrified! I truly had no clue about what to do and how I was going to do it. But with time, my confidence grew and I realized quickly that I have all the tools I need to be the mother I want to be."
Nikki Osei-Barrett, Publicist + Co-Founder of The Momference
"There's no balance. I'm dropping sh*t everywhere! However, my secret sauce is pursuing interests and hobbies outside of what's required of me and finding time to workout. Stronger body equals = stronger mind."
Lauren Grove, Chief Experience Architect, The Grant Access, LLC
"I try to give myself grace. That’s my mantra for this phase of motherhood…grace. I won’t be able to get everything done. To have a spotless house. To not lose my cool after an exhausting day. Those things can’t happen all of the time. But I can take a deep breath and know tomorrow is another day and my blessings are more plentiful than my pitfalls."
Rachel Nicks, Founder & CEO of Birth Queen
"You have the answers within you. Don’t compare yourself to others. Curate your life to work for you. Ask for help."
Tanisha Colon-Bibb, Founder + CEO Rebelle Agency + Rebelle Management
"I know love doesn't pay bills but when I am overwhelmed with work or client demands I take a moment to play with my baby and be reminded of the love, energy, science, and Godliness that went into his birth. I am brightened by his smile and laugh. I remember I am someone's parent and not just a work horse. That at the end of the day everything will work out for the good of my sanity and the love within my life."
Christina Brown, Founder of LoveBrownSugar & BabyBrownSugar
"Learning your rhythm as a mom takes time and can be uncomfortable when you’re in a season of overwhelm. Constantly check in with yourself and assess what’s working and what’s not. Get the help you need without feeling guilty or ashamed of needing it."
Mecca Tartt, Executive Director of Startup Runway Foundation
"I want to be the best for myself, my husband, children and company. However, the reality is you can have it all but not at the same time. My secret sauce is outsourcing and realizing that it’s okay to have help in order for me to perform at the highest level."
Jen Hayes Lee, Head Of Marketing at The Bump (The Knot Worldwide)
"My secret sauce is being direct and honest with everyone around me about what I need to be successful in all of my various "jobs". Setting boundaries is one thing, but if you're the only one who knows they exist, your partners at home and on the job can't help you maintain them. I also talk to my kids like adults and let them know why mommy needs to go to this conference or get this massage...they need to build an appreciation for my needs too!"
Whitney Gayle-Benta, Chief Music Officer JKBX
"What helps me push through each day is the motivation to continue by thinking about my son. All my efforts, though exhausting, are to create a wonderful life for him."
Ezinne Okoro, Global Chief Inclusion, Equity, & Diversity Officer at Wunderman Thompson,
"The advice I received that I’ll pass on is, you will continue to figure it out and find your rhythm as your child grows into new stages. Trust your nurturing intuition, parent on your terms, and listen to your child."
Jovian Zayne, CEO of The OnPurpose Movement
"I live by the personal mantra: 'You can’t be your best self by yourself.' My life feels more balanced when I offer the help I can give and ask for the help I need. This might mean outsourcing housecleaning for my home, or hiring additional project management support for my business."
Simona Noce Wright, Co-Founder of District Motherhued and The Momference
"Each season of motherhood (depending on age, grade, workload) requires a different rhythm. With that said, be open to learning, to change, and understand that what worked for one season may not work the other...and that's okay."
Janaye Ingram, Director of Community Partner Programs and Engagement at Airbnb
"My daughter's smile and sweet spirit help me to feel gratitude when I'm overwhelmed. I want her to see a woman who doesn't quit when things get hard."
Codie Elaine Oliver, CEO & Founder of Black Love
"I try to listen to my body and simply take a break. With 3 kids and a business with 10+ team members, I often feel overwhelmed. I remind myself that I deserve grace for everything I'm juggling, I take a walk or have a snack or even head home to see my kids, and then I get back to whatever I need to get done."
Jewel Burks Solomon, Managing Partner at Collab Capital
"Get comfortable with the word ‘no’. Be very clear about your non-negotiables and communicate them to those around you."
Bridget Bogee, Marketing Lead At Meta
"Ask for help and always prioritize making time for you."
Julee Wilson, Executive Director at BeautyUnited and Beauty Editor-at-Large at Cosmopolitan
"Understand you can’t do it alone — and that’s ok. Relinquish the need to control everything. Create a village and lean on them."
Salwa Benyaich, Director Of Pricing and Planning at Premion
"Most days I really try to shut my computer off by 6 pm; there are always exceptions of course when it comes to big deals or larger projects but having this as a baseline allows me to be much more present with my kids. I love the fact that I can either help with homework or be the designated driver to at least one afterschool activity. Work can be draining but there is nothing more emotionally draining than when you feel as though you are missing out on moments with your kids."
Brooke Ellis, Head of Global Marketing & Product Launches at Amazon Music
My calendar, prayer, pilates class at Forma, a good playlist, and oatmilk lattes all help get me through any day.
Courtney Beauzile, Global Director of Client and Business Development at Shearman & Sterling
My husband is a partner who steps in when I just can’t. My mom and my MIL come through whenever and however I need. My kids have many uncles and aunts and they will lend an ear, go over homework, teach life lessons, be a presence or a prayer warrior depending on the day.
Robin Snipes, Chief of Staff at Meta
"Enjoy the time you have to yourself because once kids come those times will be few and far between."
Monique Bivens, CEO & Founder at Brazilian Babes LLC.
"For new moms, it is very important that you get back into a habit or routine of something you use to do before you were pregnant. Consider the actives and things that give you the most joy and make the time to do them."
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Viola Davis On Beauty Standards Changing In Hollywood: 'We Are Beyond Male Desirability'
Actress Viola Davis is shedding light on beauty standards and how it has transformed throughout the years.
The 57-year-old has touched on this topic numerous times throughout her career, which spans over three decades. In the past, Davis revealed that she felt inadequate because of her physical appearance due to constantly being told she wasn't beautiful or enough.
Since then, the EGOT winner has overcome those insecurities and used her platform to share a positive message to those who need them. In a recent interview withPEOPLE magazine while attending the 76th annual Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, Davis shared that the shift is because many now know that beauty is "beyond male desirability."
Viola On Beauty Standards
During the discussion, the How To Get Away with Murder star also mentioned that another factor contributing to the transformation is that people associate beauty with mental health, which she claimed inspired her partnership with makeup brand L'Oreal.
"I think beauty standards have changed. I think that what's shifted is that whole idea of mental health being associated with beauty [and] of understanding who we are beyond male desirability. It's really a huge part of why I decided to become a part of L'Oreal, that whole statement of 'I'm worth it,'" she said.
Further in the interview, Davis recounted her past experiences of being told she wasn't beautiful and mentioned how it destroyed her because, growing up, she knew that beauty was tied to worthiness.
"What destroyed me was people constantly telling me that I was not beautiful. [You might think] why would you be upset with that? Because beauty is attached with worth and value. And I refuse to believe that I'm not worth it just based on a sort of idea and perception of what people think classical beauty is," she stated.
The Woman King star added that since the shift in beauty standards, women are now being "encouraged to speak their truth a little bit more" in certain situations such as one's goals, sexual assault, mental illness, etc. With that, Davis explained that people are now seeing the beauty within others and applauding them for it.
"Now women are encouraged to speak their truth a little bit more. We see that with sexual assault, with mental illness, with being burnt-out mamas, with following our dreams and our hopes that we have for our lives," she said.
"Back in the day, we hid our pain behind perfectly applied lipstick and wax floors. Now we don't do that anymore. We're saying this is who we are, beyond the makeup and the hair. I see that. I see that with my daughter's generation."
Viola On The Message She Shares With Her Daughter
As the conversation shifted to the advice Davis gives her teenage daughter Genesis Tennon --whom she with her husband, Julius Tennon-- when it comes to beauty, the star disclosed that she motivates Tennon to become the "love" of her own life.
Davis said she shared these sentiments because she wants Tennon to advocate for herself in various situations when others disappoint her and cross her boundaries.
"I told my daughter this morning that she has to have a love affair with herself. That she is indeed the love of her life. I said, 'I love you, but it's not me, it's not some boy. At the end of the day, you can't disappoint yourself. You have to advocate for yourself," she stated. "You have to show up for her.' And it's not just spa treatments and a glass of wine. It's in showing up when someone hurts you. Creating boundaries and when someone crosses it."
Davis wrapped up her remarks by saying she spread positive messages like this to Tennon and the world because she was not "taught" that loving oneself meant being one's supporter.
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