“I'm sorry. My momma is tryna talk to me while I'm on the phone with you," Fantasia Barrino apologizes in a soft-toned small voice over the phone. It's quite surreal to be speaking to the woman I casted votes for on American Idol when I was just 16 years old. Back then, my entire family tuned in weekly, completely captivated by the North Carolina native's soulful performances. I vividly remember how she'd bend and transform classics like "Chain Of Fools" and make them her own. Little Patti LaBelle, as she was quickly nicknamed, would sweat, kick off her shoes and allow her gospel roots to shine. She gave everything.
Now, after 13 years of career highs and personal lows, the 32-year-old singer is in the middle of discussing “I Made It," a song from her new album The Definition Of... that puts her church roots and rock influences on full display. It's also her favorite record. “It is my gospel song and I wanted to end the album how I started my career, which was singing in church," she explains in a Southern-soaked accent.
What she doesn't mention until later is that the track is incredibly indicative of how far she's come.
“That song just talks about how I made it through things most people didn't think I'd make it through."
Fantasia's singing career started in front of the world. In 2004, a then 19-year-old Fantasia, who grew up listening to the likes of Prince, Sheila E and Frankie Beverly and Maze, was crowned the winner of American Idol. In just a few months, she skyrocketed and quickly felt the whirlwind of fame. As a young, inexperienced singer who just won a national singing competition, the road to fame was mapped out for her by the powers of the television network, from managers to lawyers to the songs she was expected to record. “You don't really get the option to say what you really want to do. When you win, you're assigned to a management company, you're signed to a label. You don't really have an opportunity to say what you want to do and what you don't want to do. And that can be very, very tough."
Though she was caged creatively, her debut album Free Yourself, birthed from Idol orchestration, eventually went platinum and was Grammy-nominated two years later. Her second and third studio efforts, Fantasia and Back To Me respectively, received much of the same success, earning her Grammy nods, a Grammy win for “Bittersweet", and landed her on Broadway's rendition of The Color Purple as Celie.
“I thank God for the favor that was on my life and the opportunity that I was able to do outside of just the music," she says, describing this critical time of her career. “I was able to do Broadway, I was able to do my own Lifetime movie, and in all of that, I was able to show the people that I can do a little bit of anything if I put my mind to it."
As Fantasia continued to create songs, from a fan's perspective, the music never faltered. Receiving largely positive reviews, her now five studio albums have all reflected her intuitive, soulful rock sound, with the latest LP being her most musically authentic. For years, however, Fantasia suffered beneath the weight of vicious media headlines and the highs and lows of her business deals (she was dropped from Simon Fuller's management company in 2008). Rumors about her illiteracy and relationship with married boyfriend Antwaun Cook were strewn around the internet and eventually culminated in a suicide attempt.
“That's a feeling I would never be able to explain because words cannot explain how lonely and how hurt I was," she says. “I came off of Idol taking care of my whole entire family, so I went through a lot of dark times. It was almost like being in a glass box where everybody could see me but I couldn't get out of that box. It was just me. No one wanted to help. Everyone just wanted to talk about it, but not many people were stepping up and saying, 'Hey, I wanna reach out.'"
Thankfully, people like Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, Aretha Franklin and Patti LaBelle were in her corner during those times. “They all reached out because they all had been there."
The Power Of Love
Despite breakups and hitting the lowest valleys of her life, Fantasia doesn't carry the burden of the past on her shoulders. Though we're delving into her trials, she sounds grateful for those soul-crushing obstacles. “I can thank God for those times because being here at the age of 32 making it through so much, I feel like it was a part of my journey," she says. “There's not a day that goes by that I don't meet someone––young, old, black, white, female, male––that comes up to me and wants me to talk and encourage them. God allowed me to go through certain storms and certain tests to have a testimony and share it to help somebody else along the way."
She also credits the love of her life, husband Kendall Taylor, for finding the strength to love herself past her pain. The two wed in 2015 after only a few short weeks of dating. Admittedly broken and insecure at the time, the mother of two says she found her perfect guy by switching up her approach to love.
“I fasted for seven months while I was doing my last Broadway play, After Midnight. I started realizing that what I was doing wasn't working for me, so I did something very corny and I put a ring on my own finger. I did a lot of praying and watched a lot of things that were good for my spirit. Me and Kendall married before we made love, so it wasn't about my body or my money. He was a man with his own business and he was also a man with a past. I think I fell in love with that the most because he did not let his past block his future. He has a story and a testimony, too."
I hear her smiling through the phone as we discuss her prince charming, and it takes everything inside of me not to let a few amens loose. You see, I'm still in the toad-kissing phase of dating, but to know this soul singer found the love she deserves is the spoonful of hope single black women need. She makes it plain that every day isn't "peaches and cream," but they both put in the work to make their love flourish. "He always says he married me to date me," she laughs. An example? Her hubby recently took her on a date to where they got married and she live streamed in on Facebook.
The lessons she's learning from this new love are even more encouraging. “Love is fragile," she says. "You have to be patient with love. You have to make sure that the way you carry yourself, the words that come out of your mouth, that you're being careful because we're both still human."
These are the lessons of love Fantasia wants to pass down to her kids, especially her daughter Zion. “My husband teaches them what a man should be and he shows them by how he treats me. I show them how to be themselves. Both roles play a big part."
It's like a sigh of relief to see the woman Fantasia has become. Like much of the world, I saw the stones thrown her way from all angles. But in this moment, I can tell Fantasia is free from the dark times that crippled her. Both personally and musically, she's on a high. "I'm at that point where as an artist, I'm supposed to be able to creatively share what I want to share with the world musically, video-wise, fashion-wise. I'm supposed to be able to express that and not have someone tell me what to sing, how it should sound, what to wear. I'm just finally to that point of like, if I'm going to go through all that I'm going to go through. If I'm gonna catch flack and people talking about me, I might as well just do what I want to do the way I want to do it."
Does she regret anything? Not at all.
“I realize in life that we must go through things and understand that everything we go through is necessary. It was necessary for me to go through it in order for me to do my music and do what I do on the stage."
For anyone, finding yourself and your voice is a major key to living well. For Fantasia, it's the definition of who she is today. “At this point I've been through so many things and I'm every woman."
Featured image via Jamie Lamor Thompson / Shutterstock.com
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Can you believe that we’re literally just a few weeks away from 2024? I know I can’t. Hell, I still remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, and even what I was wearing when we all rang in 2000 — and now, look at us. *le sigh*
Anyway, the reason why I decided to pen this particular piece is because I’ve got some women in my world who like to be up on the latest beauty (and fashion) trends, long before others are — and so, I penned this with them (and the women who are just like them) in mind.
If that is indeed you, please take out a sec to check out some of the things that will be pretty damn popular when it comes to make-up, hair, and even nails next year. All are relatively affordable (except for maybe one), all are easy to implement into the beauty routine that you currently have, and as a Black woman, all are ones that you can step out in and totally dominate with.
Are you ready to check out 12 beauty trends for 2024 that you can show the world as soon as today?
Beauty Forecast: 12 Beauty Trends Set to Dominate 2024
1. Side Parts
Although I’m a “middle/center part” gal myself, and a trend isn’t really gonna change that (LOL), if you are a huge fan of side parts, those are gonna be all the rage next year whether you choose to wear your hair up (which could create a side fringe) or down.
Something that’s cool about this particular look is, if you’re someone who happens to have fine hair and you want to create some volume, a side part can create that for you. Or, if you’re in the process of trying to grow out your hair and one side is longer than the other (which is completely normal, by the way), instead of constantly cutting the longer side (in order to make everything “even”), a side part can give the illusion that your hair is a bit asymmetrical…on purpose.
2. Colorful Eyeliners
Whether you want to make your eyes the focal point of a particular make-up look or you want to add something that can seamlessly take you from day to night — eyeliner has you covered. In 2024, rather than going with a traditional neutral color, seek out ones that are as bold and bright as possible. You can use a bold blue on your waterline to give your eyes more depth (if your eyes are a dark brown, it can make them stand out more, too) or a neon color to make a “winged eye” that could be fun when you’re going out with your girls. This trend is basically a reminder to have fun with your make-up next year. Life is short…why not?
Delmaine Donson/Getty Images
3. Mushroom Extract
Something that was building in popularity last year that will get even bigger next year is mushroom extract being added to skincare products. Apparently, the properties in mushrooms can do everything from deeply hydrate and soothe irritated skin to brighten up dark spots where hyperpigmentation may be an issue. Since mushrooms are rich in zinc (which is great at treating acne and eczema), selenium (which helps your body to produce antioxidants) and several forms of vitamin B (which reduces aging signs) — it would make sense that this vegetable would get its moment in the beauty world spotlight.
A word of caution, though: if, like me, you have a fungal sensitivity, do remember that mushroom is a fungus, so…to be on the safe side, this might be a trend that you’ll have to take a pass on.
4. Three-in-One Products
It wasn’t too long ago that CNN published an article on some of its editors’ favorite “multiuse” products. That’s because something else that you’ll be seeing more of is people opting for beauty-based items that they can use for more than just one thing: eyeshadow that can be used as a blush and maybe even a lip color base or foundation that also works as a concealer and finishing powder as well. If one of your plans is to ring in the new year with at least one less junk drawer, you can always get more space in by purchasing three-in-one beauty products. It’s an ultimate hack on a few different levels.
5. “Random” Rhinestones
The feature image for this article? The reason why I chose it is because it’s something else that is gonna be big in beauty over the next several months. Sure, rhinestones are pretty common on the nails (and sometimes even on eyelids); however, you’re gonna see them being randomly placed on hair, the face, the arms…chile, everywhere. So, if you’ve already decided that next year is the year that you really want to make a statement, add some rhinestones to some of your looks. Hell, invest in some Swarovski crystals while you’re at it; they definitely provide a solid “bling” effect!
6. Balletcore Nails
If you adore the look of super feminine nails, then this trend has your first, middle, and last name all over it.
If you’re wondering what the heck balletcore nails are, they’re nails that are designed in such a way where they look very similar to a ballet slipper — the shape of the shoe and color. The dope thing about this trend is, as far as the hue of pink and length of nails, you can totally customize it to your liking.
Anyway, I think we’re gonna see a whole lot of this in 2024 — so why not stroll into the holiday season with a set of ‘em?
7. Hair Ribbons
Speaking of ballet, when it comes to the signature hairstyle (the bun), it’s pretty common to see hair ribbons that are wrapped around them, right? Well, when it comes to hair accessories, ribbons are about to be EVERYWHERE, y’all. Ribbons interwoven through braids. Ribbons tied around ponytails. Ribbons used as headbands. So, if you’ve got a daughter and you like to dress her tresses up with ribbons, looks like she’ll be sharing them with you in 2024. Have fun!
8. Biodegradable Beauty Products
The mere fact that, in America, 350 metric tons of plastic is wasted on an annual basis — that should be reason enough for us to want to be more intentional about supporting the sustainable side of the beauty industry. A specific way to do that is to purchase beauty products that are biodegradable. From what I’ve (briefly) read and researched on the topic, because this is still a relatively new trend in the cosmetics world, some companies are abusing “biodegradable” in the way that a lot of food companies misuse the word “organic.”
Still, if you want to get more into doing what’s best for the environment as far as your own beauty products are concerned, looking for ones that are vegan (a cool list is here, here, and here) is a great place to start.
9. Embellished Chrome Nail Designs
Although I personally don’t wear it a lot (when it comes to make-up), I do like the look of chrome. It has a way of being modern and yet timeless at the same time. Plus, it’s very sleek and works well with the various skin tones of our ethnicity quite well. And even though chrome-polished nails have been around for several years now (as far as popularity goes), the next few seasons are going to showcase chrome nails that have designs on them or an upgraded French manicure where the tips are chrome (you can see an example of what I’m talking about here). I could see this look getting you a lot of compliments for Christmas. Just something to keep in mind as your holiday party invites get ready to roll in.
10. Genetic-Based Beauty Items
Are you wondering what the heck “genetic-based beauty items” are? I feel you. If the first thing that comes to your mind is genetic testing that, people get to find out more about their DNA, apply that to the cosmetics world, and there ya go.
Bottom line, as futuristic as it might sound, the beauty industry is now getting into genetic testing so that people can discover what works best when it comes to their own personal pigmentation, how their skin ages, and what their specific hair needs may be.
11. The Look of Minimalism
Sometimes, I’ll just sit on YouTube and look at different hair and make-up tutorials — just for fun. And when it comes to mastering the “no make-up, make-up” look, Sincerely Zee (here), Dimma Umeh (here), Tea Renee (here), Naakie Nartey (here), and Fatima Bah (here) all did a pretty impressive job (with the look and showing you how to create it for yourself.) Yeah, one of my favorite things about the whole minimalism trend is it’s such a standout reminder that less really can be more, in the most visually beautiful ways.
12. The Color Red
I’m a fan of color psychology. So much, in fact, that I wrote an article on it for the platform back in the day: “Understanding Color Psychology Will Sharpen Your Lens On Life.” Well, when it comes to the color red, whether it’s on your nails, lips (Black women look STUNNING with red lipstick on), even eyes — it’s the shade that’s gonna be hard to beat next year. I ain’t got one problem with it either since red represents things like love, passion, sexiness, desire, and strength.
In fact, I can’t think of a better way to walk — or strut — into the new year than with that kind of energy, can you? So, whatever you do, remind yourself to pick up a few red cosmetics. You’ll be the belle of the ball for the holidays, for 2024, and when it comes to life, in general, if/when you do. Now get to beauty shopping, sis!
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Featured image by Yana Iskayeva/Getty Images