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What Self-Care Looks Like To Host & Author Africa Miranda

"Nah" is a complete sentence.

Finding Balance

One of the shortest words in the English language is also one of the most difficult to say. Boston-born, Alabama-raised digital content creator Africa Miranda says mastering the art of saying "nah" ultimately helped guide her on her journey to living her absolute best life, and she recently slid through xo to teach us her ways.

Being booked and busy is all fun and games until you realize that you're overscheduled and overwhelmed. This creative understands that time is one thing you can't get back and owes her selective nature to one simple equation. She told xoNecole, "Passion plus purpose equals profit. And it's how I make decisions of what deserves my time, what deserves my energy and honestly, also what drives me as well."

According to Africa, if an upcoming project in your life doesn't meet these criteria, it's time to pump the breaks, sis. "I look at things in my life and projects that I work on and I always ask myself, am I passionate about it? If you're going to use your time on this earth, it has to be [focused on] something you have some sort of fire inside you about. If I can answer yes to that, then I say, okay, we can at least investigate further."

Once determining her level of passion, Africa says that she then has to evaluate whether her plan aligns with her purpose. There's no blueprint to success, but there is definitely a formula for growth, and to Africa, this method is the key to securing the bag. I mean you, sis. You're the bag. "If I can say yes to both of those things, then there's always a profit that comes from it; and by profit, yes. A lot of times it is monetary, which is great because we love a coin, but it also is profitable in the sense that it will help other people, or it's something that will help me, meaning that I'll learn something from it."

We sat down with Africa to learn more about how she finds balance despite constantly jetsetting and being a CEO, author, and content creator at the same damn time, here's what she had to say:

What are your mornings like? 

“When I'm more centered [and] when I'm not like so harried or so running around, I like to try to start my day a little quieter with like meditation or journaling. The goal for me is to always try to spend at least 10-15 [minutes] before I jump on social media. Some days are better than others, but that's always my goal, to try to just take some time to center myself for the day before I jump right into what everybody's posting and what's happening in the world."

"Some days are better than others, but that's always my goal, to try to just take some time to center myself for the day before I jump right into what everybody's posting and what's happening in the world."

How do you wind down at night?

“I used to have trouble trying to wind down and go to sleep and now I treat myself like a little kid. I know like okay, an hour or so before it's time to go to bed, I've got to start turning lights down and maybe light a candle, doing things to kind of signal my body and my brain that it's time to wind down. I've also have started taking this magnesium supplement that is fantastic. It's called Natural Calm and it really just helps literally calm your body. It doesn't put you to sleep, but it really helps with relaxation and anxiety and it's great. And I've noticed that doing that at night also helps me get ready to rest."

What do you find to be the most hectic part of your week? 

“The most hectic and stressful part is that everything is dependent on me. Because at the end of the day, yes, I have an assistant, I have an attorney, I have a team, I have people; but ultimately, so many things still rest on me and it is stressful. It's a lot physically, it's a lot mentally, it's a lot emotionally. I know everything centers around how well I'm performing or functioning from day-to-day, so I do have to really be careful about my energy and people and situations because if I'm off track, then everything's off track."

"I know everything centers around how well I'm performing or functioning from day-to-day, so I do have to really be careful about my energy and people and situations because if I'm off track, then everything's off track."

What does self-care look like for you?

“For me, it varies. Lately, it's just been saying no to things that I don't really want to do and not feeling bad about it. Understanding that sometimes I just have to be home. Let's say, for example, tomorrow, I have an audition I have to prep for and I have a project that I also need to prep for. So, if I have the choice tonight of like meeting friends for drinks or hanging out, it's like no, like self-care for me is prepping so that I'm not stressed tomorrow and I can walk into both of those rooms and perform at my optimal level. Versus like, 'oh let me have fun tonight' and then I'm stressed tomorrow. So I'm just learning that self-care for me these days may not be the spa. It may just be taking the time to do the work that I'm supposed to do so that I can not be stressed and perform well."

What advice do you have for women that may be busy like you who feel like they don't have time for self-care?

“The first thing I would challenge them to do is to throw away the definition that everybody has of what self-care is, like on the Internet and social media, whatever. Because everybody paints this picture of, if you're not like wrapped in a white robe at a spa with a candle burning, then it's not self-care. And that's not realistic for everyone. It's not realistic financially. It's just not realistic from a time perspective, everybody does not have time or the means to do that.

“But if you don't start carving out that time, then it's not going to happen. So I would just say one, adjust your definition of what self-care looks like and to be willing to sacrifice certain things to carve out the time that you need for stuff that's going to ultimately make you happier."

How do you find balance with:

Friends? 

“I don't have the answer for that because it is a struggle. I do miss a lot, like I miss a lot. Thankfully, my friends understand it, but there are times where I wish I feel like, okay, I should be being a better friend or I should be more present, but it's very hard to do that. No one talks about the loss of time, the loss of connection and the loneliness that comes with [being an entrepreneur]. I don't have many friends that do exactly what I do or understand. They love me, but they don't do what I do. It can be very lonely and it's definitely a struggle. I hope that we start being more honest about that so people understand that they're not alone in that, [and so] they're also prepared for some of the sacrifices that come with a life of pushing yourself, so to speak."

"No one talks about the loss of time, the loss of connection and the loneliness that comes with [being an entrepreneur]. I don't have many friends that do exactly what I do or understand. They love me, but they don't do what I do. It can be very lonely and it's definitely a struggle."

Romance? 

“That is a challenge as well because again it's not easy finding a partner that can understand, but then also if you have a partner that also has a similar lifestyle and both of you are off doing things, how do you then connect? So I think it's just about choices and finding the time where you can. But again, it's a constant struggle."

Do you cook or find yourself eating out?

"I kind of treat it the same way. I order my groceries from Instacart, that was self-care for me, realizing that my time was not best served standing up in the grocery store when I was tired. I order my groceries and so that way, I have food at home. But, if I have food here to make to cook or whatever, but I'm tired or I had meetings, I've been running around, then self-care for me also was letting myself off the hook and saying, okay then I can still order some food tonight because it's better for me to rest and have this food than to kill myself. Sometimes we punish ourselves when it's like, spending $20 on takeout is not going to kill you if you're exhausted. Like just order the food, you know what I mean? Just order the food and eat so you can go to bed. And that's how I find my balance."

Exercise/Health?

"For me, [working out] is necessary. It's necessary for what I do but it's also necessary for like my emotional health as well. Like I feel better when I do it, so it's not something in my life that's on my schedule in pencil because if it is, you're going to always find a reason to move it around or 'oh I'll do it tomorrow' or 'I'll do the next day'. And I don't work out for like three hours in the gym. You go 45 minutes, the most an hour. You get in, you get out. I'm not training for a marathon, you know what I mean? I've learned to listen to my body and if I'm tired, it's not going to help to push myself beyond that and then make myself sick or like, you know, just kill myself just to say that I worked out today."

When you're going through a bout of uncertainty or you're feeling stuck, how do you handle that?

"My reset usually comes from people that I'm close to because we can get in our own heads. I'm guilty of that, of just feeling like, oh my God, this is not going to work and the world is coming to an end and I do think it's very important to have people in your life that can help you reset because sometimes you can't do it on your own."

What does success mean to you?

"Peace, opportunity, and options. [Having] the peace of knowing that you've accomplished or are accomplishing your goals. Opportunities, because the more success you attain, the better your opportunities are and they're more in line with what you really want, and options because the more successful you are, the more options and choices you have."

What is something you think others forget when it comes to finding balance?

"Don't strive for something that's not attainable. I don't strive for balance. I just strive to have the best moments that I can because I don't think that this idea of balance is really unattainable and I think that it sets women up for failure and I'm not striving for failure. I'm just striving to have the best moments and best days that I can, and then have the next best moment and best day that I can."

"Even if you do have a moment of balance, it's not sustainable long-term. I just think for me, it's about striving to live your life as freely and fully as you can and functioning in that space."

You can keep up with all of Africa's adventures on Instagram @AfricaMiranda and shop her skincare line exclusively at BeautyByAfricaMiranda.com.

Featured image by Derrick Davis

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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