Jazmine Sullivan & Issa Rae Link Up For An Epic Conversation On Flexing Their Grown Woman Ish
Jazmine Sullivan is music royalty. She's rightfully deemed as one of the best voices to ever hit a studio, and she's also the queen of relatable music, a page out of Mary J. Blige's book. In fact, also similar to Mary, she makes some of the best music when she's her mental health is out of alignment. Ain't that a bitch?
At the top of this year, Sullivan released her highly, highly anticipated EP, Heaux Tales, and even put into the universe a potential collaboration with fellow GOAT, Issa Rae. "What I would love is if me and @IssaRae did a heauxtales short film, and I'd add a few extra songs. But I could just be dreaming. Nvm me. I'm crazy." Issa soon after answered, with five simple words: "Jazmine. Say the f–k less."
The rest, is Black women's history, as they sneaky linked up for an interview with ESSENCE, hopefully with more to come.
And listen, during this interview, they discussed it all. From being fans of the other, to learning to say 'no more' to the childish things (for now), as our good sis Jazmine says she is now all about therapy, new music, and creating spaces for Black women.
Continue reading for highlights of the cover story below!
On having a master plan...or not:
When Issa asked the crooner how her album Fearless came about, sis responded gracefully:
"I wish I could say I had a master plan, but I really didn't. I was just doing what felt natural, and luckily I had gotten with a record company and with people who allowed me to do that. But for me, I just wanted to express myself in the most natural way, and that means me writing my stories. So many of the songs at that time came from a lot of the childish stuff I was going through.
"For example, busting windows out of an ex's car and literally going straight from doing it to not being able to sleep. I was restless, because I was still in the moment. And so I just started writing about it. I let my girlfriends hear it, and they were like, 'Girl, do your thing—whatever this leads to.' And it led to my world opening up in such a different way…"
On telling Black women's stories:
"Before now, I had really just been concerned about expressing myself and getting my story out there—and people have connected to that. But for this project, it was important for me to share the stories of the women I love and hold dear to my heart. I feel like they are just as banging and dynamic as me. And I want to give space and opportunity to women, period…"
On making space for Black women:
Earlier this year, Jazmine went viral for hitting social media and teaching us all how to perfect the art of the vocal--a skill she is notorious for. As it turns out, she's just looking out for the culture.
"I feel like we get caught up in thinking there's 'only one' of us. There can only be one R&B superstar; there can only be one rap girl at a time. That's not true. God was not stingy when He was giving out gifts. And you're not the only person. There are many other women, especially Black women, who can do what you do. And let's all create spaces for each other to get out there and do that…"
On self-care and finding the right therapist:
"The first five minutes I was holding back tears, because I was like, 'Wow, this is the first time I'm actually speaking about my feelings. And it's not in a song. It doesn't require notes. I don't need to impress anybody with what it is that I'm actually doing. This is the first time.' So I was holding back tears even doing that. But after that first five minutes, I was surprised by how much I was enjoying speaking to somebody, and somebody listening to me, and I didn't have to perform to do it.
"But finding the right therapist is a process—because I went to therapy one time, years ago, and I hated the experience, and I feel like it stopped me from going for a long time. And then I found this new lady, and it's a totally different experience. So you have to find the right person for you, that you actually want to open up to. But once you do that, a weight lifts off of you—just from speaking, just from telling your story. And that's what Heaux Tales was. It's like, 'Tell it, girl. Tell it. Set yourself free.'"
So here for all of this, whew!
Sullivan is headlining this year's ESSENCE Festival of Culture presented by Coca-Cola®. The full conversation between Jazmine Sullivan and Issa Rae for the July/August 2021 issue of ESSENCE, will be available on newsstands + digital platforms June 29.
Featured image via Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Tyler Perry Studios
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
Thanksgiving is the ideal occasion to unwind, indulge, and enjoy movies with loved ones. Therefore, for your inevitable movie marathon, we have curated a selection of comedies, dramas, and thrillers to keep you and your family entertained. With so many fantastic Thanksgiving films to pick from, the ones on this list are guaranteed to bring you joy and tears through empathy and compassion. These films will serve as a mirror to your daily life and lighten the mood of the holidays, whether they bring back memories of your own family, your in-laws, or your friends.
The top 15 movies that you should watch this holiday season are listed in no particular order. Though they don't all revolve around Thanksgiving as a theme, they do involve family and chosen family. Some of them will make you think of the dysfunctional family you may be trying to avoid (The Temptations and Soul Food), the political arguments that everyone can't help but talk about (The Oath and Remember the Titans), or the chaos that has been created in your chosen family (Dreamgirls and Friendsgiving). Whichever movie you choose, you'll be able to appreciate the various families that are reflected throughout the list.
15 Movies To Watch on Thanksgiving That Focus on Family & Chosen Family Dynamics
Soul Food (1997)
What a crazy, dysfunctional family the Josephs are. From the opening scene to the rolling credits of the movie Soul Food, this family screams "red flag" brightly and boldly during the holidays. Yet, we can't help but watch their madness. Every Sunday, the family gathers for dinner adorned with soul food and inevitable family antics. However, the Joseph family experiences turmoil when "Big Mama" Joseph (Irma P. Hall), the family's matriarch, goes into a coma following a diabetic episode and limb amputation procedure.
From there, Ahmad (Brandon Hammond) observes his mother, Maxine (Vivica A. Fox), aunts Teri (Vanessa Williams) and Bird (Nia Long), and other family members as they attempt to keep up with the long-standing custom of Sunday dinners while falling back on old grudges, family rivalries, and a possible life without "Big Mama."
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
I'll give you one guess, but it's not Morgan Freeman, I promise. In a way, the 1967 romantic comedy Guess Who's Coming to Dinner was both ahead of its time and right on time. The renowned Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton portray an interracial couple who want to be married far too soon in this once-controversial romantic comedy classic. Joey Drayton brings her fiancé, the exceptionally talented Dr. John Prentice, back to her parents' house following a Hawaiian vacation. However, the sole issue is that Joey is white, and John is Black.
Their parents are taken aback to learn that their children plan to marry someone of a different race when they get to dinner. Consequently, the families discuss the challenges surrounding their son and daughter's nuptials and how they can possibly disband it.
The Wiz (1978)
Diana Ross. Michael Jackson. Mabel King. Richard Pryor. Nipsey Russell. Lena Horne. Ted Ross. All in one musical. That’s it. That’s the selling point. Those names alone should be a good enough reason for you to ease on down that yellow brick road. You’re welcome.
The Oath (2018)
The Oath captures just how frustrating it is to realize that you and your family have become so distant since your previous visit, just as you are going home for the holidays. And your family just won't stop talking about politics, even if there's an unwritten taboo about it. Your elderly uncle is bringing up something offensive with pride. The things your grandma is saying are inappropriate or no longer relevant in your culture. Your mom and dad are always discussing the wrong side of politics. Furthermore, your aunt won't stop talking about the candidates she supported and how America is rapidly going to hell in a handbasket. It's a mess. A hot mess, and it doesn't appear to be getting easier anytime soon.
This film depicts what happens when a family is so devoted to the past that they allow it to ruin the present. Chris and Kai (Tiffany Haddish) promise in the oath not to swear allegiance to the U.S. in exchange for tax breaks. Black Friday is the deadline, and it's a politically fraught Chris who pours over the news of The Oath while concentrating on getting through the holiday with his family. Nevertheless, when the police arrive the day after Thanksgiving, the family finds that they have to make a decision on how to keep their family safe and avoid going to jail.
Black Nativity (2013)
Although this is a Christmas movie, as you and I both know, very few people have watched it, and it hasn't even been a part of our holiday traditions. This movie is the awkward in-between, much like Thanksgiving, unlike Home Alone or This Christmas. But it doesn't mean it's not entertaining to watch. Black Nativity, which stars Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, and Forest Whitaker among its star-studded ensemble, centers on Langston, a teenage boy from Baltimore raised by a single mother, as he visits New York City to celebrate Christmas with his estranged cousins, the Rev. Cornell Cobbs and his wife Aretha.
Langston quickly discovers, although, that Cobbs has severe guidelines, and he refuses to abide by them. Rather, he embarks on a voyage of return to his mother, discovering the significance of religion, healing, and family in the process.
The Temptations (1998)
Say it with me: "Ain't nobody coming to see you, Otis." And in a way, he is right, we’re all here for The Temptations. Even though it's dreadful, the tale of the original The Temptations is worth knowing, especially if you're with family. Why? Well, because The Temptations were a family unto itself and, prior to their notoriety, a fraternity that encouraged one another to pursue their own goals. They were the band that was Motown's greatest success story; they went on to become platinum-selling vocalists and had the whole world in the palm of their hands. However, a cocktail of conceit, cocaine addiction, and strained relationships ultimately brought them to an end.
With this four-hour miniseries, it’s easy for families to understand what happens when they stop considering one another and begin living selfishly for themselves.
Four Brothers (2005)
To put it plainly, this film shouldn't work. The casting director chose two musicians (Tyrese Gibson and André 3000), an actor who was not well known (Garrett Hedlund), and Marky Mark, who was a combination of the two but on the well-known side of things. With a cast like that, Four Brothers just shouldn't work, but strangely enough, it does. This film is all you could ask for in a Thanksgiving movie since it depicts the lengths individuals can go to in order to show an unconditional act of love. These foster brothers come home to seek justice—pardon, retribution—for their mother's murder after learning of her death. Local police are pursuing them throughout this time as they are aware that they are going home for more than just a funeral.
Is this the best film you have ever watched? Not at all? However, it's amusing, and you will be pleased to watch people relate to each other so well, even if they have to commit several crimes to do so.
Black Friday (2021)
Black Friday is, in my opinion, the Seinfeld of films. The film is enjoyable even though it doesn't really have a purpose—everything simply happens as they go about their ordinary lives. In the film Black Friday, the action takes place on Thanksgiving night, when irate workers at toy stores reluctantly show up for work in order to open the store at midnight on the largest shopping day of the year. The narrative abruptly changes course as a meteor carrying an extraterrestrial parasite hits Earth.
This gang of outcasts, led by longstanding employee Ken and store manager Jonathan, eventually find themselves in conflict with throngs of Black Friday consumers who have been transformed into hideous beasts determined to go on a deadly spree.
Knives Out (2019)
It is easy to gripe about family members around the holidays and even threaten to murder them if they have irritated you too much. However, it is rarely carried out or genuinely intended. In Knives Out, this is a different story. In this film, the very problematic Thrombey family comes under suspicion when it is discovered that crime author and family member Harlan Thrombey's death was caused by unexplained circumstances. To find the truth, renowned detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) must sort through a maze of falsehoods and red herrings in this dark comedy.
Finding the ideal harmony between dark comedy, drama, and humor, this movie is an excellent choice for a family viewing experience.
Friendsgiving: I'm not sure who came up with the phrase, but my entire soul yearns to give Leslie Knope, the legendary character from Parks and Rec, all the credit. Leslie emphasizes the value and beauty of friendships in her Friendsgivings, demonstrating how the holiday is an excellent alternative to the custom of spending the day with close and extended family, which is sometimes draining and toxic. However, in spite of its lovely idea, this Friendsgiving is not that.
Friendsgiving, also called Dinner With Friends, demonstrates how sometimes the family we choose may be just as offensive as the family we were born into. Molly and Abbey (Malin Åkerman and Kat Dennings), together with their group of close friends, throw a dysfunctional and chaotic Thanksgiving meal in this comedy from 2020. Demonstrating how even the family we choose may occasionally be questionable and blatantly obnoxious.
Chicken Run (2000)
Unexpectedly, this film still holds up. I recall thinking this movie was the oddest thing I had ever seen or experienced when I watched it for the first time as a child. The jokes were beyond me. I was unaware that it made a communist allusion and missed all the innuendos. Thus, the sheer brilliance of this film delighted me greatly when I saw it as an adult. The narrative of Chicken Run centers on a group of hens destined for a life of egg-laying on a Yorkshire farm. The hens believe a flashy American rooster is capable of showing them how to fly to freedom.
August Osage County (2013)
What a disaster this family is.
There is a cruel mom who is hooked to prescription drugs. A daughter who is addicted to being anywhere else. The lovebird cousins. A father who has suddenly vanished and a strained couple who no longer understand one another. This movie is exactly how I see a horrible Thanksgiving going. A toxic, codependent, manipulative family forced to survive time together without murdering one another. In the beginning, you sympathize with the characters, but around halfway through, you start to think that maybe they deserve each other. It's a comedy about tragedy and how terrible it can get. That being said, this is advantageous for those who become irritated with their own families quickly during holidays. After all, you will have a greater appreciation for your family after witnessing the devastation that this one brings to one another.
Remember the Titans (2000)
Na na na na na na na na hey, hey, hey, goodbye...
I can't exactly say what it is about Remember the Titans that makes it so special. It could be the brotherhood Gerry and Julius have for one another. It could be the fierceness and compassion Denzel Washington brings to Coach Boone. It could be the hilarity brought by singing "Sunshine" in a high-pitched voice. It could be the genuine smiles created from hearing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" being sung by big football players. It could even be that it is based on a true story.
Whatever the case may be, this film is unique and ideal for the Thanksgiving holiday because it exemplifies the beauty that arises from putting aside differences and embracing your chosen family. This film explores the importance of human connection. A breath of fresh air, this masterpiece shows individuals truly choosing to love one another unconditionally, in spite of their differences and upbringings.
Left side. Strong side.
I was forced to listen to the school choir sing several arrangements of "Family" from this musical during my whole time in high school. They played it at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any other occasion when they needed to jog our memories that we were a family and not just a group of people compelled to know one another by virtue of our shared school zone and residential communities. And although that was a nice message to deliver, I think they completely misunderstood it. It was comical how the group first used this song to manipulate listeners by singing about being a family before betraying their, let's face it, somewhat conceited and demanding friend.
This musical is ideal for the occasion since it depicts the dysfunction that our chosen families may also create in us, particularly if we are unable to learn how to properly connect with one another. This family is turbulent and frequently causes harm to one another for sport, but in the end, they demonstrate how, with time and when we put our egos aside and realize that we are family, we can find our way back to one another and support one another no matter what. Plus, who wouldn't want to hear Jennifer Hudson and Beyoncé give performances of a lifetime?
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Fantastic Mr. Fox is a superbly written and beautifully animated movie that addresses the issue of greed. Following twelve years of idyllic bliss, Mr. Fox betrays his wife by raiding the fields owned by Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, their human neighbors. His marriage, his family's life, and the lives of his animal companions are all at risk when he gives in to his primal cravings. Mr. Fox must use his innate cunning abilities to overcome the farmers attempting to drive him and his group deep below.
This movie is ideal for the occasion since it emphasizes the importance of contentment and gratitude for what you already have rather than always yearning for more. This film ultimately demonstrates that you will never be content if your wants exceed what you now have.
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