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)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
It is Eartha Kitt who once said, “Aging has a wonderful beauty, and we should have respect for that.” I couldn’t agree more. That’s why, it really does get under my skin, that we live in a culture that is almost obsessed with staying young. Why? Don’t you want to grow, evolve…mature? That’s why I’m also not big on people who are damn near obsessed with looking 20 years younger than they are. Nah, personally, I think the goal of looking great for and at your age is where it’s at because, as my mother (who ages remarkably well) used to say, “I’ve earned every year. I don’t want to be looking like a child when I’m not.” (It’ll preach.)
This kind of wisdom is the type of hindsight that cannot be matched. Because again, while getting older shouldn’t be anything that any of us are afraid of or ashamed to do, wouldn’t it be great if we were more proactive than reactive when it comes to how we take care of ourselves — so that as we do age (and it is inevitable), we will age…gracefully…seamlessly…beautifully?
That’s why I took the time to ask 15 women in their 40s to share some things that they wish they had done in their 20s as far as physical beauty is concerned. Look at it as me doing a solid for any of you younger readers who really think that “I woke up like this” will last…forever. It won’t. And if you settle into that very real reality by taking good care of yourself now, the 40s will be where you actually end up looking better than ever.
*Middle names are used in all of my interview pieces, so that people can speak freely, no matter what the topic may be.*
“Some women aren’t gonna like this but, Black can crack. I see it often; especially when I look at a lot of these women’s necks — even celebrities. You can look like you’re 29 in the face but because you didn’t take care of your neck when you were in your 20s, it’s out here looking like it should be in a nursing home. That part of your skin ages and sags like everything else. I wish I had cared about that back in the day. I do now and yes young women, moisturize your neck every night and every morning. I personally use a combination of rosehip oil and lavender because they help to stimulate collagen production. Don’t wait until you have tree rings. Do it…now.”
“I wish I had taken better care of my breasts. Not [just] as far as my health; as far as their appearance. When you’re in your 20s, everything is perky and unicorns. Hit 35 and you start to notice that your girls like your feet more than your neck. Doing some exercises to make your pecs more prominent and applying some cocoa or shea butter every night are little things that can keep them youthful. Don’t wait. A breast lift is an option but those aren’t cheap. And if you can avoid paying what a used car costs to keep your breasts sittin’ high, why not do that now?”
“It might sound weird but I wish I had laid off of my protective styles more. It’s like we’ve forgotten that the point of them is to grow our hair out but that can’t happen if we’re never giving our hair a break from all of the tension that comes from tight-ass braids and twists. Now my edges are suffering and that can make you look older than you are. Those ‘Brandy braids’ are cute, girl, but so is having a full hairline. Don’t live in a protective style — your future self is screaming this at you.”
“I wish I drank less. I had a good time, trust me. But drinking on the weekends and then having drinks a couple of nights a week after work took its toll. My skin feels drier and it takes more work to keep it moisturized. These days, [I] eat edibles instead. It’s healthier and it has compounds in it that can slow down the aging process. Oh, to be young again.”
“I wish I had incorporated some sort of hand care. If anything takes wear and tear on a constant basis, it’s our hands and we’ll be out here having a beauty regimen for everything but those. Now my hands are starting to look older than I would like and so I’m having to work overtime to get rid of some fine lines and fragile-looking skin. What I do is get hand facials every couple of months. Look to see what spas or salons offer them. It makes a really big difference on your hands. Your arms too.”
“I’m the most comfortable sleeping on my side but it’s not the best for my face — anyone’s face, really. I used to hear that it would cause wrinkles but when those aren’t something that you have to worry about, you don’t care. I’m starting to see a few around my lips and so now I’m on my back more often. I’m thinking that if I had cared about this in college, avoiding wrinkles would not be on my list of concerns at this age.”
“Stay off of acidic drinks. Your teeth will age just like everything else and sodas and orange juice doesn’t help. Think about the people you know who look one way…until they smile. Then they look 10-15 years older. Go to the dentist regularly and schedule a professional whitening appointment. White teeth make you look younger. Just take good care of them. You’ll be glad that you did, if you do.”
Jaye. 44.“Gray hair is a blessing but my grandmother always told me that it can come in prematurely — and a part of what causes that to happen is stress and a poor diet. When you’re young, you don’t care about stuff like that. But let those first ones creep in around your hairline and suddenly, you’re looking for all kinds of hacks. My advice? That man, that job, and that relative that is already making you want to pull your hair out? Let them go. Your hair can’t take it. And all of that junk food you’re consuming? I still hit a drive-thru but these days, it’s more like a couple of times a month instead of during every lunch break.”
“Get your legs waxed. All of that razor shaving can cause discoloration or leave razor marks that can make your skin look older over time. Plus, it creates ingrown hairs and something about those can make you look older too.”
“Stop not taking sleep seriously. When you’re 25, you can go on four hours of sleep for days on end but it catches up to you. Sleep is what rejuvenates you and if you don’t get it, eventually you will look like it. I have dark circles that I’ve been trying to get rid of and a part of it is due to years of no sleep catching up to me. Whatever it is, it can wait until you’ve had at least seven hours. Don’t listen if you don’t want to. One day you will look in the mirror and wish that you did.”
“I wish I had spent more time outdoors. It’s no secret that Black people have more of a vitamin D deficiency than anyone else but trying to pile up on supplements when you’re older is a lot. When you’re at restaurants, eat on the patio. Sit on your back deck to read a book. Go for a walk in the mornings. I’m dealing with some hair loss stuff right now and it’s partly because I need more vitamin D. And thinning hair makes you look older than you should.”
“Waist trainers are bad for you. I wish those damn things would go away. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get that a snatched waist can take a few years off. Hell, I know that I took mine for granted back in my 20s. Snack on bananas and berries. Do some cardio even if that’s power walking through the mall. Stop drinking cold stuff so much. It might sound like a mama’s tale, but drinking things at room temperature reduces bloating. There are other things that you can do to get the curves that you want without smashing your organs. Lord.”
“I wish I cared more about my damn arms. Nothing makes you look older quicker than your upper arms not being in good shape. Get some five-pound free weights and set aside 15 minutes. Dry brush those bad boys; it’ll keep dimples from showing up. Keep them extra moisturized, so that those annoying little bumps won’t show up. And use sunscreen. The sun doesn’t know if you’re Black or not. It comes for us too.”
“Have a professional care for your skin. There are a billion things that you can do at home but an aesthetician is trained to figure out what works best and what doesn’t. Facials, microdermabrasion, and chemical peels from time to time have all played a role in me starting to look younger. If I had taken preventative measures, it would’ve kept some money in my pocket because I wouldn’t be going quite as much as I do now.”
“I wish I had been more choosy about my sex partners so that I could’ve had wilder sex. Listen to Auntie here. There is some stuff that good sex will do for you and aging that no cosmetic can. Sweat out those toxins. Work out that core. Take in some of that sperm. Just do it with a man you can trust and you can be totally free with instead of these knuckleheads. Yeah, better mate selection is the beauty tip that I recommend — and stop acting like it’s a rite of passage to start this at 35. Get a good man now and sit down somewhere. So that you can lay down in peace. That’s what I’ve got for you.”
Pass the plate around for Payce, y’all. As far as beauty and maturity go, she just preached — to women of ALL ages! Amen? Amen.
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