For Tiffany Laibhen-Spence, Alone Time Is A Non-Negotiable
In xoNecole's Finding Balance, we profile boss women making boss moves in the world and in their respective industries. We talk to them about their business, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.
Finding your happy place is a talent not easily mastered by creatives of color. Between keeping up with politics, navigating social media, and making sure our loved ones feel loved on, the hustle is likely to hustle you out of your peace of mind. But Tiffany Laibhen-Spence wants you to protect your energy at all costs. That means being intentional about unplugging to recharge.
The 30-year-old self-proclaimed extroverted introvert recently sat down with xoNecole and gave us all the details on how she thrives in the digital world as an entrepreneur while managing her self-care. According to Tiffany, it all starts with unapologetically spending time alone. "Because I'm naturally an introvert, I have always been a person to make time for myself. However, I used to feel guilty about it. When I needed to cancel plans or say no to somebody, I would beat myself up about how flaky it seemed," she explained. "...I then realized that I just required an unapologetic and welcomed pause after anything that drained my energy! It's been my best realization and has helped tremendously!"
Along with deep breathing, watching The Office, and making time to celebrate her small wins, here's how Tiffany finds balance:
What’s been the driving force behind all of the hats that you wear these days? What is your “why”?
I have always believed that life should be enjoyed. I never bought into the "check to check, work to pay bills, spend the rest of your life in debt" story that many people live by. I have always imagined myself doing something that brings me to life daily and not having to struggle. My biggest goal is to be able to retire my parents so that they can see a different side of life where their only obligation is to spend their time doing things that fulfill them.
Courtesy of Kevin Spence
"I never bought into the 'check to check, work to pay bills, spend the rest of your life in debt' story that many people live by. I have always imagined myself doing something that brings me to life daily and not having to struggle."
What are some ways you stay focused on the positive when things get hard?
I am very spiritual. My faith that something bigger is always leading me or redirecting me in the right direction is how I stay focused. More specifically, I pray, meditate, read self-help books, and drink positive energy tea daily (Tea by Yogi. Try it and thank me later!) I also follow lots of positive, encouraging pages on social media. On the days when I wake up and I don't feel like doing any of "it", I've made it a habit to immediately go to YouTube and search "motivational video" and I'll listen to that while getting ready for the day.
What is a typical day in your life? If no day is quite the same, give me a rundown of a typical work week and what that might consist of.
Mondays and Wednesdays are typically my shoot days. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my edit days, and those can go until 12 a.m., especially if I have a deadline. I try and dedicate my Fridays to industry research and content/creative planning. My sister is a varsity soccer player so I do my best to attend her games. It's sometimes hard because as a one-woman band, if I'm not home editing or shooting, it's not getting done. My husband is a director of photography for BET in New York, so he is constantly traveling. Our home is in Philly, so we work hard to date in-between our hectic schedules and try to take advantage of our weekends together! I'm now hosting and attending lots of events, so my schedule is all over the place now.
Courtesy of Kevin Spence
"Not many people understand what goes into content creation, and it can be crazy having to stop in the middle of an edit, attend an event, and then come back at 9 p.m. to hop back into an edit. It's a lot to balance."
What are your mornings like?
On a normal weekday, I'm up by 6 a.m. I make my tea and meditate for about 30 minutes. I then journal and read for about an hour, depending on the day. After getting my head and intentions together, I hop on Instagram to spread some love on my stories. I then get my post or content ready for the day. This routine changes about every six months or so. Sometimes I like watching a motivational video or calling my mom. It can depend on my mood and what I need at the time.
How do young wind down at night?
The most hectic part for me has been trying to do it all on my own and still show up for my loved ones. I'm literally building my brand from the ground up by myself. When I have a deadline pending and I have to come up with the creative direction, decorate the set, shoot high-quality content, and edit within a day or two, and my family/friends have something important coming up, it can be overwhelming. Not many people understand what goes into content creation, and it can be crazy having to stop in the middle of an edit, attend an event, and then come back at 9 p.m. to hop back into an edit. It's a lot to balance.
Do you practice self-care? What does that look like for you?
Absolutely! Self-care is what keeps me sane. It looks different at different times. My favorite right now is watching my favorite movies and shows on my couch and sipping wine or a cocktail. Meditating is my constant form though. It definitely relieves any worries or anxiety. I can feel the difference if I miss it for a day or two.
What advice do you have for busy women who feel like they don’t have time for self-care?
My advice is, yes, you do! My favorite cliche is, "You can't pour from an empty cup." It's so true! You can't possibly be giving your best self to your spouse, your kids, or your work if you haven't taken the time to get to know yourself. One of the best things my mom did was take care of herself when I was growing up. She would go get her nails done, go away with her girls once a year, and have regular girls' nights. Her and my dad would go on couples' trips, which I was annoyed with as a child (laughs), but I now know why. It taught me to never lose me to anything!
In the beginning, I had to write self-care into my schedule just like I would anything else and stick to it! It's now become a habit for me. Take 30 extra minutes in the morning to do deep breathing, read your favorite book, do an exercise or take a dance class. You may not have time every day because, well, life, but you definitely have time to love on yourself just a little more.
Courtesy of Kevin Spence
"One of the best things my mom did was take care of herself when I was growing up. She would go get her nails done, go away with her girls once a year, and have regular girls' nights. Her and my dad would go on couples' trips, which I was annoyed with as a child, but I now know why. It taught me to never lose me to anything!"
How do you find balance with:
I have to put it into my calendar, or else I'll work right through it. I tell my friends not to take offense. I'm just really focused and I take my schedule seriously! So if it's scheduled, I'm there! I also try and text them if they come across my mind, even for just a second.
We communicate via text and FaceTime throughout the day so that we can say connected. We also shoot together, so we make a date out of those days. We get content and then we go to dinner and spend time!
Exercise? Does it happen?
I am still finding a way to fit exercise into my schedule consistently. Since my schedule changes so often, it makes it a little hard to be consistent, but I will make it happen.
This is one thing I make time for. Regular manicures, meditation, reading a book, or anything that brings me joy is a must.
When do you feel most beautiful?
I feel most beautiful when I feel most healthy. So when I'm eating well, moving my body, [my] hair is healthy, skin is healthy, that is when I feel my best.
Do you cook or find yourself eating out more often?
Up until about two months ago, I was cooking 80% of the time and ordering out the other 20%. Because my schedule has picked up so drastically, I have not found much time to cook lately. I'm currently in the process of hiring an assistant to help me with projects because cooking brings me joy and I'd love to have more time to do it without having to sacrifice being productive!
Courtesy of Kevin Spence
"I detox by deleting all of my social media apps until I feel ready to get back on. It usually lasts about a week, but if I get to the end of that week and still feel overwhelmed or anything negative, I stay off until I'm centered again. I detox daily by monitoring who I'm conversing with, having mandatory alone time, and allowing myself to decompress after interactions."
Do you ever detox? What does that consist of?
For a physical detox, I drink detox teas to clean my body out. I also do time periods of no red meat and mainly veggies. I've done fruit juice cleanses as well. Mentally, I detox by deleting all of my social media apps until I feel ready to get back on. It usually lasts about a week, but if I get to the end of that week and still feel overwhelmed or anything negative, I stay off until I'm centered again. I detox daily by monitoring who I'm conversing with, having mandatory alone time, and allowing myself to decompress after interactions.
When you are going through a bout of uncertainty or feeling stuck, how do you handle it?
I pray. Anything that I have today is because of prayer and allowing something bigger than me to show me what I need to see to make the next best move. So when I'm uncertain, I ask for guidance on what I should be doing and I ask for clarity. Then I act in the manner that I'd like to see myself. I leave that prayer knowing that the solution is on the way and I do my best not to worry about it, but instead, smile and thank God for the clarity or the signs I needed. It has worked wonders in my life.
What is something you think others forget when it comes to finding balance?
People forget to celebrate the little wins. Celebrate finishing that edit, posting your first video, and doing what you said you would. When you forget to celebrate those wins, you are constantly chasing something. It leads you to believe you aren't doing enough, which then leads to overworking. Find time to celebrate your wins, however small they may be. Pour a glass of wine, go out for dinner--do something! You deserve it!
Courtesy of Helena Raju
"When you forget to celebrate those wins, you are constantly chasing something. It leads you to believe you aren't doing enough, which then leads to overworking. Find time to celebrate your wins, however small they may be."
What does success mean to you?
Success means having balance between all the things that bring me joy and make me who I am. Right now those things are self-awareness, healthy relationships with my loved ones, financial well-being, thriving in my chosen career path and making an impact.
What does happiness mean to you?
Happiness is temporary. It's an emotion. In life, you will experience hardships. You will lose people, you'll lose relationships, and you won't get the things you've been working hard at. In those moments, you will not be happy. You can still have joy and gratitude in your heart in those moments, but you won't be happy. I think the key is enjoying and appreciating your happy moments as they are happening but understanding that life needs ups and downs for you to continue growing on your journey.
For more of Tiffany, follow her on Instagram @tiffanylaibhen!
Featured image courtesy of Kevin Spence
Originally published on February 9, 2020
Taylor "Pretty" Honore is a spiritually centered and equally provocative rapper from Baton Rouge, Louisiana with a love for people and storytelling. You can probably find me planting herbs in your local community garden, blasting "Back That Thang Up" from my mini speaker. Let's get to know each other: @prettyhonore.
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
"I Have Truly Survived the Unimaginable." Megan Thee Stallion Is Ready To Resume Her Next Chapter.
Megan Thee Stallion is ready to resume her life, not as a victim but as a survivor of gun violence.
In a recent as-told-to essay for ELLE, the 28-year-old mega-star took time to reflect on her experience surviving the shooting incident involving rapper Tory Lanez in July 2020.
In the piece, Megan described her traumas in the aftermath of the shooting and the drawn-out legal case and trial that brought on the public's negative reaction to the incident.
“Imagine how it feels to be called a liar every day?” Megan says. “Especially from a person who was once part of your inner circle.” She notes that many people were quick to doubt her story and blame her for how the incident unfolded. For nearly three years, she went through the weight of public humiliation, while being the brunt of jokes, memes, and “sneak disses” as her humanity was ignored.
“The truth is that I started falling into a depression,” the rapper says. “I didn’t feel like making music. I was in such a low place that I didn’t even know what I wanted to rap about. I wondered if people even cared anymore.”
She adds, “There would be times that I’d literally be backstage or in my hotel, crying my eyes out, and then I’d have to pull Megan Pete together and be Megan Thee Stallion.”
Megan wrote how not fitting “the profile of a victim” played a role in the dismissal of her traumas in the public eye and emphasized the importance of believing women when they come forward with their own stories of violence and abuse. “But my heart hurts for all the women around the world who are suffering in silence, especially if you’re a Black woman who doesn’t appear as if she needs help,” she says.
“So many times, people looked at me and thought, ‘You look strong. You’re outspoken. You’re tall. You don’t look like somebody who needs to be saved.’ They assumed that, per preconceived stigmas, ‘I didn’t fit the profile of a victim,’ and that I didn’t need support or protection.”
With time, the Houston fem-cee has been able to take a step away from the public eye to heal, spend time with her dogs, and “doing a lot of praying” to recover from the incident. “The physical and mental scars from this entire ordeal will always sting, but I’m taking the appropriate steps to resume my life,” Megan says.
And while she is “in a happier place,” there are still moments of anxiety that come up from time to time. “Talking about being shot still makes me emotional. I’ve started journaling as a way to better process my thoughts, hopes, and fears,” she says. “Prayer has also played a therapeutic role in my healing, because I can have honest and unfiltered conversations with God without any judgment.”
Megan concluded her essay by expressing her hope for a future where people can live without fear of gun violence and victims of trauma and abuse can receive the support and healing they need.
“My purpose is for these words to serve as the final time that I’ll address anything regarding this case in the press,” Megan notes in the article. “I understand the public intrigue, but for the sake of my mental health, I don’t plan to keep reliving the most traumatic experience of my life over and over again. I’m choosing to change the narrative because I’m more than just my trauma.”
With new music to come, we look forward to seeing Megan back on her healed, hot girl ish.
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Featured image by Hubert Vestil/WireImage