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BOSS UP

Born into the world of entertainment, Deja Riley is a star in her own right. And if her last name sounds familiar, it is because she is the daughter of legendary producer and King of New Jack Swing, Teddy Riley. But rather than rely on her father's connections and last name, Deja chose to forge her own path into the entertainment industry. Going from dancing professionally with the likes of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and the queen herself, Beyoncé, to now becoming one of the most sought-after MIRROR home fitness trainers, a lululemon global ambassador, and the creator of her own fitness brand, the Sweaty Smiles Squad.

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With all the talk of inflation, heightened interest rates, and a recession looming, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, especially after pushing through the hardships of a pandemic. If you can find inspiration and motivation to keep pushing through, just take a cue from someone whose mantra screams empowerment and fortitude no matter what life throws at us as Black women.

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It’s always great to be able to see power in motion, and the more we see this, the more we can embody it in our own lives. Black women executives in entertainment oftentimes showcase this in more ways than one—leveling up while innovating, day by day, a single step at a time.

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If a breath of fresh air was a person, it would be Sonya Renee Taylor. Even via our Zoom call, the poet, best-selling author, and social justice advocate exudes that perfect mix of grace, intellect, and tell-it-like-it-is candor of your favorite auntie or podcast host. Taylor, who started The Body Is Not An Apology movement in 2011 and wrote The New York Timesbest-seller The Body Is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love in 2018, has used her voice and platform to create a profound safe space, and drive a movement behind being unapologetically yourself as a Black woman and embracing all that comes with that journey.

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Before 43-year-old film and television writer Felicia Pride made a career writing for shows like Queen Sugar and Grey’s Anatomy, she had vastly different plans for her life. A business major in college, she’d been pursuing a path in the corporate world, but got her first taste of the possibility of a career in writing. “In college, I had a professor who saw something in my writing,” Pride tells xoNecole. “[The professor] encouraged me to minor in English, but that’s more time and more money – both of which I [didn’t] have.”

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In this special Women’s History Month Boss Up series, we talk to women who are redefining what leadership looks like. They’re deciding, on their own terms, to tap into a fulfilling career, walk their own paths, and embrace the fullness of the impact of Black women when they decide to unapologetically take up space and disrupt in business.

The pandemic has had a tremendous effect on almost all aspects of life, and our careers are obviously no exception. One intriguingly empowering phenomenon within it all has been the boost in innovative and resilient leaders pursuing startups and side hustles despite the challenges.

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