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
This was first evident more than a decade ago when she quit her job as the corporate executive of a Fortune 500 company during a Periscope livestream. “I’m not sure if there’s an alignment of [our] future trajectory. I’m going to work for myself. I'm promoting myself to work for myself,” she said at the time before flashing a smile at the viewing audience. As she resigned on camera, a constant stream of encouraging messages floated upwards on the screen.
By 2021, she’d fashioned her work as a corporate consultant and her personal life with her husband and three adopted daughters into a reality show, She’s The Boss, for USA Network. This year, she released the New York Times bestselling memoir Nothing Is Missing, written as she was in the process of getting a divorce and dealing with her eldest daughter’s struggles with substance use.
Convinced that there’s no way the 39-year-old has achieved all of this without intentional strategic planning, I asked her about it when we spoke less than a week before Christmas. I’d seen videos on social media of her working on 2024 planning for other brands, and I wanted to know what that looked like following her own year of success.
She listed a number of goals, including ensuring that the projects she takes on in the new year align with her identity “as a Black woman, as an African woman, as a mother, as someone who has lived a [rebuilding] season and is now trying to live boldly and entirely as themselves.” But, I was shocked by how much of her business planning also prioritized rest.
Despite the bestselling book, a self-titled podcast, and working with numerous corporations, Walters said she’s been taking Fridays off. This year, she doesn’t want to work on Mondays, either.
“A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement,” she said, noting that she’ll check in with herself around March to see how successful this plan has been. The goal, Walters said, is to only be working on Tuesdays and Thursdays by sometime in 2025. “It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to have happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change.”
"A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement... It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change."
Walters said the decision to progressively work less was partially in response to her previously held notions about her career, especially as an entrepreneur. “When I first started, I thought burnout was a part of it,” she said. “What I didn’t realize is that even if you’re able to bounce out of burnout or get back to it, there’s a cumulative impact on your body. If you think of your body as a tree and every time you go through burnout, you are taking a hack out of your trunk, yes, that trunk will heal over, and the tree will continue to grow, but it doesn't mean that you don’t have a weakened stem.”
But, the desire for increased rest was also in response to the major shifts that occurred three years ago when she was experiencing major changes in her family and realized her metaphorical tree was “bending all the way over.”
“One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity,” she added. “That is some language that I think is just now starting to really get unpacked.” In recent years, there’s been an increased awareness of achieving balance in life, with Tricia Hersey’s “The Nap Ministry” gaining attention based on the idea that rest, especially for Black women, is a form of resistance. Even online phrases such as “soft life” and “quiet quitting” have hinted at a cultural shift in prioritizing leisure over professional ambition.
"One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity."
If companies are lining up to consult with Walters about their brands and products, then women have been looking to her for guidance on starting over since she invited them to livestream her resignation 12 years ago. As viewers continue to demand more from content creators in the form of intimate, personal details, Walters has navigated her personal brand with a sense of transparency without oversharing the vulnerable details about her life, especially when it comes to her family.
The entrepreneur said she’d been approached to write a book for several years and was initially convinced she was finally ready to write one about business. “I started to do that, and then I went through my divorce. When that happened, I said, why would I write a book telling people to get the life that I have when I’m not sure about the life that I have,” she said.
Instead, she decided to write Nothing Is Missing and provide a closer look at her life, starting with being born to immigrant Ghanaian parents (“You need to know my childhood to know why I’m passionate about entrepreneurship.”) through the adoption of her three daughters and eventual divorce. Despite her desire to share, however, she said she felt protective of the privacy of her family, including her ex-husband.
When discussing this with me, Walters said she was reminded of a lesson she learned from actress Kerry Washington, who released her own memoir, Thicker Than Water, just a week before Walters’ book release. Washington’s memoir grapples with family secrets, too, specifically the fact that she was conceived using a sperm donor and didn’t learn about it until she was already a successful TV star. While Washington reflects on how the decision and subsequent deception impacted her, she’s also careful to hold space for her parents’ experiences, too. “A lot of things she said was that she had to recognize where she was the supporting character and where she was the main character,” Walter said.
This is something Walter worked to do in Nothing Is Missing when discussing her daughter’s struggles with addiction. “I was very intentional about making sure that I did not reveal more than what was required,” she said. “If I say something about someone’s addiction, I don’t need to go into the list of the substances they used, how they used them, what I found. [I don’t need to] walk into a room and paint a picture of what it looked like for people to understand.”
Walters said some of the most vulnerable moments in the book barely made a ripple once it was released. She was extremely nervous to write about getting an abortion, she said. But no one has asked her about this in the months since the book was released. Instead, people have been more interested in quirkier revelations, such as the fact that she once appeared on Wheel of Fortune.
“I have bared my soul about this thing I went through in my youth that has changed me for people, and people are like, ‘So how heavy was the wheel when you spun it?’” she said, chuckling. “It just goes to show that people never worry about the thing that you worry about.”
With the success of Nothing Is Missing, Walters said she still isn’t planning to release a business book at the moment. But, as she navigates parenting a teenager and two adult children while also navigating a relationship with her new fiancé, Walters said she believes she has at least one or two more books to write about her personal journey. “There is sort of an arc of where my life has gone that I know I’ve got something more to say about this that I think is important, relevant and necessary,” she said.
In just three years, Walters’ life has undergone a major transformation. There’s no telling what the next three years will have in store for her, but it seems likely she’ll retain an inspired audience wherever life takes her.
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In the ever-evolving world of music, Black women are owning the scene and rewriting the rules. From soulful beats to empowering lyrics, these artists are not just making hits; they're also dropping gems on their self-care practices and career game-changing moments. In this exclusive feature, we delve into the worlds of four remarkable talents—Victoria Monét, Coco Jones, Flo Milli, and Maiya the Don—who have not only risen to prominence but are also setting new standards in their respective genres.
The music industry has witnessed a renaissance with the emergence of these gifted artists, each contributing a unique sound and perspective. Victoria Monét, celebrated for her soulful R&B creations, has captivated audiences with her enchanting vocals and lyrical prowess. Meanwhile, Coco Jones has seamlessly transitioned from Disney star to a formidable force in the music scene, demonstrating her versatility and commanding presence. Flo Milli brings a fresh sound to rap with a distinct sound and flow, while Maiya the Don stands out with her catchy lyrics and unapologetic confidence.
These talented women have not only achieved success in their respective genres but have also become advocates for self-care and champions of important career lessons. As we explore their journeys, we uncover the secrets behind their self-care routines and the invaluable lessons they've learned along the way.
My admiration for Victoria Monét's artistry began in 2019 when her single "Ass Like That" captured my heart. Fast forward to 2021, "Coastin" marked a pivotal moment, earning her a spot on the 2022 BET Awards pre-show. Attending the FLO concert in April 2023, in Atlanta, I witnessed Victoria Monét's heartwarming support for emerging talents as she presented flowers to the UK-based girl group.
June 2023 saw the release of "On My Mama," solidifying Victoria Monét's industry presence, and is still climbing the charts peaking at #35 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In a recent interview, she shared the personal journey behind the song, written during her struggle with postpartum depression in 2021. Notably, her daughter Hazel Monét, at just two years old, is the youngest Grammy nominee in history for her vocals on "Hollywood" from Victoria's album Jaguar II.
With seven Grammy nominations at this year’s awards, Victoria stands as the second-highest nominee, trailing only behind SZA. As the anticipation builds for the 2024 Grammy Awards, it's evident that Victoria’s exceptional contributions to music will take center stage, adding another layer to my journey as a fan.
When asked about the biggest lesson in her career, Victoria shared insights into her longevity in the business.
“I feel like the recurring theme is just being consistent. Keeping at it because, in this industry, nothing is overnight. It's the consistency and motivation to keep going. Striving to be the best and see yourself where you want to be,” she exclusively told xoNecole.
From her infectious smile gracing Disney Channel screens to her recent captivating portrayal of Hilary Banks in the reimagined Bel-Air series on Peacock, Coco Jones has undergone a remarkable journey since her early days in the spotlight. Witnessing her evolution, especially for those who grew up watching her on the small screen, has been exhilarating. Now armed with a Grammy nomination and a soul-stirring EP titled What I Didn't Tell You, released on November 4, 2022, Coco Jones has transcended being just a familiar face to become a formidable force in the entertainment industry.
The narrative of Coco's transition from Disney Channel darling to a versatile artist making waves in Hollywood embodies her resilience and talent. Fans and critics eagerly await the next chapter in her career as she seamlessly navigates between roles and mediums. Let's not overlook the impact of her hit single "ICU," a game-changer that secured her a well-deserved spot on the Billboard charts, peaking at an impressive #62. This not only marked a significant milestone in Coco's career but also highlighted her undeniable talent and versatility as an artist.
When we asked her about the biggest lesson in her career, Coco had this to say about her multi-talented career journey.
“The biggest lesson that I've learned is that sometimes things aren't gonna make sense, but you still have to go through the confusion to get to the end result,” she said. “And then hopefully things add up, and even if they don't, you learn something about yourself, so just keep going through it.”
The first bar that made me fall in love with rising star Flo Milli was “Dicks up when I step in the party.” Her distinct flow on beats speaks volumes about her artistry, bringing a unique dimension to each composition, whether it's navigating bass-heavy tracks or exploring more melodic tones.
A pivotal moment in Flo Milli's career was the collaboration with Baby Tate on the anthem "I Am," resonating with women everywhere. Its empowering message and infectious nature led to viral popularity on TikTok, turning it into a cultural phenomenon. During her first tour, You Still Here, Ho? Flo Milli's live performance transcended traditional hip-hop boundaries, offering a journey through beats and bars.
The added perk of a meet-and-greet package provided a personal connection, allowing fans to meet the artist behind the music. The culmination of my admiration for Flo Milli reached new heights during our interview at the 2023 BET Hip Hop Awards, solidifying her enduring impact on the modern female hip-hop scene.
We asked her about how she prioritizes her self-care in the midst of her “Thanks For Coming Here, Ho” tour and preparing for her highly anticipated upcoming album, Fine Ho, Stay.
“I make sure I get massages every two weeks. I always make sure I keep facial appointments. Of course, you gotta keep up with yourself, but also prioritizing time to have fun,” she explained. “I was working crazy straight for years, and I was like, ‘Damn, before you know it, I’m not gonna be young anymore.’ It’s very important to prioritize being happy in life and making sure you're doing what makes you happy.”
Maiya the Don
In the heart of Brooklyn, where vibrant energy meets artistic innovation, Maiya the Don has emerged as a musical force. Her rising star status gained momentum with the TikTok sensation "Tefly," captivating global audiences and showcasing the unique blend of style and sound that reflects her proud Brooklyn identity.
"Tefly" not only introduced us to Maiya the Don's undeniable talent but marked the beginning of a remarkable musical journey, leaving an indelible mark with her distinct voice and genre-defying approach. Building on the success of this viral hit, subsequent singles like "Dusties" and "Keep it Cute" showcased Maiya's versatility, solidifying her breakout star status and reflecting the rich cultural tapestry of Brooklyn.
We asked her about how she prioritizes her self-care in the midst of going on tour with Flo Milli and dropping her first EP, Hot Commodity.
“One thing about me, I'm going to get my lashes done, hair done, nails done. I love to be pretty. That's very important to me,” she said. “I always tell my team they don’t get paid if I'm not there. So you have to let me take care of myself and then we'll tend to the other things because if not, then you don't get a check.”
As we navigate the diverse and dynamic landscape of Black women in music, the stories of Victoria Monét, Coco Jones, Flo Milli, and Maiya the Don serve as powerful testaments to their resilience, creativity, and undeniable impact. From enchanting melodies to fearless rap verses, each artist brings a unique flavor to the industry, contributing to the ever-evolving narrative of Black excellence in music.
In celebrating their journeys, we not only recognize their individual accomplishments but also honor the collective strength of Black women shaping the future of music. Through triumphs, challenges, and moments of unapologetic self-expression, these artists inspire a new generation, reminding us that the power of their voices extends far beyond the notes and beats—they echo the vibrant stories of empowerment, authenticity, and the unwavering determination to break barriers and redefine the standard. As we bid farewell to this musical journey, let their voices reverberate, creating a harmonious resonance that amplifies the essence of Black women in the rhythm of the industry.
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Feature image by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy