I don't know about y'all, but whenever Golden Globes and Oscar nominations come out, more times than not, I'm rolling my eyes. As a self-professed movie buff who fully enjoys the art of acting and filmmaking, sometimes I am utterly baffled by who gets a nod and, more importantly, who doesn't. But in order to stay focused on what this article is really about, I'll avoid the rabbit hole of getting into the politics of award shows and how, so very often, many artists get overlooked. Instead, let me first say "big ups" to Ms. Cynthia Erivo's Best Actress nomination for her portrayal of Harriet Tubman in Harriet, along with co-writing and performing the song "Stand Up" in the film (something that could gain her the much coveted EGOT title if she wins). That's dope. Truly. And then let me get to what made me smile, big time, as I scanned the nominations list. Matthew A. Cherry.
Just 48 hours ago, this is what he tweeted.
(Fun fact: Issa Rae plays Zuri's mom in the film. Ah, the circle of life!) Man, you would think this guy was my little brother (he's only 38), first cousin or somebody I sat at the lunch table with in grade school every day, if you went by how excited I was to hear the news of his Oscar nod! Honestly, I think a part of the reason is because, back when I used to run a friend of mine's business connect Twitter, I followed Matthew and engaged with him some. When it comes to pop culture and slick jabs, he's hilarious. He also comments back quite a bit. Although I'm getting ahead of myself, I've got some proof of that. A little over a month ago, my godchildren's mom wrote him about how much his now Oscar-nominated animated short film Hair Love resonated with her. And, true to fashion, he replied.
There's a Scripture that says, "By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life." (Proverbs 22:4—NKJV) Matthew's apparent display of humility alone is enough to make this nomination make total sense. But there are a few other reasons why I am absolutely thrilled to publicly acknowledge what he and his film have accomplished.
'Hair Love' Is Beyond Sweet—and Very Necessary
If, for some reason, you've never seen Hair Love before, take out a moment to check it out right now (right here). Even though it's an animated short, I still won't give the storyline away. What I will say is that, when I first checked it out, one of the first things that came to mind was the cute animated character on Sesame Street who used to say, on repeat, "A loaf of bread…a container of milk…and a stick of butter" while running an errand for her mother. Why does that little girl still stand out to me? She had a beautiful deep chocolate skin tone. She also had a natural. And she loved herself. Fast forward to all these years later and that's what immediately came to mind when I first looked at Zuri—also chocolate, also rockin' a natural and also loving herself. Not to mention her having two parents who loved her and each other too (yes!).
Being that Hair Love is animated, it's something that all ages can immediately connect with; that was a brilliant move on Matthew's part. Yet there are so many subtle messages that I really appreciate too.
Again, without giving too much away—there's a little girl who struggles to style her hair but never once complains about its amazing texture. There's a father who adores his daughter and has a natural style too. And, there's a mom who is attentive enough to know that both dad and daughter need help—not because natural hair is "difficult" but because mastering any art form requires knowledge, technique and patience.
Hair Love reminds us all that Black love comes in so many forms and is to be recognized, honored and celebrated. By us, most of all. That is what will make this film timeless. A classic well beyond this year and its well-deserved Oscar praise.
Matthew Is a True Creative. That Deserves Nothing but Respect.
The cool thing about filmmakers, writers and directors is, oftentimes, you "see" them without even really knowing it. If you've ever watched the movie The Last Fall (Lance Gross, Nicole Beharie), Matthew both wrote and directed that (if you haven't, it's pretty good, by the way). Michelle Williams's music video "Believe in Me" and "Say Yes" (featuring Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland), he directed those too. If Chloe X Halle's song "Warrior" is your jam, he also directed that video (you can check out more of what he's accomplished, thus far, via his website). But I really started checkin' for him right when he was ready to put Hair Love out into the Universe.
I remember back when Matthew was raising money for his animated short film. It was a Kickstarter campaign a few years ago. One of the things that stood out to me in his campaign's presentation, was this oh-so-very-relevant point that he wrote for it—"This story was born out of seeing a lack of representation in mainstream animated projects, and also wanting to promote hair love amongst young men and women of color. It is our hope that this project will inspire."
Inspire. That's the signature trait of a true creative; they are able to inspire others.
When someone is able to use their own creativity and ingenuity to influence and invigorate others to ultimately do the same for someone else, that's when you know, without a doubt, that they are operating in their gifts and soaring in their God-given lane.
Last I checked, Hair Love has gotten a whopping close-to-11 million views on YouTube alone. But again, if you haven't yet checked it out, devote seven minutes or so of your life. I'd be shocked if it didn't make you smile, reflect and, if like my godchildren's mom, you can personally relate, even shed a tear or two. I'd be floored if it didn't straight up inspire you.
Inspire you to either start or finish a project.
Inspire you to seek out someone who's willing to invest in your dream.
Inspire you to attempt something—even if you don't have all of the answers…or resources.
Inspire you to trust that your idea, your talent and your passion are enough.
Inspire you to take a risk, keeping in mind that, like Matthew has just proven…risks oftentimes come with great rewards.
Matthew A. Cherry, I've also noticed that you're an NFL alum. It really is amazing how paths can shift but all for the better, isn't it? Black king, please know that every member of the xoTribe salutes you today and couldn't be more proud. There is a profound respect that we have for you showin' us all some "hair love". Embrace all that is coming. You deserve it.
Now excuse me while I go and rub a little Chebe butter on my hair, pick it out and grin. Just like I'm sure little Zuri—and her parents—are doing right at this very moment. In Matthew's honor.
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Feature image by Kickstarter
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
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 courtesy of Tamara Taylor
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.
Feature image courtesy of Tamara Taylor