I suffer from SAD—social anxiety disorder. And while I'm self-diagnosed (I have anxiety about seeking medical help, because that would mean actually having to talk to someone about this. Not my strong suit), I've read up on SAD and I totally fit the profile: "Everyday social interactions cause irrational anxiety, fear, self-consciousness, and embarrassment."
I can go to a crowded club and be the life of the party if I really wanted to. But I will be the most socially awkward person at a game night of fifteen guests, some of which I know because, well, I'm not quite sure (see previous note about therapy above). My SAD manifests at different levels. Sometimes it's me stuttering to get out one simple sentence and, at my very worst, I've become paralyzed with fear sitting in someone's living room as if I were on stage at Madison Square Garden with no words at all.
This is a particularly debilitating diagnosis for me, not just because I spend most weekends in solitude or haven't been on a date in years, but because my career as a lifestyle/entertainment journalist requires me to mix and mingle, network and basically talk to people and get them to open up to me. Although I often put my big girl pants on and get the job done, I feel my work has definitely not lived up to its full potential due to my lack of ability to be more social. Recently, I've felt stuck in a rut and while going to therapy is on my long-term to-do list, in a jolt of inspiration, I decided to take more immediate action and booked my very first solo trip before I turn the big 3-0.
It would be my own little version of an Eat, Pray, Love journey, except I'm not a white, middle-aged woman leaving behind dreamy James Franco to eat pasta in Italy. I'm a millennial Nuyorican with no James Franco, looking to get my social mojo back. Now folks take solo trips for all sorts of reasons, but a solo trip to combat a phobia of socializing? How does that work? To be honest, I wasn't entirely sure either. But I flew out to Waikiki Beach, Hawaii on the morning of my 29th birthday by my lonesome for an entire week and from the very moment I landed, the mysteries behind my inner psyche began to unravel.
Here's how a solo trip to Hawaii helped break me out of my shell and nudged me to meet and interact with people, break away from my workaholic ways and content-driven anxiety (another "issue" of mine that comes with the job) and stop to smell the roses… or in this case, the Hawaiian Hibiscus.
I had activities for days.
Courtesy of writer Jazmine Ortiz
I had a list of activities and sight-seeing lined up that by society's conventions you'd normally do as a group or at least as a pair—hike Diamond Head Crater, visit the Honolulu Zoo, attend Germaine's Luau in Kapolei, spend the day at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, and hit Waikiki Beach. Then there were the more commonplace outings—dinners, bars and shopping trips. A lot of things felt forced at first and then they just flowed. For instance, while trying to plan out my itinerary I reached out for tips via Instagram to an old college classmate who had moved to Hawaii two years ago with her husband. I let her know that I'd be traveling solo and that it might be nice to see a familiar face. So, for my first full day in Waikiki, she and her husband took me to dinner at Tiki's Grill & Bar where we had the best time.
I forged a path and found my way on my own.
Courtesy of writer Jazmine Ortiz
Then there was my morning at Diamond Head. I love hikes and decided that I would do Diamond Head long before I arrived on Oahu. I flew out from Los Angeles since I was already there for work, so I cut costs there, but Hawaii is as expensive as everyone says it is so besides my big-ticket excursions like Disney and the luau, I wanted to keep everything else budget-friendly. Upon looking at the official state park website I learned it was only a $1 entry fee and a 15-minute local bus ride from where I was staying. I thought, "I could totally do this on my own!" My mom, however, wasn't having it so I complied and booked a tour at the last minute. Big mistake...or biggest blessing depending on how you look at it.
Long story short, my tour guide never came to pick me up like he said, so at 5:30AM still standing outside in the dark before sunrise, I decided to go with my original plan to do it without a stinkin' guide. I hopped on the bus, paid my $1 entry and hiked up the edge of that 300,000-year-old crater all by myself. When I got to the top, did I discover the missing link to my social gene? No. But I did get a pretty amazing view of the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu, and the way down I made friends.
I made new friends in unexpected places.
Courtesy of writer Jazmine Ortiz
While on Diamond Head, I saw a couple taking in the view on the hike downward, and I think because I appreciated the people that asked if I wanted a picture when they saw I was by myself, I decided to spread the love and offer to take theirs. Before I knew it, we were a trio talking, laughing, spilling travel stories and little did we know, making a new one. I learned they were not a couple at all, just life-long friends from San Francisco who shared wanderlust and a fun tongue-and-cheek dynamic. When we got to the bottom they treated me to some Dole Whip, a frozen dessert native to Hawaii, then we grabbed lunch and exchanged more travel tales. Now, I have two friends in The Bay to see whenever I make my way over there!
I channeled my inner Moana with a haku lei.
Courtesy of writer Jazmine Ortiz
Another highlight was a haku lei making class I took that was offered through my hotel, Shoreline Waikiki. A haku lei is what we on the mainland call a flower crown. I take arts and crafts very seriously and was on a mission to live out my Moana fantasies in an authentic haku. Little did I know the sweat and tears (on the inside) that went into making a perfectly crafted haku. Luckily, I had a tablemate who was on the same mission as me because as the rest of the tables cleared out, we wrapped, weaved and clipped away until roughly two hours later were Moana-fied. During our two hours in the struggle, being a native, she explained to me the even more complex process of making a traditional haku that had been passed down in her family. I cherish those two hours.
But perhaps, the most Julia Roberts-esque thing to happen to me during my solo travel was the very last day that I was there. I had stumbled upon a mostly deserted beach away from the swarms of tourists in Waikiki and was sitting atop a ledge that overlooked the sand when a James Earl Jones-looking character sporting dark shades and riding a trike motorcycle pulled up beside me to see if I was in need of any assistance. And I guess I was, but not in the conventional sense.
We got to talking and before I knew it, I had another buddy in Hawaii. He ended up giving me a ride on his trike to another part of the beach further down. If you're a Disney fan like me, this is where you cue "How Far I'll Go" off the Moana soundtrack. If you're my mom, this is where you cue the theme song to Law & Order: SVU. Thankfully, I lived to tell this tale and I'm able to share the words of wisdom he shared with me. Just as I hopped off his bike and thanked him for the ride, out of the clear blue he asked me, "What's your dream?"
Now this is a question that would normally make me freeze up and retreat into my SAD bubble but after seven days on island by myself, I had done a lot of thinking and knew the answer: "I don't have one."
Storytelling has always been my passion. I winded up going to school to become a journalist and was blessed enough to snag an internship which landed me my dream job. I'm currently living the dream I had, but never bothered to make a new one. I started explaining to him that I'm indecisive by nature and that eventually I'll figure it out, but as the words left my mouth they sounded like nothing but a lengthy excuse. He called bullshit on me right away and simply said, "Just make a decision." That's it.
And as I waved good-bye and walked the sand onto the most beautiful beach that I've ever seen, I realized that's how I got here. I decided to come. It really was that simple. I got so uncomfortable with being uncomfortable in social situations that I just decided to come to Hawaii and be more social. And I did.
I'm not saying that this is the case for everyone with SAD, or anyone dealing with any type of psychological disorder but for me it was. I'm also not saying I'm cured either. Since my return to the mainland, I'm trying to apply what I learned from my trip and it's not so easy when you're not operating on vacation brain, but I've decided to try.
It's a very peculiar thing what we let hold us back from reaching our full potential as if we are not in control of own lives. For me, the first step was as simple as deciding and I did that before I even got on the plane.
xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you know that xoNecole has a podcast? Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify to join us for weekly convos over cocktails (without the early morning hangover.)
Originally published on July 23, 2019
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Jazmine A. Ortiz is a creative born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn and currently living in Staten Island, NY. She started in the entertainment industry in 2012 and now works as a Lifestyle Editor where she explores everything from mental health to vegan foodie trends. For more on what she's doing in the digital space follow her on Instagram at @liddle_bitt.
How Content Creators Hey Fran Hey And Shameless Maya Embraced The Pivot
This article is in partnership with Meta Elevate.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the past decade, chances are the names Hey Fran Hey and Shameless Maya (aka Maya Washington) have come across your screen. These content creators have touched every platform on the web, spreading joy to help women everywhere live their best lives. From Fran’s healing natural remedies to Maya’s words of wisdom, both of these content creators have built a loyal following by sharing honest, useful, and vulnerable content. But in search of a life that lends to more creativity, freedom, and space, these digital mavens have moved from their bustling big cities (New York City and Los Angeles respectively) to more remote locations, taking their popular digital brands with them.
Content Creators Hey Fran Hey and Maya Washington Talk "Embracing The Pivot"www.youtube.com
In partnership with Meta Elevate — an online learning platform that provides Black, Hispanic, and Latinx-owned businesses access to 1:1 mentoring, digital skills training, and community — xoNecole teamed up with Franscheska Medina and Maya Washington on IG live recently for a candid conversation about how they’ve embraced the pivot by changing their surroundings to ultimately bring out the best in themselves and their work. Fran, a New York City native, moved from the Big Apple to Portland, Oregon a year ago. Feeling overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of city life, Fran headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of a more easeful life.
Her cross-country move is the backdrop for her new campaign with Meta Elevate— a perfectly-timed commercial that shows how you can level up from wherever you land with the support of free resources like Meta Elevate. Similarly, Maya packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden, where she now resides with her husband and adorable daughter. Maya’s life is much more rural and farm-like than it had been in California, but she is thriving in this peaceful new setting while finding her groove as a new mom.
While Maya is steadily building and growing her digital brand as a self-proclaimed “mom coming out of early retirement,” Fran is redefining her own professional grind. “It’s been a year since I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon,” says Fran. “I think the season I’m in is figuring out how to stay successful while also slowing down.” A slower-paced life has unlocked so many creative possibilities and opportunities for these ladies, and our conversation with them is a well-needed reminder that your success is not tied to your location…especially with the internet at your fingertips. Tapping into a community like Meta Elevate can help Black, Hispanic, and Latinx entrepreneurs and content creators stay connected to like minds and educated on new digital skills and tools that can help scale their businesses.
During a beautiful moment in the conversation, Fran gives Maya her flowers for being an innovator in the digital space. Back when “influencing” was in its infancy and creators were just trying to find their way, Fran says Maya was way ahead of her time. “I give Maya credit for being one of the pioneers in the digital space,” Fran said. “Maya is a one-person machine, and I always tell her she really changed the game on what ads, campaigns, and videos, in general, should look like.”
When asked what advice she’d give content creators, Maya says the key is having faith even when you don’t see the results just yet. “It’s so easy to look at what is, despite you pouring your heart into this thing that may not be giving you the returns that you thought,” she says. “Still operate from a place of love and authenticity. Have faith and do the work. A lot of people are positive thinkers, but that’s the thinking part. You also have to put your faith into work and do the work.”
Fran ultimately encourages content creators and budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Meta Elevate’s vast offerings to educate themselves on how to build and grow their businesses online. “It took me ten years to get to the point where I’m making ads at this level,” she says. “I didn’t have those resources in 2010. I love the partnership with Meta Elevate because they’re providing these resources for free. I just think of the people that wouldn’t be able to afford that education and information otherwise. So to amplify a company like this just feels right.”
Watch the full conversation with the link above, and join the Meta Elevate community to connect with fellow businesses and creatives that are #OnTheRiseTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Shameless Maya and Hey Fran Hey
Unapologetically, Chlöe: The R&B Star On Finding Love, Self-Acceptance & Boldly Using Her Voice
On set inside of a mid-city Los Angeles studio, it’s all eyes on Chlöe. She slightly shifts her body against a dark backdrop amidst camera clicks and whirs, giving a seductive pout here, and piercing eye contact there. Her chocolate locs are adorned with a few jewels that she requested to spice up the look, and on her shoulders rests a jeweled piece that she asked to be turned around to better showcase her neck (“I feel a bit old,” she said of the original direction). Her shapely figure is tucked into a strapless bodysuit with a deep v-neck that complements her décolletage.
Though subtle, her quiet wardrobe directives give the air of a woman who’s been here before, and certainly knows what she’s doing. At 24 years young, she’s a “Bossy” chick in training— one who’s politely unapologetic and learning the power of her own voice.
“I'm hesitant sometimes to truly speak my mind and speak up for myself and what I believe,” she later confessed to me a couple of weeks after the photoshoot. “It's always scary for me, but now I'm realizing that I have to, in order to gain respect as a Black woman— a young Black woman— who's still navigating who she is. And you know, I'm realizing that closed mouths don't get fed. And if I keep my mouth shut just because I'm afraid of what people's opinions of me will be or turn into, then that's not any way to live.”
For Chlöe, the journey into womanhood is about embracing who she is, without succumbing to the perceptions of what others think of her. From the waist up she’s everything you’d imagine. A gorgeous goddess with the kind of sex appeal that some work hard to embrace but fail to exude. But unbeknownst to anyone not on set, her bottom half is covered by a white robe, surprising coming from the girl who boasts “'Cause my booty so big, Lord, have mercy” on her first hit single “Have Mercy.”
But that’s the beauty of Chlöe. There’s more to her than meets the eye. More than what a few sensual photos sprinkled throughout an Instagram feed could ever tell you. Just like the photo-framing illusion of her portrayed from the waist up, what we know about the songstress is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more beneath the surface.
Some hours later Chlöe leans back in a high chair as her locs are transformed from a formal updo to a seemingly Basquiat-inspired one. It’s pure art, and at her request, no wigs are a part of the day’s ensemble. She’s fully embracing her natural hair, a decision that wasn’t always a socially accepted one.
In the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, (Mableton, to be exact) Chlöe began to explore the foundation of her self-image. At an early age she and her younger sister, Halle, demonstrated a vocal prowess and knack for being in front of the camera that caught their parents’ attention. Soon after, they were sent on a parade of local talent shows and auditions, and eventually broke into the digital space with song covers on YouTube.
It was during these early years that Chlöe first learned that the entertainment industry could be unforgiving to those who didn’t fit a particular beauty standard. Despite the then three-year-old snagging a role as the younger version of Beyoncé’s character, Lilly, in Fighting Temptations, casting agents requested that her natural locs be exchanged for more Eurocentric tresses. Ironic, considering that growing up Chlöe saw her hair as no different than that of her peers. “I remember specifically in pre-K we had to do self-portraits and I drew myself with a regular straight ponytail, like how I would put my locs in a ponytail,” she says. “I just never saw myself any different.”
Chlöe would also learn the true meaning of a phrase that would later become an affirmation posted on her bedroom mirror: “Don’t Let the World Dim Your Light.” After attempting to wear wigs to fit in, the Bailey sisters instead chose to rock their locs with pride, which undoubtedly cost them casting roles. Yet they would have the last laugh when making headlines as the “Teen Dreadlocked Duo” who landed a million-dollar contract with Parkwood Entertainment, and the coveted opportunity to be groomed under the tutelage of a world-renowned superstar.
Credit: Derek Blanks
While that could be the end of a beautiful fairytale of self-empowerment, the reality is that it’s just the beginning of the story of her evolution. For most girls, the transition into womanhood takes place in the comfort of their own worlds, often limited to the number of people they allow to have access to them. But for Chlöe, it’s happening in front of millions of critiquing eyes just waiting for an opportunity to either uplift or dissect her through unwarranted commentary.
Many in her position wouldn’t be able to take that kind of pressure. But Chlöe is handling it with grace. “I feel like all of us as humans, we have the right to interpret things how we want,” she says. “I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
Chlöe isn’t the first artist to receive criticism for her carnal content, and she certainly won’t be the last. In 2010, Ciara writhed and rode her way to banishment on BET when the then 24-year-old released her video for “Ride.” In 2006, 25-year-old Beyoncé received backlash for “Déjà Vu."
"I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
So much so that over 5,000 fans signed an online petition demanding that her label re-shoot the video because it was “too sexual.” Even 27-year-old Janet didn’t escape critical headlines when she shed her image of innocence for a more risqué appearance with the 1993 release of janet.
It’s almost as if public reproach is a rite of passage for young Black women R&B singers on the road to stardom. Good girls seemingly “go bad” whenever they embrace the depths of their femininity, and fans only like you on top figuratively. But Chlöe has learned not to bow down to other people’s opinions, but to boss up and control the narrative. As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. If sex appeal is her weapon, she wields it well.
On set, Chlöe exudes the energy of Aphrodite in an apple red, off-shoulder dress with a sexy high split. In between shots, she mouths the lyrics to Yebba’s “Boomerang” as it echoes throughout the space in steady repetition at my recommendation. The hour grows late, yet Chlöe is heating things up as eyes stare in deep mesmerization of the girl on fire.
Credit: Derek Blanks
Through music, she explores the depths of her being, a journey that seems to be, at its foundation, rooted in self-discovery. Whereas their debut album The Kids Are Alright (2018) boasts a young Chloe x Halle empowering their generation to embrace who they are while finding their place in the world, their second album Ungodly Hour (2020) shows the Bailey sisters shedding the veil of innocence for a more unapologetic bravado.
What fans looked forward to seeing is who Chlöe shows herself to be on her debut solo album In Pieces. In an interview with PEOPLE, she confesses that releasing her first project without her sister was “scary.” "It was a moment of self-doubt where I was like, 'Can I do this without my sister?’”
Chlöe has never been shy about sharing her insecurities or her vulnerabilities, all of which are laced throughout the 14-track album. “I want people to have fun when they listen to it and to just realize that they're not alone and it's okay to be vulnerable and raw and open because none of us are perfect; we're all far from it. And I think it's healing when we all admit to that instead of putting up a facade.”
The gift of time has given the self-professed “big lover girl” more encounters with romance and heartbreak. Love songs once sung for their beautiful riffs and melodies become more than just abstract lyrics and are replaced by real-life experiences, which she tells me is definitely in the music.
In her single “Pray It Away,” for example, she contemplates going to God for healing instead of going at her ex-lover for revenge for his infidelities. “With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable,” she says. “I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
Has Chlöe been in love? That still remains to be said. Of course, she’s been linked to a few potential baes, but dating in the digital age isn’t as easy as a double tap or drop of a heart-eyes emoji. It requires a level of trust and vulnerability that’s hard to earn, and easy to mishandle. To let her guard down means to potentially set herself up for disappointment. “It’s difficult dating right now, honestly, because you really have to kind of keep your guard up and pay attention to who's really there for you. And you know, I'm such an affectionate person and I love hard.
"So when I meet the one person that I really, really am into, it's hard for me to see any others and I get attached pretty easily. And you know, I don't know, it's…it's a scary thing.”
Credit: Derek Blanks
“With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable. I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
While broken hearts yield good music (queue Adele), what’s in Chlöe’s prayer is the desire to be happy. What does that look like? Well, she’s still figuring that out herself. “Honestly, I'm the type of person who I don't truly learn unless I experience it. So it's like I can view and watch my parents and watch the loving relationships that I see in my life and be like, ‘Oh, I want that. I would love to have that.’ But then I also have to experience [love] on my own and see what my flaws or my faults might be or see what my good things about myself are. I feel like it's really all about self-reflection. And even though our base is our family and that's our foundation, we are still our own individuals and we have to find out specifically the things about ourselves that may be different from what we saw from our parents when we were growing up.”
Her ideal beau, she tells me, is someone she can feel safe to be her fun, goofy self with, but who also gives her the space to be the boss chick chasing her dreams. A man who understands that just because the world compliments her doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to hear those words from his lips or feel it in his touch. A bonus if he shows up on set after a long hard day of work with vegan cinnamon rolls. You know, the basic necessities. “I like whoever I'm with to constantly tell me they love me and that I look beautiful because I do the same. I am a very mushy person, and if I see something or you look good, I will never shy away from saying it out loud. And I want whoever I'm with to do the same, be very vocal. Tell me that you love me. Tell me what you love about me because I'm doing the same for you because that's just the person I am.”
Until she meets her match she’s married to the game, and for now, that seems to be perfect matrimony.
Credit: Derek Blanks
On stage at the 2021 American Music Awards, Chlöe solidified her position as a force to be reckoned with. It was a full-circle moment. In 2012, bright-eyed and baby-faced Chloe and Halle would walk onto the set of The Ellen Degeneres Show and blow the audience away as they bellowed out their future mentor’s song. Ellen would present the sisters with tickets to attend the AMAs, assuring them that they would be back and had a promising future. Nine years later, Chlöe descends from the sky cloaked in a snow-white cape and matching midriff-baring bodysuit for her debut performance. It’s the first time she’s graced the stage of the very award show that she was once an audience member of.
As she shakes and shimmies and boom kack kacks out her eight counts, it’s clear that she’s in her element. Just like her VMA performance a couple of months prior, and the many more stages she’ll continue to grace, she brings an energy that has earned her comparisons to the beloved Queen Bey herself. An honorable statement, considering few R&B songstresses are getting accolades for their entertainment capabilities. It’s on these very stages, in front of hundreds of astonished eyes and millions more glued to their televisions at home, that she tells me she feels most sexy. Powerful, even.
But off stage, it’s a different story.
It’s more than just the commentary about her image and media-flamed rumors that get to her. Mentally, she’s in competition with herself. The desire to be the best burns at the back of her mind with every performance, every production, and every time she steps into the booth. Before, she could share the weight of this burden with her sister. Being a part of a duo meant she could turn to Halle for quiet confirmation and encouragement without a word being exchanged. But lately stepping on the stage means stepping out on her own. And despite being a breathtaking, five-time Grammy-nominated star, Chlöe doesn’t escape the reality that sometimes we can be our own worst critics.
Over the last year, she’s been coming to terms with who she is on her own while overcoming the fear of failing to become who she’s destined to be. While the world waits to see how Chlöe wins, the real triumph is in every day that she chooses herself and continues to walk in her purpose. “I don't really have anything all figured out, honestly. But what I try to do, a lot of prayer. I talk to God more and I just try to do things that calm my mind down and just breathe.”
To whom much is given, much will be required. She’s been chosen to walk this path for a reason. Once she fully embraces that everything she’s meant to be is already inside of her, she’ll be an unstoppable force. “My grandma, Elizabeth, she just passed away and my middle name is her [first] name. So I feel like I truly have a responsibility to live up to her legacy that she's left on this earth. I hope I can do that.”
There’s no doubt that she will. With a role in The Fighting Temptations at three years old, a million-dollar record deal, a main role on five seasons of Grown-ish, five Grammy nominations, a number one solo record in Urban and Rhythmic Radio, a debut solo album, and starring roles in recently released movies Praise Thisand Swarm (just to name a few), Chlöe’s certainly already made her mark, and she’s just getting started.
Photographer & Creative Director: Derek Blanks
Executive Producer: Necole Kane
Co-Executive Producer: EJ Jamele
Producer: Erica Turnbull
Digitech: Chris Keller
DP: Alex Nikishin
Gaffer: Simeon Mihaylov
Photo Assistant: Chris Paschal
2nd Photo Assistant: Tyler Umprey
Features Editor: Kiah McBride
Special Projects: Tyeal Howell
Hair: Malcolm Marquez
Makeup: Yolonda Frederick
Fashion Styling: Ashley Sean Thomas
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