When we think of R&B, we think of soul. Soul, by definition, is emotional or intellectual energy or intensity, especially as revealed in a work of art or an artistic performance. Black people are soul. Everything about us. Our hair. Our energy. Our skin. And, without a doubt, the creativity that courses through every inch of who we are. So, when it comes to our music, spiritual experiences are often what we call them. Makes sense, for there are no other people who remain unbroken the way we do. And every so often, an artist comes along who seems to be the physical manifestation of all that we are.
One such artist is R&B singer Lucky Daye.
Daye embodies the very essence of who we are. With his warm silky vocals, intricate lyricism and ability to wring beauty from a love drought, Lucky Daye has become one of the most sought after and revered vocalists in the industry. With R&B being such a cherished part of our culture's influence on the musical landscape, new artists, at times, have a hard time breaking away from comparisons to legends of the past.
However for Daye, this is a welcomed challenge.
"I find that my music is a reflection of the classic R&B that I grew upwith and have come to love," he said. "Paying homage to Black artists who have come before me comes naturally. Those artists are an an example to me but it's something that flows naturally when I create music."
Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET
"Paying homage to Black artists who have come before me comes naturally. Those artists are an an example to me but it's something that flows naturally when I create music."
After years spent penning hits for other artists, in 2018 Daye stepped from behind the boards and burst onto the scene with his hit "Roll Some Mo". Equal parts sultry and masterful, Daye's debut project Painted left us wanting more.
And he delivered.
Offering his talents to the motion picture soundtrack for The Photograph, his hit "Fade Away" became a must-have on made-for-love playlists all over as our country went into lockdown last year. 2021 kicked off with new music from Lucky as well with the release of his EP, Table for Two, a seven-song project that saw him collaborating with artists like Ari Lennox and Queen Naija. Duets, which for so long have been foundational to R&B music, have all but died out except for the rare occurrences that two artists just decide they want to work together.
So, we had to know who was on Lucky's list to collaborate with next. "Beyonce," he confessed, "...Jazmine Sullivan and Grace Jones." Swoon.
Perhaps what we love more about Lucky Daye than his immense talent, is his obvious love for our culture. The Grammy-award winning singer teamed up with Crown Royal to shine a light on Black artists in all disciplines and proclaim, boldly, that our soul is what moves the world forward for Juneteenth this year.
Daye performed alongside legends Earth, Wind and Fire and India.Arie in a virtual festival that paid homage to our roots and our future. "I'd encourage other artists like myself to continue to use their talents for good and give back to the culture that is keeping the world alive," he said about his decision to join the initiative and to work alongside the luxury cognac brand on similar efforts.
It's clear that whether Lucky is keeping R&B music alive or using his influence to promote the art of Black artists across mediums, he is always showing up as his truest self.
In his music and where he dedicates his time (did I mention he's a part-time chess master?!), there is a thorough line: do it from the soul or do not do it at all.
For more of Lucky, follow him on Instagram @iamluckydaye.
Featured image by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET
Traditionally, women with textured hair are taught to exalt their mane with deep reverence: a crown of curly tresses to be intentionally maintained and handled with care. Still, there comes a point in every woman's journey where our body begins to go through changes that can affect the very attributes that we attributed to our confidence and self-image. Such was the case with actress, singer, and mother of three, Christina Milian, with postpartum hair loss.
Postpartum hair loss is more common than one might believe. In fact, up to 50 percent of women in the U.S. are impacted by it, Christina included.
Around 3-6 months after giving birth to her second child, Christina started to notice thinning around her temples and losing small amounts of hair while in the shower. The shocking discovery left her self-assurance in a rocky state, "It's so overwhelming, on top of having a newborn at home, which is stressful, and all of the hormones that come with postpartum, dealing with the emotional impact of thinning hair. It really takes a toll on your confidence." She continues, "It's completely out of your control. You're literally in your head like, is this even real? Are people noticing this? How embarrassing is this?"
Courtesy of Christina Milian
Although she hasn't experienced the shedding after welcoming her new son, Kenna, with her husband Matt Pokora, Christina has decided to take a more proactive approach by incorporating a few products into her beauty arsenal.
Christina has teamed up with Nioxin 5, an expert-hair loss brand, as a step towards prevention. Her current routine includes the Nioxin System Kit 5, which comes equipped with a Cleanser Shampoo, Scalp Therapy Conditioner, and Scalp & Hair Treatment with niacinamide and peppermint oil as key ingredients.
If you experience postpartum hair loss, it's important to know that you are not alone. While on a recent panel, dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara shared that the shedding process is as natural as the birth that led to it. "Postpartum hair loss is our bodies response to the physiological and emotional stress of giving birth. Our hair typically goes through a growth and shedding cycle, but after you have a baby, the hair shedding phase out-paces the growing phase, so we experience excessive hair shedding."
Thankfully, Christina's vulnerability in sharing her experience is a step towards normalizing a commonly taboo conversation. "I want to share my story because I know there are many other women going through this that may not realize how common this is and that there are ways to treat it effectively," she reflects.
Christina Milian sat down with xoNecole to discuss the unexpected blessing of motherhood, regaining her confidence postpartum, the balancing act of entrepreneurship, and more!
xoNecole: You recently mentioned that in your 20s, you didn’t really see yourself becoming a mother. And now you have a beautiful family of your own. What advice would you give to young women who aspire to have a career and family, but don’t think they can “have it all?”
Christina Milian: Yes. I can't believe I had three kids. If you ever told me that 10 years ago, or even five years ago, I would have laughed at you. But I think my best advice to them is don't doubt yourself. Sometimes we don't necessarily get [everything] all at once, but there's a reason and it's giving you the space to be able to handle what's happening in your life at this very moment. I think if you continue to have that passion, don't let it go. Sometimes we just feel like we're not able to achieve [our goals] just yet, or wonder, is it ever going to happen? But life is much longer and things happen in our lives at the right time. And I think when it comes down to opportunity; they present themselves when it's the right time for you.
Look at me: having more babies, multi-tasking, and doing the many jobs that I'm doing. When I was in my twenties, I had lost my record deal. I thought my career was over. I thought, 'Oh, I'm too old to come back. I'm not going to be able to do this.' But I put my faith in God and I was open to what was meant to happen. And it all rolled out and its own time.
Your time will come, so don't get discouraged.
"When I was in my twenties, I had lost my record deal. I thought my career was over. I thought my career was over. I thought, 'Oh, I'm too old to come back. I'm not going to be able to do this.' But I put my faith in God and I was open to what was meant to happen. And it all rolled out and its own time.Your time will come, so don't get discouraged."
You have a really popular food truck, Beignet Box, along with balancing your acting career. What are some core values that help you stay grounded as you balance entrepreneurship and motherhood?
I think it's important to stay grounded, be humble, and understand people. It's one thing to know yourself, but you know yourself better when you can be optimistic and understanding of other people's stories, their backgrounds, and why they are the way they are. It makes you a better human and a better business person, especially as an entrepreneur because you're understanding your audience. Being that way opens you up for opportunity and for learning.
A common theme of your movies is love. From 'Love Don’t Cost a Thing', 'Falling Inn Love', and recently, 'Resort to Love'. We don’t always get to see Afro-Latina women as romantic leads, so when it comes to representation, why is it important to you to go after these roles and be that positive image?
First, I love love. I'm so happy that with Resort to Love, Netflix took a really good mainstream approach to push the movie. The reason why I do love movies and comedy is to make people feel good and laugh. I think people seek love and to feel that kind of joy. I love the fact that we get to see our people really strive and do films like this. I mean, look at Resort to Love, we were in the top 10, number one movie on Netflix. And that was globally.
It makes me happy because it opens the doors for other people. It's bringing to light that love comes in all forms and stories. And I know that there's somebody out there who's dreaming like I did when I was watching Rosario Dawson and Jennifer Lopez. I feel like there's some girl who's watching and saying the same thing.
So I hope to open doors for them, for them to feel that one day.
For more of Christina Milian, follow her on Instagram. And Netflix and chill with her new movie, Resort to Love, now streaming.
Featured image courtesy of Christina Milian
We've all heard the common phrase "Jane of All Trades" thrown around, but it's always a bonus to be able to put a face with the concept that we, as Black women, can both aspire to and relate with. Angela Yee is one such person.
Many of us know her as the lone female voice (of smart-witted reason) who has held it down proper for all of us as a host on The Breakfast Club, offering a dose of powerful femininity and intelligence that keeps her co-hosts, out-of-pocket callers, and famous guests in line when need-be. She's done this while juggling duties as the co-founder of Juices for Life, a juice bar launched in Brooklyn, N.Y., managing director of Drink Fresh Juice, a juice and wellness drink brand, founder of Private Label Detroit, a boutique line of hair extensions and wigs, and her latest venture Coffee Uplifts People (CUP), a coffee brand that puts inclusivity at the forefront.
Oh, and let's not forget the podcast, Lip Service, which she hosts with two other unapologetically boss and bold women, Stephanie Santiago and Gigi Maguire, where they talk sex and relationships with hip-hop and pop culture elite.
Paras Griffin/Getty Images
So you might have read all that and said, "Well, sis, that ain't all trades." Let's go back a bit: Yee got her start in entertainment interning for MTV and, later, for the legendary powerhouse that is the WuTang Clan. She transitioned into a management role with the group, handling payroll, attending label meetings, and organizing events. Before that, she was a teacher of 6th- and 7th-graders, and she'd eventually go on to work in satellite radio, hosting and co-hosting popular shows before becoming part of the award-winning trio at The Breakfast Club.
And she does it all with the kind of coy smile and effortless style that brings to mind Bey's "I Woke Up Like This" mantra.
Image via TeamYee/Facebook
We caught up with Yee for this exclusive xoNecole interview, right before her appearance at this year's Célébrez en Rosé, a two-day VIP experience taking place in Washington, D.C. on Labor Day weekend.
The event, which centers on culture, Rosé and entertainment, is set to feature headliners including Lupe Fiasco and Estelle. "I am really just deliberate about supporting other Black entrepreneurs," Yee said. "We've had such a rough past year-a-half, and it's not even over yet. The fact that they're doing it in two days this year so that it can be a socially distanced event is something that shows that we need some time and space to be together, but we need to do that as cautiously as possible. We need it."
Yee talked further about why women need to stick together and rely on their tribes, what's really behind her more than 15 years in entertainment, and why she chooses to keep pushing boundaries in business.
xoNecole: You've been in the media business for many years and have remained relevant, fresh, and successful. What do you think has helped in your longevity?
Angela Yee: Networking has been one of the main things, especially early on, but to continue doing that is one of the most important. Also, it's about being able to work really hard and having the ability and skill to accomplish the things you want to. Another thing [that's key is] supporting people and treating people well, along with that networking. Whether it is the receptionist or the president of the company, you should treat everybody with respect.
"Once I start feeling comfortable in a position, I know it's time for me to figure out what my next move is. I never want to become complacent or feel like, 'OK I got this down pat' because I feel like I'm not challenging myself. So it's always important to challenge myself."
Along with that is to always learn. I'm always taking classes on different things or even just looking online to find out ways I can improve myself. With starting a business and being an entrepreneur, I still take classes with the Small Business Administration in New York. I'm getting my real estate license as well, so I believe that you should always be challenged to advance and learn even more.
And last, it's really hard work. Nothing beats hard work, and you can't just coast by. I still go the extra mile. If you listen to the show, I'm the one who most likely has done the research. I'm the one looking up the story and making sure I get to work before everyone else. Hard work is just a fundamental thing. Nobody wants to work with somebody who doesn't pull their own weight, and I go above and beyond.
Image via TeamYee/Facebook
And that's even clear in the multiple businesses you've launched, from your juice bar to your line of juices and wellness drinks, to the extensions line, and now with CUP. Why get into coffee?
We were looking for a space during the pandemic to store the juices. So we met with the owner of Brooklyn Roasting Co. [Jim Munson] about their place at the Brooklyn Navy Yard because they had this huge refrigerator we could use. Our guy LaRon [Batchelor], who's one of my partners for the company, had worked with him already, doing sales and distribution. So after our meeting, we all just had a synergy, and he told us, "You guys should think about starting a coffee company." We were already like, "Hmmm, maybe we could actually do that."
Partnering up with a company like Brooklyn Roasting that already knows the ins and outs of the business, we knew they'd be able to support us if they were on board. They own 25 percent of CUP and they're helping us a lot, even with opening the space, with the equipment, and with training. They are also able to roast our beans. It was just kind of a no-brainer at the time.
"There are several reasons that coffee might not be healthy [such as] when you add a lot of cream and sugar, but the coffee beans themselves are really good for you. I know it's helped me so much as far as my mind being sharp and the caffeine helping me stay awake for the day. It also has great benefits for your digestive system. I only add almond milk. That is my trick to make sure I get those benefits."
I also love the fact that the history of coffee [began] in Ethiopia. Most of the population there drinks coffee and so it really is something we should be involved in from start to finish in all different aspects. I want to make sure we're always educating ourselves and encouraging people to be on board with that. Sometimes, I think when we think of coffee, we think middle-aged white man. We have to change that thinking.
In wearing many hats, sometimes you've also been the only woman in the room holding your position. What's your advice for other women to take up space?
We always must show and prove. And get your tribe together. Make sure you have other supportive women around you, and support other women as well, because we have so many things in common when it comes to being in these spaces not always feeling welcome, comfortable or valued.
"We should be intentional about learning from other women so that we can have people we can lean on. That's helped me a lot. It's great when you have a rough day at work or something happens and you have someone you can speak to—who you can vent to and come up with a plan of action."
Also, don't let people make you feel defeated. You have to go hard. That really drives me because I know what my skills and abilities are and I'm not going to give anybody the pleasure of ever seeing me fail.
For more on Angela Yee and her ventures, follow her on Instagram @AngelaYee. And to check out more information on headliners and tickets for the Célébrez en Rosé festival, visit their website.
Featured image via Angela Yee
Here at xoNecole our "summer body" goals consist of two things: confidence and strength. The physical perks that come along with those are just added bonuses, but still, it feels good to look in the mirror and have those reflected. If you feel like you need to get on track to finding your inner and outer hot girl as Megan Thee Stallion would say, we've got the workout for you. We promise you'll be rapping, "Handle me? Who gon' handle me?" in the mirror before you know it.
Tone & Sculpt trainer Danyele Wilson is a HIIT master and specializes in creating quick, effective workouts that are more about gaining confidence than losing pounds or inches.
She designed a powerful HIIT circuit exclusively for xoNecole readers that will have you feeling like the stallion that you are before any end of the summer soirées. Follow her instructions below for a mid-summer burn and then check out the rest of her workouts on the Tone & Sculpt app.
Perform each move below for the number of given reps. Repeat the circuit 3-4 times for a quick HIIT workout that will get your heart racing!
Dumbbell back lunge to knee drive: 10 reps each leg
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your upper body straight and gaze forward, step one leg backward, lowering your hips until knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle.
Keep your weight in your front heel and drive your back leg forward, bringing that knee into your chest. Return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg.
High knee run and stick: 30 seconds
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and lift your left knee to your chest. Quickly alternate and lift your right knee to your chest, then your left knee, and finally stick with your right knee to your chest. Hold for a few seconds before alternating legs to repeat the same movement.
Romanian DeadLift to Dumbbell clean: 10 reps
Hold onto dumbbells and stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. With a slight bend to the knees and keeping them stationary, start lowering the dumbbells by bending at the waist and keeping the back straight.
In one swift motion, explosively extend through your hips and bring the dumbbells up to your shoulders, keeping the dumbbells as close to your body as possible the entire time. Lower the dumbbells to move into the Romanian deadlift starting position and repeat.
Broad jump to back-pedal: 30 seconds
Stand straight with your hands by your side and your feet hip-width apart. Extend your arms back while explosively jumping forward, landing 4-6 ft. in front of your starting position. Shuffle back to the starting position and repeat.
Side plank thread the needle: 10 reps each side
Start in a side plank position with your hand raised. Lower your arm in and twist it under your torso, keeping the core engaged. Control your arm back up into the starting side plank position and repeat.
Editor's note: Remember, it's always best to consult your physician before making any extreme changes to your fitness routine.
To work out with Danyele, visit www.toneandsculpt.app to download Tone & Sculpt's free 14-day trial.
Featured image by Mike Tittel courtesy of Danyele Wilson
Haitian-born writer Mike Gauyo, also known as "Black Boy Writes," is breaking barriers in the television arena. His love of writing began as a hobby at a young age. It wasn't until he went to college to become a doctor that he knew the medical field wasn't for him. Taking time to perfect his craft in writing, opportunities arrived, giving the trailblazer a chance to work as a production assistant on the film The Equalizer and reality TV's American Idol.
Moving to Los Angeles, California was an exciting jump in Mike's career. After taking on a part-time job working at a local gym, within 6 months, he crossed paths with filmmaker Issa Rae.
Rae put together a creative mixer back in 2015 for creatives to attend. The requirements for entry was for candidates to submit a sample of their writing. Gauyo's work was chosen and from there, his fairy tale dream would come true. "I met Issa for all of two minutes, but I made her laugh within those two minutes. I said, 'She's going to remember me,'" the tickled writer mentioned.
The two were able to stay in contact as they continued to cross paths. Issa gave Gauyo his first writing opportunity on a scripted podcast she created, called Fruit, where he wrote for two seasons. This allowed him to build a network with other writers.
"Meeting Issa Rae was a story of perseverance, following up, being persistent and all of the characteristics and attributes you need to be a successful writer."
Without knowing what was in store down the road, Issa reached back out to Mike offering him a position as staff writer on HBO's Insecure for Season 4. Unfortunately, he was unable to accept the position due to timing. As devastating as it may sound, Gauyo was offered another position. He landed his first staff writer job for Season 1 of Netflix's hottest television drama, Ginny and Georgia. Gauyo expressed, "The show resonated with the demographic of teens to senior citizens. It was at an equal level. Talking about the biracial Black experience and the biracial Asian experience, and even speaking about single parents and raising their children."
Mike took a lot of pride in making it known that many of the writers and executives of the show were first-timers. "A lot of times the industry doesn't take a chance on you because you're new and because they don't want to take the risk. I think that Ginny and Georgia is proof that more networks, more executives need to take the risk because it was a room full of people doing this for the first time," he happily mentioned.
Continuing to pave the way for people of color in the industry, Gauyo launched a partnership with Culture Creative where he birthed his mentorship program that focuses on providing support and resources to preWGA Black writers. The program is aptly titled the Black Boy Writes/Black Girl Writes Mentorship Initiative. "I felt as though there were a lot of preWGA writers who weren't being seen, who had the talent but didn't have the access. I've spent years building a roll of industry contacts and people I've built genuine relationships with who I can pick up and call."
"If I can do that for another writer who possesses the talent and just doesn't have the access to the contacts they need, I will help them."
Currently, Gauyo is in the writers' room of Netflix's Ginny and Georgia, as the show was renewed for another season after the first season was watched by 52 million subscribers. Additionally, his opportunity with Issa came back full circle as Rae offered him a position as staff writer for the fifth and final season of Insecure. Mike happily accepted.
The writer urges anyone who has a dream to push for it and never give up. Timing is everything.
Featured image via Mike Gauyo/Instagram
"I'm your girl, you're my girl, we your girls - don't you know that we love you…"
"Girl" (one of my personal favorites) was released by Destiny's Child in 2004, and the song speaks to being there for a friend who's in a toxic relationship. Today, the importance of having your tribe and being there for each other is still a powerful and significant message considering the fact that: 17 years have passed, which means responsibilities and priorities have likely changed for many of us, AND we survived a whole global pandemic. Hence, "checking in with God, yourself, and others," is so important for such a time as this.
Throughout the pandemic, we've heard a lot about Zoom fatigue. However, when the beautiful, talented, multi-platinum, award-winning artist, and member of one of the best-selling girl groups of all-time, Michelle Williams, shows up on your computer screen, all of that so-called Zoom fatigue goes out the window.
Recently, I had the wonderful honor and pleasure of "checking in" with Michelle Williams. When Michelle first appeared on my screen, there was an effervescent glow about her. It wasn't just the fact she was rocking a glamorous, natural look, or the vibrant pink lighting that added a delicate, yet fierce, femininity to the room. Instead, it was her kind, warm, down-to-earth spirit, and her humble and genuine personality. As someone who has experienced and invested in my own mental health journey, not only could I relate on so many levels, but I was all the more appreciative for her candidness.
During our "check-in," we discussed how Michelle courageously decided to share intimate details and experiences in her new book, Checking In: How Getting Real about Depression Saved My Life and Can Save Yours. She also shared the importance of checking in, how she's overcome public shame, embarrassment, and humiliation, as well as how she navigates mental health in her relationships. And let me tell you...she definitely kept it real.
Getting Real with Yourself
xoNecole: Because you are such a private person, how difficult was it for you to openly share and pen your mental health journey and experiences?
Michelle Williams: So many people told me about the healing effects of writing. So, a girlfriend and I went to a cabin one weekend, and I began to write and voice everything. It was like a therapy session. As a singer, I'm used to putting everything in a voice recorder. So, writing the book wasn't different. It was very healing and very restorative.
In your book, you shared a story about how when you originally joined Destiny’s Child and were asked about your name: “Who do you think little girls want to be like? Tenitra or Michelle?” Although you chose Michelle, there was a part of you that also thought about: “...how much my feelings of unworthiness may have sprung from comments just like that one. I wonder how much influence I lost by exchanging that label.” Reflecting on that, how have you peeled away those layers and labels to truly embrace your authentic self?
Michelle: Just so people know, Destiny's Child did not make me depressed. The music industry did not make me depressed. This is something that I've been dealing with since the 7th grade but I was finally able to put a name to it by my thirties. At first I was scared to include that part because this is not a tell-all book, but based on the way it was written and the heart of the book, by now, people know Tenitra Michelle. They know I'm not out here trying to ruin my 20-year friendships with Beyonce and Kelly.
Besides, Michelle in the beginning of Destiny's Child didn't know what she was doing. So, a part of me felt like I could keep Tenitra to myself. I am Michelle, but at times, "Michelle" served as a cover-up or a mask, but it was Tenitra who was wounded and hurt. Tenitra needed the miracle and emotional healing. Now, the only label I've got that matters is God's: God's creation. God's work. God's child.
"I am Michelle, but at times, 'Michelle' served as a cover-up or a mask, but it was Tenitra who was wounded and hurt. Tenitra needed the miracle and emotional healing. Now, the only label I've got that matters is God's: God's creation. God's work. God's child."
Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Tyler Perry Studios
We know how close you, Beyonce, and Kelly are, but how difficult was it for you to be open and honest with them about your mental health journey initially?
Michelle: Many times, we talk ourselves out of having conversations that we know we can have with our girlfriends. When I joined Destiny's Child, I know that Beyonce was really struggling with depression. Her two childhood friends were no longer in the group even though they had dreams and plans. So, I couldn't come in and be like, "You know, I'm depressed too." I wanted things to go smoothly, so I did what needed to be done. Fast forward to some years later, Bey and Kelly were getting married and having children. So, I talked myself out of talking to them. I didn't want to be a "Debbie downer." I didn't want to bring the wrong energy.
Then, in 2018, we were rehearsing for Coachella and I was newly engaged, but I felt like I couldn't go to anybody with this. I didn't want to ruin anything. That's also a trick of the enemy - he wants you to feel like you can't speak about it. His job is to "kill, steal, and destroy." So, he isolates you and makes you believe that you can't talk about it. He tries to mute your mouth because your mouth is powerful...it can open doors, build up and tear down. It can get you the help that you need. So, when I finally did tell them, their response was: "Michelle! You could've and should've come to us!" To this day and even recently, Mrs. Tina, told me, "I wish you would've told us."
For those who may not fully understand the weight of mental illness or they’re on the outside looking in and all they see is the glitz and the glam, what do you say to those who may think, “If your life is that good, then what’s there to feel depressed about?”
Michelle: You might be successful, functioning well, but there may be things that you need to process - trauma, transitions (e.g. job, move, relationship, getting married, getting divorced), and even triumphs. Everything doesn't have to come tumbling down before you go seek help. The main purpose of money is that it enables me to pay my bills on time, and now, thankfully, it enables me to get help.
Getting Real about Relationships
Sometimes, when we struggle with mental health issues and depression, we may feel like it makes us unloveable. How do you navigate and approach those tough talks with partners when you’re experiencing depression and you’re not OK?
Michelle: I've gone out with a few people a few times and you just slide the topic in there….definitely not on the first date though. It could be as simple as asking, "What do you think about this person or that person," or "What are your thoughts about therapy?" You can talk about me if you have to by saying something like, "Hey, what do you think about Michelle and her story?" Then, observe how they respond to the conversation.
Reflecting on your past relationships, what have you learned in terms of how well or difficult it was to manage your mental health in your relationships?
Michelle: I wish I had taken off my superwoman cape and shared more about my mental health sooner than later. I wish I had done that with the man that I was engaged to. I can do it now, but back then, I couldn't. I was afraid because I knew this man had been waiting for a wife this whole time and here I was about to tell him, "Uhhh, I think I'm depressed." So, once he did find out, he was crushed that I didn't say anything because he wanted to be there since he's a natural "fixer" anyway. Now, I just go ahead and talk about it because I want to see the other person's response. If their response is not a supportive one, then we don't have anything else to discuss.
"I wish I had taken off my superwoman cape and shared more about my mental health sooner than later. I wish I had done that with the man that I was engaged to. I can do it now, but back then, I couldn't."
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
On the flip side, if you’re with someone who is experiencing mental health issues, how can one be supportive?
Michelle: Check on them, and also educate yourself. My ex-fiance was supportive, but he wasn't aware or knowledgeable about certain things. I know he was crucified by a lot of people on the internet because of a past episode of our show when he asked me if I had taken my medicine. Nonetheless, we were trying to get the world to also see what this looks like (relationships and mental health), and how unfortunately, sometimes we say things that are offensive to the people we love.
Asking for Help
In your book, you talk about the moment when you finally admitted and said, “I don’t feel safe...I need help.” Was there a specific situation that led you to that pivotal moment, or do you think it was a culmination of everything you had been feeling?
Michelle: It was a culmination of everything that had transpired. It's like the game Jenga. You're stacking blocks on top of blocks, but the removal or placement of a single block can cause everything to crumble. For me, I felt the symptoms of depression, so by the time I went to the hospital in 2018, I had been feeling the symptoms for awhile, things were building, and I was in a dark place. I remember being in the bed talking on the phone with a pastor and his wife and they said, "In the morning, if you don't feel better, do what you gotta do." So, I did.
So many people struggle with asking for and getting help even privately. How difficult was it for you to experience something so private yet on a public platform for all the world to see?
Michelle: By the time I walked into a mental health facility, the shame had already left. My lip wasn't even waxed and I didn't take any clothes with me. One of the nurses went to Target and bought clothes for the duration of my stay including clothes, panties...whatever I needed. Shortly thereafter, my manager called me and said that a [certain media outlet] needed confirmation about my whereabouts since it was about to go public. So, I released a statement merely because I didn't want them to tell MY story. I wanted to control my own narrative. That's when the shame, embarrassment and humiliation came.
For someone who may be struggling right now or feeling shame about wanting to seek help, what would you say to her?
Michelle: There are a lot of reasons why people don't go to therapy, but I pray that your desperation and your wellness outweighs all of that. Let God do what he's going to do with everyone else because it's going to work out for you. Your life and your well-being has to outweigh your pride, the fear, and shame. Part of the reason why the shame left when I arrived at the mental health facility was because I was so desperate for help. Shame can't be in the same spot as desperation. As Shanti Das and her organization says, "Silence the shame." In other words, silence the fear, and let courage and bravery be amplified.
"There are a lot of reasons why people don't go to therapy, but I pray that your desperation and your wellness outweighs all of that. Let God do what he's going to do with everyone else because it's going to work out for you. Your life and your well-being has to outweigh your pride, the fear, and shame. Shame can't be in the same spot as desperation."
Social media can be a double-edged sword. How do you manage your social media intake? Do you ever take social media breaks as a way to help protect your peace?
Michelle: Yes, I'm very intentional about the follow button. I curate and follow people based on how I want my vision board to look. When someone tells you "your music changed my life," I gotta respond. I love to engage with people but there are times when I do take a break. It's healthy when you're not scrolling all day. Now, have I responded a time or two to those who aren't kind? Absolutely, but I don't do that all the time because I don't want to be known as the "clapback queen."
Checking in and Doing the Work
Besides therapy, have you explored or tried other forms of therapy or treatment?
Michelle: I've [had] a few sessions of something called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR); which is a form of therapy that helps with trauma in terms of desensitizing and disarming. There's also guided stretching, diet-related factors, and boundaries. Boundaries are so important. Being able to say things like, "No, I'm not talking about this," or "No, I'm not doing this," or "No, I don't have the emotional capacity."
I also respect others and their boundaries as well; so much so that if I know I'm about to initiate a heavy conversation, I'll ask, "Do you have the emotional capacity to listen to what I'm about to tell you?"
My condolences to you as I know your dad passed away a short while ago. Would you say that your faith and the mental health work that you’ve done have helped with managing your grief?
Michelle: Definitely. My therapist was on stand-by when I needed her. Just talking to somebody helped me deal with the sadness of the loss of him; the sadness of when I call my mother, I won't hear him in the background. I'm not over it of course, but what's helping me over is the way in which he passed. At the time, my mother was singing hymns to him, but little did she know, she was ushering him into Heaven. I told my Mama (laughs), "I think God and daddy had a Zoom meeting and they orchestrated the way he tiptoed out of here like a G."
I even had hopes of him walking me down the aisle one day, but I guess he was like, "I tried. I waited, but it just didn't work out. I'm ready to go." So, I have tremendous peace about where he is and how he left.
In your book, you stated: “When we fail to check in with ourselves - aware of our own thoughts, feelings, and spirituality - we fail to live as God wants us to live. Because we fail to see ourselves as God sees us." What does checking in look like for you now?
Michelle: I started the process of "checking in" back in 2019. In 2019, I was still going through the thick of everything that happened in 2018. So it was a healing journey of everything that I went through in 2018. Checking in with myself means being aware of how I'm feeling before going to bed. Saying things out loud. Listening to music. Checking in with God centers around praying and talking to God.
Checking in with others means calling up someone as soon as I think about them, and if they don't answer, then I'll send a text. It's about being more intentional. It's also about having the courage to tell my friends, "Hey, I'm feeling overwhelmed," but also being mindful about not putting too much pressure on my friends. That's why processing things with your therapist is important.
Because you’ve revealed so much of yourself to the world, what is your greatest hope for your book and everything that you’re doing?
Michelle: I can't bare my heart and soul anymore than I already have...that's how much I want to help inspire and impact the world. My hope is that Checking In will help people get real about their mental health issues and give them the courage to seek help. Do it for you and your future. You deserve it and your future is coming. There are certain insurance companies that will cover some or all of your therapy sessions, as well as certain schools that offer assistance with getting therapy.
However, if you're out there and you can't necessarily afford therapy or don't have immediate access to resources: at least start by asking yourself, "How am I feeling?" As my cousin, Brittany - who happens to be a therapist - likes to say, "Feel your feelings." Be aware of your feelings - whether sadness, anger, grief, or whatever - because those are natural, legitimate responses to whatever's going on around you. Everyone doesn't have to be the poster child for mental health, but I want to be the poster child for seeking help.
For more of Michelle, follow her on Instagram. Checking In: How Getting Real about Depression Saved My Life and Can Save Yours is out now.
Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Featured image by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images