Multihyphenate Melissa Mitchell is clearly defying the odds and showing no signs of slowing down as a self-taught artist, entrepreneur, and the Chief Artistic Designer of her company, Abeille Creations.
From canvases and murals, to wearable art, such as headwraps, turbans, kimono's, and more -- Melissa's work has been featured and highlighted across numerous national publications, events, media outlets, and brand partnerships including: VOGUE, ESSENCE, Forbes, Huffington Post, Nike, Sheen Magazine, Art Basel, Ford, and The Sister Circle, just to name a few. Oh, and did we mention that Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o is also a fan of her work?
As if that wasn't enough, Melissa is now embarking on one of the most exciting and major collaborations of her career with the billion-dollar brand, Spanx. The new exclusive Melissa Mitchell & Spanx® Illuminate-Her™ collection is now available nationwide and in Canada! The collection will also benefit Black Girls Code. Talk about being productive while making an impact. Her spirit and her work ethic truly embodies that of a natural queen bee.
Melissa recently spoke with xoNecole about her artistic journey, how she was able to secure the bag and a Spanx deal, what it means to own your moment and own the room, and why it's important to trust God's timing and the gifts that He has given you.
xoNecole: How have you found purpose through your paintbrush?
Melissa Mitchell: Both of my parents were pastors and quite naturally they wanted me to follow in their footsteps. But I had to find God for myself. So, I traded the pulpit for the paintbrush, and my paintings became my prayers on canvas.
Now, I use my art to share my purpose. Art has become my platform, and it's allowed me to have a voice to my purpose and empower people. Because I'm so vocal about my story and what God is doing, people want part of that testimony [her art] in their house every day.
"I had to find God for myself. So, I traded the pulpit for the paintbrush, and my paintings became my prayers on canvas."
Your art is comprised of “vibrant colors, unique shapes, and bold dark lines.” Where does that inspiration come from?
Besides my Bahamian heritage, I always found a way to bring color into the picture as a way to express myself, as well as to heal because colors have healing power. Art was like my medicine. Around 2014, when I started painting, I wasn't feeling bright and bubbly and full of life. My father had passed away only a few years prior to when I started painting.
Not to mention, I was dealing with normal life frustrations and the societal pressures that many women face in their early thirties because I didn't have, nor was I doing, what I thought I was supposed to have by a certain age (e.g., success, marriage, kids, etc.). Nonetheless, my art helped heal my mindset. I pressed my way through all of that – the grief, the frustration, the worry – and I told myself, "I'm good."
What’s the story behind your headwraps and why are they so important to you, especially as a Black woman?
I started wearing headwraps in college because I enjoyed wearing something that allowed me to hold my head up high with a lot of confidence. Initially, I would use random shirts and random fabrics as my wraps, but I figured if I'm going to wrap my hair, then I might as well wrap it up in some art that represents my brand with the intent of possibly making money.
Four years ago, I specifically wrote that "one day, I will sit in boardrooms with headwraps on." When I walked in the Spanx conference room wearing my headwrap, I owned the room. Everyone said, "You look like a queen," and I said, "Oh, that was deliberate."
And so they called me "Queen" because when you come into the room with confidence and knowing who you are, people will begin to call you that without you even having to introduce yourself.
"When you come into the room with confidence and knowing who you are, people will begin to call you that without you even having to introduce yourself."
Tell us how this partnership came about, and how a last-minute decision led to this moment.
In 2018, I heard about the Illuminate-Her contest with Spanx. My mentor at the time, Kevin Williams, was looking for some people to sit in for a portrait that was being created. When asked what I was working on, I mentioned that I was waiting on my next big, global deal. When he asked me what I planned to do about it, I told him about the Illuminate-Her contest, and how people kept encouraging me to apply. However, I figured my work was too bright and I didn't think I'd be ideal for it, but he told me, "Well, you never know until you apply."
So, I went home that night -- the last day the applications were due. I stood in my kitchen and I prayed. I had one painting in my kitchen, one in my living room, and one in my bedroom. I took pictures of each of them, and those were the ones I submitted. The painting from my kitchen was the one that ended up being selected as the winner, which is what you now see on the new collection. And now, here we are.
What did this opportunity teach you as it relates to timing?
It's interesting because the winning design that was chosen was actually a painting I did back in 2015. I tried to sell it at four different shows, but when it didn't sell, I just kept bringing it home, and eventually I made it a part of my home décor. Clearly, God did not allow that painting to sell because it was going to be sold around the world; not just here in the Atlanta market.
It was a teachable moment for me because so often we ask, "When is it going to be my time," or "When is God going to call my name?" But it only took one opportunity to catapult my career to unimaginable heights. It reminded me that God's timing is ideal, and He can make up for all the time you thought you lost.
Nevertheless, it definitely wasn't an overnight success. What you see now is the success that I had been praying for…things that have been on my vision board for the past 15 years. In order to manifest things in your life, you have to have a whole lot of faith and a whole lot of patience. As my spirituality grew, my work grew, and as my work grew, it got the right attention of the right people.
The debut of the Melissa Mitchell and Spanx Illuminate-Her collection.
"What you see now is the success that I had been praying for…things that have been on my vision board for the past 15 years. In order to manifest things in your life, you have to have a whole lot of faith and a whole lot of patience."
So, tell us about your new exclusive collection.
The Melissa Mitchell and Spanx Illuminate-Her collection includes the Bra-llelujah!® Illuminate-Her™ Bralette (also known as "Colorful Harmony")…but it's not your traditional bra. It's more like a comfortable sports bra that you want to wear every day. I've been wearing it for the past two weeks, and it makes you feel like a woman, yet young and vibrant, all at the same time. It's great for the younger lady who's training, as well as the seasoned woman who's trying to get her groove back. The collection also includes a matching Under Statements® Thong lluminate-Her™ Thong.
What was it like for you sitting in the Spanx boardrooms discussing your designs?
Honestly, it felt like home. It felt like I belonged there. It was a moment I had been preparing for. I felt like it was where I was supposed to be, and what God had called me to do. Similar to the feeling you have when you find the perfect dress or the love of your life…it's a feeling you can't describe. You just know.
For an artist who may be considering a lucrative deal or partnership, what is important for them to consider (aside from the money)?
As an artist, you have to be keenly aware of who you sell your art to. You have to control your narrative and your story. You have to think about the brands and the value they can bring to you.
When it comes to business, what is something you wish someone had told you?
Be okay with delegating. As business owners, everything is our baby and we want to touch everything and do everything. However, I had to learn how to let go of some of the small tasks and let people help me be great. The power of a team is much more powerful than you burning yourself out trying to do it all alone. There's no award for running yourself ragged, so let people help you.
What would you say has been your biggest lesson so far?
We think we're supposed to win everything we try, but anything I missed wasn't for me. That's why I'm not afraid to say or hear the word "no." Some "no's" are protective barriers, and sometimes, your "no" season is your preparation time. You have to be just as grateful for the closed doors as you are for the opened doors.
"We think we're supposed to win everything we try, but anything I missed wasn't for me. That's why I'm not afraid to say or hear the word 'no.' Some 'no's' are protective barriers, and sometimes, your 'no' season is your preparation time."
For other fellow artists and businesswomen, what would you say to encourage and empower them along their journey?
A lot of people don't trust their gifts, and instead, they worry about who's doing what to the left and right of them. Be confident in your art and expression, and trust the language God has given you. Trust your gifts, and trust what God gave you.
Don't get discouraged about what seems like an oversaturated market. There's still space for you to do your thing, but you may have to add your own special twist to it. Even though there may be a million artists out there, now there's a million plus one because I'm here!
You can check out the new Melissa Mitchell & Spanx Illuminate-Her™ collection. Keep up with Melissa's Abeille Creations on Instagram by clicking here.
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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
The 26-year-old model and socialite shared with PEOPLE at the Femme It Forward's 2nd Annual Give Her FlowHERS Gala that she believes the key to a lasting relationship is establishing a strong connection before entering into a romantic relationship.
During the event, the socialite spoke to the outlet about the importance of “friendship and trust” in her three-year relationship that started in the midst of the pandemic.
“We were really good friends before we started dating, and COVID gave us that free time in our life to really get to know each other,” Jordyn said. “Because a lot of people don't really get to know each other and they go into this relationship.”
She continues, “So, we've been through a lot together. We've seen each other at all different ways, times, phases, so I think we have a very strong foundation.”
Jordyn also notes that “quality time” has been a means to bond and keep their relationship thriving. Despite the NBA star’s demanding schedule, she expressed her desire to attend as many of KAT's games as possible, including his upcoming birthday game with the Minnesota Timberwolves. “It's his birthday in a few days, so I'm going to go to that game,” she says.
Quality time isn’t the only love language that the couple speaks.“We love gift giving and... What is it? The love language? The love language is quality time. We love everything,” she says.
The couple was introduced by mutual friends many years ago, and in May 2020 decided to move forward from a close friendship to a romantic relationship. Jordyn and KAT went public with their relationship in September of that same year and have since become young Hollywood’s discreet “IT” couple.
“I'm excited. Every holiday, we like to really go large for each other,” she explained. “He does so much for me. I do what I can for him. I want to say it's a lot. So when it's time to show that appreciation, we like to go all out.”
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Featured image by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images