The start of a new career offers a fresh perspective and new possibilities. Yet, it goes without saying that charting a new path is scary. Terrifying actually. Yes, there will be naysayers, doubters, learning curves, failures and more but perhaps the most challenging of them all is staying dedicated to your big vision despite it all.
Tameka Foster-Raymond is no stranger to mastering the art of resilience. While she has experienced life's many highs as a celebrity stylist, mother and entrepreneur - working with high profile figures in the industry, from legendary soul singers Patti Labelle and Mary J. Blige to hip-hop mogul Jay-Z. She also knows what it takes to persevere despite the unexpected lows – a very public divorce and the tragic death of her late son, Kile Glover, who died in a boating accident in 2012.
Flipping this heartbreaking experience into a mission, Tameka is launching an animated series called, The Odd Life of Kile Lyles. As a dedication to her son who had dreams of becoming an actor, the series is also movement to create content for our community that matters. Amplifying black voices and showing that positive black families is the norm, the series follows the life of a black kid protagonist who is a superhero.
I chatted with Tameka about why television programs like hers are vital to the representation of the black community, the importance of owning your vision, and why she now believes in the power of raising your hand to ask for help. Check out her advice on how to take a leap of faith while navigating new territories.
Don’t just talk, say something.
Taking a big leap is not easy but having an unwavering faith in your mission makes it palpable to persist. While it would have made sense for Tameka's next business move to be something within the fashion industry, as the mother of young boys, she recognized a gap that she was no longer willing to ignore. She describes, "We don't have enough black programming for kids that shows them in a positive light. For that age group of 7-12 years old." Positive black imagery missing from pop culture for that age group is why she chose to cross lanes and venture into television and animation.
Of all the things to create, Tameka is introducing The Odd Life of Kile Lyles to improve representation. Kile Lyles may be a superhero, but there is nothing about his family unit that is out of the norm. He's a regular black boy, growing up in a nuclear family as a middle child that gets picked on and antagonized by his older and younger siblings. The significance of this series helps dispel the false and overly promoted trope of the broken black family.
Drive your vision.
Although stepping into the world of animation comes with its difficulties, Tameka is thrilled about the process and encourages other entrepreneurs to break out of their comfort zone as well. "This has been a learning curve for me, but it's been exciting. I love challenges and I've been studying everything I can get my hands on," she reflects. With powerhouse companies such as Disney and Pixar dominating the animation game, it is not a space as well known for black people to be within.
"I'm an Outlier. I'm embarking into a space where no one in my circle or even my previous career knows anything about," she describes.
Not deterred by this reality, she looks to the professionals of this field to help execute her vision. She worked with an illustrator from Atlanta, Andre Harris, who collaborated with her to develop the characters. Selecting everything from the characters' eyebrows to fashionable wardrobe, Tameka ensured that she was very hands-on with the creative process. She also hired an animator from Toronto, Canada who is teaching her about the process of animation.
Be unafraid to ask for help.
Asking for help is a lesson she learned the hard way as she rose through the ranks as a fashion stylist. As she remembers, "In my career in fashion I didn't have a lot of mentors. I had to take a lot of bumps and bruises in learning the whole fashion business." Succumbing too often to the "superwoman syndrome", many women (especially black women) are afraid to raise their hand and ask for the help that they require. Which keeps them from accessing the mentorship and potential opportunities that others are granted who are unafraid to clearly state their requests.
Armed with the wisdom of this early lesson, Tameka has learned to ask for assistance in all aspects of her life. Help for her comes in many forms. One way is appreciating the healthy co-parenting dynamic she has with her ex-husband Usher Raymond so that she can schedule as much as she can for her business ventures while the boys are away with their dad. This equal parenting allows her to practice better time-management and help accelerate her goals. The other way is in leaning on her network to not only spread the word about The Odd Life of Kile Lyles, but in asking her community to help support this positive project that will widen the exposure of positive images for black children. As she declares, "Hitting the like button is helpful, but hitting the donation button is a blessing. Even $5 helps."
Her ask overall is simple – for us to use projects like these to invest back in our communities. To give parents the opportunity to introduce their children to diversity, spark the imagination and possibilities of our youth, while creating a new norm.
To get involved and support Tameka's animated series The Odd Life of Kile Lyles, you can donate to her Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign at www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-odd-life-of-kile-lyles#.
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This post is in partnership with Amgen.
The seemingly simple task of taking a breath is something most of us don’t think twice about. But for people who live with severe asthma, breathing does not always come easily. Asthma, a chronic respiratory condition that inflames and narrows the airways in the lungs, affects millions of people worldwide – 5-10% of which live with severe asthma. Severe asthma is a chronic and lifelong condition that is unpredictable and can be difficult to manage. Though often invisible to the rest of the world, severe asthma is a not-so-silent companion for those who live with it, often interrupting schedules and impacting day-to-day life.
Among the many individuals who battle severe asthma, Black women face a unique set of challenges. It's not uncommon for us to go years without a proper diagnosis, and finding the right treatment often requires some trial and error. Thankfully, all hope is not lost for those who may be fighting to get their severe asthma under control. We spoke with Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq. and Jania Watson, two inspiring Black women who have been living with severe asthma and have found strength, resilience, and a sense of purpose in their journeys.
Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq.
Juanita Ingram has a resume that would make anyone’s jaw drop. On top of being recently crowned Mrs. Universe, she’s also an accomplished attorney, filmmaker, and philanthropist. From the outside, it seems there’s nothing this talented woman won’t try, and likely succeed at. In her everyday life, however, Juanita exercises a lot more caution. From a young age, Juanita has struggled with severe asthma. Her symptoms were always exacerbated by common illnesses like a cold or flu. “I've heard these stories of my breathing struggles, but I remember distinctly when I was younger not being able to breathe every time I got a virus,” says Ingram. “I remember missing a lot of school and crying a lot because asthma is painful. I [was taken] to see my doctor often if I got sick with anything so I was hypervigilant as a child, and I still am.”
Today, Juanita says her symptoms are best managed when she’s working closely with her care team, avoiding getting sick and staying ahead of any symptoms. Ingram said she’s been blessed with skilled doctors who are just as vigilant of her symptoms as she is. While competing in the Mrs. Universe competition, Juanita took extra care to stay clear of other competitors to ensure she didn’t catch a cold or virus that would trigger her severe asthma. “I would stand off to the side and sometimes that could be taken as ‘oh, she thinks she's better than everybody else.’ But if I get sick during a pageant, I'm done. I had to compete with that in mind because my sickness doesn't look like everybody else's sickness.”
Even when her symptoms are under control, living with severe asthma still presents challenges. Juanita relies on her strong support system to overcome the hurdles caused by a lack of understanding from the public, “I think that there's a lot of lack of awareness about how serious severe asthma is. I would [also] tell women to advocate and to trust their intuition and not to allow someone to dismiss what you're experiencing.”
Jania, a content creator from Atlanta, Georgia, has been living with severe asthma for many years. Thanks to early testing by asthma specialists, Jania was diagnosed with severe asthma as a child after experiencing frequent flare-ups and challenges in her day-to-day life. “I specifically remember, I was starting school, and we were moving into a new house. One of the triggers for me and my younger sister at the time were certain types of carpets. We had just moved into this new house and within weeks of us being there, my parents literally had to pay for all new carpet in the house.”
As Jania grew older, she was suffering from fewer flare-ups and thought her asthma was well under control. However, a trip back to her doctor during high school revealed that her severe asthma was affecting her more than she realized. “That was the first time in a long time I had to do a breathing test,” she describes. “The doctor had me take a deep breath in and blow into a machine to test my breathing. They told me to blow as hard as I could. And I was doing it. I was giving everything I got. [My dad and the doctor] were looking at me like ‘girl, stop playing.’ And at that point [it confirmed] I still have severe asthma because I've given it all I got. It doesn't really go away, but I just learned how to help manage it better.”
Jania recognizes that people who aren’t living with asthma, may not understand the disease and mistake it for something less serious. Or there could be others who think their symptoms are minor, and not worth bringing up. So, for Jania, communicating with others about her diagnosis is key. “Having severe asthma [flare-ups] in some cases looks very similar to being out of shape,” she said. “But this is a chronic illness that I was born with. This is just something that I live with that I've been dealing with. And I think it's important for people to know because that determines the next steps. [They might ask] ‘Do you need a bottle of water, or do you need an inhaler? Do you need to take a break, or do we need to take you to the hospital?’ So, I think letting the people around you know what's going on, just in case anything were to happen plays a lot into it as well.”
Like Juanita, Jania’s journey has been marked by ups and downs, but she remains an unwavering advocate for asthma awareness and support within the Black community. She hopes that her story can be an inspiration to other women with asthma who may not yet have their symptoms under control. “There's still life to be lived outside of having severe asthma. It is always going to be there, but it's not meant to stop you from living your life. That’s why learning how to manage it and also having that support system around you, is so important.”
By sharing their journeys, Juanita and Jania hope to encourage others to embrace their conditions, obtain a proper management plan from a doctor or asthma specialist like a pulmonologist or allergist, and contribute to the improvement of asthma awareness and support, not only within the Black community, but for all individuals living with severe asthma.
Read more stories from others like Juanita and Jania on Amgen.com, or visit Uncontrolled Asthma In Black Women | BREAK THE CYCLE to find support and resources.
Wanna feel old real quick…or at least ponder how fast time flies? In two years, the trilogy known asFifty Shades of Grey will be a whopping 10 years old. What in the world? I’ll admit, had it not been for an organization that I was working with at the time asking me to watch it (or was it suffer through? It’s a coin toss most days) so that I could talk about it on their podcast, I’d probably remain clueless about a lot of its content to this day.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t catch how much of a phenomenon it was for so many women at the time, though; especially white ones. Kinda wild how many ladies said that they hated the entire concept of submission, and yet they were all down to take it up about 10 notches with a certain Christian Grey…oh, but I digress.
Anyway, because you couldn’t go to really any website for a while without the topic of the book series or films coming up, I do remember that many sex experts decided to use all of the hype as an opportunity to get women to feel more comfortable with tapping into their sexual fantasies in order to intensify their sexual experiences. And that’s just what we’re gonna touch on today.
If orgasms are (currently) difficult for you or they aren’t as consistent as you would like (check out “Why Do Orgasms So Often Seem Like A ‘Hit-Or-Miss’ Experience For Women?”) one thing could help you to hit your goal — yep, fantasizing more. I’ll explain.
Never Underestimate Your Biggest Sex OrganGiphy
Isn’t it wild that, when it comes to looking for sex hacks that will help to improve our sex lives, the first thing that we usually think about is ways to stimulate our genitalia when the reality is that we should be prioritizing a part of the body that is much farther north than that? Even though I’m pretty sure that most of you have at least heard somewhere before that your biggest sex organ is your brain, how much do you focus on that fact in order to ultimately improve your sex life?
Maybe it’s because, although that point makes sense on the surface, you need a bit more intel on why that is actually the case. The reality is, there are several reasons. For one thing, when you have sex, it impacts your brain on a myriad of levels. It triggers a wealth of feel-good hormones. It lowers your stress and anxiety levels. It “turns on” different parts of your brain (females especially). It helps to treat depression. It even improves your cognitive function as you get older.
That alone is the reason why so many sex experts don’t find sex to be as “easily casual” as our culture would like to portray. For instance, I once read an article that featured an interview with a chief scientific adviser for Match.com (at least she was at the time the article was published). Her name is Helen Fisher, and she said that the way dopamine affects your brain during sex…let’s just say that it’s so powerful that she says (and I quote), “It’s not casual because when you have sex with somebody, and it’s pleasurable, it drives up the dopamine system in the brain. That can push you over the threshold into falling in love.”
Now, it’s another message for another time, what Albert Einstein once said about “falling in love” (“Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.”) because loving someone follows a series of steps and choices. However, I think you get her overall point.
Just like oxytocin is considered to be a “love hormone” (a hormone that bonds you to another person during intimacy), dopamine ain’t nothin’ to play with either. And since science is pretty much unavoidable when it comes to sex, what all of this confirms (I could’ve given you more examples, but for the sake of time and space…) is your brain is all up in your sex life, like it or not.
And since your brain plays such a pivotal, powerful, and intricate role in intimacy, it makes all of the sense in the world why your fantasies would, too.
No, Your Fantasies Shouldn’t Bother YouGiphy
A professor by the name of Mason Cooley once said, “Fantasy mirrors desire. Imagination reshapes it.” Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro once said, “There is art and beauty and power in the primal images of fantasy.” Author Nancy Friday once said, “Fantasy isn’t something that you run out of.” And just what is a fantasy? Probably the most basic way to define it is it’s your imagination when there are very little, if any, restraints put on it.
And when it comes to sexual fantasies, in general, what are some of the most popular ones?
- Voyeurism (watching people)
- Exhibitionism (being watched)
- Sex in public
- Super over-the-top romantic sex
For the record, these are some of the most common ones, although publications like Women’s Health share many more (they have 30 of ‘em) that are pretty common too (you can check their list out here).
That said, if you can relate to any of these and a part of you is embarrassed, uncomfortable, or flat-out worried about when your mind has gone, most sex experts say that you shouldn’t be — especially when it comes to the five that I specifically mentioned. Just because you think up something, that doesn’t automatically mean that you’re going to act it out; again, fantasies are simply something that helps to fuel your imagination.
Fantasizing can also help to prevent boredom in the bedroom and even “trigger” your body to become more aroused and ready for coitus. And we all know that the more aroused we are before sex even transpires, the more likely it will be that sex will end with a “bang!” (pun intended and not intended…LOL). And that’s exactly why fantasizing can totally help you out in the orgasm department.
What You Should Do About Your Sexual FantasiesGiphy
So, now that you hopefully feel more at ease about the sexual fantasies that you’ve been having, how can you incorporate them into your sex life so that you can have more pleasurable and satisfying sex with your partner?
Share some of your fantasies with your partner and encourage them to do the same. Again, the greatest sex organ is your brain, so if you want to build trust and a stronger connection with the person who you’re having sex with, let them deeper inside of your thoughts. It will make you feel less vulnerable as you boost your own sexual self-confidence. Plus, it will help them to learn more about you. Don’t forget to let them do the same thing…for the same reasons.
Remember that fantasies are just that. I remember an episode of King of Queens where Doug shared with Carrie some of the women he fantasized about — random folks like her nail tech or one of his mom’s friends, and she damn near lost it. For the record, fantasizing about someone and lusting for them to the point of desiring them and then wanting to act on it can sometimes be a fine line (based on how strong your relationship is), yet more times than not, folks don’t even want to go through the steps make their fantasies come true. Why?
Well, for one thing, they don’t want to ruin what they have with their partner, and two — getting to know the person on that type of level would literally ruin the fantasy. Besides, don’t be out here acting like you haven’t thought about what it would be like to have sex with someone else. Besides, again, actually, hearing about each other’s thoughts in this way can also build trust because, if you both know and don’t spazz out, that makes it easier to share other innermost thoughts, needs, and ideas.
Create a “safe word.” As we end this, back to the movie that I referenced in the intro. If you did happen to stomach one or all three parts of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, you probably remember that Christian and Anastasia came up with safe words — these were words to let each other know when things were going from sexy to uncomfortable. That said, say that you want to actually try having sex in a movie theater or participating in some form of BDSM (which is also another popular fantasy), and you end up wanting to stop at some point. A safe word lets your partner know to immediately halt things so that you can process if you want to catch your breath and keep going or stop altogether.
If you’ve read my content on here long and consistently enough, you know that it’s pretty normal for me to throw in a song for good measure. Today, “push play” on the throwback from Intro, “Come Inside.” Why? Well, there’s a part in there where the lead singer says, “I'm thinking about you/The last time we made love/And I fantasize/So many things that I dream of.” Let the song get you in the mood (‘cause if it won’t, I don’t know what will), pull out your phone, text your man a fantasy, ask him to share one in return, and I’d bet my next paycheck that it will already get you well on your way to some, let’s call them “heightened experiences”. #wink
Use your brain to tap into your sexual imagination.
Let it fuel the ride to some mind-blowing orgasms.
At the end of the day, that’s what sexual fantasies are designed to (ultimately) do, sis.
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Featured image by Bob Thomas/Getty Images