Some of you know Justine Skye for the groundbreaking artist she is today and for guest appearances on Nick Cannon's Wild N' Out and BET's Tales with Romeo Miller, but I remember the OG Justine Skye. That's right - 14-year-old Tumblr famous, chocolate queen with dark purple tresses and an incomparable swag. From the gate, the "Build" singer has successfully stood out in the music industry for all the right reasons including undeniable talent, effervescent beauty and unconquerable strength.
She's always been a force to be reckoned with, no doubt about that. However, the ULTRAVIOLET artist has demonstrated impeccable growth as an artist and a woman since her Skye High debut mixtape release back in 2012. Now, Justine Skye is ready to "build" her career moving forward as an independent artist who is taking complete control of the creative execution of her vision.
Courtesy of Justine Skye
When the call first connected, Justine sounded chill and relaxed, as one would expect with her cool, calm and collected demeanor. As we exchanged introductions, the conversation that was initially scheduled to be an interview propelled into an intimate, candid discussion between two 24-year-old Black women about the importance of self-love, praising yourself and the bad habit of apologizing when unnecessary. Honestly, the entire time I felt like I was catching up with a homegirl that I hadn't heard from since high school. She truly is a genuine one-of-a-kind spirit.
I had the chance to catch up with my fellow New York native about her latest project Bare With Me, The Album, her growth as an artist from start to finish and remaining creative amidst the current state of the culture within the Black community.
xoNecole: How’s your mental health? I like to ask everybody how their spirit is doing before I proceed with any interview, especially during these times.
Justine Skye: Thank you, I appreciate that. I guess I'm doing a lot better than I once was when it all started, but I'm trying to take a step back from looking at all the things on social media right now and kind of clear my head.
That’s real, especially as a creative and as someone who’s always expected to post and let people know how they’re doing, it can be a bit pressuring, so I appreciate your transparency.
Of course, thank you for even asking.
Jumping right into it, I’m from Brooklyn as well - Brooklyn born and bred just like you, right in Sumner Projects off the J train. You and I know that there’s so much culture in that one borough alone. How has Brooklyn made you the artist and the fashionista that you are today?
Aye! I guess being from Brooklyn, there's so many different types of cultures there surrounding it. Whether it's Caribbean culture or African culture, or even Italian culture too, New York period is such a melting pot and I feel like it just played a lot into my personality. I would say that New York is very - well, not me - most people are like, "New York is kind of grimey." Well, I don't think "grimey" is the word, but I feel like it's just "real". I'm very thankful every day that that's where I'm from because I guess being an artist and traveling the world, you can sort out the real from the fake. I wouldn't want to be from anywhere else.
What about your Caribbean roots? You’re Jamaican, right?
How has that influenced your upbringing and your music?
It's something that I just grew up around, [it's] kind of embedded into me. I love dancehall and I love reggae, so any chance that I get when I hear the beat, it inspires me. I just try to tap into it.
Going back to young Justine, when did you know that music was for you and what spoke to you specifically about music that made you realize this was your life’s calling?
I always knew that I wanted to be a singer from the moment I probably opened my mouth, and my grandfather always inspired me to do so. I was very shy when I was younger, so when someone would ask me to sing, I would just ball up and want to run away (laughs). But one day, I guess I kind of got peer pressured into singing on a platform in front of a bunch of people on a panel. After that moment, my mom's friend was like, "This is it and if you don't do this now, no one's ever gonna take you seriously." For some reason, at the small age of fourteen, that kicked in for me and I was like, "I can't be scared to sing. This is something that God gave me and something I enjoy doing, so why am I hiding this?" I kind of just had to get over that fear and go for it.
Out of all of the things that you’ve done from 14 years old to now, what would you say has been one of - or some of - your biggest accomplishments in your career to date?
(Pauses) Damn, I should probably sit there and write a list down. I'm probably gonna do that today (laughs). I guess, off the top of my head, during these times of quarantine and everything that's happening in the world, I've been talking a lot more to my friends and sometimes we forget all that we've done. I've kind of just been reminding my friends, "I know right now is a rough time, but acknowledge all of the things that you've done in the world and be proud of yourself."
I kind of was thinking about, "Hmm, what am I proud of that I've done in my career?" And it's kind of like backtracking on the things that I have put in because I still feel like I'm in the beginning of my career. I mean, I'm only 24 and I have so much more left to go, but [something] I can say that I'm most proud of [is] being able to sing a Janet Jackson song to Janet Jackson. That was probably a huge - not probably, it was a huge moment for me. Being able to be independent, too. It's definitely not easy, but it's extremely revelating. I am thankful for the label experiences, but now I know this is something that I can do with a strong team around me. For some reason, I can't think of one off the top of my head.
I definitely feel that as women, especially as Black women, I feel like we don’t praise ourselves enough. I was just saying to one of my mentees yesterday that we do two things wrong: we apologize too much and we don’t give ourselves enough praise. You and I being the same age, we’re both 24, there are moments where we really have to look back on what we’ve done with our platform and how many lives we’ve touched because even though we may feel like something we’ve done may not be that big of a deal because we’re just so used to being that badass, know that what we did could’ve possibly changed - or saved - somebody’s life. Just by saying “hello” is impactful in itself. Thank yourself for doing the seemingly microcosmic things because you don’t know how that may have affected somebody. Always praise yourself because no one’s gonna reward you like you reward you.
Thank you - wow, I needed that today.
I just like to be honest with people because I’m a firm believer in mental health and I feel that you are in charge of how you talk to yourself. You’re the first voice that you hear in the morning and you’re the last voice you hear at night. You can be your own best friend or your own worst enemy; I would like to be my best friend because I’ve talked to myself horribly sometimes and I know how nasty I can get.
Same. I one million percent believe in that. Sometimes when I was younger and I would go to shows, I didn't really truly understand the impact that I had on other people. I think that's the most beautiful thing about being an artist is that we feel alone, but then when you make music and other people listen to it, you're touching so many people around the world that you literally don't even know. Whenever I would go on tours and do shows, beautiful brown girls would come up to me and say, "Thank you for just being you, living up there, being brave, getting on stage and speaking your truth," and I didn't really realize the impact it had until I went into the world and people told me.
"I think that's the most beautiful thing about being an artist is that we feel alone, but then when you make music and other people listen to it, you're touching so many people around the world that you literally don't even know."
Your gift is something that a lot of people can’t say that they have. You have the power of influence through your talents and your artistry. Your music has even touched me as someone who has been in toxic relationships and someone who has been that Black girl from the projects of Brooklyn and didn’t feel like she was gonna make it out. Your influence is powerful and always remember that. I will never let anyone, especially someone as young and talented as you, ever doubt their ability to touch people. That’s just not gonna happen in my book.
Thank you, I really appreciate that. I love this phone call (laughs)!
No problem, and it really makes me sad because one day I was listening to one of your interviews on HYPEBEAST Radio about a time where you nearly wanted to quit music. What was going through your mind and what kept you going?
I guess it was just a moment of self-doubt. You kind of get confused because I've been doing this since I was signed professionally at 17 and I'm 24 now, so I guess I was in a place where I was like, "What am I doing? Why hasn't this gone anywhere yet?" Those are the moments where I had to sit back and realize [that] I have accomplished so many things and it doesn't just end here - there's so much left to go.
If SZA said, "Alright, well what's going on?" and just quit, she wouldn't be the huge star she is today. There's so many artists today that have the same story. [Where would they be] if they just let their self-doubt get in the way of who they are today? With the pressure that we now receive from social media and all that stuff, it's just so in-your-face and you see it. It's easier said than done to be like, "Oh, don't look at it," and it kind of just eats at you. In that moment, I felt like I was having a little bit of a breakdown as to what I was doing with my life and what I was doing wrong, but then, I had to sit there and think about all of the things I've done right and keep moving forward.
"In that moment, I felt like I was having a little bit of a breakdown as to what I was doing with my life and what I was doing wrong, but then, I had to sit there and think about all of the things I've done right and keep moving forward."
Obviously, you’ve grown a lot as an artist, but I can only imagine because I’ve never been in the public eye, and you are someone that everybody recognizes. As such a beautiful, talented, down-to-earth, vibrant Black woman, I’m sure even you have your days where you, as you mentioned, doubt yourself. When was the moment when you started to love yourself for who you are and how do you practice self-love?
I'm not gonna lie, it probably was about two years ago - maybe about a year and a half. I'm still practicing self-love and learning how to love me, every part of me and I think that the first step is acknowledging your flaws and ending with the great parts of you, you know? Just wanting to be a better person every single day when you wake up.
It's not that complicated, but it is complicated because of all of the other elements in the world. It's just tuning out that part out and surrounding yourself with people who believe in you [and] encourage you. I feel like that was a big issue for me too that I didn't really have that strong of a team, and now I have such great people around me that support me and encourage me to believe in myself.
"I'm still practicing self-love and learning how to love me, every part of me and I think that the first step is acknowledging your flaws and ending with the great parts of you, you know? Just wanting to be a better person every single day when you wake up.It's not that complicated, but it is complicated because of all of the other elements in the world."
What advice do you have for any creative who’s currently struggling to manage their mental health and practice self-love?
It's not easy at all (laughs). I don't know if I even have the best advice, but nothing great in life and nothing that you value in life is going to be easy. I feel like I just said that to someone the other day, but once you go through those hardships and those obstacles and you do what you've wanted, you feel so much better.
Speaking of obstacles, there’s a lot happening in our community in a time during COVID-19, the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and a countless list of names that have been transformed from hashtags to movements. How have you utilized your platform in the music industry to uplift the Black agenda, Black people, brown girls, and raise awareness about current events in the Black community?
As this is going on, I'm also educating myself on the situations that have been happening that I may not have been aware of myself. It's just completely and utterly disgusting and devastating. What I've been doing is protesting, I've been with the people, I've been donating, [and] even talking to my wealthy friends to see what we can do, how we can donate, how we can make a change. I had a meeting with about 40 people the other day where we just discussed, "Alright cool, we can march, we can do this and do that, but how are we gonna make real change to something so close [to] even the people we hang around?"
We just sat down, told our stories and why we were there, and came up with a list of what we can do and the first step was creating a union where the first question was, "Have we experienced racism or white privilege, or [have] been witness to it?," so we had an open discussion about that especially with a lot of people being in the industry.
[Second], we made a promise to each other that we'd be there to support speaking out against that in the industry because that's where it starts. If you're in a meeting with a brand and they're like, "We don't want to use [that] Black person because they're too Black," it's just [about] speaking up because a lot of people admitted they were scared to do so because they'd lose their jobs. If we are here and know we have this foundation that will support us whenever we see something going on, that's just one step closer to ending this racism within our industry.
On top of that, we’re also in a quarantine and COVID-19 has impacted so much for Black people and people of color because of unemployment, lack of healthcare opportunities that already weren’t there, and being turned away from hospitals and facilities for testing. How has COVID-19 stifled your creativity or your creative process, or has being in social isolation actually helped you?
Honestly, it has helped and it has hurt because I'm the type of person that needs adventures and we've been kind of locked away, so not much has been happening in order to write about [it], but I have been tapping into emotions and other feelings that I've felt before in the past, but it might not necessarily be new stories. Some of them are new stories, but it's been strange for me creatively, good because I've been working on my writing and I feel like I've been getting better and better each time.
A dream of mine has, also, been to work with Timbaland and that's been happening, too, to the point where we're just consistently on the phone talking about new beats, new sounds, and I'm just learning so much. I haven't even met him in person yet; we just literally go on FaceTime and work remotely. It's so crazy that this came out of that.
It’s funny because I was just about to ask you about the collaboration you two have been doing, Space and Time Sessions. Timbaland is such a powerhouse in music and production, to say the least. How did that come about and what has your relationship with him been like?
He saw a video of "Recover" that I did with my friend and he's known about me - it's been in talks, but he saw the video on my Instagram and he DM'd me and was like, "Hey, I wanna do one." I was like, "What? What do you mean?" (laughs) and he just started sending me beats and I started writing to them.
Then, we created something with my management team who is also very good friends with [Timbaland] as well - Space and Time Sessions. There's gonna be another one this Friday, but we kind of put a halt to it as many artists during this time out of respect for what's going on in the world. It just doesn't feel right.
Switching gears a bit, I want to talk to you about 'Bare With Me'. Super excited about that - how is that a reflection of your growth as an artist since your Tumblr days, the release of 'Skye High', and dropping YouTube covers?
I wrote a lot more on this project, and it's been more personal than any of my other music. It was my first project that I released independently, so that was a huge milestone for me and - well, I don't want to say risk because I feel like it was the best thing that I've ever done so far. It's definitely my favorite project that I've ever put out and I feel like every time I get into the studio, I'm consistently evolving. That's what music is really about for me: beating the last thing that you did.
"I feel like every time I get into the studio, I'm consistently evolving. That's what music is really about for me: beating the last thing that you did."
Amen to that. What was the primary inspiration behind 'Bare With Me' and the title?
Basically, it was a double entendre - kind of like bear with me while I work on the album because it was the Bare With Me EP. Then, as I was recording and working on my next project, I came across some songs that were still tied to the emotions that I had while I was working on the Bare With Me EP. I just wanted to repackage it with those new songs and finish that cycle of emotions that I don't feel anymore.
Without giving away too much, what’re some of your favorite songs and what can we expect?
My favorite song is definitely "Million Days" which is one of the new songs that you'll hear on the project, because it's super personal. I don't know if everyone else will love it as much as I will, but for me, it's just very cinematic. Every time I hear it, it's like a movie playing out of that exact moment and point in time in my life where I felt that vulnerable.
What advice do you have for anyone that’s looking to break into the music industry, or is already in the music industry and looking to grow, but they’re also in their own way?
I would say that there's a lot of people who are gonna try to tell you what they think you should do and there's a point that I hit in my life when I was just trying to listen to everyone else instead of myself. I kind of lost who I was in that process and in the past year and a half, two years, I've gotten out of that and been whole again with me and on this journey of figuring out exactly who Justine Skye is and what her sound is. Really listen to yourself (laughs) and I know it sounds super cliche, but if you feel strongly about not doing something or strongly about doing something, then definitely follow your instincts because 90% of the time, you're right.
For more of Justine, follow her on Instagram. Bare With Me, The Album is out now, stream it on Spotify and Apple Music.
Featured image courtesy of Justine Skye
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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Have you ever been in a relationship with someone and felt so deeply connected to them? Everything about the relationship was intense – good or bad? Then you might be in a part of a soul tie.
The concept of a soul tie binds individuals on a level beyond a relationship's physical and emotional aspects; it’s more than a mere connection. You can form a soul tie with anyone – lover, friend, colleague, etc.- but we are discussing romantic partners for this article. Think of you and your partner as an intensely burning flame. The flame can burn passionately to light the relationship’s way or chaotically burn everything in its path. Either way, it leaves an indelible mark on the souls involved.
A soul tie should not be confused with the term “soulmate.” The main difference is that a soul tie can be positive or negative, while a soulmate is a mutual, harmonious connection. Unlike a soul tie, a soulmate relationship is generally characterized by mutual understanding, support, and shared values.
However, the more we learn about soul ties, the more it becomes evident that they are not monolithic; they vary in nature and intensity. As someone who has experienced a negative soul tie, it is crucial to discern whether they contribute positively to personal growth or hinder you from flourishing.
If Your Soul Tie Is Positive
A positive soul tie creates a deep and affirming connection between individuals. One key indicator of a positive soul tie is effective communication. If you’re experiencing a positive soul tie, a shared understanding fosters open and honest dialogue, contributing to a sense of connection and support.
Mutual growth is another hallmark of a positive soul tie. When individuals in a relationship encourage each other's personal development and evolution, it signifies a positive and uplifting connection. This mutual support leads to an environment where both parties can thrive individually and together, contributing to the overall health of the soul tie.
Emotional security is a crucial element in identifying a positive soul tie. In such connections, individuals feel a deep sense of trust and comfort with each other. This emotional security forms a stable foundation for the relationship, allowing both parties to express vulnerability and foster a strong, positive bond. These three indicators—effective communication, mutual growth, and emotional security—underscore the positivity inherent in a healthy and affirming soul tie.
If Your Soul Tie Is Negative
A negative soul tie manifests as a detrimental and draining connection between individuals. One clear sign of a negative soul tie is the presence of emotional turmoilwithin the relationship. When the connection becomes a source of constant distress, causing emotional upheaval and hindering personal development, it indicates a negative soul tie.
Codependency is another red flag for a negative soul tie. In such connections, individuals may become overly reliant on each other, impeding their ability to thrive independently. Codependency often leads to unhealthy dependencies and can result in a toxic dynamic that hinders both individuals' growth and well-being.
A lack of effective communication is a third indicator of a negative soul tie. When there is a breakdown in communication, misunderstandings and unresolved issues can fester, contributing to a strained and unhealthy connection. In negative soul ties, the absence of open and honest dialogue can perpetuate a cycle of negativity and prevent the resolution of underlying issues. These three indicators—emotional turmoil, codependency, and poor communication—point to the negativity associated with an unhealthy soul tie.
Putting Out The Fires And Breaking Your Soul Tie
Unfortunately, my deep, intense connection only caused destruction. And despite the obvious red flags, it took a minute before I broke the connection. Why? Because I was addicted to the relationship, we both were. But it is possible to break a soul tie if and when you are ready because if you are not, pretending you are when you are not is a waste of your time.
Breaking a soul tie requires intentional and purposeful actions. Establishing clear and firm boundaries is a fundamental step in severing the connection. By limiting contact and emotional engagement with the person involved, individuals can gradually weaken the tie and create space for personal growth.
Seeking professional support is another effective strategy to break a soul tie. Guidance from therapists or counselors provides valuable insights and coping strategies. Professional assistance can help individuals navigate the emotional challenges associated with breaking a soul tie, offering a structured and supportive environment for healing.
Redirecting energy toward personal growth is important in breaking free from a soul tie. Engaging in activities that promote individual well-being and create a sense of independence allows individuals to refocus their attention on their own growth and development. This redirection of energy is essential for breaking the emotional bonds of a soul tie and moving towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.
The last step I advise everyone to go through is the mourning period. My partner and I did our song and dance for years before I walked away. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that I mourned our relationship while I healed.
Recognizing the presence and nature of a soul tie in your relationship is crucial to understanding its impact on your well-being. Whether positive or negative, the intensity of a soul tie can shape the course of your personal growth and happiness. Breaking free from a negative soul tie demands intentional efforts, from setting clear boundaries to seeking professional support. Redirecting energy toward personal growth and allowing oneself a necessary mourning period are vital steps toward healing and liberation from the intricate ties that bind.
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Feature image by JD Mason/ Unsplash