Amber Howard is the Head of Talent at TalentX Gaming (TXG), a talent management company specifically built for gaming and esports athletes and streamers, and has now made it her mission to shake the rooms of status quo, diversity and inclusion within the gaming industry. While only 45% of all U.S. gamers are women, Amber has already demonstrated her commitment to highlighting diversity in the esports and gaming industry by including a diverse A-list roster of esports athletes, gaming influencers, creators and streamers such as Latina gamer and activist Natalie "ZombiUnicorn" Casanova. Not to mention, the boss babe herself is responsible for executing a brand deal between Converse and PAX West, Univision's multi-cultural creators' network by creating all aspects of the business development and talent procurement model, and brand deals with Apple, Epic Games, and Paramount.
In a recent chat, xoNecole caught up with TalentX Gaming's newly appointed Head of Talent about being a boss Black woman in the esports and gaming industry, bringing diversity to the misogynistic industry, and her vision for the future of esports.
xoNecole: What initially sparked your interest in esports?
Amber Howard: While working at IMG, they announced the hiring of an esports agent. A short time later, Riot Games was hosting a League of Legends championship at the Staples Center. I was completely blown away that they sold out the Staples Center in less than an hour. Thinking back, it had to actually be anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. As a Lakers fan, I understood the significance, given how big the Staples Center is, it usually doesn't sell out unless it's a Championship or playoff game. My interest was sparked from that moment on, and I started looking into gaming and esports more. Shortly after, I took a job at the biggest gaming multi-channel network (MCN) in the world at the time, Machinima, and it was a great opportunity for me to dive into gaming.
What are you currently doing in your role as the new Head of Talent at TXG to ensure and actively bring diversity into this industry?
Diversity is something that is important to me and it's something I actively strive for in all aspects of life. Growing up, I took an interest in watching Pam Oliver on TV who would interview my favorite athletes. Watching her intrigued me, I knew that there were great opportunities if I could break through. As I've continued in my career, it's been important for me to make sure that representation is always at the forefront…seeing people who look like you doing things you and the world both think are exciting matters. As Head of Talent at TXG, my primary focus has been making sure we're recruiting great talent and making sure that we are bringing diversity to the roster.
I've made it my mission to do so, by signing A-list talent, streamers and creators who are diverse, and using my resources to give them the recognition and spotlight they genuinely deserve. It's very easy to go after the top ten percent of talent within the industry, but in order for us to actually bring in diverse talent, we have to actively search and seek them out. We also need to ensure diverse talent have the tools necessary to be successful, so they can grow and be seen as higher tier talent in the industry. Essentially, it's about finding the talent and giving them opportunities to grow. To be sure we're abiding by this in our recruiting efforts, I'm constantly reiterating to my team that we are a creator-first company and need to include all races, genders and people from diverse backgrounds. To ensure we achieve this, I make it my priority to provide my team with the tools needed to achieve this goal.
Courtesy of Amber Howard
"As I've continued in my career, it's been important for me to make sure that representation is always at the forefront…seeing people who look like you doing things you and the world both think are exciting matters. As Head of Talent at TXG, my primary focus has been making sure we're recruiting great talent and making sure that we are bringing diversity to the roster."
Did you have any reservations when going into this role knowing that there was a lack of diversity and representation?
No, because there is unfortunately a lack of diversity across every industry. The lack of diversity exists in traditional sports and entertainment, so I knew gaming would be no different. It's unfortunate and, for me, sadly pretty common but I'm strong enough and willing to undertake all that comes with the circumstances in order to press on. I know TalentX Gaming and ReTKGlobal have the resources in order to elevate and highlight diverse talent. I had no reservations taking this role, because I'm confident in the resources I have available as well as my skill set to get the job done.
With your career, how have you seen Black women be mistreated, talked down to or sexually harassed in the workplace?
I personally can't speak to that, because I'm typically the only one or one of two! As a woman working with other women, I've witnessed the unequal treatment of other women and for a long time we had to sit back and take it. I'm happy to be in a time where women have a voice and are being heard.
Have you, yourself, ever experienced or been a victim of such?
I've spent the majority of my career in male-dominated workplaces, which did not go without challenges as a female to be heard, recognized and respected. It's unfortunate, but as women, that's something we experience and often told to just accept that's how it is. It's necessary to be strategic about showcasing your value, ensuring that your voice is heard and it has just as much validity as any male or white male counterpart. Being a Black woman certainly does not make it any easier, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Being a Black woman in gaming is an added perk, and I've learned to position myself in such a way that who I am is seen.
Courtesy of Amber Howard
"It's necessary to be strategic about showcasing your value, ensuring that your voice is heard and it has just as much validity as any male or white male counterpart. Being a Black woman certainly does not make it any easier, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."
What do you believe work environments can do better to protect Black women?
I think work environments can honestly do a better job at protecting every woman, especially Black and minority women. I've seen how Black and minority women, all generally experience a lot of the same pitfalls in comparison to our white counterparts. As Black women, we're sometimes even at a level, that is a step lower than some of our white female counterparts, only because we're Black. So, I believe that more can be done. I believe companies should ensure that there is diversity training throughout their company, from HR to the executive board.
Also, ensuring there are engaging activities and inclusion programs that are organic and a part of the company culture. We see a lot of companies doing so now, because of what's happening in society, but diversity councils were not commonplace until recently. It's also important to not only ensure that more Black women are hired, but they are placed in positions where they are seen and truly valued for their contributions. We need more Black women in leadership roles who are being recognized for their contributions with articles such as this.
What do you hope for the future of Black female executives in esports and gaming?
I think the tide is starting to change and we're seeing a little bit of it. We're starting to see more Black and women of color in gaming and esports. I've worked with amazing women throughout my career. Someone who immediately comes to mind however, is Johanna Faries who is the Commissioner of Call of Duty Esports at Activision Blizzard. We're here, but I'm not sure there has been a lot of publicity, excitement or promotion that we are entering and have held these positions until now.
What advice do you have for young Black girls who are looking to dive into careers in esports and gaming?
My biggest advice that I'd give to young Black girls looking to venture in the esports and gaming industry is that you have to have a passion for what you do. I grew up playing video games, I was that kid on the weekends in my room, playing video games for hours. I had an interest and a genuine passion for it. After that, it's important to understand what role you'd like to play since the gaming and esports industry is so vast. Would you like to be on the representation side, in graphic design, programming, work for a game publisher, or help create a culture to ensure there is diversity? There are a ton of different options. Whatever you decide, it just has to be authentic and true to you.
What is something you wish you knew sooner about the esports and gaming industry before entering? What is something they don't tell you?
Something I wish I knew sooner, was to get into it sooner. I've been interested in gaming for a while, but did not enter the industry immediately. Gaming and esports have been around for over a decade. While I was forging a path at NFL Network in 2010, the gaming and esports industry was just beginning to take shape. If I would've known it was happening, I would have jumped right in. It's like going into any career; there are lots of things that you'll just have to learn on the job and be there to truly understand.
What are some of the biggest lessons you've learned about yourself - professionally and personally - as a Black woman in the esports and gaming industry throughout the years?
The biggest lesson I've learned about myself is my ability to persevere. As gaming and esports have begun taking shape, there were positions that I've had that didn't last; companies that I worked for that were sold. My route was not easy, but I knew it was something that I wanted to continue to pursue. I've come to know that the gaming and esports industry does not come without its challenges and having the ability to push through is a must. I was thankful to find a position as Head of Talent at TalentX Gaming (TXG), which is a joint venture between global esports powerhouse ReKTGlobal and "creator-first" talent agency TalentX created specifically to serve gamers. The role encompasses all of the things that I was really looking to do when I set out into gaming and esports five years ago and they are in support of my mission to highlight the diversity that actually already exists within the gaming community.
Featured image courtesy of Amber Howard
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.
An author by the name of Alexandra Katehakis once said this about orgasms: “Great spiritual teachers throughout the ages have stated that orgasm is the closest some people come to a spiritual experience because of the momentary loss of self. Why is this true? Because with spiritual sex, you move beyond orgasm into a connection with yourself, your partner, and the divine — recognizing them all as one.”
If it’s counterintuitive to what you’ve ever thought about orgasms, believe it or not, there are even pastors who have said that climaxing is the closest comprehension of heaven on this side of it: it is an extreme kind of bliss that is indescribable and is best experienced between two people who share a sacrificial kind of love for one another.
Although this might seem like a heavy way to intro this particular topic, because the O Method is an orgasm-achieving technique that centers around housing energy, embracing the mental practice of manifestation, and the attempt to achieve the best climaxes ever — it all works together pretty well if you ask me. If you want to take your orgasms to the next level, it’s important that you get out of yourself (to a certain extent), that you see the spiritual role that manifestation plays, and that you are open to trying new things. No doubt about it.
So, let’s learn more about what the O Method is all about and how it very well could be just what you’ve been looking for…even if you didn’t know it.
What Is the “O Method” All About?Giphy
Question: When’s the last time you’ve had an orgasm? Not just any orgasm — I mean a really mind-blowing one (I’ll give you a second to think about it). Now, what if you could manifest that experience to the point where it wasn’t a rare occurrence but something that happened almost every time that you and your partner had sex with each other? How absolutely awesome would that be?
That is pretty much what the O Method is all about — helping you achieve the kind of orgasms (and sexual pleasure, in general) that you desire through the practice of manifestation. And since your biggest sex organ is your brain, it would make perfect sense that even with all of the tips and techniques that you might learn to do as far as your body is concerned, honing in on what you think about is super imperative to sexual fulfillment, too. And that’s just where manifestation comes in.
What If You’ve Never “Manifested” Anything Before?Giphy
Before we get into a quick lesson on manifestation, I think it’s important to mention two things. One, for the cynics, there is a lot of truth in the fact that it’s got some solid spiritual basis to it because even the Good Book says that as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7). At the same time, that same Good Book tells us that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). So, while it is always a good idea to focus on good, positive, and productive thoughts, just thinking about them isn’t enough — at some point, you’ve also gotta get out here and DO something (bookmark that).
Okay, with that mini-sermon out of the way, whether it’s in the bedroom or not, manifestation is basically about focusing on something tangible that you desire, harnessing your energy in such a way that your words and actions are directed towards that longing until what you want, well, manifests. For the record, aside from this having a spiritual backing to it, in many ways, science cosigns on manifesting, too. There is actually a scientific process known as neuroplasticity that consists of reframing your mind so that your actions ultimately end up aligning with your goals — and that is another way to look at manifestation.
So, what if you’re someone who has never set out to do a manifestation practice before? No worries. Something that’s awesome about it is there are several different approaches that you can take.
Some people manifest what they want in their lives via:
- Visualization/Creating vision boards
- Writing down their desires before going to bed (so that they can “download” them into their dream state)
- Creating mantras and affirmations
- Applying the 369 Manifestation Method (you can learn more about that here)
- Learning more about what you want to manifest (which brings forth clarity)
This is important to keep in mind because, when it comes to manifesting the types of orgasms that you want to have, as you can see, you can try different manifestation methods until you find one (or ones) that you are truly comfortable with. One that can ease you into the entire process rather smoothly is something known as sex journaling.
How Sex Journaling Can Actually Help You to Have an OrgasmGiphy
As a writer, I’m a big fan of journaling. Mostly because it’s a way to get out some of your deepest thoughts and feelings so that you’re able to really process what is happening inside of you in a private setting. And when it comes to sex journaling, specifically, it’s all about centering yourself on the things sexually that you want to “unpack,” get clarity on or come to some revelations about. For instance, if there’s only been one partner from your past who’s been able to help you achieve the type of orgasms that you wish to manifest, journaling about what makes him different from the other guys can provide you with some solid ah-ha moments.
Or if you need help getting as specific as possible about the sexual experiences that you’re after, journaling can help to make that happen for you — because one thing that manifesting reminds us all to do is be as specific as possible.
Yeah, simply saying, “I want to have better sex” isn’t detailed enough when you want to get your energy to match with your desires — instead, describe how all of your senses should feel in the experience, along with why, that can get you so much closer to achieving your goal. Once those things are documented, you can segue into creating mantras and/or meditation that are based on them. Yeah, sex journaling really is an underrated superpower on a lot of levels (check out “The Art Of Sex Journaling (And Why You Should Do It)”).
5 Tips for Making the O Method Work for YouGiphy
Now that you know more about what the O Method is and how manifestation plays a direct role in its process, let’s talk about five ways to make the O Method truly effective in your own (sex) life.
1. Focus, FULLY, on your feminine energy. What do rose quartz, amethyst, moonstone (which is a Gemini birthstone as well; yes, I’m a Gemini), selenite, and rhodonite all have in common? They’re crystals that help you to go deeper into your divine feminine energy. Traits that are associated with this include compassion, creativity, kindness, gentleness, and sensuality (feminine energy is also accepting and forgiving). If you were to study energy from a biological standpoint, it’s about producing change, responding to stimuli, and having the ability to do what needs to be done (work). So, when it comes to manifesting the kind of orgasms or sexual experiences that you want, using things like your creativity and gentleness in your thoughts and actions can play a role in bringing balance to your partner’s masculinity, which can create a profound sense of pleasure — after all, opposites do attract.
2. Don’t hold back on what it is that you desire. Whenever I interview sex therapists, something that they all say is, a huge mistake that people make as far as sexual satisfaction is concerned is, they have walls up — not just with their partners but even within themselves. Sometimes, there is intimidation, fear, or even shame around what they really want to happen during sex to the point where they aren’t able to channel their energy fully in those directions in order to manifest what they want. For the O Method to work, you can’t let those types of negative emotions hinder you; the more you are able to articulate what you want and how you want it, the better chance you have of making it happen. So yes, get graphic. As graphic as possible.
3. Make manifestation a daily practice. Repetition is important when it comes to manifestation. That’s because the more you declare what you desire (a mantra), get still and think on it (meditation), or look at the “art” that you’ve created surrounding it (visualization), the quicker it becomes a part of you. So yes, make manifestation a daily practice. For instance, if one of your mantras is, “I am going to have intensely passionate orgasms, one right after the other,” don’t just state that 15 minutes before sex is going to happen. Wake up and declare it. Then say it on your lunch break. And again before turning in. The more your thoughts are “streamlined” in this way, the easier it will be for your body to follow suit.
4. Share this practice with your partner. If you were to do even more research on the O Method, one thing that most of the articles will mention is it’s a practice that you can do alone or with your partner. Indeed. However, I just want to make sure that you get into your psyche that great sex is, in part, about good communication. And so, the more comfortable you are sharing with your partner what you are doing as far as the O Method is concerned and what you ultimately want to happen as a result of the practice, the easier it will be for him to “match your energy” — both in and out of the bedroom. And when your partner is on the same page as you? That definitely increases the chances of attaining your sexual desires — exponentially so.
5. Stay in the moment. While I was reading one article on manifestation, I really appreciated something that the author said: manifestation isn’t some supernatural power. In other words, while it can be beneficial, it’s not like you can just think of something, and it instantly appears out of nowhere. Manifesting is a discipline, and it must be accompanied by action, consistency, and patience — this means that you must also practice mindfulness. Meaning, now that you know better what you’re looking to achieve as far as sex is concerned, every time that it transpires, maintain a level of positive energy, remember what your end goal is, and then determine in your mind to enjoy the moments as they come. Remember, manifestation isn’t to add stress…it’s to cultivate clarity.
At the end of the day, the O Method is simply a way of reminding you that your mind plays a huge role in your sexual pleasure, and when you channel it and your energy exactly where you want them both to go, you’ll be amazed what your body is capable of doing…and accomplishing.
So, what kind of orgasm are you wanting to achieve? You’ve got a tool to get you there. USE IT.
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Featured image by Giphy