There are times when we try to run from our past, not realizing that our pain and experiences are the very things we must overcome in order to live a life we truly desire. We want love, but carry the dark shadows of people who've abused or misused us into our next relationship. We want to be sexually free, but memories of an unsolicited touch from strangers and even loved ones keep us confined. And while there's a desire to be healed—to be open and trusting again—there's a deeper part of us that struggles to let go as a form of self-preservation and protection.
It's something that Jayd Hernandez, an intimacy and relationship coach and founder of Femme Beat, is all too familiar with. In her own journey she's transformed from the hurt to the healer, and from sexually abused to sexually empowered, and as someone who's overcome the traumas of her past, she is now helping others like her—both married and single—through their own struggles that keep them from fully developing intimate and healthy relationships.
“My technique is a little different," she shares on our call. “It's a lot more edgy than what I've come across because I've been through therapy and personal development work all through my life as well, so I'd say that in one way my experiences in the past have really shaped my perspectives that I share on Instagram and with my clients today."
In a sense, she is a light revealer, but in order to help others shine in the full essence of who they are, she first had to confront the darkness of her own past.
She grew up in Los Angeles, adopted into a dysfunctional family where abuse was prevalent and molestation their hidden little secret. With every blow and inappropriate touch a piece of her innocence was taken. Feeling confused and alone, Jayd endured the pain until one day, while watching her brother being brutally beaten and strangled, she decided to speak out.
“The physical abuse was reported before the sexual abuse," she says. “I actually wasn't planning on telling anyone about that until someone had asked me about it randomly, and I couldn't lie because my facial expression basically revealed the truth. And even when it was exposed it was so dark and made people so uncomfortable. It was so shameful that no one could really talk about it or be held accountable for it."
She and her brother were moved from a physically and sexually abusive home to one where the mother dispensed emotional blows, plunging Jayd into a deeper darkness as she continued moving from foster home to foster home.
As she began her physical transformation into a woman, the same curves that attracted male attention when they were once non-existent became tools of manipulation. It started with a free drink here, a line cut at the club there—small conquests that increasingly became bigger as she unmasked the power of sex and sexuality, and decided that what she had to offer would come at a higher exchange rate.
“Usually with sexual abuse victims they either become hypersexual or hyposexual; I became hypersexual. I had also started getting more attention using my sexuality so I started modeling, which then ended up taking me into the adult industry."
Running from her past and the shameful secrets that traditional forms of therapy failed to alleviate, 18-year-old Jayd packed her bags and moved with her then boyfriend to Arizona. At the time she was already earning a living as a car show model, but she soon met a girl who introduced her to the more lucrative lifestyle of adult modeling. It was not only financially fulfilling, but for once, she was able to connect with a group of women who understood and accepted who she was, no strings attached.
“As an adult model all of a sudden I'm in this whole world where I'm not being judged for my past," she says. “If anything there are a lot of girls that share similar pasts as me—sexually abused, raped, molested, all of that stuff. But it was also an industry that I felt really empowered because I could show as much as I wanted for however much I wanted to ask for, and men all of a sudden weren't predators, but they became prey."
Where before she was shamed for her sexuality (her foster mother didn't allow her to wear skirts or dresses in fear of drawing too much attention and becoming a threat) she was now learning to embrace it. Her hips and breasts were no longer detestable, but tastefully displayed for visual consumption.
But there was another level to her sexuality that she had yet to tap into—one where she could not only express her sensuality on camera, but also behind closed doors without fear of being exposed. It was in an adult magazine interview that she conducted with a call girl that she was lured into a world where she could be both her own boss and a sensual vixen when she wanted to and for the right price.
Being a high-end call girl unlocked another part of Jayd's sexuality that centered on desire—not just a need for sex, but also that of independence, freedom, and entrepreneurship. Working for an agency taught her the basics of what it took to thrive in a business where celebrities, politicians, and successful businessman relied on her exclusivity just as much as they did her companionship. She wasn't just an object of lust, but a confidant and safe haven for men who often felt undervalued and unheard in their own homes.
“With my clients they were often living a double life as well," says Jayd. “A lot of them were married, and it wasn't the sex that I was providing them—I'd say the job was 20 percent of the sex, 80 percent was the companionship. And really the companionship was just honesty—this is who I am and I'm not being judged, therefore I don't judge you."
Becoming intimate with her clients also allowed Jayd to develop a deeper intimacy with herself. She continued focusing on her personal development, healing from and accepting her past instead of hiding from it. Her confidence grew not just physically, but emotionally, and though she was living a double-life, it was in this world that she was able to find a light in the darkness.
Over the last year Jayd has taken ownership of her own story and uses it as a platform to empower women and men through the power of sexual healing—a decision made after realizing that her life as an escort no longer served her greater purpose.
“As I grew and evolved as a person, the escorting, the adult modeling, all of that stuff I started feeling like a betrayal of who I was becoming," she says. “The deeper part of me and authentic part of me was starting to emerge stronger than the shadow side of me."
The entrepreneur first launched her business as an intimate dinner series for women, funded through $10,000 worth of Kickstarter funding that she amassed in 21 days. Although her TED-talk like empowerment dinners were a success, Jayd felt they weren't connecting to the deeper parts that the women were keeping guarded. “The women and the speakers weren't going as deep as I wanted them to go, so I started thinking about trying to find more meaning of my past and what I could offer to people."
With her experience working for a personal development company that she was once a client of for eight years, she decided that her talents were best suited for one-on-one interactions where she could get real and get personal.
As a modern-age intimacy coach Jayd specializes in the raw and unconventional. She's not afraid to dig deep, excavating layers that have built up due to years of disappointments and disillusionment by forcing you to look in the mirror. Many of her clients are learning the art of maintaining successful and sustaining relationships as they sift through feelings of heartbreak, rejection, unworthiness, and fear of abandonment among many other things that keep some locked in cycles of dysfunction.
“Even if someone comes to me to work on her marriage, not to say that we don't talk about her husband and the dynamics of her marriage, but we really dig deeper past that. Digging into really who she is so she can uncover where she's blocked and dismissed her own feelings and desires and her own wants, because usually from what I've experienced, when we're unhappy with someone else, it always falls back on us. Where am I not feeling fulfilled? What am I not upholding for myself. What am I taking for granted? What am I not wanting to realize about myself?"
Asking the hard questions has helped in her own relationship as well. Jayd admits that dating was hard throughout the majority of her time working as an escort--she kept the job secret in fear of being judged, but keeping quiet left a void of much-needed vulnerability in her relationships. But just as she began considering leaving the business she met her now husband, and made a decision to bare all to her potential partner.
"I was done with lying, if anything it was eating up at me. So when I met him unexpectantly, I was actually really nervous to be so forthcoming with him, but I did and I wouldn't say he wasn't accepting of what I did, but he was accepting of who I was. He never told me that he wanted me to quit, though he had a hard time with it, and that was a learning experience for both of us because it was the first time I was ever in a truly, completely honest relationship."
Not being judged gave Jayd room to release, grow and becoming a higher version of who she once believed herself to be. Despite her past and unconventional career path she finally found a partner who saw her light and accepted her for who she was.
“It's interesting because I used to be so afraid of commitment," Jayd says. “My biggest fear was to lose my freedom, but when I met him I realized it wasn't freedom that I was searching for, it was the freedom to be me, and that felt most freeing than anything else. So I think that's why we were able to commit pretty quickly because we just knew."
Jayd also attributes her showing up as a whole person, as opposed to compartmentalizing herself, to letting her know that she found the right one who accepted her for who she is--flaws and all.
"I was able to break down those walls and really become more of myself, almost like a butterfly transforming into its whole essence."
For those who've been through similar experiences of abuse, rape, or even an unsolicited touch that may have left them feeling unworthy or afraid of love, she encourages diving deep into who are, not being afraid to confront the emotions that may arise, and keeping a solid support system around you.
"I'm a big advocate of getting support. That whole lone wolf mentality has gone to the wayside, and don't think you can have a really great understanding of who you are by yourself. So whether a woman can connect to her own tribe—a woman she can trust and be vulnerable with, great. I think she can learn a lot about herself. And then through that, because the deeper that you understand who you are, the greater your confidence. And if she doesn't have that tribe then I think she needs to hire a coach or join a personal development organization or group. I don't think you can do it alone; intimacy requires another person."
Everyone has skeletons we wish would remain buried, memories we hope will no longer haunt us, and pain that rears its ugly head whenever someone gets just a little too close to the things that hurt us. But we also have a choice to shine a light on the darkest parts of us and no longer find comfort in our debilities.
Like Jayd we can either choose to remain a victim or become a victor, we can hide from love or become love and embrace it with open arms. And if we decide on the latter, we can reach back and empower those who walk a similar path as us.
All images courtesy of Jayd Hernandez
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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If you haven’t scrolled upon Olivia McDowell's TikTok famous dinner parties, you may need to reconfigure your "For You Page."
What began as a passion for hosting aesthetically themed meals for her closest friends has quickly become a viral sensation. With an astonishing 12 million viewers, women describe Olivia’s picturesque dinner parties as the “dream girls' night,” complete with classy cocktails, beautiful table settings, elegant outfits, and, most importantly, food plated to perfection.
Seemingly reigniting the feminine urge to host fancy dinner parties, Olivia has perfected the finer details. Overlooking the skyline in her beautiful NYC apartment, she never fails to make her signature handmade pasta dishes while simultaneously looking effortlessly chic in the wardrobe of dreams while doing so.
Replying to @nara0630 what should the theme of my next dinner party be? #minivlog #nycliving #dinnerpartyideas #caviarinnewyork
What I love most about hosting intimate dinners for close friends are the connections and relationships that form over food. They don't require a caviar budget with a high-rise apartment, it just takes determination and a little creativity. Watching Olivia’s journey inspires viewers to be a part of a community of positive and uplifting women who share common interests and tastes in food, fashion, and decor. Simply stated, she’s raising the bar of friendship goals.
If you’re aspiring to host a holiday-themed dinner party this season, check out the four tips that will guide you along the way.
Choose Your Theme
Replying to @emz.life.tsv what was your fav part? 🤍 hope this gives you some inspiration to host a fancy friendsgiving too! #hostingtip #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Set the ambiance with a thoughtful theme, which will indeed be your guiding light for less stress during the planning process. Establishing a theme sets the tone for everything else to fall in place, such as menus, table design, and presentation. For example, a holiday-inspired dinner party is a perfect occasion for elegant all-white decor paired with draped table cloths, pillar candles lit atop luxe holders, floating floral arrangements, and, for a personal touch, handwritten place settings.
Utilizing free resources such as Canva for menu templates and creating a “Dinner Party” moodboard via Pinterest is perfect for gathering dinner inspiration for themes, decor, and recipes for the special occasion.
Simplify the Menu
How to host your own pasta making dinner party — part 1: pasta making from scratch 🤍 Hosting dinner parties has become my favorite thing to do this year. More goes into it than you expect, the prep, planning, guestlist, tablescape, etc. but it’s always worth it in the end. What do you guys want to see next? #hostingtips #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Don’t overcomplicate the menu. A simple dinner party formula to use as your guide to making sure your guests leave full of food and joy is appetizers, salads, entrees, sides, desserts, and beverages. As a starter, assemble an aesthetic spread that your guest can nibble on while awaiting the main course with starters such as bread, cheese, jam, nuts, and fruit. A simple salad will do, complete with a light dressing right before your entree. For a main dish, pasta recipes always go a long way and also allows your guests to interact with one another, which leads to McDowell's third dinner party hosting tip.
Include an Interactive Element
Replying to @itstai.tv 🖤 #girlhood
To break the ice and encourage guests to get to know one another, introduce interactive elements to the evening. Moments of interaction allow everyone to connect, like capturing content for social media or memorializing the essence of the night through fun Polaroids. Olivia also encourages her guests to participate in the pasta-making dinner process as a group, or if hosting a brunch, her friends indulge in building their own coffee bar as an opportunity for forming connections and conversation starters. Group board or card games are also great for laughs and healthy competition to help get the vibes flowing.
Don’t Forget the Dress code
Replying to @samantha_mendiz when all of your friends are the main character 🖤🥂 #dinnerparty #nycfashion
Tis’ the season for glamour and sparkles, so why not go all out with a super chic dress code? You can’t have a picture-perfect holiday dinner party without the coordinating attire to match. When planning, make sure to make the required attire specific yet broad enough for a range of personalities and preferences to comfortably partake while looking stunning doing so.
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Featured image by Justin Lambert/Getty Images