Just a few years ago, Dunnie Onasanya, affectionately known as Miss Dunnie O, had the perfect winning trio of a roster of amazing clients, a huge online following, and a relationship that was publicly among the coveted, sparking IG comments like "Bae goals." She and her ex launched a popular Los Angeles-based swimwear brand, leading to the further increase of her online following and widening the brand presence of the then mother of one and events producer. But things got messy when the couple separated and subsequently divorced, with details of the split playing out very publicly on social media.
After finalizing the divorce, taking a step back, and getting the support of family and friends, she decided to pursue a passion she'd had since childhood but had never really considered as a viable career choice. She's a Tuskegee University alumna and Delta Sigma Theta member who studied business administration and marketing before starting her path in entrepreneurship.
Today, she's an artist-in-residence at VisArts in Rockville, M.D., and she earns five figures and up for her pieces that reflect her faith and Nigerian heritage. She also recently celebrated the birth of her second daughter, with an internationally famous new bae (one whose identity we will be keeping on the hush hush as to respect our good sis's privacy.)
We caught up with the artist to talk about how she was able to overcome the hurt, heartache and public scrutiny of the past, totally reinvent herself to reclaim her life, and how other women can tap into pursuing their wildest dreams after divorce:
Image by Dunnie O
xoNecole: Any separation or divorce is tough, and it can be even more challenging for a successful businesswoman and mom whose 2018 separation played out online in front of tens of thousands of followers. What was it like for you going through that?
Dunnie O: Well, it was a very toxic situation. I feel like a lot of women will be able to relate in the sense that a lot of women stay in situations because they are trying to keep their families together, even though they probably know deep down inside this is not healthy. And sometimes it takes your friends or people closest to you at the time to help you navigate out of those types of situations. So, I'm grateful for the support system that I did have in L.A. [at the time] because they were able to help me get out of that situation and back to a safe and healthy environment for my daughter and myself.
Our wedding was all over the Internet, and you kind of feel that obligation to your followers or to your family. It's like, 'Oh my gosh, I don't want to let people down or make people upset.' But then are you actually living? That's what's most important. I think the biggest lesson that I learned out of that situation is that perception, you know, people are always going to talk.
"People are always going to have something to say, but at the end of the day, you need to be able to go to sleep at night with peace of mind, knowing that you've made the best decisions for your own wellness—for your mental health and physical health."
It's crazy because sometimes when you're in relationships, you know, things don't start off that way. It's usually a progressive build and there's some kind of breaking point or something to where the other person starts to make poor choices that are now affecting the entire household. And you can either choose to suffer in silence or break away and move on.
xoNecole: That's so true. We have to practice self-care and do what's best for our well-being. So, how did you transition from that and your work in branding, events and PR, to your current work as a full-time artist?
Dunnie O: Art is something I always loved as a child, but it was never something I actually thought I could pursue as a career. And when I came back home and everything, my mom's just like, 'Well, what are you going to do? You want to go back to school?' I was like, no, I really want to try painting. I didn't go to art school, but I just knew I at least wanted to give it a shot. I was like, OK, let me try this for a year and see how it goes. If it doesn't work, then I'll go back to school and maybe pursue something like healthcare, something more stable.
"I'm so blessed because God really allowed for me be fruitful in this endeavor. I started painting and then I just started sharing my work online, just from the platform I already had."
People reached out wanting to purchase my work, which was super encouraging to just keep going with it. Within my first year, I got invited to exhibit in Toronto as an international artist for a big festival out there. Then I got commissioned to do a few different projects in my area and in Canada, too. So, all of that first-year work was the perfect thing that I needed to actually apply to be a resident at an art gallery. I was attending a networking event with a friend and someone at the event told me [about VisArts]. Initially, it felt like, you know, impostor syndrome.
That's what I essentially had because I literally turned my application in the day before the deadline. About a month later, they sent me an email. They're like, "We would love to have you as an artist-in-resident at the gallery." It was a huge accomplishment—a testimony for me—just because it was something that I really wanted. I didn't go to art school, but, you know, it was a personal miracle in the sense that yeah, I got it.
It's amazing [because] as a result of being a studio artist there, I've been able to teach and host artists talks. Even in the pandemic I've had to work from home primarily, but I still have my studio space so I'm able to meet clients for pickups and remain plugged into the community that way. I'm really grateful to be where I am on my journey so far.
Image by Dunnie O
xoNecole: That's amazing. Now, shifting from one lifestyle and career to another can definitely have a major effect on one's finances. What has the journey been like for you in that regard, and how do you find opportunities that allow you to earn well as an artist?
Dunnie O: Well, it starts with putting your work out there and letting people know what's for sale. People need to know that you are offering a service or offering a product that they can readily purchase. I believe I've built a niche for myself in the sense that people now seek me out for custom paintings for their homes or their businesses. I [recently] put out a spring collection of paintings that people can purchase that are readily available to ship.
"I literally built my business around what I love to do, so it's not strenuous and I'm happy in the work that I do."
I have a request form on my site. People can request then it gives me information to generate a quote for them in terms of what it would cost for me to take on their project. I basically applied the same skill set as I would to produce an event. It's the same skills, and I tweaked a few things and made it to apply toward artistry.
So now, my starting prices for an original on the smaller end can start at $500 [per piece], and I've done projects at this point now, like one-offs, starting at $11,000 [each]. And I think the really cool thing about art is that, you know, it's a luxury buy, so it's something that people are also looking to as an investment. As my brand grows and as I continue to grow, so will the value of my work. Art collectors who decide to invest in the early or the potential trajectory of my [art career], the worth of my collection down the line, you know, is pretty substantial.
xoNecole: Yes, many art lovers would agree with that. And we see art value appreciating all the time. So, what have been the biggest lessons about yourself that you've learned overall in the transitions, both personally and career-wise?
Dunnie O: It was definitely challenging, but [it was about] owning my story and knowing that I cannot allow myself to be defined by other people, you know? If I allowed myself to be defined by my divorce [then] that's what I'd be, a 'divorced chick' the rest of my life, you know what I mean? But that's not going to be my story. That was one chapter, [and I'm now] moving along to the next.
"My artistry has been my therapy and brought about so much of my healing. Renewing my faith in God has helped me to start this new chapter of my life and fully transition into my career as a visual artist and muralist."
With consistent prayer, practicing unapologetic self-love, meditating, and affirming myself daily, I've been working consistently to grow spiritually so that I stay in alignment with my purpose and soul mission. As a result of staying in alignment I've learned how to protect my peace of mind. God has blessed the works of my hands with financial success, and I've established consistent income with my artistry and amazing clientele who truly value and appreciate all of the artwork that brings me so much joy to create.
For more of Dunnie O., follow her on Instagram.
Featured image by Pablo Raya
Whether it was your group chat, social media feed, or your favorite media outlet covering the spectacle, I’m pretty sure you’ve come across the viral Black wedding between actress KJ Smith (Sistas, Raising Kanan) and actor Skyh Black (All the Queen’s Men, Sistas). From their grand entrance to Jay-Z, Kayne West, and Beyoncé’s song “Lift Off” to KJ’s standout dance routine and the endless celebrity appearances, it’s an addictive TikTok scroll you can’t help but delve into.
But what many people would be surprised to know is that the couple’s original wedding plan was nothing like what it grew to be. What started as her simply scrolling through posts to get ideas eventually transformed into what the internet knows now as #TheBlackExperience. In an exclusive conversation with xoNecole, KJ walked us through her planning process, the morning of her wedding, and what she thinks of the online response.
Some women have their whole wedding planned out, from the bridal gown and venue to the bridal party and playlist. However, KJ was not one of those people. “I didn’t foresee a wedding in my future,” she reveals. “I was just gonna be the boss chick, rich auntie. I didn’t force love in my life until recently. I never had an idea of what a dream wedding would look like, it was easier for me to elope.”
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
And to many people’s surprise, that was their original plan – until Skyh brought up a valid concern. He was raised by his grandmother and thought she should be at the wedding, and naturally, that led to KJ wanting her grandmother to be there as well – then her mom – and later her sister – and, you’ve gotta invite the besties too, right? From there, the guest list continued to blossom. Much like the updo and pop of color bold red lip, she wore on her special day, which was initially on her Pinterest board as a soft glam look with her hair hanging on her shoulders, KJ is okay with changing her plan if it brings her and her loved ones happiness.
So let’s get into the wedding, which took place in Malibu, CA. The first thing you should know about the celebrity couple is that they’re non-traditional. They know, and they don’t care. So, in true unconventional fashion, they shared the morning of the wedding together.
“I woke up with Skyh, we walked our dog, had black coffee, and said good morning to the people who stayed at the venue with us,” she says.
Now, it was time for hair and makeup. While she was getting glammed up, she had Black-owned McBride Sisters wine and champagne (which ties into The Black Experience theme) on deck with her mom and friends, had her besties help rework her vows, retried on every outfit (sis is very Type-A), took photos, and ended the early-celebration with prayer and meditation. It seems very non-Bridezilla, I said.
“Yeah, I was the most unbothered bride ever. Everyone was just so supportive. As entertainers, we go on red carpets all the time. We actually have a production company,” she explains. “The get-ready process was like a day at work, but with people we love the most. Being entertainers, we didn’t feel stressed at all, but my excitement was so high.”
Things moved quickly, and before she knew it, it was time to line up to walk down the aisle.
“Yeah, I was the most unbothered bride ever. Everyone was just so supportive. As entertainers, we go on red carpets all the time. We actually have a production company. The get-ready process was like a day at work, but with people we love the most. Being entertainers, we didn’t feel stressed at all, but my excitement was so high.”
KJ Smith and her bridal party
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
Since everything started with their grandmothers, the couple wanted to ensure they honored them and planned to keep an element of their wedding traditional. Although we’ve all seen the reception videos and photos online, you may have noticed visuals from the wedding itself are harder to find.
“We planned for it to be traditional, but we’re not like that, so we tried to create those moments. We jumped the broom and had a salt ceremony (where the bride and groom individually pour salt into a glass container, symbolizing their lives becoming one.) But honestly, still, nothing was traditional about it.”
She goes on to explain that her mom caught the holy ghost coming down the aisle, her glam team was on deck, and she became so nervous with excitement that she had an anxiety attack – something she struggled with for years, she explains tearfully. Her friends had to literally cheer her down the aisle because of how overwhelmed she felt until she eventually calmed down.
“Skyh was standing there with his hand on his heart; we have our own little language, and I could feel the support,” she shares.
It was surprising to hear all these emotional moments happened before the party we saw online. That is until she once again got into the backstory.
“As a Black woman actress, for so long, it was popular to be mysterious and secretive, but that’s not who I am or what I like. Plus, we both wanted to create an experience for everyone there. We are the people who always host family and friends,” she says. “Like for me, the first order of business was getting sandals for the women so they can dance all night long. We had oxtail, D'ussé, and a coffee and sativa lounge – which is part of Skyh and I’s lifestyle and routine. We wanted to bring them into our world.”
Skyh Black (L) and KJ Smith (R)
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
She went on to discuss the dance routine she did for her husband at the reception, which has taken over the internet. Apparently, that’s another thing that didn’t go according to plan. According to KJ, she had promised a performance at their joint bachelor/ bachelorette party, but her outfit got stolen from her car. So, Skyh ended up performing for her – complete with a strip tease. Still, she never forgot her promise to dance for him.
So, she hired her friend as a choreographer, learned the routine, made friends and family watch it endless times, and attended Beyoncé’s Renaissance show a few days before for a confidence boost. It ended up being a show to remember. But that wasn’t all the night offered. Lil Mo performed, and the guests received special goody bags featuring their favorite Black-owned products like journals, hair care, and more.
“We made sure everyone was taken care of all night. That kind of stuff makes us happy. I wanted everyone there to experience the joy and love I have for myself, my partner, and for them. I wanted them to feel full and whole, and they had the time of their lives,” she says.
But naturally, the internet is going to internet, and while there were countless people praising the event and applauding the newlyweds, some thought it was too over the top. I was curious to know her thoughts on some of the criticism.
“It’s cool. We did what we wanted to do. I’ve decided to share my world with people. Just how I went on social media platforms and found inspiration, I want people to do the same,” she explains. “I don’t think it's fair to my supporters not to give that out. There’s so much I wanna share with brides, specifically Black brides. I love that people are adding it to their Pinterest boards."
"I wanted everyone there to experience the joy and love I have for myself, my partner, and for them. I wanted them to feel full and whole, and they had the time of their lives."
Photo by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
“I’m happy with it because we did what we wanted to do. They can do what they wanna do. Don’t be cruel, though, because you will get blocked,” she said, laughing.
The more I spoke with her, the more her sense of freedom shined through. People are always going to have their opinions, but at the end of the day, it’s you who has to live your life, and it seems like the couple realizes that and embraces that power. She also stressed the importance of not living for others and the lessons life has taught her.
“I’ve been to countless weddings, and I’ve been in countless weddings. I’m a generally older bride. So when women in my demographic get married, and you and your husband are busy working people like us, you deserve to have the one you want to have,” she shares.
“This is what we wanted to do. Our loved ones love and support us. We did so much to honor them, but we also wanted to start our own tradition, legacy, and creation. I'm not going to be pulled back into ideas of the past when I’m trying to create a future with my partner. “
If you’d like to see more of the couple, you probably won’t have to wait long. Although no content is planned yet, she admits to being an oversharer. “Me being open and transparent about my experiences lets people know it’s okay to have flaws; it makes you human, and for many years, I didn’t believe that was okay. I had pressure to be perfect, and I’d crumble every time,” she explains to xoNecole.
Now, she owns her flaws and uses them as a superpower to connect with her community and feel and express her love.
“Some people give us [Skyh and KJ] a hard time because they say we just seem too perfect. I’m like, why is that a bad thing? I love the people I love. From my man to my mama, to my friends - unabashedly. We move through time and space how we want to move. If we did it another way, we’d let ourselves and our union down.”
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Feature image by Stanley Babb/ Stanlo Photography
Have you ever had one of those days (or weeks) when you just wanted to lay in bed, turn off your brain, turn on your favorite TV show, and do absolutely nothing? Besides the occasional run to the bathroom or to get up and replenish your snack rotation, your bed is the only place you want to be for hours on end. You might find yourself mindlessly scrolling between social media and then dozing off for a couple of hours, only to wake up and do it all again — but is there really any shame in that?
Our beds have a way of providing us with a sense of peace, protection, and rest away from the demands of our everyday life, and a new TikTok trend is highlighting the benefits of this counter-culture, yet pleasurable form of rest.
Bed rotting, a TikTok trend that has garnered over 204.1M views, is essentially taking long periods for hyper-focused rest and downtime. It’s the act of doing absolutely nothing at all except for being in your bed for an extended period of time, with limited mobility, productivity, or activity.
This “anti-productivity” take on self-care does have its benefits, as one sleep scientist, Vanessa Hill, claims in a TikTok video that as you “waste away underneath your blanket… nothingness is your best friend.”
In defence of #inbedrotting because it’s perfect 🛌💙 #lifehack #bedrot #bedrotting #bed #bedroomtok #sleepscientist #fyp
Since resting has, for a long time, been associated with “laziness' and the guilt that comes with that, bed rotting now offers the tired and restless a reason to recharge and recoup without feeling guilty for it.
The need for passive activities like bed rotting also points to the perpetual burnout that many millennials and Gen Zers are experiencing from the demands of work, family, school, and sustaining their livelihood despite the stress that it collectively produces. With so much pressure to be productive, even while we’re resting, these moments of self-care can be the reset button you need to feel reinvigorated enough to take on life’s responsibilities.
But just like with every wellness trend, it’s important to ask yourself why you’re bed rotting.
I learned about folks #coping by being #inbedrotting …here are some thoughts #mentalhealth #burnout #sleep #stress
When we’re anxious or stressed out about the pressure of our everyday lives, we can turn to sleep as a means to avoid the problem in hopes that it will go away. Because of this, Jessi Gold, MD, MS, assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, shares in one TikTok that the lines between healthy bed rotting and depression can be blurred. “Are you sleeping because you don’t want to be awake because of stress and anxiety, or the things you have to do, or are you sleeping because you actually need it,” she states in the video.
Because bed rotting and depressive episodes can present themselves in similar ways, like oversleeping and fatigue, it’s advised to monitor your bed rotting to ensure that it doesn’t extend beyond a day or two, as any longer can be a sign of depression, and to seek professional support.
While there is no “perfect” or “right” way to give your body and mind the TLC and self-care that it may need, there are ways to make your bed rotting more restorative beyond media intake and sleep — unless you enjoy that, of course.
For instance, while in bed, take some time to get cozy with a book that doesn’t focus on self-help or “shadow work.” Get lost in the pages of a dramatic romance or even a coloring book where you can use your mind without actually using it. Or maybe even turn on some lo-fi or ambient music to meditate in bed for 45 minutes to an hour, where you’re truly unplugging with breathwork. Or, if you simply want to be on TikTok for a few hours, put a timer on so that you have a stop and start time that allows you to scroll in moderation.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with bed rotting if that’s the kind of rest you’re in need of. As we undo the society’s programming that tells us that rest is a reward for how productive we’ve been, remember that rest isn’t something you have to earn; it’s something you do because your body needs and deserves it.
Featured image by Goodboy Picture Company/Getty Images