In xoNecole's Our First Year series, we take an in-depth look at love and relationships between married couples with an emphasis on what their first year of marriage was like.
With one look at Eric and Shonda White, you can see a love that has withstood the test of time.
Their story had very humble beginnings through a chance meeting at Atlanta's Leopard Lounge one summer night in 2006. At the time, Shonda was a new transplant to Atlanta by way of Kentucky and wasn't looking for a relationship but as she puts it, "God had other plans." The spark was instant and slowly but surely, intellectually and mentally, Eric and Shonda fell for each other.
The writer/marketing strategist and the Sr. Compliance Specialist have been partners in love for twelve years and made their union official by tying the knot on September 20, 2008. It's a day Eric recalls fondly having been a calm and happy one for him. "When I saw Shonda for the first time coming down the aisle, it was surreal and spiritual," he said. "For me, it was a time of growth. When Shonda read her vows, it hit me that God ordained our union; that we have a lifetime to live and grow with each other."
This year, they celebrated ten years of marriage. And at 38 and 36 years old, respectively, Eric and Shonda are truly the loves of one another's lives. In this installment of Our First Year, the Whites break down how they knew each other was the one, early challenges in marriage, and their biggest love lessons throughout the years.
Chad Lawson Photography
Shonda: Before Eric, I really didn't know the difference between dating and courting, but Eric showed me what courting really looked like. It sounds old school, but it's still relevant today. I knew he was the one based on how he treated me and the fact that he let me be me. I used to merely hear "I love you," but this time, not only did I hear him say that he loved me, but he showed me that he loved me. There is no greater sign of a man who is in love than one whose actions match his words. We were long distance, but he made every effort to come and see me every month. He would drive literally 900 miles to see me at least once a month. I knew he was serious about dating me and having a future with me. I could tell by the way he treated me - he didn't just say he loved me, but he showed me through his actions.
"Not only did he say that he loved me, but he showed me that he loved me."
Eric: People ask [how I knew she was the one] a lot and I honestly tell people I can't explain it. I just knew. In my heart and mind, I knew Shonda was my wife. I didn't want another man to be with her. I wanted Shonda to be my wife and I wanted to spend my life with her. I knew she was the one!
As for approaching my courtship with marriage as the goal, I did. I can't explain it, but I took my relationship with Shonda very seriously. And that was a first in my life, it was something different about her. I was at a point in my life where I wanted more than a random hookup or a superficial relationship.
Chad Lawson Photography
Overcoming Fears In Marriage:
Shonda: Honestly, being a wife was my biggest fear. I feared the unknown, so I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the "best wife" I could be based on what I thought a wife should be or what I saw other people doing. Little did I know, I was the one putting that pressure on myself...not my husband. Eventually, I realized that he loved me for me - not merely for what I could do for him. So, the best thing I could do was be myself.
Eric: Feeling vulnerable and trusting a woman. I always knew I wanted a friendship with my wife that would last a lifetime. I made a decision to love my wife and to do the right things to keep my marriage healthy. I let go of my fear and had faith in our union.
Shonda: You know the part of the vows where you say, "For better or worse," but our first year of marriage taught me very quickly that sometimes the "worse" comes before the "better." Our first year, we went through a lot of challenges including: natural growing pains as newlyweds, finances, recession, layoffs, having children, sex, and family grief due to the loss of loved ones. It's interesting now though because early on, we could argue, and it would last for days, but I know we've grown so much, because now we can have a disagreement or an argument, but it won't last nearly as long as it used to.
Eric: I think some of the early challenges dealt with understanding each other's habits and quirks. I accepted my wife for who she is, but I still can't stand when she chews gum! [As for tackling issues] Each marriage is different, but we tackled those issues when they occurred. I don't think there is an undiscovered bad habit (laughs). We coexist in joint spaces daily and know when we need our space. We agreed to work together regarding our finances. We have separate accounts and a joint account.
Chad Lawson Photography
Shonda: It was a little difficult initially to learn each other's love language. Before taking the Love Languages' assessment, I used to think that he didn't appreciate the gifts that I would give him because he didn't react in the way that I expected. Realizing his love language was completely different [than mine] helped me put things into perspective. So, instead of feeling hurt or disappointed about certain things, I had to remind myself that he doesn't speak the same love language necessarily.
Eric: My love language was pretty simple. But my wife is a hard person to buy a gift for. I think we work on giving and receiving love daily. Now, we are well-versed in our love languages and I will say I have to be intentional in putting gift giving for my wife in action.
Shonda: I really had to unpack baggage from my past relationships' heartaches and disappointments and thinking that Eric was going to hurt me like the others had hurt me. Also, I had to release and relax some of my "Miss Independent, I don't need a man" habits. For example, some of the simplest things that my husband wanted to do for me - open my doors, carry my groceries, etc. - I would try to do myself. Often times, it wasn't the action itself; rather it was my attitude or my delivery when I reacted to him. At times, I made him feel as if I didn't need him or want him to help me. I would say things like, "I don't need you to do it. I can do it myself." I wasn't used to having a man in the home, so I had grown accustomed to doing mostly everything on my own since I was a little girl. I'm thankful, nonetheless, because growing up in a single-parent home helped shape me into the woman I am today. However, I also didn't want my man to feel like I didn't want or need him. Hence, I had to find a happy medium so that my man could still be the man he wanted to be for me. Just recently, Yvonne Orji posted a quote on her page the other week from a wedding she attended that said, "My greatest blessing in this life is to finally be able to take off my superwoman cape and let you carry it…" In other words, I like being an independent woman, but I love being able to depend on my man.
Chad Lawson Photography
"I like being an independent woman, but I love being able to depend on my man."
Eric: We have candid conversations about issues and figure out ways to address them. I had to learn empathy. I know it sounds crazy, but I had to stand in my wife's shoes sometimes to understand how she felt. I also had to learn to trust and be vulnerable. When you fall in love, you are vulnerable and to me that wasn't a comfortable feeling.
Chad Lawson Photography
Shonda: We may not always like what our spouse says or does, but we will always love each other, and we have to be committed to fighting for each other rather than fighting against each other. I also learned that I can be a strong, black woman, and still allow myself to be vulnerable and soft at the same time.
Eric: No matter what we go through, I couldn't see ourselves without each other. We truly have a spiritual bond.
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.
Two years ago, Hannah Bronfman, heiress, social media influencer, entrepreneur, and author of Do What Feels Good, shared her IVF, pregnancy, and motherhood journey with xoNecole, but she's also shared her experience with another amazing journey: becoming a passionate angel investor.
Last month, via her TikTok, she shared that she has invested in more than 70 companies in the past five years, and that angel investing “sits at the intersection of basically everything I do.”
Angel Investing Pt 2. Turning Obstacles into Opportunities #startup #investing #finance #business #womeninbusiness #entrepreneur #angelinvestor #blackgirlmagic #cpg #startuptalk
She continued with details on how she once co-founded a venture and faced challenges with getting funding. “I had a difficult time fundraising and was met with all the ‘isms,’ so I just wanted an opportunity to share those learnings with other founders,” she added in the video. (Her Beautified app would eventually get $1.2 million in seed funding and give StyleSeat some tough competition.)
“It was notable that a young Black female started a beauty tech company back in 2013 and the world wasn’t ready for it. And the world isn’t ready for more people of color in the venture capital world. So I’m here to just use my platform to open doors and share knowledge.”
This month, she dropped more jewels, schooling her more than 100,000 TikTok followers about what it takes for a business to qualify for angel investment and highlighting Topicals, a mega-successful skincare company co-founded by Olamide Olowe, the youngest Black woman ever to raise $10 million in funding. The company is one that Bronfman has invested in. (Oh, by the way, other investors in Topicals include Gabrielle Union, Kelly Rowland, entrepreneur and former Netflix exec Bozoma Saint John, and Yvonne Orji.)
The topic is Topical 👏🏽👏🏽 @TOPICALS @Olamide Ayomikun Olowe #startup #investing #finance #business #womeninbusiness #entrepreneur #angelinvestor #startuptalk #cpg #blackgirlmagic #skincare #beauty
Some of you might be reading all of this—heiress, Hollywood’s Black Elite, and millions of dollars—and saying to yourself, “Well, that’s for rich folk,” and you’d be somewhat right. The average net worth of an angel is $1 million (or at least $200,000 in annual salary). On top of that, Black and Brown women founders often face unique struggles when it comes to getting funding for their businesses, including biases associated with race and sex, and make up a small drop in the bucket when compared with the funding successes of startup entrepreneurs getting millions of dollars from their affluent white-male (and very well-connected) peers to make their entrepreneurial dreams come true. And even many of the Black women-led exceptions get funding from celebrity friends or other well-connected links to big money.
But there are indeed everyday professionals, entrepreneurs, and activists seeking to balance the playing field when it comes to investing in the ideas and startups of Black and Brown women, and they're rallying together to create opportunities for others to join them.
This is where some of us can do our part to get involved, put our money where our mouths are, and fund the next billion-dollar Black-owned empire (while building our own generational wealth off the dividends). Let’s get into a few basics of angel investing:
First Off, What Is Angel Investing?
Well, it’s not to be confused with family and friends donating money to help you make your side hustle the main one. Angel investing involves a savvy and committed investor—taking a high risk and expecting a high gain—who goes into a legal agreement to offer funds for the upstart and/or growth of a new business, particularly when the founder can’t get a traditional loan or funding by other means. The practice was made infamous by Broadway producers who relied on “angels” to support and fund their productions.
There’s typically an expectation of equity or the value of an investor’s stake in the company. Also, angels are more likely to invest in a great idea, unlike a venture capitalist firm, which requires a business to be a proven hit in the market (among other things). Forbes reports that oftentimes, angels invest after a startup company’s initial investment and before they need larger sums from venues like venture capitalists.
Today, angel investing has become a powerful method for funding Black and Brown women-led businesses since these enterprises have seen a decline and are often shut out when it comes to venture capital funding. Angel investing is a great way for everyday citizens to put their dollars behind a business they see is viable, has a solid business plan, has an actual market to serve, and can offer something in a way that solves a problem. (In Topical’s case, for example, had all of those elements in its favor when it launched in 2020, offering inclusive science-based solutions for common skin issues like eczema and featuring everyday models in their ads, embracing imperfections and normalizing depictions of a diverse range of natural aesthetics relatable to the masses.)
Who Can Become An Angel Investor?
While the net worth of the average angel investor is quite high, the minimum amount someone can invest in a company as an angel can vary (like this woman, who started with a $7,000 investment in NasaClip, a company founded by a savvy Black woman ER physician.)
And while accreditation is encouraged (and sometimes required based on some platform’s requirements related to income and other factors), it’s not a legal requirement for an individual to be an angel investor. Everyday professionals, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs, basically classified as non-accredited) get involved via angel investment groups, equity crowdfunding, or angel networks. Some groups have membership fees, while others bring together like-minded women who want to support one another in researching, vetting, and investing in promising budding businesses.
Look into networking events, pitch competitions, bootcamps, or courses offered by organizations and platforms like the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, Black Women Talk Tech, Pipeline Angels. AfroTech, The Black Enterprise Disruptors Summit, Level, or Black Girl Ventures.
With angel investing, the risks are high—which these types of investors are often well aware of—and there are challenges and pitfalls, but if you have the disposable income to offer, and you're willing to do lots of networking, conduct lots of research (on groups, investment platforms, and the companies), and commit to intentional, strategic planning of how often and how much you're willing to invest, angel investing is a great way to build wealth while supporting the growth and survival of Black and Brown businesses.
And who knows, maybe you can gather your network and their coins and create an angel investment support group or firm yourself. With Black women’s buying power still standing strong at $1.5 trillion and a collective move to support women entrepreneurs through actual schmoney, a change is certainly on the horizon.
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Featured image via Pexels