We are all blessed with gifts that are innate and undeniable. However, sometimes, life's twists and turns can make us feel robbed of our talent and opportunity.
Consequently, we are seemingly forced to forfeit our dreams to the many misfortunes we encounter along our journey. For professional ballerina Paige Fraser, despite being met with obstacle after obstacle, she stands firmly in the face of opposition. She was built for this.
The young dancer has an extensive resume that includes her work with Beyonce, BET, Intel, and a number of other industry giants but did not rise to fame without overcoming her own personal challenges. Paige first discovered her inclination toward dance at just four years old, and had decided to become a professional dancer by the age of 10. After becoming the first African-American girl at her studio to play the lead role in The Nutcracker, her career path was set, and it was clear that Paige would be a force to be reckoned with.
At the time, the vivacious preteen had no idea that less than five years later, she would receive a diagnosis that would change her life forever. She told xoNecole, "I was diagnosed with Scoliosis when I was 13. I had just started attending the Professional Performing Arts High School where I would receive free dance training at the prestigious Alvin Ailey School in Manhattan. As you can imagine, this was a very tough thing to deal with as a freshman in high school."
Scoliosis is a disorder that causes an abnormal curvature of the backbone or spine that occurs most often during or right before puberty. Upon diagnosis, the condition put her lifelong dream of a dance career on hold, and doctors recommended surgery. This was understandably devastating to the aspiring dancer who recalled, "I remember hearing the words surgery come out of the doctor's mouth. I cried like a baby as he described that surgery would consist of putting metal rods in my back, affecting my range of motion. I knew I wanted to be a professional dancer and having spinal mobility was imperative."
"I cried like a baby… I knew I wanted to be a professional dancer and having spinal mobility was imperative."
Luckily, Paige's parents were a strong support system who were empathetic of her love for dance, and understood that invasive surgery would stifle her opportunity to practice her craft forever. With their support and against her doctor's wishes, their family sought alternative solutions. "We found a Chiropractor in NYC (Dr. Alex Eingorn) who adjusted my spine twice a week. He also suggested I wear a back brace; one that I would wear to school and one that I wore to bed. I was only able to take my brace off when I was training in dance. Those were the best hours of my life."
With persistence, dedication, and the support of a teacher who had also been diagnosed with scoliosis, Paige became a master of her craft. The Bronx-born dancer says that since her diagnosis, her physical imperfections have only fueled her desire to conquer the challenges that had once tried to conquer her. "My drive fuels me even when the days are hard and dark. Each day is another chance to strive to be better than yesterday. Do the work and stay in your lane and remain in faith that it will always work out as it should."
Despite her queen-like stature, persistent hustle, and fearless demeanor, Paige, like most of us, had to learn to find resolve in rejection. The 27-year-old creative professional said that it was only after learning how to manage constructive criticism and defining her purpose that she was able to ditch the idea of giving up to reach her fullest potential.
"As artists, we deal with a lot of rejection," she explained. "Over the years, I have developed a tough skin. Being a professional dancer is very humbling. There are going to be moments when you don't get the job you want or a specific role in a piece. What keeps me going is remembering why I started and thinking back to the beautiful moments make it all worth it. I also grew to understand that timing is everything."
"What keeps me going is remembering why I started."
When you realize your purpose, you have the power to be unstoppable. The 10-year-old girl who once played Clara in The Nutcracker, was later diagnosed with a life-changing physical disorder. Now, that same little girl has has graced some of the biggest stages the world has ever seen. "By fully trusting in my path, I can avoid stressing over what is next or comparing myself to others. Days when I want to quit, I quickly remind myself that I have persevered my whole life, and I'm built for this."
Despite the bumps and bruises that she's acquired along her path to success, Paige was prepared for the ride before she even got in the car. She said that even if you don't quite know where your destination is, if you continue to walk in purpose, you'll end up exactly where you should be.
"Life is going to throw you a lot of curveballs, but it is how you respond to them. As I said earlier, being a dancer is not easy but if you love it, you will find ways to navigate through. For those dealing with a Scoliosis diagnosis, reach out to others who are in the same boat. There is a huge Scoliosis community and now, with social media, it is easy to connect. No one should suffer alone. Remind yourself everyday you are beautiful, strong, and unique. Having Scoliosis is not the end of the world and everyone has something they are dealing with."
"Having Scoliosis is not the end of the world and everyone has something they are dealing with."
We can all learn a lesson or two from Paige, who used her obstacles to create a platform. Now an advocate for Scoliosis, as well as a major player in the dance industry, Paige seeks to use her story to inspire other women. "I hope that my story inspires people to never give up. I am a black girl from the Bronx who has dealt with many challenges, but I chose to persevere through it all. I refuse to let anything hold me back. I am guided by my purpose and I want to give back to the next generation. I want people to look at my story and be inspired to go after their dreams. Nothing about me is perfect. I am unique."
"I refuse to let anything hold me back. I am guided by my purpose."
This year, Paige plans to raise awareness for Scoliosis on an even larger scale with the launch of her foundation. The Paige Fraser Foundation is dedicated to giving inner city students with or without physical challenges a safe space to study art.
Paige is a reminder to be diligent with the gifts that we are given. Many times, the fruits of our productivity aren't meant for self-nourishment, but to feed others. It is your responsibility to use your gifts, despite your personal challenges and obstacles. She proves that if you continue to walk in your purpose despite life's curveballs, you can ultimately win the game.
For more Paige, follow her on Instagram.
*Featured image of Paige by Melika Dez for The Black Iris Project
Taylor "Pretty" Honore is a spiritually centered and equally provocative rapper from Baton Rouge, Louisiana with a love for people and storytelling. You can probably find me planting herbs in your local community garden, blasting "Back That Thang Up" from my mini speaker. Let's get to know each other: @prettyhonore.
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masterdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masterdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masterdating All About?
Masterdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masterdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masterdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masterdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masterdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masterdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masterdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masterdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masterdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
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Featured image by FOTOGRAFIA, INC./Getty Images