It's July 2009 and the official video of Drake's “Best I Ever Had" has just hit the Internet.
A group of beautiful and voluptuous girls run out on the basketball court (bra-less, of course) in low-cut pink wrestling singlets and matching sweatbands repping team Drake. The beardless, baby-faced rapper is making each of his “players" feel special as they sensually stretch and bounce in attempt to get coach's attention.
But there's one girl who throughout the video doesn't appear to be vying for the title of MVP. She stays mostly in the background, occasionally caught on camera gracefully stretching, but otherwise relatively hidden. Despite the lack of visibility, it's 25-year-old Rosa Acosta's big debut. Not the one she expected when she moved from the Dominican Republic just three years before, but the one that would earn her a spot in the video girl hall of fame—whether she wanted it or not.
“I never wanted to be a model and be in music videos, this is not something that I dreamed about. This is not something that I thought would ever happen to me," she says.
Video vixen. Urban model. Four words that when paired together distastefully roll off the tongue as they come with their own set of connotations that the entrepreneur believes are neither accurate nor representative of who she is as a woman. Despite retiring from the game a few years prior, Acosta still finds herself shedding the labels of her past. “I still get a lot of calls to continue to do music videos. They will still have me doing music videos at the tender age of 45 if I was still looking good."
Like most immigrants, Rosa Acosta came to America looking for opportunity, though, in her hometown of Santo Domingo, she was arguably already a burgeoning star. As a classically-trained ballet dancer who studied since the age of four, she would graduate with honors from the Instituto de Cultura y Arte (ICA) and become the youngest soloist member of the Ballet Nacional Dominicana—performing around the country in notable shows such as The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Carmen. But her battle with anorexia and bulimia took a toll on her 100-pound frame, forcing her to decide between living her dream or staying alive.
At home, her circumstances weren't much better. Her mom left for America years prior, but as a single parent that didn't meet the required income level for immigration laws, she couldn't afford to bring over Acosta and her brother for the first ten years. So Acosta grew up with old-school grandparents who would place more value on virginity than education for the girls of the house.
“From an early age, I experienced this gender thing where they would try to make me feel like because I was a woman, I was less or I was just supposed to marry somebody and cook and clean. When my brother talked, they would ask him what he wanted to be when he grew older, but for me it was just she's going to marry somebody, and that's it."
Becoming a rebel, she chose to trade in her culinary skills for business school and attended the local community college against her grandparent's will. The decision caused a rift back home, so when the paperwork for coming to America was finally approved, she made moves to the land of opportunity with hopes of going back to college. But when she arrived she was unable to transfer her credits, and due to high tuition costs decided that dishing out $15,000 to go to school for massage therapy was more reasonable. By this time she had relocated from her mom's home in Pennsylvania to New York, where she picked up a job as a bartender while finishing school.
In May 2009, she received a message on MySpace from a guy who owned a website featuring videos of ex-dancers, contortionists, and strippers doing their stretching and dance routines. The former dancer didn't hesitate to put on a tank top and a pair of shorts and get back to her glory days. The video was picked up by entertainment gossip site MediaTakeOut, raking in millions of views and attracting the eyeballs of artists and magazine editors who suddenly wanted to know the new girl on the block. In a matter of months, Acosta's life went from zero to one hundred as she started picking up hosting gigs, features in KING and XXL, and a number of music video appearances for artists such as Chris Brown, Lil' Wayne, and Diddy. Even though the dollars were making sense, she didn't have the intention of staying in the business long. "I never thought of it as a career; I was just going with the flow and making some money. I always felt like it wasn't going to be something that would last for a year and then I'd try to make all the money that I can because I wanted to own a spa," she says.
She made it three years before calling it quits in 2012.
“I just realized that I was in the wrong thing when people judge you based on the fact that you are not spending $5,000 on a pair of shoes. When I saw the kind of people that I was working with and surrounding myself with every day, I said I don't even want to do this anymore. I don't want to be around people that are that dumb. I want to be around people that inspire me, that I can learn something from, that are making moves towards building true wealth."
She's partially referring to an incident in 2010 when rapper Maino commented on her “cheap" shoe game, which Acosta kindly gave the fiery response in her own interview, “I wasn't aware they could give you lessons about women's shoes in prison" before adding that she's still the same girl from the Dominican Republic and won't buy a $2,000 pair of shoes when she can't afford it. Her money goes to helping her family back in DR or her own education.
While people were checking for her bank account, Acosta was busy building it. In addition to becoming a regular on Nick Cannon's Wild 'n Out and launching her fitness apparel line Body by Acosta, she was also running her online business CossaMia, a one-stop shop for clothing designers and brands that is run and self-funded by the entrepreneur. When Acosta first came up with the idea, she reached out to fellow friends and designers Geebin Flores and Angel Brinks about the opportunity. “I just wanted to offer people the opportunity to order all the brands that they like in one place," she says. “If you like two or three of the brands that we have, instead of going to their websites and paying separate shipping, you could just pay no shipping or just one shipping for everything."
Acosta began posting the designs on Instagram, attracting more designers, and to date has almost 20 brands featured on the site. “There isn't anything wrong with capitalizing off of Instagram or any social media period. It takes a lot of time and dedication; it is not cheap to have an Instagram "boutique."
After hustling hashtags for four years, Acosta opened her flagship store on Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles this past October, and is looking to expand to other locations in the near future. “No rich mom and dad backing me up, no boyfriend, sugar daddy, investor, friend, drug dealer money, none of that stuff."
"This is me doing the same thing I've been doing since the beginning—not spending my money on shoes and bags, but putting it into my work and investing in my business."
Having multiple streams of income has definitely afforded Acosta a taste of the lifestyle of the rich and famous. While on our call she was shopping for her new home (she tells me it's big), which she hoped to move into within a month. She has already purchased a home for her brother (a DJ) and her mother, who she says no longer works.
As for who will be living with her in this new, big house? That's to be determined. During most of her career, she was dating a low-key guy not in the industry who she purposefully kept out of the public eye, but they recently broke up, and according to the 31-year-old, she's not interested in young men. “I just don't have anything to talk about with a guy that is 22. I mean, I can have a casual conversation, but I doubt that I can actually be enlightened and I can learn…I just don't see myself totally connecting and clicking with people 10 years younger than me."
In fact, she admits that she's hardly ever interested in men period, which is ironic considering that her claim to fame stems from guys salivating over her silhouette. But Acosta says she never grew up being “boy crazy," and due to attending an all-girls school felt no pressure to have her first boyfriend until she was 20-years-old. “I always had my relationships are more so like my friendships with my girlfriends, they take a lot of my time. I like a guy like once every five or six years. I think that the older I get, the less I like guys. I've been hoping that I was normal and that I liked guys like everybody who are like, 'you're so hot, you're so fine' and I'm like, who?"
So does she want kids?
“Yes, definitely. I know I'm going to be a mom, I just don't know under which circumstances. Me and my best friend think about this all the time, about what if we get to the time where we feel like physically we are reaching that point but there's no men around. We have contemplated the idea of doing something where she will have my babies or I will have her babies or something like that, and the idea of getting married and doing it ourselves, but I'm not sure yet."
Now I'm curious. Is this a sexual relationship between you and your best friend? Or…
“More so in a partnership for both of us. I mean, we love each other very much in a way that is not selfish, and I don't own her and she doesn't own me. I think I have more intimacy with her than some people that are sleeping together. There's so much more to somebody's dreams and wishes and personality, and I think that I have those things with some of my friends, we know each other so well and we love each other in a way that is really amazing."
She goes on to explain that finding someone who actually cares to help you grow and who won't just slide in your DMs (which she doesn't check by the way) thinking that's all it takes to establish a connection is a dime a dozen. I'm not sure if she's talking out of frustration with her dating experience, or if she's starting to become at peace with the idea that maybe marrying a man isn't in the cards for her. The idea of intimacy versus a sexual relationship where you really understand and have a deeper connection with someone, even if it's a female friend, is an interesting conversation that challenges the traditional idea of marriage and relationships—one that isn't defined by the physical, but the mental and emotional connection with a partner.
When I ask her if she thinks growing up in a household that placed so much emphasis on her vagina had an impact on her sexuality, she says, “I always had common sense to understand that my worth goes beyond my pussy. If for some reason I could never use it again, there is somebody out there at would love me regardless. Don't get me wrong, I have a very sexual sense of humor, and I realize that a lot of people's lives are ruled off of sex and I was able to capitalize off of that and make a lot of money, but sex is very minimal in my life."
And she's certainly used her assets to create assets. With each lip-pucker, back arch, and look-back-at-it pose she padded her bank account. It's easy to confine and define her by the profession that she gracefully stretched her way into, but in an era of social media booty beauties showing less for no paychecks, Rosa Acosta has played the game smart by expanding her brand beyond her three years of fame.
It's certainly not easy to remain in the public eye when everyone has an opinion about who you are and what you do with your own body. It takes a certain level of confidence, or maybe just nonchalance, to have your every move—every post—critiqued and criticized by those who took the time to type in your name. Though Acosta appears sure of herself now, often sharing photos of her fit physique, that wasn't always the case.
“I feel like I come from a place where Rosa Acosta's are very common. Girls that look like me, there are really hundreds of them everywhere. When I came to America, people used to compliment me on things I didn't like. I think that seeing other opinions, I realized that beauty is really in the eye of the beholder. There are many opinions, but the only opinion that truly matters is yours."
I ask her how, then, did she become so confident in her sexuality. After all, posing for men's magazines and constantly being on display takes some level of guts.
“I mean, hey look, there's Photoshop, you don't need to be that confident. They're going to make sure that you look good," she says matter-of-factly. “I had my moments where I haven't been sexually confident or just confident in myself period, but I have realized that being the baddest bitch was not my priority. And being the bitch with the best body or the baddest head game, these things have never been one of my goals. I still work to make sure I look good, and that I'm happy with the way I look, but I have also tried to put as much effort on spiritually growing."
One thing you won't catch Rosa doing is being a hater. She believes in building up and not tearing down women who may look better or are doing better than her. “When I look at a woman, I try to say a couple of things that she's better at than me. I think it's healthy to realize that there are people more beautiful than you, more successful than you. I just acknowledge that people can look better, can be doing better, can be better, and then I use that as fuel and try to continue with my journey."
Just as she may be admiring other women, Rosa has her own admirable characteristics, such as her dedication to her community. She's often seen feeding the homeless on Wednesdays with My Friends House in LA, teaching dance classes to kids, and volunteering in Tanzania. And no, she's not just doing it for the 'gram, growing up in the Dominican Republic she was volunteering at home for kids with Down syndrome and also working with the animals that she so dearly loves (she recently went back to being vegetarian—ten years after being advised by her doctor to eat meat due to her eating disorders).
One thing I can say about Rosa Acosta is that she's unapologetically open, and in an industry where people put on personalities like a costume, she's managed to humbly stay true to who she is—a woman who would rather rock a pair of Forever 21 shoes and be about her business than put up a façade. Her next mission? Changing how the world views her.
And this time, the ball is in her court.
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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If you haven’t scrolled upon Olivia McDowell's TikTok famous dinner parties, you may need to reconfigure your "For You Page."
What began as a passion for hosting aesthetically themed meals for her closest friends has quickly become a viral sensation. With an astonishing 12 million viewers, women describe Olivia’s picturesque dinner parties as the “dream girls' night,” complete with classy cocktails, beautiful table settings, elegant outfits, and, most importantly, food plated to perfection.
Seemingly reigniting the feminine urge to host fancy dinner parties, Olivia has perfected the finer details. Overlooking the skyline in her beautiful NYC apartment, she never fails to make her signature handmade pasta dishes while simultaneously looking effortlessly chic in the wardrobe of dreams while doing so.
Replying to @nara0630 what should the theme of my next dinner party be? #minivlog #nycliving #dinnerpartyideas #caviarinnewyork
What I love most about hosting intimate dinners for close friends are the connections and relationships that form over food. They don't require a caviar budget with a high-rise apartment, it just takes determination and a little creativity. Watching Olivia’s journey inspires viewers to be a part of a community of positive and uplifting women who share common interests and tastes in food, fashion, and decor. Simply stated, she’s raising the bar of friendship goals.
If you’re aspiring to host a holiday-themed dinner party this season, check out the four tips that will guide you along the way.
Choose Your Theme
Replying to @emz.life.tsv what was your fav part? 🤍 hope this gives you some inspiration to host a fancy friendsgiving too! #hostingtip #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Set the ambiance with a thoughtful theme, which will indeed be your guiding light for less stress during the planning process. Establishing a theme sets the tone for everything else to fall in place, such as menus, table design, and presentation. For example, a holiday-inspired dinner party is a perfect occasion for elegant all-white decor paired with draped table cloths, pillar candles lit atop luxe holders, floating floral arrangements, and, for a personal touch, handwritten place settings.
Utilizing free resources such as Canva for menu templates and creating a “Dinner Party” moodboard via Pinterest is perfect for gathering dinner inspiration for themes, decor, and recipes for the special occasion.
Simplify the Menu
How to host your own pasta making dinner party — part 1: pasta making from scratch 🤍 Hosting dinner parties has become my favorite thing to do this year. More goes into it than you expect, the prep, planning, guestlist, tablescape, etc. but it’s always worth it in the end. What do you guys want to see next? #hostingtips #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Don’t overcomplicate the menu. A simple dinner party formula to use as your guide to making sure your guests leave full of food and joy is appetizers, salads, entrees, sides, desserts, and beverages. As a starter, assemble an aesthetic spread that your guest can nibble on while awaiting the main course with starters such as bread, cheese, jam, nuts, and fruit. A simple salad will do, complete with a light dressing right before your entree. For a main dish, pasta recipes always go a long way and also allows your guests to interact with one another, which leads to McDowell's third dinner party hosting tip.
Include an Interactive Element
Replying to @itstai.tv 🖤 #girlhood
To break the ice and encourage guests to get to know one another, introduce interactive elements to the evening. Moments of interaction allow everyone to connect, like capturing content for social media or memorializing the essence of the night through fun Polaroids. Olivia also encourages her guests to participate in the pasta-making dinner process as a group, or if hosting a brunch, her friends indulge in building their own coffee bar as an opportunity for forming connections and conversation starters. Group board or card games are also great for laughs and healthy competition to help get the vibes flowing.
Don’t Forget the Dress code
Replying to @samantha_mendiz when all of your friends are the main character 🖤🥂 #dinnerparty #nycfashion
Tis’ the season for glamour and sparkles, so why not go all out with a super chic dress code? You can’t have a picture-perfect holiday dinner party without the coordinating attire to match. When planning, make sure to make the required attire specific yet broad enough for a range of personalities and preferences to comfortably partake while looking stunning doing so.
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Featured image by Justin Lambert/Getty Images