There's always a bit of magic when two strong black women join together with a common goal to not only empower others but push the envelope while filling a void for women of color. For friends Erica Dickerson and Jamilah "Milah" Mapp, that meant redefining the narrative of single motherhood and providing a platform for women who don't necessarily fit the traditional cookie-baking, PTA-mom mold. Through their weekly podcast, Good Moms, Bad Choices, the two do just that, featuring expert and celebrity guests (one of their latest was singer Melonie Fiona) to talk hot topics including sex, dating, social media, and cannabis.
"I've always been a fan of podcasts, and I started looking for those that were more about parenthood and single motherhood," Dickerson recalled during an interview with xoNecole. "As a woman of color—as a black woman— there were just none that I felt like I could relate to. A lot of them were hosted by white women who I felt like didn't understand my experience as a single black mother. We just started recording something and it has grown from there."
Dickerson, a global beauty director at Beautyblender by day, and Mapp, an esthetician with her own mobile business, found common ground not only being single moms of daughters who are the same age, but also being self-starters who have even strengthened their friendship on the show. They've now built a community of more than 30,000 followers on their Instagram alone and reach millions of listeners everywhere.
"We're good moms that sometimes make bad choices, and we learn. We needed something that was going to let the audience [know] quickly what they're about to get themselves into," Mapp said. "Jamilah and I are really trying to change the landscape—the negative connotation of what single motherhood looks like," Dickerson added.
"We're good moms that sometimes make bad choices, and we learn. We needed something that was going to let the audience [know] quickly what they're about to get themselves into. Jamilah and I are really trying to change the landscape—the negative connotation of what single motherhood looks like."
Many single moms of color face stigmas and comparisons to archaic stereotypes that range from bitter mean workaholic mom to lazy money-hungry baby mama. Dickerson and Mapp want to turn those stereotypes on their heads and give women a chance to unapologetically connect and share, building their own tribe based on their unique and diverse parenting experiences and needs—uncensored and raw.
"It's a range of things—a lot of life experiences on a day-to-day basis—so there's no telling really what you're going to get. Episodes range from parenting to personal experiences," Mapp said.
"As two single parents, we're navigating this dating world out here in Los Angeles, so we talk a lot about dating and a lot about sex," Dickerson added. "We definitely advocate for our listeners to not be afraid to talk about taboo topics with their kids. If you're going to listen to our podcast at work, put your headphones in because we do curse a lot. It's realness and we really don't filter anything—our experiences as women and mothers."
"If you're going to listen to our podcast at work, put your headphones in because we do curse a lot. It's realness and we really don't filter anything—our experiences as women and mothers."
One hot topic that always sparks intrigue and debate is the consumption of weed, and it's something the ladies have no qualms in supporting or discussing. "We both are cannabis users and obviously, in L.A., that's legal. It's a bit more normal, per se, and that's something that we normalize in our households. When we talk about cannabis with our parents who want to smoke, [some have] been shamed by their family or they have guilt. They think, 'Oh my God, am I a bad parent because I'm smoking weed?'" Dickerson said.
"Jamilah and I always tell them, 'This is your life. You don't need to ask for permission. Do what you have to do and stop asking for everyone's opinion.' And [the cannabis topic] is just one example. There are a lot of opinions out there [about motherhood and parenting], but I always say, this is your life—this is your child's life. As long as your child is healthy and you're not putting them in danger, that's your business."
Single moms are also often at the whim of very stifling family and societal criticism on issues like what to wear when pregnant, where and how to give birth, when to date, and disciplinary practices—leading to quite a bit of mom-shaming. Black mothers are often passed down insights on what they should and should not do based on habits of the past.
"I think we come from a society that, you know, has this premade equation of what parenthood looks like, but the truth is, that [equation] is not necessarily [accurate for all of us]," Mapp said. "We've been socialized in a lot of ways. There's this box moms have to fit into, and if you don't, you're shamed. They'll say, 'You're somebody's mother, why are you wearing that?' 'Oh, you went out twice this week? Why are you doing that?'"
Dickerson stresses the importance of mothers trusting themselves a bit more and making confident decisions based on intuition and personal preference. "When you get pregnant, that's when it really starts—like the precursor to opinions. Everyone has an opinion about what you should do as a pregnant woman, how you should prepare, how your child is going to be before they're even here. I think that right there was my first [indication of having] to go with my intuition. I learned the hard way because my first big lesson was not trusting myself on how I wanted to give birth. It all went downhill because I listened to everybody else's opinion."
"Just because you're a mother doesn't mean that you're no longer an individual—a woman who has goals, who is having sex, who is putting herself first," Dickerson said. "I think a lot of times in motherhood we think that we can no longer put ourselves first, and that's a huge mistake because you really can't be a good mother if you're not taking care of yourself."
For the two hosts, embracing every facet of their own femininity, living their best lives for themselves and their children, and tapping into their motherly instincts is key. Finding balance between the three is something that is ongoing and fluid, and it doesn't have to be perfect.
"I think for both of us, in this journey that we've had, we've got to have the attitude like, 'Look, we know what we're doing,'" Mapp said. "When you're confident in what you're doing and you know you're doing the right thing for your child, all the other things fall to the wayside. We encourage that for our audience, too. There's no black-and-white instructional on how to be a parent to your child, and being a single parent doesn't define you. You, as a single parent, have the ability to be multifaceted."
"There's no black-and-white instructional on how to be a parent to your child, and being a single parent doesn't define you. You, as a single parent, have the ability to be multifaceted."
Dickerson echoed those sentiments and believes that she and Mapp's lives as mothers and empowered women venturing into a new decade are ever-changing and evolving.
"[We won't] be single forever," Dickerson added with a laugh. "I'm totally enjoying my singleness right now, but you know, if someone comes along, I'm open. I just feel women are in an exciting time. We're more empowered than ever, and we're so happy to be part of that."
You can catch Erica and Jamilah on Good Moms, Bad Choices via any major streaming platform.
Featured image courtesy of Good Moms, Bad Choices.
Originally published on November 4, 2019
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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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
What would you do if you just got laid off from your corporate job and you had a serendipitous encounter with someone who gave you the opportunity of a lifetime? Tamara Taylor was faced with that decision in 2013 after she was let go from her sales profit and operations coach job in the restaurant industry and met a then-up-and-coming stylist, Law Roach, on a flight to L.A. She and Roach struck up a conversation, and he shared how he was looking for someone to run his business and was impressed by her skills. While she took his business card, she was unsure if it would lead to anything. But, boy, was she wrong. Two weeks later, after packing up her home to move back to her hometown of Chicago, she called Roach; he asked if they could meet the following day, and the rest is herstory.
Taylor founded Mastermind MGMT, an agency that represents some of Hollywood’s best “image architects” like Roach, Kellon Deryck, and Kollin Carter, who are responsible for creating unforgettable style and beauty moments for celebrities like Zendaya, Megan Thee Stallion, Taraji P. Henson, and more. Taylor and her company possess an array of functions, but her biggest role is to be her client’s advocate. We hear endless stories about how creatives aren’t paid or underpaid in the entertainment industry, but Taylor ensures that her clients get their piece of the pie. The entrepreneur opened up about her company and her non-profit, Mastermind Matters, in an exclusive interview with xoNecole.
“I always say that I'm an artist advocate first, deal closer second. So my primary focus is to just make sure that the artist is getting everything that they deserve, whether it's compensation or, you know, certain accommodations, but just making sure that they have everything that they need to be able to show up and provide the best service that they're hired for,” she explained.
“So you know, in the beginning, it was hard because I didn't have any experience, and the artists who I was working with at the time–we were learning together, meaning neither of us had assisted anyone. We didn't have mentors in our specific fields. So every deal was like a new learning experience for us from the styling side and also from the business side, and so it took, you know, doing some research, using some very creative tactics, to find out information in the industry and just starting to request accommodations that I knew other artists were granted, who maybe didn't look like my artists.”
Photo courtesy of Tamara Taylor
Ten years later, there’s still not many people who are doing what Taylor is doing. However, things have gotten easier thanks to the research and connections she made in the beginning. During Mastermind MGMT’s ten-year anniversary celebration, she announced her non-profit, Mastermind Matters, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that focuses on helping young entrepreneurs through a 12-week program. The program is divided into “two routes.” The first route is for aspiring creative artists who want to start a business from their talent and all the things they need to learn about business, such as taxes, life insurance, etc. The second route is for practicing creative artists who are already in the industry but need resources such as how to plan for retirement or how to sustain themselves if they can’t work for a short amount of time, i.e., the pandemic.
“I just feel that I'm able to have a business and be successful because of their art as well. And so there are things that I know, I tried to teach it to them but understanding that I can only do so much because I'm not a subject matter expert in those fields,” she said. “So I at least want to be able to provide the resources, and then if they make their grown decision not to do it, then that's on them. But you know, I could be guilt-free and taking advantage of the resources that I'm also providing to them.”
Taylor continues to be an innovator in her industry by always pushing the boundaries of creativity and thinking one step ahead of everyone else. The Chicago-bred businesswoman is moving into the tech space thanks to a new invention created with her clients in mind, and she is looking forward to bigger collaborations in the future. Follow Mastermind MGMT on Instagram @mastermind_mgmt for more information.
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Feature image courtesy of Tamara Taylor