I think we’ve all imagined what it would be like to have Kelly Rowland as a friend. Her warm, big-sister energy has a way of making us feel like we’ve known her all our life, even though we’ve only scratched the surface of her depth. Fortunately for us, a new interview has given us new insight into the Grammy award-winning singer’s upbringing and how it shaped her perspective on sisterhood, community, and living out her dreams.
On Tuesday, Kelly appeared on the season 3 premiere episode of Kerry Washington’s Street You Grew Up Onto series to discuss her upbringing as a child and the maternal figures that shaped her outlook on forming sisterly bonds.
The Power of Sisterhood | Kelly Rowland on Street You Grew Up On
During the conversation, Kerry points out that when she thinks of Kelly, she thinks of someone who “really embraced your sisters,” adding that Kelly is a “woman’s woman” in her eyes.
Kelly shares that her knack for connection is one that’s deeply influenced by the presence of her mother and aunties growing up, which has helped her to dig deep with her friends.
“When I’m in a friendship and it just feels surface, I ask why,” the former Destiny’s Child singer says. “I’ll just say, ‘You’ve been distant, why are you distant? Are you okay? Do you need to talk?’”
She adds, “And I’ll say, ‘Maybe that’s what you needed this time, and I respect that, I understand that, then I’ll move back. But I’m concerned.’”
All throughout Kelly's life, the presence of her female relatives has felt spiritual. So much so that she reflects on a divine encounter that she experienced with her paternal grandmother, who sang for Lena Horne and Count Basie, that confirmed her purpose.
“One day — I can’t remember if I was warming up or something — and I could feel every part of this woman,” she recalls. “And I felt like she was saying, ‘I’m living through you,’ like ‘I’m living my dream through you.’ And I was just like, well, have at it.”
The “outer body” experience shifted Kelly's perception of her talents, allowing her to fully embrace her gift of singing and surrender. “I stopped second-guessing myself. I had to stop second-guessing myself — I was like, just roll with it.”
While Kelly has been a beacon light to many Black girls through her music and — persona, she takes time to empower the little Black girl inside of her who had the dream of becoming a star and went for it.
“I would say, continue to dream big, blow your mind with your dreams, like let them scare you, and run to them,” she concludes.
And we’ll be the first to say, we love the woman Kelly’s become.
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Aley Arion is a writer and digital storyteller from the South, currently living in sunny Los Angeles. Her site, yagirlaley.com, serves as a digital diary to document personal essays, cultural commentary, and her insights into the Black Millennial experience. Follow her at @yagirlaley on all platforms!
This post is in partnership with Amgen.
The seemingly simple task of taking a breath is something most of us don’t think twice about. But for people who live with severe asthma, breathing does not always come easily. Asthma, a chronic respiratory condition that inflames and narrows the airways in the lungs, affects millions of people worldwide – 5-10% of which live with severe asthma. Severe asthma is a chronic and lifelong condition that is unpredictable and can be difficult to manage. Though often invisible to the rest of the world, severe asthma is a not-so-silent companion for those who live with it, often interrupting schedules and impacting day-to-day life.
Among the many individuals who battle severe asthma, Black women face a unique set of challenges. It's not uncommon for us to go years without a proper diagnosis, and finding the right treatment often requires some trial and error. Thankfully, all hope is not lost for those who may be fighting to get their severe asthma under control. We spoke with Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq. and Jania Watson, two inspiring Black women who have been living with severe asthma and have found strength, resilience, and a sense of purpose in their journeys.
Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq.
Juanita Ingram has a resume that would make anyone’s jaw drop. On top of being recently crowned Mrs. Universe, she’s also an accomplished attorney, filmmaker, and philanthropist. From the outside, it seems there’s nothing this talented woman won’t try, and likely succeed at. In her everyday life, however, Juanita exercises a lot more caution. From a young age, Juanita has struggled with severe asthma. Her symptoms were always exacerbated by common illnesses like a cold or flu. “I've heard these stories of my breathing struggles, but I remember distinctly when I was younger not being able to breathe every time I got a virus,” says Ingram. “I remember missing a lot of school and crying a lot because asthma is painful. I [was taken] to see my doctor often if I got sick with anything so I was hypervigilant as a child, and I still am.”
Today, Juanita says her symptoms are best managed when she’s working closely with her care team, avoiding getting sick and staying ahead of any symptoms. Ingram said she’s been blessed with skilled doctors who are just as vigilant of her symptoms as she is. While competing in the Mrs. Universe competition, Juanita took extra care to stay clear of other competitors to ensure she didn’t catch a cold or virus that would trigger her severe asthma. “I would stand off to the side and sometimes that could be taken as ‘oh, she thinks she's better than everybody else.’ But if I get sick during a pageant, I'm done. I had to compete with that in mind because my sickness doesn't look like everybody else's sickness.”
Even when her symptoms are under control, living with severe asthma still presents challenges. Juanita relies on her strong support system to overcome the hurdles caused by a lack of understanding from the public, “I think that there's a lot of lack of awareness about how serious severe asthma is. I would [also] tell women to advocate and to trust their intuition and not to allow someone to dismiss what you're experiencing.”
Jania, a content creator from Atlanta, Georgia, has been living with severe asthma for many years. Thanks to early testing by asthma specialists, Jania was diagnosed with severe asthma as a child after experiencing frequent flare-ups and challenges in her day-to-day life. “I specifically remember, I was starting school, and we were moving into a new house. One of the triggers for me and my younger sister at the time were certain types of carpets. We had just moved into this new house and within weeks of us being there, my parents literally had to pay for all new carpet in the house.”
As Jania grew older, she was suffering from fewer flare-ups and thought her asthma was well under control. However, a trip back to her doctor during high school revealed that her severe asthma was affecting her more than she realized. “That was the first time in a long time I had to do a breathing test,” she describes. “The doctor had me take a deep breath in and blow into a machine to test my breathing. They told me to blow as hard as I could. And I was doing it. I was giving everything I got. [My dad and the doctor] were looking at me like ‘girl, stop playing.’ And at that point [it confirmed] I still have severe asthma because I've given it all I got. It doesn't really go away, but I just learned how to help manage it better.”
Jania recognizes that people who aren’t living with asthma, may not understand the disease and mistake it for something less serious. Or there could be others who think their symptoms are minor, and not worth bringing up. So, for Jania, communicating with others about her diagnosis is key. “Having severe asthma [flare-ups] in some cases looks very similar to being out of shape,” she said. “But this is a chronic illness that I was born with. This is just something that I live with that I've been dealing with. And I think it's important for people to know because that determines the next steps. [They might ask] ‘Do you need a bottle of water, or do you need an inhaler? Do you need to take a break, or do we need to take you to the hospital?’ So, I think letting the people around you know what's going on, just in case anything were to happen plays a lot into it as well.”
Like Juanita, Jania’s journey has been marked by ups and downs, but she remains an unwavering advocate for asthma awareness and support within the Black community. She hopes that her story can be an inspiration to other women with asthma who may not yet have their symptoms under control. “There's still life to be lived outside of having severe asthma. It is always going to be there, but it's not meant to stop you from living your life. That’s why learning how to manage it and also having that support system around you, is so important.”
By sharing their journeys, Juanita and Jania hope to encourage others to embrace their conditions, obtain a proper management plan from a doctor or asthma specialist like a pulmonologist or allergist, and contribute to the improvement of asthma awareness and support, not only within the Black community, but for all individuals living with severe asthma.
Read more stories from others like Juanita and Jania on Amgen.com, or visit Uncontrolled Asthma In Black Women | BREAK THE CYCLE to find support and resources.
Two years ago, Hannah Bronfman, heiress, social media influencer, entrepreneur, and author of Do What Feels Good, shared her IVF, pregnancy, and motherhood journey with xoNecole, but she's also shared her experience with another amazing journey: becoming a passionate angel investor.
Last month, via her TikTok, she shared that she has invested in more than 70 companies in the past five years, and that angel investing “sits at the intersection of basically everything I do.”
Angel Investing Pt 2. Turning Obstacles into Opportunities #startup #investing #finance #business #womeninbusiness #entrepreneur #angelinvestor #blackgirlmagic #cpg #startuptalk
She continued with details on how she once co-founded a venture and faced challenges with getting funding. “I had a difficult time fundraising and was met with all the ‘isms,’ so I just wanted an opportunity to share those learnings with other founders,” she added in the video. (Her Beautified app would eventually get $1.2 million in seed funding and give StyleSeat some tough competition.)
“It was notable that a young Black female started a beauty tech company back in 2013 and the world wasn’t ready for it. And the world isn’t ready for more people of color in the venture capital world. So I’m here to just use my platform to open doors and share knowledge.”
This month, she dropped more jewels, schooling her more than 100,000 TikTok followers about what it takes for a business to qualify for angel investment and highlighting Topicals, a mega-successful skincare company co-founded by Olamide Olowe, the youngest Black woman ever to raise $10 million in funding. The company is one that Bronfman has invested in. (Oh, by the way, other investors in Topicals include Gabrielle Union, Kelly Rowland, entrepreneur and former Netflix exec Bozoma Saint John, and Yvonne Orji.)
The topic is Topical 👏🏽👏🏽 @TOPICALS @Olamide Ayomikun Olowe #startup #investing #finance #business #womeninbusiness #entrepreneur #angelinvestor #startuptalk #cpg #blackgirlmagic #skincare #beauty
Some of you might be reading all of this—heiress, Hollywood’s Black Elite, and millions of dollars—and saying to yourself, “Well, that’s for rich folk,” and you’d be somewhat right. The average net worth of an angel is $1 million (or at least $200,000 in annual salary). On top of that, Black and Brown women founders often face unique struggles when it comes to getting funding for their businesses, including biases associated with race and sex, and make up a small drop in the bucket when compared with the funding successes of startup entrepreneurs getting millions of dollars from their affluent white-male (and very well-connected) peers to make their entrepreneurial dreams come true. And even many of the Black women-led exceptions get funding from celebrity friends or other well-connected links to big money.
But there are indeed everyday professionals, entrepreneurs, and activists seeking to balance the playing field when it comes to investing in the ideas and startups of Black and Brown women, and they're rallying together to create opportunities for others to join them.
This is where some of us can do our part to get involved, put our money where our mouths are, and fund the next billion-dollar Black-owned empire (while building our own generational wealth off the dividends). Let’s get into a few basics of angel investing:
First Off, What Is Angel Investing?
Well, it’s not to be confused with family and friends donating money to help you make your side hustle the main one. Angel investing involves a savvy and committed investor—taking a high risk and expecting a high gain—who goes into a legal agreement to offer funds for the upstart and/or growth of a new business, particularly when the founder can’t get a traditional loan or funding by other means. The practice was made infamous by Broadway producers who relied on “angels” to support and fund their productions.
There’s typically an expectation of equity or the value of an investor’s stake in the company. Also, angels are more likely to invest in a great idea, unlike a venture capitalist firm, which requires a business to be a proven hit in the market (among other things). Forbes reports that oftentimes, angels invest after a startup company’s initial investment and before they need larger sums from venues like venture capitalists.
Today, angel investing has become a powerful method for funding Black and Brown women-led businesses since these enterprises have seen a decline and are often shut out when it comes to venture capital funding. Angel investing is a great way for everyday citizens to put their dollars behind a business they see is viable, has a solid business plan, has an actual market to serve, and can offer something in a way that solves a problem. (In Topical’s case, for example, had all of those elements in its favor when it launched in 2020, offering inclusive science-based solutions for common skin issues like eczema and featuring everyday models in their ads, embracing imperfections and normalizing depictions of a diverse range of natural aesthetics relatable to the masses.)
Who Can Become An Angel Investor?
While the net worth of the average angel investor is quite high, the minimum amount someone can invest in a company as an angel can vary (like this woman, who started with a $7,000 investment in NasaClip, a company founded by a savvy Black woman ER physician.)
And while accreditation is encouraged (and sometimes required based on some platform’s requirements related to income and other factors), it’s not a legal requirement for an individual to be an angel investor. Everyday professionals, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs, basically classified as non-accredited) get involved via angel investment groups, equity crowdfunding, or angel networks. Some groups have membership fees, while others bring together like-minded women who want to support one another in researching, vetting, and investing in promising budding businesses.
Look into networking events, pitch competitions, bootcamps, or courses offered by organizations and platforms like the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, Black Women Talk Tech, Pipeline Angels. AfroTech, The Black Enterprise Disruptors Summit, Level, or Black Girl Ventures.
With angel investing, the risks are high—which these types of investors are often well aware of—and there are challenges and pitfalls, but if you have the disposable income to offer, and you're willing to do lots of networking, conduct lots of research (on groups, investment platforms, and the companies), and commit to intentional, strategic planning of how often and how much you're willing to invest, angel investing is a great way to build wealth while supporting the growth and survival of Black and Brown businesses.
And who knows, maybe you can gather your network and their coins and create an angel investment support group or firm yourself. With Black women’s buying power still standing strong at $1.5 trillion and a collective move to support women entrepreneurs through actual schmoney, a change is certainly on the horizon.
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