Just a few months ago, I packed everything that I loved (including my dog) in my Honda Civic, and traveled 22 hours from Texas to California to pursue a new venture for my business. Since making the move, I've been introduced to new opportunities, but I've also been exposed to a lot of distractions. Sometimes when you're on a new journey, it's easy to become preoccupied with unnecessary things and lose track of what truly deserves your attention and energy. In return, this can cause your productivity level to decrease. It seems like in a blink of an eye, the worst happens.
Whether you're bossing up as a business owner or in the corporate world, your level of productivity can easily dictate whether or not you're successful. Being productive isn't something you can just pop up and be a beast at immediately. Mastering productivity happens over time and requires a change in mindset and lifestyle. It's something you have to intentionally practice every day.
Recently, I connected with a few business owners on what productivity means to them and how they maintain a high level of productivity. Keep reading to learn from these bosses and snag some inspo that you can use in your own life!
Let your past and shortcomings be fuel for the future.
Image via Sky Landish
Sky Landish, Founder, StripN'Fitness:
Being productive means continuously hustling daily for the things that add up to the big picture in your mind.
"I feel as though the largest two challenges surrounding my definition of productivity is the motivation that facilitates your hustle and the vision that keeps that picture in your mind clear yet attainable. We constantly have to reinvent motivation because it can quickly expire. A vision of your picture--your end goal--can be clouded with small setbacks and financial or personal struggles such as breakups or costly bills. When I was 23 years old, I was homeless, struggling to finish college, working a full-time job, unhealthy, unhappy, and had recently been cheated on. There was a moment where I didn't know what to do. However, I somehow found my motivation in the anger of being treated less than by another human being and it led me to hustle harder, to start working out, and to share more on social media. I saw my bigger picture in my ability to take the worst situations and make them a positive light. That alone allowed me to build on me, what I wanted out of life, and how I could create the dopest future for myself.
"A productive workday for me includes waking up at 9 a.m, creating the vibe for my ladies who are signed up for my 'Transform Your Eating & Exercise' program in our Facebook group, and responding to their questions.
"After that, I answer any emails from brands for influencer collaborations, negotiate, and sign any contracts. I then go to my beauty room and tape content for my social media platform, then head to the gym to do my daily workout. Once I'm done, I go to my collaborative office space that I share with my fiancé, and we typically discuss whatever calendar updates, bookings, or other things that are coming up. We usually end the day with dinner together, and I head home to catch up on news or trending topics for the day."
Let technology aid in your productivity.
Image via Alexis Davis
Alexis Davis, Founder, The Content Plug:
There are only so many hours in a day, so having systems and using your time efficiently is vital for entrepreneurs and businesses of every size.
"It takes a certain mindset to perform at your best each and every day. For one, I strongly believe that getting started early helps me have a productive 16 hours. I like to begin my day by checking emails and responding to items that need immediate attention. I double-check my calendar to see what meetings I have planned for the day and ensure that I have my agendas and notes prepared well before my meetings are set to begin. Scrambling at the last minute will only pull me away from focusing on other important tasks.
"Managing my to-do list on Trello helps me significantly as I am able to put dates and times on tasks instead of feeling like I need to accomplish everything in one day.
"Since I am a social media manager, I spend a lot of time on the various platforms looking at discussions or trends to see if there are any conversations I can appropriately jump into on behalf of my clients and to keep an eye on current events. Ironically, looking at pages that have nothing to do with my clients can get distracting, and I have to have a bit of self-control.
"Finally, getting a full eight hours of sleep helps tremendously. I was once a person that could stay up all night and run on a few hours of sleep, but [that will] catch up to you and does not help you or your productivity in the long run! For me, a productive month ends with happy clients, new proposals delivered to potential clients, at least one new invitation to speak on a panel or teach a class, a short to-do list, and little to no emails."
It's OK to pivot.
Image via Psyche Terry
Psyche Terry, Co-founder, UI Global Brands:
Being productive means to be moving but not in the same place and to have energy but not in the same area. It's about forward motion even if it's not the original direction but you're still moving, learning, and being challenged. It's about growth rather than standing still.
"A couple of years ago in my business, we were doing themost! We had two LLCs under one company---one was apparel and the other was beauty. I was still in motion with both so [I was] not as productive with my beauty business because of the time that I was spending on the apparel brand. This wasn't a line--it was a whole company! I put a lot of time, energy, effort, and talent into it, but ultimately it was distracting from my other brand.
"Great business mentors are part of my success story. Enrolling in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program was most productive for us as a company because it helped me to identify the best path for us while truly looking at the final outcome.
"Once I considered the end result, it forced me to choose the most productive route and avoid distractions. My definition of a productive workday is constantly changing.
"I would define a productive workday as anything that helps me get closer to my end result. [It's] if I'm able to move, whether the movement is positive or negative, to get closer to that end result that I have stated for myself. This also includes self-care, rest, and being conscious of my personal well-being. To do that, I have to breathe and reflect in self-care. To me, that's the true definition because if you end up burned out at the end, then what's the point?"
Every second counts.
Image via Instagram/getfitwithmassi
Masiel Encarnación, Weight-loss coach & Founder, The ConFITence Blueprint:
Being productive means being efficient and wasting as little time as possible.
"Instagram used to be a major distraction when I first started my business. First, I followed too many influencers in the health and wellness space which clouded my creativity and focus. Scrolling through a feed full of others in your space to be 'inspired' is actually a sure-fire way to always be in second place. I had to quickly learn that being an influencer and being a profitable business owner were not always the same thing.
"The way I overcame this was to unfollow almost everyone in my space unless I knew them personally and focus on my company's framework and mission.
"Secondly, I love connecting with my community, and in the last 6 years, I've built a very engaged following. However, at one point, I constantly felt pulled into 100 different directions with requests from all over the place. My desire to be accessible and immediately responsive to hundreds of DMs (and emails) in real time was unrealistic and a huge stressor. Once I changed my mindset, prioritized revenue-generating activities, and set better business boundaries around my availability and response time, I was able to be more efficient.
"For me, a productive workday begins with self-care and non-work activities. I create, meditate, write, read, journal, exercise, eat breakfast, and then dive into work after I've already poured into myself. Work happens between the hours of 9 a.m.-9 p.m."
The small wins add up.
Image via Kaylen Zahara
Kaylen Zahara, Founder, AmazedByKay Consulting:
Productivity is knowing each day you performed a micro task that targets executing your macro goal.
"The biggest distraction for me as a founder and content creator is analysis paralysis along with a pinch of procrastination. As the boss, you have no one to micromanage you but yourself, so there are times when my moods can get the best of my mornings. The fear within will nudge me to put things off for later in the day. Before you know it, it's a new day and my to-do list has barely been tended to. On days my moods aren't in charge, my fear of failure is, and I convince myself that if I spend more hours being analytical, that contributes to productivity, therefore I can't be hard on myself after all, right? If you can relate, the best way to eliminate these habits and comfort zones are to look in the mirror and be honest. Realize you are just afraid of your best version of yourself.
"To rise to success, you have to sit with that fear and be friends with it, quiet the noise, and reprogram your subconscious to believe you are capable. Remind your conscience of your why.
"Here's what a productive workweek looks like: 5 a.m. wake-up times to set intentions for the day, 45 minutes of daily exercise, therapy sessions, deal-closing, accomplishing the biggest to smallest tasks, and assisting my team to meet their needs and to ensure overall brand success."
Being aligned with your team is important.
Image via Jasmine Shells
Jasmine Shells, Co-Founder & CEO, Five to Nine:
Productivity means to be in a state of flow and to accomplish the tasks I set for myself to complete.
"As a startup founder, things always pop up onto your radar that tend to divert your attention from the goals you set for the day. It's inevitable. Those things typically disrupt the flow completely. So I started looking at my to-do list in an aggregate week view versus a daily view. It provides me with more flexibility to accomplish my goals and to allow room for those things that pop up. For low-priority tasks, I easily prioritize them later in the week without any associated guilt.
"I've noticed that weekly to-do lists give me what feels like more control over my schedule and my mindset by creating a more realistic working environment for what startup life looks like.
"A productive workday or workweek from my perspective is alignment between my team members. We have work that is interdependent and collaborative, so keeping us all on the same page while moving a million miles an hour is a constant focus. This, to me, is the ultimate productivity goal."
Understand that success takes a village.
Image via KaDeadra McNealy
KaDeadra McNealy, Founder, Millennial Nail Bar:
As a founder, being productive is understanding what skill set isn't my strongest and reaching out to other female founders for recommendations.
"When Millennial Nail Bar (MNB) first launched, I truly thought I could do it all. From creating the website, running the social media accounts, and partaking in pitch competitions---all while searching for potential investors. I remember speaking with a fellow woman founder who not only explained how important it is to lose the grip on 'your baby' and onboard a team, but how to properly select the individual who can help you accomplish the company's goals.
"Every week, I look over the prior week and/or month's goals. This might include eliminating or continuing current tactics or understanding where the ball was dropped and how to prevent it from happening again."
Planning must meet consistency.
Image via Dawn Myers, Esq
Dawn Myers, Esq., Founder, The Most:
Peak productivity means meeting specific metrics for my organizations as efficiently and effectively as possible.
"In the past, I have been guilty of sacrificing sleep and pulling egregiously long workdays. I was moving the ball forward, but I wasn't working smart, and I was careening toward burnout. It took me a while to realize that the easy way is the smart way. I come from a professional background that glorifies backbreaking work hours, so it took some time to stop feeling guilty about delegating. I thought I was being lean by doing it all myself instead of hiring contractors and virtual assistants. I know now that delegating allows me to focus on the highest-impact activities which result in the highest impact gains. Also, delegating has forced me to build a team, put repeatable processes and training documents into place, and strengthen my management skills. I'm happier and less overwhelmed, and my company runs much more smoothly than it did when I kept a firm grip on every single task.
"Productivity is what happens when planning meets consistency. With the time freed up by delegating low-impact tasks, I've been able to embed small but mighty habits into my routine like blocking off an hour each day for investor outreach or fitting in a morning workout to power me through the rest of my day. Having the space to make consistent, measurable progress has been transformative. Measurability is the key here. Make sure that you associate goals with attainable daily and weekly metrics.
"A successful, productive week for me starts on Sunday night. I have an alarm set on my phone for 7 p.m. to skim my calendar and plan in any high-priority tasks for the week. Less is more. I aim to complete no more than I can fit on a sticky note each day (I use ruled notepads so I can't cheat by using smaller script). If I delegate effectively, adhere to healthy habits, and manage a few high-impact tasks every single day, I am guaranteed to see stunning progress month over month."
Make conscious decisions to take care of yourself first.
Image via Gabrielle Deculus
Gabrielle Deculus, Founder, Business Rules for Women:
Being productive means moving the needle forward, productivity ultimately equates to accomplishing my goals and accomplishing my goals yields success.
"To be honest, mental health has been a challenge, and I work on it daily. There have been times when I struggled with productivity because of it, specifically because of personal life events and work-related experiences. Without having proper support as a founder, you will be impacted and distracted in a multitude of ways. The bottom line is things will happen, but how will you handle it? This is why I actively invest in my mental health and why I started Business Rules for Women. Being ambitious and in business can be lonely, and I have had to deal with a lot on my own.
"Within the last year, I have made conscious decisions to go to therapy, actively develop stronger relationships with my business friends, and share as much as possible with others. We learn when we teach, and we grow when we are vulnerable and willing to listen.
"The past several months, I have been continuously working on producing a much-needed 3-day conference for ambitious women happening April 3-5 here in New Orleans. I truly believe in fully utilizing my time, which means my days are filled with setting timers to meet deadlines, holding several meetings each day, and communicating with my team to ensure things are constantly moving."
Multitasking is a trap.
Image via Dorian Morris
Dorian Morris, Founder, Undefined Beauty:
Productivity is about taking it step-by-step, building brick-by-brick and not trying to boil the ocean while also recognizing multitasking is actually the ultimate productivity killer.
"As the solo bootstrapping founder of Undefined Beauty, there's never enough time in the day to tackle the constantly growing to-do list and capitalize on opportunities, especially in the dynamic and ever-evolving cannabis and CBD space. It can get overwhelming but I find chunking--breaking big tasks into small steps--makes it easier and less anxiety-provoking to GSD (aka get stuff done).
"It takes focus and removing unnecessary, derailing distractions like social media and resisting the urge to multitask, which makes each task actually take longer. I also celebrate small wins along the way to maintain momentum.
"A productive workday involves balancing the strategic versus tactical tasks--putting out today's fires while also planting seeds for future growth and opportunities. It's definitely a journey that's part art and part science, but that's what makes entrepreneurship fun."
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Featured Image courtesy of Dawn Myers, Esq
Brittani Hunter is a proud PVAMU alumni and the founder of The Mogul Millennial, a business and career platform for Black Millennials. Meet Brittani on Twitter and on the Gram at @BrittaniLHunter and @mogulmillennial.
Unapologetically, Chlöe: The R&B Star On Finding Love, Self-Acceptance & Boldly Using Her Voice
On set inside of a mid-city Los Angeles studio, it’s all eyes on Chlöe. She slightly shifts her body against a dark backdrop amidst camera clicks and whirs, giving a seductive pout here, and piercing eye contact there. Her chocolate locs are adorned with a few jewels that she requested to spice up the look, and on her shoulders rests a jeweled piece that she asked to be turned around to better showcase her neck (“I feel a bit old,” she said of the original direction). Her shapely figure is tucked into a strapless bodysuit with a deep v-neck that complements her décolletage.
Though subtle, her quiet wardrobe directives give the air of a woman who’s been here before, and certainly knows what she’s doing. At 24 years young, she’s a “Bossy” chick in training— one who’s politely unapologetic and learning the power of her own voice.
“I'm hesitant sometimes to truly speak my mind and speak up for myself and what I believe,” she later confessed to me a couple of weeks after the photoshoot. “It's always scary for me, but now I'm realizing that I have to, in order to gain respect as a Black woman— a young Black woman— who's still navigating who she is. And you know, I'm realizing that closed mouths don't get fed. And if I keep my mouth shut just because I'm afraid of what people's opinions of me will be or turn into, then that's not any way to live.”
For Chlöe, the journey into womanhood is about embracing who she is, without succumbing to the perceptions of what others think of her. From the waist up she’s everything you’d imagine. A gorgeous goddess with the kind of sex appeal that some work hard to embrace but fail to exude. But unbeknownst to anyone not on set, her bottom half is covered by a white robe, surprising coming from the girl who boasts “'Cause my booty so big, Lord, have mercy” on her first hit single “Have Mercy.”
But that’s the beauty of Chlöe. There’s more to her than meets the eye. More than what a few sensual photos sprinkled throughout an Instagram feed could ever tell you. Just like the photo-framing illusion of her portrayed from the waist up, what we know about the songstress is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more beneath the surface.
Some hours later Chlöe leans back in a high chair as her locs are transformed from a formal updo to a seemingly Basquiat-inspired one. It’s pure art, and at her request, no wigs are a part of the day’s ensemble. She’s fully embracing her natural hair, a decision that wasn’t always a socially accepted one.
In the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, (Mableton, to be exact) Chlöe began to explore the foundation of her self-image. At an early age she and her younger sister, Halle, demonstrated a vocal prowess and knack for being in front of the camera that caught their parents’ attention. Soon after, they were sent on a parade of local talent shows and auditions, and eventually broke into the digital space with song covers on YouTube.
It was during these early years that Chlöe first learned that the entertainment industry could be unforgiving to those who didn’t fit a particular beauty standard. Despite the then three-year-old snagging a role as the younger version of Beyoncé’s character, Lilly, in Fighting Temptations, casting agents requested that her natural locs be exchanged for more Eurocentric tresses. Ironic, considering that growing up Chlöe saw her hair as no different than that of her peers. “I remember specifically in pre-K we had to do self-portraits and I drew myself with a regular straight ponytail, like how I would put my locs in a ponytail,” she says. “I just never saw myself any different.”
Chlöe would also learn the true meaning of a phrase that would later become an affirmation posted on her bedroom mirror: “Don’t Let the World Dim Your Light.” After attempting to wear wigs to fit in, the Bailey sisters instead chose to rock their locs with pride, which undoubtedly cost them casting roles. Yet they would have the last laugh when making headlines as the “Teen Dreadlocked Duo” who landed a million-dollar contract with Parkwood Entertainment, and the coveted opportunity to be groomed under the tutelage of a world-renowned superstar.
Credit: Derek Blanks
While that could be the end of a beautiful fairytale of self-empowerment, the reality is that it’s just the beginning of the story of her evolution. For most girls, the transition into womanhood takes place in the comfort of their own worlds, often limited to the number of people they allow to have access to them. But for Chlöe, it’s happening in front of millions of critiquing eyes just waiting for an opportunity to either uplift or dissect her through unwarranted commentary.
Many in her position wouldn’t be able to take that kind of pressure. But Chlöe is handling it with grace. “I feel like all of us as humans, we have the right to interpret things how we want,” she says. “I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
Chlöe isn’t the first artist to receive criticism for her carnal content, and she certainly won’t be the last. In 2010, Ciara writhed and rode her way to banishment on BET when the then 24-year-old released her video for “Ride.” In 2006, 25-year-old Beyoncé received backlash for “Déjà Vu."
"I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
So much so that over 5,000 fans signed an online petition demanding that her label re-shoot the video because it was “too sexual.” Even 27-year-old Janet didn’t escape critical headlines when she shed her image of innocence for a more risqué appearance with the 1993 release of janet.
It’s almost as if public reproach is a rite of passage for young Black women R&B singers on the road to stardom. Good girls seemingly “go bad” whenever they embrace the depths of their femininity, and fans only like you on top figuratively. But Chlöe has learned not to bow down to other people’s opinions, but to boss up and control the narrative. As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. If sex appeal is her weapon, she wields it well.
On set, Chlöe exudes the energy of Aphrodite in an apple red, off-shoulder dress with a sexy high split. In between shots, she mouths the lyrics to Yebba’s “Boomerang” as it echoes throughout the space in steady repetition at my recommendation. The hour grows late, yet Chlöe is heating things up as eyes stare in deep mesmerization of the girl on fire.
Credit: Derek Blanks
Through music, she explores the depths of her being, a journey that seems to be, at its foundation, rooted in self-discovery. Whereas their debut album The Kids Are Alright (2018) boasts a young Chloe x Halle empowering their generation to embrace who they are while finding their place in the world, their second album Ungodly Hour (2020) shows the Bailey sisters shedding the veil of innocence for a more unapologetic bravado.
What fans looked forward to seeing is who Chlöe shows herself to be on her debut solo album In Pieces. In an interview with PEOPLE, she confesses that releasing her first project without her sister was “scary.” "It was a moment of self-doubt where I was like, 'Can I do this without my sister?’”
Chlöe has never been shy about sharing her insecurities or her vulnerabilities, all of which are laced throughout the 14-track album. “I want people to have fun when they listen to it and to just realize that they're not alone and it's okay to be vulnerable and raw and open because none of us are perfect; we're all far from it. And I think it's healing when we all admit to that instead of putting up a facade.”
The gift of time has given the self-professed “big lover girl” more encounters with romance and heartbreak. Love songs once sung for their beautiful riffs and melodies become more than just abstract lyrics and are replaced by real-life experiences, which she tells me is definitely in the music.
In her single “Pray It Away,” for example, she contemplates going to God for healing instead of going at her ex-lover for revenge for his infidelities. “With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable,” she says. “I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
Has Chlöe been in love? That still remains to be said. Of course, she’s been linked to a few potential baes, but dating in the digital age isn’t as easy as a double tap or drop of a heart-eyes emoji. It requires a level of trust and vulnerability that’s hard to earn, and easy to mishandle. To let her guard down means to potentially set herself up for disappointment. “It’s difficult dating right now, honestly, because you really have to kind of keep your guard up and pay attention to who's really there for you. And you know, I'm such an affectionate person and I love hard.
"So when I meet the one person that I really, really am into, it's hard for me to see any others and I get attached pretty easily. And you know, I don't know, it's…it's a scary thing.”
Credit: Derek Blanks
“With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable. I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
While broken hearts yield good music (queue Adele), what’s in Chlöe’s prayer is the desire to be happy. What does that look like? Well, she’s still figuring that out herself. “Honestly, I'm the type of person who I don't truly learn unless I experience it. So it's like I can view and watch my parents and watch the loving relationships that I see in my life and be like, ‘Oh, I want that. I would love to have that.’ But then I also have to experience [love] on my own and see what my flaws or my faults might be or see what my good things about myself are. I feel like it's really all about self-reflection. And even though our base is our family and that's our foundation, we are still our own individuals and we have to find out specifically the things about ourselves that may be different from what we saw from our parents when we were growing up.”
Her ideal beau, she tells me, is someone she can feel safe to be her fun, goofy self with, but who also gives her the space to be the boss chick chasing her dreams. A man who understands that just because the world compliments her doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to hear those words from his lips or feel it in his touch. A bonus if he shows up on set after a long hard day of work with vegan cinnamon rolls. You know, the basic necessities. “I like whoever I'm with to constantly tell me they love me and that I look beautiful because I do the same. I am a very mushy person, and if I see something or you look good, I will never shy away from saying it out loud. And I want whoever I'm with to do the same, be very vocal. Tell me that you love me. Tell me what you love about me because I'm doing the same for you because that's just the person I am.”
Until she meets her match she’s married to the game, and for now, that seems to be perfect matrimony.
Credit: Derek Blanks
On stage at the 2021 American Music Awards, Chlöe solidified her position as a force to be reckoned with. It was a full-circle moment. In 2012, bright-eyed and baby-faced Chloe and Halle would walk onto the set of The Ellen Degeneres Show and blow the audience away as they bellowed out their future mentor’s song. Ellen would present the sisters with tickets to attend the AMAs, assuring them that they would be back and had a promising future. Nine years later, Chlöe descends from the sky cloaked in a snow-white cape and matching midriff-baring bodysuit for her debut performance. It’s the first time she’s graced the stage of the very award show that she was once an audience member of.
As she shakes and shimmies and boom kack kacks out her eight counts, it’s clear that she’s in her element. Just like her VMA performance a couple of months prior, and the many more stages she’ll continue to grace, she brings an energy that has earned her comparisons to the beloved Queen Bey herself. An honorable statement, considering few R&B songstresses are getting accolades for their entertainment capabilities. It’s on these very stages, in front of hundreds of astonished eyes and millions more glued to their televisions at home, that she tells me she feels most sexy. Powerful, even.
But off stage, it’s a different story.
It’s more than just the commentary about her image and media-flamed rumors that get to her. Mentally, she’s in competition with herself. The desire to be the best burns at the back of her mind with every performance, every production, and every time she steps into the booth. Before, she could share the weight of this burden with her sister. Being a part of a duo meant she could turn to Halle for quiet confirmation and encouragement without a word being exchanged. But lately stepping on the stage means stepping out on her own. And despite being a breathtaking, five-time Grammy-nominated star, Chlöe doesn’t escape the reality that sometimes we can be our own worst critics.
Over the last year, she’s been coming to terms with who she is on her own while overcoming the fear of failing to become who she’s destined to be. While the world waits to see how Chlöe wins, the real triumph is in every day that she chooses herself and continues to walk in her purpose. “I don't really have anything all figured out, honestly. But what I try to do, a lot of prayer. I talk to God more and I just try to do things that calm my mind down and just breathe.”
To whom much is given, much will be required. She’s been chosen to walk this path for a reason. Once she fully embraces that everything she’s meant to be is already inside of her, she’ll be an unstoppable force. “My grandma, Elizabeth, she just passed away and my middle name is her [first] name. So I feel like I truly have a responsibility to live up to her legacy that she's left on this earth. I hope I can do that.”
There’s no doubt that she will. With a role in The Fighting Temptations at three years old, a million-dollar record deal, a main role on five seasons of Grown-ish, five Grammy nominations, a number one solo record in Urban and Rhythmic Radio, a debut solo album, and starring roles in recently released movies Praise Thisand Swarm (just to name a few), Chlöe’s certainly already made her mark, and she’s just getting started.
Photographer & Creative Director: Derek Blanks
Executive Producer: Necole Kane
Co-Executive Producer: EJ Jamele
Producer: Erica Turnbull
Digitech: Chris Keller
DP: Alex Nikishin
Gaffer: Simeon Mihaylov
Photo Assistant: Chris Paschal
2nd Photo Assistant: Tyler Umprey
Features Editor: Kiah McBride
Special Projects: Tyeal Howell
Hair: Malcolm Marquez
Makeup: Yolonda Frederick
Fashion Styling: Ashley Sean Thomas
For More: Cover Story: Issa Rae Comes Full Circle
Keke Palmer Opens Up About Her Sexuality & Never Feeling "Straight Enough" Or "Gay Enough"
Over the years, Keke Palmer has solidified herself as a prominent voice of her generation who doesn’t shy away from speaking her truth. Now, the 29-year-old actress is peeling back the layers and opening up about her sexuality and gender identity.
According to Variety, the Nopestar was presented the Vanguard Award at the LGBT Center’s The Gala in Los Angeles, where she took time to reflect on her own identity journey.
“Sexuality and identity for me has always been confusing,” Keke shared during her acceptance speech. “I never felt straight enough. I never felt gay enough. And I never felt woman enough. I never felt man enough. You know, I always felt like I was a little bit of everything.”
KeKe recalls that she’d often “lead with masculinity” and how that complicated her perspective on the power within herself. “And as a woman, I’ve always been met with so much disdain, you know what I mean? I think so much of that came from who I thought I had to be to get respect, admiration, and love,” she says. “And I’ve always really wanted to be like my father…to want to be taken seriously and not diminish because I was a woman. You know, that’s always been a source of — I guess you would say — pain and resentment.”
Araya Doheny/Getty Images for Los Angeles LGBT Center
The moment of reflection brought on an emotional response from the Nickelodeon alum. “Why did my gender have to define the power I have in the world? And why does my gender get to decide my sexuality?” she asked.
“You know, since I was younger, I always questioned the boxes I was forced to be in and it starts with who you’re supposed to be as a child. You’re supposed to be as a Black person or whatever the background you are from… Then those walls just try to cave you in from every damn angle, who you are as a creative, who you are as a friend.”
She concluded the thoughtful speech by noting her gratitude for being accepted by the LGBTQ+ community as an ally for which she was honored for. “I’m truly so grateful to be seen in this room because I know I’m surrounded by people who know without a doubt what it’s like to decide to be who you are in a world that tells you to be everything but yourself.”
Keke’s Vanguard Award is the perfect illustration of why allyship and activism go hand-in-hand. With voices like Keke’s sharing her truth about self-discovery in sexuality and gender identity, it, in turn, inspires others to do the same.
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Featured image by Araya Doheny/Getty Images for Los Angeles LGBT Center