How Mother/Hustler Tabia Charles-Collins Went From Laid Off To Launching Her Own Clothing Brand
In xoNecole's new series Mother/Hustler, we sit down with influential mom bosses who open up about the ups and downs of motherhood, as well as how they kill it in their respective industries, all while keeping their sanity and being intentional about self-care.
Tabia Charles-Collins is a former Olympic athlete, a NCAA Champion, a University of Miami Hall of Famer, a mentor, a business owner, and a wife. But 15 months ago, she added the most important title to the list of hats that she wears on a day-to-day basis: mother.
Growing up, Tabia trained extensively to become an athlete and her hard work paid off in the form of a number of scholarships to pursue her career in track and field in college. In 2006, Tabia attended the University of Miami as a student-athlete and received a degree in Psychology after only three years. The following year, she was chosen to compete professionally for Nike and Team Canada in the 2008 summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China. But shortly after, she got injured, permanently deferring her dreams of one day becoming a star athlete.
Forced to choose a new path for her life, the former athlete returned to school and received her master's degree but was constantly reminded of a passion that had been previously overshadowed by her athletic career. As a child, the only thing Tabia loved more than track and field was fashion, and she used her newfound time and energy to master her hidden affinity for design.
Inspired by bold colors and prints, Anisah by Tabia Charles was born and lit a fire in the young entrepreneur that would be impossible to extinguish.
Courtesy of Tabia Charles-Collins
After years of committing to the corporate grind, the Toronto born entrepreneur married her childhood sweetheart and assumed the role of bonus mom to a son, but Tabia learned quickly that her life would dramatically shift after giving birth to her first child. While on maternity leave, her ambitions to become a business owner that were mere whispers before became louder and she knew it was time to step out on faith.
She told xoNecole, "I was working as a project manager in the pharma/health department for a company called Cognizant, a consulting and IT firm. I had just came back to work from maternity leave and after four months I was laid off. To be honest, after I was laid off, I laughed to myself and said never again will I give an organization that much power over me. "
Tabia translated the same drive and discipline that she learned in her athletic career to her work ethic as a business owner and developed a thriving full-time business as a clothing designer.
Courtesy of Tabia Charles-Collins
As a wife, entrepreneur and mom to a one-year-old son, every day hasn't been easy, but according to this smooth Mother/Hustler, every moment is worth it. To Tabia, what should have felt like rejection was actually an omen that it was time to finally answer her true calling.
"I knew at that very moment that I wanted to create my own security and freedom and it was time to take a real chance on myself. If I am going to put my all into something, I want it to be for myself and my own goals. This is the first time I have been able to go full force on my business venture. Don't get me wrong, it's not easy by any means but it feels worth it."
Tabia sat down with xoNecole and opened up about how she manages to balance motherhood and entrepreneurship all while remembering to stay up on her self-care:
How do you handle moments when you feel overwhelmed?
When I'm overwhelmed, I do a lot of self-talk. I tell myself everything is going to be OK and this feeling is just temporary. I then start to prioritize what's important.
What’s the hardest part of your day?
The hardest part of my day is balancing the energy and needs of my 15-month-old while trying to get a million and one things done with my fashion business. It's also important for me to have meals prepared for my family, so adding that into the equation while still balancing the work I do for the track club I'm associated with often gets me super overwhelmed. I'm constantly balancing so many duties but I am thankful I have full support from [my] parents during the day.
How (and how often) do you practice self-care?
Self-care is so HUGE for me! I get two massages a month [and] I go on vacations regularly in order to get away from the hustle of everyday life. I take about three to four getaways a year. Self-care is part of my regular routine. Whether it includes downtime with my family and friends, getting away alone, massages and pedicures, I always fit it in.
Courtesy of Tabia Charles-Collins
"Self-care is part of my regular routine. Whether it includes downtime with my family and friends, getting away alone, massages and pedicures, I always fit it in."
When do you feel most productive?
I feel most productive in the mornings and late at night. Once everyone goes to sleep, my phone isn't going off like crazy and it's just me by myself on the couch, I get so much done! There are times I'm up from 9 P.M. to 2 A.M. getting the most amount of work done.
What is your favorite way to spend “me” time?
I really enjoy spending "me" time in my home, drinking a glass of my favorite wine, watching movies or my favorite series. During that time I also have time to reflect and be with my thoughts.
What is your advice for dealing with mom guilt?
To be very honest, I don't typically suffer from mom guilt. However, the days that I'm literally working all day and my son is at my parent's house or home with my husband, I remind myself that he is going to realize what a hustler his mom was and he will aspire to be the same. He is going to benefit from my hustle and the results that come from it. More than anything I want my son to have an abundance of opportunities. The work I'm putting in now, the long hours, the risks, the time away from him, the long adventures I sometimes take him on when I need to get things done... are all going to be worth it, especially for him.
Courtesy of Tabia Charles-Collins
"I remind myself that he is going to realize what a hustler his mom was and he will aspire to be the same. He is going to benefit from my hustle and the results that come from it. More than anything I want my son to have an abundance of opportunities."
What is the most important lesson you want your kid(s) to learn from you?
I want them to learn that they create their own destiny. ANYTHING they want out of life they can get it, as long as they are willing to put the work in. I want to be living proof that whatever I went after I was able to achieve.
Why was it important to you to be an entrepreneur even though some people may think that a 9 to 5 offers more stability?
A 9 to 5 does offer stability to a certain extent, but the idea of working hard to fulfill someone else's goals doesn't sit well with me. If I'm going to pull all-nighters to get work done and complete deadlines, I want it to be for my own businesses goals. The happiness I get from working on my own brand is something I can't get from working for someone else. I want to create a business model for myself that I can have flexibility and freedom to spend time with family, [and] continue traveling the world while still achieving my business goals.
How has being a mother helped you become a better entrepreneur, or vice versa?
Being a mother definitely makes things slightly more challenging especially during the infancy stage of my business, but it's all taught me patience as well as time management which are two very important things in becoming a successful entrepreneur.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a mom who runs a business?
The biggest challenge is not being able to just get up and go get things done. I can't just jump on my laptop and send emails or run out of the house to meet up with people. I've gotta get my son ready, make sure he's fed, bags are packed, and then I can be on my way. I'm learning better time management so that I'm not losing too much time in getting things done.
What advice do you have for moms who are looking to start their business but haven’t taken a step out on faith yet?
Just do it! There's never a better time because if you keep on waiting you're going to keep finding excuses as to why you need to keep putting it off. More than anything, you owe it to your children to go after your goals and dreams. How do you tell your kids to go after their dreams if you didn't?
Courtesy of Tabia Charles-Collins
"More than anything, you owe it to your children to go after your goals and dreams. How do you tell your kids to go after their dreams if you didn't?"
Do you think it’s important to keep your personal and professional life separate? Why or why not?
Well, to be honest, I guess it depends on your line of business. There's a lot of crossover in my business and personal life and it works for me. I want to be as authentic as I can in my personal life so that people can truly know the person behind the brand.
What advice do you have when it comes to time management as a mogul mommy?
Time management is key! Get a scheduler and a notebook to write EVERYTHING down. As moms, we are so busy balancing the daily tasks necessary to raise our children, that we often forget about the other priorities we have (i.e. meetings, appointments, deadlines). I often times post up sticky notes with important information that I need to remember. Another important thing I will advise is not to take on too much. I'm learning now it's OK to say, "No, not right now." We can't spread ourselves too thin. We need to leave some time aside for ourselves.
What tips do you have for financial planning, both professionally and for your family?
Financial planning is something I'm getting much better at. It is so important to ensure that my children have a savings account, education plan, and life insurance. Also, it's important that my husband and I have funds that we can dip into if anything important comes up. It's not always easy putting money aside when you're investing into your business while still paying mortgage, bills etc, but we gotta have funds for emergencies and enough funds to be able to put our children in extracurricular activities. Even if you can only put away $10 a week, do it! You gotta start somewhere.
You can keep up with Tabia on Instagram and check out all of the dope pieces from Anisah by Tabia Charleshere!
Featured image courtesy of Tabia Charles-Collins.
Taylor "Pretty" Honore is a spiritually centered and equally provocative rapper from Baton Rouge, Louisiana with a love for people and storytelling. You can probably find me planting herbs in your local community garden, blasting "Back That Thang Up" from my mini speaker. Let's get to know each other: @prettyhonore.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Janelle Monáe's Reveals The Real Reason Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Tuxedos
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
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