Syleena Johnson's greatest instrument is her voice and has recognized her passion for music since her earliest childhood memories. With a father who was in the entertainment industry as a singer, music was part of her life from an early age and eventually blossomed into her participating in talent shows and showing the world what she was meant to do. "I just finished filming my UNSUNG episode which will premiere on TVOne early 2021 and that will tell the readers a lot about my story and how I began. I am excited for you to see it. It will show you how I got my start in the industry and how I got to where I am now," she spilled to xoNecole about her upcoming project.
As a singer, she has used her voice and songs to uplift women and Black people, but now as a talk show host on Cocktails and Queens on Fox Soul, Syleena is using her voice to empower Black women to demand respect and equality on the other side of the couch. "I am still and will always be a part of music," the former Sister Circle host told me about her transition into being a talk show host, "However, opportunities and God have allowed me to become a talk show host and share my opinions and thoughts as a woman in this world and in entertainment."
Nowadays in her career, Syleena can apply the multitude of lenses to her craft from the talent side to research and development as the interviewer. When she's not on the couch interviewing talent or in the booth making new empowerment anthems, the "Guess What" singer has been working on her latest docuseries project, The Making of a Woman, which was heavily inspired by her recently released Woman album.
Courtesy of Tony Tyus Photography
"This docuseries will show what my experience as a Black woman has been in this industry for over 20 years as well as being a working-class woman, a wife and a mother raising two sons. It will inspire people to see the challenges Black women face on a day-to-day basis and how we overcome it," she explained. "I wanted to show a message and present that in a body of work to create more of a conversation and a call-to-action. I've realized in order to make change, we must create content or use our voice to make a shift in change in our society."
xoNecole had the opportunity to catch up with the Grammy-nominated singer herself about using her voice to uplift women, her new docuseries The Making of a Woman, and being a Black woman in 2020 demanding equal rights in our current racial climate. Check out our conversation below.
xoNecole: Tell me about your docuseries, 'The Making Of A Woman', the messaging and the inspiration behind it.
Syleena Johnson: The docuseries The Making of a Woman is heavily inspired by my recent album, Woman. Each of my albums as a solo artist have been titled after chapters, however with today's racial climate I decided to create the album and docuseries to speak on the struggles and experiences of everyday Black women and what we go through in life in 2020. I created this docuseries to vocally create a body of work that documented the journey of what it took to create this album, mentally, internally and spiritually while sharing the experiences of what women go through like demanding equality and respect, having a voice to even having to work twice as hard as our male counterparts even through pain and adversity.
How does your new studio album, ‘Woman’, directly correlate with the story that you're telling us in the docuseries?
It's my journey, my thoughts and what I and many women endure as a Black woman in society as well as this industry. You'll see me on my journey of completing my album and shooting the video to my lead single off my new album. You'll see the vision that I had to want to highlight how beautiful and special women are. The docuseries speaks on dishonesty, respect and the many examples of inequality Black women face while showing the process of creating a body of work that shares the same message.
How are both releases timely considering our current racial climate?
Right now, we are in the year of the WOMAN. We have a Black woman that is working tirelessly to be the next Vice President of the United States. Black women are on the front lines organizing, protesting and leading the forefront of creating change for our economy and the futures of our next generation. Considering our current climate, both releases vocally tells a story that we still have work to do and are still fighting for respect in 2020. With both releases of my album and docuseries, I wanted to use what I've been seeing in situations like the #MeToo and Time's Up movement, and use my voice and passion in music to be a vessel for other women's stories and journeys.
What do you define as the makings of a woman?
The makings of a woman is the willingness of a woman to grow despite her flaws, despite her mistakes, despite her circumstances and her setbacks in life. The ingredients of the makings of a woman is built up of all the little experiences that you had and how you've handled them and most importantly learned from them. These are the certain experiences you must endure in life to come into your womanhood while helping you grow as a woman.
Courtesy of Tony Tyus Photography
"The makings of a woman is the willingness of a woman to grow despite her flaws, despite her mistakes, despite her circumstances and her setbacks in life. The ingredients of the makings of a woman is built up of all the little experiences that you had and how you've handled them and most importantly learned from them."
When do you feel the most "womanly" or the most beautiful as a woman?
I feel the most womanly when I am being a mother to my sons, when I am being a wife. Always working or in business mode does not make me feel like a woman, it makes me tired. I feel more womanly when I can have peace, when I can have "girl time" for myself. I feel the "womanliest" when I can be appreciated and when I am treated like a woman. I feel womanly when I can be heard and valued. More than anything, I feel the "womanliest" when I can operate as a mom and wife without having to be the authoritative figure. When you are a CEO and an entrepreneur you are the authoritative figure but when I come into my household I can relax without having to be the authoritative figure all the time because I have support.
"I feel the most womanly when I am being a mother to my sons, when I am being a wife. Always working or in business mode does not make me feel like a woman, it makes me tired. I feel more womanly when I can have peace, when I can have 'girl time' for myself. I feel the 'womanliest' when I can be appreciated and when I am treated like a woman. I feel womanly when I can be heard and valued."
What is the moment in your life when you believed that you were coming into your own as a woman?
That moment for me was when I got the diagnosis that my youngest son had autism. I developed a level of selflessness that had to take place mentally and emotionally in order for me to grow as a woman. Something like that is supposed to take me out of here and it did, however what that diagnosis did was made me come into my womanhood, turn up my senses as a mother, as a provider. I had to turn up those senses and it made me develop my own personal internal growth spurt. This has allowed me to grow into my womanhood and has taught me to be more patient overall in life. That moment and many life lessons made me understand and be OK with me, unapologetically. It allowed me to love me for who I am and become appreciative of being OK with not being perfect.
There are a lot of conversations around gender and sex. What do you see is the difference between femininity and womanhood, if there is one at all?
What I've learned throughout my own experiences in life is that femininity is a characteristic. Womanhood is a state of mind. Whereas a woman doesn't have to be any of those feminine qualities, and still be a boss, knowing who she is, having a voice, understanding her worth - those are the things that encompass womanhood. Femininity is a characteristic, an accessory. Anyone can be feminine, however it is a characteristic that is interchangeable, whereas womanhood is a growth process, state of mind. A state of being.
Courtesy of Tony Tyus Photography
"What I've learned throughout my own experiences in life is that femininity is a characteristic. Womanhood is a state of mind. Femininity is a characteristic, an accessory. Anyone can be feminine, however it is a characteristic that is interchangeable, whereas womanhood is a growth process, state of mind. A state of being."
For Black womanhood, what do you believe makes Black women the most powerful and most majestic?
Resilience, our humility, our hearts have made us majestic. The fact that we've endured so much from the test of times has made us extremely powerful and majestic. We are resilient, durable, sustainable. We are smart, we are vociferous, brilliant, studious, meticulous, but we are kind, careful, and multi-layered.
How would you say that you've grown as a singer-songwriter since you first started in the music industry?
I have grown tremendously since coming into the industry and my writing has grown and evolved. I have a different and new sound. I've grown as a woman so I can't stay in the same frame of mind as my other albums. When you're saying different things, you have to stretch out and grow. And that's where I've improved as an artist and singer since first being introduced in the industry.
Being a Black woman in the industry is tough, especially when you're in the spotlight as an artist. How do you manage your mental health and how can the music industry do a better job at protecting Black women?
I manage my mental health by working out and doing stress reduction activities. I am really into fitness and bodybuilding. It allows me to be focused and gain mental clarity. I am also an advocate and use therapy as an outlet to manage my mental health. I have recently embarked on a fitness journey where I competed in a fitness bodybuilding competition which totally improved and helped with my mental health. I was able to not only transform physically losing over 55 pounds but was also able to grow internally within the process.
The music industry can do a better job protecting Black women. The most important thing they can do is listen to Black women. We are not objects. We are not possessions. Listen to Black women and see how they feel, ask are you being heard and valued? Are you being treated fairly? That is how you can protect Black women by listening and valuing us.
If you listen, you learn.
For more of Syleena, follow her on Instagram.
Featured image courtesy of Tony Tyus Photography
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.
The first big leap was moving to a new city and getting settled into my new home. The next big leap? Was finding community and belonging. Moving to a new city excited me! I looked forward to having my own apartment, decorating it, and exploring what the city had to offer. I also found excitement in the thought of meeting new people and expanding my connections. When it actually came down to it, I felt nervous. I heard that making new friends as an adult can be hard because we all have different responsibilities and schedules that may not align. I knew in order for me to really feel at home in my new city, I had to create community.
Having a community of people who I can share memories with, lean on in times of need, and inspire each other is something I always valued. I took a moment to truly center in on what I desired from the new friends I would make. Then I realized it all would have to start with me. I had to be centered and confident in who I was to attract who I desired to be aligned with. As someone who moved to a new city and established quality friendships, I gathered these six tips that helped me feel grounded and create community in hopes that it will help you, too.
6 tips to start building community and making new friends in a new city:
Sean Anthony Eddy/ Getty Images
Be true to yourself
Do you know who you are? If someone asked you to describe yourself in three words, what words would you use? In order to develop deep friendships, you must be a friend to yourself first. Know what refuels you and what zaps your energy. Self-study your habits and why you do the things you do. All this will be important to keep in mind when looking to create bonds with others. Every day there’s all kinds of people telling you who you should be, how you should act, or what you should wear. At the end of the day, the only opinion about yourself that truly matters is your own. Spend some alone time with yourself indoors or out at an event you like to truly discover who you are in this season of your life.
Pray about it
Before you step out into the world and cross paths with all kinds of people, it’s important to pray about building your community. God outlines what true friendship looks like in numerous Bible verses such as "Iron sharpens iron." - Proverbs 27:17 and “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” - Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. If you desire friendships that last, pray about what you seek in friendship. I remember praying for mentally stable, happy, and whole women who moved through life with abundance mindsets. Take a moment to journal about the community you want to build and then pray on it.
Go to fun events to meet people who share your interests
Most metropolitan cities like Washington, D.C., New York City, and Atlanta are known to have strong young professional communities and events where you can connect with others. I highly encourage you to attend events in or near your community to see what the city is like and meet people. It’s likely that the people at the event have the same interests as you, which is a great way to start a conversation. You can start by searching for events on Eventbrite or following Instagram pages that highlight events happening in your city.
Carlos Barquero/ Getty Images
Accept that you won’t be compatible with everyone you meet
While living in your new city, it’s likely you’ll meet a variety of people. Please know that everyone you meet will not bud into lasting friendships, and that’s okay! You are uniquely created and not made for everyone. Then you’ll meet people who are good for only surface-level connections, and then you’ll have your girls who you can get deep with. I think sometimes people can look down on surface-level friendships, but not everyone needs to fully know you. That’s a privilege to have and to accept within yourself. Continue to check in with yourself and be real about who you crave to spend more time with and who is nice to see for a monthly or quarterly catch-up.
Join Facebook groups & GroupMe chats
If you haven’t used Facebook in a couple of years, it’s time to dust your profile off. Facebook Groups is a great place to join online communities for people who just moved to a new city like you. Typically, you have to agree to the group’s guidelines, and then you can join. For example, you can search for groups in the Facebook app by using keywords like women, Black girl, or [the name of your city] foodies. With the GroupMe app, you’ll have to be invited to join an already existing group. While you’re out and about networking, don’t hesitate to ask if they’re in any online groups/communities they recommend you join too.
Be friendly to folks in your neighborhood
When I first moved to my new apartment, I spent the first week walking around the complex and working in the community spaces to get a better feel of it. I was able to meet people in my neighborhood, enjoy small talk, and learn more about what the community has to offer. Step outside of your comfort zone and work in your apartment’s community space or a local coffee shop to connect with others.
Overall, you may feel alone in your new city, but I guarantee you’re not. There are other people experiencing living in a new city too, and all you need to do is find each other. I hope these tips help ease the nervous feelings you have about building a new community and inspire you to make a new friend today!
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Feature image by Nappy/ Pexels