The first part of the month invites us to be more intentional about our self-care practices. With Mercury transiting through the sensitive sign of Cancer, we are encouraged to sweeten up our dialogue with self and others. With Chiron going Retrograde on the 15th, some deep healing is under way related to how we define our identity. Once the Sun shifts into Leo, it's time to show the world what you're made of. The exchange between Venus and Mars this month reminds us to not take everything so seriously--especially matters of love and romance (at least for the time being). Check out how your zodiac sign is affected in the month ahead!
The month begins with a sweet New Moon on the 9th inviting you to plant the seeds for a new home, renovations, or a new addition to the family. When Mercury transitions into this part of your chart, be mindful of some minor inconveniences and challenges that push you to redefine what home and security means to you. On the 15th, Chiron begins its retrograde through your sign, giving you a chance to put into practice the lessons you've been learning in establishing more independence in your life.
The Sun shifts into Leo on the 22nd encouraging you to reconnect with your inner child, creativity, and pleasure.
The Full Moon on the 23rd could illuminate some misalignments within your tribe, which could result in you choosing to go separate ways. Once Mercury enters Leo, you're confidently expressing your truth regardless of whose feathers you ruffle. July wraps up with Venus meeting up with Mars on the 29th which could place you, or someone you work with, under some scrutiny. Get your inner critic in check so it's not wreaking havoc in your life and others.
Laci Jordan for xoNecole
Life gets sweeter with the New Moon in Cancer on the 9th helping you take on a more gentle approach with communicating to yourself and others. When Mercury enters into this part of your chart, you're reminded that "if you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything." That also goes for the thoughts that you have about yourself and your worthiness to be nurtured. During Chiron Retrograde, you're invited into the depths of your subconscious to clear up old hurts and disappointments that trigger a sense of rejection or alienation within you.
On the 22nd, the Sun enters Leo which could kick up a little tension amongst family or in the home. Choose to lead with love, not your ego.
The Full Moon on the 23rd has you feeling pulled in various directions. Even through the discomfort, a sudden breakthrough can occur, shifting you in a more solution-oriented direction. When Mercury enters Leo, signing a lease or contract for a new home or investment property is supported. By the end of the month, Venus meets up with Mars in Virgo encouraging you to lighten up and let your inner child live.
The month kicks off with a New Moon on the 9th inviting you to set some intentions for your financial security. Seek out ways to align with money-making opportunities that support your personal values and fulfill you emotionally. When Mercury enters this part of your chart, contracts and negotiations are up for discussion. On the 15th, Chiron begins its retrograde, giving you a chance to put into practice the lessons you've learned about self-reliance. Your social network or friends could be triggering your need for space so kindly communicate your need to just do your own thing for a while.
The Sun shifts into vibrant Leo on the 22nd, making you the talk of the town. Don't be afraid to shine that brilliant light of yours no matter who it blinds.
The Full Moon on the 23rd has you in the spotlight sharing your gems of wisdom and experience with those that look up to you. Travel restrictions may also be released around this time. When Mercury enters Leo, your social media following and engagement can increase. The month wraps up with Venus teaming up with Mars in Virgo on the 29th. You're encouraged to be less critical and judgemental to experience the love that is available to you through the tribe you were born into.
July begins with a sweet New Moon in your sign inviting you to make a wish and blow out the metaphorical (or literal) birthday candles for what you'd like to manifest in the year ahead. On the 11th, Mercury enters this same part of your chart, making life a little busier. Stay on top of your emails, text messages, and phone calls during this transit. You never know who may be trying to connect with you. When Chiron goes retrograde on the 15th, you're on a mission to reclaim the power that is your authenticity.
The Sun shifts into Leo on the 22nd, bringing your focus to your values, self-esteem, and money.
The Full Moon on the 23rd helps you resolve a debt, but on a deeper level, this can be a powerful time of releasing old stories about you being too "weird". Dare to be different, boo! When Mercury enters Leo, don't be afraid to brag on yourself to get the most out of an opportunity. On the 29th, Venus meets up with Mars in Virgo which could have your inner critic going crazy. You're not faking this process of becoming the truest version of yourself. You're simply remembering who you've always been.
The first part of the month is a bit more quiet for you with the New Moon on the 9th. Rest and retreat into the sacred space of your bedroom. When Mercury enters this part of your chart, your dreams are more active than usual. Keep a journal to record the insights and decode the messages. On the 15th, Chiron begins its retrograde, inviting you to reestablish trust in your Higher Self, not anyone that you've deemed as some all-knowing guru.
The wisdom you seek is within yourself. On the 22nd, the Sun shifts into your sign which has you ready to celebrate your beautiful life and another year around the Sun.
The Full Moon on the 23rd could result in a severance of ties within a relationship (romantic or professional) if you don't think the connection is growing in the right direction. When Mercury enters your sign on the 27th, everyone wants to catch up, grab drinks, go to brunch, etc. You'll need a calendar to keep up with your busy socialite schedule. The month ends with Venus meeting up with Mars in Virgo which can help you in the art of financial negotiations.
The month begins with the New Moon inviting you to expand your social network. When Mercury enters this part of your chart, you're wanting to nurture the connections that mean the most to you. If your inner circle is just you, it's time to put yourself out there to connect with a tribe that wants to pour their love into you. When Chiron goes retrograde on the 15th, you're diving deep into a traumatic experience that stifled your independence and authenticity, making this an opportune time to address codependent patterns of relating and connecting to others.
The Sun shifts into Leo on the 22nd, inviting you to rest and prepare for your birthday season. The Full Moon on the 23rd empowers you to overcome a bad habit that's been affecting your physical and/or mental health.
On the 27th, Mercury enters Leo which has your dream life active. Also be mindful of repressed anger that wants to be expressed and processed. When Jupiter goes retrograde on the 28th, you're invited to do some soul-searching in regards to relationship patterns that you want to resolve and even some new ones that you want to establish. The month wraps up with Venus and Mars meeting up in your sign which makes you super sexy and magnetic. Do what you will with your magic.
The month kicks off with a New Moon opening up opportunities for you that will help you climb up the ladder of success. When Mercury shifts into this part of your chart, you'll catch more flies with honey. Use your skillful art of negotiation to assure that any career moves are a win-win for everyone involved. When Chiron goes retrograde on the 15th, you're invited on a journey of reclaiming your independence. Healing childhood attachment wounds and addressing codependent relationship patterns is encouraged during this transit.
On the 22nd, the Sun shifts into Leo inviting you to connect with your tribe. Don't play it small and don't take it personally if you ruffle some feathers through your assertiveness.
The romantic Full Moon is a good time for a date night or girls' night out. Good vibes and conversation is all you need. On the 27th, Mercury enters Leo, reminding you to speak life into your dreams. Hold a positive vision in your mind to ensure epic results. At the end of the month, Venus meets up with Mars in Virgo. Keep your love matters discreet during this time. You can pop out with your boo in August.
Your desire to expand beyond your comfort zone is at a high with the New Moon on the 9th. When Mercury enters this part of your chart, you'll be making arrangements to travel abroad. Opportunities to teach, guide, and nurture others can present themselves to you. When Chiron goes retrograde on the 15th, you're invited to journey inwards to address the psychological causes underlying any health concerns--especially recurring issues you've experienced since childhood.
On the 22nd, the Sun shifts into feisty Leo giving you the oomph you need to trailblaze your way to the top of the career ladder. The Full Moon liberates you from the expectations of your family.
Breakthroughs in generational healing are likely. A relocation may also be on the horizon as you re-establish what home means to you. On the 27th, Mercury enters Leo which has you feeling more assertive than usual. If you talk like a boss and act like a boss then you must be a boss. If all else fails, fake it til you make it. By the end of the month, Venus meets up with Mars in Virgo helping you overcome any friction so you can harmonize with your friends.
The first part of the month invites you to do some soul-searching. The New Moon supports you in exploring different healing modalities that can help you break through intimacy blockages developed in childhood. When Mercury shifts into this part of your chart, chatting with a therapist, tarot reader, or energy worker can guide you through some difficult emotions. When Chiron goes retrograde on the 15th, you'll be diving even deeper into the inner child wounds and the lack of support you received in helping you clearly define your identity separate from your parents and family.
The Sun shifts into Leo on the 22nd which has you ready for another passport stamp.
Where to next, thrill-seeker? The Full Moon is a supportive time for launching any new digital projects, products, or services. Who knows? You may just become the next overnight social media sensation. On the 27th, Mercury enters Leo encouraging you to share your wisdom and experience with others. Remember, "each one teach one". The month wraps up with Venus linking up with Mars in Virgo bringing the pressure in career matters but if there's anyone that thrives off of a challenge, it's you. Boss up, boo!
Relationship matters get a little more sensitive on the New Moon, inviting you to reconnect with your tender side. When Mercury enters this part of your chart on the 11th, contracts and negotiations are up for discussion. This is also a good time to re(establish) boundaries within your one-on-one connections. When Chiron goes retrograde, you're invited to examine your early childhood foundations. Were you given a chance to develop a healthy sense of autonomy or do you still find yourself constantly seeking advice from outside sources? 'Tis the season of learning to trust yourself.
On the 22nd, the Sun shifts into Leo, encouraging you to dive deeper into your psyche to explore blockages in your confidence and self-expression.
The Full Moon provides you with insight on how to break out of a financial rut. Rediscovering your hidden gifts and talents can be just what you need to get on top of money matters. On the 27th, Mercury enters Leo reminding you are more than what you're capable of giving to others. Being yourself is more than enough. By the end of the month, Venus meets up with Mars which could have you attracting people in your life that need guidance. Maybe it's time to offer some consulting services next time someone asks to pick your brain for free.
The beginning of the month kicks off with a New Moon inviting you to establish some new habits that will better support your emotional well-being. When Mercury enters this part of your chart, you may lack a little direction but just lean into the flow, trusting that you'll get back into your routine. When Chiron goes retrograde on the 15th, reconciling your self-dialogue so that it actually honors your individuality (instead of suppressing it) is recommended.
The Sun shifts into Leo on the 22nd, bringing your attention to partnerships, contracts, and boundaries. Make adjustments as needed and aim for a win-win scenario for both parties involved.
The Full Moon in your sign is the grand reveal for the upgraded version of yourself minus all of the baggage. On the 27th, Mercury enters Leo which has you feeling more assertive than usual. Remember, it's not what you say. It's how you say it. The month wraps up with Venus and Mars meeting up in Virgo to get your finances and debt under control.
The beginning of the month invites you to reconnect with your inner child and creativity. When Mercury enters this part of your chart, it's time to express yourself. You're an artist at heart and this may be a time in which you can create one of your greatest masterpieces. When Chiron goes retrograde on the 15th, you're invited into some deep soul retrieval work that will have you facing some traumatic experiences that negatively impacted your self-esteem. Your struggle was not in vain and the strength you gained from it will be able to inspire others to love on themselves that much harder.
On the 22nd, the Sun enters Leo which has you motivated to get yourself back into shape. As they say, "Health is wealth."
The Full Moon marks a time of cycles completing--particularly related to your feeling of belonging within a social group. Let go of that dead weight and allow yourself the gift of an authentic, supportive, and nurturing community. On the 27th, Mercury shifts into Leo helping you tackle the tasks on your to-do list that have been piling up the past couple of months. The month wraps up with Venus and Mars creating a little tension in your relationships but you've got the ability to weather these temporary energies.
Featured image by Laci Jordan for xoNecole
Whether it was your group chat, social media feed, or your favorite media outlet covering the spectacle, I’m pretty sure you’ve come across the viral Black wedding between actress KJ Smith (Sistas, Raising Kanan) and actor Skyh Black (All the Queen’s Men, Sistas). From their grand entrance to Jay-Z, Kayne West, and Beyoncé’s song “Lift Off” to KJ’s standout dance routine and the endless celebrity appearances, it’s an addictive TikTok scroll you can’t help but delve into.
But what many people would be surprised to know is that the couple’s original wedding plan was nothing like what it grew to be. What started as her simply scrolling through posts to get ideas eventually transformed into what the internet knows now as #TheBlackExperience. In an exclusive conversation with xoNecole, KJ walked us through her planning process, the morning of her wedding, and what she thinks of the online response.
Some women have their whole wedding planned out, from the bridal gown and venue to the bridal party and playlist. However, KJ was not one of those people. “I didn’t foresee a wedding in my future,” she reveals. “I was just gonna be the boss chick, rich auntie. I didn’t force love in my life until recently. I never had an idea of what a dream wedding would look like, it was easier for me to elope.”
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
And to many people’s surprise, that was their original plan – until Skyh brought up a valid concern. He was raised by his grandmother and thought she should be at the wedding, and naturally, that led to KJ wanting her grandmother to be there as well – then her mom – and later her sister – and, you’ve gotta invite the besties too, right? From there, the guest list continued to blossom. Much like the updo and pop of color bold red lip, she wore on her special day, which was initially on her Pinterest board as a soft glam look with her hair hanging on her shoulders, KJ is okay with changing her plan if it brings her and her loved ones happiness.
So let’s get into the wedding, which took place in Malibu, CA. The first thing you should know about the celebrity couple is that they’re non-traditional. They know, and they don’t care. So, in true unconventional fashion, they shared the morning of the wedding together.
“I woke up with Skyh, we walked our dog, had black coffee, and said good morning to the people who stayed at the venue with us,” she says.
Now, it was time for hair and makeup. While she was getting glammed up, she had Black-owned McBride Sisters wine and champagne (which ties into The Black Experience theme) on deck with her mom and friends, had her besties help rework her vows, retried on every outfit (sis is very Type-A), took photos, and ended the early-celebration with prayer and meditation. It seems very non-Bridezilla, I said.
“Yeah, I was the most unbothered bride ever. Everyone was just so supportive. As entertainers, we go on red carpets all the time. We actually have a production company,” she explains. “The get-ready process was like a day at work, but with people we love the most. Being entertainers, we didn’t feel stressed at all, but my excitement was so high.”
Things moved quickly, and before she knew it, it was time to line up to walk down the aisle.
“Yeah, I was the most unbothered bride ever. Everyone was just so supportive. As entertainers, we go on red carpets all the time. We actually have a production company. The get-ready process was like a day at work, but with people we love the most. Being entertainers, we didn’t feel stressed at all, but my excitement was so high.”
KJ Smith and her bridal party
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
Since everything started with their grandmothers, the couple wanted to ensure they honored them and planned to keep an element of their wedding traditional. Although we’ve all seen the reception videos and photos online, you may have noticed visuals from the wedding itself are harder to find.
“We planned for it to be traditional, but we’re not like that, so we tried to create those moments. We jumped the broom and had a salt ceremony (where the bride and groom individually pour salt into a glass container, symbolizing their lives becoming one.) But honestly, still, nothing was traditional about it.”
She goes on to explain that her mom caught the holy ghost coming down the aisle, her glam team was on deck, and she became so nervous with excitement that she had an anxiety attack – something she struggled with for years, she explains tearfully. Her friends had to literally cheer her down the aisle because of how overwhelmed she felt until she eventually calmed down.
“Skyh was standing there with his hand on his heart; we have our own little language, and I could feel the support,” she shares.
It was surprising to hear all these emotional moments happened before the party we saw online. That is until she once again got into the backstory.
“As a Black woman actress, for so long, it was popular to be mysterious and secretive, but that’s not who I am or what I like. Plus, we both wanted to create an experience for everyone there. We are the people who always host family and friends,” she says. “Like for me, the first order of business was getting sandals for the women so they can dance all night long. We had oxtail, D'ussé, and a coffee and sativa lounge – which is part of Skyh and I’s lifestyle and routine. We wanted to bring them into our world.”
Skyh Black (L) and KJ Smith (R)
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
She went on to discuss the dance routine she did for her husband at the reception, which has taken over the internet. Apparently, that’s another thing that didn’t go according to plan. According to KJ, she had promised a performance at their joint bachelor/ bachelorette party, but her outfit got stolen from her car. So, Skyh ended up performing for her – complete with a strip tease. Still, she never forgot her promise to dance for him.
So, she hired her friend as a choreographer, learned the routine, made friends and family watch it endless times, and attended Beyoncé’s Renaissance show a few days before for a confidence boost. It ended up being a show to remember. But that wasn’t all the night offered. Lil Mo performed, and the guests received special goody bags featuring their favorite Black-owned products like journals, hair care, and more.
“We made sure everyone was taken care of all night. That kind of stuff makes us happy. I wanted everyone there to experience the joy and love I have for myself, my partner, and for them. I wanted them to feel full and whole, and they had the time of their lives,” she says.
But naturally, the internet is going to internet, and while there were countless people praising the event and applauding the newlyweds, some thought it was too over the top. I was curious to know her thoughts on some of the criticism.
“It’s cool. We did what we wanted to do. I’ve decided to share my world with people. Just how I went on social media platforms and found inspiration, I want people to do the same,” she explains. “I don’t think it's fair to my supporters not to give that out. There’s so much I wanna share with brides, specifically Black brides. I love that people are adding it to their Pinterest boards."
"I wanted everyone there to experience the joy and love I have for myself, my partner, and for them. I wanted them to feel full and whole, and they had the time of their lives."
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
“I’m happy with it because we did what we wanted to do. They can do what they wanna do. Don’t be cruel, though, because you will get blocked,” she said, laughing.
The more I spoke with her, the more her sense of freedom shined through. People are always going to have their opinions, but at the end of the day, it’s you who has to live your life, and it seems like the couple realizes that and embraces that power. She also stressed the importance of not living for others and the lessons life has taught her.
“I’ve been to countless weddings, and I’ve been in countless weddings. I’m a generally older bride. So when women in my demographic get married, and you and your husband are busy working people like us, you deserve to have the one you want to have,” she shares.
“This is what we wanted to do. Our loved ones love and support us. We did so much to honor them, but we also wanted to start our own tradition, legacy, and creation. I'm not going to be pulled back into ideas of the past when I’m trying to create a future with my partner. “
If you’d like to see more of the couple, you probably won’t have to wait long. Although no content is planned yet, she admits to being an oversharer. “Me being open and transparent about my experiences lets people know it’s okay to have flaws; it makes you human, and for many years, I didn’t believe that was okay. I had pressure to be perfect, and I’d crumble every time,” she explains to xoNecole.
Now, she owns her flaws and uses them as a superpower to connect with her community and feel and express her love.
“Some people give us [Skyh and KJ] a hard time because they say we just seem too perfect. I’m like, why is that a bad thing? I love the people I love. From my man to my mama, to my friends - unabashedly. We move through time and space how we want to move. If we did it another way, we’d let ourselves and our union down.”
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Feature image by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
When Erika Hairston was entering her first year at Yale in 2018, she never imagined that the challenges she experienced during her education would give her the insights needed to solve a problem that she and many STEM students would face. “The summer after my senior year of high school, I stumbled upon a documentary about the lack of women and minorities in tech,” she tells xoNecole. “They showed how code was in every single thing we touched, and I just remember thinking, ‘Holy smokes, how is it possible that there are so few people who look like me in this industry that is clearly taking over the future?’”
While her time at the Ivy League came with its set of learning curves, Hairston was sure that her love for coding as a computer science major would outweigh those barriers to entry.
During her freshman year, she landed an internship at Facebook that would shape her outlook on tech forever. “I got my first offer letter, and seeing that, I was like, ‘This is how you create economic opportunities,” she recalls. “Seeing how much I was making as just a 19-year-old in tech made me realize I wanted to devote the rest of my career to helping more people have access to this in-demand field in tech.”
And that, she did.
Today, Hairston is the CEO and co-founder of EdLyft, a tutoring platform that equips students in computer science courses to land in-demand tech careers at the largest tech companies and is one of the youngest Black women to raise more than $1 million in venture capital through her startup. “We're a platform that helps companies train and engage their entire future workforce,” she says. “Everyone and all students are using our platform, however, we make it an intention to prioritize partnerships and programs where diversity is a top priority or a top goal.”
Erika and her co-founder believe in replicating the support that kept them in computer science to help more underrepresented talent thrive in the growing world of tech. After leaving their corporate jobs to pursue this mission and launching Edlyft in February 2020, they have since supported over 3000 students to reach their goals in the tech field.
“Computer science dramatically changed our lives, and when we looked at the market, we saw how in-demand software engineering was and realized that if we could replicate what kept us in computer science to help more people gain access to these in-demand careers, that would be really powerful.”
Photo by Apple Media
xoNecole: Learning to code can seem like an intimidating skill to acquire. Can you speak to how one can overcome those initial barriers of entry?
Erika Hairston: Coding is like learning a new language where practice makes perfect. The intimidation, it's not just women of color who experienced that, it’s everyone when they try coding for the first time because it has a very steep learning curve. The first piece of advice is acknowledging that you're not alone in that initial hurdle of the steep learning curve.
The second piece of advice is that the media doesn't help. When you think of your typical hacker or getting into computer science, you see a white guy with a hoodie and glasses on, with a laptop in the corner, and sometimes people don't see themselves represented in that. And so I think there's been a lot of push to change that in really seeing yourself as an engineer, and that’s a part of what we are trying to change.
On a tactical level, there are so many organizations and resources that I encourage women, especially Black women, to tap into in order to overcome those barriers. One amazing organization that we're partnering with is Reboot Representation, whose mission is to increase the number of Black, Latinx, and Native women in tech.
xoN: Many female entrepreneurs struggle with imposter syndrome. How have you dealt with self-doubt while remaining confident in your abilities?
EH: More recently, I will say I have chosen to dismiss impostor syndrome as something that I feel because I realized that no one knows what they are doing. I wasn't ready to become a founder — I actually was working on a side project when I thought, ‘Oh, I can't be a founder. I don't look like a founder.’ What does that look like? And when I got into Apple’s Entrepreneur Camp, I was surrounded by women founders who were stages ahead of me, and they became my friends, and I got to see what it looked like to be in their shoes.
It was the first time that I saw that this is what it would look like for me to do this. I am capable, I can do that. Changing what it looks like to be what you want to be is a really important part of my journey. Surround yourself with investors or peers who have that shared vision of the world with you, empower you, and help you see what you can become.
"Changing what it looks like to be what you want to be is a really important part of my journey. Surround yourself with investors or peers who have that shared vision of the world with you, empower you, and help you see what you can become."
Photo by Apple Media
xoN: What challenges did you face when raising venture capital funding or navigating the tech world?
EH: Demystifying the fundraising process is one of those inside secrets that you don't know until you know. So democratizing access to this information is critical so that there's no longer those "The Only Black Woman To Raise This Much" headlines — those have to be abolished.
We went through an accelerator program called Y Combinator. It's three months of access to investors who help you gear up for its ‘Demo Day’ where you pitch in front of a lot of investors. That was how we got that inside, ‘secret juice’ which is the way the fundraising process works. Doing those exercises and research to learn the tactics and skills that will increase our chances of being funded by investors that are mission-aligned was a really critical part of the process.
What that looked like for us was sending a lot of emails; I was even in people's DMs on Twitter. Being prepared to answer any questions and asking more founders for more introductions, that is truly how fundraising happens because sometimes we can't do what works for the 99%.
xoN: As a successful female entrepreneur, what advice do you have for women who aspire to start their own businesses, particularly in male-dominated industries like tech?
EH: One, do your ‘startup math’ or do your founder math. Calculate how much you need to have saved before you start your business. For me, that was six months of living expenses to feel confident and comfortable leaving my full-time job to focus on my company full-time. Do that math, save it up. That way, it's not always ‘Oh, I'll do it later,’ there's a concrete number that you're saving up towards.
Second, fall in love with a problem, not the solution. When you're building a business, the solution will look different, and it'll have to change as you learn from the people that you are building for. But if you care a lot about the problem, you'll find all of the different ways to best solve that and stay motivated as you work on your business.
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Featured image by Apple Media