It was 2009 when singer/songwriter Keri Hilson first made her debut.
She captured our lovelorn hearts and fueled us with self-worth anthems, beginning with "Energy," followed by chart-topping duets with male artists at the top of their game like Chris Brown, Kanye West, and Ne-Yo, and eventually the female empowerment anthem "Pretty Girl Rock." Miss Keri Baby had the world at her fingertips and the numbers to back up. She was at the height of her career, and on the outside looking in, lived a life anyone would dream of.
What was unknown to the rest of the world was that the In a Perfect World artist was experiencing the exact opposite of perfection. Despite the fame, the success, and the accolades, she wasn't herself. Keri was depressed.
"When 'Pretty Girl Rock' was at the top of the charts, I was bearing the weight of some personal and professional mistakes, and they just weighed so so so heavy on my spirit, and I was just not myself."
"Although I was at the mountain of my life, really the trajectory of my dream – I was at the pinnacle, you know? I was severely unhappy and then add to that, this is when I decide to jump out of an eleven-year relationship. Bad decision, bad timing," Keri added. "But it all just kind of spiraled for me, and became something I had never been through. I had never recognized myself as a person who can't pick themselves back up. I mean, I was literally on stage crying."
The media has a way of sensationalizing things to the point of kicking you while you're down, and something as seemingly miniscule as a headline can take you to an even darker place. Blogs, comments, and the Internet in general can be unforgiving to celebrities believing their words don't have power, but really, all words do. "You don't know where a person is, it's not just about what you are feeding your audience, but what you are doing to the creators. There are a lot of undeserving people that are being attacked by just a headline," Keri shared. "You don't understand some of the worst days of my life were from a lie. An attack on my character. And I am an amazing person. I do say that because I've done the work to become that and all I ever wanted to be was just a great human being."
It was at that point that Keri, against the wishes of her peers and mentors, decided to take a hiatus from her dream to focus on her mental health.
"Literally, 7 years of my life have been a battle with depression. And I can't say that I'm all the way clear, but I'm in the clear."
Depression is a villain with many faces that has tormented women of color without opposition for decades. Silence The Shame, an organization created by music executive turned philanthropist Shanti Das, is finally fighting back.
The Hip Hop professional was instrumental in developing the careers of artists like OutKast, Usher, and Toni Braxton and is now using her influence to challenge stigmas about mental illness in the black community through Silence The Shame. Keri, alongside Das, xoNecole founder Necole Kane, creator of the GIANTS series James Bland, therapist Dr. Ayanna Abrams, and mental health professional Vaughn Gay, spoke on the Silence The Shame Panel in Atlanta last month. Silence The Shame is about taking the shame away from mental health and depression in the black community and remembering your power.
Depression has gone unchecked for decades in the black community due to lack of education. If you take medicine or go to therapy, you are dismissed as "crazy" or said to "have issues." And for women and men of color, those perceptions create wounds that cut much deeper.
As women of color in particular, we sometimes feel like if we show any sign of weakness, we will be scrutinized or invalidated.
It's the double-edged sword of embodying that "strong black woman" archetype that we wear for the people who inhabit our worlds so well.
In theory, Keri was living her best life. But even at the height of her career, she found herself seeking inner peace and struggling with depression. The adage is true, just because someone seems okay on the outside, doesn't mean they are okay on the inside.
Mental illness is multifaceted and can show up in your life when you least expect it, even when it seems like you're finally getting everything you've ever prayed for. For some women, it may look like high energy and insomnia, and in others, it may look like isolation and substance abuse. If you or someone in your life, are going through depression, it is important to find a support group or a counselor and get help. "I don't know many of my peers that actually go to counseling. And I can attest to the fact that it is a process, because it does uproot things. I would have anxiety even going," Keri said.
"It uproots for the sake of healing. So it's a process. It's not that you go and sit there one time and feel good. Many days, I wouldn't feel good going or leaving."
If you're like me, and you feel hesitant about the idea of therapy: please understand, we all need help. If your tribe is not properly equipped, it is essential that you outsource. Let a professional peel back those layers so that you can finally heal.
Keri also credited a lot of her growth and healing passed her depression period to steering clear from social media. Social media comes with positives, but it also comes with its fair share of negatives and for Keri, it was important to respect the process by protecting her peace. "When we are not okay, when we are a little low or a lot low, there is a protection mode that has to happen because you don't know how much our subconscious is soaking in the criticism and the praise. Neither of them is great for us. It's all based on people who don't know the true us. Part of my protection was going away. For two and a half years, I went ghost from social media. I don't need the false love or the unwarranted hate. I don't want any of it so I just left."
"Now that I'm back on social media, that subconscious chatter that we are taking into our spirits, it doesn't resonate, it doesn't reach that part of me that it once did. So when you are not okay, take that app off of your phone," she added.
Collect additional much-needed gems about depression and mental health in Silence The Shame's honest hour by watching the video down below.
- What 8 Celebrities Say About Living With Anxiety - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
Taylor "Pretty" Honore is a spiritually centered and equally provocative rapper from Baton Rouge, Louisiana with a love for people and storytelling. You can probably find me planting herbs in your local community garden, blasting "Back That Thang Up" from my mini speaker. Let's get to know each other: @prettyhonore.
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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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
What would you do if you just got laid off from your corporate job and you had a serendipitous encounter with someone who gave you the opportunity of a lifetime? Tamara Taylor was faced with that decision in 2013 after she was let go from her sales profit and operations coach job in the restaurant industry and met a then-up-and-coming stylist, Law Roach, on a flight to L.A. She and Roach struck up a conversation, and he shared how he was looking for someone to run his business and was impressed by her skills. While she took his business card, she was unsure if it would lead to anything. But, boy, was she wrong. Two weeks later, after packing up her home to move back to her hometown of Chicago, she called Roach; he asked if they could meet the following day, and the rest is herstory.
Taylor founded Mastermind MGMT, an agency that represents some of Hollywood’s best “image architects” like Roach, Kellon Deryck, and Kollin Carter, who are responsible for creating unforgettable style and beauty moments for celebrities like Zendaya, Megan Thee Stallion, Taraji P. Henson, and more. Taylor and her company possess an array of functions, but her biggest role is to be her client’s advocate. We hear endless stories about how creatives aren’t paid or underpaid in the entertainment industry, but Taylor ensures that her clients get their piece of the pie. The entrepreneur opened up about her company and her non-profit, Mastermind Matters, in an exclusive interview with xoNecole.
“I always say that I'm an artist advocate first, deal closer second. So my primary focus is to just make sure that the artist is getting everything that they deserve, whether it's compensation or, you know, certain accommodations, but just making sure that they have everything that they need to be able to show up and provide the best service that they're hired for,” she explained.
“So you know, in the beginning, it was hard because I didn't have any experience, and the artists who I was working with at the time–we were learning together, meaning neither of us had assisted anyone. We didn't have mentors in our specific fields. So every deal was like a new learning experience for us from the styling side and also from the business side, and so it took, you know, doing some research, using some very creative tactics, to find out information in the industry and just starting to request accommodations that I knew other artists were granted, who maybe didn't look like my artists.”
Photo by Christopher Marrs
Ten years later, there’s still not many people who are doing what Taylor is doing. However, things have gotten easier thanks to the research and connections she made in the beginning. During Mastermind MGMT’s ten-year anniversary celebration, she announced her non-profit, Mastermind Matters, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that focuses on helping young entrepreneurs through a 12-week program. The program is divided into “two routes.” The first route is for aspiring creative artists who want to start a business from their talent and all the things they need to learn about business, such as taxes, life insurance, etc. The second route is for practicing creative artists who are already in the industry but need resources such as how to plan for retirement or how to sustain themselves if they can’t work for a short amount of time, i.e., the pandemic.
“I just feel that I'm able to have a business and be successful because of their art as well. And so there are things that I know, I tried to teach it to them but understanding that I can only do so much because I'm not a subject matter expert in those fields,” she said. “So I at least want to be able to provide the resources, and then if they make their grown decision not to do it, then that's on them. But you know, I could be guilt-free and taking advantage of the resources that I'm also providing to them.”
Taylor continues to be an innovator in her industry by always pushing the boundaries of creativity and thinking one step ahead of everyone else. The Chicago-bred businesswoman is moving into the tech space thanks to a new invention created with her clients in mind, and she is looking forward to bigger collaborations in the future. Follow Mastermind MGMT on Instagram @mastermind_mgmt for more information.
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Feature image by Christopher Marrs