Michelle Schmitz is a writer and editor based in Washington, DC originally from Ft Lauderdale, FL. A self-described ambivert, you can find her figuring out ways to read more than her monthly limit of The New York Times, attending concerts, and being a badass, multi-tasking supermom. She also runs her own blog MichelleSasha.com. Keep up with her latest moves on IG: @michellesashawrites and Twitter: @michellesashas
LeToya Luckett-Walker Wants You To Allow God To Stretch You Into Your Purpose
The only thing constant in life is change.
Some changes, like landing your dream job or closing on a new home, are easier to flow with than others. By "others," I mean divorce, getting laid off, having to relocate, or any of the other miscellaneous BS that can happen within a 24-hour day. Going with the flow of life's difficulties isn't exactly easy, but according to LeToya Luckett-Walker, these life changes are a vital part of the journey towards your purpose.
The singer and actress recently took to Instagram to reveal how the unforeseen challenges that she's faced in her life have often prompted some serious growing pains. LeToya took the opportunity to remind us all that the discomfort is only temporary. She said:
"I was sitting here thinking about change today. And for a lot of us, change can be super scary. I, for one, have had a lot change in my life in the last year and a half, and whew it has not been easy."
"But because it would take me doing some stretching on my part, that's where the fear came in, and I am here to tell you right now that there's nothing wrong with stretching...Especially in this time of my life where I am physically stretching, and I might not love how I look all the time, but I know it's for my good. So stretch."
A lot of the times we are so focused on what we want, that when we are faced with a detour, we can become crippled by fear. LeToya reminds us that when we live in the pursuit of our purpose, we will often encounter tragedy or hardship along the way. Although during those times we may become discouraged, we can't get comfortable in our complacency. She said:
"We all came into this world, God brought us in this world, to fulfill a purpose and I don't think he wants us to get complacent and comfortable in our little box to where we are so afraid to think outside of our comfort zone."
The Greenleaf star says that leaving your comfort zone may also require growing out of certain relationships, and that's OK. LeToya said that the key to mastering peace is knowing that all things work for your good. She says:
"Find peace in change. Find joy in it. And understand that everybody around you might not understand it, they might not like it, but that's what comes with growth."
"And sometime you grow out of those relationships, you grow out of your old ways...Keep stretching, keep learning. I learn something different about myself every single day, and I love it. Be proud when you conquer fear."
When we move past fear, we move closer to our destiny. When faced with the roller coaster of life, we have to learn to not only control the controllable, but to embrace the changes that are necessary in order to usher in the things we've prayed for.
Prayer, manifestation, or whatever you choose to call it, is real. But if we stop when we get uncomfortable, it will be almost impossible to actualize our deepest desires. So, like LeToya says: keep stretching! The stretching lets you know that you are on the right path.
Featured image by Jamie Lamor Thompson / Shutterstock.com
Originally published August 22, 2018.
You know you are in the presence of Black Girl Magic when every time words are spoken, clusters of gems are dropped and you realize you need a basket to catch them all. That's the experience I had when I interviewed three of the five founders of CurlFest, the world's largest natural beauty festival. Simone Mair, Tracey Coleman, and Melody Henderson can attest to the fact that the one thing that binds us all together as black women, is our hair. Whether it's kinky, curly, or coily, there is an unspoken connection we have with one another when we're in our natural state. We all have dealt with those difficult wash-and-gos, or the twist outs that didn't work out the way it did for that YouTuber.
Most importantly, we also know what it's like to feel the stares, or hear the negative comments in regards to how we choose to wear our crowns. The founders of CurlFest agreed that there was an undeniable need for a brand that empathized with the experiences of women of color. Melody, who acts as the design guru among the tribe, said, "It was really to fill a need, to fill a void. My background (career in marketing), my whole question was always, 'Why aren't we being seen, why aren't we part of the story?' And the five of us wanted to be part of that solution. How can we, as women of color, in our natural state, in any capacity, be a part of the story?"
Thus, the Curly Girl Collective was born.
The brand started with five women seeking to create a space for women of color to talk about their experiences with their hair, as well as others' perceptions. It was a judgment-free zone that they soon realized many other women probably need as well. Creative marketing consultant and freelance writer, Tracey Coleman, who makes up ⅕ of the Curly Girl Collective explained, "At first people (brands and press), weren't really interested just because they didn't deem it as important. And as the narrative has changed on what beauty looks like, it's a huge shift from when we started. You're seeing more women of color and women with natural hair in commercials and in movies and in leading roles and all over the world. That's when the media starts to listen, and we're a part of what's driving that."
"The media realized that this was an important story that needed to be told."
Tracey and her teammates have made it their mission to develop fun and unique ways to help multicultural women celebrate their natural beauty. The first CurlFest was launched in 2014, and in just four years, this tribe of girl bosses was able to take their at-home business and transform it into a staple event in the natural hair community.
The founders of CGC are proof that heavy is the head that wears the crown, even if that crown is a mane full of beautiful curls. Simone, who is also an award-winning volunteer, told us, "I think sometimes as women of color, we're kind of a double minority here and naturally have more to prove."
"We kind of have to work twice as hard as some of our counterparts, so there are challenges."
Despite these challenges, these queens are thriving honey, and they shared some gems with me that will help you flourish, too. I got to speak with these ladies more about their roots (both proverbial and natural), as well as how pursuing your passion can truly liberate you from the daily grind and ultimately allow you to develop a profitable business.
What is the secret to your success? How did your brand become so well known in what seems like such a short amount of time?
Tracey: The growth was interesting...there isn't some marketing campaign behind it, or a celebrity that's driving it, or something that happened that went viral. Honestly, it's the energy that people feel when they come to CurlFest and that feeling of appreciation and celebration of who they are. That comes through in what people say about the event to their friends and family, and what they say on social media.
One thing that we've learned is that you can market something all day long, but at the end of the day, it really speaks for itself. The fans actually drove the growth, they decided that they were coming back the next year. Every single year, they're telling their friends, and telling their cousins. It's a blessing not to have to have to market the event because the demand is there.
What do you think was the major turning point? How did you turn your passion into profit?
Melody: I believe that the passion and the profit actually are intertwined. I think we are where we are today because that passion never went away. There's five of us, and we are literally doing this around the clock: putting on something that can support the 30,000 people. But what's driving it is that passion. The turning point really came when brands started to realize that we were bringing them qualified leads.
It's not a commercial you're bringing to the masses. People are opting into CurlFest, people are looking forward to CurlFest for the entire year. So, knowing that from a brand perspective, when you start to talk about revenue and finances, we're telling them "This is your demographic and we're able to tell you what they need, we're able to tell you what's missing, and we're able to tell you how you can plug in."
When we had our first CurlFest, there were two brands on the lawn. So, now you fast forward to this year, it was in the mid-twenties. A lot of that is really based on fostering relationships, building a network, really holding true to what our brand is with no apology.
We typically see the glamour of what success looks like, but not so much the setbacks. With social media, everyone makes it look so easy. What have been some of the challenges that you've had building this business, and what are the ways that you've been able to overcome them?
Tracey: With that type of growth happening that fast, we had to learn really fast. We had to bring on other experts in other fields and people that could support us. We've learned that with the five of us, we all have full-time jobs. You realize that for us to maintain that and to support the growth of CurlFest that was happening so quickly, we had to tap into our village. Most entrepreneurs learn that as you grow, you have to expand to let people help you.
That's really any business, if you're trying to grow your baby, you have to let your village support that baby.
That's what we've done over the years to help us grow so fast.
What does it mean to the team to have so much support for CurlFest from black women?
Melody: A lot of times we don't realize the psychological things are happening because of how society is telling how us we should be. The fact that we're able to play a role in breaking down some of those barriers is amazing. We often marvel at the success of others wondering whether or not we also have what it takes to get into business for ourselves. Instead of being paralyzed by the fear of "what if", be empowered by it.
Turning your passion into profit IS possible. The Curly Girl Collective shows us that when you combine your passion with your drive, determination, and fearless forward progress, anything can happen. Make sure to follow the Curly Girl Collective on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and fly content from past events.
Featured image by Cincinart/Shutterstock.com
Actress Tracee Ellis Ross Has The Keys To Financial Literacy
Tracee Ellis Ross is known for her quick wit, affable personality, and impeccable style as the co-star of the television mega-hit Black-ish. But what I love most about her, is her willingness to be outspoken on topics most important to her. The three-time Emmy nominated actress spoke withInStyle Magazine and dropped some major financial advice that anyone can use.
To me, one of the nastiest four-letter words is "debt"—it grabs ahold of you, and seems to to let go. From student loans to credit card bills and mortgages, debt is a part of life. And if we don't spend "smart", our financial woes will continue to pull us down. Ross says that learning this tip was her key to financial freedom:
"Spending smart is part of my motto in life...I believe that you can feel extraordinary in your life without spending tons of money. I'm a really strong advocate for living within your means and not trying to keep up with the Joneses, because then you don't have debt."
Additionally, Ross touched on the importance of establishing credit as an a rite of passage into the world of "financial maturity".
DFree / Shutterstock.com
You can't get credit without already having credit, and although it makes sense to only spend within your means, it is also important to establish your credit history early-on. That way, when you are ready to make bigger investments (like a car or home loan), you've proven that you are, in fact, credit-worthy. She shared:
"Part of learning how to be responsible with your money does require getting a credit card. If you just work with the cash that you have in your pocket, it's easier to know when that cash is done. Same with a checking account. People don't write checks anymore, but I do! Still, credit cards are really important in terms of financial maturity. I remember when I got my first credit card in college—I still have some of the credit cards from back then, actually—and I really gained an understanding of how it works. That's been important in my financial literacy as an adult."
The NAACP Image Award winner also gave some great advice when it comes to our ability to negotiate. As women, we've been pigeonholed into presumably not having this important skill, but Ross says if you know what you're worth, you need to speak on it. Demand your just due at the negotiation table. According to the award-winning actress, we can all support one another a little when it comes to learning his skill.
"Negotiating is a very scary experience because it requires a lot of courage and, to a certain extent, the willingness to lose the opportunity, which most people don't have the luxury to do. It's you saying, 'This is what I'm worth,' and as women, culturally, there isn't a training that supports us in that. That, I think, is what we are attempting to change from a systemic place. It's important to have a supportive group around you that you can use as a sounding board to be smart and creative in your negotiation. [Companies] might not be able to pay you in dollar amount, but maybe there's other ways you can be supported in the work that you do—like your travel expenses or something. There are a lot of ways you can negotiate."
As millennial women, our financial literacy is more important now than ever. We are increasingly starting more businesses than any other demographic, more likely to earn degrees, and are more often the breadwinners of the family. Tracee's advice should encourage us to start having conversations concerning women and financial independence. Tracee says that it's time to eliminate stigma surrounding these tough conversations, because in the end, knowledge is power. She said:
"Women's financial solvency, transparency, and the ability to have these conversations without being afraid are incredibly important things. We have to take the stigma away from it and actually try and make some change, and that will require us having knowledge."
It's never to early, or too late, to learn the ins-and-outs of credit and financial responsibility. It's not only a good idea to learn as much as you can about these areas, it can also be the difference between trying to keep up with the Joneses and actually becoming one of them.
To read more financial tips from Tracee Ellis Ross, check out her full interview here.
Featured image by DFree / Shutterstock.com
Article originally published on July 13, 2018
Wendy Williams Takes Back Her Power And Files For Divorce After 20 Years
Divorce is an action that should never be taken lightly. The time spent building and growing with a man, loving him through thick and thin, and remaining vigilant in your vows only ends up feeling like it's *poof* gone, just like that, once those papers are signed. Your families might think you should stay together for the kids' sake or even for their sake, and your friends might think you've made the wrong decision altogether. But ultimately, only you know the real about your "marriage", or lack thereof.
Amid years of cheating rumors, the allegations of her husband welcoming a love child in March with his alleged mistress, various health scares and a stint in sober living, Wendy Williams has decided to take back her power. According to Page Six, Williams, 54, officially filed for divorce from her husband of nearly 21 year Kevin Hunter, citing irreconcilable differences.
If you've ever watched The Wendy Williams Show or have followed her career in any way, you know that Williams has built a life on dishing the dirt on all things celebrity—everything from the humorous to the salacious. But one topic that always seemed relatively off limits has been her personal life. While she and Hunter share an 18-year-old son whom she often speaks of proudly, Williams has always kept the conversation surrounding rumors about her own marriage virtually off the table.
However, when rumors emerged that Hunter was expecting a child with his alleged mistress, Sharon Hudson, Williams took the opportunity to play damage control by saying while she was still "very much in love" with Hunter, the rumors remain just that—that is unless you see her without her wedding ring. Williams revealed during a recent episode of The Wendy Williams Show:
"Anybody who has been married for five minutes or 500 years, you know marriages have ebbs and flows. … And don't ask me about mine until you see [my wedding ring] gone — it ain't going anywhere, not in this lifetime."
Rumors aside, I believe that everyone has at least one deal breaker in any relationship, even marriage. And while we've been raised to believe that a marriage should never end, no matter what, some things just can't be worked though in couples therapy. For Williams, it was a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, and her only deal breaker seems to have now broken through. In her 2001 book, Wendy's Got The Heat, the talk show host revealed what would ultimately force her to call it quits:
"The only thing that would make me walk out for good is if he lied about anything – if he was in love, if she was just as successful at what she does as I am in my career, if she had his baby."
Fighting for marriage when you're the only one left in it is like shadow boxing with your own heart. Couple this with inevitabile mistakes we all make as humans, heightened emotions and, at times, very real betrayal, legit pain is involved when making the decision to end a marriage. There is the judgement you feel from others, the rampant feelings of failure, and the loss of your identity: so many emotions become involved, which makes filing for a divorce the single hardest decision a woman may ever have to make.
But having a marriage just to say you are married should never come at the sake of your peace, dignity and respect. Once those are gone, love definitely won't be enough.
I commend anyone brave enough to bear the real pain and judgement that comes with filing for divorce. The stigma alone probably keeps more people married longer than they otherwise might be. I don't hear enough about the actual toll it takes on women, and men, as a marriage falls apart. It's literally like the thing you are fighting for the most is the same thing that is ultimately hurting you the most. Sometimes it's better to just let go. There is something about surrendering and coming to terms with the demise of a marriage that helps begin the process of healing: it's one of the first steps in taking back your power after it's obvious there is no saving the marriage.
I still believe in the sanctity of marriage. A lot of the times I think I still want it. But having been through divorce myself, I know that, ironically, while it's easier to get married than it is to get divorced in this country, the next time I want to make sure that I enter into it fully prepared, emotionally AND spiritually.
Wendy Williams is a lesson in letting go, moving through the pain, and getting the help you deserve, all while keeping a brave face. Her ring may be gone, but the show isn't over yet. It's never too late to take back your power, even if it means losing the very thing you worked for so many years to maintain.
Featured image by FashionStock.com / Shutterstock.com
'Atlanta' Actress Zazie Beetz Gets Real About Her Struggle With Anxiety
Anxiety is an invisible doubt killer and the phantom momentum blocker. It rears its ugly head when you least expect, as well as when you expect it the most. Fueled by fear and powered by involuntary paralysis, there's almost no stopping anxiety once it revs up unless you've really practiced techniques that can help ease the symptoms of panic and anxiety.
Recently, Zazie Beetz of the Emmy-winning show, Atlanta, revealed her own battles with a severe anxiety disorder. Although her character, Van, is a seemingly level-headed and calm woman, Beetz told The New York Times that in reality, she's been battling anxiety since she was an adolescent.
Anxiety disorder is one of the most common forms of mental illness in America, with some estimates stating that anywhere from 18-30% of the population is struggling with the disorder. For Zazie Beetz, her disorder is complicated by something that many successful women of color also find themselves dealing with: Impostor syndrome.
Impostor syndrome is the overwhelming fear that despite your talents and achievements, you don't truly deserve your success and often feel like a "fraud" when your hard work is acknowledged. When asked about her Emmy nomination, Zazie said:
"It's just a big part of my life. I think this is actually a little bit weird — it's where my not resounding, complete excitement for receiving an Emmy nomination is coming from; a feeling of complete impostor syndrome, and feeling like I don't deserve it. I don't know … I hesitate saying that publicly, because I don't want to come off like I don't appreciate it."
Despite the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, those dealing with any kind of mental health issue don't exactly find the flashing lights as exciting as others might. Beetz says that within her industry, her validation often comes from outside sources. Most women understand that this external validation is never quite sufficient. Zazie shared:
"It's something really hard to deal with, being in an industry where your validation is only from the outside, especially if your confidence isn't high in your work. I just really want to do good work. That's just important to me, and when something is really being publicly lauded, I just really want to feel like I did my best work, and I'm never sure if I do my best work. That's something I've always struggled with within my work and in this industry."
While she has now developed the ability to recognize that she has not only earned but deserves her place as a top-tier actress, it did take her some time to get to that place. She told The New York Times:
"I've gotten much better at feeling like I have found my place, and like I deserve to be in a place. I've gotten much, much better at being able to deal with feeling very insecure or very anxious, or having panic attacks on set. But I think initially for 'Atlanta', it was my biggest opportunity. It was my first time showing my face to the world. So, I was very incredibly terrified of that."
While some of us can relate to Beetz in regards to her fears of not being good enough, while simultaneously battling anxiety, I bet many more of us can relate to the feeling that we might have only been hired for that position in order to fill a quota.
"I worry more that I'm being cast just because they need to fill a brown quota, and because they feel obliged to do that, and not because they actually want me. I feel like, does that mean my work isn't as good? Would I have been cast if there wasn't public pressure now to make sure that one brown face is among the sea of white? So, that's where I believe that comes from, this feeling like I'm not actually maybe wanted, and that they're just feeling pressure to want me. Obviously, I think there is genuine interest and I have genuine relationships with people, but also I just happen to be coming into the industry during a time where this is a huge shift. So it's an adjustment."
When we are able to find worth in ourselves and the value that we provide in the workplace, then and only then will we overcome these lingering feelings of doubt and inadequacy.
To read more of her interview with The New York Times, click here.
Featured image by Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock.com
These 3 Men Started A Million-Dollar Company To Help Single Mothers
As a single co-parenting mom, there isn't a day that goes by where I don't have a lot on my plate.
While juggling work, pursuing my passions and being the best mom I can be, it can be tricky keeping all the balls in the air. One of the most important links in this puzzle has been having a reliable car to shuffle the kids to and from school, getting around for my obligations and errands, and, once in a while, making time for the self-care all parents need. "Reliable" is the optimal word because my car is old, and every time something breaks down, that's an extra bag I have to come up off of. It would be a dream to have a brand new car, but the hassle of finding the right one and the idea of the credit check and potential down payment has stopped me from even thinking about hopping into a new whip.
For over 100 single mothers in the New York area, PTG365 Auto understands how important reliable transportation is to most families' livelihoods. Founded by Brandon Medford, Dave Obaseki, and Eric Whitehead, PTG365 is an automotive dealership that specializes in luxury car rentals in addition to helping low-income families get their dream cars.
Courtesy of PTG 365
These three millennial men have combined their passion for cars with their purpose of giving back to the community. The men are committed to helping women find affordable transportation, as well as repairing and building their credit which, in the long run, will help these women better provide for their children. The team also caters to a host of celebrity clients, but what makes them the ultimate go-to car dealership is their quick turnaround time and connection with various car manufacturers and banks. Within just a year of business, they have managed to build a $1.2 million dollar company.
xoNecole had the opportunity to speak with Eric and Dave about their business, why helping single moms is one of their top priorities, and how passion led them to their purpose.
Business-minded people tend to have one thing in common: a vision. For Eric and Dave, both already had a passion for the car business. Eric says that in addition to his affinity for sales, he also wanted to help people. Eric told xoNecole, "I personally would say passion, hunger, and unity started PTG365. [The three of us] were successful in the same field and we came together with this brilliant idea to take over the car industry and help individuals all over the world."
Courtesy of PTG 365
The most intriguing service these men provide is their willingness to use their expertise and connections to help single mothers secure their own reliable transportation. Because the men aren't from single parent homes, many would wonder what motivated them to go in this direction. For Eric, it was simple. "I don't like the idea of a mother raising children on her own," he shares. "I have female relatives who are single and raising beautiful children, so I know the day-to-day struggles some of them face, so I do what I can to go the extra mile to assist single female parents."
So many single parents work so hard to keep it all together, that from the outside looking in, it may not seem like they need the help. But Dave recognizes that there is a lot that goes into being a single mother and that helping these women gives him a feeling that he normally wouldn't get from simply selling cars. He said, "Helping single mothers get into vehicles gave us a different kind of satisfaction. The reason being, single mothers go through a lot of turmoil and need as much help as possible."
He continued, "Black women are queens in my eyes. I watched my mother raise me, two other kings and one other queen. Being from a foreign country, she did it all using her culture. My mom made sure we were on the right track with school and always stayed out of trouble. She did an amazing job; I love my mother. She reminds me of all the other Black women out there trying to make a way for their families."
"Black women are queens in my eyes. I watched my mother raise me, two other kings and one other queen. She reminds me of all the other Black women out there trying to make a way for their families."
Dave also revealed that the most rewarding part of his job is helping mothers gain and maintain their own financial independence. "Out of all the women I've helped, one of my favorite clients has to be Tamara Taylor, mother of two. It was her first car, and her father didn't want her to have the car. She did everything in her power to get the vehicle on her own without having him cosign on the loan, and I made sure the bank approved her. It was so rewarding to see."
With reliable transportation, moms can get the kids to school on time, run the errands, make it to work and back, all without having to worry about public transportation, the weather, and the host of other issues one might run into when you don't have the keys to your own whip. The men have helped over 100 single moms not only get a new car, but they've also helped them and countless other customers establish/repair their credit as well.
Eric mentioned that most customers, regardless of their financial status, often need some credit tweaking in order to qualify for a vehicle. He shared, "In addition to the mothers, we have many entertainers and athletes we've assisted with credit repair as well. Just because you're a celebrity doesn't mean you're knowledgeable on credit and wealth management."
For some, credit can read like a foreign language, but at PT365, they have a team of credit attorneys that can help. According to Dave, "We have them work closely with our credit attorneys to remove any collections or derogatory accounts from their credit. Then we have them work with our credit specialists to educate them on how to raise their credit."
Credit is king, or queen, in America. There is very little you can do without it, and having a good credit rating is just as important as the cash you have in the bank. The guys gave us a few tips when it comes to establishing and maintain a good credit rating that anyone can use. Eric had these words of financial advice for our readers:
"My advice on credit is to prioritize. Cash in hand is good, but the buying power of credit goes a very long way."
When it comes to our needs versus our wants, sometimes we have to be willing to have some self-control. He says, "Always pay your bills on time even if you have to sacrifice! An 800 credit score has more buying power than $50,000 in cash!"
Courtesy of PTG 365
And for all our budding entrepreneurs out there, Dave reminds us that it will be a grind, but we have to not only be ready for the ups-and-downs of entrepreneurship but also be willing to pivot when the time is right. "Never quit! Be prepared for hurdles and leaps throughout your journey," Dave enthusiastically reminds us. "Success will take a jab at you even when you think everything is going perfectly. Never stay comfortable! Business always innovates, and when it does, you do the same."
Here's another great example of melding your passion with your purpose. We love to see Black men in a position to not only empower themselves but also being able to translate that into empowering others, especially Black women. Looking at my car right now, I might have to give them a call myself.
To find out more about PTG365 Auto, click here. To keep up with these millennial moguls on social media, follow @ptg365!