Jazmine A. Ortiz is a creative born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn and currently living in Staten Island, NY. She started in the entertainment industry in 2012 and now works as a Lifestyle Editor where she explores everything from mental health to vegan foodie trends. For more on what she's doing in the digital space follow her on Instagram at @liddle_bitt.
Here at xoNecole our "summer body" goals consist of two things: confidence and strength. The physical perks that come along with those are just added bonuses, but still, it feels good to look in the mirror and have those reflected. If you feel like you need to get on track to finding your inner and outer hot girl as Megan Thee Stallion would say, we've got the workout for you. We promise you'll be rapping, "Handle me? Who gon' handle me?" in the mirror before you know it.
Tone & Sculpt trainer Danyele Wilson is a HIIT master and specializes in creating quick, effective workouts that are more about gaining confidence than losing pounds or inches.
She designed a powerful HIIT circuit exclusively for xoNecole readers that will have you feeling like the stallion that you are before any end of the summer soirées. Follow her instructions below for a mid-summer burn and then check out the rest of her workouts on the Tone & Sculpt app.
Perform each move below for the number of given reps. Repeat the circuit 3-4 times for a quick HIIT workout that will get your heart racing!
Dumbbell back lunge to knee drive: 10 reps each leg
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your upper body straight and gaze forward, step one leg backward, lowering your hips until knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle.
Keep your weight in your front heel and drive your back leg forward, bringing that knee into your chest. Return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg.
High knee run and stick: 30 seconds
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and lift your left knee to your chest. Quickly alternate and lift your right knee to your chest, then your left knee, and finally stick with your right knee to your chest. Hold for a few seconds before alternating legs to repeat the same movement.
Romanian DeadLift to Dumbbell clean: 10 reps
Hold onto dumbbells and stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. With a slight bend to the knees and keeping them stationary, start lowering the dumbbells by bending at the waist and keeping the back straight.
In one swift motion, explosively extend through your hips and bring the dumbbells up to your shoulders, keeping the dumbbells as close to your body as possible the entire time. Lower the dumbbells to move into the Romanian deadlift starting position and repeat.
Broad jump to back-pedal: 30 seconds
Stand straight with your hands by your side and your feet hip-width apart. Extend your arms back while explosively jumping forward, landing 4-6 ft. in front of your starting position. Shuffle back to the starting position and repeat.
Side plank thread the needle: 10 reps each side
Start in a side plank position with your hand raised. Lower your arm in and twist it under your torso, keeping the core engaged. Control your arm back up into the starting side plank position and repeat.
Editor's note: Remember, it's always best to consult your physician before making any extreme changes to your fitness routine.
To work out with Danyele, visit www.toneandsculpt.app to download Tone & Sculpt's free 14-day trial.
Featured image by Mike Tittel courtesy of Danyele Wilson
It's no secret that Alicia Keys exudes inner peace and bares the succulent skin of our youth that we're spending $$ in adulthood trying to re-capture. So when sis listed her commandments to balanced beauty and wellness in Elle, you better believe we took notes. Adding to her credibility as a skincare guru, the star launched a wellness brand—Keys Soulcare—in the midst of the pandemic that included a line of facial products.
Now, the 40-year-young mom of two is launching an equally soothing body care line we're deeming essential. The newbies to Keys Soulcare include a Renewing Hand and Body Wash, Rich Nourishing Body Cream, and Sacred Body Oil.
First Things First, Rituals and Affirmations Are a Must
According to Alicia, affirmations have the "ability to remind ourselves how incredible we are." She believes this so much so that each product under Keys Soulcare comes branded with an affirmation. The idea is that even taking just a moment for yourself by reciting one of these affirmations while using your fave product creates a ritual that brings you one step closer to inner peace.
One of her most popular face products was the Golden Cleanser, which she reformulated for use all over as the Renewing Body + Handwash. "The mantra of this product is, 'I love myself as I am.'" She also shared her thoughts on her personal fave, the Sacred Body Oil. "When you get out of the shower, put some drops on your damp skin and say the mantra is 'Everything I do is an act of creation,' which is powerful. Think of that as you're creating this moment for yourself and your day."
Be Kind to the Skin and Body You’re In—It’s the Only Set You Have
Alicia says she suffered from "skin issues for a long time" and classified herself as having been a thicker girl. "I had a lot of curves early," she explained while adding the added attention was an insecurity of hers in her younger years. But she says it's important to note that the body and skin are ever-evolving. As she got older she had a new set of insecurities to embrace.
"When I had kids, I felt like, 'Oh, my gosh, I'll never look the same ever again.' And that creates insecurity. It fluctuates and flows, but I feel like today, right now, I feel really good about my body. Every day, what your body does is a miracle. We're like the walking embodiments of miracles, and I like to remember that."
Her point? Beauty is not only skin-deep, and finding things that bring a healthy beauty perspective is important. She shared, "I feel really beautiful after a hard hike. My strength and ability is sexy and sensual. Or laying on a beach chair with some sun beating down on me. And I feel beautiful when I'm just with my family and my sweatpants on a couch, and we're all just cuddled up and hugging, watching a movie—that feeling of pure bliss and love."
Always Be Gracious and Always Celebrate
Don't forget to thank yourself for how far you've come, which is a practice that Alicia enforces with herself regularly. "I'd have never thought 20 years ago [when I released my first album] that I'd be here flourishing and more creative than ever and creating the best music of my life, making the best connections of my life. When I look back [at my 20-year-old self], I'm just profoundly appreciating her because she helped to create me now," says the singer.
She adds, "The advice I would give my 20-year-old self is, you already have it right. You don't have to change anything. You don't have to fix anything, you don't have to try to fit in anything or be whatever people want you to be. All you have to do is keep doing you."
Featured image by Rich Fury/Getty Images for dcp
This past year was a wake-up call for many of us, and Tamar Braxton knows this all too well. On July 16, 2020, the now 44-year-old star was rushed to the hospital after a suicide attempt that sent the media into a tizzy and gave her family the biggest scare they could possibly imagine. She recently spoke to People about the re-surfaced childhood trauma that led her to that very scary moment nearly a year ago. What opened up old wounds was her experience being molested as a child being brought up in a 2018 taping of her WE tv docuseries Tamar Braxton: Get Ya Life! without her consent.
"I thought I had successfully buried that part of me, but it was manifesting in different ways," she said of her time on the show. "It was coming out in how I dealt with things emotionally, how I looked at situations, how I conducted myself."
It all came to a head when Tamar made a conclusion—that she now realizes was false—that her 7-year-old son Logan was better off without her. She felt the drama-filled show, which often co-starred her ex-boyfriend David Adefeso, wasn't something that Logan could be proud of.
"I didn't want to continue being a disappointment for him. How can his friends' parents respect me if this is what they see every day? I wouldn't let my kid go over to a child's house if this is what was portrayed on television. In my sickness, I thought that if I can take the embarrassment out of his life, maybe he would have a chance to have the best life."
Even in the midst of her darkest moment, she knew she needed to immediately start the steps to her recovery. After her scare and a weekend in the hospital, she checked herself into a mental health facility for additional treatment for depression and anxiety brought on by traumatic circumstances. To this day she meets with a life coach and a psychiatrist multiple times a week.
On an Instagram post, she also credits shadow work, acupuncture spiritual therapy, and mandatory workouts as part of her new wellness regimen. "I know now that that probably would have destroyed him, that the best life that I can set for him is to be the example, get counseling and show him how to communicate," Tamar says.
If it wasn't clear already how she feels about reality TV now, she writes in a caption on Instagram under a video of her People shoot:
"My job in reality tv was creating and manipulating this story for me that I absolutely hated….& just like any other abuser, there is little or no accountability and denial.🥴"
A more public forum for her healing has been a podcast she started during this journey, Under Construction with Tamar Braxton. Having reflected on everything, she says:
"I'm not where I was, but there's still work to be done."
Featured image by Prince Williams/Wireimage
The classic album that launched Mary J. Blige's career in the mid-'90s is the inspiration behind the newly released Amazon Prime documentary entitled, Mary J. Blige's My Life. When Mary dropped the album in 1994, it connected with women of all ages on a different level than ever before, dubbing her the Queen of Hip Hop Soul. She admittedly recorded the album during one of the darkest times in her life.
Depression and an abusive relationship (with singer K-Ci of K-Ci & JoJo) contributed to the album's timeless soulful tracks and the reason she's finally decided to tell the whole story of that period on the silver screen.
"I've done pretty much everything that I've always wanted to do," the Power Book II: Ghost star said in the doc. "But success comes when you're successful inside. And for a long time, I didn't know I was successful outside because I was a wreck inside."
Raise your hand if you've ever been a wreck on the inside. *Raises hand* It's true her relatability and the resilience that she's displayed in her music over decades has transformed her into the icon she is. In the doc, Mary also talks about being molested, her battle with addiction, and childhood traumas.
Below read Mary's best quotables while doing press for the film that shows the power in her vulnerability.
On wanting no more drama in her life...
"For years, from album to album, I was still in so much pain until I got to the No More Drama album [released in 2001]. That's when I made the choice, 'I'm tired of feeling like this. I'm tired of having suicidal thoughts. I'm tired of hating myself, and now I don't want to die. How do I live?" Mary told Yahoo Entertainment while promoting the doc.
"So it was still heavy for me when everyone else was like, 'Oh my God, this album did so much for me. This album saved my life.' When I was still stuck in hell."
On growing up in underserved communities…
Mary's parents divorced when she was just five and she grew up with her mother and her three siblings in Schlobohm housing projects in Yonkers, New York.
"I think [what] people don't understand about the families that live in the projects, is that it's like a prison… people are just suffering…. I remember hearing women being beaten. My mother was one of those women. I carried her pain. I carried the neighbors' pain. I carried people all over the environment's pain. And I carried my own pain," she said of her experience.
On her self-love journey…
"Now, I love my sharp, pointy nose. I love my high cheekbones. I love my lips. I love everything about me and, nowadays, people are buying these features [laughs]."
On the abuse she endured...
The songstress opened up about her failed relationship with K-Ci.
"It became very dark, the whole thing, and abusive," she shared. "There was a lot of manipulation," to the point where she decided, "I'm gonna dumb myself all the way down, play myself all the way down, so I don't think I'm special, so I can be with you."
"I've had to physically fight for my life a lot," she continued.
On the advice she would give to the young women out there…
"My advice would be to keep going," Blige said during an interview at ESSENCE Fest. "You're going to fail, you're going to have ups and downs, but just don't stop whatever you're doing."
Mary J. Blige's My Life is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Featured image by Rodin Eckenroth / Stringer
Yara Shahidi is growing up and doing grown-ish things, like taking a page out of the Book of Beyoncé with an Adidas collaboration. The 21-year-old actress's emerald green and mustard yellow heavy line just released a second drop that's flying off shelves, but her athleisure venture is more than just another drop. The mixed starlet found ways to intricately weave her Black and Iranian roots into the very heart of the collection.
"My first instinct was how do we honor the past in a way that also pays homage to the future," Shahidi told BAZAAR.
"The one thing that I wanted people to take away was even though a lot of these details are specific to my own growing up and the things that impacted me, the entire campaign is about how we re-create our heritage. I'm constantly figuring out what it means to me to be Black and Iranian—it's ever-changing."
She did this with bold detailing such as embroidered Farsi script on varsity jackets, global colorways, and 1960s-inspired silhouettes. And when it came time to the overall aesthetic of the collection, Yara created dozens of mood boards featuring earthy yellows—a color that she found integral in both her cultures and the cultures of so many. "I'm a big mood boarder," she explains. "During that process, I really identified what were the colors that kind of were resonant—there was something about that particular mustard that felt globally resonant. And I found it in almost every one of my images that I pulled."
Think: Jumpsuits and track pants with matching track jackets that feature Adidas' signature three-stripes but with an old-school feel and hint of culture. She's not the only one shaking things up at Adidas either. In fact, her friend Beyoncé, who has dropped previous collections of her Ivy Park line in conjunction with the sportswear giant is releasing a swimwear collection under the umbrella brand. An eye-catching hue also takes center place here in the form of neon-orange.
"Flex Park" is the follow-up to Bey's successful Icy Park campaign in February. This time the superstar is asking fans, "How do you flex?" for summer. "FLEX, by definition: A boastful statement or display," reads the Flex Park press release. A sneak peek at some campaign images doesn't disappoint either with the models ranging in size, skin tones, and genders.
You can look forward to statement-making separates to mix and match poolside that are made for a variety of bodies (available in sizes XS-4X). When it drops, you can also shop poolside accessories like slides, beach cover-ups, tees, a bucket hat, a tote bag, a towel, and a water bottle.
Yara Shahidi's Adidas collab is available now at Adidas.com and in select retailers. Beyoncé's Flex Park drop launches on July 22 online and in select stores globally on July 23.
Featured image via Gif
Issa Rae covers Vanity Fair's June issue looking ready for business in a crisp black suit offset by a gold, armor-like bustier that levels up the whole ensemble. In fact, "Issa Rae Levels Up" is emblazoned across her image and the cover story inside is fitting of the headline. Not only is the writer/actor/producer gearing up for the final season of her "baby" Insecure, but she's hitting the ground running with several projects in the works.
Issa's lineup includes producing a Baldwin Hills-esque docu-series Sweet Life and an adaptation of popular podcast Nice White Parents, plus she's writing, producing, and starring in Perfect Strangers. She also has a second season of A Black Lady Sketch Show which she executive produces coming up, and she's working on a revival of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's HBO docu-series Project Greenlight, which gave money and support to aspiring filmmakers. So yeah, "levels up" is probably an understatement for what the 36-year-old has coming.
With all these new endeavors happening, one thing remains prevalent throughout Issa's work—the range of relatable Black women characters. If you're an Insecure fan, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Each season the women only get more complex and the introduction of new female roles only adds layers. Her mission is to do this for Black woman characters across the scope of her work.
In her interview with VF, she shares an interesting anecdote of hurting Lauren London's feelings a few years ago that really drove this message home. Luckily, the two have made up since—in part thanks to the late Nipsey Hussle for encouraging Issa to defuse the situation at a birthday party for Diddy.
Rich Polk/Getty Images for ESSENCE
Issa recalls a previous interview she did where she told the story of a TV executive who suggested that Lauren, most known for roles in ATL and The Game reboot, play the lead for a cable version of her YouTube hit Awkward Black Girl. That show became what we all love and know today as Insecure, which we can't imagine anyone else other than Issa as the off-beat leading lady.
And Issa couldn't imagine Lauren encapsulating the awkwardness that her character Issa Dee (based on her real self) embodies. Her point was that executives were out of touch with Black women and thought of swapping one for another even when they were nothing alike, but also that dark-skinned Black women could be edited out of their own narratives.
However, Issa's comments in the interview hurt London's feelings.
"One of my biggest regrets, naming her. She took offense to that."
It wasn't until the aforementioned Diddy birthday party two years ago where the pair reconciled:
"[Nipsey] was like, 'You should just talk to her. Let me set it up.' It actually sparked an amazing two-hour conversation. We had so much in common. She was like, 'People don't understand, I'm an awkward Black girl.' In the same way that I was upset about the limited portrayal of Black women, she was like, 'People do the same thing to me.' I completely get that."
Consider the situation a lesson learned. Issa continues to expand her concept of Black female characters.
She also admits to still being in a group chat with Rihanna, Lupita Nyong'o, and Ava DuVernay ever since a rival photo from NYFW '16 that Twitter wants made into a movie, and we concur.
The more versatile Black woman roles, the better.
Featured image by Rich Polk/Getty Images for ESSENCE