On Saturday, January 25, Oprah Winfrey reminded me who TF she was. Not that the global media mogul needed a reintroduction, but in case she did, Oprah played no games on the fourth stop of her Oprah's 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus multi-city tour in Atlanta.
I came, I saw, I laughed, I cried, and most importantly, I focused. This was all in the presence of a woman who was intent on helping an audience of 12,000 people elevate to their highest selves with true clarity. Presented by WW (Weight Watchers Reimagined), the full-day wellness event began with complimentary hair touch-ups courtesy of Love Beauty and Planet, express hand massages thanks to Vaseline, and a quick refresh in the form of deodorant wipes by Degree.
The hand massage was a great way for me to start the day
Promptly at 9 a.m., we were treated to a pre-show dance party, a walk through Oprah's own wellness journey, a guided meditation session with Jesse Israel's The Big Quiet, and a workbook exercise where we honed in on our intention of the year. (I walked away confident in the fact that my word for 2020 and beyond is "intention.") "Wherever you are in your life, today is about kicking it up a notch," Oprah said. "Turning up the volume on your life."
Later on that day, we were joined by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson who spoke candidly about losing his father, raising daughters, learning empathy, and the importance of having an anchor.
Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Oprah
The end result was a day filled with "new year, new me" energy and gems that helped ensure the seeds we planted that day would indeed grow and blossom into a fruitful harvest.
I left the event so inspired that I wanted to share the most important takeaways with the xoNecole readers.
Let's soak up this energy of renewal together and get clear on our 2020 vision. Keep reading for more!
Oprah is a self-made billionaire whose reach extends past any border. Her ability to connect with people is unrivaled, so much so, she's built a global media brand off of that gift. The fruits of her labor are evident in the wealth she's acquired, the vast opportunities she's created, the fabulous homes she's built, and the brilliant relationships she's cultivated----the list really could go on. To learn that the nine zeros behind her net worth had little to do with how she defined success was a surprise, to say the least. She explained:
"I have the most magnificent life of anyone I know. Don't be hating because whatever you think it is, it's 10 times better than that---to the 10th power! Because what you see in the world cannot explain the peace. What you see in the world, all the material things, all the red carpets and the acquisitions, cannot describe the contentment and the joy. So, that's what I think is a successful, full life. It's being able to live with the peace and the joy [and] few regrets."
2.Begin Each Day With Gratitude
Along with the focus of wellness, stillness and being mindful about cherishing the present as a gift was a focal point of the day. Oprah believes in the digital age, the key to returning to self is reclaiming your time. According to her, you need two things: A spiritual life and boundaries.
"One thing that's difficult for all of us to manage, I know, is this 24-hour access to phones. The phone rings, you got a text, and you think you have to answer immediately, so you need to set some boundaries for when and when you're not going to be responding. I know this for sure, there is no life without a spiritual life. You don't have one. You're just walking through life. You're the walking dead.
"And so, I try to give my time to God. I wake up, the first thing I say is 'Thank you,' I spend a moment in gratitude. Then, I spend a moment in stillness before I pick up the phone. The moment you pick up the phone, now you are controlled by whatever's on that phone. Your day is ordered by what everyone else wanted you to do instead of you ordering the day for yourself."
"Get yourself still. Get still because that's how you get full. You don't get full out here because the noise of the world will drown out the voice of God every time…"
3.Name It & Claim It
There's power in your ability to speak things over your life. Whether positive or negative, you are whatever you think of yourself, whatever you feel about yourself, and whatever you speak about yourself. So, why not wield that power the way it's meant to be? When you speak the things you want in life, you claim it. Oprah says you are more than deserving.
"I don't think there's a better gift that you can give yourself than to leave here with clarity because in all things, you have to name it to claim it---in all things. You don't have what you really want because you haven't clarified what you want."
4.All Things In Balance
Balance is a beautiful thing and can mean different things for different people. One of the reasons our site has a recurring series called "Finding Balance" is because we wanted to gain insight from other women about what balance looked like for them. During the event, Oprah gave us a window into her world when she revealed that, for her, balance reflects her definition of "wellness":
"Here's my definition of what 'wellness' means to me: It's all things in balance. For me, balance does not mean that all things are equal. It doesn't mean that things are going to go well all the time. It means that you welcome the constant shifting flow that is your life. That's what it means to be human. So, I've learned that you can have what you want, you just can't have it all at once---and all in balance, just like a wave in the ocean of life. And there is a flow to your life that is not mine, that could not be mine…
"There's a pattern and there's a rhythm and there's a flow for you that is yours alone. And the reason why so many people don't get what they say they want is because you're messing in other people's flow."
5.Find Your Flow
As a water sign, I must admit I'm quite moved by the presence of water. I find comfort, peace, and sanctuary, and I get a connection to myself when I'm near water. What I love most about water is its properties---its vitality, its ability to sustain, its strength, its fluidity, and its flow. Water acts as a reminder of the importance of flow, of going with the current, of the cycles of life. You can lean into those things, accept them as a part of life, and learn to ride the wave as a result.
"Find your flow. Move with the flow that is your life and stop struggling against the current of life. For me, the center of that flow is being well in all things and having all things in balance. The center is presence."
"What I've learned is stress is just wanting the moment to be something that it can't be. That's the truth. And that's the truth whether you're in a bad marriage or whether you're in bad traffic. The number one thing you can do whenever you are confronted by something that is stressful is to accept the moment… In all things stress is wanting the moment to be something that is not. And if you can accept this moment right here… everything is OK. You are well…"
6.Own Your Full Self
One of my favorite words is "shameless." I love it because it acts as a slight nudge to be who you are and do so unapologetically. As a woman, I sometimes find it hard to be my fullest self, and I'm sure there are people out there who can relate to that effort of swallowing and diminishing just to be more palatable or less seen. It's an element rooted in fear and one I'm continuously trying to unlearn. And according to Oprah, it's a feeling she had to kick to the curb in order to move past the potential and become fully realized:
"We're all meant to shine. That's what creation is for. We all have our gifts. Here's what I realized: What I had been afraid of were the voices outside myself... And so what I realized, I'm afraid to be full. I'm afraid to be full. I'm afraid to be powerful beyond measure because I'm afraid you might not like me if you see how full I can get. So, here's what I can tell you at 66: I'm all full up. I'm so full, my cup runneth over."
7.We All Want The Same Thing
Oftentimes, we see our differences before we even touch the surface of understanding our similarities. If ever. Through her work with The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah expressed that she's been able to encounter people from all walks of life, from Barack Obama to Beyonce, and scientists to politicians. From those experiences, she gathered one essential truth:
"The theme that is running through all of our lives, the common denominator in our human experience, is not just validation. Everybody wants to be heard and know that they matter. But everybody also wants the truest, highest, purest vision of yourself as a human being. That's what you want. You want to live it out, you want to live it until you cosmically burst. You want to live the truest, highest vision of yourself. That's what you've come to fulfill and that's the real word for you and me and everyone for 2020 and beyond."
Oprah's 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus will resume on February 8 in Brooklyn, NY with marquee guest Michelle Obama. Tour dates will continue through March 7. Click here for more info on the tour.
Featured image via Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Oprah
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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
For More: Cover Story: Issa Rae Comes Full Circle
"I Have Truly Survived the Unimaginable." Megan Thee Stallion Is Ready To Resume Her Next Chapter.
Megan Thee Stallion is ready to resume her life, not as a victim but as a survivor of gun violence.
In a recent as-told-to essay for ELLE, the 28-year-old mega-star took time to reflect on her experience surviving the shooting incident involving rapper Tory Lanez in July 2020.
In the piece, Megan described her traumas in the aftermath of the shooting and the drawn-out legal case and trial that brought on the public's negative reaction to the incident.
“Imagine how it feels to be called a liar every day?” Megan says. “Especially from a person who was once part of your inner circle.” She notes that many people were quick to doubt her story and blame her for how the incident unfolded. For nearly three years, she went through the weight of public humiliation, while being the brunt of jokes, memes, and “sneak disses” as her humanity was ignored.
“The truth is that I started falling into a depression,” the rapper says. “I didn’t feel like making music. I was in such a low place that I didn’t even know what I wanted to rap about. I wondered if people even cared anymore.”
She adds, “There would be times that I’d literally be backstage or in my hotel, crying my eyes out, and then I’d have to pull Megan Pete together and be Megan Thee Stallion.”
Megan wrote how not fitting “the profile of a victim” played a role in the dismissal of her traumas in the public eye and emphasized the importance of believing women when they come forward with their own stories of violence and abuse. “But my heart hurts for all the women around the world who are suffering in silence, especially if you’re a Black woman who doesn’t appear as if she needs help,” she says.
“So many times, people looked at me and thought, ‘You look strong. You’re outspoken. You’re tall. You don’t look like somebody who needs to be saved.’ They assumed that, per preconceived stigmas, ‘I didn’t fit the profile of a victim,’ and that I didn’t need support or protection.”
With time, the Houston fem-cee has been able to take a step away from the public eye to heal, spend time with her dogs, and “doing a lot of praying” to recover from the incident. “The physical and mental scars from this entire ordeal will always sting, but I’m taking the appropriate steps to resume my life,” Megan says.
And while she is “in a happier place,” there are still moments of anxiety that come up from time to time. “Talking about being shot still makes me emotional. I’ve started journaling as a way to better process my thoughts, hopes, and fears,” she says. “Prayer has also played a therapeutic role in my healing, because I can have honest and unfiltered conversations with God without any judgment.”
Megan concluded her essay by expressing her hope for a future where people can live without fear of gun violence and victims of trauma and abuse can receive the support and healing they need.
“My purpose is for these words to serve as the final time that I’ll address anything regarding this case in the press,” Megan notes in the article. “I understand the public intrigue, but for the sake of my mental health, I don’t plan to keep reliving the most traumatic experience of my life over and over again. I’m choosing to change the narrative because I’m more than just my trauma.”
With new music to come, we look forward to seeing Megan back on her healed, hot girl ish.
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Featured image by Hubert Vestil/WireImage