In xoNecole's Finding Balance, we profile boss women making boss moves in the world and in their respective industries. We talk to them about their business, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.
This is my earliest memory of Keke Palmer when I was first introduced to her as Akeelah Anderson in Akeelah and the Bee. I interviewed her for Brotherly Love when I was the Arts & Entertainment Editor at Morehouse College's Maroon Tiger Newspaper for their press junket and then met her again in-person last year briefly on the dancefloor of the Good Morning America holiday party. If you would have told me that I would be interviewing her years later via Zoom about her evolution as a music artist, mental health and how much she loves getting massages, I wouldn't have believed you. I logged into Zoom two minutes earlier than our projected start time at 11:30am on Friday morning. When a screen name asked to be admitted into the video call, I knew exactly who it was.
Keke Palmer appeared on the Zoom in some gold huggie earrings, a few thin chains iced around her neck and a Gucci tee shirt. Her style choices coupled with her straight back braids definitely radiated chill Millennial Diva on a Friday morning vibes. "Girl, slicked back. Just keep it chill," she said after I complimented her braids.
After exchanging brief hellos and checking in with one another mentally, the "Marvelous" singer told me that she went into the pandemic ready and now she's in a more positive headspace. I had the pleasure of speaking with Keke herself about her recent Virgo Tendencies, Part I EP, her experience hosting this year's MTV Video Music Awards during quarantine and the importance of pouring into herself when it comes to her self-care routine as an artist, actress and all-around successful businesswoman.
Here's what I learned:
xoNecole: Talk to me about ‘Virgo Tendencies’, what the inspiration was behind it and how it felt to finally get it out.
Keke Palmer: I didn't even know the project was going to be called Virgo Tendencies. I didn't know there was gonna be a part one or a part two; I just knew I had the music, some new and some I started creating during the pandemic, and I had the space that I didn't have before. Sometimes I have so much stuff going on at once and I don't feel like I always have the energy to put into a full project. A lot of times I've just put out singles here and there, a little of that, a little of this. This time, I was like, "You know what, I have time to really focus and put a project together. I really want the project to be an escape." So much heaviness was going on and I feel like I wanted to tap into more lighthearted and spontaneous Virgo energy––or my Sagittarius moon, I don't know––and really give something fun. The music is all upbeat, we have some sketches on there, some comedy. If you watch my Instagram, you know I love some sketches, girl (laughs). It's really just something fun and that's Virgo Tendencies, Part I.
Part II, which isn't out yet, is a bit more of the R&B, reflective side and a little bit more melancholy. The whole point of [Part I] was to put myself mentally in space that was opposite from where I was. I wasn't able to go anywhere, I wasn't able to do anything and that can be melancholic so to balance that, let me take myself somewhere else musically and creatively.
How does part one of ‘Virgo Tendencies’ demonstrate your growth as an artist from when you first put out “Keep It Movin’” and “Bottoms Up” to the woman you are today?
I'm a little bit more free and I'm having more fun with it. My work isn't measured by anything more than if I had fun doing it and if I'm enjoying it. It's not based on anyone else's outside reactions or feelings, but it's based off of the fact that I like music, I'm creating it and it's enjoyable whereas sometimes when I was a kid, there was a lot of label pressure. Now I don't have a lot of that and I think that shows through the music in the way that I'm able to have more of a creative expression and be able to be more natural with how I give my music to my fans. It's more authentic to me.
What Virgo-like tendencies do you possess that go into your self-care and self-love routine?
It's the constant analyzing of myself and being able to really pay attention to the details of myself to know what it is I need. That is super Virgo of me and it's a bit controlling, but I like to be in control of myself and in control of my life, so it's OK. It's in every factor––whether it be how I feel about my body and my fitness, or how I feel about my mental health and if I need a break, if I need to add more of "this" in my life with my friends, or remove "that" because that's not making me feel good––that's my Virgo tendency that I feel really does help me, but then I have other Virgo tendencies that make me crazy, too (laughs).
"It's in every factor whether it be how I feel about my body and my fitness, or how I feel about my mental health and if I need a break, if I need to add more of 'this' in my life with my friends, or removing 'that' because that's not making me feel good."
You hosted the VMAs and you made history. From one Black woman to another, it was incredible to even witness that. What was the experience like and how did you balance it all with the other billions of things that you’re doing?
Oh my gosh, thank you so much girl! Hopefully, I'll be seeing you up there soon, too!
How did I balance it? Scheduling. My team––I really give the props all to my team because that's what really makes it happen. I have a really great team with my assistant, my mom, my management. All those people are who make Keke the brand happen from any facet. It's not me doing it on my own and that's really how I was able to get through it. They helped me and they made it happen. They made sure I was where I needed to be and made sure I was on time. It was crazy because none of us knew what to expect and there were so many moving pieces. The VMAs––I don't know how we pulled that off, but I'm so glad that we did it and it's over with.
How do you prioritize your music, acting, hosting and everything else that you’re doing while it’s going on? On top of your team, what’s your scheduling and planning process like?
Because a lot of these projects include, to some level, other people whether it's me launching a collection of merch, music, acting or whatever, they include other people and other things that have to be able to make them happen. A lot of times I have to be free-flowing and patient with how I want things to go. I really have to let God guide me about what's gonna come out when and where because sometimes stuff happens, it changes and I can't be sitting there unable to move. It was the same thing when the pandemic happened––I was supposed to be doing the movie that I'm filming now, but I couldn't do that so I ended up doing my EP. When I didn't do the movie, that ended up with me being able to do the VMAs. It's like so much stuff happens that you try to control, but a lot of times if you allow yourself to let go at times, it can bring yourself to something even better.
If you could give young Keke a piece of advice about prioritization and time management, what would you tell her?
It's OK to relax. It's OK to prioritize taking a break. It's OK to schedule that just as well as you schedule the business. In fact, it's important to. It's necessary. I think we live in a country that makes us feel like working like a slave is the way to live, and it's not. It's unfortunate that the "hustle hard" thing can be toxic, too, to our lives. It's OK to grind, but don't grind your wheels off, pooh. Work hard, but work smart. Be able to leave a space for you to still enjoy it to where you're not looking at the end and resenting something you care about. I would tell myself it's OK to have a personal life and it's OK to have just as much growth and evolution in your business as you do as a person.
When did you begin to understand the importance of pressing pause and finding balance in your personal and professional life?
About 25 [years-old] I'd say is when I really started to realize the importance. I fully started to implement those things before then and tried to find a balance, but I think I realized around 25 that it could be scheduled. Stop showing so much support to one area and none in the other. If there's a birthday or wedding that you need to get to, have it in the schedule. Leave it in the schedule and let it be there so the other people that you're working with know that day is off limits. Show respect and value to other things, you know?
"It's OK to grind, but don't grind your wheels off, pooh. Work hard, but work smart. Be able to leave a space for you to still enjoy it to where you're not looking at the end and resenting something you care about."
What are your mornings like?
I can depend on the different time of year and what I've got going on. Right now with this movie, I'm waking up at 7:30am, I go take a run around 8am for twenty minutes, then I come back, get ready and start my day. Maybe I have something immediately, maybe I'm going to production, an office, a fitting, whatever might be going on. Sometimes I might be chilling or I'll have specific times for my meals so I'll make sure that I'm fit for my character in this particular role. Then maybe I'll chill and I'll have a script that I have to read and respond to, or I'll have a contract that I have to look over and little things throughout the day like that. Other than that, it's pretty simple.
How do you like to wind down at night?
I like to wind down at night by watching a movie or TV. I love mindless shows and losing myself in a really crazy reality show like Life After Lockup on WeTV. I love stuff like that because it doesn't make me think too much. Sometimes when you're watching a strict scripted show, it can cause you to really have to pay attention and I want to be able to just chill and watch something that's just going to make me laugh.
What are your favorite types of self-care?
I love, love, love [getting] massages and love, love, love facials. I love getting my hair done, definitely braids and stuff like that. Not necessarily getting weave or getting a wig on––that's sometimes too much. I like getting my braids done, getting my ends clipped or putting a mask on my hair. What else do I love for self-care? Family time! I can fill up my spirit when I need to see my family.
What advice do you have for busy women who feel like they don’t have time for self-care?
You're working backwards by doing that. You have to really implement self-care. There was a time in my life where - and I want to get back to it and I probably could because the pandemic came in––I really scheduled a massage. Nothing could come before it because it was me telling myself and creating a pattern in my mind that I come first. I made everything come after that. No matter what's going on, every Tuesday at whatever time, I have to get a massage and nothing can step in the way of that because it creates a statement to yourself that I am important, my feelings are important and what I want is important. If you don't place stuff in your life in which you tell yourself, what your life becomes is that everything is before you. Once you do that, you are no longer able to work at the level that you should because everything comes before you and you're not gonna be 100 percent if you're not there for you.
How do you find balance with friends and finding time to see or call them?
That one can be hard at times, but I started to do these things in my life where I have this vacation. One for my big birthday bash and a big bash for New Years. Me and my friends have been able to get together on those days and we look forward to them. We're working, we're grinding and sometimes we get to see each other a little more throughout the year, but we know for sure we're gonna see each other at the big party we're gonna have for New Years and the little vacation at our location.
What about your health? Do you like to cook or do you find yourself eating out more?
A few months ago, I was eating out a lot. Right before I got on the kick that I'm on now, I was eating out a lot. Now I'm not because I'm getting prepared for a film, but I also really wanted to do a reset and get myself more healthy. I've been cooking a lot during the pandemic so my confidence in my cooking skills have been up! I've been meal prepping and that's been really great. It's been awesome to be able to regulate and have a specific schedule.
"With doubt, once you get back to the seed of it, then you're able to kill it. Be a purveyor of your thoughts."
When you’re going through a bout of uncertainty or you’re feeling stuck, how do you handle it?
I pray, I call my mom and I talk myself through it. I really believe that talking to yourself is OK because you're observant of your thoughts. When you hear yourself respond to something that makes you uncomfortable and you hear yourself in your head and you're like, "Thank God nobody's in here with me," don't judge yourself. Literally talk to yourself. When I hear a thought like that that makes me feel weird about something, I literally will talk myself through it and ask myself, "Why do you feel that way? What's that based off of?" As I slowly started to get there, I realized it's usually based on something shallow, surface, something I can easily fix, or something I've been confused by in some way. With doubt, once you get back to the seed of it, then you're able to kill it. Be a purveyor of your thoughts.
What does success mean to you? And what does happiness mean to you?
Happiness means being able to do what I love. Success to me is being able to create something bigger than myself and something that speaks to a message and ideology that can be carried on for years to come. When I think about me and what I want to do with my art and creativity, it's beyond just me, Keke Palmer. It's us.
For more of Keke Palmer, follow her on Instagram. Virgo Tendencies Pt. 1is out now and watch the "Dreamcatcher" music video on YouTube.
Featured Image by CR8 Agency/Vaughn Alvarez.
This was first evident more than a decade ago when she quit her job as the corporate executive of a Fortune 500 company during a Periscope livestream. “I’m not sure if there’s an alignment of [our] future trajectory. I’m going to work for myself. I'm promoting myself to work for myself,” she said at the time before flashing a smile at the viewing audience. As she resigned on camera, a constant stream of encouraging messages floated upwards on the screen.
By 2021, she’d fashioned her work as a corporate consultant and her personal life with her husband and three adopted daughters into a reality show, She’s The Boss, for USA Network. This year, she released the New York Times bestselling memoir Nothing Is Missing, written as she was in the process of getting a divorce and dealing with her eldest daughter’s struggles with substance use.
Convinced that there’s no way the 39-year-old has achieved all of this without intentional strategic planning, I asked her about it when we spoke less than a week before Christmas. I’d seen videos on social media of her working on 2024 planning for other brands, and I wanted to know what that looked like following her own year of success.
She listed a number of goals, including ensuring that the projects she takes on in the new year align with her identity “as a Black woman, as an African woman, as a mother, as someone who has lived a [rebuilding] season and is now trying to live boldly and entirely as themselves.” But, I was shocked by how much of her business planning also prioritized rest.
Despite the bestselling book, a self-titled podcast, and working with numerous corporations, Walters said she’s been taking Fridays off. This year, she doesn’t want to work on Mondays, either.
“A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement,” she said, noting that she’ll check in with herself around March to see how successful this plan has been. The goal, Walters said, is to only be working on Tuesdays and Thursdays by sometime in 2025. “It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to have happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change.”
"A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement... It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change."
Walters said the decision to progressively work less was partially in response to her previously held notions about her career, especially as an entrepreneur. “When I first started, I thought burnout was a part of it,” she said. “What I didn’t realize is that even if you’re able to bounce out of burnout or get back to it, there’s a cumulative impact on your body. If you think of your body as a tree and every time you go through burnout, you are taking a hack out of your trunk, yes, that trunk will heal over, and the tree will continue to grow, but it doesn't mean that you don’t have a weakened stem.”
But, the desire for increased rest was also in response to the major shifts that occurred three years ago when she was experiencing major changes in her family and realized her metaphorical tree was “bending all the way over.”
“One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity,” she added. “That is some language that I think is just now starting to really get unpacked.” In recent years, there’s been an increased awareness of achieving balance in life, with Tricia Hersey’s “The Nap Ministry” gaining attention based on the idea that rest, especially for Black women, is a form of resistance. Even online phrases such as “soft life” and “quiet quitting” have hinted at a cultural shift in prioritizing leisure over professional ambition.
"One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity."
If companies are lining up to consult with Walters about their brands and products, then women have been looking to her for guidance on starting over since she invited them to livestream her resignation 12 years ago. As viewers continue to demand more from content creators in the form of intimate, personal details, Walters has navigated her personal brand with a sense of transparency without oversharing the vulnerable details about her life, especially when it comes to her family.
The entrepreneur said she’d been approached to write a book for several years and was initially convinced she was finally ready to write one about business. “I started to do that, and then I went through my divorce. When that happened, I said, why would I write a book telling people to get the life that I have when I’m not sure about the life that I have,” she said.
Instead, she decided to write Nothing Is Missing and provide a closer look at her life, starting with being born to immigrant Ghanaian parents (“You need to know my childhood to know why I’m passionate about entrepreneurship.”) through the adoption of her three daughters and eventual divorce. Despite her desire to share, however, she said she felt protective of the privacy of her family, including her ex-husband.
When discussing this with me, Walters said she was reminded of a lesson she learned from actress Kerry Washington, who released her own memoir, Thicker Than Water, just a week before Walters’ book release. Washington’s memoir grapples with family secrets, too, specifically the fact that she was conceived using a sperm donor and didn’t learn about it until she was already a successful TV star. While Washington reflects on how the decision and subsequent deception impacted her, she’s also careful to hold space for her parents’ experiences, too. “A lot of things she said was that she had to recognize where she was the supporting character and where she was the main character,” Walter said.
This is something Walter worked to do in Nothing Is Missing when discussing her daughter’s struggles with addiction. “I was very intentional about making sure that I did not reveal more than what was required,” she said. “If I say something about someone’s addiction, I don’t need to go into the list of the substances they used, how they used them, what I found. [I don’t need to] walk into a room and paint a picture of what it looked like for people to understand.”
Walters said some of the most vulnerable moments in the book barely made a ripple once it was released. She was extremely nervous to write about getting an abortion, she said. But no one has asked her about this in the months since the book was released. Instead, people have been more interested in quirkier revelations, such as the fact that she once appeared on Wheel of Fortune.
“I have bared my soul about this thing I went through in my youth that has changed me for people, and people are like, ‘So how heavy was the wheel when you spun it?’” she said, chuckling. “It just goes to show that people never worry about the thing that you worry about.”
With the success of Nothing Is Missing, Walters said she still isn’t planning to release a business book at the moment. But, as she navigates parenting a teenager and two adult children while also navigating a relationship with her new fiancé, Walters said she believes she has at least one or two more books to write about her personal journey. “There is sort of an arc of where my life has gone that I know I’ve got something more to say about this that I think is important, relevant and necessary,” she said.
In just three years, Walters’ life has undergone a major transformation. There’s no telling what the next three years will have in store for her, but it seems likely she’ll retain an inspired audience wherever life takes her.
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Weed is arguably one of the most socially accepted drugs on the market. Generally acknowledged as a conventional part of social and recreational settings, you can’t go too far without encountering the causal question, “So… do you smoke?”
Naturally, who doesn’t want to take the edge off every now and then? According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, THC, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis that produces its euphoric and mind-altering effects, embodies a chemical structure “similar to the brain chemical anandamide.” This allows our body to recognize the similarity and alter our normal brain communication, leading to the familiar hazy high feeling one gets after taking a hit.
Because of marijuana’s accessibility and social acceptance, it’s uniquely set apart from other recreational substances. Unlike the stigma attached to harder drugs or excessive alcohol consumption, waking and baking and smoking for leisure, stress reduction, or to pass the time, is often normalized. While many users report positive experiences with weed and find relief from anxiety and depression symptoms, it’s important to consider the potential effects that long-term use can have on one’s mental health and whether it’s time to quit.
In order to do so, we must address one important factor: cannabis is complex.
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For years, researchers have been determined to settle the quandary of whether individuals develop anxiety and depression due to cannabis use or if they use cannabis products as a coping mechanism for existing mental health issues. Still, one thing that is clear is how the effects vary from person to person, and the earlier one starts smoking, the more sustainable they are to long-term drawbacks.
“We do know that when teenagers or young adults are using cannabis more frequently, they have more trouble with anxiety and depression, as compared to people who are using cannabis or marijuana products when they are older adults,” Amie Goodin, Ph.D., MPP, assistant professor at the University of Florida’s Department of Pharmaceutical Outcomes tells xoNecole.
Dr. Goodin explains that on average, there is an observed trend indicating a higher likelihood of negative effects, such as anxiety and depression, among individuals who engage in frequent and substantial cannabis use, though defining "a lot" is challenging.
“There is good evidence to suggest that people who are using pretty regularly, meaning most days and using when they are younger, they tend to have worse anxiety and depression,” she adds. These differences in usage patterns can result in varying experiences for individuals, making it complex to establish a clear threshold for what constitutes high cannabis use.
Still, there are common signs that marijuana users can look out for when determining whether their usage should be reduced or cut out. As Dr. Goofin notes, it’s all about accessing the impact weed is having on one’s lifestyle, health, and relationships.
“If you've noticed that you're spending less time with people that you used to enjoy spending time with, having trouble at your job or school, that's a bit of a concern,” she says. “Another thing to keep in mind is what's happening with your sleep? If it's showing up in your mind, and it's taken up a lot of space in your head, maybe that's a good reason to take a step back and evaluate if you need to talk to somebody?”
Are There Long-Term Effects to Smoking Weed?
While Dr. Goodin notes that smoking weed isn’t inherently life-threatening, that doesn’t necessarily mean there are no downsides. Individuals with pre-existing mental health challenges unrelated to marijuana use, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or psychosis disorders, may experience more severe episodes when using cannabis regularly. Additionally, similar to smoking tobacco, “There might be risks for your heart and cardiovascular system,” which can affect one’s breathing and lung health in the long run.
How to Quit Smoking Weed
Treatment guidelines for cannabis-related issues are currently lacking, partly because existing treatment options are designed for individuals with more severe health issues. Still, if smoking weed is a habit that you’d like to ditch, here's a guide to initiate the process:
1. Create a Sleep Hygiene Plan.
“If you’re smoking weed or vaping, and stop, getting sleep can be tough,” Dr. Goodin explains. “Coming up with a plan for your sleep in advance can be helpful. Thinking about putting in more effort to help your body be more responsive to natural sleep cues is a good place to start.”
2. Schedule Your Annual Check-Up.
Dr. Goodin says, “Scheduling the appointment that we all put off is our regular annual check-up. The kind of advice and guidance from your healthcare provider can make a difference in knowing whether or not there needs to be other discussions made about your weed usage.”
3. Talk to a Friend.
“You don’t necessarily have to do the accountability buddy thing, but it might be a good idea just to let somebody within your social circle know that you’re trying to quit,” she says. “Especially if you tend to hang out with people and smoking is the activity. It's a good idea to talk to your friends and say, ‘Hey, could we try something different?’”
Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at https://www.samhsa.gov/ for additional mental health support resources.
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