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This Emmy-Nominated Producer Says Self-Care Teaches Others How To Value You

"It took me a while to learn this, but I swore I was never going back to non-self-care once I did."

Finding Balance

In xoNecole's Finding Balance, we profile boss women making boss moves in the world and in their respective industries. We talk to them about their business, their life, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.

Since the launch of her first company back in 2011, Revitalized Media Group, Tamra Simmons has created a brand for herself as one of the top influential women in the entertainment industry as a talent agent, casting director and TV producer with an extensive portfolio of work such as producer credits on VH1's Growing Up Hip Hop and Mary Mary. The inspirational single momprenuer has gone on to launch her international firm, The Tamra Simmons Brand Agency, and been deemed as a powerhouse amongst names such as Ava DuVernay, John Legend, and Chelsea Peretti.

While she currently is in the midst of earning her MS and JD, Tamra is also balancing the hats of entrepreneur, filmmaker, CEO, and mother. This internationally acclaimed CEO of LA Productions, LLC is most recently notable for her role as a creator and executive producer of Lifetime's groundbreaking docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, which has 26.8 million viewers to date and over 20 million live streams since its debut on January 3, 2019 with part two airing in January 2020.

For this installment of "Finding Balance", xoNecole had the chance to discuss with award-winning producer Tamra Simmons about her understanding relationship with her closest friends, managing her multiple hats in the entertainment industry and the importance of self-care.

xoNecole: At what point in your life did you understand the importance of pressing pause and finding balance in both your personal and professional life?

Tamra Simmons: I knew that I needed to find balance in my personal and professional life when I realized the importance of ensuring your family is never last while reaching your goals. Being a mompreneur is challenging and makes you have to create a structure that one may typically not need to create. Even as an entrepreneur, it is vital that you find a balance never to lose value in the things and people that mean the most and also to keep you centered in all that you do.

"Being a mompreneur is challenging and makes you have to create a structure that one may typically not need to create. Even as an entrepreneur, it is vital that you find a balance never to lose value in the things and people that mean the most and also to keep you centered in all that you do."

What is a typical day in your life? If no day is quite the same, give me a rundown of a typical work week and what that might consist of. 

Ha! No day is typical. Every day is different, and it all depends if I am currently in production filming or developing. I find myself now having to rearrange my schedule due to COVID-19, and now the kids are attending school virtually. I am currently a homeschool teacher, CEO, filmmaker, television developer, and, most importantly, mom. My day usually consists of conference calls, development strategy meetings, reviewing scripts, studying from Southern New Hampshire University, and entering into [Georgia State University] Law, catching up on politics while teaching my son in between his Zooms. When I am in production, it consists of 10-14 hour days on set, in the office, or on network calls to prepare for production.

What are your mornings like?

I wake up praying, cooking breakfast, and preparing for the day, which can mean checking emails, posting on social media for the morning with inspiration, and writing down my calendar for the day. I then decide if I can squeeze in the gym in the morning or the afternoon.

How do you wind down at night?

Sometimes I catch up on phone calls I wasn't able to make during the day. I like to schedule dinner between 6-8 and spend time with my son before he goes to bed. I then try to grab a book after my son goes to bed and relax and unwind.

Do you practice any types of self-care? What does that look like for you?

Yes. I started this thing where I go to the spa at least once a week, if time permits. I found that when I take that hour out to myself to get a massage, it relaxes me for the rest of the week. I try and get a 60-minute massage every Wednesday or at least every other Wednesday. I also started going to the gym more. I found that working out is not to look good, but I internally feel good, and it keeps my spirits up. I have been on the treadmill, sending emails, making business plans, etc. It allows my creative juices to flow. I used to do so much for everyone else that I finally realized I have to take time for myself and that I am important, too.

"I used to do so much for everyone else that I finally realized I have to take time for myself and that I am important, too."

What advice do you have for busy women who feel like they don’t have time for self-care? 

My one [piece of] advice to women who feel like they don't have time, YOU MUST CREATE TIME. If you do not create time for yourself, guess what? No one else is going to care or value you. When you take care of yourself, you not only are teaching yourself how to value you, but you're also teaching others how to value you. It took me a while to learn this, but I swore I was never going back to non-self-care once I did.

How do you find balance with:

Friends?

My friends that I have know that I am swamped and that I am balancing a lot at one time. I usually will make sure I attend their holiday, birthday celebrations, and keep in touch with them as much as possible. Many of us will have dinner like one-on-one every few weeks to stay in touch. I'm usually the party planner for their birthdays and joyous celebrations, so the fact we do not talk every day does not bother them because they know that I am going to come through on the most important days of their lives. They understand that we may not talk every day, but I love them no less. Real friendships do not have to be in each others' faces daily to say they are friends. The ones who continue to love you and be there for you without seeing them all the time are the real friends you need in your corner.

"Real friendships do not have to be in each others' faces daily to say they are friends. The ones who continue to love you and be there for you without seeing them all the time are the real friends you need in your corner."

Exercise?

I work out four days a week twice a day if my schedule allows it. I try to have some cardio in the morning and work on certain parts of my body in the evening, such as leg day, back day, etc.

What about health? Do you cook or find yourself eating out?

I do meal prep often and intake only so many calories at the time. If I eat out because I am on the go, I usually try and make sure I am eating healthy on the go.

Do you ever detox?

Yes, I detox at least once a week. I love how it makes my body feel clean from toxins that it may be filled with, and it helps me stay extra hydrated.

When you are going through a bout of uncertainty, or feeling stuck, how do you handle it?

I pray often and meditate. Prayer is the key to keeping my sanity, especially working in this industry. If I am stuck in life, I ask God to guide me and wait for Him to lead me to the next step.

"Prayer is the key to keeping my sanity, especially working in this industry. If I am stuck in life, I ask God to guide me and wait for Him to lead me to the next step."

What do you do when you have a creative block on a project or feel like you have to clear your head before going into a project?

When I feel stuck creatively, I will put on some feel-good music and allow my mind to escape and then come back to that subject.

Honestly, what does success and happiness mean to you? 

Success means to be reaching a particular goal, whether it turns out the way you wanted to or not. The only way you fail is if you never try. I believe all those who try are successful. They are successful at striving no matter the result. In the industry, people equate your level of success to accolades, awards, and money. That does not equal success to me. To me, you are successful when you have a vision, passion, and desire and continue to keep your eye moving forward and not looking at where everyone else is.

You determine your success. Now there are levels of success; however, you dictate those as well. Happiness, to me, looks like when you can take care of yourself. You may not have everything you want, but you have everything you need, and you can continuously provide for your family.

For more Tamra, follow her on Instagram!

Featured image by Marjoni Janee.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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