How Q. Nicole Is Breaking The 'Grass' Ceiling In The World Of Cannabis
Gummies, tinctures, edibles. Indica, Sativa, or hybrid. No matter how you consume this multifarious plant, cannabis's ability to shape-shift emphasizes the many ways it can be enjoyed as well as the plethora of business opportunities that can stem from it. For decades, stigmas surrounding cannabis and marijuana have prevented Black women from experiencing the joys of computation along with the health benefits that the plant provides. From decreasing stress and easing anxiety, to relieving joint pain, migraines, and menstrual cramps, this plant has a lot more to offer than the cultural taboos that ellipse it.
Today, the cannabis industry continues to climb as one of the largest growing markets in the country, projected to reach $30 Billion by 2025, through the Farm Bill of 2018 and the reclassification of cannabis in 2020. Although this comes with its restrictions, this shift in the regulation has opened the door for opportunities surrounding hemp-derived products to be explored by those who have been disproportionately left out of the industry. As a result, one woman is on the mission to not only destigmatize the language around cannabis while equipping Black folks with the tools (and kits) needed to launch their own CBD empire.
Like most ambition-driven women, Q. Nicole started her corporate career with a plan. "I'm Generation X, and we were taught college + good job = financial security." Upon graduating from college, Q. would soon become a six-figure earner with a rampant 12-year career trajectory that laid the foundation to eventually, "walk on water" and live out what she calls "a cushiony life." But even the most diligent readiness could not prepare her for the abrupt passing of her father in 2013.
At the time, she found herself drowning in the grief of the recent loss while attempting to balance the demand of her transition from corporate life into full-time entrepreneurship. The hectic nature of her work-life balance triggered a deep emotional response that was so unfamiliar, she knew it was time to seek professional help. Shortly after, her therapist diagnosed her with delayed PTSD, a response to her father's death. Her loss triggered an inability to cope.
Courtesy of Q. Nicole
During the heaviest points of Q.'s healing process, she was recommended by a psychiatrist to explore opioids to balance her mood. Yet, something about the drug didn't sit right with her, so she sought alternative options. Since medicinal marijuana was legal in her state, she was able to get approved for a license to explore plant-based options to deal with the anxiety and depression that were a result of her PTSD. "That was my introduction to the space as someone who genuinely was a patient." She continues, "I was broken, emotionally. I was in a very fragile place and cannabis saved my life."
This turning point allowed Q. to regain control of her life and reestablish her emotional and professional momentum. Now, Q. Nicole leads WH Farms, a five-acre, three-greenhouse farm located in Eastern North Carolina. She aims to equip Black folks with everything needed to build their own consumable products through the CBD Business Launch Kits and puff, puff, pass the baton into the booming hemp industry that awaits them.
xoNecole: Tell us more about the work you do with WH Farms.
Q. Nicole: Our farmers are African-American legacy farmers which is huge to our story. We're growing with farmers who have had this land for 100s of years, from their sharecropper ancestors who were first-generation slaves. So that's a part of the heritage that we're proud of when purchasing products. I'm a country girl and I've always felt like mobilization is a part of my purpose. WH Farms currently has 200 acres of land that we can pull from. The farmers wanted to protect themselves from large corporations that sought to extract from their land and not pay them their worth. So we wanted to partner with them and whatever our overflow was, we could source it from legacy farmers.
Were there any stigmas that you had to detach yourself from before exploring cannabis?
I had my preconceived notions. I came from corporate real estate development, so everything I did was about my career advancement. Playing with what was considered a drug was very "anti" my professional development path. But I was open to understanding the medicinal benefits because I saw so many high-profile professionals using it. I would be in conversations with physicians and surgeons and they would talk about how they would grow the plant at home. It made me realize that society had established a stigma that was "urban", but in reality, the plant wasn't just for "urban" use. I became a little bit more open-minded, but at that time of transitioning into full-time entrepreneurship, I did what I needed to do to not compromise my professional standing.
You have a background in real estate and corporate development. What was the transition like for you pivoting from the corporate world into entrepreneurship?
Being in real estate and understanding a number of things about the economy and marketing, I understood that the cannabis industry was exploding and I wanted to be a part of the solution. I wanted to be a part of bringing it to the market for the other corporate, straight-laced individuals, especially African-American women like myself who would otherwise suffer in Corporate America because of the stress that comes along with being an achiever. They place more on you, they expect more from you.
You have the responsibility on the shoulders as the woman and now she's in this corporate environment struggling. But here's this plant that she can drop in her coffee in the morning and have a completely different experience. It was so important for me as a corporate girl to come to the table and say, "Listen, [cannabis] is nothing to be afraid of. Stress is a silent killer and if we're not able to identify ways to relieve our stress in a very tangible way, on a daily basis, then we're going to find ourselves as a community losing to some of these silent killers."
"It was so important for me as a corporate girl to come to the table and say, 'Listen, [cannabis] is nothing to be afraid of. Stress is a silent killer and if we're not able to identify ways to relieve our stress in a very tangible way, on a daily basis, then we're going to find ourselves as a community losing to some of these silent killers.'"
Courtesy of Q.Nicole
How do you see the match between Black creativity and the hemp-derived product industry complementing one another?
I see nothing but Black wealth, Black advancement, and Black opportunity. This is why I'm so passionate about the Launch Kits and what our farm does. We know this plant, maybe not the technical-scientific data, but we know the way it makes people feel, we know the weight, we know how much it's worth. When you take that transferable skill and talk about the Black men who are a part of STEM programs looking for ways to add cannabis to technology, that skill is helpful.
Cannabis goes well in so many different forms, it has chemical qualities that help with hair growth and fight acne. There are ways that the industry needs to be supported by science, manufacturing, technology, and chemistry. So when you talk about a group of people who have certain soft skills and are already exposed to the plant, we're not starting from scratch, we're starting from a basic understanding of it.
How were you able to adapt to the shift in your purpose?
I don't think that I ever shifted purpose. I understood very early in my purpose walk that my purpose would always expand. Jullien Gordon [real estate entrepreneur] and I were professional buddies, and he shared that, 'if it's truly your purpose, it'll always just expand into a new version of itself.' WH Farms is just a continuation and expansion of the same purpose: I educate and empower. There's a lot of people who don't know about cannabis.
Since I grow it, I can educate them and empower them to have their own CBD product line and be positioned to take advantage of what this industry has to offer. As a business owner and CEO, I always want to build a business that helps people create more than they already have, learn more than they already know, and believe they can have more than they already have.
You’ve tapped into two industries (real estate and cannabis) that are known for their high return and opportunity for growth. How has navigating these growing markets shaped your views on generational wealth?
It's taught me that generational wealth is a goal and it should be an expectation, but it should never be confused with something that's easy. I think it is a necessary collective reset because it's a great buzzword, but what does it really take? To be a woman in the entrepreneur space, I've had to fight to not be backdoored on deals not only to get respect but to receive the compensation I deserve. Same for the cannabis industry.
It's still the Wild Wild West, it's still a developing industry and because of that, it takes courage, bravery, and the ability to manage risk. The guts that it takes to play in these spaces for generational wealth reminds me that it's something that isn't free, it comes with a price and it comes with perseverance. It's not always easy but it's always purpose, it's always valuable, and my ancestors also fought for it.
"The guts that it takes to play in these spaces for generational wealth reminds me that it's something that isn't free, it comes with a price and it comes with perseverance. It's not always easy but it's always purpose, it's always valuable, and my ancestors also fought for it."
Courtesy of Q.Nicole
I think sometimes there’s a push to encourage women to go after entrepreneurship, but we’re rarely told how to balance the weight of it. As a serial entrepreneur yourself, what are some tools that help you find balance in all that you put your hands to?
I find that there's never balance, it's only harmony and that's the first permission that I gave myself. I seek harmony and that gives me a different metric to measure by. Everyone knows I have my phone on 'Do Not Disturb' from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. That's because I have to hear myself. All calls are scheduled and I don't do a lot of distractions. I have to make sure that I am able to bring forth what I feel I'm supposed to be putting into this business and stay ahead of it.
I work in chunks, I'm big on grounding, I make sure I do meditation in the morning, and I love my CBD tinctures and smokable herbs in the morning -- it helps with mental focus and gathering my thoughts. I leave work at work and keep home at home; I am a person who attempts to separate the two. I think that the way to be present in these various relationships, especially my relationship as a wife and my role as a wife because that is certainly a priority for me before business. I don't let things bleed, I'm very compartmentalized.
"I think we have to give ourselves grace in the human experience and the permission to turn the poison of our mistakes, of the doubt, setbacks, and the hate into the medicine that fuels us and turn it into lessons and inspiration."
Courtesy of Q. Nicole
What advice would you share for those starting in entrepreneurship?
Learn how to comfortably turn poison into medicine. You're going to fail, you're going to fall, things aren't going to go right, it's going to be stressful. You may look at yourself and say, am I actually doing it right? All of these aspects of the journey are pretty uniform to everyone's journey because this is the journey. And I think we have to give ourselves grace in the human experience and the permission to turn the poison of our mistakes, of the doubt, setbacks, and the hate into the medicine that fuels us and turn it into lessons and inspiration.
To learn more about how you can get your own CBD Business Launch Kit, click here. To stay connected to Q.Nicole's mission, follow her here.
Courtesy of Q. Nicole
Aley Arion is a writer and digital storyteller from the South, currently living in sunny Los Angeles. Her site, yagirlaley.com, serves as a digital diary to document personal essays, cultural commentary, and her insights into the Black Millennial experience. Follow her at @yagirlaley on all platforms!
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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French Curl Braids Are Summer's It Girl Hairstyle & Here's How To Wear Them
There’s just something about the summertime that makes a Black woman want to break out a fresh set of braids. Maybe it’s the ease of waking up and knowing that of all things on your to-do list, doing your hair isn’t one of them. Or maybe it’s the versatility that comes with the braided tresses that inspire you to want to try out a new style.
While traditional knotless braids and box braids have taken the crown for the last few summers, the word on the hair streets is that there’s a new style that’s stealing the show.
French curl braids have become the latest and most fly braiding style to take over our TikTok ‘’For You” page. What makes the style stand out from traditional box braids with the straight, dipped ends is the unique curly braiding hair that is used to achieve a bouncy spring to the ends of each braid. You might even recognize the look from OG-braid queen Brandy, who rocked the style so effortlessly in her 90’s sitcom Moesha.
The style has since found new innovations in the hands and creativity of Black women (as we do) to take on different styles, layers, and colors that are versatile enough to wear for any day party, graduation, wedding, or poolside you might find yourself at this summer.
Get Inspired by the Best French Curl Braids Inspiration & Styles:
The French curl braiding hair comes in packs of pre-curled synthetic hair, which has been praised for its lightweight yet voluminous look that truly makes a statement.
And if you’re looking to switch your style up for the summer months ahead, we’ve put together the best French curl braiding looks to add to your moodboard and, hopefully, your summer hair lookbook.
Half-Black & Half-Blonde French Curl Braids With a Buss Down Middle Part
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come along to get small knotless french curl braids with me - I was so curious about the process and hestiant about getting them intially so I hope this helps someone out! #frenchcurlbraids #knotlessbraids #harlembraidsnyc #harlembraidingshop #nycbraiders
Ways I like to style my French Curl braids 🏾 Love how versatile braids can be! #braids #frenchcurlbraids #texturedhair #layeredbraids
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