One of my mentors once told me, "To be a Black woman is to show up in spaces as Beyoncé, just to prove that you're Beyoncé." I remember when she said it, a refreshing take from the usual "work twice as hard" mantra. In fact, safe spaces such as xoNecole exist for this reason: To let it unapologetically be known who really drives society in those moments when our accomplishments are watered down.
More specifically, in the case of Raven-Symoné, one of the most impactful women of our generation, to think she would be anything other than THE Raven-Symoné may be unfathomable for you and me, but believe it or not, there was a time when people questioned it even though the actress, singer-songwriter, and multi-hyphenate, now known as Raven-Symoné Christina Pearman-Maday, is revered as one of the greatest child stars of all time.
For decades, she has carried our childhood classics, starring or appearing in movies/shows such as The Little Rascals, The Cheetah Girls, Doctor Dolittle, and so much more. Sis has been nominated for various Emmy Awards, served as a host for ABC's The View, racked up Kid’s Choice Awards, multiple Young Artist Awards, and has more NAACP Image Awards than I can count. Symoné has been GOATed since before she could talk, making her multi-generational career speak for itself.
Or, so one would think.
In 2002, she arrived at Disney at the young age of 15 to star in, produce, and creatively steer the reigns of That's So Raven, birthing one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. Yet, in a tale as old as time, according to her co-star, Anneliese van der Pol, the Disney Channel sitcom about a teen psychic in San Francisco was originally supposed to be quite different.
Van der Pol appeared on former fellow Disney star Christy Carlson Romano's podcast Vulnerable recently and broke down what "Raven" looked like.
"When I went into audition, the show was called Absolutely Psychic–it wasn't called That's So Raven at all," the actress revealed. "At the time, Raven wasn't the lead, she was the sidekick. They were looking for a lead. I came in to audition for the lead. I think the character's name was Molly. I auditioned, and a couple [of] other people auditioned. I didn't get the part — somebody else got the part — but when they filmed, they realized that Raven was the funniest one and had a following, and so they bumped her up to first position and started auditioning people again."
Me and Anneliese are revealing some Disney secrets tomorrow over at @thevulnerablepodcast … stay tuned 👀 #ravenshome #anneliesevanderpol #disneychannel #foryou #fyp
Disney then shifted the focus to Symoné and held new auditions. "I went into a big cattle call, and I finally got the part. I think the character's name was like Molly, then Emma, and then it became Chelsea. And I think it was kind of like racism at a low level, if that's even a possibility. They couldn't really see a Black girl leading a show."
"With Disney, it's like, it's not personal, it's business," Romano responded.
That's So Raven went on to air on the Disney Channel from 2003 to 2007, holding the title of the first Disney Channel show to hit the 100-episode mark...ever.
Thankfully, Symoné's main character energy how she approaches life as well, proudly showing off the fact that she is a gem to our generation.
Like the time she decided to reboot 'That's So Raven,' and introduce a new generation to 'Raven's Home' (but this time as the boss).
Raven’s Home is in its sixth season and centers around lead character, Raven Baxter, and her son Booker, who has inherited her psychic abilities, as they move to her hometown of San Francisco to look after her father, who suffered a mild heart attack.
“It feels so good to be able to see the journey of Raven Baxter as she is raising a teenage son, is taking care of her father, and finding who she is,” Raven-Symoné said. “I think that story can resonate with a lot of mothers as their children grow up. Just seeing what that means for her and how she decides to tackle life in that manner,” she told ESSENCE.
When she transitioned from hesitancy in revealing her sexuality, to openly putting on for the LGBTQ community.
#🌈 #fits #ootd
“While it was a selfish thing for me to keep my secret to myself for as long as I did, I am very happy that I’m out if only to help someone else feel comfortable,” Raven-Symoné revealed to Variety as part of their inaugural "Power of Pride" issue.
“It is about that one person who you’ll never see or meet who watches the show and feels that confidence to just say, ‘Hey, guess what? I’m gay. And if you can’t accept me, it’s okay because I see Raven pushing through.’ That feels good. It’s a hard journey, though. It’s difficult.”
Or the time she publicly opened up about depression and normalizing therapy because she knew her voice held weight.
On an episode of the podcast Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown, Raven-Symoné and her wife Miranda discussed her defense mechanisms, their individual therapy journeys, and their struggles with depression.
"At 18, I told my parents I wanted to go to therapy,” which they didn’t quite understand. “Started there,” Raven continued, “got pretty much the understanding that I have PTSD and… I don’t have bipolar syndrome, but I have depression that is in that world, so took some medicines for that.” One of which she stopped taking after it resulted in finding herself “underneath a table while filming, and could not get up."
“Growing up in the industry from the age of 16 months to 36 years old leaves an interesting trail of bread crumbs that can be used in a positive light for others, can help others, can inform others. And when it comes to me personally I’m dealing with that through my therapist.”
When she decided to take her health seriously and didn't want to make a big fuss about the weight loss that came with it.
The actress said her diet is one she has carefully educated herself on, adding, "I don't try to speak for anybody else."
"I'm not over here trying to be a little twig," the former The View co-host shared. "I'm not trying to be, like, 'Oh my God, look at me.' I have a goal in mind, and it's not just weight loss, it's really complete body health."
"The way people were treating me while I was bigger was emotionally damaging. [After I lost weight] I remember the moment I went on the red carpet, and in my head, I was cussing everyone out. I'm like, 'Wow, now you want to look at me because I'm skinny, thanks.'"
And the time she recognized her hard work and the legacy she has built by just being herself.
Raven-Symoné was so ahead of her time and basically raised a generation of women through comedy. She told Entertainment Weekly:
"It didn't impact me as much then as it does now because I was 15, I was like, cool, I got my own show. It means so much now because I understand the [gravity] of what it means and the caliber of humans that I am in the pool with. I think it was kind of a good thing that I didn't let it go to my head. It was just about working and wanting to create great content at the time."
She continued, "Whether it's like a young Black girl saying, 'You gave me the confidence to do this or that because I loved Raven Baxter,' or if it's a grown gay man who is like, 'Wow, I had the hardest time coming out, but seeing you two gives me such joy,' it's really cool."
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Featured image by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for WIF (Women In Film)
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For over a decade, Harlem’s Fashion Row has served as a safe space for creatives of color to shine bright without fear of being dimmed. This week, HFR celebrated its 16th year of providing business solutions to retailers committed to equity for Black and Latin-X design talent. This beacon has served as a bridge between retailers and designers of color through collaborations, experiential marketing, pipeline programs, and brand strategy.
Set against the backdrop of the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem, the night was nothing short of amazing as a Black hip-hop orchestra serenaded the crowd with legendary tunes from “Big Poppa” to “Moment 4 Life.” It was pure magic as the scene was set to begin the Style Awards.
Tim Weatherspoon surprised his wife, Kelly Rowland, with a heartfelt speech as he presented her with the Fashion Icon of the Year Award. “I couldn’t pass up this moment to tell you that you’ve always been my icon,” the talent manager said. He went on to share that he scoured social media to pull some compliments from the toughest of critics. Weatherspoon said, “My assumption is that these are good ‘Kelly eats the girls every time. Fire emoji, fire emoji, fire emoji.’’’
As the Destiny’s Child alum accepted her award, she proclaimed her love for “that Black man.” Rowland was full of joy and adoration as she accepted the award, reminiscing on the days when she was a little girl from Texas in a group of country girls where stylists were not jumping at the opportunity to dress them. “Tina took matters into her own hands, and she dressed us. We learned what it felt like to start a trend. I remember what it felt like — the pride in it. I also know that ‘we’ start the trends and ‘we’ make what’s cool, cool. Fashion should be grateful for us.”
L-R: Tamron Hall, Stella Jean, and Brandice Daniel
Then, the incomparable styling duo, Wayman and Micah, took to the stage to receive the Stylist of The Year Award. These two best friends were honored for their creative styling on the likes of Regina King, Tessa Thompson, Taraji P. Henson, Jodie Turner, and so many more. The partners in style applauded HFR’s founder, Brandice Daniel, for creating a table for us. “The table is marble and custom,” Micah exclaimed.
The fashion heavy hitters were absolutely in the building. Gabriela Karefa-Johnson, a New York-based stylist and VOGUE Global Contributing Fashion Editor-at-Large renowned for her eye for emerging designers and her narrative-driven approach to diversifying representation in fashion, accepted the Editor of the Year Award.
Tamron Hall sang the praises of the Designer of the Year recipient, Stella Jean, for being a visionary who not only creates whimsical pieces but takes a stand for what she believes in. “During this pivotal moment, one designer made a courageous and impactful decision. Stella Jean, an Italian-Haitian fashion visionary, took a stand in a bold and powerful move. Stella Jean pledged to return to the runway only when she would no longer be the sole Black designer on the Milan schedule.”
Johnny Nunez, the culture’s #1 photographer, reminded us of the importance of perseverance in the face of rejection while accepting the Photographer of the Year award. Just before his speech, Valeisha Butterfield, Google's Vice President of Partnerships & Engagement, gave Nunez his flowers for always making her feel seen and appreciated, which gave her the determination to be herself and take up space.
A$AP Rocky lit up the historic Apollo stage with his undeniable charm and intrinsic style. Dressed in a cardigan, Louis Vuitton tie, and a voluminous kilt while his head was adorned with embellished hair clips, he was walking proof that he’s a fashion, music, and culture innovator just like the name of the award he was receiving, the Virgil Abloh Award. For this Harlem native, it was a full circle moment as Abloh helped the rapper with his start in the industry years ago when he helped design his first album cover.
Designers Megan Renee, Nicole Benefiled Portfolio, and A. Potts showcased their transformational designs, which varied in style, texture, and color. Megan Renee's designs were inspired by unapologetic femininity. Nicole Benefiled Portfolio's designs were more geometric and modern, with a focus on clean lines and bright colors. A. Potts' designs were eclectic and playful, with a focus on mixed patterns and bold colors. All three designers created unique and eye-catching pieces that turned heads.
The show concluded with a beautiful tribute to hip-hop by the legendary Doug E. Fresh. The entire show was a celebration of all that is good about fashion, and it was a reminder of why the culture continues to inspire and influence people all over the world. HFR’s New York Fashion Week kickoff was a love letter to the culture, and it was delivered with nothing but style, care, and love.
Feature image by Shutterstock