As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.
This is Racquel Kristi's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
Our name? PopBliss.
We curate beautifully crafted $250,000 week-long secret wedding experiences for multiple couples in a group ceremony—with celebrity guest appearances, industry-leading professionals, luxury gifts, surprises, and excitement around every corner. Our couples and their guests are unaware of the details. All they know is the city and date. Keeping the details a surprise allows our couples to cherish a milestone while focusing on developing a strong union and starting their new journey in the best and most loving place possible.
It's their wedding day—just with five other couples, too.
We design an incredible, customized itinerary with more than six events, including the bridal brunch, cocktail parties, glam and dapper suites, tons of elite services plus a live-streamed wedding viewed across the country, keeping the bride front and center while highlighting the best of the host city.
Through our business model, we've created an unbiased community of couples who align with our core values, which become part of the longevity of their relationship—even after wedding week.
A little background about me: I'm a first-gen American, born to Jamaican parents and raised in New York. My mom was always naturally creative, and my father was always the business-minded dreamer. Most of my personality comes from and is influenced by each of them, but of course, I add a little of my own "curry" to the mix.
Courtesy of PopBliss
I remember the moment I fell in love with hospitality. My mom threw me a Sweet 16 party, and just by witnessing the planning and details she put into my special day, I remember being so enamored. I'd initially wanted to be an entertainment attorney. Ugh. All that quickly faded. A single party changed the course of my life.
I attended Howard University where I began taking classes in hospitality management, mostly because I thought owning a catering hall was what I wanted. I realized I preferred event production after watching The Wedding Planner (thanks, J.Lo!), so I became obsessed with all things event-related: I watched every show, read every magazine and book, and studied the top planners and designers in the world.
I needed to know it all, so I began my journey of getting it.
I wanted to create something no one could ever take away from me, but I didn't want to just be a wedding planner. I instead decided to become a celebration lifestyle brand.
And PopBliss was born.
Since launching, there have been many lessons learned, many setbacks, and many rewarding moments along the way. And most importantly, I've learned so much—good and bad. I remember my favorite wedding: New York, 2016. After several years of working endlessly, spending tons of money, taking lots of risks, enduring sleepless nights, and never giving up, there was a moment at our welcome party when I saw all the couples excited and dancing as they awaited their wedding day. I had a moment when I was lost in the full visual of what was going on. Like, I really built a brand, and everyone around me was appreciating it. It was amazing—a dream come true.
I created this. I did this.
It was surreal for me, and the absolute best moment of not only my event-planning career, but for appeasing that entrepreneurial little girl inside me who wanted to show all that she can do.
Reality soon set in, as we know that with group weddings, there are stigmas that come with it. Many women have their own fairy tale about what they want their wedding to look like.
Share a wedding event with someone else? No way!
People make assumptions. Some think group weddings are cheap and impersonal. Some think of it as a crowdfunding-style celebration or a fancy alternative to courthouse weddings or elopements.
In fact, it's the exact opposite. For us, we focus on the full experience of celebrating your union in a new, creative, individualized celebration that encompasses all that couples find important in their marriage and phase of life. We would never be described as "cheap"—are you kidding me? That would imply a lack of quality, which isn't the case at all. You can't knock something you've never experienced, and group weddings can be extremely magical.
And what's crazy is, I can remember one of my biggest career failures that made me believe otherwise. Just as success comes with the good, success comes with way more bad (whether your favorite entrepreneur admits it or not). I was planning a pop-up dinner party with over 700 guests, and well, let's just say Murphy's Law didn't play nice. Everything that could have gone wrong, literally did. I had thousands of dollars in an account that I couldn't access to pay vendors, our outdoor event site got rained on the night before, the caterer was five hours late, we lost sound, an ambulance had to take someone to the hospital, a team member of mine found out she had a terminal disease the day of the event—the list literally goes on and on. I thought Ashton Kutcher was about to jump out and tell me I was being "punk'd". Like, we got our butts handed to us. That was the day I learned high-level crisis management—and how quickly I could get to my local store for wine.
That was also the day I learned I was built for this.
When I'm overwhelmed, I walk away from whatever or whoever is stressing me and take a moment for myself. Then I do something that makes me happy, like watch a TV show or sit outside in the sun—basically, anything that allows me to collect myself and think through whatever is upsetting me. Also, water is my secret healer. Any time I seek clarity, I take a shower or go swimming. Putting yourself first involves being self-aware of the good and the not-so-good things about yourself. You have to consciously improve. I listen to many speakers on YouTube, and I have a gratitude journal that I write in daily. To relax, I cuddle in my bed and burn a good candle.
To top things off, my computer isn't allowed into my room. My room is for relaxation.
Ultimately, ladies, my world has taught me that love is love. No two people see love and marriage the same way. Both come in many forms and are never one-dimensional. The brides I work with are sure about themselves, what works for them, and what doesn't. They are confident in their unions, which in hindsight is a quality to have in order to be involved with group weddings. These women love celebrating who they are, and they want their style, their house, their partner, and their wedding to reflect that as well.
I've realized that your true love, your soulmate, your twin flame, or someone who might seem impossible to find, can be right in front of you and you never know.
Life gives you what you ask for and in no particular order.
It's not always "first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage". Sometimes, it's all in reverse, but regardless of what your ideal love story looks like, the goal is to have healthy, happy, withstanding love. And if standing by five other couples while saying your vows is what that looks like, then there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
PopBliss is currently accepting applications for couples who wish to tie the knot or renew their vows in a nontraditional, adventurous way. You may visit their website for more details.
If you have a story you'd like to share but aren't sure about how to put it into words, contact us at email@example.com with the subject "As Told To" for your story to be featured.
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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.
One thing about Megan Thee Stallion is that she’s going to motivate you to stay active. From afar, she seems like the perfect gym bestie, and up close, it looks like her workouts would have us gasping for air. But hey, she doesn’t call her routines “bootcamp” for nothing.
After an extended break from social media and the public eye, the Houston Hottie is back sharing the high-energy workouts that are keeping her lean and she’s happy to report that “the results have been resulting."
The 28-year-old rapper dropped an Instagram Reel, detailing the workout routine that’s putting her endurance to the test. With the help of her personal trainer, Megan has one word in mind when it comes to her progress and that’s: “Consistency.”
The “Savage” artist has been traveling, making “hot girl moves," and after returning from a trip to New York, she expressed that her trainer is pushing her to keep the same energy back in the gym.
“I had just gotten back from New York and I told my trainer, ‘Look, friend, I was having a time. Can you please take it easy?’” Megan said. “He said, ‘Hmm, I’ve seen you doing all that hot girl s—, so what you need to do is get in that gym and have that same energy.’”
Her trainer then instructed her to do jumping squats with an exercise ball and resistance band around her legs for an extra burn. “I put my thing down, flipped it, and reversed it and that’s what happened. This sh– burned like a motherf—,” she teased in the video’s voiceover while executing both forward and backward jumping squats.
It’s clear that when it comes to Megan’s fitness, her trainer doesn’t play around about pushing her to her limits. In the next set of her cardio moves, we see the Grammy-winning artist jumping rope and moving on to a combination of mountain climbers and lateral jumps over a speed hurdle.
“Right here, that’s when I realized: I’ve been saying my trainer’s crazy but I know he’s really, really crazy because he must think that I’m trying out for the Houston Texans or something,” she joked.
To finish her workout, Meg hit two more barbell exercises, one being a set of cleans with 10-pound weight plates on the barbell. She then closed out by doing lunges with the barbell racked on her shoulders.
Of course, the best way to close out a workout is to nourish yourself with a balanced meal. Meg showed off her delicious post-workout plate with salmon, a sweet potato, and assorted veggies.
With so much of her public life being shared on the internet, it’s nice to see her letting us in on her progress in a fun and motivating way. “I just want to be transparent with y'all. Working out hurts, but it’s really a mental thang, so go do it!”
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Featured image by Taylor Hill/Getty Images