What Self-Care Looks Like To Black Girl Beautiful Founder Nikia Phoenix
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, their life, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.
If nothing else, Nikia Phoenix is proof that there is undeniable power and wherewithal in a name. Symbolically, a phoenix is flamed bird that represents renewal and rising above challenges to succeed and be powerful. As a multifaceted woman, the Atlanta-based creative has made waves in a bevy of industries: as a model, a writer, a managing editor, an influencer and anything else that she sets her mind to accomplish. "No one can put me in a box. I am stepping into my stride and becoming the person I always knew I could be. A title or occupation does not define or limit me," she told xoNecole. "What I am doing now in this moment is part of the evolution."
And the evolution encompasses what she's doing now, which is being a light in the efforts to propel black female empowerment with initiatives like her movement Black Girl Beautiful. Black Girl Beautiful began as a beauty and shopping event for women of color by women of color after Nikia realized the needs of black women weren't being met. "We were and still are spending all this money on beauty products yet not enough brands were catering to us," she explained. "I figured it was time to educate us, empower us, and mobilize."
With the much-needed mantra of "Hey black girl, you're beautiful," the initiative has since bloomed into a safe collaborative space for black women and all women of color. "I want BGB to ignite the flame in other women so we can set this world on fire. I truly believe in the power of black womanhood," Nikia concluded.
In this installment of Finding Balance, we talk to Nikia about affirmations, a typical day in the life, and ultimately how she finds balance.
Why do you think it’s important that we hear, “Hey black girl, you’re beautiful”? What are some of your favorite affirmations?
Photography By: Vanessa Hamb
It's critical that we hear and see this simple affirmation "Hey black girl, you're beautiful" or "Hey brown girl, you're beautiful" because all of us still have yet to completely believe it. We've gotten so used to the world tearing us down and the lies that we can be so self-deprecating. In order to combat this negativity, we have to tell ourselves that we are loved, we live in abundance, and that we are worth it.
And what makes you feel beautiful?
My heart makes me feel beautiful. It leads everything that I do. It allows me to come from a place of love and deep intention. My heart allows me to see the beauty in everything.
You recently unveiled a Brown Girl Beautiful mural in Atlanta, how did that idea come to you to create this mural?
Atlanta is a city full of black people. We are the majority, however there have been very few murals specifically dedicated to uplifting women of color. I'm an agent of change and knew I needed to fix this. I knew what the message would be. I knew the artist, Faatimah Stevens, who could help me create it. What I didn't know is how it would actually come to fruition... In steps Pledge World, who said they wanted to help me fulfill this dream.
I think of the mural as my love letter to brown women. In bold print alongside a beautiful sketch of my friend Mary Akpa donning a crown, the mural says "Hey Brown Girl You're Beautiful." Talk about powerful! The colors, the imagery, the words literally stop people in their tracks. Brown girls are able to see themselves reflected in this piece of art. The message affirms what I know to be true of us and I hope every black and brown girl feels this love.
What does the average day or week look like for you?
Every day is a bit different. Every week is a bit different. I am always working on a project from conception to completion. With everything I do, I'm very hands-on. But inspiration has to come from somewhere, so I make time to live. Maybe one week, I'm traveling. Maybe I'm ideating for the next adventure. I breathe creativity.
What are your mornings like? How do you wind down at night?
Photography By: Vanessa Hamb
Mornings are my favorite time of day. I ease into it. I wake up with prayer and meditation then make my way into my daily affirmations. I love, love creating peace to start my day. At night, I wind down by lighting candles or incense and meditating. With all is hectic in this world, I have to bookend my day with love.
What do you find to be the most hectic part of your week?
The most hectic part of my week depends on what I'm working on. I do my best not to have a Case of the Mondays. Starting my week in a frenzy is not the business. Other than that, if there is a hectic time of the week, it's most likely Thursday afternoon, because I know I'm trying to complete all my tasks before the weekend.
Do you practice any types of self-care?
Photography By: Vanessa Hamb
Self-care for me is daily. It's saying affirmations. It's unplugging from technology. It's spending quality time with people I love without talking business. At night, I love turning down the lights, lighting a candle, and dancing in my bedroom. This allows my soul to be free. Simply put, self-care is literally me loving on me.
What are some products and rituals you swear by in the name of self-care?
Washing my hair on the weekends is also self-care for me. While my hair is deep conditioning with SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil hair masque, I'll put on one of those Korean sheet masks from The Face Shop and chill out. I'm also obsessed with rosewater face mist and my jade roller. Talk about an instant face massage to lift my spirits.
How do you find balance with:
Photography By: Vanessa Hamb
When I love, I love hard. I give it my all or nothing. I guess that is my balance. I do know that love fuels me. It's essential to my being.
It's about making the conscious effort to be present. Any relationship, whether that's romantic or platonic, needs to come from a place of respect and not obligation. I feed into what feeds into and nourishes me.
Exercise/Health? Do you ever detox?
A year or so ago, I began practicing kundalini yoga, and it's become my saving grace. It helps me release the frustration and work through difficulties by pushing my body and realigning my spirit.
When you are going through a bout of uncertainty, or feeling stuck, how do you handle it?
I have to give myself the space to work through the feelings fully. That may mean hanging upside and screaming my head off or whatever I need to do to relieve the tension in a healthy way. I'll talk out the problem. I'll meditate. Then I come up with a solution. The trick is not to dwell in the hole. Dig your way out.
What does success mean to you?
Photography By: Vanessa Hamb
My intention is to evoke feeling... to evoke love. At this point, I get so much joy from watching a complete stranger being moved by my work. If what I create encourages and lifts someone else up, that's my goal. Success means feeling like I am living on purpose and being fulfilled.
Ultimately, how do you find balance?
I laugh. I cry. I do both at the same time. And most importantly, I LOVE. Love brings balance.
For more of Nikia Phoenix, follow her on Instagram. And check out previous installments of xoNecole's Finding Balance here.
Featured image by Vanessa Hamb, courtesy of Nikia Phoenix
Originally published March 31, 2019
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7 Sex-Related Problems That Ruin Sex (And Possibly Your Relationship)
Not too long ago, while in an interview, someone asked me to define one of the main purposes of sex in a long-term relationship: “Probably the most intimate form of communication that we have is sex because it’s an act that connects one’s physical, mental and emotional state to another human being simultaneously — and communication doesn’t get much more profound than that.”
That’s part of the reason why the term “casual sex” irks me to the billionth degree (check out “We Should Really Rethink The Term 'Casual Sex'”); it’s because, even if you think that sex with someone is next-to-nothing, there is so much going on within you (oxytocin highs, if you’re unprotected, fluid bonding, chemical reactions in your brain, etc.) that doesn’t know if someone is “the one” (in your mind) or not. So, in many ways, it acts like they are (check out this YouTube video from a Catholic woman who studies some unexpected ways that sex affects us physically here; sex goes deep, y’all!).
Yeah, sex is so much more than a notion, and that’s why I’m a firm believer that it is such a barometer for long-term relationships overall — because, as I’ve shared before, I once read that, “Good sex in a relationship is 10 percent of the relationship while bad sex in a relationship is 90 percent of the relationship because sex tends to set the tone for what’s happening in the rest of the house.”
And that’s why I think that there are certain sex-related issues that can not only damage your sex life with your partner but could also end up ruining your relationship if you’re not careful (very careful). Let’s get into seven of them now.
1. Being Unaware of Your “Body Clock”Giphy
I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who’ve come to me in some serious trouble, in part due to their flailing (or partly nonexistent) sex life. When I ask them if they went to premarital counseling (if you’re engaged, please do; you have a 33 percent greater chance of avoiding divorce when counseling transpires), many say “no” and the ones who say “yes” usually say that it was no more than 3-5 sessions and the topic of sex barely came up (le sigh). Meanwhile, with my premarital meetings, I try and stick with intimacy for three months if I can because there is a lot to unpack, from what you learned as a child, to your first time (or if you are a virgin), to your needs and fantasies, to how you see it from a spiritual perspective — like I said, there is a lot to unpack there.
Take the mere practicality of sex, for example — and more specifically, your body clock. Do you prefer to have sex at night or in the daytime? A lot of couples struggle with intimacy because one prefers the former while the other likes the latter. Do you keep track of when you’re ovulating? It’s pure science why you are probably hornier during that time of the month (because your body is signaling that it’s time to conceive) vs. the fact that you might not be the most interested in sex when you’re PMS’ing. Are you premenopausal? Hormones shift a lot during that time, and here’s the thing — while menopause only lasts a year, the premenopausal stage (which typically starts between 45-55) can last between 7-14 years. Even paying attention to when you have more energy (some do in the day…morning sex, anyone? While others do early in the evening) can play a role.
So yeah, getting to know your body clock (and discussing your partner’s clock with them) can play a role in how much — or how little — sex you have…and that can add life or drain it from the relationship overall.
2. Comparing Your Present with Your PastGiphy
There is a wife of almost 20 years I know who, when I asked her if she thought that her husband was good in bed, she paused for a second, shrugged her shoulders, and simply said, “I was a virgin when I got married, so I have nothing to compare him to. I mean, he’s good to me.” On the flip side, there’s a now divorced couple who I also know (who almost made it to 20 years) who had multiple partners before each other while also having a deep interest in porn who once said to me, “Sometimes, there’s as much as 15 people in our bed because of all of the people from our past and the porn that we’ve seen that’s running through our heads.” Yeah, y’all can act like body counts don’t matter, but there is so much evidence out here that says otherwise — that couple just gave one that doesn’t get talked about as much as it should.
You know, one of my favorite throwback shows is King of Queens (Kevin James, Leah Remini). A few weeks ago, I watched a rerun where Doug and Carrie were talking about the images that come up in their minds, sometimes during sex. Neither was too happy about it, and I can totally see why. I mean, if sex was just about “getting off” (and it’s not), then whatever. However, AGAIN, it’s also about connecting with your partner on a mental and emotional level, and that’s hard to do if you’re there with them in the body while you’re fantasizing about a celebrity, a porn actor (porn is usually acting, don’t let it fool you) or an ex (check out “You Love Him. You Prefer Sex With Your Ex. What Should You Do?”).
And what if that is what’s going on? I once spoke with a sex therapist about this very thing. What she said is people should be less concerned about celebs (if it’s on occasion) and more concerned about that ex because rarely is sex with an ex…just about the sex.
And that’s why this point made the list. If you’re physically with your partner and mentally or emotionally with your ex at the same time, please don’t ignore that. There are definitely some unresolved issues there that you need to work through, whether it’s with a therapist, counselor, or coach, a trusted friend (who won’t add fuel to the literal fire), or even with your ex — although you might want to run that by your partner first because…I’m pretty sure you’d want him to do that with/for you. RIGHT?
3. Not Being Clear About Your Sexual NeedsGiphy
Question — if someone were to walk up to you right now and ask you what your top seven sexual needs are, along with what your top five sexual dealbreakers are, would you be able to answer? It really is kind of wild how many people get upset with their partner for not being able to sexually satisfy them when even they can’t articulate what they need/require in order for that to happen. Yeah, it’s another article for another time about how many people UNREALISTICALLY (and yes, I am yelling it) think that someone loving them well means that they should be able to read their mind. Nope.
It truly can’t be said enough that sex — especially good sex — is about communication. Hmph. It makes me think about a clip that I saw from Tonight’s Conversation podcast (can’t find it at the moment; sorry) where a woman asked how she should tell her partner that he hasn’t been pleasing her, I believe she said for years. My first thought was if he doesn’t know that, she must be faking orgasms (more on that in a bit) which is not only lying — well, it is —, but it’s also pretty counterproductive because while he thinks that he’s “getting the job done,” she’s not fulfilled and resentment is setting in.
Please don’t let rom-coms (fiction) and social media (which is oftentimes fictitious) have you out here thinking that a good lover is someone you automatically gel with who knows exactly what to do; sometimes that is the case, and oftentimes it isn’t.
So, if the sex-related issue that you’re having in your relationship is that your sexual needs aren’t being met, first do you (and your partner) a favor by doing some sex journaling (check out “The Art Of Sex Journaling (And Why You Should Do It)”) so that you can tangibly see what those needs are and then plan time within the next week or so to pour a couple of glasses of wine, put on some 90s R&B and discuss with your partner what you need. Because actually, what a good lover is, is someone who listens and retains. This brings me to the next point.
4. Minimizing Your Partner’s Sexual NeedsGiphy
A husband once told that when he and his wife were in premarital counseling, something that he mentioned was a bona fide need was fellatio. According to him, his wife told both him and their counselor that she loved giving head. Fast forward to eight years of being in their union, and guess how many times that act went down? A measly four. FOUR TIMES (check out “Sooo...What If You HATE Oral?”).
It’s another message for another time, the amount of people who will “false advertise” during the dating stage in order to get to their goal of marriage. It’s also another message for another time how much that is a form of manipulation that tends to backfire in ways that the manipulator is oftentimes not prepared for.
For now, what I will say, is never think that just because something may not be a need for you that it isn’t a legitimate one for someone else. I mean, how would you feel if that’s how someone treated you? Yeah…exactly.
Yet that is just what happens in a lot of relationships, including when it comes to their bedroom. They will think that their needs should be met, hands down, yet when their partner comes with what’s important to them, all of a sudden, there is dismissiveness, nonchalance, and/or excuses — and how could that not rear its ugly head on so many levels?
Your partner’s sexual needs are essential, even if they are not your own. Never assume that you automatically know everything about them. Also, never assume that what worked two years ago is what will “scratch the itch” now. Hmph. Come to think of it, while you’re sipping on that wine and clearly articulating to him what turns you on, use that as an opportunity to ask him to return the favor. Listen with humility, receptiveness, and intent — the best kind of relationships process their partner’s needs with this kind of vibe…across the board.
5. Taking the “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” ApproachGiphy
Lazy lovers. When you hear that phrase, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If it’s someone who is just lying there during sex, that would certainly qualify; however, I’m actually speaking of a different kind of laziness here. Believe it or not, some synonyms for lazy include words like apathetic, inattentive, tired, passive (cough, cough), procrastinating, neglectful, and slacking. So yeah, if you and/or your partner can use any of these words to define what sex is consistently like between the two of you — red flag, red flag…RED FREAKIN’ FLAG.
Speaking of being passive, another potentially serious sex-related problem is taking on the attitude that if something ain’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it. What I mean by that is, just because you know that getting on top and riding for exactly six-and-a-half minutes is what will get your partner off, that doesn’t mean that it should be your automatic go-to all of the damn time.
Why? Because. While a part of the fun of having sex is “reaching the peak,” another component that should never be underestimated is discovering new territory: trying new positions, creating a sex bucket list, taking (more) sexcations, playing sex-themed board games (put that phrase in Amazon or on Etsy’s site and go ham!)…you know, doing what will inspire creativity and deter either of you from becoming bored.
That said, a husband of 17 years once told me, “A man can be satisfied with the same woman. We just don’t want the same kind of sex with her.” Words to live by. Yes, indeed.
6. Using Sex as a Deflection or Coping MechanismGiphy
A few years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, “Make-Up Sex Might Be Doing Your Relationship More Harm Than Good” — and with good cause. Words cannot express how many divorced (or soon-to-be divorced) women have told me that a part of what kept them in their marriage, for as long as they stayed in it, was the fact that the sex with their husband was beyond amazing…even though so much other stuff completely and totally sucked. Hey, good sex isn’t a bad thing (c’mon now); however, if it’s the only real thing that’s keeping you with someone, it can turn out to be a toxic deflector.
The reason why I say that is the purpose of sex isn’t to make love; it’s to celebrate it. And if all you’re doing with your partner is f — king and fighting or avoiding issues by stripping down or thinking that sex will “make it all better,” all the while not really knowing what the problem/issue is or what needs to be done to get down to the root of it, that is using sex as a pacifier and again, that’s not what sex is designed to be. Sex doesn’t deserve the pressure of being the end-all to “fixing” ish.
So, if what’s transpiring in your relationship lately is very little talking and a whole lot of sexing, and then once the sex is over, something still feels “off,” that’s a good indication that you’re misusing sex on some level. Get out of the bed, put on a robe, and do some talking (preferably in a room other than the bedroom; leave that space for sex and sleep only as much as possible). Because remember — as much as the wives that I mentioned said that their husbands once had them climbing the walls, those men are still ex-husbands now. Bottom line, sex is good, yet when it comes to keeping a relationship together, it will never be enough. Again, it was never designed to be.
7. Faking ItGiphy
I will never be a fan of faking orgasms. Maybe it’s because I’m a Gemini (we may be a lot of things, but “fake” isn’t really our style). Maybe it’s because I’m a very word-literal individual, and I know that fake means things like “prepare or make (something specious, deceptive, or fraudulent)” and “to conceal the defects of or make appear more attractive, interesting, valuable, etc., usually in order to deceive.” Or perhaps it’s because I don’t get how acting like you’re sexually fulfilled when you actually aren’t is doing anyone any good. Whatever it is, whenever a client (or someone in general because men fakealmost as much as women do) tells me that it’s something they do, I immediately find myself on a mission to shut that mess down (check out “Why You Should Stop Faking Orgasms ASAP”). ALL THE WAY DOWN.
The main reason is that, regardless of if the motive is to hurry things along, not hurt your partner’s feelings, or it’s something more cryptic than that (cough, cough, some form of manipulation tactic), there’s no way around the fact that fakeness is tied to deception and deception is a word that should never be connected to a healthy sexual dynamic.
Besides, one could argue that faking is a form of deflection as well because…wouldn’t it be better to just get it all out in the open WHY you are doing it than to keep pretending when life is too short and great sex is too good to not get the absolute most out of it, as much as possible?
Besides, again, chances are that if you’re faking that you’re sexually pleased, you’re probably faking something else in your relationship (or situation), and how could that possibly be good, right, or beneficial?
Yeah, when it comes to being satisfied across the board, please don’t fake it. State your case in the way that you’d like to hear something said to you, and let the chips fall where they may. If you’ve got a good man, he’s gonna — no pun — rise to the occasion. If his ego can’t handle it, well…that’s something that you should find out sooner than later — when it comes to the bedroom and outside of it? Right? #shoyouright
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Featured image by Giphy