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Courtesy of Ruben Badua

'Mythic Quest'’s Imani Hakim Wants To Remind Us To Take Care & Take A Beat

"It is important to take care of yourself. If I can inspire someone to take a beat, it's worth it."

Finding Balance

In xoNecole's Finding Balance, we profile boss women making boss moves in the world and in their respective industries. We talk to them about their business, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.

I remember waking up and turning on my TV to catch a new episode of Everybody Hates Chris in high school. If you would have told me that I would be interviewing Imani Hakim, who played Tonya, the little sister of Chris on the show, I wouldn't have believed you. Now in 2021, Imani Hakim is a grown woman and is making her mark in the TV/film industry. Since the show, Imani has landed roles such as portraying Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas in Lifetime's award winning TV movie, The Gabby DouglasStory and a role in 2017 film Burning Sands.


Currently, you can watch her on the AppleTV+ series Mythic Quest. A series that explores life at a top video game company within a set of an overworked and determined team of programmers and coders. Being a person that is interested in gaming herself, Imani couldn't have been more thrilled when casted for the role on Mythic Quest. Imani is proudly showing representation and bringing much-needed awareness to Black women entering the video and STEM world unapologetically.

Now, I can talk all day about Imani's amazing career growth and her contributions to society. But what I wanted to know more about was how she is taking care of herself on a daily basis. We are all human, after all. And as humans, we need certain things to keep moving, to keep grinding, and to keep our inner peace.

Courtesy of Ruben Badua

When I was able to chat with Ms. Hakim, we couldn't have been more aligned with understanding the importance of prioritizing self-care. As Imani has navigated through the industry since being a child actor, she has learned to always show up as herself authentically. Part of that is to pour back into yourself when it is necessary. We can get lost in the day to day sometimes and we should remember to take a beat.

After my chat with Imani, she expressed, "I really love that I had the opportunity to reflect. I think that it's important because actors and entertainers are put on a pedestal. People forget that we are still human. So when you are asking the deep questions, it reminds people that life is happening to and for us as well. We also have to find moments of self-care."

In this installment of Finding Balance, we talk to Imani Hakim about being authentically yourself, love languages, and the importance of taking a break.

xoNecole: Since your role in 'Everybody Hates Chris', how has it been navigating through the television and filming industry as a Black woman?

Imani Hakim: Well, the industry was different when I first got started. I think I was very lucky with kicking off my career the way that I did. I booked Everyone Hates Chris within three months after moving to Los Angeles and that is not a common thing. So my view of what the industry was like was skewed compared to what it actually was. As I was transitioning from that role and getting older, I was faced with some challenges like colorism and seeing a role I auditioned for being given to someone who is white. I really had to check-in with myself because it does something to your confidence. You try to make yourself more palatable for the industry, but I learned that I ultimately had to show up to the table authentically and not as someone else. It was a bumpy ride, but it was a necessary ride I had to go through.

With your current role as Dana in the AppleTV+ series 'Mythic Quest', what has it taught you about the importance of black women in the STEM field?

Imani: Fun fact about me is that I consider myself a nerd (laughs). I write myself and one of the first pilot scripts I have ever written was about a female gamer. So when Mythic Quest came, I was like WOW, this is perfect (smiles). To be able to play a role like Dana, who is a black female gamer, is so vital and important. Representation in the STEM field matters. There are plenty of young girls and boys who watch this show and can say to themselves, "I can be that!" I didn't have that kind of representation growing up and I feel honored to be that representation for others.

What piece of advice would you give other black women who are pursuing the acting world that you wish someone told when you were starting out?

Imani: Be yourself. Do not feel like you have to water yourself down for anyone. Authenticity is your superpower and be unapologetic about it. One thing that I've learned as I got older is that once you do that, it will get you further than you think.

At what point in your life did you understand the importance of pressing pause and finding balance in both your personal and professional life?

Imani: It is so important to me to press pause. A few years ago, I had that moment of 'this isn't everything'. I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship. I realized that I put my focus on my relationship and I made myself available for my career. I didn't take breaks, I missed out on events with friends and family, etc. I was burnt out. I told myself that I had to find some sort of balance. I made a commitment to myself to allow myself to live my life and still be successful. I can have it all! When I am able to take those breaks and communicate that to my partner or my team, I am a better person and I am a better actor because of it.

"As I was transitioning from that role and getting older, I was faced with some challenges like colorism and seeing a role I auditioned for being given to someone who is white. I really had to check-in with myself because it does something to your confidence. You try to make yourself more palatable for the industry, but I learned that I ultimately had to show up to the table authentically and not as someone else."

Courtesy of Ruben Badua

What are your mornings like?

Imani: So a typical morning for me is I wake up and I do not touch my phone. I make sure I give myself time to stretch and move my body. I give gratitude to my body and I am intentional about being present. After that, I brush my teeth, grab some coffee, do some reading, and then I work out. If I have time to include meditation, then I do that as well.

How do you wind down at night?

Imani: With literal wine (laughs). I like to watch anime with my partner or a movie we haven't seen. I also like to play chess if I'm feeling frisky (laughs).

Do you practice any types of self-care? What does that look like for you?

Imani: My favorite type of self-care practices are things like skincare or moisturizing my hair. I really make a thing out of it. I will light some candles, pour some wine, change the lighting, and really set the mood. I take my time with it and it's such a good vibe.

"I made a commitment to myself to allow myself to live my life and still be successful. I can have it all! When I am able to take those breaks and communicate that to my partner or my team, I am a better person and I am a better actor because of it."

Courtesy of Ruben Badua

How do you find balance with:

Friends?

Imani: When my friends talk, I listen. It starts there. I think sometimes when we are with the people that we love, we don't give them our undivided attention. So I try to be intentional about that. I also make sure I book out, so I am able to show up for my friends and attend different events with them.

Love/Relationships?

Imani: One of my favorite things is knowing about your love languages. Once you figure out how to show them love through that, it is really easy to fit those moments into your life. What my partner and I do is communicate how the other wants to be loved. My top love language is physical touch and his is acts of service. So without saying a word, I will clean the apartment or cook him a meal to let him know that I care. I think for any relationship, whether it is romantic or platonic, you should discover the love languages for the people in your life.

Exercise?

Imani: During the pandemic, I really got into walking because it was really hard to find the motivation to be active. As I kept walking, one mile turned into miles. Then three miles of walking turned into four miles. I think people underestimate the benefits of walking, I know I did. We really need that Vitamin D. Walking feels really good on my body and for my mental as well. It's a time to just be with myself, sweat a little bit, move my limbs, and listen to a podcast or something.

When you are going through a bout of uncertainty, or feeling stuck, how do you handle it?

Imani: The way that I tend to handle those moments is I take a moment. I struggle with anxiety and depression. I really practice asking myself, "What do I need right now?" If I can't find the answer and I am too in my head about it, then I give myself a break to gain some clarity. I also like to talk to my partner and vent about how I am feeling to him. At the end of the day, it's about taking a beat. I think sometimes when we are feeling uncertain or feeling doubtful, we have a tendency to jump into action. When in actuality you need to breathe into it. Sometimes, do nothing and the answer will come to you.

"I think sometimes when we are feeling uncertain or feeling doubtful, we have a tendency to jump into action. When in actuality you need to breathe into it. When in actuality you need to breathe into it. Sometimes, do nothing and the answer will come to you."

Courtesy of Ruben Badua

And honestly, what does success and happiness mean to you?

Imani: Success means to me stability, joy, and passion. If I am stable and I am able to give myself the essentials, then that is success. Happiness is peace and acceptance of what is.

To learn more about Imani Hakim, follow her on Instagram here.

Featured image courtesy of Ruben Badua

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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