In Meet the xoNecole Tribe, readers are introduced to the members of the xoNecole team that keep the site up and running with their textured and varied stories and voices. In the monthly series, you get a more in-depth look of the person behind the pen, social media, the lens, or whatever they might contribute to the brand.
Joce Blake first set my soul ablaze when she made her presence known in our inbox with her writeup for the Women's March last January. But I truly saw the fire when she wrote her first style post for us. The way she could break down style while still talking to us like a sister-girl quickly became one of my favorite reads to pop into my inbox. Since, she's expanded to covering all things style, but also dabbling in beauty and human interest stories as well.
If you haven't met her yet, meet Joce Blake, xoNecole's Style Writer.
Photos By: Noah Berg Photography @noahbergphotography
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Memphis, TN. I consider myself a millennial southern belle; think Coretta Scott King meets Porsha Williams. I currently reside in Denver, CO.
How old are you?
I am 29 years old. I was born July 18, 1989 and I am the purest form of a Cancer. While some people call us emotional, I like to think I am emotionally intelligent.
What's your occupation?
So, I have a few jobs but most people don't know that I have a full-time job as a project coordinator at The University of Colorado. I also freelance for multiple platforms and even host a podcast from time to time. At xoNecole, I am a style and human interest writer. I enjoy writing trend reports and highlighting black fashion and beauty creatives.
Photos By: Noah Berg Photography @noahbergphotography
Where did you go to school? And what was your major?
I graduated with a BA in Journalism from The University of Tennessee. Those four years were truly amazing because they helped me hone in on my writing skills. It even allowed me to study abroad in London, UK where I had an internship working under a freelancer who wrote for Vogue UK. My internship supervisor helped me learn how to marry my two loves - writing and fashion.
How and when did you start working with xoNecole.com?
I started writing for xoNecole in January 2017. I have admired Necole's light and hustle for years. I can recall sitting in lectures in college reading NecoleBitchie.com and I always said that I wanted to work for Necole in some capacity. It's so crazy because I had a vision board party on January 13, 2017 and I wrote xoNecole on my board. Four days later the dream was manifested because they were looking for writers and you best believe that I pitched myself.
Photos By: Noah Berg Photography @noahbergphotography
When did your love affair with writing begin?
I remember like it was yesterday. I was in the 9th grade. I was sitting in my computer class and my teacher asked me if I was interested in writing for the school newspaper and yearbook. At that point, I wanted to go to Howard University to become an esteemed lawyer. I knew that I wanted to give a voice to the voiceless and in that moment I realized there were multiple ways to do that so I said yes. The love affair grew immensely when I spent a summer at Phillips Exeter Preparatory School and I found myself telling intriguing stories about people of color's experiences in a predominantly white space.
How do you practice self-care?
I practice self-care by writing, listening to music, going to church and pampering myself. Of all of those things, music and my spirituality are the most essential. Every morning I have a praise and worship session all by my lonesome. To me, there's something so powerful and beautiful about connecting with God through song.
Are you single?
Who's asking? *insert emoji eyes* Yes, I am single like single SINGLE. I am dating but it's so hard in 2019. Living in Denver, my chances of finding my Russell Wilson are exponentially low. (Please tell Ciara I need that prayer!)
Joce Blake at NYFW September 2018
Photo By: Ken Stancil Jr., (KenStancilJr.com), @KenStancilJr
What are your interests? Do you have any hobbies?
I love watching television! My friends constantly tease me because I keep up with all the latest shows and they don't understand how I do it with all of my side hustles. I also love all things fashion so I enjoy attending fashion shows, art exhibits and anything involving fashion.
What is your favorite book of all time? What's the last book you read?
My favorite book of all time has to be Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. I read it in high school to prepare for a play where I portrayed The Lady in Red. Even at a young age, I appreciated the beauty in all of the women's stories. The last book I read was Arian Simone's Fearless Faith + Hustle: 21 Day Devotional Journey. Necole gave it to me during the Pajamas and Lipstick Party and it was such a blessing. The book is full of inspiration, insight and scriptures made perfect for a girl boss.
Joce Blake at NYFW September 2018
Photo By: Vanessa Samuels @voyavanessa
What's your endgame? Why do you do what you do?
My endgame is to write for a fashion magazine like Vogue. Ever since I watched Carrie Bradshaw strut around the streets of New York City and then write an article for Vogue, I knew I wanted to be a black Carrie Bradshaw. I have always been obsessed with fashion and I have always wanted to be the thing that the world was missing. While representation has changed with amazing women like Lindsay Peoples Wagner, Elaine Welteroth and Kahlana Barfield, I still want to do it for the little black girls in Memphis who think that they aren't enough and can't leave Tennessee.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? What is the most challenging part?
The most rewarding part of my job as a style and beauty writer is when people write me to tell me they are inspired by my articles. I value being a unique voice on the internet because when I search for stylish women on Google, the prototype doesn't look like me. The search can be depressing when every best dressed list on major platforms consist of one token black woman. So for me to be a part of a platform that promotes positive and inspiring images of melanin women, I am forever grateful.
The most challenging part is curating new, effervescent content. Sometimes I fear that I am saying the same thing, the same way. More than anything, I want our readers to always feel like they leave the site with a meaningful gem whether it's learning about ways to keep their skin glowing or the hottest new trend.
Joce Blake and Lenique Smith at NYFW February 2019
Photo By: Ammar Thomas @manmeetsstyle
What advice do you have for other freelance writers?
I would encourage freelance writers to put yourself out there and know that your ideas matter. Sometimes I pitch ideas with so much doubt and then my editor loves the concept. In the past year, I have learned to have confidence in myself and what I bring to the table because my perspective is wildly unique. If you don't tell your story, who will.
How can we keep up with you on social media?
Keep up with the other members of our Tribe here.
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masturdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masturdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masturdating All About?
Masturdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masturdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masturdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masturdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masturdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masturdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masturdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masturdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masturdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
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Featured image by FOTOGRAFIA, INC./Getty Images