As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.

This is Racquel Kristi's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.

Our name? PopBliss.

We curate beautifully crafted $250,000 week-long secret wedding experiences for multiple couples in a group ceremony—with celebrity guest appearances, industry-leading professionals, luxury gifts, surprises, and excitement around every corner. Our couples and their guests are unaware of the details. All they know is the city and date. Keeping the details a surprise allows our couples to cherish a milestone while focusing on developing a strong union and starting their new journey in the best and most loving place possible.

It's their wedding day—just with five other couples, too.

We design an incredible, customized itinerary with more than six events, including the bridal brunch, cocktail parties, glam and dapper suites, tons of elite services plus a live-streamed wedding viewed across the country, keeping the bride front and center while highlighting the best of the host city.

Through our business model, we've created an unbiased community of couples who align with our core values, which become part of the longevity of their relationship—even after wedding week.

A little background about me: I'm a first-gen American born to Jamaican parents and raised in New York. My mom was always naturally creative, and my father was always the business-minded dreamer. Most of my personality comes from and is influenced by each of them, but of course, I add a little of my own "curry" to the mix.

Courtesy of PopBliss

I remember the moment I fell in love with hospitality. My mom threw me a Sweet 16 party, and just by witnessing the planning and details she put into my special day, I remember being so enamored. I'd initially wanted to be an entertainment attorney. Ugh. All that quickly faded. A single party changed the course of my life.

I attended Howard University where I began taking classes in hospitality management, mostly because I thought owning a catering hall was what I wanted. I realized I preferred event production after watching The Wedding Planner (thanks, J.Lo!), so I became obsessed with all things event-related: I watched every show, read every magazine and book, and studied the top planners and designers in the world.

I needed to know it all, so I began my journey of getting it.

I wanted to create something no one could ever take away from me, but I didn't want to just be a wedding planner. I instead decided to become a celebration lifestyle brand.

And PopBliss was born.

Since launching, there have been many lessons learned, many setbacks, and many rewarding moments along the way. And most importantly, I've learned so much—good and bad. I remember my favorite wedding: New York, 2016. After several years of working endlessly, spending tons of money, taking lots of risks, enduring sleepless nights, and never giving up, there was a moment at our welcome party when I saw all the couples excited and dancing as they awaited their wedding day. I had a moment when I was lost in the full visual of what was going on. Like, I really built a brand, and everyone around me was appreciating it. It was amazing—a dream come true.

I created this. I did this.

It was surreal for me, and the absolute best moment of not only my event-planning career, but for appeasing that entrepreneurial little girl inside me who wanted to show all that she can do.

Reality soon set in, as we know that with group weddings, there are stigmas that come with it. Many women have their own fairy tale about what they want their wedding to look like.

Share a wedding event with someone else? No way!

People make assumptions. Some think group weddings are cheap and impersonal. Some think of it as a crowdfunding-style celebration or a fancy alternative to courthouse weddings or elopements.

In fact, it's the exact opposite. For us, we focus on the full experience of celebrating your union in a new, creative, individualized celebration that encompasses all that couples find important in their marriage and phase of life. We would never be described as "cheap"—are you kidding me? That would imply a lack of quality, which isn't the case at all. You can't knock something you've never experienced, and group weddings can be extremely magical.

And what's crazy is, I can remember one of my biggest career failures that made me believe otherwise. Just as success comes with the good, success comes with way more bad (whether your favorite entrepreneur admits it or not). I was planning a pop-up dinner party with over 700 guests, and well, let's just say Murphy's Law didn't play nice. Everything that could have gone wrong, literally did. I had thousands of dollars in an account that I couldn't access to pay vendors, our outdoor event site got rained on the night before, the caterer was five hours late, we lost sound, an ambulance had to take someone to the hospital, a team member of mine found out she had a terminal disease the day of the event—the list literally goes on and on. I thought Ashton Kutcher was about to jump out and tell me I was being "punk'd". Like, we got our butts handed to us. That was the day I learned high-level crisis management—and how quickly I could get to my local store for wine.

That was also the day I learned I was built for this.

When I'm overwhelmed, I walk away from whatever or whoever is stressing me and take a moment for myself. Then I do something that makes me happy, like watch a TV show or sit outside in the sun—basically, anything that allows me to collect myself and think through whatever is upsetting me. Also, water is my secret healer. Any time I seek clarity, I take a shower or go swimming. Putting yourself first involves being self-aware of the good and the not-so-good things about yourself. You have to consciously improve. I listen to many speakers on YouTube, and I have a gratitude journal that I write in daily. To relax, I cuddle in my bed and burn a good candle.

To top things off, my computer isn't allowed into my room. My room is for relaxation.

Ultimately, ladies, my world has taught me love is love. No two people see love and marriage the same. Both come in many forms and are never one-dimensional. The brides I work with are sure about themselves, what works for them, and what doesn't. They are confident in their unions, which in hindsight is a quality to have in order to be involved with group weddings. These women love celebrating who they are, and they want their style, their house, their partner, and their wedding to reflect that as well.

I've realized that your true love, your soulmate, your twin flame, or someone who might seem impossible to find, can be right in front of you and you never know.

Life gives you what you ask for and in no particular order.

It's not always "first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage". Sometimes, it's all in reverse, but regardless of what your ideal love story looks like, the goal is to have healthy, happy, withstanding love. And if standing by five other couples while saying your vows is what that looks like, then there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

PopBliss is currently accepting applications for couples who wish to tie the knot or renew their vows in a nontraditional, adventurous way. You may visit their website for more details.

If you have a story you'd like to share but aren't sure about how to put it into words, contact us at submissions@xonecole.com with the subject "As Told To" for your story to be featured.

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As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.

This is Rocky's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.

It was another performance, another night in Seoul. Here I was, on stage, dancing in super tight latex bottoms that had my tiger stripes on full display, and wondering how I had gotten to that point. My group and I were performing at a nightclub that night as we would often do. I remember looking over and seeing a couple watching nearby. The guy was really into my performance—his girlfriend, not so much.

Anyway, these particular latex bottoms showed part of my butt cheek, which made me so self-conscious about even setting foot on stage. But this was the performance that I signed up for, so I went for it. I gave it all that I had. The audience loved me.

Suddenly, the girlfriend got upset, and the couple left the club.

To be honest, I was so confused by her reaction. Like, sis, I'm working. But this night, like so many others, jump-started a clear understanding of how much of an impact that we can have on others. Here I was, extremely insecure about my own body, and unknowingly inducing such a strong reaction from the strangers I was showing it to.

If you haven't figured it out yet, no, I'm not a stripper, I'm a burlesque dancer in the depths of Seoul, Korea. I've been doing this for years, actually, and I'm one of the best in the industry. I started on a whim and used it as a means to make money and get acclimated to performing.

Photo Courtesy of Erockfor

I've lived in Korea off and on since 2014, initially to teach English. Basically, I was broke and needed a source of income because my bills were piling up. Relocating for a career became my plan of action.

My aim wasn't to move to Seoul to pursue music. It was to get myself out of debt.

I got married at the young age of 23, and I'll be the first to say that both of us were too young to have made that decision. We weren't compatible at all. We fought all the time about everything—big and small. It was abusive, even—something I've never said out loud before. Nothing about my marriage felt right.

A couple years into it, I started a translation business and was fortunate to see it do well during its beginning stages. One month, I made $6,000, which is major to a married 20-something. I felt on top of the world. Because of my success, I was willing to stay in the relationship even though it brought me zero joy. This caused me to put every ounce of my focus into my business and making money. Then, when my business started failing (my main client didn't need as much work anymore), I was stripped of everything I had relied on to bring me joy.

I was confronted with how miserable my living situation was. I was also broke again, which made everything worse.

So, in 2014, I took my little booty and boarded a plane to Seoul. I didn't have a plan whatsoever, and ultimately, I was just running to escape my bad relationship and financial woes.

It was the bravest thing I had ever done, even though I had no clue I was brave.

Life In Seoul

I'm of Cameroonian descent, born and raised in Montreal, Canada. So, although I stand out, a new culture never phased me. When I arrived, I got so caught up in pursuing "realistic" careers, that I put my music on hold and decided to publish a poetry book while working as an English teacher, writer, and translator.

I remember the first negative review I got on it too. It was my first attempt at creativity outside of my usual burlesque performances, and I was so crushed—in tears, even. Eventually, I developed a thicker skin.

I can't be everyone's cup of tea.

Also, lots of people simply try to project how they feel about themselves onto you. It's rarely personal, so I stopped taking it that way.

Another tough lesson.

Anyway, Korea is an amazing place once you become familiar. The dating is terrible, though, and I've had more weird run-ins than I care to count. But I also learned the importance of having confidence in myself. I mean, you have to be confident to live abroad—whether you're aware of that confidence or not. It's hard being away from my family. It isn't always the most fun thing, but, I'm happy I chose this path.

Okay, getting back on track with my story: one day, out of the blue, I decided I was done with just getting by. Singing makes me so freaking happy, I couldn't imagine doing anything else.

It was time.

The Birth of Erockfor

When converting to a full-time artist, I knew I didn't want to release music to crickets. By this time, I had built a platform as a poet (from my book release), and I knew I could rely on it to gradually test the waters. The plan was to pull a switch on them, like surprise! I'm a singer now! Well I always have been, but hopefully y'all will still rock with me! I mean, I do music for the love of it, but I also have to be able to sustain myself, so I've had to learn how to sell myself.

And self-belief is a superpower.

You can make great music, but what's your story? I've had to become clear on what my story is.

Now, I'm in a good space. I've been covered by various publications, and I've somehow managed to gain a crazy amount of support from Korean millennials. I've been compared to Macy Gray, Cyndi Lauper, Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse—which vocally, it definitely makes sense. I've also been exploring more Afrobeats. It's important for me to have that element of my heritage present in my music, as well as exploring different genres. Montreal is an extremely multicultural city so I have so many influences.

My music represents me perfectly and other first-gen kids who grew up in big cities.

Legacy, Legacy, Legacy

I believe in healing and taking the utmost care of my being. I meditate, I make holy water (which I bless myself, spray all over my apartment and drink), and I do yoga. I look over my intentions for 2020. I remind myself that my great-grandma was a high priestess and that I'm named after her. I recently got into stoicism, so I try to see the opportunity in everything and try to observe things objectively. I'm also very spiritual. I protect myself with mantras, which can act as spells.

Mantras are magic.

It's not lost on me how amazing it is to be able to travel and live life abroad. When I was a kid, my family couldn't afford it—it just wasn't my reality. But because higher learning is really affordable in Montreal, I was able to pay for my education just by working at coffee shops or restaurants and freelancing as a writer. My undergrad experience is the reason I was able to teach in Korea in the first place. When I was choosing a country to teach in, the fact that there was a community of black women definitely swayed me. I've gotten messages from black women asking me how I was able to teach here or sing and act here. I think it's important to tell your full story, as much as you feel comfortable to do so. Representation is important and I'm happy to show that a first-gen Canadian of Cameroonian descent can pursue a blossoming singing career all the way in Seoul.

At one point, I said I'd be content only singing in cafes or bars. And that's fine if it's not coming from a place of fear. But it was, and I was afraid of my potential in failing. Now, I see stadiums and award shows in my future. Why not? Ladies, let's go for it. Build on your skills. Never disqualify yourself, ever. Just try.

You may watch Erockfor's latest visual for "How Will I Know" here. You can also follow her on Instagram for her latest updates.

If you have a story you'd like to share, but aren't sure about how to put it into words, contact us at submissions@xonecole.com with the subject "As Told To" for your story to be featured.

Featured image courtesy of Erockfor

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