Megan Thee Stallion is such a breath of fresh air. To me, she represents women that are unapologetic about doing what's best for themselves. In a world where women, *cough* Black women *cough* are so policed--from hair, to behavior, to reactions--she shows up as a superhero, inspiring and representing a young generation of women who are authentically themselves. And not only that, they're women who don't stray from getting what they deserve.
Additionally, the "Savage" rapper, is multi-dimensional, encouraging a lifestyle that balances fitness, education, and doing hot girl shit.
Oh, and being the first rapper on the cover of 'Sports Illustrated SI'.
Her mom Holly Thomas, who was a rapper back in the day and who went by the name "Holly-Wood," died in March 2019 after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. But while young, Meg learned early on that she wanted to be a rapper too. She would attend her mother's recording studio sessions, which ultimately solidified that she wanted to be a star while hoping her mom never found out until she was 18. In her latest interview conducted by Tyra Banks for Sports Illustrated, she said:
"I wanted to be perfect to her. I was practicing since I was, like, 7. And then when I got in high school, I was like, 'No, I'm not gonna tell her yet.' But she would have these CDs laying around the house -- like, instrumentals -- and I would take 'em in my room, and I would take the beats and write to 'em in my room. And she would say, 'Megan, have you seen my CDs?' And I was like, 'No. What are you talking about?'"
But when she got to college, she began to pursue music seriously, which she knew she had to come clean about to her mom.
"So I finally came to her. I might have been 20, and I was like, 'I can rap.' And she was like, 'No, you can't.' And I was like, 'Yes, I can.' And she was like, 'Let me hear it. And I was like, 'OK Mama, don't whoop me, but I'm 'bout to curse, OK?' So I started going off and I'm cursing and she's like [gasps], 'Where did you learn all those words?!' .... And she said, 'You're not coming out until you're 21.'"
As soon as 21 hit, Meg released her debut single "Like a Stallion" and went on to release a numerous of SoundCloud mixtapes. In 2018, she signed to the Houston-based label 1501 Entertainment, released her Tina Snow EP, and broke out as a true powerhouse.
And three Grammy wins later, the rest is hot girl shit, history
Meg has spoken about her mother numerous times in the past, once telling Marie Claire that she credits her mother for introducing her to hip-hop. In fact, Meg would witness her mother, who was a bill collector, work on her career around her 9-5 schedule.
"I would see her fit in writing after work and before work. I'm used to seeing that work ethic."
Holly was a part of the Screwed Up Click, a big collective in Houston, and she released music from 2001-2007. One of her biggest hits was a single dedicated to DJ Screw, the leader of the Screwed Up Click, and if you know the history of Houston music, that's huge! Unfortunately, two weeks after the passing of Meg's grandmother in 2019, her mom passed as well, which Meg never publicly took the time to mourn about. She was back on tour a day after the funeral.
"No matter what I'm going through, I still want to keep going. Just to show people you can still be strong and you can still face your everyday life. Even when everything coming down on you. I didn't cancel none of my shows 'cause I just knew — I know — how my momma is, and I know she wouldn't want me to stop."
She get it from her mama.
Watch the hot tub interview with Tyra below:
Featured image by Rich Fury/Getty Images for Visible
Charmin Michelle is a southern native and creative spirit who works as a content marketer and events manager in Chicago. She enjoys traveling, #SummertimeChi, and the journey of mastering womanhood. Connect with her on Instagram @charminmichelle.
Hair Tales, the new OWN six-part docuseries hailing from the minds of noted documentarian and executive producer Michaela Angela Davis, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, and everyone’s best friend in their head Tracee Ellis Ross who produces and hosts the series, tells the beautifully complicated relationship Black women have with our hair through a historical, political, and sisterly context.
Each episode uses the story of a famous Black woman we’ve all come to love and adore as a conduit to discuss the larger cultural context in which our relationship with our hair exists. xoNecole has compiled a list of our favorite moments from the series packed with standout moments.
“Our strength, our beauty, our power is in our crowns … but we are not those things also” — Tracee Ellis Ross
In the episode centered around Representative Ayana Pressley, she speaks about the painful decision to cut off all her hair after suffering from alopecia totalis, which caused her hair to come out in clumps. However, Rep. Pressley’s journey of losing her hair liberated her, so much so that after wearing a wig on the house floor once, she decided from then on to show her head in all its glory.
“What I admired about women who changed up their hair a lot is that they were free” – Dr. Tiffany Gill
Our favorite Awkward Black Girl Issa Rae talks to Tracee about the decision to cut off all her hair over a decade ago. Her journey with her hair would intertwine with her personal and professional journey as she launched her hit web series with the premiere episode showing her character shaving off her hair. “I was born — I was reborn — in a new way,” she said. Looking at her hair throughout the years, you can track the evolution of Rae as a person by the varying hairstyles, as she has admitted in an interview that she started experimenting with her hair more as she learned more about it.
“If we can legislate hurt and harm, then we can legislate healing and justice” — Ayanna Pressley
The Crown Act, a bill co-sponsored by Pressley, seeks to end hair discrimination against Black people in schools and in the workplace. The bill, which is currently sitting in the Senate, if passed would be a bold step forward in combating toxic ideals about who or what is or isn’t considered to be professional. That not only could natural hair be beautiful, but it could also exist in the workplace and classrooms.
“I live in God’s dream for me” — Oprah Winfrey
The executive producer of Hair Tales Oprah Winfrey speaks about her own relationship with her hair, which dates back to her childhood. She was taught that straight long hair was what was considered to be the pinnacle of beauty. The award-winning host even recalled a moment early in her career when her boss insisted she straightened her hair, even going as far as to recommend plastic surgery in order to assimilate to white beauty standards.
Let’s make one thing clear, we support Black women– period. Megan Thee Stallion has become the latest example of the mistreatment Black women often face when speaking up for themselves. Since July 2020, when reports first surfaced that Megan, born Megan Pete, was allegedly shot by singer/ rapper Tory Lanez, she has had to deal with the dual trauma of the initial shooting and the subsequent harassment by Lanez, his fans, powerful people in the music industry, and the overall effort to discredit her.
Gun violence is an issue that continues to disproportionately impact Black women. According to a 2022 study, “Black women are three times more likely to be fatally shot by an intimate partner compared to white women.” (Megan has denied having an intimate relationship with Lanez.) During a particularly fraught time in hip hop, when we’ve lost so many artists to gun violence, including the recent murder of rapper Takeoff, it’s difficult to witness the continued minimizing and victim blaming of Megan by her peers in the business.
xoNecole has compiled a timeline of the events that unfolded following Megan’s shooting, including members of the industry who have seemingly undermined her story.
Megan Thee Stallion and Tory Lanez: A Timeline of Events
July 12, 2020
Reports surfaced that Megan had been shot by an unreported assailant while with Lanez, born Daystar Peterson, his bodyguard, and Megan’s friend at the time Kelsey Nicole when leaving a party at Kylie Jenner’s house.
July 16, 2020
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
Page Six exclusively reported that Lanez had officially been named as a potential suspect in the shooting. “Tory fired the shots from within the vehicle while Megan was outside trying to leave,” a source told the outlet. “There is video and the police are investigating. This is a case of a man physically harming and abusing a woman.”
It was also reported around this time that Megan unfollowed the singer on Instagram.
July 22, 2020
Megan gets on Twitter to clap back at reality star Draya Michele who went on a podcast and suggested that Lanez and Megan “had some sort of Bobby and Whitney love that drove them down this type of road" and joked that “I want you to like me so much you shoot me in the foot too."
“Dumb bitch that shit ain’t fucking funny who tf jokes about getting shot by a nigga,” Megan tweeted.
Michele would later apologize saying that her attempt at a joke fell flat and that "I truly don’t glorify domestic violence... I was trying to say just love me deeply."
July 23, 2020
Podcaster Adam22 reports that sources told him that Megan and Lanez were in a sexual relationship and that there was a flirtation between Jenner and Lanez at the party. Their interaction reportedly caused Megan to become jealous and start “violating his ass” and “really shitting on him.”
That same day, rapper Cam’ron received backlash on social media after posting a transphobic comment about Megan saying, "Tory Lanez saw that dick and started shootn..IDC what no one say."
July 28, 2020
Rapper 50 Cent issues an apology to Megan after posting a meme depicting the Grammy award-winner as the character Ricky from the film Boyz n the Hood as he’s being shot.
“👀Damn I didn’t think this shit was real,🤦♂️It sounded so crazy @theestallion i’m glad your [sic] feeling better and i hope you can accept my apology. I posted a meme that was floating around. I wouldn’t have done that if i knew you was really hurt sorry. 🤷🏽♂️," he wrote.
Megan posts a photo of her injured foot on Instagram in an attempt to quell rumors that she wasn’t shot.
August 21, 2020
Megan gets on IG live and confirms that Lanez allegedly shot her. “Since y’all hoes so worried ’bout it, yes, this nigga Tory shot me,” she said. “You shot me. And you got your publicist and your people going to these blogs lying and shit. Stop lying. Why lie? I don’t understand. I tried to keep the situation off the internet, but you dragging it.
She continued, “You really fucking dragging it. Motherfuckers talking about I hit this nigga. I never hit you. Motherfuckers like, ‘Oh she mad ’cause he was trying to fuck with Kylie.’ No, I wasn’t. Like, you dry shot me. Like, everybody in the car – there’s only four motherfuckers in the car: me, you, my homegirl, and your security. I get out the car, I’m done arguing. I don’t wanna argue no more. I get out, I’m walking away. This nigga, from outside the back seat of the car, start shooting me. You shot me!”
She also addressed rumors that the injury to her foot was actually caused by broken glass. “I ain’t get cut by no glass, but let me tell you why they’re saying that: the people in the neighborhood –there’s a witness – when the police came because the neighbors called the police – this did not happen at Kylie’s house.” She continued, “This happened damn near back at the house I was staying at. I was just trying to get home. We were five minutes away from my spot. The police come and I’m scared.”
“All this shit going on with the police. The police are shooting motherfuckers for anything. The police was literally killing Black people for no motherfucking reason. Soon as the police tell us all ‘Get out the motherfucking car,' the police is really aggressive,” she explained. “You think I’m bout to tell the police that we – niggas, us Black people – got a gun in the car?! You want me to tell them that we got a gun in the car so they can shoot all of us up? Nigga, I’m scared.”
August 25, 2020
Houston legend Bun B comes out in support of his fellow hometown resident. “I know Tory, I know his manager. I know all of ‘em. Fuck all that, though. If the man on drugs, get him some goddamn rehab. If the man got mental health issues, get him some therapy,” he said.
“But you not just gon’ sit here and shoot this girl, and we not say nothin’. This shit not real. Nobody’s talking about it because it’s a Black woman… put your hands on Lady Gaga and see how quick they lock your ass up.”
September 9, 2020
TMZ reports that texts allegedly coming from Lanez show that the singer apologized to Megan while she was in the hospital. "I know u prolly never gone talk to me again, but I genuinely want u to know I'm sorry from the bottom of my heart,” read the texts. He also blamed his actions on being “too drunk.”
September 25, 2020
Lanez releases his album Daystar where he finally addresses the allegations that he shot Megan. In his song “Money Over Fallouts,” he raps lyrics like, “How the fuck you get shot in your foot, don’t hit no bones or tendons?” and “If you got shot from behind how can you identify me?”
September 29, 2020
Billboard reports that Lanez’s team posed as members of Megan’s team to plant stories that made Megan look less credible including fake text messages. Lanez’s team denies the claims.
October 3, 2020
Megan performs on Saturday Night Live as a musical guest and she stops mid-performance to share a message about supporting Black women. "We need to protect our Black women and love our Black women, 'cause at the end of the day, we need our Black women,” she preached.
October 8, 2020
Lanez was officially charged with one count of assault with a semiautomatic firearm and one count of carrying a loaded, concealed firearm in a vehicle.
October 13, 2020
Megan writes an op-ed for The New York Times titled “Why I Speak Up for Black Women.” The article states: “I was recently the victim of an act of violence by a man. After a party, I was shot twice as I walked away from him. We were not in a relationship. Truthfully, I was shocked that I ended up in that place.
My initial silence about what happened was out of fear for myself and my friends. Even as a victim, I have been met with skepticism and judgment. The way people have publicly questioned and debated whether I played a role in my own violent assault proves that my fears about discussing what happened were, unfortunately, warranted.”
October 20, 2020
Lanez gets on IG live to discuss the aftermath of the shooting and says that he still considers Megan to be a friend even if she doesn’t but that “I know what happened, and what you’re saying, what the alleged things and the alleged accusations of my name is, are not true. It’s falsified information. It’s false information.”
Megan responded on Twitter saying: “This Nigga genuinely crazy.”
Megan’s debut album Good News is released where she addresses the shooting in the intro song “Shots Fired” with lines like “Imagine niggas lyin' 'bout shootin' a real bitch (huh?) Just to save face for rapper niggas you chill with.”
November 26, 2020
Kelsey Nicole (L) and Megan Thee Stallion (R).
Screenshot from Megan Thee Stallion's "Realer" music video/ YouTube
The “Savage” artist’s former friend Kelsey Nicole, who was one of the passengers in the car the night of the shooting, released a diss track to Megan titled “Bussin Back” where she rapped “Never been a jealous friend and the people really know it/If you would'vе kept it silent then I would'vе been told it/ See I really thought I knew you, thought that you would keep it G/ If you wanna talk gangsta, bitch, I'm really from the street.”
The former besties fell out following the shooting.
December 9, 2020
Rapper Jack Harlow responds to criticism of keeping Lanez on the remix of his hit song “What’s Poppin’” during an interview with Power 106. "I don't think I'm God. I don't have no room to judge anybody,” he said. “I wasn't there when this and that happened, I don't know anything."
January 21, 2021
The Source falsely reported that Megan dropped the charges against Lanez. The Canadian-born rapper’s representative came out and disputed the claims. Megan took to Twitter and said “Y’all can’t tell when shit fake news?”
February 2, 2021
“Buss It” artist Erica Banks goes on IG live with Lanez, a move many people think was an attempt to antagonize Megan since Banks is signed to the same record label that she’s currently going through legal battles with since March 2020.
June 21, 2021
Megan got into a Twitter feud with rapper and frequent collaborator DaBaby after he worked with Lanez on a new song. “Support me in private and publicly do something different…these industry men are very strange. This situation ain’t no damn “beef” and I really wish people would stop down playing it like it’s some internet shit for likes and retweets,” she tweeted.
July 20, 2021
Lanez mentioned Megan in his freestyle on Hot 97 “Megan people trying to frame me for a shooting/But them boys ain’t clean enough.”
July 25, 2021
Tory Lanez (L) and DaBaby (R) performing at Rolling Loud in Miami.
Jason Koerner/Getty Images
DaBaby brings out Lanez during his Rolling Loud performance, a move that was a violation of Megan’s protective order that required the “Jerry Sprunger” singer to stay 100 ft away from her. Lanez’s bail amount increased after the violation.
August 13, 2021
Prosecutors have filed a motion to hold Lanez in contempt for violating the restraining order that was issued in his ongoing criminal case.
December 15, 2021
A judge upholds Lanez’s charges after an LAPD officer testified that he shouted “Dance, bitch!” before allegedly shooting the “Pressurelicious” artist.
February 22, 2022
Megan posts screenshots of alleged text messages on social media from what appears to be Lanez apologizing to her after the shooting; a move that was in response to him seemingly subtweeting her by writing "u can't buy and tweet your way out of this one ..not today."
March 21, 2022
Popular hip-hop blogger DJ Akademics tweeted and deleted a claim that Lanez’s DNA was not found on the weapon in the case. Megan responded on her Instagram stories saying “court ain’t even started so why yall ready to start lying.”
April 4, 2022
Lanez is arrested for violating a protective order after tweeting about Megan back in February. He was released on a $350,000 bond.
50 Cent took to Instagram to cast doubt on Megan after she said that she wasn’t in a sexual relationship with the “Luv” singer. “Now that I don’t believe, she had to think about her answer. SMH all this shit is crazy,” 50 said.
June 15, 2022
In her Rolling Stone cover, Megan addresses the shooting saying that she wants Lanez to “go under the jail,” and that “I thought everyone in the car was my friend, [and] the whole time that’s not how they thought of me.”
August 24, 2022
Lanez's lawyer drops him as a client, citing “irreconcilable differences.” The lawyer had been defending Lanez against assault allegations made by Love and Hip-Hop: Miami cast member Prince.
October 31, 2022
A judge in Los Angeles ruled that Lanez had to be placed on house arrest until the trial after Lanez was found in violation of his parole due to allegedly assaulting August Alsina in September.
November 4, 2022
\u201cI know I\u2019m very popular but y\u2019all gotta stop attaching weak ass conspiracy theories in bars to my name lol Niggas nor hoes EVER address me or @ me WITH a fact or receipts. I AM CLOUT BITCH keep sucking my pussy\u201d
On his collab album Her Loss with 21 Savage, Drake raps in the song “Circo Loco,” “This bitch lie 'bout gettin shots but she still a stallion/ She don't even get the joke but she still smilin'” a line that many people think is in reference to Megan.
The H-town rapper responded to the lyric by tweeting, “I know I’m very popular but y’all gotta stop attaching weak ass conspiracy theories in bars to my name lol Niggas nor hoes EVER address me or @ me WITH a fact or receipts. I AM CLOUT BITCH keep sucking my pussy.”
November 5, 2022
Rapper Lil Yachty — who co-wrote “Circo Loco” — said on Instagram live that the line was not a reference to Megan, but to girls who get butt injections.
November 11, 2022
An open letter signed by representative Maxine Waters, Me Too founder Tarana Burke, host Marc Lamont Hill, and other community figures was released in support of Megan saying in part “You are believed, loved, and supported.”
The trial against Lanez for assault and weapons charges begins Monday, November 28, 2022.
In Astrology, everybody has a sister sign, the zodiac sign located in the exact opposite position of your sign on the Zodiac Wheel. This energy represents someone who is the complete opposite of you, yet someone you are often drawn to. Sister signs can be explained as the 'yin and yang.'
When you put two sister signs together, you will find that traits that one sign has are not often found in the other, making these two signs a good match because they both have what each other needs. A Virgo, for example, is a more logical being and isn’t up for too much fantasy or escapism in life. Their opposite sign Pisces, however, is all about dreaming the dream. When you put these two signs together, Virgo helps Pisces ground their energy and turn their dreams into reality, and Pisces helps Virgo let go more and enjoy the moment.
Opposites attract and this sign is going to be one of your biggest teachers in life. The relationship between opposite signs can be either soulmate energy or very challenging if both parties aren’t willing to look at their reflection, and learn from each other.
The Sister Signs of the Zodiac
When you meet your sister sign or come into contact with them, it’s often a very karmic experience and a fated type of energy. You will find some similarities with your sister sign. For example, you and your sister sign will both have the same modalities.
Aries and Libra are opposite each other on the Zodiac Wheel but they also both happen to be cardinal signs. Cancer and Capricorn are sister signs that are cardinal signs as well. The relationship and experience between your opposite sign on the Zodiac Wheel are unlike anything else, and when these two come together, there is a sense of wholeness and union.
The Sister Signs: Aries and Libra
With all fire and air sign duos, natural compatibility and synergy are at play. Aries brings passion, and Libra brings love. Being both cardinal signs, these two are natural indicators, however, they do so in different ways. Aries takes action from a space of inspiration and instinct, Libra from a place of logic and fairness. Aries and Libra may just be the sister signs that are the least alike.
Aries, ruled by Mars, and Libra, ruled by Venus, signify the different balance between masculine and feminine energy. Aries rules the 1st house of self, and Libra the 7th house of partnership, which is all about balancing the individual with the individual's need for connection. When these two are on the same page, however, this is a powerful dynamic, and an unstoppable force these two can make together.
The Sister Signs: Taurus and Scorpio
Taurus and Scorpio partnerships are a common pairing you see in love. These two are a lot alike when it comes to relationship values and goals in life, and they are dedicated soulmates. Loyalty is very important to these fixed signs, and these relationships often last the long haul. Taurus helps Scorpio ground all of their energy and use it in constructive ways. Scorpio provides Taurus with some extra spice of life and shows Taurus the emotional security they are looking for.
Even in platonic relationships, this pairing tends to thrive as they have a similar outlook and experience of life. They may be on the opposite sides of the Zodiac Wheel, but these two know how to meet in the middle.
The Sister Signs: Gemini and Sagittarius
Gemini and Sagittarius are a mutable sister sign duo. This pairing is all about having fun and expressing themselves. Gemini and Sagittarius in many other pairings often feel misunderstood, but these two match energy. Being both explorers of life, Gemini’s inner curiosity, and Sagittarius’ need to know more, makes for not only good conversation but exciting experiences together as well.
These two know how to keep up with each other and although if you ask them they would say they are completely different from each other, they tend to behave in similar manners. Through Sagittarius’ optimism and wisdom, Gemini expands their own mind. Through Gemini’s joy of life and creation, Sagittarius finds a new sense of purpose.
The Sister Signs: Cancer and Capricorn
Cancer and Capricorn can be explained as the Mom and Dad of Astrology. These opposite signs both value tradition, history, and legacy, and together they form a solid foundation in life. These signs learn a lot from each other and come together in a way that is both supportive and encouraging. Being cardinal signs, this duo is goal-oriented and they take charge of their life and the quality of it. In romantic relationships, they tend to have a nice life together that goes the distance.
These two know the importance of working together as partners, and there is a good balance between the give and take. The Cancer/Capricorn axis signifies the 4th house (Cancer) of home and the 10th house (Capricorn) of social status. They both provide each other with a new world to grow in.
The Sister Signs: Leo and Aquarius
This sister sign pair takes center stage in life. Aquarius and Leo's compatibility is either a hit or miss, as they are either immediately fond of each other or repulsed. Aquarius would never admit how similar they are to Leo, however, and that even their lone wolf sign loves to be in the spotlight from time to time. This pairing values authenticity and being their unique selves, and it’s what attracts so many to them.
If they are both in their confident and best selves, then they will encourage this energy from each other, however, if not watch out for, egos can often clash here. These two are set in their ways and aren’t fond of compromise, which is needed sometimes in a relationship. All in all, these two are visionaries, and this is a really fun and dynamic pairing.
The Sister Signs: Virgo and Pisces
Virgo and Pisces are a sweet sister sign duo. These two are natural givers, and they do so in different ways. Virgo’s love language is acts of service, while Pisces is more of a quality time type of love. Virgo views the world in a logical sense, and Pisces loves to get lost in the fantasy. Putting that energy together is the perfect recipe for manifestation and they create magic in their lives when together.
They both provide what each other needs and that is what makes this partnership long-lasting. The differences, however, can be too heavy in this pairing for some, as Pisces' love for getting lost can be too much for Virgo’s need to know. Being that they are both mutable signs and have an innate sense of flexibility, however, there is usually a good flow here and they balance each other out.
Sometimes the best solutions aren't found in reinventing the wheel but instead found through getting back to the basics. That is a truth that helped founder and CEO Abena Boamah-Acheampong sow the seeds that would eventually make her clean beauty brand Hanahana Beauty bloom. Birthed from a place of needing nourishing skincare products to combat Chicago’s harsh, cold weather, Abena happened upon a solution for dry skin by turning to a trusted product she grew up on, shea butter.
This time though, instead of just using the raw material, the Ghanaian-American began formulating different products in her kitchen until she landed on three body butters, lavender vanilla, lemongrass, and eucalyptus. And after trying the products on her family and friends, the former algebra teacher said goodbye to education and hello to the beauty space with the launch of her brand, Hanahana Beauty.
Since launching in 2017, Hanahana Beauty and its holy grail Body Butters have become more than a skincare and wellness brand. In addition to providing skincare essentials for melanated individuals, Abena wanted her brand to have a social impact that offered levels of sustainability for not just herself, but for the Katariga Women's Shea Cooperative–where she sources her shea butter–through her Hanahana Circle of Care, an organization that provides healthcare access and education and wellness activations.
Today, Abena is preparing for retail expansion following her recent launches in Revolve and JCPenny, as well as looking for new ways to create access to the brand by listening to her community and focusing on what they want. In this conversation with xoNecole, Hanahana Beauty founder, Abena Boamah-Acheampong talks with us about the importance of creating a sustainable beauty brand, how her time in Ghana shaped Hanahana Beauty, and what advice she gives to the next generation of Black women entrepreneurs.
xoNecole: When did you realize you wanted to go into the skincare and wellness space?
Abena Boamah-Acheampong: In 2014, I was teaching and in grad school, and started making shea products for myself, because the cold weather in Chicago was drying my skin out. I'm Ghanian. So the first thing that I thought about was shea butter. I grew up using it and wanted a better product instead of the raw material.
I became interested in the wellness space, through the eyes of what it would be like as a therapist in beauty. But around 2017, as my parents and my friends began using the products, they encouraged me to start something. And that's when I decided to start a business. But even then, I was more so interested in the social impact.
I felt like the beauty industry was unsustainable, and it didn't make sense to me. I realized how much money was being made and saw how there was a lack of sustainability. So as I started, I became more interested in beauty and wellness as a business and a brand. But all of it came back to me being both an educator and a graduate student, and how to create levels of sustainability through people or whatever I wanted to do.
"I became interested in the wellness space, through the eyes of what it would be like as a therapist in beauty. But around 2017, as my parents and my friends began using the products, they encouraged me to start something. And that's when I decided to start a business. But even then, I was more so interested in the social impact."
xoN: How much time did you spend with the Katariga women in Ghana as you were developing your brand? What did you learn from them? And then how did your time there shape Hanahana Beauty?
ABA: I launched in 2017 but didn’t go back to Ghana until after. There, I met the producers of Katariga Women's Shea Cooperative, and that experience shaped the whole look of Hanahana Circle of Care. After finishing grad school in 2018, I moved to Ghana and lived in Accra. I was going back to the city of Tamale–which is where we source the raw materials–once a month.
And during the first seven months to a year of living in Ghana, the Hanahana Circle of Care began as an initiative surrounding healthcare and access to it. Because the women there felt that that was what they were lacking. So we held bi-annual healthcare days along with monthly health education and just kept growing. During this time, we began to look at what are some things that we, as a brand, have access to. And what can we give access to?
Then, in 2021, we decided that with all of the work that we had been doing–where we were pulling money from our sales to do this work–how do we now just create it, so it's more sustainable and expanding? So how do we look at access to healthcare in a way that we can mobilize it? So that's when we formatted it to become a fiscal sponsor.
We worked with The Body: A Home for Love–a nonprofit founded by Deun Ivory–who is our fiscal sponsor. When I launched Hanahana, being a B Corporation was always something that I strived for and now the Hanahana Circle of Care is moving into becoming a nonprofit.
xoN: How many products did you initially launch and how long did it take for you to develop them?
ABA: We launched with three shea butters: lavender vanilla, lemongrass, and eucalyptus. We also launched the shea balm which, at the time, we called the exfoliating bar. I had been making the products since 2014 and just working on different formulations for myself. And in December 2016, I went home to see my parents and told them that I wanted to start a brand. I already knew the formulas because I was working on them for three years for myself and my friends and family, so it took me three months to launch the brand.
Now, if I was launching a whole brand today, I would think of it very differently. But that time was perfect for me because people got to grow with me as a founder, as a person, and as a teacher who was making products. They got a chance to grow with the brand from the time I was making products in my kitchen to now having a team and doing different launches.
xoN: How was the transition from being an educator to pursuing entrepreneurship full-time?
ABA: My transition came from a place of me having to do it. I was in my second year of grad school and had been teaching for two years. When it came to my third year of teaching, I had to decide to move into finishing my master's program and that’s when I started Hanahana. But when I finished in 2018, I moved to Ghana and was a therapist for maybe six months while still building the brand. And in 2018, I was just doing Hanahana full-time.
I feel like I didn't realize [the career transition] because, for me, it was more so the idea that I wasn’t going to apply to anything else after grad school. I remember talking to my parents because they wanted me to get my license. But I felt like if I couldn’t make it in Ghana, then I would keep doing therapy.
While in Ghana, though, I was inspired to continue taking the creative entrepreneur route. And if Hanahana didn’t work out, then I had already realized how my skills as a teacher and everything that I learned as a therapist worked in the creative and entrepreneurial space.
"I have to prioritize my growth to be able to prioritize anything. A lot of times in this self-care era–and in spaces where you're promoting self-care–people find themselves promoting and centering self instead of growth. And I think when you center growth, you're going to think of how you affect people through work, through your personal life, all those things."
xoN: What have you learned about yourself since launching Hanahana Beauty and how would you use that to inspire the next generation of Black women entrepreneurs?
ABA: I've learned that I have to prioritize my growth to be able to prioritize anything. A lot of times in this self-care era–and in spaces where you're promoting self-care–people find themselves promoting and centering self instead of growth. And I think when you center growth, you're going to think of how you affect people through work, through your personal life, all those things.
So I think that's important because as entrepreneurs, and especially as Black women entrepreneurs, we're told to focus on one thing. But then how do you build this brand if you want to be a mom, or if you are a mom, or if you're just being a Black woman in general? Sometimes capitalism can be very consuming and it really pushes us to a level of self-centeredness and also lack. And I feel like when you prioritize growth, it allows you to see every situation as a new opportunity for yourself to grow.
Many of us often feel like there's not enough time in a day to do all that we'd like to, even with the best time management hacks and tricks. Recent research has shown that almost 50% of people have reported that they "do not have enough time to do what they want to do," even when, again, according to research, more than half of us outsource chores to make more time for, well, doing what we want to do.
Why does it seem like Sunday is just Monday Eve—like we aren't truly getting a full 48 hours at least to have that "me" time or to simply enjoy activities that aren't attached to housework, responsibilities, grocery shopping or trying to get ahead of work we'll face on Monday?
Even as a self-employed professional with a pretty flexible work lifestyle, I feel the same way, and while my work day might differ from a 9-to-5er, the responsibilities and sense of obligation to tasks are quite similar.
One weekend, I found myself having a mini adult tantrum, coming to terms with the reality that I'd spent the bulk of my free time doing housework, making Target and Ikea runs, and finally cleaning up the disaster that is my office. In a moment of calm after that storm, I thought to myself, "What's the real issue here? We stopped working 9-to-5s to get rid of the Sunday Scaries, so what's the deal?" Beyond the usual challenges of life, I absolutely love the clients and brands I work with. So, I had to figure out what was behind the anxiety and annoying lump in my throat.
I went down a Google rabbit hole, and there it was: the 4-day work week. It's what Belgium, Japan, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates have adopted, by law, in some form or another. There are even companies in the U.S. that have incorporated three- or four-day work weeks at some time or another (with some currently adhering to such policies) including Basecamp, Kickstarter, and thredUp.
While this sort of work structure might not work for all industries or jobs (especially those centered on emergency or healthcare services), it's worth thinking about if your job can accommodate it. Here are the top reasons it might be a good fit and insights that you could literally take to your boss to propose a change:
It helps combat absenteeism.
Research published by WeForum shows that the rate of absences for working professionals often decreases with the four-day workweek structure. In 2020, British companies that incorporated such schedules reported saw these benefits, and at the 2022 Davos World Economic Forum, a United Arab Emirates government official stated that he saw a 55% decrease in absenteeism among employees with a four-day workweek implemented.
According to Basecamp's website, their employees have 32-hour work weeks in the summer, and there's a clear indication that this is done to ensure that professionals are working at their best and with balance. "Keeping our hours at work limited forces us to prioritize the work that really matters," the U.S.-based company's site reads. "A healthy amount of sleep and a rich and rewarding life outside of work should not be squandered for a few more hours at work."
If your company has been plagued by high turnover or people constantly calling out, this might be a good reason to bring to your management team as to why the four-day work week might be good to consider. And with phenomenons like quiet quitting and the Great Resignation being issues for many companies, it's a consideration worth prioritizing.
It is linked to better productivity.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time U.S. workers work 8.5 hours per day, and for a 5-day workweek, this amounts to 42.5 weekly hours. Stanford University research shows that hourly productivity drops significantly after 50 hours per week, and after 55 hours per week, productivity is so low that any hours worked beyond that are not even worth the effort. In another study, almost 2,000 professionals who were surveyed admitted to doing work-related tasks for only 2.5 hours during a day, often spending other hours on the internet, scrolling through social media, or procrastinating.
Research has also shown that professionals have indicated they can do their work in fewer hours, with one survey showing 51% stating they could do their jobs "to the fullest extent" in 40 hours or less.
Again, in proposing such a change to your manager or HR department, there should be an issue with productivity that exists. You can also go another route by presenting the facts of your exemplary performance, how the effect of cutting your hours allows you to continue to thrive in your role and won't hinder another team member's or department's success, and evidence of how you spend your work day. This is a great way to rally for a four-day workweek for yourself.
It's the competive thing to do to keep talent.
Let's face it: Since COVID-19 shifted how businesses function, the traditional way of looking at how much time we spend at work (or even in the office) has gone by the wayside. While we all can't necessarily take four days off per month and do our jobs well, some of us have found that by adjusting the way we manage our time, utilizing technology and automation to our benefit (Heeeey email, food delivery, and automatic payment scheduling!), and really tapping into what matters to us in life beyond a job title or office, the approach to working "hard" has changed.
With at least 20 large powerhouse companies in the U.S. incorporating the practice and hundreds of other small businesses and startups having already adopted it as a major new-hire attraction, there are options out there to work not only remote but to have one day a week off. And there are companies that don't decrease the pay in those 32-hour schedules. If you're an amazing professional with unique talents and skills, go where the company's practices and principles match the lifestyle you're building (or want to build).
Just remember, when asking your management team or boss for a four-day workweek, there are several factors at play that go beyond an individual need. Do your research on the issues your company faces, the impact a four-day workweek would have on the whole company, and the pros and cons of it.