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Tracee Ellis Ross Doesn't Subscribe To Society's Deadlines

Tracee Ellis Ross

For many women, we use our age to validate the passing of milestones in our lifetime. We grow up chronologically declaring hypothetical deadlines for our goals, and the ticking of our biological clocks only complicate our plans. Actress and activist Tracee Ellis Ross is challenging traditional standards of womanhood by standing firmly in her own truth. Ross recently covered The Sunday Times Styleand opened up about life at 45 and what being a woman means to her.

"I'm constantly asking myself questions, reminding myself, 'Are you making that decision for you or someone else?' The husband and the babies are the expectation of what's supposed to happen at a certain point, and people fall back on, 'Well, that's the point of the human species, procreation.' And I'm, like, 'I think there are a lot of babies, isn't that part of what's going wrong, there's too many?' Some people could be working on the world being a better place, or just being happy."

Historically, women are judged for not pursuing a life that meets traditional standards. Society says that if I'm not married or haven't had children by a certain age, something must be wrong with me. Even during biblical times, a woman was considered to have an unproductive life if she was barren or chose not to have children.

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As women, we so often focus on our due dates for what society deems as success instead of using our time to find our own happiness in ourselves. Ross says that there is a difference between loneliness and being alone.

"Being 45 is fascinating. It's this extraordinary journey of time passing, and getting to this place where so many of the trappings aren't there, and yet there's so much other rich, fertile stuff happening in my life. It's all a choice. Which is incredibly empowering and can be extremely lonely. My work as an adult has been making friends with the loneliness, and actually coming to terms with the fact that I love it. And I now call it choiceful solitude."
Have you taken the time to water your own garden before you expect to bear fruit?

Tracee's transformation into the woman of her dreams did not come without challenging some of her own ideals. At Glamour's 2017 Women of the Year Summit, Ross challenged us all to become braver versions of ourselves in order to discover our own happiness.

"When we put ourselves first by doing things like saying 'no,' speaking up, sleeping with who we want, eating what our bodies intuitively tell us to eat, wearing training bras instead of push up bras, posting a picture without using Facetune...we are condemned for thinking for ourselves and being ourselves,and being ourselves, for owning our experiences, our bodies, and our lives."

Whether you are 30 and married with children, or 60 and single, you are not defined by your accomplishments or milestones. Your life is your own. Not your mother's or your children or your spouse's.

Make 2018 the year that you claim ownership of your womanhood and how it relates to who you are right now. Tracee reminds us that we have to take responsibility for our own happiness and find the courage to fight for a life that we love, f*** the standard.

Featured image by Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com

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Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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