With all the talk of inflation, heightened interest rates, and a recession looming, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, especially after pushing through the hardships of a pandemic. If you can find inspiration and motivation to keep pushing through, just take a cue from someone whose mantra screams empowerment and fortitude no matter what life throws at us as Black women.
"We had a conference [recently] and one of our speakers said ‘You are your own economy.’ And I’m of the mindset, after working with coaches and being around people who are moving heavy in their industries, that we are our own economy," said Makeda Smith, CEO of Savvy Chicks In Real Estate, a Plainfield, IL-based marketing agency that offers community, events, coaching, and resources for women in the industry. "The economy may say that we’re looking at increased prices, but what are you going to do to meet the challenge?"
Women are finding financial freedom and empowerment through pursuing careers and businesses in real estate, representing 65% of realtors. (And it's notable that single women, in particular, are leading in homeownership, at 19%, compared with 9% of single men.)
Smith has built a lucrative career in real estate, becoming a multi-million-dollar producer and top-seller in her market. "It's from my hard work that I already put in the industry, being a top producer, that I’ve made an impact in the industry. Now, I’m able to take that same drive and shift it to help women in the business.
She is now working to ensure that Black women in the industry are able to leverage all opportunities to not only build wealth for themselves but also for those in their communities as well.
We talked more with Smith about how she got started, what has kept her passionate about the industry after almost two decades in the business, and how women can tap into a lucrative career despite the current economic climate:
Carl Ankrum of The Media MD
xoNecole: How did you get started working in real estate?
Makeda Smith: I got licensed in 2004, and it was after my husband had pestered me to go and get my license. He thought it would be a good opportunity for me to start a new career. I was coming out of [a career in] customer service. It was a completely different industry, and I wasn’t thinking about real estate until he pushed me. Eighteen years later, I’m still a licensed agent.
We launched our own brokerage in 2011. Then, in 2017, I launched my marketing agency to help women in real estate build their brands. It just came full circle.
xoN: What keeps you going after so many years in the industry, especially with the housing market's ups and downs?
MS: In the early years, [I had] the ability to help a family or an investor to purchase and sell real estate and have that be part of their wealth portfolio. Now, I’m passionate about helping the agents who have just started out in business or those who have been in business but [are] stuck and can’t get over a certain revenue hump. We have the inflation rate and gas prices are high, but people will always need a place to live and there's always opportunities.
Let's say last year, I was working with people who had a price point to where they couldn't get over showing people homes that may have been at $150,000. Those homes are $200,000 and $250,000, so a lot of the agents’ incomes are going up because the property values are moving up. It’s not like 2008 [during the Great Recession].
Carl Ankrum of The Media MD
xoN: It's good you mentioned that because some women might be a bit apprehensive about getting into real estate due to what's going on in the economy right now.
MS: If you’re a new agent coming into the business, it’s no different than when I got into it in 2004. You have to find your lane and you have to go hard in that lane. You have to have a strategy and a plan. Then you have to have a made-up mind that 'I'm going to go for this.’ Figure out how you are going to carve your own space within the saturated market. It was saturated in 2004, it was saturated in 2008, and it’s saturated now.
"If you’re a new agent coming into the business, it’s no different than when I got into it in 2004. You have to find your lane and you have to go hard in that lane. Figure out how you are going to carve your own space within the saturated market. It was saturated in 2004, it was saturated in 2008, and it’s saturated now."
A lot of people are saying that these are times that we will find people leaving the industry, but then you will find out what agents are really made of — those who stay in the industry, who find a way around the noise and distractions.
xoN: How do you carve a niche, though? What actions did you take?
MS: I did not sell traditional real estate. I said, 'Okay, how can I get more listings faster so that I am not doing as much legwork to find new clients?' I began to study and figure out how I could work with a bank like Chase, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac who already had a bulk of listings and say hey I’d like to be your go-to agent. If you have any foreclosures in your area, I’d love to be your broker on that.' And that’s how I became a top producer. In 2007, when I made top-earner status, I had to bring my husband on in because I couldn't handle all of it myself.
Then we both made at least $100,000 each. We had never ever seen anything like that in our lifetime.
Carl Ankrum of The Media MD
xoN: Some of us struggle with networking and forging relationships. How were you able to do so with the housing and banking institutions?
MS: It's not as easy as people say. I went to a conference in Dallas and it was geared toward businesses that had assets. I said, 'If I could just get in front of them, give them my pitch, and bring them what I have to the table, let’s see if they’ll give me a chance.' I just started showing up at all of these different conferences. I’d hit up reps over and over again. The one thing I would say that worked is that time when I followed up with Freddie Mac over and over. They kept telling me no.
Then the rep finally came through with that yes. She gave me 50 listings that [they] can give you at one time and I was blown away. I finally heard that yes. I showed up where the people were. If it was me paying for a plane ticket plus a conference ticket and making sure I had money for food even when I was low on cash, I made that investment to show up where I needed to be for my ideal client. That’s how I became a top producer and my husband became a top producer.
"I showed up where the people were. If it was me paying for a plane ticket plus a conference ticket and making sure I had money for food even when I was low on cash, I made that investment to show up where I needed to be for my ideal client. That’s how I became a top producer and my husband became a top producer."
I always say, 'Stop being timid about your business.' Walmart is not timid about selling you their products or putting a commercial in your face. Target is not timid about helping you get into their stores to spend more of your money, so why are we timid when it comes to our own businesses? I don’t care if you are in your first $10,000 or half a million, we cannot afford to be timid about the businesses in which God has given us.
My mission is to help women in real estate have multiple streams of income that not only depends upon real estate transactions but you have digital products, courses Ebooks, and own paid events. Those are things that don’t teach you in real estate school and it's something I wish someone had done that for me. That keeps me going.
For more of Makeda, follow her on Instagram @makedasmithceo.
Featured image by Carl Ankrum of The Media MD
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.
Not too long ago, someone asked me why I write about sex so much. The simple answer is I think it’s a part of my purpose, and since I believe that, I don’t question it much. Sex is something that I find to be special, sacred, wonderful, profound, incomparable, and very necessary — all of those things, not just a few. And since studying it, researching it, writing about it, and talking about it all come so naturally to me, I’m pretty sure it’s what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life, in some capacity. Because when something is so wonderful as sex, why wouldn’t you want to “share the wealth” on the things that you come to learn?
Take orgasms, for example. If there’s one thing that I want every single human to experience, more than just once, in this lifetime, it’s that. Because if there’s one thing that will blow your mind, in a way that nothing else ever can or will, it’s climaxing — especially when you’re doing it with someone who you truly care about. And that’s why, I make it my mission to learn as much as I can about the, what many would consider, pinnacle of the sexual experience.
And since there are so many different types of orgasms to choose from, I want to make you aware of one that you may not have heard of before: the hands-free orgasm. While it might sound impossible to achieve, I’m thinking in a few moments, you’ll totally get why it’s absolutely not.
The Connection Between Your Brain and Sexual Pleasure
No matter how much you might read about the role of genitalia as it directly relates to sex, there is no way around the fact that your largest sex organ is actually your brain. There is data for days about it. Okay, but even if you already knew that, have you ever stopped to consider why that is indeed the case?
For starters, the most profound and relevant sex hormones and chemicals — ones like amphetamines, dopamine, and norepinephrine (as well as several others)— are produced in your brain. Another reason is that what you think about your sex partner and how you feel about what you think, these two things also play a pivotal role in sexual attraction and levels of sexual pleasure — and this includes things like how emotionally connected you feel, how well the two of you communicate (check out “Are You A Good Sexual Communicator? You Sure?”), if you feel safe in each other’s presence and if the two of you are committed to meeting each other’s needs, both inside and outside of the bedroom.
In fact, this is a big part of what separates humans from other mammals when it comes to how we process sex; it’s not just instinctive…there are mental and emotional factors that heavily come into play, too.
Now put a pin in that, and let’s keep building on this thing.
How To Have an Orgasm: The Four Stages of OrgasmGiphy
A few years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, “How Can You Know For Sure That You've Had An Orgasm?.” The reason why is that, since so few women have vaginal orgasms (which are not to be mistaken for clitoral ones, by the way), I thought it was important for women to know what it feels like (as best as I can describe it in print) what climaxing actually feels like. That being said, in order to lay down some more foundation for this whole “hands-free orgasm” thing, let’s briefly touch on what an orgasm is.
Although sex experts tend to disagree on whether there are four or five stages in an orgasm, for the sake of time and space, let’s go with four:
Excitement: this is when your muscles tense up, your heart races, natural lubrication transpires, your nipples become erect, and blood flows down to your genital region
Plateau: this is when muscle tension increases, your heart rate and breathing intensify, your clitoris literally retracts, you become wetter, and muscle spasms begin
Orgasm: this is when your heart rate and blood pressure are at their peak, muscles within your body begin to contract (including your vagina), a flow of lubrication comes forth, there’s a lot of sexual tension, and typically your partner ejaculates
Resolution: this is when everything in your body starts to slow down, you feel release and satisfaction and oftentimes fatigue (by the way, it’s science that causes men to feel sleepy at this point; it’s due to oxytocin and vasopressin being released which increases the production of melatonin)
From a strictly physical standpoint, this is what goes down whenever you have an orgasm — whether alone or with someone else. It’s important to keep all of this in mind as we transition into what a hands-free orgasm is all about.
The Hands-Free Orgasm: How To Climax Without Touch
As you can see from this subject heading, there is technically more than one kind of a hands-free orgasm: one is the literal kind, and the other falls under more of a technicality. I’ll get into what I mean by the second one in just a moment.
Okay, so the first type of hands-free orgasm is rooted in tantric sex. A few years ago, another writer for the platform penned, “Elevate Your Pleasure With The Transformative Power Of Tantric Sex” which can help you to gain a bit more clarity about it all. For now, I’ll just say that the word “tantra” is a Sanskrit one that means “to weave.” At the end of the day, tantra is all about interweaving yourself, sexually, with another individual, so that you both can have an elevated sexual experience — one that goes beyond simply…cumming.
Since a huge part of tantra is about breathing deeply and being in a meditative state (check out “What Exactly Is 'Orgasmic Meditation'?”) in order to make all of that happen, tantra is a reminder that your mind and spirit play a pivotal role in sex — not just your body.
And so, it is the belief that if you get really still, stay very present, and follow certain deep breathing exercises while being in a meditative state that focuses either on your sexual fantasies or your partner, it can cause you to, at the very least, have a deep tingling sensation all throughout your body (similar to what edging feels like) or that you will have an orgasm altogether (maybe not the first time you try this technique out but eventually).
And just what kind of breathing can make that happen? LOL. Actually, if you put “breath work for sex” into your favorite search engine, you’ll find quite a few articles on the topic. One that I found to be very helpful is on Lionness’s site; it’s entitled, “The Art of Breathing: Using Breathing Exercises For Better Sex.”
And so, since you don’t need someone else’s help to breathe or meditate, I’m sure you get how you can totally make all of this happen on your own. All you need is to create a romantic and extremely comfortable atmosphere, maybe put on some sexy music, add a scent that will tap into your sexual stimulation side as you’re inhaling and exhaling (like vanilla, jasmine, cinnamon, lavender, rose, or patchouli), get into a position where you can comfortably rock your hips and — get to breathing, chile. Deep. Calculated. Rhythmic breathing.
If you do all of this and pay close attention to how your body responds, you will probably notice that you are literally shifting into one or even all phases of an orgasm — without a single touch (hey, try it before you doubt it!).
How To Have a Hands-Free Orgasm With TouchGiphy
Remember how I said that another type of hands-free orgasm is a technicality? What I meant by that is, technically, if you achieve an orgasm without using your hands — or someone else’s — you just had a hands-free orgasm. This means that a sex toy can give you a hands-free orgasm. Your partner’s mouth can give you a hands-free orgasm. Hell, dry humping can give you a hands-free orgasm. Because, so long as you are sexually stimulated without the assistance of your hands or someone else’s and you then climaxed as a direct result, you just had one.
Clearly, this type of hands-free orgasm isn’t nearly as impressive as the other one that we just discussed. Still, it does deserve a bit of a shout-out because if you’re trying to master orgasms or find different ways to stimulate your partner, as they learn more about how to stimulate you in return, bringing hands-free orgasms into the mix can help you to achieve both missions.
Also, when it comes to this particular spin on the hands-free orgasm, it’s a reminder that you don’t have to always resort to the obvious (like fingering, for example) to “get the job done.”
Find other ways to stimulate erogenous zones, participate in foreplay that is a bit “off-script” (check out “Mental Foreplay Hacks That Ultimately Takes Intercourse To New Levels”), and get each other off without immediately relying on hands to make it happen — it all can introduce you to a new world of sexual pleasure if you’re open to giving it a shot.
Finally, Here Are the Benefits of Mastering Both Techniques
Beyond sheer intrigue, you might wonder why you would want to attempt one or both types of hands-free orgasms when “the old-fashioned way” has been working just fine. Okay, let’s take water play, for example. If you or your partner use a portable or detachable shower head in order to stimulate you (because again, that wouldn’t be using any hands), aside from the experience being pretty erotic all on its own, it can teach you and/or your partner different things about how your body responds to certain temperatures, types of stimuli, different amount of pressure, etc. Without the automatic go-to of hands, you/they are forced to hone in on you in a way that requires a deeper amount of intention and concentration — and that’s always a good thing.
Another form of a hands-free orgasm is the sensation that you might feel while doing kegels. Tightening up your pelvic walls can definitely sexually arouse you (especially if you’re fantasizing at the time). And girrrl, learning how to “grip him” during penetrative sex because you’ve mastered how to control your muscles down below. That’s an orgasm like no other and also qualifies as a hands-free orgasm!
At the end of the day, like pretty much any other orgasm that there is (and there are several), a hands-free orgasm is all about learning more about you and your partner and applying what you’ve learned in order to enhance your sexual encounters with one another.
And if you’re able to get to the point where you can do that, hell, not just without the use of your hands but any type of touch at all? You’ll be absolutely (sexually) unstoppable! (Pardon the pun)…hands down.
Featured image by boggy22/Getty Images