'Mythic Quest'’s Imani Hakim Wants To Remind Us To Take Care & Take A Beat
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:
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.
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.
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
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
Entrepreneur and community curator Chanise Robinson moved from her hometown of Seattle, Washington, to Los Angeles in 2015 for the life she’d always envisioned for herself.
From a young age, she knew her dreams were too big for the Emerald City so after a quick trip to southern California it was only a matter of time before she called it home. “I’ve always wanted to leave Seattle. There wasn’t enough culture for me, and having grown up there, I knew every Black person, whether it was from school or church,” says Robinson. Immediately after obtaining her Bachelor's degree from the University of Washington, it was then she decided it was time to make her move. “I exhausted all the options, opportunities, and resources I thought I could get from living there and knew I had to leave eventually.”
After graduating from her Alma Mater as a first-generation college student, she chose to continue her education, completing her master's degree at USC. After entering the corporate world, she noticed a lack of information sharing within the Black community, which led to a strong desire to gather community peers, leaders, and experts through sit-down panel discussions. “In corporate spaces, white people are talking and sharing ideas with each other behind closed doors, and I felt Black people didn't have that same network, so I created that space where I saw the gap.”
“In corporate spaces, white people are talking and sharing ideas with each other behind closed doors, and I felt Black people didn't have that same network, so I created that space where I saw the gap.”
Receiving a little motivation from a friend, Conversations with Chanise was created in 2018 with the goal of hosting professional events people could resonate with. “A lot of the time, industry panels can feel dry and disconnected from our culture and community, so I wanted to build that network myself, using it as a platform for others to find knowledge, information, and resources needed to navigate corporate spaces, tools that I didn’t have.”
Continuing to climb in her career, in 2020, Chanise landed a role as a recruiter for one of the fastest-growing tech companies in the world, Snapchat Inc. During her time at the company, she held multiple roles from Recruiter, Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion manager, to eventually landing on the Venture Capital Team, a position that was given because of her impressive community efforts outside of work.
During this time, Conversations with Chanise evolved into Out Of Office due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “In 2020, I changed the name because we were working remotely. Working from home for two years, if you weren't fortunate enough to work for your company prior to the pandemic, then you didn't know your co-workers, especially other Black co-workers.” With the pandemic creating an even bigger challenge to the lack of networking amongst diverse employees, what began as events became a community for Black and Latinx employees from across a number of tech companies to come together and meet fellow peers from across the industry.
It wasn't until 2022 that OOO hosted its first brunch for Black History Month. The invite-only event hosted sixty-five people tech employees, complete with a five-course meal. “Eight people from Amazon attended the event, and that was the first time they had ever met each other, they were all Black.”
Earlier this year, there was an inclination of a soon-to-come recession, which hit the tech world head-on, causing many Americans to be affected. In May of 2022, Chanise was laid off from Snapchat after three and a half years. “I didn’t take the layoff personally. You would think that after being at a company for three years, you would be sad, but since my entire team got laid off, including the people that brought me on, it was just business.”
With a few inside connections, her unemployment was short-lived after receiving two job offers within the following weeks of her being let go. “A former manager on the recruiting team is now the Director of Talent and Acquisition at DoorDash. She reached out about the Senior Program Manager role and encouraged me to apply. All you need is a referral.” She describes this carefree moment of her life as funemployment. “I had another offer from a VC firm, I was on funemployment. I blew my severance check going to Miami buying tables at popular nightclubs, I was having a great time.”
"I didn’t take the layoff personally. You would think that after being at a company for three years, you would be sad, but since my entire team got laid off, including the people that brought me on, it was just business."
With two offers on the table, she went with DoorDash in late September of 2023 as a Senior Program Manager. She was indeed feeling like that girl. Less than 30 days into her new role, she woke up to an unexpected text that sent waves of uncertainty and doubt. Three weeks and two days after starting her new role, Chanise was included in a company-wide layoff.
“A former co-worker from Snapchat was also working at DoorDash at the time and called me at 6:00 a.m. informing me she was included in a company-wide layoff. At that moment, I just knew I couldn’t have been laid off, I just got here,” Chanise recounts. Quickly opening her emails, she saw the dreaded subject line 'Your Employment at DoorDash.' “This time, I was pissed. I was upset and in shock.”
“The first day I was still in positive spirits, it wasn't until the next day I woke up and realized this was real, and I was scared.” With the economic uncertainty looming, there was a mix of emotions. “A lot of times we talk about recessions, and we know what happened in 2008, but I was a kid in high school. Now I’m an adult, and I’ve been laid off twice. I know it’s not the skillset, and I know it's not my work ethic, so now I’m scared.” The most obvious question she had on her mind was, “What am I going to do?”
Being in such a vulnerable space of fear and uncertainty can bring back traumas buried within our deepest childhood memories. “Not only am I only a first-generation college graduate, but I grew up in a single-parent household,” Chanise details. “My mom's ex-husband had a drug problem, and by the time I was nine years old, my mom filed for bankruptcy, leading to my family and I living in a homeless shelter for a year.”
After being laid off, the possibility of being homeless was a looming fear, but it was only because of past trauma. “My work ethic and drive comes from never wanting to put myself in a position that I was in as a child. When you’re a kid, you don't have control over what happens to you, but I made a pact with God that I would always do whatever it took moving forward, and I would never be disqualified on paper.”
"My work ethic and drive comes from never wanting to put myself in a position that I was in as a child... I made a pact with God that I would always do whatever it took moving forward, and I would never be disqualified on paper."
With what seemed to be back-to-back failures, there were many conversations with God that led her to realize life happens fast and it’s up to us how we deal with it. “I’m in a situation where I can't blame anyone for what I’m going through, I can't say it's anyone else's fault, it just happens to be life.” As scary as it was to be without a job once again, this was a wake-up call for the steadfast entrepreneur. “It’s taught me a lot about the recession. It's understanding that it has nothing to do with me personally. It gave me fuel to never work for just one company at a time. You should always have multiple streams of income, and most of those streams should be things you can control at all times.”
Chanise began to realize that maybe this was the time to take her dreams for Out Of Office to the next level. “OOO was always something that I wanted to do full time, but I don’t think I would have pushed myself to be as full-time as quickly. The summit would have never been something I envisioned for myself to happen this year if I wasn’t laid off.”
Not one to back down from an opportunity, Chanise began to use what she had curated so well within her time in Los Angeles, her community. “I was listening to Kirk Franklin on The Breakfast Club podcast, and his message was to win wounded. When you're trying to cross the finish line in a race, sometimes people get hurt and want to give up, but even if you’re limping, you still need to cross the finish line.”
Wounded, she was still on a mission to fulfill the desires of her heart regardless of her situation. “Before I was laid off from DoorDash, there was a woman on the Diversity and Inclusion team who reached out, informing me they would like me to run their Black employee resource group because of my experience and what I was doing with my Out Of Office events.” She continues, “We had a meeting set for Friday and I was laid off Wednesday, two days before the meeting. Reaching out via LinkedIn, [I] informed her that my role had been eliminated; however, I would like to schedule a call to talk about OOO and what we can do.”
“During the meeting, I spoke with her about my vision to do a cross-company employee resource group summit, and it just so happened the company had plans for one the following year for internal employees. They loved that my vision was much bigger, so they decided to give me the money and let me run it instead.” And just like that, a full circle moment. The company that laid her off after three weeks of employment was giving her $45,000 to become the first official sponsor of her biggest corporate summit to date.
This was the momentum she needed to propel her into her destiny. “Even though I was sad, faith without work is dead,” says Chanise. “A lot of times, people let life stop them from pursuing their dreams, and they just give up, and you never know what it could have been.”
"Faith without work is dead. A lot of times, people let life stop them from pursuing their dreams, and they just give up, and you never know what it could have been."
Once the idea of the Employee Research Summit was to become a reality, there was a lot more work to be done. While planning for the ERG Summit, OOO was to host an upcoming event, and while excited about what was in the works, Chanise states, “I remember telling God I really don’t want to do this. This was the first time I charged people to come to a happy hour, and that’s not normally something I would do. I didn’t know if it was worth it and wanted to cancel, but I didn't.”
After the event, she was approached by someone from Amazon’s Cross-Functional Strategic Marketing Team, who had consistently attended a number of OOO events. After a brief conversation, Chanise was informed of a sponsorship for professional development opportunities leading Amazon to become the second official sponsor, providing funds and a space to host her upcoming ERG summit. “At that moment, I knew God was telling me to 'keep going and I will provide all the resources.'”
"At that moment, I knew God was telling me to 'keep going and I will provide all the resources.'"
Fortunate to have really great friends, “I was in search of a keynote speaker, I reached out to Trell Thomas, founder of Black Excellence Brunch, who has a great relationship with Ms. Tina Knowles, among many other celebrity influencers. After discussing ideas and budget, he asked me who I’d like to speak at the event, and thinking it was a reach, I requested Ms. Tina.”
To Chanise’s surprise, Ms. Tina confirmed within a week. “She poured so much life into the audience with her message of not giving up or quitting no matter your age. Speaking to her felt like Sunday dinner, my spirit was full.” After a day full of corporate connections and panel discussions, as an added bonus, the summit wrapped up with an after-party performance by Eric Bellinger.
The Out Of Office ERG Summit was not just a moment to bridge the gap between culture and corporations but it was a culmination of hard work, faith, and determination. No matter what door closes, never be afraid of chasing your dreams. “Throughout this journey, I continued to pray. Lord, please send the resources and opportunities. Give me favor with people and help me do the work in which you have given me,” says Chanise. In the end, official sponsors for the summit included Amazon, Doordash, Snapchat, Google, YouTube, Jack Daniels, FIJI Water, and Bumble for Friends.
As far as going back to work full-time, Chanise shares, “I’ll pray and apply for jobs, but I'll keep working as an entrepreneur. My level of faith has been elevated. What started out as doubt turned into crazy faith.”
On words of encouragement, Chanise advises, “Just keep going, even when you're sad or don’t believe in yourself. Find one person to talk to that you know is going to push and elevate you, an accountability partner. Even if you don’t believe in God, find a faith partner. Find someone who believes and has the faith that you don't, to speak it over you, carrying the faith for you when you can’t.”
This year, Chanise learned that what God has for her is for her, and she’s the only person who can stand in her way. “I’m in my own way sometimes. There's also a difference between providing and sustaining. God will provide you with just enough, and He’ll give you the wisdom and the resources to stretch it long enough for it to last. That's different from asking God to provide.
"We underestimate our creativity. God never gives you a finished project but He gives you the creativity, ideas, and resources to be able to build, sustain, and provide for you. It’s being able to tap into that.”
For more of Chanise, follow her on Instagram @conversationswithchanise.
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