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Sanaa Lathan Reveals Bout With PTSD And Why She Refused Prescribed Antidepressants

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Sanaa Lathan has truly been Queen of balancing it all.


Sanaa has been working since the 90s and her career hasn't slowed down in momentum since, with her latest projects including season 4 of Showtime's hit The Affair and her new role in the upcoming Netflix original Nappily Ever After. The latter of which caused her to shave her head for her role, making the 46-year-old actress even finer in the process.

In her recent cover story with Health Magazine, Sanaa opened up about dealing with PTSD and panic attacks, taking social media sabbaticals, and of course, infamously embracing being bald, bold, and beautiful.

According to Sanaa, meditation has been a saving grace for her. Although it might seem like the buzzword of the moment, meditation has a host of self-care benefits, especially when combating psychological and emotional traumas. Sanaa revealed that the death of her best friend four years ago left her with very real emotional and mental side effects, like panic attacks and PTSD. Meditation became her light at the end of the tunnel:

One of the biggest changes in my life is that I meditate every day. Four years ago, my best friend died. She got the flu, and four days later she went to the doctor and soon after she was just gone. It was so devastating to me. I had a weird kind of PTSD, because she was healthier than me. I started getting panic attacks. Before that, I didn't think they were a real thing. I remember my girlfriend having them, and I was like, "Girl, just breathe," you know? "Just relax."
I was getting them three to five times a day. They wanted to put me on anti-anxiety medication, but I was like, "I really don't wanna take drugs, that's just not me." I'd had a meditation teacher a couple years before, so she gave me a refresher course. The day that I started Transcendental Meditation, it was as if I was taking a pill. They went away. So anyway, that's my thing. I meditate 20 minutes, twice a day.

Along the pathway of Sanaa's journey to glow up and the pursuit of her happiness, she also credits social media breaks. While happiness is one of the main goals when it comes to self-care, it does takes work. No matter how carefully curated our social media feeds are, more often than not, there is something on our timeline that can easily throw us off of our positivity-only game. Nowadays while everyone else is succumbing to the comparison game on a daily basis, Sanaa has learned when to say, "Nah."

But you know what is a real happiness killer? Social media. I don't think it's healthy for humans to constantly compare themselves. By nature, even if you see someone who you adore and they're in Fiji, automatically you go, "Well, damn, I'm here." I think the key to happiness is keeping your eyes on your path. Rarely are you going on [social media] and [thinking], "Ooh, I'm happy!" It's always a shift toward a darker emotion. So I have to take social media breaks.

Last September, Sanaa wowed the world when she appeared on The Gram with a completely buzzed head. Having shaved her head for her upcoming role in the Netflix adaptation Nappily Ever After, she reveals that doing so was indeed scary but also incredibly cathartic:

It was terrifying! But to me, it's so much a part of her journey. My character is in crisis, and everything that she thought she knew is unraveling. So the emotions were all over the place for me—because I'm playing Violet, but I'm also shaving my head! It was actually really powerful and kind of weirdly cathartic and freeing. You know, I was crying, I was laughing…

Sanaa also sees the cut as a powerful way of owning who she is as a woman of color:

It was kind of a perfect time in my life to do it. I have a lot of hair, and it's thick. I was just so over it. If I got it straightened and then I worked out, it would go right back into the original—the Afro. And I couldn't do braids for a week; they'd get frizzy. My girlfriends would even be like, "Why aren't you doing anything with your hair? You look crazy!" So in terms of me being lazy, it's just so easy. [It feels like this is time] in terms of women of color coming into this amazing renaissance of owning who they are, and owning all of their beauty in whatever shape, size, color it is. There's no more cookie-cutter, like, "This is the ideal."

Nappily Ever After is about a woman learning to love herself and find her own acceptance outside of the arms of a man. She not only connected to the role because of her being bald, but also as a 46-year-old single woman who also finds fulfillment in loving oneself:

It's kind of [the message] you'll see in Nappily Ever After—saying, "You know what? I'm whole already. I don't need somebody to complete me." So if there is that person who is a partner out there, then bring it on. But I'm not gonna be with somebody for the sake of what it looks like.

You tell 'em, Sanaa! Say no to fake love and hello to self-love in 2018, ladies.

Be sure to check out the rest of Sanaa's cover story inHealth Magazine, tune into Showtime's The Affair on June 17, and catch Nappily Ever After on Netflix when it drops in the fall.

Featured image via DFree / Shutterstock.com

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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