In xoNecole's Our First Year series, we take an in-depth look at love and relationships between couples with an emphasis on what their first year of marriage was like.
For Billboard-charting hip-hop artist Call Me Ace, he met his match when he met his now-wife, attorney Roza Patterson, at his college birthday party. On this particular night, in 2011, Ace and Roza shared with each other their ambitions and their dreams after college. With both of them living in two different states, they had no idea that the strength of their connection would withstand the physical distance between them.
According to Ace, what drew him to Roza was the fact that "she loves so much. She has taught me to be less self-centered." For Roza, "it's the way he celebrates other people. He is so supportive of others." This couple maintained their long-distance love until they finally walked down the aisle in 2016.
For Roza and Ace, this month marks their five-year anniversary and they have centered their marriage in being aligned spiritually and purposefully. With combining their Jamaican and Ethiopian cultures, Ace and Roza made it their mission to build together in love and serve each other to reach the ultimate #RelationshipGoals. With Ace being an artist, his recent song "Love Goals" talks about the core principles of his marriage, and how he and Roza continue to work hard and trust in God to take them to the top.
When you love someone, having faith as your foundation helps you get through the best of times and the worst of times. Ace mentions, "Instead of thinking of these instances as negative, we took these moments as opportunities to help build together in this project called marriage." Whether you are married, engaged, or in the beginning stages of dating, a partnership is about togetherness. It highlights the importance of focusing on the journey of love and trusting that your faith will guide you to the ultimate destination.
Courtesy of Ace and Roza
In this installment of xoNecole's "Our First Year", Ace and Roza share how they kept their love alive during long-distance, how they keep God as their foundation, and truly support each other's dreams in their marriage.
Here's their story:
How They Met
Ace: I recently graduated from Columbia University and was having a birthday party on campus. A mutual friend of ours attended the party and Roza came with [the mutual friend]. My first impression of Roza was I thought she was a literal angel. I never met anyone like her. I was fresh out of college and I didn't have much. So after talking to Roza for a while, I compared what she was doing with her life versus where I was in my life. I couldn't even be her friend because I figured I was going to mess up her life (laughs). My attitude was that she was doing so great for herself, so she should just leave me or she would regret it (laughs).
Roza: I really didn't know anyone at the party. So to make myself more comfortable, I figured I would talk to the birthday boy. We basically talked all night and we exchanged social media information. Ace was definitely the most interesting person I talked to that night. When I met Ace, I thought he was a good listener. At the time, I recently got out of a relationship, so I wasn't looking to hop into another one. Even though I liked talking with him, I really didn't think anything would happen between us.
Roza: When I met Ace, I had made a commitment with the Lord that I would not take action into anything unless hearing from the Lord first. A lot of people say "when you know you know" and for me I patiently waited for the Lord to tell me that Ace was my person. When the moment finally happened, it was all excitement from then on out.
Ace: Roza and I were long-distance the entire time before we got married. At a point in our relationship, Roza had a choice to choose between Columbia [my alma mater] or a school in the UK. She chose the school in London. I was mad at the situation because I took it as a sign that we weren't meant to be together.
But one day, while I was praying and writing in my journal, I heard this question, "Has Roza wronged you in any way? If so, leave. But if not, you should love her through this." I took that as a sign that if this is God's will, then so be it. So after Roza's Master's program was over, I was convinced that if we can make it through an international long-distance relationship, we can make it through anything.
"A lot of people say 'when you know you know' and for me I patiently waited for the Lord to tell me that Ace was my person. When the moment finally happened, it was all excitement from then on out."
Courtesy of Ace and Roza
The Big Day
Roza: One thing I do remember on our wedding day is that Ace actually surprised me with a song. I was completely shocked (laughs). Ace and I planned our wedding to a T. But after our first dance, I see the DJ walking over with the mic. I'm telling the DJ we don't need the mic, it's fine (laughs). But little did I know, Ace started performing his song and I was blown away. Ace told me when we were planning the wedding that he didn't want me to stress and that his job was to make me happy. He definitely did that.
Ace: One thing I remember is that when the wedding was all done, we ran into another married couple. They had this huge white old-school car and Roza and I asked if we could take a picture with them and their buggy. Then, we were slick and got them to take our picture by ourselves in front of their car (laughs). It was one of the dopest pictures ever.
Roza: When Ace graduated from Columbia, he started at an unpaid internship. In my head I thought, 'Who starts an unpaid internship after college, we need to be getting jobs.' (laughs). So basically, he didn't have any money. I started to wonder if he would be able to provide for me in the future. I struggled with this and even thought about giving up on our relationship. But I am glad the Lord worked with me on that. I value security and I believe everyone does. But finances is not what I wanted to base our relationship on. In the end, he is providing for me more than I can ever imagine now. So I am glad I let go of that.
Ace: So the challenges as far as culture, what we like to eat, or different sleeping patterns hit us after we got married. But for us, it wasn't really a challenge per se. It was actually pretty fun. We have never lived together before, so it was all new for us and we were able to experience everything for the first time together. Instead of thinking of these instances as negative, we took these moments as opportunities to see how we build together in this project called marriage.
Ace: My biggest fear, and I am still working through this, I just want to be a good husband. In the beginning, I feared that our relationship would crumble because of me. The way I grew up, I didn't have a lot of role models on what a healthy black relationship looked like. All of it was new for me and even my family. So there's this pressure to not mess things up. But I submit my fears to the Lord and it is an everyday choice to trust in God and lead in loving one another.
Roza: One of my biggest fears was that we had different upbringings. I am Ethopian-American and he's Jamaican. My other siblings married other Ethiopians, so I was scared about how our different cultural backgrounds would blend together. I struggled between if my family would accept him or if I should do what my siblings did, because that's easier.
But God is so gracious, because I learned that above anything, you and your partner comes first. If I would have listened to those fears, I would have lost out on this amazing man and our beautiful marriage. When you are with someone that you know you love, don't use money, looks, culture, etc. as an excuse to break that up.
"If I would have listened to those fears, I would have lost out on this amazing man and our beautiful marriage. When you are with someone that you know you love, don't use money, looks, culture, etc. as an excuse to break that up."
Courtesy of Ace and Roza
Ace: One of the scriptures in the Bible, it says love doesn't demand its own way. I think that is so powerful because in marriage, we are both individuals with our own perspectives. So it is not about living your life your own way anymore. It is about how we mend things together into one. One of the ways we keep our marriage intact is we have these relationship summits. We are working on a better name for them (laughs).
Every quarter, we travel somewhere and take a couple of days to sit and talk. Whatever are the hot topics in our marriage during that time, we have a chance to talk them through and our goals moving forward. This is really our safe space for one another to lay everything out on the table and the other person's job is to actively listen. I am really thankful for those times.
Roza: One of the lessons I have learned is that you can not treat love as a feeling. In marriage, love is action. Love translates through service. You can give without loving, but you can't love without giving. With that said, it's important to remind yourself that there are times you will show you love your partner whether you feel like it or not. I have to show up no matter what for my teammate.
"One of the lessons I have learned is that you can not treat love as a feeling. In marriage, love is action. Love translates through service."
Ace: A happy wife is a happy life. Period (smiles).
Roza: The only competition in your marriage is to see who can outserve each other. Marriage should not be for tit for tat. You should be serving your partner simply because that is what you are called to do.
For more of Ace and Roza, follow them on Instagram @rozapatterson and @callmeacelegit. You can also check out Ace's most recent album, Out of Office, here.
Featured image courtesy of Ace and Roza
This was first evident more than a decade ago when she quit her job as the corporate executive of a Fortune 500 company during a Periscope livestream. “I’m not sure if there’s an alignment of [our] future trajectory. I’m going to work for myself. I'm promoting myself to work for myself,” she said at the time before flashing a smile at the viewing audience. As she resigned on camera, a constant stream of encouraging messages floated upwards on the screen.
By 2021, she’d fashioned her work as a corporate consultant and her personal life with her husband and three adopted daughters into a reality show, She’s The Boss, for USA Network. This year, she released the New York Times bestselling memoir Nothing Is Missing, written as she was in the process of getting a divorce and dealing with her eldest daughter’s struggles with substance use.
Convinced that there’s no way the 39-year-old has achieved all of this without intentional strategic planning, I asked her about it when we spoke less than a week before Christmas. I’d seen videos on social media of her working on 2024 planning for other brands, and I wanted to know what that looked like following her own year of success.
She listed a number of goals, including ensuring that the projects she takes on in the new year align with her identity “as a Black woman, as an African woman, as a mother, as someone who has lived a [rebuilding] season and is now trying to live boldly and entirely as themselves.” But, I was shocked by how much of her business planning also prioritized rest.
Despite the bestselling book, a self-titled podcast, and working with numerous corporations, Walters said she’s been taking Fridays off. This year, she doesn’t want to work on Mondays, either.
“A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement,” she said, noting that she’ll check in with herself around March to see how successful this plan has been. The goal, Walters said, is to only be working on Tuesdays and Thursdays by sometime in 2025. “It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to have happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change.”
"A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement... It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change."
Walters said the decision to progressively work less was partially in response to her previously held notions about her career, especially as an entrepreneur. “When I first started, I thought burnout was a part of it,” she said. “What I didn’t realize is that even if you’re able to bounce out of burnout or get back to it, there’s a cumulative impact on your body. If you think of your body as a tree and every time you go through burnout, you are taking a hack out of your trunk, yes, that trunk will heal over, and the tree will continue to grow, but it doesn't mean that you don’t have a weakened stem.”
But, the desire for increased rest was also in response to the major shifts that occurred three years ago when she was experiencing major changes in her family and realized her metaphorical tree was “bending all the way over.”
“One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity,” she added. “That is some language that I think is just now starting to really get unpacked.” In recent years, there’s been an increased awareness of achieving balance in life, with Tricia Hersey’s “The Nap Ministry” gaining attention based on the idea that rest, especially for Black women, is a form of resistance. Even online phrases such as “soft life” and “quiet quitting” have hinted at a cultural shift in prioritizing leisure over professional ambition.
"One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity."
If companies are lining up to consult with Walters about their brands and products, then women have been looking to her for guidance on starting over since she invited them to livestream her resignation 12 years ago. As viewers continue to demand more from content creators in the form of intimate, personal details, Walters has navigated her personal brand with a sense of transparency without oversharing the vulnerable details about her life, especially when it comes to her family.
The entrepreneur said she’d been approached to write a book for several years and was initially convinced she was finally ready to write one about business. “I started to do that, and then I went through my divorce. When that happened, I said, why would I write a book telling people to get the life that I have when I’m not sure about the life that I have,” she said.
Instead, she decided to write Nothing Is Missing and provide a closer look at her life, starting with being born to immigrant Ghanaian parents (“You need to know my childhood to know why I’m passionate about entrepreneurship.”) through the adoption of her three daughters and eventual divorce. Despite her desire to share, however, she said she felt protective of the privacy of her family, including her ex-husband.
When discussing this with me, Walters said she was reminded of a lesson she learned from actress Kerry Washington, who released her own memoir, Thicker Than Water, just a week before Walters’ book release. Washington’s memoir grapples with family secrets, too, specifically the fact that she was conceived using a sperm donor and didn’t learn about it until she was already a successful TV star. While Washington reflects on how the decision and subsequent deception impacted her, she’s also careful to hold space for her parents’ experiences, too. “A lot of things she said was that she had to recognize where she was the supporting character and where she was the main character,” Walter said.
This is something Walter worked to do in Nothing Is Missing when discussing her daughter’s struggles with addiction. “I was very intentional about making sure that I did not reveal more than what was required,” she said. “If I say something about someone’s addiction, I don’t need to go into the list of the substances they used, how they used them, what I found. [I don’t need to] walk into a room and paint a picture of what it looked like for people to understand.”
Walters said some of the most vulnerable moments in the book barely made a ripple once it was released. She was extremely nervous to write about getting an abortion, she said. But no one has asked her about this in the months since the book was released. Instead, people have been more interested in quirkier revelations, such as the fact that she once appeared on Wheel of Fortune.
“I have bared my soul about this thing I went through in my youth that has changed me for people, and people are like, ‘So how heavy was the wheel when you spun it?’” she said, chuckling. “It just goes to show that people never worry about the thing that you worry about.”
With the success of Nothing Is Missing, Walters said she still isn’t planning to release a business book at the moment. But, as she navigates parenting a teenager and two adult children while also navigating a relationship with her new fiancé, Walters said she believes she has at least one or two more books to write about her personal journey. “There is sort of an arc of where my life has gone that I know I’ve got something more to say about this that I think is important, relevant and necessary,” she said.
In just three years, Walters’ life has undergone a major transformation. There’s no telling what the next three years will have in store for her, but it seems likely she’ll retain an inspired audience wherever life takes her.
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In the ever-evolving world of music, Black women are owning the scene and rewriting the rules. From soulful beats to empowering lyrics, these artists are not just making hits; they're also dropping gems on their self-care practices and career game-changing moments. In this exclusive feature, we delve into the worlds of four remarkable talents—Victoria Monét, Coco Jones, Flo Milli, and Maiya the Don—who have not only risen to prominence but are also setting new standards in their respective genres.
The music industry has witnessed a renaissance with the emergence of these gifted artists, each contributing a unique sound and perspective. Victoria Monét, celebrated for her soulful R&B creations, has captivated audiences with her enchanting vocals and lyrical prowess. Meanwhile, Coco Jones has seamlessly transitioned from Disney star to a formidable force in the music scene, demonstrating her versatility and commanding presence. Flo Milli brings a fresh sound to rap with a distinct sound and flow, while Maiya the Don stands out with her catchy lyrics and unapologetic confidence.
These talented women have not only achieved success in their respective genres but have also become advocates for self-care and champions of important career lessons. As we explore their journeys, we uncover the secrets behind their self-care routines and the invaluable lessons they've learned along the way.
My admiration for Victoria Monét's artistry began in 2019 when her single "Ass Like That" captured my heart. Fast forward to 2021, "Coastin" marked a pivotal moment, earning her a spot on the 2022 BET Awards pre-show. Attending the FLO concert in April 2023, in Atlanta, I witnessed Victoria Monét's heartwarming support for emerging talents as she presented flowers to the UK-based girl group.
June 2023 saw the release of "On My Mama," solidifying Victoria Monét's industry presence, and is still climbing the charts peaking at #35 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In a recent interview, she shared the personal journey behind the song, written during her struggle with postpartum depression in 2021. Notably, her daughter Hazel Monét, at just two years old, is the youngest Grammy nominee in history for her vocals on "Hollywood" from Victoria's album Jaguar II.
With seven Grammy nominations at this year’s awards, Victoria stands as the second-highest nominee, trailing only behind SZA. As the anticipation builds for the 2024 Grammy Awards, it's evident that Victoria’s exceptional contributions to music will take center stage, adding another layer to my journey as a fan.
When asked about the biggest lesson in her career, Victoria shared insights into her longevity in the business.
“I feel like the recurring theme is just being consistent. Keeping at it because, in this industry, nothing is overnight. It's the consistency and motivation to keep going. Striving to be the best and see yourself where you want to be,” she exclusively told xoNecole.
From her infectious smile gracing Disney Channel screens to her recent captivating portrayal of Hilary Banks in the reimagined Bel-Air series on Peacock, Coco Jones has undergone a remarkable journey since her early days in the spotlight. Witnessing her evolution, especially for those who grew up watching her on the small screen, has been exhilarating. Now armed with a Grammy nomination and a soul-stirring EP titled What I Didn't Tell You, released on November 4, 2022, Coco Jones has transcended being just a familiar face to become a formidable force in the entertainment industry.
The narrative of Coco's transition from Disney Channel darling to a versatile artist making waves in Hollywood embodies her resilience and talent. Fans and critics eagerly await the next chapter in her career as she seamlessly navigates between roles and mediums. Let's not overlook the impact of her hit single "ICU," a game-changer that secured her a well-deserved spot on the Billboard charts, peaking at an impressive #62. This not only marked a significant milestone in Coco's career but also highlighted her undeniable talent and versatility as an artist.
When we asked her about the biggest lesson in her career, Coco had this to say about her multi-talented career journey.
“The biggest lesson that I've learned is that sometimes things aren't gonna make sense, but you still have to go through the confusion to get to the end result,” she said. “And then hopefully things add up, and even if they don't, you learn something about yourself, so just keep going through it.”
The first bar that made me fall in love with rising star Flo Milli was “Dicks up when I step in the party.” Her distinct flow on beats speaks volumes about her artistry, bringing a unique dimension to each composition, whether it's navigating bass-heavy tracks or exploring more melodic tones.
A pivotal moment in Flo Milli's career was the collaboration with Baby Tate on the anthem "I Am," resonating with women everywhere. Its empowering message and infectious nature led to viral popularity on TikTok, turning it into a cultural phenomenon. During her first tour, You Still Here, Ho? Flo Milli's live performance transcended traditional hip-hop boundaries, offering a journey through beats and bars.
The added perk of a meet-and-greet package provided a personal connection, allowing fans to meet the artist behind the music. The culmination of my admiration for Flo Milli reached new heights during our interview at the 2023 BET Hip Hop Awards, solidifying her enduring impact on the modern female hip-hop scene.
We asked her about how she prioritizes her self-care in the midst of her “Thanks For Coming Here, Ho” tour and preparing for her highly anticipated upcoming album, Fine Ho, Stay.
“I make sure I get massages every two weeks. I always make sure I keep facial appointments. Of course, you gotta keep up with yourself, but also prioritizing time to have fun,” she explained. “I was working crazy straight for years, and I was like, ‘Damn, before you know it, I’m not gonna be young anymore.’ It’s very important to prioritize being happy in life and making sure you're doing what makes you happy.”
Maiya the Don
In the heart of Brooklyn, where vibrant energy meets artistic innovation, Maiya the Don has emerged as a musical force. Her rising star status gained momentum with the TikTok sensation "Tefly," captivating global audiences and showcasing the unique blend of style and sound that reflects her proud Brooklyn identity.
"Tefly" not only introduced us to Maiya the Don's undeniable talent but marked the beginning of a remarkable musical journey, leaving an indelible mark with her distinct voice and genre-defying approach. Building on the success of this viral hit, subsequent singles like "Dusties" and "Keep it Cute" showcased Maiya's versatility, solidifying her breakout star status and reflecting the rich cultural tapestry of Brooklyn.
We asked her about how she prioritizes her self-care in the midst of going on tour with Flo Milli and dropping her first EP, Hot Commodity.
“One thing about me, I'm going to get my lashes done, hair done, nails done. I love to be pretty. That's very important to me,” she said. “I always tell my team they don’t get paid if I'm not there. So you have to let me take care of myself and then we'll tend to the other things because if not, then you don't get a check.”
As we navigate the diverse and dynamic landscape of Black women in music, the stories of Victoria Monét, Coco Jones, Flo Milli, and Maiya the Don serve as powerful testaments to their resilience, creativity, and undeniable impact. From enchanting melodies to fearless rap verses, each artist brings a unique flavor to the industry, contributing to the ever-evolving narrative of Black excellence in music.
In celebrating their journeys, we not only recognize their individual accomplishments but also honor the collective strength of Black women shaping the future of music. Through triumphs, challenges, and moments of unapologetic self-expression, these artists inspire a new generation, reminding us that the power of their voices extends far beyond the notes and beats—they echo the vibrant stories of empowerment, authenticity, and the unwavering determination to break barriers and redefine the standard. As we bid farewell to this musical journey, let their voices reverberate, creating a harmonious resonance that amplifies the essence of Black women in the rhythm of the industry.
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Feature image by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy