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‘Good Trouble’ Star Zuri Adele Finds Happiness In Prioritizing Self

"By choosing myself, I am choosing everyone I am connected to."

Finding Balance

In xoNecole's Finding Balance, we profile boss women making boss moves in the world and in their respective industries. We talk to them about their business, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.

As we navigate this world, we all are given different opinions and perspectives on how we should be. We've been told to be kind, not mean, be brave, not afraid, and be selfless, not selfish. I don't know about y'all, but as I've gotten older, the definition of these things have definitely shifted for me. Now that I am in my 30s, my definition for being brave may be different from someone else's. Even with the word 'selfish' and the negative association to it, I am sure it leaves a bad taste in your mouth just by saying it. But if I am being honest, being selfish does not have to always be a bad thing.


There are nuances about selfishness that are actually very healthy, especially for those who consider themselves people-pleasers or huge givers. Now I am not saying that giving to others is something we need to stop doing. We all need support and that sense of community. All I am proposing is pivoting our mindsets a little when we think about the word 'selfish' because in reality, focusing on our well-being should be a priority. Taking care of ourselves and putting ourselves first should not be frowned upon.

Recently, I had an amazing conversation with actress Zuri Adele, a woman who made the decision to be selfish through self-choosing, and she hasn't looked back since. Zuri grew up between Palo Alto, California, and Brooklyn, New York. She studied acting at Spelman College, the British American Drama Academy, and UCLA's School of Theater, Film, and Television. Outside of acting, Zuri is very passionate about wellness. In addition to teaching acting at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa and UCLA's TFT, she's led yoga classes, voice workshops, and curated wellness experiences within her communities.

Zuri is well known for her role as Malika Williams on Freeform's series Good Trouble, a spin-off from The Fosters where viewers follow two sisters, Callie and Mariana, as they move to The Coterie in downtown Los Angeles. They meet their new neighbors and journey through their new lives in LA. One of those neighbors is Malika (played by Zuri), a Black Lives Matter activist, and her story centers around showing up for social justice while exploring intersectionality in romance and human identity.

Courtesy of Rikers Brothers

What I love about Zuri playing the role is that showing up for yourself is what this character is all about. The actress has learned through trial and error that as Black women, we do ourselves a disservice by not choosing ourselves first, before we give to others. She shared, "Once I started to learn that self-choosing ripples in such a major way to everyone including myself, it's bigger than me at that point. It is actually more selfish of me to try to be perceived as a good person by doing something that I honestly don't want to do."

In this installment of Finding Balance, xoNecole talks to Zuri about living a liberated life, unlearning certain definitions of selfishness, and the importance of moving your body.

xoNecole: What have you learned from your 'Good Trouble' character, Malika, that has helped you figure out your personal why?

Zuri Adele: I love that question. Thank you for that. Something that I continue to learn through Malika is that everything we do is connected to a divine purpose. I strongly believe in this system from merging with Malika. For instance, my purpose as an actor is that I am a griot. I am a storyteller. I am here to pass on as many stories as I can through my body and voice. Malika is my soulmate in a sense because she is so passionate about collective and Black liberation. She is a griot in her own right and she reminds me that our best life is a liberated one. As one of my best friends recently reminded me, living your most liberated life is your life's purpose.

"Living your most liberated life is your life's purpose."

On the show, we see how Malika is showing up for herself and others through activism. For you, how are you showing up for yourself unapologetically on a daily basis?

I have really been reflecting on this recently. How I like to show up for myself is to make sure that my cup is overflowing. In order to do anything, I try to stay as consistent as I can with my morning and night routines. As creatives, our schedules can get a little hectic, but as long as I carve out some time for me to pour into myself, that is something I prioritize. Trusting my intuition and when my body tells me I need to give it attention has been the best way in taking care of myself.

At what point in your life did you understand the importance of pressing pause and finding balance in both your personal and professional life?

It has really been through trial and error. It has really been through hitting my limits and facing the consequences of doing that. Whether it's people-pleasing, appearing selfless, and just avoiding other people's reactions of how I come off if I act otherwise. Doing that really had cost me money, my health, my peace, and my confidence. Experiencing that made me take a step back and say, 'Wait a minute, I can not survive like this.'

When I did start speaking up more for myself, the outcome actually went above and beyond what I expected. Once I started to learn that self-choosing ripples in such a major way to everyone including myself, it's bigger than me at that point. It is actually more selfish of me to try to be perceived as a good person by doing something that I honestly don't want to do.

"Once I started to learn that self-choosing ripples in such a major way to everyone including myself, it's bigger than me at that point. It is actually more selfish of me to try to be perceived as a good person by doing something that I honestly don't want to do."

Courtesy of Rikers Brothers

What have you discovered through self-choosing that you would like other women to know?

For me, it is really about unlearning the selfish narrative. For so long, I had an adult in my life that would call me selfish when I would self-choose. I really want to encourage people to not listen to those negative voices that are inside of our heads. By choosing myself, I am choosing everyone I am connected to. Self-choosing is also a way we accept our abundance. The more we responsibly choose our abundance, we make room to be able to be of service to others. There are so many moments when we as Black women are taught that we need to put our masks on last, but it's really the exact opposite.

"By choosing myself, I am choosing everyone I am connected to. Self-choosing is also a way we accept our abundance. The more we responsibly choose our abundance, we make room to be able to be of service to others."

What are your mornings like?

When I wake up in the morning, I like to do a morning meditation for about five minutes. Then, I like to read Iyanla Vanzant's devotional book Acts of Faith. I make sure that I do not respond to any calls or messages until after I have read my devotion. I also try to move my body as much as I can. I practice martial arts, yoga, and I have a spin class that I like to go to. I don't believe I have to go through the same loop of routines. I just have to do something where I can move my body. [There are] those t-shirts that say, "I'm sorry for what I said before I ate," [but] my shirt would say, "I'm sorry for what I said before I moved my body."

How do you wind down at night?

If I didn't get to work out, then I would work out at night. After that, I would shower to cleanse the day off. I like to light some candles and get my skincare routine going.

What are your top three favorite self-care practices?

Gardening and taking care of my plants is one of my favorites. Another practice I love to do is acupuncture. It has been really helpful for me. Last but not least is skincare. I don't know what it is, but I didn't know I was going to get so hooked on it [laughs]. Skincare makes me feel like I am just releasing all the toxins out of me.

Courtesy of Rikers Brothers

How do you find balance with:

Friends?

It has been really helpful to know that I am not alone, especially during the pandemic. One thing I will say that my friends and I do is speak up more about what we need. We all work in different fields, so we have different needs. We show up for each other when we can and respect each other's boundaries as well. Making sure that I stay connected to my friends, who are Black women, not only helps me with filming Good Trouble, but also grounds me in my sisterhood and community.

"Making sure that I stay connected to my friends, who are Black women, not only helps me with filming Good Trouble, but also grounds me in my sisterhood and community."

Love/Relationships?

I am really trusting my intuition with what works for me as far as dating. Overall, I have been noticing the red flags way sooner than I did before and simply owning what I need. I actually just hired a matchmaker and it has been really fun! I learned about her on the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. She said this quote in her interview that really stuck with me. So I posted the quote on Instagram and tagged her. She later reached out to me and told me she would love to match me. Her company is called The Broom List and it has been really dope so far!

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

Therapy is No. 1. I started therapy a little over two years ago. I can't even tell you what I was out here doing before that. Just having that private sacred place to talk through anything has been life-changing. I am able to recognize certain patterns from my past and navigate through that better. I also want to mention the importance of being still. Stillness and not rushing myself has been really helpful for me. I am one of those people who needs time to process to respond how I need to in certain situations. The answer is always within yourself. You just need time to carve out all the noise.

"I am one of those people who needs time to process to respond how I need to in certain situations. The answer is always within yourself. You just need time to carve out all the noise."

And honestly, what does success mean to you? What does happiness mean to you?

Well, in some ways, right now success and happiness go hand in hand, definitely more than they did before. Success and happiness both feel like liberation, and to me, that feels like peace. Happiness doesn't necessarily mean joy. Happiness means peace and knowing that everything is in divine order. Success is when you are living your most authentic liberated life as best as you can with the resources that you have.

I envision myself in a meditative position and, [although] there is a tornado or a bunch of moving pieces around me, I am seated on the ground and still. That is what success and happiness looks like to me. To know that no matter what is going on around me, internally, I am at peace.

For more of Zuri Adele, follow her on Instagram here.

Featured image courtesy of Rikers Brothers

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