People often talk about how lonely it is at the top, but what they rarely talk about is how quiet it can be during the climb. For Nichole Lynel however, it's a feeling she knows all too well. As we chat, the quietness that surrounds her while sitting on the floor awaiting movers to arrive at her old showroom serves only as a reminder of her own entrepreneurial journey. "Everybody is willing to help you when you're the underdog but when you have a chance of really succeeding, it gets a lot quieter," she revealed.
It was a little over a year ago that she took the last that she had, quit her job and decided to go full fledge in the direction of her dreams. And as with most people who go against the status quo and quit their unfulfilling 9 to 5, she encountered those who were apprehensive. She explained that while she had encouraging friends and family, in the beginning, they were more vocal about their concerns than supportive. "I've always wanted to be a fashion designer, so I went through a lot. I had a support system but they wanted me to play it safe. I had always been told 'no' or pushed in a different way or told how hard it would be. But I realized the only thing that was really hard was going to work every day and hating it. If it's going to be hard, it might as well be hard while doing something I love."
And what is that something, you ask? These days, Nichole Lynel is the owner of an online store filled with designs aptly named after herself. You see, fashion, as she explains it, is the one thing that came easily and naturally to her. From her younger days when she would sketch her original designs and play dress-up, Nichole always knew she was a fashion girl. It was a way for women and people in general to become whoever they wanted to be.
Fast forward to now though, and "fashion it girl" feels like a more appropriate title for the bonafide boss woman. Recently, xoNecole got the chance to chat with her and we found out exactly how she manages to slay and stay focused on her entrepreneurial journey.
Courtesy of Nichole Lynel
How did you get your start with your online boutique and how did you conceptualize the idea for your business?
I had an online store but then I left that store and launched Nichole Lynel last year and I just kind of went for it. I always wanted to be a fashion designer but I've always been told "no", or pushed in a different way or told how hard it would be. I was always told how hard it was, but I realized the only thing that was really hard was going to work every day and hating it. If it's going to be hard, it might as well be something hard that I actually love.
I started at the top floor and knocked on every door until someone told me "yes". It took months between the initial idea and the actual launch date. Stepping out on your own is a whole 'nother thing… It took a while, but what really happened was I got broke. Then I had to do something because I ran out of money. So I put my website together myself, the one I still use today and when I really made the decision to really go for it. It took me a week to get everything up and running.
Courtesy of Nichole Lynel
"If it's going to be hard, it might as well be something hard that I actually love."
What were some of your major setbacks when owning/running your business? How did you overcome them?
In the beginning, I was going through a lot. I really took a big risk, I used my last to launch my business. Even now, growing my business, I feel like the higher you climb, the quieter it gets. Everybody is willing to help you when you're the underdog but when you have the chance of really succeeding, it gets a lot quieter, especially when you're shaking it up. And you don't have a guide to this. Nothing can prepare you for solely profiting off your creativity. That in and of itself is a struggle every day.
Courtesy of Nichole Lynel
"Nothing can prepare you for solely profiting off your creativity. That in and of itself is a struggle every day."
So how did you go about scaling your business and growing it to what it is today?
I'm still doing it now, I've been doing my brand for a little over a year now. So I'm still in the beginning stages. But as much as I make, I put it right back; I invest it right back in. I don't believe in taking a large salary too soon and from day one I've had my accountant, so I'm all about doing revenue-generating activities. I want to invest in things that are going to produce results or growth. It has to be growing my business or has to be profitable enough for me to be putting my energy into it in it. And I am serious about my goals, I seriously put in the work overtime.
Speaking of putting in the work, your grind and hustle seems to light a fire under a lot of women to go after their dreams. What’s something you wish more people understood about the grind of entrepreneurship?
I wish more people understood what it takes to be an entrepreneur. It's so much that goes into creating something and you can't beat yourself up for it. It takes time, you can't expect things to just happen overnight. It's crazy what it takes mentally [and] financially. I wish people really understood what it takes to produce something great and then to produce something great consistently.
Courtesy of Nichole Lynel
"I want to invest in things that are going to produce results or growth. It has to be growing my business or has to be profitable enough for me to be putting my energy into it in it."
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own fashion label?
Number one, trust your gut. I wish I had listened to myself so many times because I always knew. Every time something blew up in my face, I always had this gut feeling in the pit of my stomach. Number two, get your paperwork right. People are all interested in the creative part of it but, fashion is a business and you really need to do your research. Get your paperwork right, talk to an accountant, talk to an attorney -- make sure that you are structured properly. Not making money is one thing but making money and not being structured properly will take you out quickly.
Number three is do the work. It's the most important thing but it's the most rewarding thing you can do for yourself. I didn't really find confidence in myself until I completed this and I always felt like there was a hole in my heart and something missing. And now I'm so full of because I found my purpose and what I'm here to do.
Courtesy of Nichole Lynel
"Not making money is one thing but making money and not being structured properly will take you out quickly."
What are some major lessons you’ve learned thus far on your journey?
Don't be cheap when it comes to your business because you'll end up paying twice. Appreciate people. No one works harder than when they feel appreciated. You're on God's time not yours. I talk about the waiting room all the time; we're always waiting, we're always thinking that someone should tag us in the game. But we're on God's time and I never got a seat at the table until I had something to say.
What can we expect next from your brand?
I have new denim coming and I have NL the Label coming! I'm also moving into an amazing showroom downtown LA and I cannot be more excited to just show the world what I really can do.
For more of Nichole Lynel, follow her on Instagram. Check out her boutique here.
Originally published on April 22, 2019
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Writer. Empath. Escapist. Young, gifted, and Black. Shanelle Genai is a proud Southern girl in a serious relationship with celebrity interviews, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and long walks down Sephora aisles. Keep up with her on IG @shanellegenai.
Unapologetically, Chlöe: The R&B Star On Finding Love, Self-Acceptance & Boldly Using Her Voice
On set inside of a mid-city Los Angeles studio, it’s all eyes on Chlöe. She slightly shifts her body against a dark backdrop amidst camera clicks and whirs, giving a seductive pout here, and piercing eye contact there. Her chocolate locs are adorned with a few jewels that she requested to spice up the look, and on her shoulders rests a jeweled piece that she asked to be turned around to better showcase her neck (“I feel a bit old,” she said of the original direction). Her shapely figure is tucked into a strapless bodysuit with a deep v-neck that complements her décolletage.
Though subtle, her quiet wardrobe directives give the air of a woman who’s been here before, and certainly knows what she’s doing. At 24 years young, she’s a “Bossy” chick in training— one who’s politely unapologetic and learning the power of her own voice.
“I'm hesitant sometimes to truly speak my mind and speak up for myself and what I believe,” she later confessed to me a couple of weeks after the photoshoot. “It's always scary for me, but now I'm realizing that I have to, in order to gain respect as a Black woman— a young Black woman— who's still navigating who she is. And you know, I'm realizing that closed mouths don't get fed. And if I keep my mouth shut just because I'm afraid of what people's opinions of me will be or turn into, then that's not any way to live.”
For Chlöe, the journey into womanhood is about embracing who she is, without succumbing to the perceptions of what others think of her. From the waist up she’s everything you’d imagine. A gorgeous goddess with the kind of sex appeal that some work hard to embrace but fail to exude. But unbeknownst to anyone not on set, her bottom half is covered by a white robe, surprising coming from the girl who boasts “'Cause my booty so big, Lord, have mercy” on her first hit single “Have Mercy.”
But that’s the beauty of Chlöe. There’s more to her than meets the eye. More than what a few sensual photos sprinkled throughout an Instagram feed could ever tell you. Just like the photo-framing illusion of her portrayed from the waist up, what we know about the songstress is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more beneath the surface.
Some hours later Chlöe leans back in a high chair as her locs are transformed from a formal updo to a seemingly Basquiat-inspired one. It’s pure art, and at her request, no wigs are a part of the day’s ensemble. She’s fully embracing her natural hair, a decision that wasn’t always a socially accepted one.
In the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, (Mableton, to be exact) Chlöe began to explore the foundation of her self-image. At an early age she and her younger sister, Halle, demonstrated a vocal prowess and knack for being in front of the camera that caught their parents’ attention. Soon after, they were sent on a parade of local talent shows and auditions, and eventually broke into the digital space with song covers on YouTube.
It was during these early years that Chlöe first learned that the entertainment industry could be unforgiving to those who didn’t fit a particular beauty standard. Despite the then three-year-old snagging a role as the younger version of Beyoncé’s character, Lilly, in Fighting Temptations, casting agents requested that her natural locs be exchanged for more Eurocentric tresses. Ironic, considering that growing up Chlöe saw her hair as no different than that of her peers. “I remember specifically in pre-K we had to do self-portraits and I drew myself with a regular straight ponytail, like how I would put my locs in a ponytail,” she says. “I just never saw myself any different.”
Chlöe would also learn the true meaning of a phrase that would later become an affirmation posted on her bedroom mirror: “Don’t Let the World Dim Your Light.” After attempting to wear wigs to fit in, the Bailey sisters instead chose to rock their locs with pride, which undoubtedly cost them casting roles. Yet they would have the last laugh when making headlines as the “Teen Dreadlocked Duo” who landed a million-dollar contract with Parkwood Entertainment, and the coveted opportunity to be groomed under the tutelage of a world-renowned superstar.
Credit: Derek Blanks
While that could be the end of a beautiful fairytale of self-empowerment, the reality is that it’s just the beginning of the story of her evolution. For most girls, the transition into womanhood takes place in the comfort of their own worlds, often limited to the number of people they allow to have access to them. But for Chlöe, it’s happening in front of millions of critiquing eyes just waiting for an opportunity to either uplift or dissect her through unwarranted commentary.
Many in her position wouldn’t be able to take that kind of pressure. But Chlöe is handling it with grace. “I feel like all of us as humans, we have the right to interpret things how we want,” she says. “I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
Chlöe isn’t the first artist to receive criticism for her carnal content, and she certainly won’t be the last. In 2010, Ciara writhed and rode her way to banishment on BET when the then 24-year-old released her video for “Ride.” In 2006, 25-year-old Beyoncé received backlash for “Déjà Vu."
"I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
So much so that over 5,000 fans signed an online petition demanding that her label re-shoot the video because it was “too sexual.” Even 27-year-old Janet didn’t escape critical headlines when she shed her image of innocence for a more risqué appearance with the 1993 release of janet.
It’s almost as if public reproach is a rite of passage for young Black women R&B singers on the road to stardom. Good girls seemingly “go bad” whenever they embrace the depths of their femininity, and fans only like you on top figuratively. But Chlöe has learned not to bow down to other people’s opinions, but to boss up and control the narrative. As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. If sex appeal is her weapon, she wields it well.
On set, Chlöe exudes the energy of Aphrodite in an apple red, off-shoulder dress with a sexy high split. In between shots, she mouths the lyrics to Yebba’s “Boomerang” as it echoes throughout the space in steady repetition at my recommendation. The hour grows late, yet Chlöe is heating things up as eyes stare in deep mesmerization of the girl on fire.
Credit: Derek Blanks
Through music, she explores the depths of her being, a journey that seems to be, at its foundation, rooted in self-discovery. Whereas their debut album The Kids Are Alright (2018) boasts a young Chloe x Halle empowering their generation to embrace who they are while finding their place in the world, their second album Ungodly Hour (2020) shows the Bailey sisters shedding the veil of innocence for a more unapologetic bravado.
What fans looked forward to seeing is who Chlöe shows herself to be on her debut solo album In Pieces. In an interview with PEOPLE, she confesses that releasing her first project without her sister was “scary.” "It was a moment of self-doubt where I was like, 'Can I do this without my sister?’”
Chlöe has never been shy about sharing her insecurities or her vulnerabilities, all of which are laced throughout the 14-track album. “I want people to have fun when they listen to it and to just realize that they're not alone and it's okay to be vulnerable and raw and open because none of us are perfect; we're all far from it. And I think it's healing when we all admit to that instead of putting up a facade.”
The gift of time has given the self-professed “big lover girl” more encounters with romance and heartbreak. Love songs once sung for their beautiful riffs and melodies become more than just abstract lyrics and are replaced by real-life experiences, which she tells me is definitely in the music.
In her single “Pray It Away,” for example, she contemplates going to God for healing instead of going at her ex-lover for revenge for his infidelities. “With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable,” she says. “I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
Has Chlöe been in love? That still remains to be said. Of course, she’s been linked to a few potential baes, but dating in the digital age isn’t as easy as a double tap or drop of a heart-eyes emoji. It requires a level of trust and vulnerability that’s hard to earn, and easy to mishandle. To let her guard down means to potentially set herself up for disappointment. “It’s difficult dating right now, honestly, because you really have to kind of keep your guard up and pay attention to who's really there for you. And you know, I'm such an affectionate person and I love hard.
"So when I meet the one person that I really, really am into, it's hard for me to see any others and I get attached pretty easily. And you know, I don't know, it's…it's a scary thing.”
Credit: Derek Blanks
“With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable. I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
While broken hearts yield good music (queue Adele), what’s in Chlöe’s prayer is the desire to be happy. What does that look like? Well, she’s still figuring that out herself. “Honestly, I'm the type of person who I don't truly learn unless I experience it. So it's like I can view and watch my parents and watch the loving relationships that I see in my life and be like, ‘Oh, I want that. I would love to have that.’ But then I also have to experience [love] on my own and see what my flaws or my faults might be or see what my good things about myself are. I feel like it's really all about self-reflection. And even though our base is our family and that's our foundation, we are still our own individuals and we have to find out specifically the things about ourselves that may be different from what we saw from our parents when we were growing up.”
Her ideal beau, she tells me, is someone she can feel safe to be her fun, goofy self with, but who also gives her the space to be the boss chick chasing her dreams. A man who understands that just because the world compliments her doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to hear those words from his lips or feel it in his touch. A bonus if he shows up on set after a long hard day of work with vegan cinnamon rolls. You know, the basic necessities. “I like whoever I'm with to constantly tell me they love me and that I look beautiful because I do the same. I am a very mushy person, and if I see something or you look good, I will never shy away from saying it out loud. And I want whoever I'm with to do the same, be very vocal. Tell me that you love me. Tell me what you love about me because I'm doing the same for you because that's just the person I am.”
Until she meets her match she’s married to the game, and for now, that seems to be perfect matrimony.
Credit: Derek Blanks
On stage at the 2021 American Music Awards, Chlöe solidified her position as a force to be reckoned with. It was a full-circle moment. In 2012, bright-eyed and baby-faced Chloe and Halle would walk onto the set of The Ellen Degeneres Show and blow the audience away as they bellowed out their future mentor’s song. Ellen would present the sisters with tickets to attend the AMAs, assuring them that they would be back and had a promising future. Nine years later, Chlöe descends from the sky cloaked in a snow-white cape and matching midriff-baring bodysuit for her debut performance. It’s the first time she’s graced the stage of the very award show that she was once an audience member of.
As she shakes and shimmies and boom kack kacks out her eight counts, it’s clear that she’s in her element. Just like her VMA performance a couple of months prior, and the many more stages she’ll continue to grace, she brings an energy that has earned her comparisons to the beloved Queen Bey herself. An honorable statement, considering few R&B songstresses are getting accolades for their entertainment capabilities. It’s on these very stages, in front of hundreds of astonished eyes and millions more glued to their televisions at home, that she tells me she feels most sexy. Powerful, even.
But off stage, it’s a different story.
It’s more than just the commentary about her image and media-flamed rumors that get to her. Mentally, she’s in competition with herself. The desire to be the best burns at the back of her mind with every performance, every production, and every time she steps into the booth. Before, she could share the weight of this burden with her sister. Being a part of a duo meant she could turn to Halle for quiet confirmation and encouragement without a word being exchanged. But lately stepping on the stage means stepping out on her own. And despite being a breathtaking, five-time Grammy-nominated star, Chlöe doesn’t escape the reality that sometimes we can be our own worst critics.
Over the last year, she’s been coming to terms with who she is on her own while overcoming the fear of failing to become who she’s destined to be. While the world waits to see how Chlöe wins, the real triumph is in every day that she chooses herself and continues to walk in her purpose. “I don't really have anything all figured out, honestly. But what I try to do, a lot of prayer. I talk to God more and I just try to do things that calm my mind down and just breathe.”
To whom much is given, much will be required. She’s been chosen to walk this path for a reason. Once she fully embraces that everything she’s meant to be is already inside of her, she’ll be an unstoppable force. “My grandma, Elizabeth, she just passed away and my middle name is her [first] name. So I feel like I truly have a responsibility to live up to her legacy that she's left on this earth. I hope I can do that.”
There’s no doubt that she will. With a role in The Fighting Temptations at three years old, a million-dollar record deal, a main role on five seasons of Grown-ish, five Grammy nominations, a number one solo record in Urban and Rhythmic Radio, a debut solo album, and starring roles in recently released movies Praise Thisand Swarm (just to name a few), Chlöe’s certainly already made her mark, and she’s just getting started.
Photographer & Creative Director: Derek Blanks
Executive Producer: Necole Kane
Co-Executive Producer: EJ Jamele
Producer: Erica Turnbull
Digitech: Chris Keller
DP: Alex Nikishin
Gaffer: Simeon Mihaylov
Photo Assistant: Chris Paschal
2nd Photo Assistant: Tyler Umprey
Features Editor: Kiah McBride
Special Projects: Tyeal Howell
Hair: Malcolm Marquez
Makeup: Yolonda Frederick
Fashion Styling: Ashley Sean Thomas
For More: Cover Story: Issa Rae Comes Full Circle
From The Coconut Challenge To 'Ankles As Earrings,' These Are TikTok's Hottest Sex Trends
As I scrolled down my TikTok feed, I couldn't help but realize how sex-positive the app has become. TikTok has been one of the hottest social media platforms in recent years. Not only has it become a hub for dance challenges and lip-syncing videos, but it's also turned into the ultimate destination for discovering the latest sex trends.
From new sex positions to creative techniques, the platform offers a plethora of steamy ideas to keep things fresh in the bedroom. TikTok is definitely the go-to platform for sex-positive content. So, let's dive in and explore six sex trends on TikTok.
1.Egg Yolk Technique
TikTok is full of bizarre sex tips, but this one isn’t as bizarre as the name suggests. The 'egg yolk method' is a sex trend on TikTok that is helping men learn about the vulva. In a video posted by Kayla Christine, "How men should be taught.” Kayla is seen gently massaging the egg yolk in a slow circular motion before she presses a little harder and ends up splitting the yolk right down the middle. With the egg yolk representing the vulva, Kayla emphasizes the importance of applying just the right amount of pressure to it.
@iamcardib @theestallion @offsetyrn #duet with @bardi_song #megantheestallion
The Coconut Challenge has made its return to social media thanks to a viral TikTok video by rapper Cardi B. The trend actually started on TikTok back in 2019 and refers to a technique where, during sex, one partner tries to spell out the word “C-O-C-O-N-U-T” with their hips.
In a TikTok video, the rapper mentions Megan Thee Stallion, “going to do the coconut challenge on the d***,” which has inspired people to talk about the challenge again.
3.The Sex Pillow Hack
Another trending sex topic currently on TikTok is the sex pillow hack. The sex tip involves putting a pillow under your pelvic area during vaginal and anal sex to increase pleasure. Using a pillow under your hips during penetrative sex can shift the angle at which penetration happens slightly.
Another sex tip from Vernita! #MyColoredHair #JuntosImparables #FordMaverick
The four-minute foreplay technique is another TikTok trend that can spice up the bedroom. Basically, all you do is set a timer and take turns with your partner to pleasure them until it goes off. While this might not seem all that groundbreaking, four minutes of foreplay can be beneficial because it builds arousal, anticipation, and excitement. All of which are important, particularly for women, because being sufficiently aroused prior to sexual intercourse helps women to reach orgasms.
5.Ankles As Earrings
There’s a saying that goes, “There is nothing new under the sun,” and the 'ankles as earrings' technique proves just that. Depending on who you ask, the 'ankles as earrings' is a new sex position on TikTok that essentially is a modified missionary position. Basically, one individual is lying on their back with their legs propped up on their partner's shoulders. Users on TikTok claim the position can make you orgasm in minutes because it leads to deeper penetration.
#stitch with @nurse.ria11
Sex advice TikToker Nurse Ria posted a TikTok claiming that pressing down on a woman’s stomach during sex can help stimulate the G-spot. Applying pressure to the G-spot, located on the front wall of the vagina, can stimulate the nerve endings and increase pleasure for the woman. Using the pad of your finger, press gently but firmly downward in a "come hither" motion.
TikTok is more than just a platform for dance videos and lip-syncing; it's a space for creative self-expression and exploration, which now includes sex trends. By embracing inclusivity, education, kink, and sexual wellness, TikTok is revolutionizing the way we talk and think about sex. As the conversations surrounding sexuality continue to evolve, it's exciting to see where TikTok will take us next.
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Featured image by Cavan Images/Getty Images