Gabriella Karefa-Johnson has had a very interesting few months for her career. In December, she became the first Black woman to style a Vogue cover for model Paloma Elsesser. The very first black woman. In 2020 and 2021. But I digress.
Additionally, barely a month later, her next assignment just so happened to be the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, for her first Vogue cover. And then one month after that, she styled Gigi Hadid's first solo Vogue cover. Oh, and she also styled the March Vanity Fair cover (featuring Billie Eilish). In the middle of it all, she managed to be tapped to style and star in Converse's spring 2021 look book.
So basically, sis is bookedT and busy, and her resume can go toe-to-toe with any of your faves. She's somehow flown under the radar as a boss of the fashion game, but in one of her most recent projects, her name is ringing bells.
In the cutest campaign you'll see today, Karefa-Johnson takes on the GOAT and GOAT Jr. for Stuart Weitzman's Spring 2021 Collection. The tennis star, who has worked with Karefa-Johnson for Stuart Weitzman before, poses alongside her daughter Alexis "Olympia" Ohanian Jr., age 3, who is shown wearing some of the brand's new styles that have us feenin' off the baby fever. It is the first fashion campaign that the mother-daughter duo has been featured in together.
Of the campaign, Williams says:
"It's a special campaign. I just felt like it was an opportunity because Olympia and I have been spending so much time together. Olympia is trying on my shoes all the time, it's so fun!"
But whether Serena Williams, or Zendaya, or the Vice President of the United States, GKJ (as she refers to herself), says through the whirlwind of her career, and the chaos of all her high-profiled projects, has been something she was ready for. On working with Vogue as the first black stylist, she tells The Cut:
"It really felt like a testament to how hard I've worked to get to where I am. It was an incredible honor, but it wasn't the greatest shock in the world. I'd worked for it, and I deserved it. I hesitate saying that, because I think it can sound hubristic, but it should be interpreted as somebody who set goals and worked really hard and who wasn't sure that they would come true. But when they did, it felt like it was the right time and the right opportunity. And I think that's why that cover was as successful as it was, because I was ready for it."
Her Instagram is filled with colorful, exuberant images of high-fashion nods to the industry, and comedic captions that show off her personality. Erykah Badu, Melina Matsoukas, and Lindsay Peoples Wagner (former Editor-in-Chief of Teen Vogue, also a black woman), are all flaunted throughout, as she’s basically screaming, 'I'm not new to any of this shit' as loud as possible.
Her start in the industry began when she realized her dream of "being a Spice Girl wasn't going to work out."
"I realized that maybe I don't have a good singing voice and maybe I don't actually care about music, I just liked the glam of it."
Instead, she learned by watching her grandmother and her aunt (a former model), and religiously reading Style.com and Teen Vogue. It opened her eyes to the world of fashion and clothes. She then took on a slew of internships to kick her way into the door; internships that included Women's Wear Daily and Vogue, telling Fashionista:
"I worked my ass off. I got to go on all of these amazing shoots, and I realized I liked being a fashion editor; it was the best of both worlds. You really have to be analytical, you have to be connecting the clothing to what's happening in the world, there are stories that are told through clothing, but those stories are also reflected in who we are as people, what people want to be buying, and how we translate that to any reader in America — actually, in the world."
And although she is often surrounded by those who may not look like her, she's very aware that, as a plus-size, Black woman, she carries a certain responsibility to be representative of the culture.
"I want people to know that if I'm working, literally anyone else can be working, because there wasn't a Black fashion editor that I'd look to when I was growing up — there was Andre [Leon Talley], who was amazing, but it wasn't a thing. I just want to be working consistently enough and creating pictures that are poignant enough that, to whoever's looking at them who might want to be a fashion editor, knows that it's fully possible."
Well, sis, that's exactly what you're doing.
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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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It seems like 2023 was a whirlwind, flying by a bit too quickly for many of us. And now that we're approaching the last month of the year, there's a push to prep for a great 2024. I'm not a huge fan of resolutions---as I never keep mine, and I'm unapologetically not sorry for that---but I'm heavy into at least getting a head start on looking forward to the possibilities of a fresh start, finally achieving a few lingering goals, and embracing more adventure.
If you're ready to plan ahead, it's the perfect time to make December count in order to plan for a successful new year. Here are a few fun ideas to get you started.
1. Host a reflection party.
Hey, you could do this alone, but you could also make it fun and interactive by inviting friends or industry friends to reflect on the highs and the lows of the year. Create a theme, offer customized cocktails, and talk about what each of you has accomplished, reminisce on the fun times you've had, talk about the challenges you've faced, and set a few goals. Add in a few fun activities like vision boarding or career mapping.
You could also have one last girls trip and attend a conference or networking event together. After each session, take the time to put on pajamas and reflect on what was learned, who you met, and how you'll apply pressure in your careers next year.
2. Declutter and reorganize.
If you haven't been purging throughout the year, December is a great time to get a head start. All those old clothes or shoes that you don't wear? Sell or donate them. If you need help, have a consultation with a professional organizer or watch a few good tutorials on Konmari methods.
Still holding on to furniture, appliances, or other home decor that really isn't functional, doesn't scream home for you, or needs an upgrade? Go thrifting, shop around, or treat yourself to interior decorating services.
If you can't afford to do any of those, move a few things around, repurpose your household items, or try DIYs. Sometimes a bit of paint or moving your home office into a different room can be small changes that lead to big differences in mood or convenience at home.
And, as mentioned before, invite a few friends, family, or bae, and make it another excuse to close out the year with good drinks, laughter, and connection.
3. Create a bucket list.
From your career to your personal life, it's good to write down your dream or must-do activities to get clear on what you want to accomplish in the new year and to serve as a nudge for accomplishment. And it doesn't have to be grand goals like "Save a million dollars," (though, if that's a bucket-list contender for you, go off, sis, and get that money.) It can be places you want to travel to, concerts you want to attend, professional development courses you want to take, or new adventurous experiences you want to enjoy.
One thing I like about bucket lists is that I don't approach them in the traditional way, where I feel pressure to do these things before the Lord calls me home. I like to think of a bucket list as a fun guideline that will help me get clear on what excites me, what I need to do to grow, and what challenges me to push past self-inflicted boundaries.
4. Prioritize wellness.
If you've slacked off a bit or know you might be facing a few issues in the health and wellness department, now is the time to start prioritizing. Set those last appointments for a full physical, gynecological, or dermatologist visit, follow-up tests, or therapy for next year. Sign up for fun fitness classes and schedule a few visits to the spa while you're at it.
Block out time in your schedule for meditation, prayer, religious services, and exercise, and go ahead and change that calendar setting to "daily" or "weekly." Set email updates and other ways to remind yourself to put wellness at the top of your priority list leading into the new year.
If you're already pretty consistent with your fitness and wellness goals, try a new activity or incorporate new technology to level up a bit and challenge yourself more. Try a new skincare routine, join a running group, or learn a new activity that requires movement, such as dance, karate, or boxing. Mix things up a bit so that you can enrich your experience on the journey.
5. Take an honest look at your finances and adjust accordingly.
If you're reading this, I'm sure you know the importance and power of budgeting, no matter how much money you make. Getting into a habit of knowing exactly how much you earn and how you're spending those earnings is vital to your success and financial freedom. If you have goals for next year that will require a significant shift in your budget, you'll need to adjust.
Be realistic and account for the things you enjoy doing, your lifestyle, your debts, and your other financial obligations. If you have vacations or other big events planned, be sure your budget accommodates them or set goals in order to save up. If you've experienced a major transition such as a marriage, divorce, or addition to your family, take some time to reflect on how your income is impacted and what you might need to do to ease the transition when it comes to your pockets.
Research ways you can make residual income, how you can invest, start a side hustle, and prep for retirement. (As much as some of you would like to think you're too young to think about that, imagine how much more of a nest egg you'd have if you started saving for retirement in your 20s or 30s.)
And don't sleep on insurance beyond coverage for your car or healthcare. Life, long-term care, and disability insurance are important if you have children, want to be sure your loved ones are taken care of financially in the future, or if you want to protect assets such as your income, home, or business.
Think about your prep for next year holistically and start this December to ensure that you're going into 2024 with a mindset and intention for success.
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